Category Archives: Project Management

Bug ‘Em Til They Buy Or Die!

I bet you hate to make cold calls. Thankfully, over the last ten years or more, you didn’t need to cold call, market, or sell much to win your share of contracts or profitable work. The phone just kept ringing and you stayed busy. You also like it when potential customers call you with jobs to bid or propose on. This ‘old school’ marketing plan of letting your reputation speak for itself and waiting for referrals to grow your business used to work. Now it doesn’t.

In today’s tough work environment, that old school marketing plan doesn’t work. So in the new normal of less work and more competition, you need to make outbound sales calls and implement a marketing system to keep your pipeline full of potential projects to bid. The following is my simple marketing system that doesn’t require cold calls. Instead, it’s more like a form of that Chinese water torture you saw in the old movies — Drip! Drip! Drip! I call it: ‘Bug ‘Em Til They Buy or Die!’

‘Bug ‘Em Til The Buy Or Die’ marketing system:
1. Create Awareness Of Your Company
2. Pique Potential Customer’s Interest
3. Stay at Top of Customer’s Mind
4. Generate Inquiry
5. Get Belly To Belly / Face To Face
6. Convert a Bid or Proposal Into a Contract
7. Develop Customer Relationships
8. Get Referrals

The 8 step ‘Bug ‘Em ‘Til They Buy Or Die’ marketing system is designed to move the prospective customer through all eight marketing steps without a single cold call. The goal of this system is to get potential customers TO CALL YOU versus you calling them.

The ‘Bug ‘Em’ system builds an AWARENESS of your company and what you can DO for customers over a period of time. Drip! Awareness is based upon the ‘Rule of Seven.’

The Rule Of Seven
You must have at least seven contacts with a potential customer before they:
– Remember YOUR NAME
– Feel they KNOW YOU
– TRUST you
– Will TAKE ANY ACTION towards you

To grow both our construction and speaking businesses, we use the trusted U.S. postal service to make potential customers AWARE of us. Drip! We mail something to everyone on our mailing list at least 4 times per year. Drip! Drip! Once is not enough and we don’t just mail any old boring piece of mail. We send creative, different, unique, fun, factual, caring, and informative articles, photos, postcards, white papers, mini-brochures, checklists, and guides. We use a professional design firm to keep our image consistent. Orange and blue are our colors. Everyone recognizes our orange hardhat or our blueprint background on every piece of mail we send out. Drip! Drip! Drip! Now you’re creating and building AWARENESS. Everything you send out must do one of three things:

– Pique customer INTEREST
– Create a Perception of VALUE
– Reinforce customer RELATIONSHIP

To pique customer INTEREST, you must send out something different, crazy, funny, eye catching, bold or unique. You want to stand out from the crowd and make a statement. Try to be clever, creative, and fun enough to create the ‘WOW!’ factor. Never send those same old throw-away pens, ball caps, and notepads like everyone else. If you send out cheap stuff or tacky give-aways, your potential customers will think you’re cheap, have low standards, and not financially strong enough to handle their work. Send professionally created materials that consistently reflect your image. Quality counts.

Match your mail-outs to your customer targets. We use a newsletter that looks like a blueprint for our construction customers. But to attract bank investors we use traditional white stationary with blue ink. On a mailing to lawyers we sent out messages on legal pads and when we mail to meeting planners, we use a theme based on helping them make THEIR meeting a success. To attract investors for real estate development projects, we send out aerial photos of the neighborhood along with pictures and renderings packaged in typical real estate folders. Potential customers respond to the familiar.

To peak their INTEREST we also rotate mailing out cartoons, jokes, small hardhats, mini CDs or DVDs, estimating grid notepads, paper clip holders, coffee cups with hammer handles, business card holders, post-it notes, golf tees, golf ball markers, and American flags on the 4th of July! Once we mailed envelopes full of nails with the banner: “When can we nail down your next job?”! Last year I sent postcards from Maui, Hawaii with the note: “Thanks to my loyal customers for sending me skiing. I appreciate your business!” The best things to mail are items that pack flat, play big, and will not be thrown away. Don’t forget to put your name and logo on all of your ‘Bug ‘Em Til They Buy Or Die’ mail.

