Contractor New Year’s Resolutions and How to Live Up to Them

Five resolutions that can put your company on the right track to success and start off a great year

Creating one or more New Year’s resolutions is really nothing more than setting goals.
Creating one or more New Year’s resolutions is really nothing more than setting goals.

The history of making a New Year’s resolution is actually quite old, beginning back with the Babylonians who made promises to their gods about giving back to others what they had borrowed or stolen. The Romans living during the glory days of the Roman Empire were required to make a promise to the god “Janus” (from which the month “January” derived) and their “Caesar,” that they would have to fulfill or pay some consequence of retribution. 

The tradition of making a New Year’s resolution has continued down through the ages and has become more symbolic than actual focused commitment for many people. Who hasn’t made a New Year’s resolution, such as:

  • Losing weight
  • Reading more books
  • Taking more time off to relax
  • Spending more time with my kids
  • Completing that remodeling project on the house

On a personal level, making a New Year’s resolution can often end without having reached the desired result. For a contractor, making New Year’s resolutions can be similarly positioned, resulting in the same lack of achievement. Consider some fairly common New Year’s resolutions that many contractors make:

  • Calling on more prospects per week
  • Raising prices for work performed
  • Not allowing one customer to be “my only” customer
  • Giving employees a bonus (or larger bonus) next year
  • Conducting more training for employees throughout the year
  • Insuring that “Crew Huddles” are conducted twice a day…every day
  • Insuring that the Next Week Look Ahead is completed…every week

All of the above efforts are worthy of our commitment, but how do we create such things and then have the confidence that we can actually achieve the intended results? May I suggest a few tips that can turn your New Year’s resolutions into reality? 

Let’s look to a few efforts you can easily make that will move our New Year’s promises to bona-fide goals that have a much higher chance of success. Then, we’ll present a few New Year’s resolutions worthy of your commitment as a contractor.

Moving New Year’s resolutions to goals

  • Record the resolution and keep it visible to you at the office and in your vehicle.
  • Put some measurement to the resolution; specific normally outperforms hope.
  • Create three to five action steps to bring your resolution to reality. Most New Year’s resolutions fail to have a realistic and written action plan.
  • Share your resolution with a trusted peer, mentor or friend and give him or her permission to hold you accountable to working your action plan.
  • Set a reward for achieving your resolution at the same time you develop your action plan. This reinforces your “want to.”

Now, you have found out by reading this far that creating one or more New Year’s resolutions is really nothing more than setting goals. First, a word of caution about setting goals. Many contractors have sincere intentions when setting goals, but many of these same contractors fail for two simple reasons:

  1. They set goals that really are not that realistic to reach due to any number of reasons including the lack of resources. 
  2. Most contractors who fail to achieve goals — personal or company — fail due to the lack of a well thought out and planned action plan. They simply do not have a goal “road map” to follow and can easily be distracted.

Let’s turn our attention to a few New Year’s resolutions that may very well be worth your attention, resources and documented commitment. I’ll share with you five resolutions that can put your company on the right track to success and assist you getting off to a great start next year.

Five New Year’s resolutions for contractors

#1 “I will commit to reviewing my financials weekly: weekly/year-to-date budget, profit & loss sheet, and cash flow statement.”

Come on now, knowing your financial situation is critical to running your company. Most of the contractors I work with are well aware of the importance to staying on top of their finances. Seeing trends, potential shortfalls or increases are all important. 

However, even the best of contractors can get sidelined to dealing with critical issues involving customers, poor performing workers, family issues, etc. It’s important to have your financial needs for information set up at the beginning of the year and then have weekly reports provided for review. 

Create the format and consistency early and you’ll be successful at maintaining this first resolution for the entire year and beyond.

#2 “I will conduct a weekly communication meeting with my immediate staff every Monday.”

Fall down here and you fall back into the pit of confusion, miscommunication and poor results. Communication meetings alone will not eliminate all of your problems but will reinforce clarity and correcting faulty thinking, planning or actions before they happen. Call this New Year’s resolution what you want, just be sure to hold your weekly staff meeting every exceptions!

#3 “I will see to an accurate schedule being created and maintained.”

Oh boy, now I’m really getting into some kitchens with this one. I’ve never had a contractor or senior leader of any construction company disagree with me that scheduling is first and foremost something that must be done. Yet some of these same contractors and senior leaders become frustrated when schedules are not executed due to weather, poor performance, special customer requests, etc. 

Let’s be honest: change happens. But to allow that reality to prevent our effort to schedule our work in the most accurate way possible makes little sense. 

Scheduling isn’t just the document or the white board with a bunch of tasks and locations assigned. Rather, it’s a thinking and discussion process that invites a mixture of what is needed to accomplish the schedule with the possibilities for interruptions. 

It is in the discussions about the possibilities for interruptions that back-up plans can be created and scheduled.

Be committed to a “look ahead” of some rolling time frame (one, two or three weeks) and schedule your future. Then share the weekly updates with those impacted by and executing your schedule.

#4 “I will see that a preventative maintenance program is developed and monitored.”

Much of the downtime that takes place in the construction industry is due to equipment, vehicle and tool breakdowns. It’s simply amazes me the number of specialty contractors who will forego daily and weekly check-ups and inspections to ensure that the “tools of their trade” are in working order. 

Postponing that oil change on a vehicle or delaying checking the lubrication and water levels on equipment is inviting disaster of a major and profitable consequence. 

Develop a thorough “PM” plan (i.e. document) for every vehicle, piece of equipment and tool of importance to your work and assign individuals to personally inspect and audit that such efforts are being executed.  In the heat of working it is only natural for workers to not stop long enough to inspect their equipment and tools until there is a total breakdown.

#5 “I will personally meet with each employee once or twice a quarter.”

As the owner or a member of the senior leadership team, you must reach out to each of your workers. Certainly it’s easier for the contractor of five to 15 employees to accomplish this action but you might be surprised how many small contractors still do not visit with each worker. 

If your possible employee contacts are in the hundreds then certainly adjust your amount of contacts accordingly. BUT, don’t miss the primary point here: build up the people who are building your company!

It is your employees who are executing work that customers either love or will never buy from you again. It is your employees who are creating the reputation of your company that might take you to higher levels of success or require years of repairing. It is your employees who can be just a great leader’s effort away from providing you with more joy, pride and fun to lead than you could have ever imagined.

When you recover from the merry holidays and the New Year’s fireworks take the time and really consider just what you want from this new year. Don’t just think about what you would like to realize this next year…write your New Year’s resolutions down on paper and put some critical thinking to developing plans to reach those resolutions. 

You want some real fun?  Get your company leaders to set out three to five of their own New Year’s resolutions, following the same guidelines presented earlier.

Here’s to turning your New Year’s resolutions into the greatest year that you’ve had as a contractor or senior leader.  Go for it!