By Iqbal Thokan
Find a new direction. Be bold enough to reroute your business while still keeping your destination in mind.
A business is like an aeroplane, we took off from one position and are on a flight to a destination, our vision. While in the air we are refuelling, building and recruiting. Some businesses are structured to work on auto pilot, while others require us to be in control of the aircraft. Every now and then we hit turbulence and we need to be in control of what the aircraft is doing. There is constant air traffic noise that we have to be aware of otherwise we will find ourselves on a collision path. Each of our aircrafts are different in the shape, design, model, capacity and range, hence, like with any aircraft as the pilot we need to plot our journey accordingly. However, without a clear vision, planning can be non-existent and we often find our selves doing take off and landings or moving in circles to stay within our comfort zone.
To be bold requires us to know our direction and where we are headed and that all starts with having a vision of where we want the business to get to within a particular time frame which will then give us an indication of the resources we would need as well as when and where we will need to upgrade our aircraft. Without a vision, boldness comes in the way of survival, like selling masks and sanitisers to bring in short term cash flow, but that doesn’t allow us to navigate the enormous storm (COVID19) we see ourselves in. The boldness I am referring to allows us to continue our core business while navigating around the storm.
Over the last few weeks I have heard many stories of people going into non-core related businesses to sell masks and sanitisers to keep the cash flow coming in or to just cash in on the opportunity and yes it did work for many, but for many others, they have taken a beating as the prices for these products started coming down and stabilising. Which now means that they are in a worst-off position then when they entered the storm. Being bold with the core of our business requires us to focus and redirect our energy and resources so that our core businesses can continue to its destination. Being bold means that we need to take hold of the yoke to control our aircraft and navigate the storm, either coming out unscathed or scathed to an extent that we can fix. Being bold and navigating this current storm we are facing allows to be better prepared for the next one.
So, how do I reroute? The first step is to understand what our strengths and weaknesses are. Review what we good at and what reliable resources we have available. Rather than trying to get new resources, work with what you have and make it happen. I recently received a quote from an unknown author and it says, “we are only in real trouble when we run out of ideas and plans and not money”. As we know in business, turning less money more times in our business gives us a better return on investment.
Once we understand what resources and strengths we have we need to look at new ways of reaching out to our target market by understanding their new ways and wants. I know I have been repeating this in previous posts, but reinforcing this concept is important to understanding how to refocus our business.
While we are certain, to an extent, about the impact of COVID19, we are quite uncertain about the implications in terms of the way our governments are dealing with this, such as the lockdowns many of us are experiencing. However, that does not mean we cannot have goals in place that are flexible and allows to manoeuvre around this. As we know, all storms are constantly moving and reforming and we cannot stand still hoping that it will pass us. One we have reviewed and have put new goals in place we need to start implementing in a cost efficient and lean way, always learning and adjusting as we move forward and eventually we will be out of the storm and see the brightness of the sun and blue sky ahead of us.
For those of us that have been building our businesses over years, we have acquired knowledge and skills within a particular sector or industry and we need to use that knowledge with the new knowledge we acquire to reroute our aircraft and find the path of least resistance. Easier said than done, I understand, but again, history has shown us that those who are resilient, those who are bold and redirect the energy of their fear are able to weather any storm.
Stanford Economist Paul Romer once said, “a crisis is a terrible thing to waste", as a crisis allows us to find new and creative ways and opportunities to do things we could not do before. Take for example Airbnb, in 2007, Joe Gebbia and Brian Chesky move from New York to San Francisco to look for opportunity. With no work and no income, the two were under extreme pressure to find opportunities to be able to earn some rent money. They noticed that all the hotel rooms in the city were booked due to a conference and they saw an opportunity to buy some air mattresses and sell sleeping space. The idea worked and they managed to get their first three paying guests. However, the business was not an immediate success and it wasn’t until the great recession of the late 2000’s were they able to spot and opportunity to reroute their business from shared spaces to listing all types of accommodation and is we know the rest is history. Airbnb has over 2 million listings in over 34 000 countries across the globe with a valuation estimated at close to $25 billion.
Be bold enough to reroute your business while still staying focused on your vision and fortune will be in your favour. Stay Positive, stay relevant, survive and thrive.
Iqbal Thokan is an experienced business management consultant and the founder and co-owner of breedingpositivity.com
The beauty of these questions is that you can propose them to your clients, to your employees, and even to yourself.