Only send what your customer:
1. Will READ
2. Needs TO KNOW
3. WANTS
4. WILL KEEP

Remember your goal is not only to create INTEREST, but to create the right kind of interest in YOU. Be sure that your mail creates the right perception of VALUE about your company ans how it does business. You have to tell your potential customers what you want THEM to REMEMBER ABOUT YOU. Don’t assume customers know what you know about you. To show potential customer targets we were more than a small “local” company, we sent out maps indicating our project locations covering a 100-mile radius. To show we were qualified in a new business market, we sent out photos and resumes of key managers with years of experience in this “new for us” area. To create the perception of fast service, we mailed out “On-Time Schedulers” and photos of projects with the headline: “Another Successful Fast-Track Project”. Decide what perception of VALUE you want to present to your customers and tell them about it – OVER & OVER & OVER! Continue reading

2 DAY INTENSE BIZ-BUILDING BOOT-CAMP

2 Day Intense BIZ-Building Boot-Camp
June 14 & 15, 2012 – Charleston, NC
July 26 & 27, 2012 – Newport Beach, CA

“HELP! I’m Stuck! I Want My BIZ To Work!”
Want To GROW Your BIZ In Tough Times?
Want More Bottom-Line PROFIT?
Want A Great Management Team?
Want Written Goals & Plans?
Want Organized SYSTEMS?
Want To Let Go & GROW?
Want New Customers?
Want To Make More $$$?

Stop waiting for the economy to turn around!
Let me help you get your business back to work!
Profit-Builder Circle Academy 2 Day Boot-Camp Outline

Day1: Get Your BIZ Back To Work!
How To Build A BIZ That Grows & Always Makes A Profit!

Most business owners work too many hours for the money they make. They’re too hands-on, stressed-out, out of control, over-worked and under-paid for the energy they put into their companies. They’re stuck, don’t know what to do next and need help!

Learn how to take your company to the next level, get organized and in-control, create a dynamic organizational chart and management team, develop operational systems, design a working marketing plan, develop streams of steady income, build equity, create wealth, and get your business to work for you.

George Hedley, professional business coach, author of the bestseller: “Get Your Business To Work!” and a “Entrepreneur of the Year” award winner will share how to implement his proven step by step system. You can get the results you want without your full-time hands-on, make-every-decision supervision by making sound decisions so you can enjoy the benefits of a growing company.

Upon completing this program, the participant should be able to:
1. Create a written business plan with targets and goals for growth, people, sales, systems, and profit.

2. Build a business that works, replace yourself with operational systems and build your company to meet your goals.

3. Develop written BIZ-Systems to always make a profit, market and sell, find and keep great people, get organized & in-control.

4. Create an organization and team that allows the owner to let go of control and focus on priorities that make a difference in the bottom-line.

Day 2: Grow Your BIZ!
Find New Customers, Win More Contracts & Stop Selling Low Price!

Being low bidder won’t win enough profitable work today! To develop a successful BIZDevelopment action plan to grow your BIZ, generate more sales and win more construction contracts, you’ve got to give customers better reasons to award your company work.

Learn how to improve your estimating and bidding strategy, set your company apart from the competition, differentiate, build loyal customer relationships, seek better opportunities, get on the right bid lists, find more viable leads, convert proposals into contracts, improve your professional presentations, develop an effective bid follow-up system, and track your bid-hit ratio.

You’ll leave with a winning marketing & estimating template and calendar to build loyal customer relationships, negotiate more work, offer more than low price, and get in front of decision makers to win more work.

Upon completing this program, the participant should be able to:
1. Implement a winning BIZ-Development, marketing, sales, proposal, estimating and bidding strategy to win more profitable customers and contracts.

2. Develop an action plan, template and calendar to find new customers, markets, projects,and value-added services to win more work.

3. Get in front of decision makers, negotiate to win, present professional presentations, and follow-up to win more negotiated work.

4. Build loyal customer relationships, set your company apart from the competition & offer more than low price.

5. Add more services to generate ongoing steady work.

Don’t Be Left Out!
Sign-Up Today To Get The 
50% Discount!
Expires May 21, 2012 

Email me for more information, a complete brochure or the registration form:
Email: GH@HardhatPresentations.com

The 8 Traits Of Great Companies!

Earn More, Work Less, Live Life!

Good news! Now is the best time you’ll ever have to take a hard look at how your company does business. Why wait? When you start a company, you’re happy getting some work and making a little money. Then it grows into the company it is today by doing what it does relatively well for the few customers it has acquired. As an expert on entrepreneurial companies, I can tell you this is not the right way to design and build a great company that maximizes its’ potential market share, resources, people, and bottom-line profits.

When studying market-leading companies, you’ll find they have eight traits that make them stand out and stay at the top of their field. Make a list of top companies who are leaders in their marketplace. Your list might include: Apple, Caterpillar, Wal-Mart, Microsoft, McDonalds, Ritz Carlton, BMW, FedEx, Forbes, Star-Bucks, or Google. What sets them apart from the rest of their competitors and allows them to continually maintain market share, growth, and profitability?

