In the home improvement business, “That’s the way we've always done it,” is a common—and tired—phrase. You can rationalize any manner of inefficient, counterproductive, or failed business practices with the idea that what’s worked in the past is the best way of doing things today.

Stuck and Staying Stuck
When a company becomes a prisoner of habit it shows in every aspect of the operation—especially in the hiring process. Instead of an ongoing search for qualified candidates, the company hires any dozen people who can fog a mirror and assigns them to a training class. Eight show up. By the end of the week, there are four left. After a month, one remains. They hand the guy a lead, have someone ride with him, and hope it works out. When it doesn’t, the same song and dance starts all over again.

How about marketing? More and more customers today are in the 30 to 40 age range. They’re all about the Internet and social media. They don’t read newspapers and they probably don’t even know what Val-Pak is. Imagine putting your marketing dollars into advertising venues like that, even when the phone’s not ringing. But…we've always done it that way.

Temperature Reading
The companies that I’m describing never really grow. They hit a revenue number and can’t go past it. It’s like someone set an internal thermostat to $3 million and that’s where it stays. This occurs for two reasons:

1) Failure to put a plan with monthly, quarterly, yearly, and five-year goals in place.

2) Failure to create manageable, expandable systems. Such systems are the reason that McDonald’s is what it is. They’re simple and teachable, but require a tremendous amount of planning and insight.

The super-successful companies in the home improvement industry have a system in place for every aspect of their operation. They have a system for hiring salespeople, for training salespeople, for marketing, for managing installation, and for communicating with customers. They embrace change—they’re not afraid of it.

Set the Stage for Change
No one wants to look at what’s wrong with their company. But if you’re stuck in a rut and just can’t adjust to this new post-recession way of doing business, the first step is to recognize that you have some challenges dealing with change. Overcome that by committing to making adjustments. Or hire someone—a consultant or a new general manager—who can provide some fresh insight.

One of the most useful lessons of the last five years is that a business with systems and long-range goals in place is a business that functions smoothly in good times and in bad. It’s a business where the owner can walk out the door and be certain that things will continue functioning…because he has the trust of various staff members.

If you insist on being one of those business owners who doesn't want to hear about anything he doesn't know about already, you may not be a business owner much longer. —Sales veteran and trainer Mike Damora has been the sales manager at several large home improvement companies. Reach him at [email protected]t.