A person’s passion is the sincerest definition of who they are. Passion can manifest itself in a hobby, an aspiration, or if you’re really lucky, a career. Take two people, Joe and Jane, as an example. Joe has a passion outside of his career. He devotes a lot of his free time to this passion and naturally speaks about it to his peers. When his peers think of him they probably define him as “person passionate about X.” Now take Jane, one of the lucky few who has made a career out of her passion. She devotes twice the amount of time, twice the amount of energy and twice the amount of conversation to her passion. How do you think her peers define her?
If you’ve read Simon Sinek’s bestseller Start With Why, then Jane will remind you of Herb Kelleher, co-founder of Southwest Airlines, or Steve Jobs, co-founder of Apple Inc. Joe will remind you of the Wright Brothers. Each of these individuals built empires by undyingly following their passion. Sure, you can claim that these individuals are used as examples because of winner’s bias. But they succeeded because not only were they extremely passionate. They succeeded because they were able to clearly communicate their visions.
I consider myself extremely lucky. Like Jane, I’ve built a career out of my passion. When I first launched my film production company, my team asked the same questions regarding our clients that our competition was asking:
Don’t focus on what you don’t know at first you’ll just get frustrated and stuck. Focus instead on what you can do and keep going to gain momentum. This means focusing on the easy parts first, then coming back to the more difficult aspects of building your business. Hopefully, by then you’ll have built up enough momentum that it won’t break your productive focus.
The following are some of the basic business skills (especially soft skills) that drive you to success with ease. These basic skills are what truly set you up for success.
- Focus on what works for easy success.Many entrepreneurs believe they’ll succeed, but they lack the basic business skills and common business sense to back up that belief. They waste a lot of time focusing on expensive details.
For instance, when I work with entrepreneurs in building or reinventing their businesses, I help them develop or re-create their branding. Occasionally, I get a client who gets stuck on such details as perfecting the font on the logo when he should be focusing on areas of the business that generate profits. People like this make it hard for themselves, instead of making it easy by trusting the process.
Obsessing over perfection or the wrong details isn’t cost-effective. You must learn how to prioritize. Know how much time to spend on each aspect of your business, and don’t waste time on less important tasks.
- Avoid “Squirrel Syndrome.”It’s not uncommon for a business owner to spin their wheels and lose focus. When this happens, many people start looking for the next bright, shiny object to grab hold of. This is called Squirrel Syndrome.
- Squirrels have a severe inability to focus.
- Squirrels often dart back and forth—doubting their decisions—unable to choose a direction.
- Squirrels have something to teach us: what not to do.
The Squirrel Syndrome may cause abrupt dashes from one idea to another or one project to the next. When this happens, you become unfocused and may even become frantic about not getting things accomplished. The result is, you delay or never complete important projects to reach your goals.
You can avoid Squirrel Syndrome by learning to recognize when a squirrel shows up in your life. Refocus by taking the time to define the project or direction in which you need to go. Then stay on task and turn off all distractions. Remember, every time you stray off course, it takes that much longer to reach your goals.
- Focus on activities that create results.Focus is one of those basic-but-critical, habits you need to master if you want to be successful. Improve your focus on the day-to-day basic business activities you do best, and from which you produce extraordinary results. If you don’t, you’ll create higher stress levels and may experience burnout. When you spend most of your time and energy doing the business tasks you’re brilliant at and allow others (like employees or subcontractors) to do the rest, you reap the biggest rewards.
For example, don’t try building a website unless you’re a webmaster, and don’t try learning technical skills if that isn’t the best use of your time. Outsource those things instead, and focus on running your business so it can grow and prosper.
- Multitask mindfully.The key to multitasking is to do it strategically and mindfully. Mindful multitasking means that you check in with yourself and determine how you need to focus in each new situation.
Mindful multitasking allows you to stop reacting to distractions, such as the automatic reflex to answer the phone or read an incoming text. It allows you to focus on the actions that provide the best results and disregard everything else. After you set your intentions for the day, create a to-do list that you can tackle using mindful multitasking, allowing yourself to be present in each action you take for the day.
- Focus on developing one big project at a time.Don’t try to start multiple projects at once—it fragments focus and time. Entrepreneurs are creative people, often with many good business ideas. And it’s hard turning off the desire to act on multiple ideas at one time. But if you split your attention between more than one big project at a time, you’ll run into trouble completing anything at all. You’re going to need all your energy and focus to get your one new project off the ground.
Here are five ways to remain focused on whatever your task at hand may be:
- Write out what you need to accomplish each day so you don’t forget important tasks.When a new idea comes to mind, don’t stop what you’re doing. Simply make a note of it and come back to it at a more convenient time.
