On top of a pandemic that refuses to end, Americans have faced a series of tragic natural disasters in recent years — and they show no signs of stopping. Lumber, labor and a litany of other core costs have skyrocketed. Great employees have always been hard to find. Right now, it’s tough to find anyone available at all that can meet the minimum standards. While some of today’s issues are unique, there will always be major obstacles restoration contractors must solve, resolve or absolve to find success. It has always been this way, and it always will be.
How does the saying go? When the going gets tough… “Face it and embrace it!” Well, at least, that’s what I always say. Once you catch the vision of face it and embrace it, you will find it applicable in so many ways.
In other words, are you going to survive, or will you thrive? Are you simply enduring your day-to-day duties, or are you working on getting the most out of them? Are you open to facing uncomfortable truths about your business or your leadership? Are you embracing your responsibility to improve?
Being receptive to certain truths can be difficult and unpleasant. And it’s easy to neglect our duty to do so, especially when it’s a path that often leads to head-butting and sore feelings.
But as every good leader knows, the earlier you face difficult truths, the better equipped you are to solve the actual problems they represent. And maybe, more importantly, a willingness to meet challenging ideas means your organization is better positioned to move into the future, regardless of whether a burden or obstacle has been removed or not.
In our house, we have a few chores we ask our kids to do. Nothing major; small things, like Mary will clear the table and Luke will load the dishwasher. Seems pretty simple, right? “Why does she get to clear the table?” “I had to fill the dishwasher last night.” “This is so unfair!” You get the idea. It's incredible how much energy kids can spend trying to avoid a 10-minute job. Back in my day, we argued over who would wash versus who would dry.
Yes, some things really are unfair, and there is a proper time and place to address those things. But most often, things that seem unjust or burdensome become a huge distraction that can sap the very life out of your company. If you find yourself on a ship in troubled water, the first step is to turn the bow to face the waves head-on. It is not helpful to pretend the waves are not a problem or “hope” that everything will work out somehow. “Face it” means to take an honest look at what is happening. Put the emotional talk to the side, roll your sleeves up and lean into the work.
Everyone knows this deep down, and yet, certain things still get under our skin. Some things we let continue to fly under our radar to handle another day. Keep in mind, most of the issues you face are also hitting the hulls of every other boat in the harbor. While some boats are being swamped or capsized, you will find success by turning to face the issues head-on. Maybe even gunning the engines a little by doubling your focus on what’s working well and what can be improved.
It’s about facing facts, over the cost to our feelings. That can be hard, no matter where you fall on the spectrum of leadership — recognizing our mistakes or even places where we could stand to improve means refusing to ignore the uncomfortable. It means embracing the real challenge of leadership — your responsibility to do what it takes to ensure your company is the tightest-run ship possible.
Besides the obvious benefits to your business of encouraging continuous improvement, there’s also a real personal satisfaction that comes from embracing the more challenging aspects of our jobs. For some, it can reignite a love for the restoration industry that’s too often lost in the day-to-day shuffle.
We work in an industry with some inherent challenges. And sometimes, it’s easy to look at those challenges and lose a bit of motivation. But when that happens, you may be compromising your ability to run your business. And potentially even worse, you may also be letting down a customer who’s relying on you to deliver world-class service during an extremely difficult time.
And it's those customers who keep reminding us of the need to embrace the challenges of our work. The people we assist are often in life-defining moments of crisis. What’s just another day of work for us is often a time in their lives that our customers will never forget.
I must admit, when I was a kid, I hated mowing our lawn. We lived on an acre lot we carved out of a cow pasture in rural Oklahoma. Having moved from a small lot in a dense southern California neighborhood, my parents thought it was paradise. I just saw a yard in the middle of nowhere that was 100 times bigger than our old one. I would procrastinate, make excuses and find every reason to delay getting the job done. It was a source of contention in our home and caused friction between my dad and me. I eventually decided to “face it” and got the job done at a regular cadence. This decision helped heal the home, eased the friction, and kept our lawn clean and green. At some point, I don’t remember when or why, I started caring about how the yard looked. I never liked mowing the lawn, but I grew to love having a great-looking yard. My dad was smart and told everyone that would listen how talented I was at mowing our little slice of heaven. I had to face the fact that I would be mowing our lawn for many years, and I was willing and capable. But, it's when I finally embraced the job, the big picture, the "why," and put my personal signature on it… that's when everything clicked for me. And when you embrace the big picture and embrace placing your personal signature on what you do, everything will click for you too.
No one loves every single piece or aspect of the restoration business. I am sure that is true for most professions and companies. But there is something about seeing a family transition from the shock and bewilderment over their severely damaged house to looks of joyful disbelief as they resume life in their beautifully restored home. There is a special feeling of responsibility and love as you gather for holiday celebrations with your employees and families, noting how much you have grown, how things have changed, and how much these great people mean to you and each other.
Business is won and lost on thin margins. Learning to face it will give your business a valuable edge. Committing to embrace it will give your life more meaning. But, when you face it AND embrace it, well, that’s a game changer.