What Do Alligators in the Swamp Have to do with Your Business Success this Spring?
Its springtime! And for most contractors that I know – especially the ones that live in areas that have cold winters – the 2nd quarter of the year is the beginning of the crazy busy season. This is when your customers come out of hibernation and want to have work done around the outside of their home or commercial properties and often this creates a tsunami of work so big that it’s hard to keep your head above the water.
There’s a great quote that I think perfectly sums up the situation at this time of year for many owners and for their management teams:
“When you’re up to you’re a** in alligators, it’s hard to remember that your original intent was to drain the swamp”
I had a “When you’re up to you’re a** in alligators” coaching call with one of my clients recently to help keep him focused on what he needs to do to keep his business moving forward and himself sane during this crazy busy time of year. I thought that you might benefit too.
Here are the key points of our conversation:
Narrow your sights, but keep your priorities a priority
When it’s alligator season, even your best laid plans tend to get put on the back burner. All of the ideas that you intended to implement that you learned over the winter by reading APC and by going to the PDCA Expo – who’s got time to implement them now, right?
But don’t drop your plans completely. Focus your limited time on one (or maybe two) key priorities that are absolutely critical to your success this year and keep moving them forward. Give yourself and your team permission to let the other priorities slide until the tsunami passes and you have time to pick them back up. Focusing on one, or maybe two priorities will free up time and relive stress for you and your team.
Consistently manage your management team
As a best practice, I strongly recommend that my clients manage their management team through weekly 1-on-1 meetings. It’s an efficient way to monitor their managers’ results, to help them solve their problems and to coach and motivate them to ensure that they produce consistent results. If you’re not having weekly meetings with your management team members, you should!
It’s like being a plate spinner in the circus. You meet with each manager and spin them in the right direction for the week and proactively head off problems and fires in the process. You’ll both save time because you won’t need to interrupt each other during the workday and you’ll have the peace of mind knowing that each of your managers are headed in the right direction for the week.
Many of my clients try to put these meetings on hold during this crazy busy season. Bad idea! This is the time of year when your managers need your support and guidance the most. And each meeting you have will save you 5x the time in interruptions, problems and fires you’ll prevent, so keep doing these meetings… or start them if you’re not doing them now!
Be good to your team
If you’re stressed out and working extra hard, it’s a good bet that your team is too! Be good to them. Let them know that you appreciate them, their hard work and all that they do.
Appreciation doesn’t have to take up a lot of your time. A client of mine, for example, recently handed out jumbo Snicker’s bars to all of his field employees and attached a thank you note from him and his managers. It was like he had handed out gold bars instead of Snickers bars! Another one of my clients bought breakfast sandwiches for everyone to eat before they left them shop.
The point is that finding good people is hard these days. These random acts of kindness and appreciation, especially when the going gets tough can help ensure that the tough don’t get going to another job somewhere else!
Follow up with your prospects and customers
Many of my clients, and other owners of contracting companies that I talk to, find that they and their sales people struggle to follow up with the torrent of leads they get in the springtime. But dropping the ball on your leads can cost you thousands. Research shows that the faster you respond when a lead comes in and the more consistently that you follow up after you deliver an estimate, the more likely you are to sell the job.
If you find that you or your sales team don’t have the time to contact customers in a timely fashion after the leads come in and follow up after the estimate, delegate these customer touch points to someone in the office or get a temp to help out. It’s that important.
Take care of yourself
You are the engine of your business. And if you run yourself into the ground by working 24/7 at 100 MPH then you’re going to be no good to anyone.
Take care of yourself. Get enough sleep, exercise, meditate, do yoga…do whatever you would normally do to care for yourself at other times of the year. You may not be able to do your self-care as frequently or for as long, but don’t drop it completely. Sleep in one day, go to the gym at lunch, take Friday afternoon off. These are all things that my clients do during the spring to care for themselves and recharge.
Where do they find the time? They just block off their calendars and take it! Research shows that self-care will make you more effective as a result so it’s more than worth the time. “Just do it!”
Pay attention to your family
One of my clients a couple of years ago who was working 24/7 at this time of year said, “I need to focus all of my time on my business.” When I asked, “What do your wife and kids think about never seeing you?” His reply was “My wife and kids are more forgiving than my business.” If you’re thinking the same thing, be careful. Divorce rates are high and even higher among business owners. And do you really want to miss your kids growing up? Ok, I’ve said enough.
A final thought
I get it. There never seems to be enough time during “alligator season” to fit everything in that you want to do. The six points that I laid out here are really about not trying to do it all, but instead about picking the right priorities and being effective with the time that you do have. If you follow my advice you’ll successfully the alligators while staying effective, calm and balanced. Then when things calm down, you can get back to draining the swamp! (No political reference intended!)
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