- Focus on your overall ideas and then implement an effective action plan.Keep your top three goals in mind and commit to achieving them each week. Write down the specific actions you need to take to achieve those goals.
- Tackle creative work first.Mindless work will drain your energy, lower your focus, and waste your time. When you start with creative work at the beginning of the day, you can work on the most complex projects when your energy is highest before moving on to simpler tasks, such as answering emails or returning calls.
- Understand what’s worthy of distraction.Don’t allow last-minute, nonemergency issues to kill your focus. Stay on task and stick to your commitments. Prioritize other tasks and put together a timeline so you’re not needlessly distracted.
- Unplug from email, social media, and phone calls.Take a break from all outside distractions and focus on the task at hand. You’ll get a lot more done when you’re not constantly interrupting yourself.
Owning and managing a busy construction business is overwhelming and demanding. There are lots of moving parts, processes and requirements that are sometimes difficult to control, and numerous decisions to make every day that determine how you do business.
The pressure to get it all done is a constant stress, which will take its toll on your attitude, outlook and energy level. So what’s the secret to building a successful construction company that delivers quality workmanship, on-time completion, safe jobsites and high margins without sacrificing your sanity?
Focus on Results
As a construction business owner, there are dozens of things you must do well to build a profitable business and achieve your goals. The problem is that there are way too many daily accountabilities, responsibilities, tasks, systems and processes required to ensure your company is working like a well-oiled machine. The key is to focus on the top five must-do strategies and actions that will make your business successful 90% of the time.
Start by defining the specific results you wish to achieve. From there, determine the top five strategies that can produce these desired results. These desired results will determine how you must conduct business to achieve your vision for the company and the growth you want. And the resulting strategies define what is required to become a top contractor in your marketplace.
Remember: These strategies should include your employees, processes, policies, tactics, projects, clients, contracts, locations and how you will win work. Following are specific results and clear strategies to produce those results. Review these to develop and/or select the top five that will guarantee success.
Define Your Goal
- Produce a minimum 6% net profit with 15% annual growth.
- Have management hold their workers accountable for results.
- Shift your sole focus to company leadership and business development.
- Use the latest technologies to organize and systemize the company.
- Make your business a great place to work, with opportunities for training, growth and promotion.
- Produce accurate estimates and maintain updated job-cost and field-production tracking.
- Make sure all projects meet job-cost budgets and schedule specs without profit fade.
- Maintain a safety program and an experience modification rate (EMR) of less than 90%.
- Procure loyal, high-margin clients.
- Achieve a bid-hit-win ratio that is greater than 33%.
- Maintain a profitable, well-managed and well-utilized fleet with a return on investment (ROI) of more than 15%.
- Make two income-producing investments per year.
Specify your Strategy
- Only seek work with high margin and high barriers to entry.
- Seek negotiated contracts with
- loyal clients within 50 miles of your main office.
- Invest in building relationships with your top 20 clients quarterly.
- Never bid on projects with more than three competitors.
- Have a job size target of $200,000 to $800,000, with a 15% markup minimum.
- Demand quality work from your teams, with little to no call-backs or rework.
- Produce and complete a weekly punch list and safety inspection report for every job.
- Track, update and review job-cost production scorecards weekly with project managers, superintendents and foremen.
- Update and complete job-cost budgets and estimated costs monthly.
- Produce accurate estimates with up-to-date production rates and no missed items.
- Review project results and adjust estimating rates monthly.
- Consistently schedule and conduct mandatory team meetings to review results.
- Enforce core values and maintain team players with positive attitudes.
- Hold employees accountable and don’t tolerate poor performers.
- Pay top dollar salaries and provide full benefits to employees.
- Maintain a work environment in which your employees believe they can advance and succeed.
- Provide all employees with written and enforced job descriptions, with expectations of accountability, responsibility, tasks and deadlines.
- Have managers meet weekly with employees to review tasks and results.
- Maintain an ongoing employee hiring, recruitment and training program.
- Provide ongoing training for all management and field employees.
- Provide regular feedback and reviews for all levels of managers and employees.
- Provide incentive-based compensation plans that require results and are paid out quarterly.
- Consistently enforce company systems, processes and standards.
- Make project close-out a top priority, regardless of workload.
- Do not allow change orders to be performed without prior written authorization.
- Always put safety first, and provide safety programs, weekly jobsite inspections and regular safety training.
- Only hire professional, qualified subcontractors and suppliers.
- Demand strong performance and treat subcontractors, suppliers and customers firmly, but fairly.
- Follow and enforce all contracts, requirements and terms, and accurately document every step.
- Manage and maintain company equipment and usage to make a minimum 15% ROI.
