My kid brother also is a writer, but his specialty is screenplays; among Chris Webb’s credits is Toy Story 2, which racked up more than $500 million in sales worldwide. (Yeah, I’m proud of him.) For years, Chris has taught an extension-school class at UCLA on the fundamentals of writing a good script. One night, I heard him point out a popular misconception about movies: That they’re mainly about a conflict between heroes and villains.
Such face-offs might drive the plot, Chris said, but the real conflict is typically between the hero and his/her inner self. Think about Luke Skywalker battling his feelings about his father, Darth Vader, in Star Wars, or the inner turmoil of Clarice Starling as she sparred with Hannibal Lechter in Silence of the Lambs. Even last year’s Oscar-winning best picture, Argo, was as much about a group of people overcoming their fears as it was about the crazy plan that Ben Affleck’s character concocted so that a group of U.S. diplomats could escape from Iran during the hostage crisis in 1980.
While it’s not a matter of life or death, you and your staff confront a powerful fear every time you talk with a customer. It’s the fear of losing a sale, and I would bet it’s the No. 1 reason that you end up doing too many projects for too low a profit.
Developing the intestinal fortitude to bid at the profit margins you deserve—and to walk away from counteroffers that are too low to turn a profit—figured prominently in two recent events that I attended. At the Remodelers Advantage Business Summit, members of one roundtable pushed a fellow member to markedly raise his rates. Put a picture of your daughter next to the telephone and think about building her college fund just before you call the prospect, they suggested.
Later in the month, at the Remodeling Show, Paul Winans called on contractors to submit numbers so high that they “make you sick to your stomach.” That same day, I also heard a veteran remodeler from Iowa declare that if you win every bid, or even only half of your bids, you’re working too cheap. At best, you should get only one out of every three jobs that you bid on, he said.
I’ve had my bouts with fear of rejection, and I still get nervous today. But when that happens, I remember the advice that I got from a sales guru once when I was having an attack of nerves: Get over it, pick up the damn phone, and make the call.
I did. And I got what I sought. For me, no movie has ever delivered a happier ending.