Last fall I agreed to write a couple of Opinion pieces in 2011. January was easy. This time, major writer’s block. Smarter people than I have, over the years, delivered every bit of business advice a remodeler could need to build solid, client-pleasing, cash-cow companies. My summary:
Get sales training. Join a peer group and/or trade organization. Choose your customers. Know your numbers. Build an annual company budget (and track it). Hire slowly, fire quickly. Hire people smarter than you who have different talents but share the same values. Estimate defensively. Love your job, staff, and clients … if not, change them until you do. Give back. Plan, plan, plan. Measure, measure, measure. Lead. Be decisive. Apologize when you screw up but be unapologetic about following your vision. Read, dream, visualize, plan, execute. Learn. Mentor. Open your books. Build systems but still be human and don’t hide behind them. Be boldly honest when people don’t expect it (this will be your greatest marketing tool). Stop the “free estimate” insanity. Project confidence, even when you have to fake it. Provide a great product, but even better service. Reach out and touch your client base regularly and sincerely. Have a “yes” attitude, but know when to say “no.”
The recipe for success has been laid before us month after month. So I asked myself, “Why aren’t remodelers more successful?” “What’s the missing ingredient?” Naturally (like you, I’m sure), I knew the answer could be found in The Wizard of Oz. And it is: COURAGE!
Could that be the missing ingredient? What makes a remodeler tell a prospect, “I’m sorry, I don’t feel we’re the right fit for your project”? What makes a remodeler do the right thing, though it may cost him big (short-term) dollars? What makes a remodeler admit that he screwed up? What makes a remodeler have a difficult conversation with an employee about his performance? What makes a remodeler drop his toolbelt and learn to read financial statements? What makes a remodeler risk losing a prospect and for the first time say, “We charge a fee for the feasibility study”? What makes a remodeler create a lofty vision and share it with his staff and peers?
Is that what you’re lacking? Can a magazine provide that final ingredient? No. Can a peer or a mentor? No, but they can help draw it out of you. Muster up some courage and go find one. Reading this magazine every month is useless if you’re too scared to change.
—Greg Antonioli is owner of Out of the Woods Construction & Cabinetry, in Acton, Mass., vice president of his National Association of the Remodeling Industry chapter, and a Sandler Sales trainee.