Owning a company that offers the same basic services or products as most of your direct competitors will keep you busy during good economic times. But as the economy struggles or shrinks, business becomes more difficult, harder to grow, and make a profit. Especially when you offer almost exactly the same thing as most every other company you compete against. In order for your company to become the leader in your marketplace, you have to offer something unique or different than your competitors do. You also have to be passionate about your vision and where your company to go. You need organized systems and a professional management team that consistently delivers the same results for your customers every time. And you must be clearly focused on hitting your targets, goals and financial numbers. With these characteristics, your company will make an above average profit margin and have extra funds leftover to invest in wealth building opportunities.

IS YOUR COMPANY GREAT?
Take this True / False Test to determine if your company has the eight traits of great companies.

1. Our company has a written passionate vision that is prominently displayed for all of our customers and employees to see. Every manager and employee knows exactly what the company stands for, its’ values, and where it’s going.

2. Our company has written targets and goals for the overall operations, each department, and every project. These goals are tracked every month so adjustments can be made quickly.

3. Our company has a structured organizational chart clearly describing the accountabilities and responsibilities for each position in the company. Every employee knows exactly what they’re responsible to do and is fully accountable to make it happen.

4. Our company owners and managers are focused on achieving the numbers required for the company to hit its’ financial targets and goals. Our company makes a very large profit compared to the industry average and our competitors.

5. Our company has a unique or different delivery system, product, or service that attracts customers who will pay more to buy from our company than our competitors.

6. Our company has an ongoing, systemized, and pro-active sales and marketing program to find, contact, attract, retain, and service our customers. Our sales and marketing system has allowed our company to grow at least fifteen to twenty percent, or more per year.

7. Our company has written operational systems and procedures for all employees to follow that insure all workflow is completed in a similar standardized manner by all employees without exception.

8. Our company’s bottom-line delivers significant excess profits that allow us to seek investments and find opportunities to grow and build our equity and wealth. Continue reading

Me, Myself and I

The best advice you can get is from outside, unbiased professionals who know your business, can give you real opinions of how to improve, and are not afraid of telling you the truth and hurting your feelings. I founded my commercial construction company in 1977. After only seven years in business, I had built up to 150 employees and we were doing $50,000,000 in annual sales. I thought I was doing great (and knew everything there was to know about business) for a young thirty-five year old. A friend suggested that a company board of directors could help me take my company to the next level. So, I asked five very successful businessmen to be on my advisory board of directors. At our first meeting, I proudly presented my goals, financials, and plans for the future. I then asked for their input. One by one they proceeded to rip me apart and ask questions I couldn’t answer.

Their laser-like questions included: 

 “Is that all the money you make for the risk you take?”
“Why are you only doing that type of work?”
“Why is your employee turn-over so high?”
“Why do you do so much of the work yourself?”
“Who else on your management team do you review the financials with?
“What is your plan to improve profitability?”
“What new customers and markets have you tried in the last year?”
“Why are you afraid to let go of major decisions?”
“Do you have a strategic business plan?”

These questions and many more made me feel really stupid and about two feet tall. I couldn’t answer any of them with good answers. I thought I had done fairly well building a company with me as the leader. But my inner circle and executive management team consisted of just me, myself, and I. And, I had obviously missed the boat on many major issues required to become VERY successful and VERY profitable. Does this scenario sound familiar to you? Are you alone making most of your strategic decisions. Do you continue to do business the same way and expect better results if you work a little harder?

Get some help!
My advisory board recommended I hire a professional management consultant and coach who specialized in helping construction business owners grow and make a profit. They also recommended I quickly work with the coach and my management team to draft a strategic business plan before I made another dumb decision. After several days of mourning and shock from the reality of the board meeting, I took the advice and decided to invest in the future of my company and get some help. I hired a construction business management consultant and coach who helped me look at my leadership style to become a better leader and analyzed our management team to determine who were valuable assets to our long term growth. He also reviewed and improved our overall operational systems, standards, and procedures to help us get organized, systemized, and more in control.  In addition, he reviewed our numbers and give us advice on how to make more money. After getting to know our company, he then did a great job at facilitating our two day strategic business planning workshop. I could have never made the moves and changes I needed to make without the help, advice, and pushing of an outside person who had no agenda except to make me and our company better.

Think about some of the steps you can begin to take to improve your business.

