Monthly Archives: November 2010

Do You Have Your Act Together?

A balanced and ‘On-Purpose” business is never built with good intentions. It happens when the business owner stays focused on what really matters. As you observe successful and profitable business owners who have their act together, think about:

What characteristics set them apart?
What do you admire about them?
What’s their primary focus?
How do they spend their time?
Do they get to their priorities?
What’s their key to success?
What do they do that you don’t?
What don’t they do that you do?

Successful Business Owners Live Their Priorities!
When you observe successful business owners, you notice they live their priorities. I have a very successful business friend who owns a major construction company we compete against. His company is continually recognized as providing the best service and quality in our marketplace. Plus, he makes lots of money, and seems to have lots of time for his family, friends and customers. He surrounds himself with a top management team. He makes customers his top business priority. I see him at the golf course weekly with a foursome of well know business executives and customers. He annually hosts numerous customer fishing trips to Alaska and other outings. In addition, he takes several extended vacations with his friends to great golf resorts, and weekends with his wife and children on a regular basis. He is truly living his priorities. And his personal and business bottom-line is doing very well as a result.

Check Your Priority Scale!
When you put immediate business pressures first, you don’t have time for the important things that make you the most money and give you the greatest returns

Continually Ask Yourself:
– Is this a good use of my money, my time or my energy?
– Is this activity moving me towards achieving my targets
   and goals?
– Am I doing what I should or want to be doing?
– Am I living my priorities or someone else’s?

It is meaningless to waste energy on doing things right, while doing the wrong things. The more problems you fix for others, the less they do for you. Employees work for their boss. The boss doesn’t work for employees. As soon as you realize the reason for having employees is to get them to do what you want them to do, allow you do grow your business, allow you to make more money, and allow you to work on your top priorities, the sooner you’ll start getting your business to work for you.

Only accomplishing YOUR priorities will make your business successful. But, if you never get to them, your business will continue to struggle and you’ll have to keep doing all the ‘important’ work yourself. The more you do, the less they’ll do! The more you do tasks that your employees should be doing, the less you’ll make! What are your priorities this week? What will make you the most money and give you the greatest return over the long haul? What activities will give you the greatest return – taking a loyal customer to a major league baseball game or sitting at your computer and ordering all the materials needed to keep your employees working today?

Stop Doing Their Jobs For Them!

Several years ago, I made a commitment to take charge of my company, put my priorities first, and focus on building a business that works for me. I committed to work smarter, get organized, be in-control, focus on things that produce bottom-line profits, delegate as much as possible, spend more time with customers, and get home at a decent time! When Monday morning rolled around, I couldn’t wait to get to the office. I got to work at 6:00 a.m. and made a list of all the things I had to do. I prioritized these tasks into these categories:

___Must Do
___Should Do
___Nice To Do
___Don’t Have To Do

Guess what happened at 7:30 a.m.? I started to get calls, faxes, and emails putting demands on my time. People were requesting I attend meetings, customers had problems needing immediate attention, project supervisors were having subcontractor problems with needed my attention, one of our field crews were sitting around waiting for the concrete to be delivered, and one of our trucks had broken down. So I did what I always did: I went out and tried to fix everyone else’s problems for them.

When I finally got back to the office at 4:00 p.m., I realized I had missed lunch and my desk was piled with at least 25 new requests, notes, faxes, invoices, call slips, and files requiring my immediate attention. So much for getting to my priorities! Then a good customer called and asked me to play golf with him at his country club the next morning. He wanted to introduce me to a banker and talk about his next project. How could I play golf? I didn’t have enough time in the day. I had to fix everyone’s problems and put out all those fires to keep jobs moving and the crews busy.

If you’re like most business owners, this has happened to you. You have good intentions and want to change the way you operate, but can’t make it happen.

– What’s on your ‘must do, should do, nice to do, and
shouldn’t do’ lists?
– What’s your top priority and #1 focus?
– What will make your company successful?

Think about what you an stop doing!

Don’t Under Promise and; Over Deliver!

Just do what you promise! People don’t want or expect you to do more or finish early. They just want what you told them you’ll do. When you promise you’ll finish on July 1st, you better finish on July 1st. And the word finish means finished! Finished doesn’t mean you still have to come back to do final touches or little things to complete your work.

You create drop-dead deadlines by making promises and agreeing to do something. If you can’t make it happen, don’t agree to the deadline. Never tell people what they want to hear just to make them happy. Because when you don’t make the date, you are now in the doghouse forever and won’t be trusted again. When asked for a firm commitment date, don’t quickly say:

“We’ll have it done by …”
“I’ll send it to you by …”
“We can get started on …”
“I’ll think we’ll get the materials by …”
“After the … finishes, then we can start.”
“We can get the first part finished by …”
“I’ll try to have a crew there on …”

Before you set deadlines, make sure you know the actual date or drop-dead date required by your customer to make them satisfied (not happy). If they don’t trust you, based on your prior unkept promises, they’ll ask for an earlier date than they really need to allow for days they anticipate you’ll be late. Ask before you commit: “What’s the latest date you really need this done to make your schedule?” After you hear their answer, give them a realistic date you can commit to and make without excuses.

Customers lose respect for your integrity when they don’t trust you, are uncertain about your performance, don’t know what’s happening, the dates slip without an honest or pro-active explanation, or are not informed about changing conditions. Honesty is the only policy in every instance. The truth will always surface eventually. Customers respect and trust honesty about the news,. whether it’s good or bad. Besides, if you can’t be trusted with little truths, how can you ever be trusted with bigger things?

