This article is an expansion of a blog I posted several weeks ago. The blog was an off-the-top -of-my-head thought dump that I pulled together in an airport while waiting to return home from a client's headquarters.
As the weeks passed by, the topic was pushed to the back burner as it didn't have a central role in anything I was working on. However, as my business partner and I started designing our top-secret, breakthrough tool for our upcoming membership site, the blog topic returned to the front burner as part of an intense and passionate debate.
In this article, I'm going to expand on several points relating to the evolution of a construction company - points that will hopefully give you greater clarity and direction for your own firm.
To bring you up to speed in case you didn't see the blog, here is the original post - posted July 23, 2008
What Problem Should You Fix First?
Recently, while trying to explain what my client and I had already achieved together and why we were getting ready to focus on something that didn't appear to be a pressing need, I stumbled upon a concept that you might find helpful with your business.
What I knew, and my client was about to find out, was that despite having a six month backlog of work he didn't have any systems in place to ensure that he would have plenty of work at the end of the six months. He didn't understand why it was so important to address the situation now.
After stumbling around making various points and observations, it finally dawned on me that his business was straddling two different plateaus of performance and neither where the plateaus we are gunning for. I hurried over to the whiteboard and drew a little chart that showed the four possible stages of business.
- The Threat Stage
- The Stability Stage
- The Freedom Stage
- The Great Wealth Stage
A business will never reach the Freedom Stage while still facing serious threats. Another way of saying it is that a business must be fully stabilized before freedom is possible. Proven systems are what bring stability and eliminate threats.
In my client's case, we had just put the finishing touches on his operations management to reduce the odds of blown budgets and negative surprises. So, we had stabilized his operations.
What we hadn't stabilized was his sales and marketing. Hopefully you realize that ineffective sales and marketing systems are far more threatening to your financial health than are operations systems.
The point I'm trying to get across is that you can look at each one of the areas of your business and ask yourself "Have we put in place a system that greatly reduces our risk?"
If not, invest time to implement those systems. Working on the systems that are completely broken or missing will pay far bigger dividends than working on systems that are already functionally okay and realistically pose minimal risk.
Food for thought.
The Four Stages of a Growing Business
The two issues that Guy and I were batting around were the four stages, what they meant, and how contractors compare to everyone else. First of all, my titles for stages 3 and 4 are rather misleading. Allow me a moment to clarify them for you.
If a business owner is highly successful at building a business, a real business, he (or she)will get to stage 3: Freedom. He will have the freedom to work as much or as little as desired. Freedom from financial worry. Freedom to focus on activities that are outside of the business. Freedom to give back to the industry that gave him the opportunity to provide a comfortable lifestyle for his family. Stage 4, as I meant it to be, referred to the transition many successful business owners make: they become investors.
They start buying other businesses. They get into land development (the choice of many successful contractors). They take their business skills and apply them to as many opportunities as possible.