The 5% Factor: 5% Faster jobs = More profit! (part 3 of 3)

How can you make your jobs finish only five or ten percent faster? Many of these critical scheduling factors can cause major delays:

– permits
– procurement
– submittals
– approvals
– material selections
– long lead items
– probable delays
– potential problems
– anticipated conflicts
– critical decisions
– phasing issues

 Time is easy money!
Those major factors can cause your projects to take longer. But we are looking for the little things that really cost you money. When you don’t focus on faster, it doesn’t happen and you let your crews go with the flow. When you focus on speed, you get the whole team moving faster and becoming more efficient. When you start every project, get the easy money flowing by getting your supervisor and crew together. Explain the projected and budgeted schedule. And then ask them to brainstorm ideas how they can improve the schedule by a minimum 5% to 10%. Explain to them how 5% faster will translate into dollars and will keep your company competitive in the tougher

 Squish the Schedule 5% or more!

Total projected sch. = 100 crew days
Total bud. @ $3,000 /day = $300,000
Beat the sch. by 5% = Save 5 days
Total crew savings = $15,000
Beat the sch. by 10% = Save 10 days
Total crew savings = $30,000

In addition to saving on your crew labor budget, the overall project will finish faster as well. You will save even more money concurrently on general conditions, equipment, clean-up, temporary facilities, and supervision costs. This money adds up fast!

Miracles can happen!
Years ago in July, I was on a job-site meeting with my superintendent and concrete foreman. I asked them when they were going to erect and tilt-up the exterior concrete wall panels on a large warehouse project. They both told me they were planning on tilting-up on November 15th. That seemed too long a schedule to me for our 20 man crew to get the work done. So I asked them how they arrived at that date. They told me they met with the crane company and thought that date was ‘doable’ and they could easily make it happen.

I didn’t like their answer so I asked if they could finish a few weeks faster. They both squirmed and didn’t want to answer or commit. Then I asked if they could finish by October 25th if I offered them each a $1,000 incentive. In less than ten seconds, they both said they could make the faster October 25th date. A miraculous change of mind by two veterans. And they made the new date. It cost me $2,000 and saved me 15 days for 20 men. You do the math.

Sometimes we have to get creative to get the results we want. When we go with the flow, we don’t push our people, and it costs us real money. When you compete, you run a little faster. When I used to swim in high school, I always went faster in the meets than in practice. Competition makes people go faster. Challenges make people work harder. So do games where you keep score and can declare a winner. I like to say: ‘No score, no game!’ What incentives can you offer to get your crew excited about beating the schedule?

Annual Savings @ 5% Faster

20 Crew @ 200 days @ $35 /hr
Labor savs. w/5% faster sch.
Equip. costs saved – 4 pcs @ $50/hr
Costs saved 4 jobs @ $1,000/day
Tot. Annual Savings = More Profit

Trash your old tools!
Another consideration is the working condition of your tools and equipment, and their overall effect on your crew efficiency. When is the last time you did a tool inventory or a detailed equipment analysis? Some you should keep, trash, replace, or upgrade. Field workers tend to use old, broken, or bandaged tools and equipment rather than admit to the boss that they might be broken or worn out. How much money are old unproductive tools or broken down equipment costing you?

The added benefits of having quality tools and great equipment will be increased crew teamwork, improved morale, more pride of workmanship, better quality, less mistakes, safer projects, and more efficiency. This will translate into even faster jobs and more bottom-line profits for your company.

Poor Production = Poor Profits!
Do you think your crew wastes at least 3 to 6 minutes per hour? Those few minutes are costing you a ton of money.

20 Person Crew 5% Time Lost
Time lost /person = 3 minutes /hr
Time lost /day /crew = 8 hours /day
Total hours lost = 1,600 hrs /yr
Crew labor rate @ $35.00 /hr
Annual Prod. Lab. LOST = $ 56,000 /yr

There are many ways to improve crew efficiency and finish your jobs faster. Start by taking a hard look at your start time, break time, lunch time, and quitting time. Does stop working at 3:30 pm mean start rolling up at 3:00 pm or 3:10 pm or 3:30 pm? For a 20 person crew, every minute you lose per day costs you as much as $2,500 per year or more.

Double your Profits!
Call an all crew team meeting and discuss ways to improve your schedule, save a few minutes every hour, define your exact hours for production expected, create meaningful incentives, improve your tools and equipment, increase efficiency, and strive to implement the 5% factor to get more everyday from everyone.

Construction Risk Is a 5 Letter Word! (part 2 of 3)

The biggest risk and opportunity to make or lose money is… LABOR! Let’s look at a typical job breakdown to see what happens if labor runs over budget by 5%.

