Achieving Business Success

Focusing on the two most important roles of the construction business owner.

At some point in every client engagement, the time arrives when I have to reach up my sleeve and pull out my trump card. It is the card I play to force clarity in their mind as to my client's most important activities. It is the card I play to unleash total understanding of his employees. It is the card I play to help him focus on his role in the business.

What is this card I play? It is a simple question that has two simple, connected answers.

Upon hearing (or in the rare case, coming up with) the answer, the light bulb goes off above his head and sudden understanding floods his brain.

He suddenly sees why things have been the way they have. Why his success has been what it has been. He suddenly understands what he should be doing differently with his time and with his team.

What question could possibly generate such incredible breakthroughs in running a business? My favorite one.

My Magical Question
Here's the question I LOVE to ask and the question that drives incredible understanding and beneficial impact: You have two, and only two, roles in your business - What are they?

There it is. Sounds innocent enough, right? It isn't.

The two answers provide direction to every business decision you make. Every business conversation you have. The way you view your company. The way you view your employees. The way you view your personal responsibilities and obligations.

How would you answer that question?

Make a profit? Grow the business? Provide for my family's financial security? Create superior customer satisfaction. Hold everyone accountable?

The answers I have been given over the past couple of years have covered almost every possibility. Few ever come close without my assistance.

So, have you come up with your answer yet? Let me give you a couple of hints.

The first part addresses your business. The second part addresses your employees.

Hint: part 1 is external and it's big picture.

Maybe a few more questions will help.

Who makes the big decisions in your company? Who decides what resources to buy or deploy? Who decides which line of work to perform? Who decides who you will work for?

Keep working on part 1 until you're confident you know your primary external role. Be patient. Don't skip ahead to part 2 until you've given part 1 your best shot.

Ready for part 2?

Shift your focus to inside your organization. Who controls who works for your company? Who controls job assignments? What should be your overriding objective regarding your employees?

If you got part 1 right, part 2 should be pretty obvious. The answers are almost identical.

I'm assuming you've given it the old college try by now and came up with a couple of really great answers. Here are mine.

The Magical Answers
Your first role is to SET YOUR BUSINESS UP FOR SUCCESS. Your second role is to SET EACH EMPLOYEE UP FOR SUCCESS.

Trust me. The answers are probably far more profound than your initial reaction gave them credit for.

If you keep those two roles, objectives or tasks if you will, in mind at all times you will be amazed how much easier profitable decision making is.

These two guiding lights remind you that you are the man (or woman) in charge. In the end, all accountability falls on your shoulders, along the lines of President Truman's "The Buck Stops Here" motto.

Let me ask you another question. If you aren't setting your business and your employees up for success, what must you be doing instead?

That's right. You're setting them up for failure!

Ouch, bet that hurt. Sorry. The truth is that you are either setting your business up for success or you're setting it up for failure. With every decision you make. Every minute of every day.

Do you understand that your employees work for you because they don't want to live with that kind of pressure?

Your employees are banking their financial security on your ability to run your business successfully. They are investing in YOU. In your ability to keep your business positioned for

The next time you want to blame someone else for your business missing its goals, remember that it's your role to position it so that it doesn't miss them. It's your role to select the right market, right customers, right employees, manage the money right, use time wisely, and keep everyone assigned to tasks they can perform successfully and efficiently.

Next time one of your employees fails to deliver the performance you expected, ask yourself whether you gave him (or her) everything he needed to succeed.

Did he have the right information, the right materials, and the right co-workers? Did you give him a "stretch" goal that wasn't realistically achievable?

Do you expect your employees to take the initiative to overcome things when things don't go well? Why are they having to overcome anything? Doesn't that mean you set them up to fail?

Another tip: when multiple employees are complaining about a co-worker, realize that what they are really saying is "We can't work successfully with this putz. It's YOUR JOB to get rid of him. So, do it."

When you fail to respond to their call, you lose credibility in their eyes. That's never a good thing.

Hold these two guiding principles close to your heart.

Your first role as owner is: TO SET YOUR BUSINESS UP FOR SUCCESS.

Your second role as owner is: TO SET EACH EMPLOYEE UP FOR SUCCESS.

If you do both well consistently, you are going to reap serious financial rewards. And that's the end game we're all looking for, right?

Ron Roberts, The Contractor's Business Coach, teaches contractors how to turn their business into a profit spewing machine. To receive Ron's FREE Contractor Best Practices Newsletter visit