ONLINE FEATURE: Put Your Game Face on

Spring prices will be cheap. Be prepared for this and don’t freak out. This may require you to make two trips to the client, spend extra time on estimates, etc. Make sure the customer understands what you are selling.

It is not the customer’s responsibility to find out the difference between your quote and a competing one. Contractors who work for wages are always cheap and they will be extra cheap this spring. They are broke and need grocery money. As they get busy with under-bid work, they will have to work day and night to complete it. Only then will they begin to go away. They will convert their idle time and no money to no time but still very little money.

Work hard to keep your head in the game. Slow down. Spring is a busy time. Your goal is to sell jobs, not merely run to the next estimate. Decide what constitutes a large job and plan to visit that customer more than once. If a second appointment is needed, set it prior to leaving that first appointment.

Be wary of being the first person there, though. Fewer calls may mean you can get to a site right away and present a price much higher than the customer was planning on. Other contractors show up later—and the consumer asks if they can you do it cheaper.

Be wary of cutting your prices just to get work. You must be competitive because people are looking for deals, but blindly slashing prices will not work. Be strategic, not just cheap. Cheap contractors merely slash prices. Strategic contractors offer discounts on special items or up-sell as a way to entice customers, but still leave enough money in the job to help recover overhead.

Hold your employees accountable. Obtain clear hourly production deadlines and insist they be met. If need be, get buy-in to do the jobs in less time. If you have employees who are consistently behind or slow on jobs, you may have to let them go. Times have been good for a lot of years, and firing someone may be the only way to get other employees’ attention.

Be efficient. For most small businesses, owner compensation is the largest overhead cost. How you spend your time is very important. Make sure you do things that bring profit to the company. Generally speaking, this means you sell more work or come up with ways for a job to be more productive.

If you have no estimates and cash is tight, it may be time to pick up your tools. Keep a time card on yourself. Write an hourly value by the task you performed. But remember, such work has to bring value to the business.

Now is not the time for owners to change the oil in company trucks in an effort to save money. If you want to make $100,000 a year, that is approximately $2,000 a week. For a 50-hour week, that is $40 an hour. You can’t make $40 an hour by doing jobs that are worth $10 an hour. Leadership is about focusing and getting down to what is important.

Change is never easy. We run our networking groups to force change. We post each and every goal to our participant’s website. Change requires commitment and persistence. Change requires optimism, not denial. There is a thin line between the two. Optimism is the feeling that everything will turn out OK. We all need to be optimistic about our business effort. Denial is refusing to recognize there is a problem and avoiding reality. While the behavior may look the same, the end result will be dramatically different.

Consumer spending is down but people will start to spend money. Spring flowers will bring better attitudes. You have to be ready for it.

Each and every January millions of Americans go on a diet, but few actually lose weight. We are a consumption-oriented society. Things may not be what they were two years ago, but they will improve.

Don’t talk yourself into failure. Make a plan and stick to it. Look internally to what you can do to fix your business. If you want a few minutes of free business advice or are interested in our networking groups, call me, I would be happy to talk with you.

Monroe Porter is president of PROOF Management Consultants, a consulting firm that moderates networking groups for contractors. Contact him at (800) 864-0284 or email