Typical Construction Contract Budget

Labor $40,000
Materials $40,000
Equipment $10,000
Subcontractors $10,000
Subtotal $100,000
Overhead @ 10% $10,000
Profit @ 5% $5000
Contract Amount  $115,000

The 5% Factor = 100% More Net Profit!
Most construction companies only make an average annual net profit between 2% to 3%. If you can IMPROVE your LABOR costs by only 5%, you can IMPROVE your net profit amount to 4% to 5%. This can be as much as a 100% increase in your bottom-line!

If you can improve your labor by 5% in the example above, your net profit will increase to $7,000, or from 5% to 7% net profit. And if you improve your labor by 10%, your net profit will increase to $9,000, or from 5% to 9% net profit. This is real money and will put you far ahead of your competition and give you some breathing room to invest back into your company.

But, if you overrun labor by a small 5% amount, you’ll spend $2,000 more than your labor budget and reduce your profit margin to only $3,000, or to 3% net profit. If you overrun you labor by 10%, your net profit will be reduced to only $1,000, and 1% net profit.

Is your crew working efficiently?
Consider how productive your crew is everyday out in the field. Studies of typical construction field crews show revealing facts and much room for improvement. Field employees spend some of their time planning the work. Then they produce the work. Some of the time they support the work doing layout, seeking information, fixing equipment, looking for tools, repairing tools, locating the right material, and asking questions. And of course some of the time is wasted goofing off, standing around, starting late, quitting early, extending their breaks, smoking, making personal cell phone calls, waiting deliveries, running out of materials, or taking care of their dogs loose on the jobsite.

Typical Construction Field Productivity

2% Planning work 0.2 hrs /day
40% Producing work  3.2 hrs /day
25% Support  work 2.0 hrs /day
33% Wasting time 2.6 hrs /day

Do these results shock you? Go out to any job site and look around for a few hours or days. Just sit and watch what really goes on. You will be under-impressed and appalled. So where do you start to improve productivity? It starts with identifying the areas that take away form your crew’s efficiency. Look for things that slow down production, create down time, or allow them to be less than productive. Some things that hurt your field productivity include:

– When the superint./foreman leaves site
– 5 trips to hardware store per day
– Run out of materials or small supplies
– Tools break or don’t work properly
– Wrong equipment for the job
– Waiting for right equipment to show
– Smoking while working
– Cell phone calls
– Dogs running wild
– Not starting on time
– Quitting early
– Breaks and lunch time extended
– Bad attitude employees

Win the race!
NASCAR is a good model to follow. At each pit stop, there is no time to waste, as every second counts and can cost the team millions of dollars if they loose any time. How can you get your crew to win the race and become:
– super efficient
– super fast
– super productive
– super organized

Focus on the 5% factor!
The dilemma for most contractors is a downward spiral and never ending treadmill. When you try to do it all yourself, you aren’t focused on field productivity. You get too busy taking care of small tasks that need to be done but don’t make you money. When you’re too busy to meet with your supervisors regularly to help them plan properly, problems continually happen. You only have enough time to react and fight fires. This causes your crews to stand around and wait for you to get them answers or needed materials.

You know you are losing money and your crews are inefficient as they waaste more time than they should. But you don’t have enough time to stay out on the jobsite all day to tell them what to do and keep them working faster. So you rely on untrained foreman to get the work done. These supervisors have no incentive to work at a high productivity rate, so they do what they feel is fast enough based on their experiences over the years. Besides, what’s the worse that could happen to them? You come out a few times a year and tell them they’re over budget and try to get everyone working a little faster. Not much of a productivity improvement program.

The 5% Factor: Produce More To Make More (part 1 of 3)

In the good old days, construction companies were owned and run by builders. These proud, tough, hard working men (and women) learned their trade in the field, had years of practical experience, and knew what it took to get their projects finished on-time. If they didn’t produce quality workmanship, they didn’t last long. Back then it was all about getting the work done no matter what it took to meet their obligations. It was about delivering solid structures with unsurpassed craftsmanship. The contracts were negotiated face to face and enacted with handshakes based on integrity, reputation, trust, one’s word, and doing what’s right. It was all about building a project the contractor could remember, be proud of, and then rely on their customers for recommendations and new work.

Fast forward to today. Now successful construction companies are run by professional managers, engineers, and accountants. These business leaders are focused on the bottom-line and following what is only required by the contract. These managers have college degrees and little or no construction field experience. It’s now about paperwork, documentation, notices, claims, and tracking systems. Building the project isn’t as important as getting the work, doing the paperwork, and getting paid, even if it involves litigation.

