THANKS -- for the Miseries

Sitting around the table on Thanksgiving Day reminds all of us that it is a good idea to stop every now and then to consider the things for which we are thankful.

We suggest that this year you might want to think about being grateful for a few other things – things you might not ordinarily think of as blessings.

Thanks -- For a lousy market

Fighting to keep a toehold in in the economic environment we have experienced from 2008 to 2012 will make us all better business managers. When times get good again, and they will, don't forget the lessons learned in this down-cycle.

  • Keep your operations lean. Make sure everyone and everything is carrying its load. If not, get rid of it.
  • Know what your financials are telling you, and be fearless about acting on the information.
  • Keep up with the latest and best business practices, building methodologies, and material evolutions.
  • Know where your market is going, and get to the head of the parade.
  • Always be thinking about how to do it better, how to do more of it with fewer resources, and how to systematize it so you can hand off the work.
  • Do not make mistakes from which you learn nothing. When you make mistakes like under-pricing, a bad hire, or being behind your market, take an unflinching look at what you did wrong, and don't do it again. Always fail up.

Thanks -- for difficult customers

The demanding customer forces you to stretch your management skills and tighten your operations. You have to realize that she is probably expressing what many of your customers think about your business or your product but are uncomfortable mentioning to you.

Pay attention when a difficult homebuyer complains. If she screams about a scratch on the cabinets, or the grout in the bathroom tile, or the squeak in the floor, she is the voice of many other prospective buyers who didn’t even mention the problem to you. The products and services she demands are products and services you should think about providing for all your homebuyers. The screamer is not pleasant to deal with, but if you keep an open mind, you can learn a lot from her.

The slow-paying customer forces you to pay attention to your credit policies and to your cash flow.

On the credit side --

  • Did you qualify the prospect correctly?
  • Is the customer unhappy with some aspect of your operation that you need to look into?
  • Maybe he isn’t placing enough value on your expertise to be afraid of alienating you.

On the operations side --

  • Do you have sufficient cash flow to carry you until the problem with your customer is solved?
  • Should you add more contingency funding to your budgets?

Thanks -- for bankers that don't make the loan

If you are dealing with an experienced banker, with whom you have had a good working relationship, and he balks at your latest loan request, pay attention.

It could be something about the deal, not about you, that is making him nervous. What is happening in the economy? Take a look at your proposal to see if there is some mistake in your projections. Ask him if there is something he knows about the development that you don’t know, but should. Look at your plans to make sure they sizzle.

I have had deals turned down by bankers in the past which, after more objective analysis and using 20-20 hindsight, would not have worked out as projected.

As risk-taking entrepreneurs, we tend to let our enthusiasm run away with us. The cooler head of a banker is sometimes a valuable check on that enthusiasm.

Thanks -- for IRS Agents

The IRS agent who automatically assumes that you are guilty of all sorts of heinous financial shenanigans forces you to tighten up your record-keeping and accounting.

When you realize that you don’t know where the copies of the subcontractor 1099s are, or you have to answer questions about the business purpose of the dinner in Phoenix three years ago, you will begin to understand the importance of making certain your financial systems are up to snuff.

This realization will have the spin-off benefit of forcing you to learn more about your business and what the numbers mean. There-in lies the beginning of financial management, the key to success in running your business.

Thanks -- for OSHA

Overbearing and dictatorial in its approach to businesses and business owners, OSHA does force us to view our operations with an eye to safety. Maybe the risk of an employee being electrocuted by a broken extension cord is negligible, but, for the cost of a new extension cord, is it worth the risk?

Certainly the ten minutes spent in a pre-work safety meeting is not going to throw your entire schedule off, and it is good CYA. Besides, it may just remind the worker not to lay a 2 x 4 across his knee to trim six inches from it with a circular saw, or to wear that respirator when installing the insulation.

Thanks -- and don't forget to smile now and then

Sure, it is rough out there sometimes, and frankly, it does seem like many of the forces of the government and the market are lined up against us. But what would you be doing if you weren’t doing this?

I can’t think of anything much more fun or with as much profit potential as running my own construction business, and trying to do it well. If you look at problems as potential opportunities, you can make something good out of them.

What was it Mary Poppins said? “Just a spoonful of sugar helps the medicine go down… in a most delightful way”.

Thanks -- to all our readers, customers and clients

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