YOU’RE DRIVING YOUR FAMILY ON A ROAD TRIP, back before GPS or Google Maps. It seems like you should have arrived at your destination by now. The kids are asking, “Are we there yet?” Your wife gently suggests you might be lost. What’s your reaction? “I’m not lost; we will arrive soon.” Twenty minutes later, your wife again suggests you might be lost and asks you to pull into the next service station to ask for directions. Irritated, you continue driving. Another 30 minutes pass and the kids are getting inpatient while your wife is getting red in the face. With relationships breaking down and the trip lengthening, you finally pull over and ask for directions. Ten minutes later you arrive at your destination frustrated — and an hour late.
What just happened? It’s a little five-letter word called pride. There was no way anybody was going to tell you what to do. Was it worth the price? You could have time. The kids wouldn’t have been upset and the “I told you so” on your wife’s face wouldn’t have appeared. If you had simply swallowed your pride and admitted you were lost, it all could have been avoided. Pride is expensive!
Pride goes before a fall. Being self-centered, while refusing to ask for help, will cost you. The cost on the above road trip was time and broken relationships.
What about your business? Are you making a profit? Do you have problems with technician productivity? Are you getting the reports you need to manage your business? Perhaps some of your employees aren’t coming to work on time or aren’t filling out their paperwork properly. How well do you handle customer complaints? Does your total marketing program still rely solely on your large Yellow Pages ad that isn’t producing quality leads? Chances are, you are dealing with at least one of these issues.
Do you know why trades companies are called independent contractors? Because we are independent! As problems occur within our businesses, our thinking is something like this: “I’ll bet I am the only contractor who struggles in this area. I’m sure not going to ask for help because people will laugh at me for not knowing the answer. I will work through it eventually.” That is called pride. There is nothing new under the sun; every problem you have or will ever have has been seen before.
So what’s the solution? Ask for help. If you need help with marketing, attend a marketing class. If you want to understand the business side of your business, work with a consultant, join a networking group or take an in-depth class. If you need help creating a company policy manual, search for sources that can help you. If your techs are poor at customer service, provide training. If your closing rate is low, join your fellow contractors in a sales training class. Swallow your pride and get some help. When you attend a class, you’ll often find a room full of contractors struggling with the same issues. As information is presented and discussed among attendees, you will find answers. Best of all, you will make new friends, usually in noncompeting territories, whom you can begin to network with. Next time you face a new problem you can call Jim, Sally or William to see if they can offer input.
Way too many quality contractors go out of business each year because of pride. Remember our road trip? Asking for directions when you first became lost would have saved time and preserved family relationships. The same principle applies within your business, but the consequences are far greater than strained relationships. When it comes to pride within your business, you are opening the door to failure. If pride continues, it could even put you out of business.
Tom Grandy is the founder of Grandy & Associates. An industrial engineer by training, Grandy has worked as general manager of a service company and was previously the director of company development for Dial One franchise. Grandy founded Grandy & Associates in 1987 to teach contractors how to run profitable businesses.