Business Building: Too Busy To Build A Better Business?

Words: George Hedley

Your construction company's goal is not to be busy. Your goal is to build a business that works and delivers what the owners want - Profit, including a high return on investment of time, energy, people, and money. When you're working too hard and accepting too many responsibilities yourself, don't know your numbers until it's too late, don't have an accountable management team, and don't make enough money, you get frustrated. Why? You can't afford to hire or train the right people or don't have time to focus on higher-margin customers or project types. In other words, being too busy forces you to keep doing what you've always done while hoping for better results.

Dan's Story
Dan started Connell Contractors seven years ago. It grew quickly to $5 million in sales with fifteen employees. Then the economy started to take off, and he grew to $15 million in annual revenue. This increased the workload was beyond his ability to properly manage all the contracts he had signed. As a result, he worked harder, got out of control, profits began to fade, had no life, and was stuck being too busy. When his company was smaller, it was easier for him to act as the ship's captain, process the workflow, and meet with customers to keep them happy. But now he had to work harder and harder to keep his company above water at a higher and faster pace. Dan was frustrated and needed help. He called a construction business coach for some ideas on how to improve. At that point, he had a few good supervisors, two key foremen, and an assistant project manager, but he hadn't delegated much of his responsibilities. He was still preparing the estimates, organizing the field, awarding subcontracts, and negotiating contracts with customers. His old ways of running the business weren't working at a higher level. 

Commit to building a better business!
Building a better construction business takes a commitment to continuous improvement. Realize you're never finished getting better or upgrading. When you get too busy, you don't have time to improve your operations, productivity, people, customers, or margins. You only have barely enough time to keep doing what you always have done at a faster speed with lower results. And when great opportunities come along, you can't fit them into your program and miss out on better projects and new customers. When your business began, you had a vision of high margins, great customers, productive employees, organized systems, excellent service, and plenty of time to enjoy your time off. As you got busier, these dreams all got postponed and pushed aside in the pursuit of more. At this level, the owner acts as the supervisor in charge of every decision, contract, customer conversation, price, purchase, delivery, and what work gets done when. 

Most small business owners stay stuck at this level - too busy doing the same things without time for improvement. When companies grow beyond the level where the business owner can control everything himself or make all the important decisions anymore, it gets stuck. At this point, the owner is unable to manage, supervise, and take care of everything efficiently. He or she knows they need to do something different, let go, hire better people, delegate, install systems, find better customers, improve service, get a better handle on costs, or find more hours in the day. When you get frustrated with too much work and nothing to show for it, you begin to hate going to work because of all the demands, stress, and pressure to get everything done for your customers, employees, bankers, bonding companies, subcontractors, and suppliers. 

Steps to build a better business!

  1. Re-focus on what you want! Stop and remember your original dream of owning a growing and profitable company that achieves your vision and goals, is organized, makes lots of money, has loyal customers, is run by your accountable management team, and gives you freedom and time to enjoy your life. 
  2. Realize you are a BIZ-Builder! You will never reach your goals if you don't grow. Are you too busy working to make any money? To grow, you've got to let go, delegate, and do what you do best. Growth starts with customers who want what you sell. And you are the best salesperson in your company. You must make time to go out and build relationships with loyal customers, plus find new ones. 
  3. Replace yourself with systems! To delegate, you need written systems and procedures in place that don't rely on you directing every move and decision on every transaction. Put your standards on paper, train your people to follow them, and hold them accountable to perform. 
  4. Hire the best! When you know where you are going and have systems in place, you can start to build a strong management team prepared to take your company to the next level. Good people without written systems can't do a great job without your constant input. 
  5. Enjoy the ride! With your company organized and growing, you can now focus on creating more opportunities for your business to prosper and grow. 

Remember, busy is not better!
To get Dan's company to build a better business, he decided to change how he managed his business, hire better people, hold people accountable, and seek better customers and projects. Over the next year, with the encouragement of his coach, he hired experienced talent and delegated more responsibility to key managers and supervisors. To increase and improve the net profit, they invested time in standardizing operational systems and starting a training program. With the improvement program moving forward, Dan gained more time to meet with existing and new customers to develop relationships and win higher-margin work. Connell Contractors' profits began to rise, and Dan was able to spend more with his family. He had righted his sinking ship, installed a new rudder, stopped doing what he had always done, and taken the time required to get his ship headed down the right path. What will you do to build a better business?

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