Combine this lack of real field construction experience at the top of many companies today with the lower and lower profit margins. Years ago there was not enough qualified construction companies to handle all the work available in the marketplace. Under this business climate, contractors could afford to always do a little extra to insure a perfect project and still make a good profit.

More demands = less profits!
But over the last 40 years, the number of contractors has tripled while the total amount of construction has stayed relatively flat (adjusted for inflation). Therefore now there are more contractors than needed to do all the work required by the market. This has created a price squeeze and reduced contractor’s ability to do more than the minimum required by their contract. In addition, with increasing competition, construction customers are now demanding more than ever before. They now demand faster schedules, safer projects, better quality, more communications, better technology, all at much lower prices.

These added customer demands on contractors who are willing to sign contracts for less than they should, have killed the construction business as it once was. Add to these demands poor architectural plans, problematic engineering, incomplete specifications, conflicting contract documents, material shortages, price fluxuations, more regulations, added paperwork, lender’s requirements, third party inspections, construction managers, and red tape, has all but eliminated a fair profit for the risk contractors take.

It’s time to refocus on the field!
These issues have put pressure on contractors to save more and more money in the field. The average crew size has increased, while the number of experienced field workers on the crews have decreased. Training is a thing of the past as most employers have eliminated it as an unnecessary expense. Superintendents and foreman are younger than ever which also translates into less experienced field leadership and less efficient crews. This has resulted in poor or flat field productivity improvements over the last twenty years. Consider your challenges fighting against competitors who charge less than they should, have inexperienced and untrained field crews, and building projects that now require more paperwork and increased risk. A need now emerges for contractors to refocus on improving field productivity as their only viable solution to compete and improve their profit margins.

Construction profitability is about reducing risk. Contracts require contractors to assume more risk than ever today. Have you considered what’s at stake?

Types Of Construction Business Risk:

– Project Loc. & Access – Project Type & Sz
– Project Sch. & Duration – Constructability
– Customer – Architect, Eng. & Consultants
– Contract Terms – Financial , Funding & Pymt.
– Regs & Inspections – Subcontractors & Suppliers
– Material Costs & Aval. – Plans & Specifications
– Approvals & Acceptance – Project Management
– Supervision & Coord. – Manpower, Prod. & Safety
– Quality & Workmanship – Estimate & Budget
– Factors Beyond Control

So how do you reduce risk and increase your bottom-line? Your choices are many. But consider which will give you the biggest return on your time, energy, and money. In other words, where can your company gain the biggest advantage over your competitors?

– Lower Material Costs
– Better Subs. Costs
– Better Equipment
– Better Supervision
– Better Project Mgmt.
– Labor Productivity

The Worst Case Scenario: What If You Lost All of Your Clients?

When work was plentiful, it was easy to stay busy doing the same things over and over to the same customers. You didn’t have to look for new ways to improve your business, new services to offer, or new customers to build relationships with. Just bid enough jobs to your same five or ten customers, you’ll get your share, and make enough money to stay in business. You really didn’t have to be the best, creative, or innovative. You just had to be as good as your competition. The old saying: “A rising tide lifts all boats” applied during the good times. But now as the tide goes out, all boats will go down as well.

During one of my recent “Profit-Builder Circle” two day business owner boot camps I hold every few months, I asked the attendees what they could do to make a profit if they lost all of their business in the next few months. Most didn’t have an answer. They were so used to doing the same thing and business the same way for so long, they were stuck. Most said they would just try to survive. Survive? Survive doing what? I again restated the question and asked them to consider that all of their sources of past business would be non-existent and they would have to do something different. Still no real good answers. Do you have an answer to the question?

As I started to dig deeper, David told us he was an underground utility, sewer, water, and storm drain contractor in Florida. Ninety percent of his customers comprised of track home builders and ten percent were public works and Cities. The good news was that over the last ten years he had built a large successful and profitable company doing over $8 million in annual sales. He had over 25 managers and supervisors, 150 field employees, 100 pieces of equipment, a large yard, an equipment manager, two full time mechanics, and a net worth in excess of $5,000,000.  The bad news his home builder customers had put all of their projects on hold indefinitely and he was now pursing more public works projects to keep his equipment and crews working. On these projects, the bid lists had grown to over twenty bidders, and the only way he could win any contracts was to price lower than his actual costs. Plus his $1,000,000 annual overhead expenses were starting to eat away at his net worth he had built up over the last five years. David didn’t know what to do.

