Begin With the End in Mind
October 16, 2011
I have been active in the restoration industry for over 23 years. The past 13 years have been spent as an advisor to restoration companies in North American and, more recently, Australia.
During that time I have worked closely with nearly 100 companies and observed hundreds of successful restoration businesses. I have been able to learn from successful businesses and also study the traits of the most successful business owners.
Prior to discussing the details of successful companies, I should start by reviewing my definition of success. As an entrepreneur it is important for you to clarify your definition of success and then take the steps necessary to make your success a reality. To me, success is being able to do what you want, when you want.
It is not important if you want to work 10-hour days or take 10 weeks of vacation a year – I believe you are successful if you have a choice and are working deliberately. Note that this success definition does not rely on revenue or number of locations; rather it requires freedom. Thomas Watson, founder of IBM, perhaps said it best when he said it was important to begin with the end in mind. Often, entrepreneurs go about their day and do not make deliberate decisions or have a clear destination. They are busy, but not working toward defined goals or a destination.
I recommend that you take advice from Thomas Watson and define your success so you can start working deliberately in order to achieve your goals.
Successful companies are proactive. The first step in this process may come from creating your definition for success. As I mentioned before, most entrepreneurs are very busy. Successful business owners do not have more time in their day; they choose to maximize results by optimizing time. This can be accomplished by creating a destination and then defining expectations with your team.
When you have clear expectations and goals for each position, you will find that your entire company is more effective and your employees may be more engaged. Zig Ziglar has said that if you do not have a destination, then you will hit it with remarkable accuracy – every result is equal. Proactive companies have a purpose and a destination. This will help you improve individual performance and focus company efforts.
The owners of successful companies are humble. Perhaps this does not seem congruent with thoughts on great leaders. You will need discretionary effort from your staff, and that will require them to want to work for your success. In small businesses, each employee has some relationship and familiarity with the owner. They are looking at how you speak, act and what you do both at work and in your non-working hours.
If you are the person that they want to support, then they will provide the effort required in order to propel your company. If they do not care about your success, they will often not provide the needed effort or may even work to sabotage your success. Take a long look in the mirror and make sure you are the kind of person that others will want to support; if not, then make the necessary changes.
I have a brother-in-law who operates a popular Cuban restaurant. He is very passionate about his business. You can see this passion from the authentic art and decorations to the details of the food. This passion transfers to the staff and to the many clients who frequent his business.
Owners of successful restoration companies have a passion for customer service, providing exceptional quality and value. They are able to communicate this to their staff and rally them around a cause. This is especially important in the face of any challenges or crisis in your business.
Passion will provide confidence and motivate your staff in the face of uncertainty. When passion is combined with a clear vision, the owner is able to maintain focus on a long-term success.
Effective restoration companies have timely measurements for key business activities and individual performance.
In the absence of proper measurements, a manager is forced to be subjective in decision-making. Timely reports allow for proper management and allow the managers to analyze trends rather than individual activity. As a matter of fact, I believe that timely measurements are a requirement for growth. A business that tries to grow without objective measurements is the equivalent of driving down a dark road with no headlights – you will eventually hit something, and odds are the results will be unpleasant.
The successful businesses I have observed use measurements and reports to track performance and make needed adjustments. If you are feeling uncomfortable about your company or direction, I will guess you are weak in this area.
A related item to proper measurements is fiscal discipline. Successful businesses have a financial plan and are disciplined regarding expenses and cash management. More equipment and larger buildings may give the appearance of success but this may hide the true story. A successful company will budget for major expenses and determine a proper return on investment for major purchases or expenses.
This discipline is also present on job management as a budget is prepared and followed. Financial discipline is a hallmark of successful companies, as the owners and management team realize they are running a business rather than simply being restorers. Many restoration companies are run as partnerships. The downfall of many companies is a lack of partner alignment. Partnerships can be very synergistically powerful but all parties need to assure that they have goal alignment and are heading in the same direction. Like a good marriage, successful partners are not looking at each other; rather they are looking in the same direction together.
Successful partners are driving the company toward shared goals. At the same time most effective partners have a clear exit plan. This plan does not need to have a defined timeframe but needs to have a clear path and valuation methodology for eventual exit of one or both of the partners. These plans are created by your legal team and as a contingency are often funded by a life insurance policy. This is necessary, even in a strong partnership; it will preserve the personal relationships beyond the life of the business.
These items are not meant to be a comprehensive list of items required for a successful company. You will find most of these items present in any successful business. It is my recommendation that you take a look at your operation and make sure that they are present. If you are missing any of these items, realize that you are increasing the risk in your business.
I challenge you to dare to dream. Often the successful companies were not in a more favorable situation than you. They created a plan and put the steps in place to become exceptional. I believe that you owe it to yourself, your family, your employees and your co-workers. You are spending the time and making the same investments as the companies that have excelled in this industry. I also would offer that it is much more fun to run a successful company. Take the steps today to become exceptional.