Redeem the downtime

This entry was posted in RB March 2009, Rural Builder Magazine. Bookmark the permalink.

For those in the construction industry, it’s tough to be positive right now. All we hear is bad news, with warnings that it will get worse.

You have a choice to make. Do you want to participate in the negative or do you want to get back to business? If you want to wallow in the bad news, you are reading the wrong article.

This article is about getting your company back to work, stronger and ready to see profitable growth when our current downturn turns up.

I have been through eight swings in the construction economy over the last 50 years and construction has always bounced back in spite of government’s best effort to rescue us. We come back, every time.

Consider this. Many contractors are busy today, building profitable jobs. That’s because your customers are still out there. They still need someone to help them build new buildings or repair/remodel their existing buildings.

I can’t remember the last time I saw a building torn down because the economy was stagnant, can you? Have people stopped raising livestock? Have they stopped living in homes and moved into tents? No. So your job is to let those folks know you are here to help them.

One of the main ways to get that done is advertising, and we will talk about that in just a minute. But first, let’s focus on getting your own head back in the game.

No stinkin’ thinkin’

If your head has been filled with stinkin’ thinkin’, you need to fix it. There are lots of programs out there for you to read or listen to, books to help you focus on keeping your attitude in good working order. Don’t watch the news. When was the last time you saw a positive news report? If you are having a pity party, I strongly suggest you get involved with another industry. Construction is too tough for whiners.

Now would be a good time to work on your education. Are you reading at least one hour each day? Are you filling your mind with positive ideas and plans for your business, as well as information on new products and services you can provide? Have you read my book, “Profitable Sales, A Contractor’s Guide,” so you will know what to say and do when the phone starts to ring again?

Have you checked all your subs to see who provided good service to you and your customers and who needs to be replaced? How about your suppliers? Are they all performing as they should or do you need to find new ones?
While you are waiting for new business to kick in, you have free time. Make good use of it. Don’t sit around making excuses about how bad the economy is.

While we are at it, how is your family? If you’ve been worrying and fussing about the economy and your business, your family knows it. How are they holding up? Don’t be so preoccupied with your problems that you fail to notice your family. They come first. Take the time to get back in touch with your spouse and the babies. Spouses in particular suffer when the business is in trouble. For their sake, get the problem fixed, ASAP. Put your ego in your pocket and get your priorities in line. Most of the married contractors in this country are married to saints. Treat them like saints

How to make the phone ring

Now that your attitude is straightened out and you are working on building your business instead of worrying about your problems, it’s time to focus on getting the phone to ring. The first thing I hear from almost everyone who calls is, “No business. I can’t find any customers. Nobody is calling!”

Before you start throwing money at advertising, you need a game plan. It starts with:

• Determining your perfect customer. That’s who you want to reach with your advertising.

• Determining your most profitable work. Customers are smart enough to know that you can’t be all things to all people. So don’t pretend to be. Find what is most profitable to you and focus on that work. The sooner you find your niche, the sooner you start getting those calls. Make sure your perfect customer will need your most profitable work – if not, define another perfect customer.

How many questions do you need to ask to define your perfect customer? I would ask at least 30 questions, probably closer to 50 or 60. (Where do they live? What kind of home do they live in? How big is it? What’s the value of the home? How old is it? How long have they lived there? Are they married or single? How many children, if any?) I want to know as much about them as possible so I can develop my advertising campaign specifically for them.

Get the word out

Where should you advertise? In today’s marketplace, you need to use a number of different advertising tools to reach your customer. You need business cards, truck signs, job signs. But you already knew that.

You might not have known that having a website is now critical; it’s no longer optional. The Internet is the phone book, and the sooner you get your website up and running, the better.

Across the nation, contractors with quality websites are telling us they are getting a majority of their leads from their websites. You simply cannot afford to not have an Internet presence. It can cost less than yellow page advertising and is much more effective.

Now, advertise in such a way that your perfect customer calls you to do your most profitable work.

Working through this slowdown is tough, but it can be done. It all boils down to having faith in America and in yourself, and being willing to invest the time, effort and money to get back into business.

We outline many of these ideas on our website at www.markupandprofit.com or drop me a note at michael@markupandprofit.com.

If you need help getting started, we can send you in the right direction. We want to see the construction industry working profitably again.

Michael Stone has more than four decades of experience in the building and remodeling industry. He wrote the book “Markup and Profit; A Contractor’s Guide,” published by Craftsman Book Co, and his second book, “Profitable Sales, A Contractor’s Guide” was released in 2007.
Michael offers coaching and consulting services for construction companies throughout the U.S., as well as products for business management, and is available for speaking engagements. He can be reached by e-mail at michael@markupandprofit.com, by phone at 888-944-0044, or on the web at www.markupandprofit.com.

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