I asked David how long he would last waiting for something good to happen. He said he could probably hold on for at least a year. How much would it cost? He said he would lose at least $2,000,000 per year trying to keep everyone working. I asked him if it was worth it to give up everything he had worked for just to keep his long time loyal employees and managers working while his nest egg depleted. His simple choice: keep the money or give it to employees hoping the economy comes back fast. Not an easy decision. Then I asked what his equipment was worth. He said he could sell all 100 pieces of his equipment for around $5,000,000 net after debt.

Now the real question for you: Why are you in business? Is David in business to put pipe in the ground, grow his equipment fleet, and pay his overhead expenses? Many business owners forget the purpose of their business is not to cover their costs, do work, and keep busy. It is to give them what they want. Do you want to only break-even by working hard, and keeping yourself, your crews, and equipment busy? Or do you want to own and build a company that produces a constant flow of money, passive income, equity, wealth, and freedom to you as the owner? Your business is a tool to deliver the results you want and fulfill your dream of business ownership.

David and I discussed his options in detail. Keep doing what he had always done and watch his future disappear. Or consider a radical change. If he sold eighty percent of his equipment; reduced his overhead by 20 people to one project manager, an estimator, and a few office staff; and just kept a few crews working; he could stay in business at a reduced break-even level of $1,500,000 in annual sales. That way, when the economy turns for the better, he could jump right back into the main business he excelled at and his company would be one of the last underground contractors still standing. Then he could take at least $3,000,000 generated from selling his equipment and invest it. I suggested he start looking to buy under-market and under-valued fixer upper homes in good locations that could rent out easily to families at break-even lease rates. I recommended he seek single family homes in clean and safe neighborhoods near business centers, schools, shopping centers, hospitals, and government offices. He could utilize his crews during down times and when work was slow to do the repairs and refurbishment on his investment properties.

David made a goal to sell much of his equipment fleet and invest $3,000,000 to purchase 100 houses (100 houses @ $125,000 average price = $12,500.000 in value) within the next six months. If each home appreciated at least 25% over the next three years, his $3,000,000 investment would reap him at least $3,125,000 in net profit. This is a lot more than his construction company would have ever made, even in good times. David realized that his business was not the end, but a means to an end to ultimately get what he wanted.

Re-View, Re-Do & Re-New

12 Steps To Re-Vive Your Business (Part 4 of 4)
Re-Vamp | Refresh | Re-live 

10. Re-Vamp!
Every year professional teams take a hard look at their playbook. They bring in new coaches to replace the ones who didn’t develop winning plays. Even the Los Angeles Lakers are now trying a new offense instead of the triangle they have used for years. What plays do you call over and over, year after year? Have you called any new plays lately? Your management style most likely is not the best in today’s competitive marketplace to maximize the bottom-line results you want. Perhaps it’s time to RE-VAMP your field, project management, and operational systems.

Make a list of the systems and procedures you have in place which guarantee and deliver consistent results every time. Then make a list of all the problems you have experienced over the last year that has cost your company money. Then decide which problems can be solved with new plays for your team to use. For example, if you are challenged with getting paid for extra work, create a system for field changes and implement it companywide. If your employees are not being productive, challenge them to design a productivity program that increases their efficiency. If you are not achieving your project goals on a regular basis, facilitate a discussion of your team leaders and develop a system to achieve every project goal.

11. Re-Fresh!
Even winning professional teams take a break between seasons to rejuvenate. I like reading how athletes spend their time off. Most go back to their hometowns and hang out with family and friends, fish, golf, hunt, workout, do nothing, and refresh. This allows them to return to training ready to hit it even harder with renewed energy. How much time do you give yourself on a regular basis to renew?

I was speaking at a company annual convention in New Orleans earlier this year. The opening party was incredible. They had a mardi-gras parade for the group with music, jugglers, clowns, and lots of beads to throw. At the party there was a fortune teller offering advice. She approached me and asked if I wanted her ideas on my situation. She told me I needed more down time in my life. I rebutted that I play golf two or three times a week and take lots of trips with my wife. She smiled and said that sounds like work, not relaxation. She was right. I fill my down time with competitive activities or meaningful work. I rarely sit down and do nothing, read a novel at the beach, or just swim in the ocean. Wow! Stop and smell the roses. To continue building your business, take time to RE-FRESH on a regular basis. Take regular two or three day breaks to do nothing. And take a two week vacation every year. You deserve it. Plus your customers and employees will appreciate the new you too.