Years ago we were working for a construction manager who asked us to pad our construction budget and pay a few of his expenses from the extra money. I felt this was dishonest and not in the project developer’s best interest. I was put into the middle of a tough situation. The construction manager was the person who approved our invoices, change order requests, and workmanship. But the developer was our ultimate customer. I decided to do what’s right and tell the developer about the uncomfortable situation. He listened, thanked me for the information, and then asked us to meet with him and the construction manager to discuss the facts. In the meeting, the construction manager denied the claims and proceeded to yell and scream obscenities at us. Guess what? The developer fired him and we finished the project. Ten years later we still build for this developer and the construction manager is out of business selling used cars.

Put Your Money Where Your Mouth Is!

In your business, which is most important to giving customers what they want?

– Meet or Exceed Customer Expectations?

Most business owners and managers say their goal is to exceed customer expectations. When is the last time your expectations were exceeded by a company you use? Less than 5% of companies ever exceed their customer’s expectations. In fact, less than 25% actually meet their customer’s expectations on a regular basis. My premise to succeed in business is simple. Do what you say you’ll do. Period! No questions! If you just do what you promise, you’ll be in the top 5 to 25% of all companies you compete with and be able to charge top dollar for it.

At the heart of building a successful business is the concept of “INTEGRITY”. Integrity is doing what you say you’ll do. If you commit to deliver on a certain date, that’s expected without excuses. If you tell your customer you’ll be there on a certain day, you’ll be there without exceptions. If you promise you can handle a bigger job than normal, you’d better figure out how to make it happen even if you don’t have enough money to hire extra people. If your contract calls for certain things you don’t usually do, do them without question. If you have to work overtime to keep your commitments, do it.

Are You Living A Lie?
Do you understand the basic meaning of integrity? Most business think they have integrity but their actions speak louder than words. They often make too many promises and do what’s best for themselves instead of their customers and what they’ve committed to do. I call this the big lie. When you don’t do what you say you’ll do, you’re living the big lie that less than promised is OK with your customers. Guess what? It’s not OK. Excuses and circumstances don’t give you a pass either. Plus your customers will remember your actions for a long time.  And they will tell their friends about your lack of commitment to do what’s right. And then guess what? When you don’t have impeccable integrity, your customers will only give you the next job if you’re low bidder by a lot.

Your Promise Is A Contract
Realize that your promise is a binding contract between what you say you’ll do and your actual performance. When your promise matches your performance, you have integrity.

+ Performance
= Integrity

Consider everything you promise to do when you sign a lengthy contract. There is often more than meets the eye. Most written contracts have numerous clauses that require strict conformance. But many companies don’t like to do everything required by the contract and try to skip things that seem unnecessary to them. I’ve had many arguments with subcontractors who don’t want to follow the contract they signed. They think the normal industry practice or what we required on the last job is all that’s required to complete their contractual requirements on this project. This good ‘ol boy attitude creates stress on our business relationship as one party is asking to do less than required and still get full pay for their work. This seems like a lack of integrity to me.

For example, our subcontract requires written prior approvals on extra work in order for subcontractors to get paid. Therefore, when subcontractors don’t submit written requests for change orders before they perform the work, we have the right to reject the request. The subcontractor who didn’t do what their contract required, then complains the general contractor is unfair. The problem is really not doing what one agreed to do.

When you tell the truth and do what you agree to do, whether verbal or written, your customer knows what to expect, all the time. When you sign contracts or make promises, and then change your commitment or attempt to alter the written agreement after the fact, your customer gets confused and upset with your integrity. These issues become evident when the promise and results differ. In other words, the customer didn’t get what they were promised.

Never Give Customers More Than Promised!

For the past 35 years I have done business with thousands of subcontractors, suppliers, architects, engineers, consultants, attorneys, vendors, and brokers, as well as an untold number of retail outlets and stores. Based on my experience, I have only found a few companies who back their promises with actual results and care about putting the customer first. It’s not difficult to satisfy customers and give them what they want if you focus on a single concept: integrity – doing what you say you’ll do every time. Customers don’t know what to expect when you don’t consistently deliver what you promise. The old business motto to under-promise and over-deliver is a flawed concept that creates confusion and a lack of trust and with customers. Under this motto, customers ask themselves: “Is their promise the actual date they will perform?” “Did they under-promise to give themselves some leeway in their commitment?” “When will they really deliver?” “Are they telling the truth?” “What’s the real deal?”

Customers just want what you promised and what they paid for. As I have said many times, the number one ingredient to building a profitable business is…

You keep customers by giving them what you promised and committed to deliver. And when you don’t give customers what you promised, you lose them to competitors. And without customers you have no business! So keeping customers is easy: give customers exactly what’s promised.

When you go to a fast food restaurant, you want quick service and competent service. At a casual restaurant, you want fair prices, good food, consistent quality, and a clean facility. When you visit a prime steakhouse, you pay top dollar and want an incredible meal, a great experience, impeccable service, served in a fabulous environment, by the best waiters in town. It’s easy to figure out what you want when you are the customer.

At Wal-mart, customers want the lowest prices but don’t expect the best service. When you use Fed-Ex to deliver a package, you expect to pay more and demand the best service. When you go to Nordstrom to buy a sport coat, you expect to pay a fair price and get great help from competent employees who’ll give you smart advice to make you look the best possible. When you buy Mercedes or BMW, you expect perfect quality and don’t mind paying more for it.

Now think about your business. Put yourself in your customer’s place. As a customer of your business, what would you want and expect?

Excellent Good Average Poor

Customer Experience

Are you providing what your customers want? Where can you improve? Customers will pay you based on the service they get. If you treat them poorly, they ask for lower prices. If you are average, you get the going rate for your work. If you provide excellent service and quality, you can demand top dollar.