Contractor Tip Of The Month: Getting Things Done

Words: Damian Lang

Damian Lang

  Have you ever wondered how people who put in 60-plus hours a week at work still find time to coach their kid’s baseball team, mow their lawn, and keep their houses neat?  Yet, others who work significantly fewer hours, cannot seem to find the time to remove their garbage cans from the curb after trash pickup or cut their grass, let alone offer time to help someone else. There’s an old proverb that says, “If you want something done, ask a busy person to do it.”  It seems to me these busy folks can accomplish so much because they have trained themselves to be productive and efficient with their time. They are the people you can rely on because they are motivated to get things done.  A common characteristic of motivated people is they are usually highly organized. They tend to have a systematic approach to managing their time and are adept at planning and prioritizing to ensure they meet their goals.  Recently, I took a business trip to Texas with Roger, Steve, and Dan who are members of our management team. We were meeting with a company that we were considering purchasing. These managers are incredibly busy, but I can always rely on them to get things done.  In addition to their day-to-day responsibilities, they prepared to ensure our trip was successful with proper travel plans, meeting locations, and detailed agendas. They articulated the expectations for our meetings and included steps we would take to reach our goals. They also conducted follow-ups immediately after every meeting, which proved invaluable. As I watched this team in action, I evaluated what they were doing. 
  1. I flew in from Wisconsin, Dan from Florida, Roger from Michigan, and Steve from South Carolina. I was impressed when I landed in Dallas and got a call saying Roger and Dan were waiting to meet me at baggage claim and Steve was outside ready to pick us up in the rental car. Steve and Roger had the trip planned down to the finest details, including coordinating flight times, reservations for hotel rooms, rental cars, dinner, and meeting times and locations. Their forethought and preparation not only made it easy for me but also made our meetings more effective.
  2. They had a detailed agenda which allowed us to make an efficient presentation and kept us from unproductive and unimportant topics. 
  3. Everyone knew what was expected of them because we met for two hours and discussed our meeting goals in advance of our meeting. Each person knew their role, deadlines, and follow-up responsibilities.  
  4. They were engaged during the meetings and took notes. 
  5. During breaks and between meeting segments, these managers made calls to clarify information. Then they returned for the next segment with answers. This proved to be a valuable technique as it saved us significant time and money and kept the meeting moving forward.
One of the trip’s goals was to quickly get to the “yes” or “no” answer, so we would not spend tens and perhaps hundreds of thousands of dollars in lost time and opportunity costs by both parties. We set a clear path with milestones, and when we got to a milestone that we could not cross, we knew it was time to cut ties and move on to the next deal.  Before I got back to Ohio the next day, Roger emailed me a plan with the next steps to approve. It was detailed and followed the ideas of our discussions. I approved Roger’s plan, and he sent it to the corresponding company.  After all this hard work and planning, we received a “no” on the deal a few days later.  Some deals just are not meant to happen. While our attempt to grow our business did not go as we hoped, it still resulted in a valuable outcome. Thanks to the team’s efficiency in managing the entire process, we had minimal time wasted, and we were immediately able to move forward with plans for our next deal.  We live in an age when it seems we are all very busy, but not everyone is accomplishing something. You will never find success in business in the illusion of busyness, delayed actions, or inaction. If you are keeping someone on your team full of empty promises, you are heading for poor business results.  You need to understand how successful managers can accomplish so much more than all-talk-and-no-action managers. To make sure your team members are high-level producers, ask yourself the following questions: 
  • Observe how they make plans. Are they proactive or reactive? Do they plan to anticipate problems, issues, or opportunities? Or do they wait until they are in the middle of a situation to consider the necessary steps required to finish the project? A proactive manager will anticipate future conditions so they can take advantage of promising situations. And in negative situations, they can keep the impact to a minimum.
  • Are they organized? Before hiring someone, I like to peek inside their car to see if it is tidy. I may even drive by their house to see if they have a well-maintained lawn. If their car or lawn is a mess, rest assured their paperwork and follow-up responsibilities will likely be a mess as well.
  • Are they taking notes during your discussions and meetings? Productive managers take notes, while ineffective managers do not. Taking notes can increase recollection by 300% to 400%. 
  • Great managers make following up their priority. How quickly do they take care of action items after a meeting? Anything discussed in a meeting that does not hinge on the involvement of something or someone else should be addressed within minutes. 
  • Do they respond with definitive answers to your questions? Great managers hold themselves accountable by providing specific details. They want to ensure the topic is adequately addressed and the subject is closed. An unproductive manager will give you vague answers and speak in generalities to avoid accountability. 
  • Do they keep a to-do list? A great manager will make a list every day and work on one task at a time until everything is complete. While simple, this tool keeps you focused, efficient, and productive.
Business success truly comes down to having a reliable team of achievers. Surround yourself with productive and efficient people with their time and who are motivated to get things done.  Once you discover who the real producers are, give them the freedom to do their job, and you will see them perform optimally. As a result, they will rise to every challenge you put before them and inspire their team members to do the same.  Damian Lang is CEO at Lang Masonry Contractors, Wolf Creek Construction, Buckeye Construction and Restoration, Malta Dynamics Fall Protection and Safety Company, Three Promise Labor Services, and EZG Manufacturing. Combined sales at the companies will exceed $125 million in 2021. To view the products and equipment his companies created to make jobsites safer and more efficient, visit his websites at ezgmfg.com or maltadynamics.com. To receive his free e-newsletters or to speak with Damian on his management systems or products, email dlang@watertownenterprises.com, or call 740-749-3512.
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