- Promote innovation with the latest technologies and integrated software systems.
- Have your accounting department deliver accurate, timely accounting reports.
- Reinvest 25% of your profits back into income-producing investments.
You may want to implement all of these strategies, but that is not feasible. To maintain your focus, start with five. Then, get to work making the improvements necessary to build a better business. Once those strategies are in place, reset and begin the process again with five new priorities. Keep in mind that strategy development is not a one-time meeting; it’s an ongoing process.
What is the number one responsibility of every great leader?
Keap CEO, Clate Mask, believes the top responsibility he has as a leader is to have and articulate the “vision” of the company to all his employees. He says if we aren’t rolling our eyes when he talks about the vision, then he isn’t talking about it enough. This is the biggest and most important responsibility that will help you as a business owner maintain culture in a growing company. A successful leader understands why workplace culture is key to business success.
Why does having a clear vision matter?
Vision gives you clarity. It helps give you You have alignment and harmony with employees and with the work. It can attract amazing talent. Your vision can inspire and motivate.
When you have a clear vision, it’s easier to make decisions within your company. Filtering what you do as a business and what you commit to each and every day becomes easier as you consider your vision in the decision process. If a decision aligns with the purpose of your vision and your business’s values and mission, then you should invest time, resources, and management attention to it. If not, get rid of it.
When a vision isn’t clearly defined, resources within your company become scattered and unaligned, and employees start working in different directions. Having a clearly-defined vision helps unify your work and the work of your employees.
If you haven’t articulated your company’s purpose, values, and mission, now is a great time to do the foundational work on this. Start with getting clear on your purpose (your “Why), then create values (your “How”), and then your mission (your “What”).
Here are a few tips to creating this:
What’s Your Purpose?
Since this is your “why,” it’s necessary to get clear on your business purpose statement. Consider these questions: Why do you devote your life to your cause? What impact do you have on the world?
Your company purpose is something that should stand the test of time and will never change, even after 100 years. It can also be the same as another business’s. But a word of caution: It’s not the marketing of your business, it’s the why of what you get excited about. It drives everything you do in your business.
Take Keap, for example. Our purpose is, “We help small businesses succeed.”
It’s clear, short (easy to remember), and impactful. It’s a cause people get behind. I can only imagine that if our purpose was to “sell software” we wouldn’t be a 600-plus employee company and have the significant growth we’ve had. “Selling software” isn’t worth devoting your life to. Helping small businesses succeed is.
Some examples of great Purpose statements come from our customers:
DC Mosquito Squad: “Connecting people in their outdoor spaces.”
Caboodle: “To empower people to anticipate and manage their money matters.”
Iron Tribe Fitness: “To create fitness communities that change lives.”
The next part of creating your vision is articulating your values, or the “how” you accomplish your why. These values describe what already is, not what could be. They should represent your core beliefs, and are things you and your team are already manifesting daily in your work. But be sure your employees believe in the values you create. Otherwise, you’ll risk losing alignment across the company.
We have seven core values at Keap, all of which govern the way our company does business and supports our purpose of helping small businesses succeed. For instance, in order to help small businesses succeed, our value, “We build trust,” must be ingrained in each employee that works at Keap. And it isn’t always easy being a part of a company that grows quickly, so our value, “We check ego,” is really important for all employees to endure.
Dan Ralphs, co-founder of Dream Leadership Consulting, gives a great analogy for the role values play within a company:
*“The purpose of your company is your anchor in the vast ocean, and the values are what keep you from drifting too far away from your purpose.” *
Consider your values the guide rails for your team when make decisions on a regular basis. They bring accountability to operate within the confines of the business, which ultimately allows freedom.
Manage Your Mission
The last part of your vision is the clear articulation of your mission. Since your purpose is your “why” and your values are your “how,” your mission is your “what.” It articulates what, exactly, you will accomplish in the next three to five years, and it aligns with and supports your business purpose and company values.
Your mission should be both achievable and aspirational. It should state what you are going to do and by when. It’s best to focus on the next three to five years as you aim to accomplish your “what.” At Keap, our mission is to create and dominate the market of all-in-one business management apps and software for small businesses.
In our experience, it’s our customers who’ve put together a clear vision and ultimately hire, train, and release employees by the guidance of that vision who really succeed at scaling their businesses. Once they’ve made their purpose, values, and mission a part of their every day, they start to grow in the right direction, with the right people on their team.
As you get clear on your vision—no matter what stage your business is in—you will see that you will begin to hire the right people for the job and that your team will become aligned to your vision as the creator and founder of your company.