12. Re-Live!
Every once in a while, I dream about owning a golf course. I imagine as the owner, I will get to play golf every day, be surrounded by my golfing buddies, have lots of fun, and make money enjoying my hobby. But the fantasy becomes reality when I talk to a friend who actually owns a local golf course. He works seven days a week, sixty to eighty hours per week, is on call full time, and rarely plays any golf. Not the dream I had in mind. Are you living your dream? Is your company delivering exactly what you want it to? Why not? Never forget your dream. Write down specifically what you want your business to do for you. Next decide what you must do to turn your fantasy into reality. RE-LIVE it every day by reviewing your wish list and taking the actions required.

RE-NEW
Think like a winning coach. Stop and RE-VIEW where you have been, the results you have accomplished, and what changes you need to RE-DO your company to develop a winning team. Starting over gives you the ability to go in new directions, change what doesn’t work, and capitalize on what gives you’re the biggest return. For example, every year you decide if you’ll RE-NEW the magazine subscriptions you subscribe to or not based on which you like or give you’re the biggest bang for your buck. Do the same in your company every year. Decide which strategies, plays, and players you will RE-NEW to build a champion.

Re-View, Re-Do & Re-New

12 Steps To Re-Vive Your Business (Part 3 of 4) 
Re-Structure |  Re-Focus | Re-Build

7. Re- Structure!
Most companies use the same unwritten organizational chart for years without ever changing it. The owner is at the top of the chart and accepts most of the important roles like chief salesperson, general manager, chief estimator, and money manager. But over time, the old chart doesn’t work as business and customer demands change. For example, on a professional baseball team, the marketing manager used to be in charge of advertising on television and in the newspaper to sell tickets. Now ninety percent of marketing is done over the internet. Managing internet marketing requires a different skill and talent than the old role of marketing manager.

What outdated positions do you still have? What new positions do you need to compete today? Using the example of a professional sports teams, you should also consider changing the way you stay in touch with past customers and attracting potential customers. Your old equipment manager was a glorified mechanic. Now he needs to be fully responsible to get a return on your equipment investment plus keep everything working efficiently. The old role of an estimator was to prepare quantity take-offs and put a price on jobs. Now he must be a director of presentations, video modeling, power point slide shows, and master of negotiating complicated design-build contracts with professional engineers. The old role of general field superintendent was a pusher and problem solver. Now he has to be fully computerized to coordinate complex challenges, field scheduling, material expediting, crew productivity rates, and contract management. Perhaps it is time to RE-STRUCTURE and take a hard look at your company organizational chart, job responsibilities, and who is in charge of your operations.

8. Re-Focus!
If you’ve never played ice hockey, you’ll find it’s a hard game to follow, confusion, low scoring, and very technical. Therefore you probably would never consider buying a ticket or going to a game. To expand professional hockey into the warmer lower states in the USA, the NHL had to offer more than hockey to the non-hockey crowd. They had to realize the game they had always played in Canada, while exciting to Canadians, won’t sell tickets in the USA. They had to change their focus from hockey to entertainment.

What does your company offer or do different to attract customers to pay full price for your services? Have you changed your marketing strategy, proposal, bid presentation, image, or guarantee to gather new fans of your company? Have you changed your target market, project types, or delivery systems to expand your customer base? Trying to convince customers to hire your company using the same old bid strategy and low price methodology won’t get them to buy tickets from you at premium prices. It is time to RE-FOCUS your customer strategy and look for new customers in new markets and new project types by offering something exciting that will fill seats and get customers excited about paying your company what it’s worth.

9. Re-Build!
When the National Hockey League added the Anaheim Ducks, it quickly became one of the hottest teams in the league in merchandise sales. They had teal and purple jerseys which stood out and attracted lots of attention. But over time, they looked dated, too cute, and not tough enough for true hockey fans. So sales of their gear slowed. A few years ago, Disney sold the Ducks and the new owners who decided to change the look of the team. The fans were skeptical and said it wouldn’t work. When the new tougher black, gold, and orange jerseys were revealed, fans started buying again and the team won the Stanley Cup championship the next year. Now, merchandise sales of Ducks gear is at the top of the charts in the league.

Image isn’t the only reason the team won the cup. But it did help. The Ducks were able to change their colors, look, slogan, music, theme, and perception in the league. The new look felt like a winner and created excitement. It gave the fans a new reason to cheer and opponents a look to fear. Take a fresh look at your overall company image, logo, stationary, proposal format, communications, presentations, uniforms, trucks, job signs, office, showroom, business cards, and website. Do they create any excitement or are they old, tired, and like everyone else’s? Do they give out the right professional clean impression to your customers? Does it make your employees proud to be a part of a winning team? Does it promote technical expertise and value? Now is the right time to RE-BUILD your image. To be the best, customers must perceive you are the best.