by Jim Hinshaw
Recently, I heard a story of a Viet Nam Vet who was at a restaurant having a dinner with his wife when a stranger comes up to him and calls him out by name. He asked the Vet how he was doing. He responded, “Do I know you?” The stranger says, “Yeah, I packed your chute back in the day.” This supposed stranger was no stranger at all. In fact he was the ground support crew that made sure parachutes opened for the troops while flying missions over Nam. There’s nothing more critical than making sure you parachute opens when jumping out of an airplane. It’s the difference between life and death. This stranger literally kept this other Vet alive by packing his parachute correctly every time. Talk about having a guy’s back; this stranger literally did.
This got me thinking about contractors in our industry and the survival of your business. So who’s got your back to support you or even help save your business? Who can you call on when things don’t go exactly as planned? Many of you in this industry are in business for yourselves and sometimes it can be lonely running the shop by yourself. So whom can you call upon? You can’t talk to your employees if you have any because they have problems of their own and aren’t interested in yours. Friends don’t want to get involved and usually don’t understand your business and industry anyway.
So you need a person you can call upon when you are not sure what to do next and offer support to grow your business or even survive. You need a good chute packer who’s got your back. Do you have such a person in your life that’s a confidant and trusted advisor to help you get through the tough times and market swings this industry brings?
I happened to have married a chute packer, May, who always has my back and I have absolute confidence in that. She not only supports me, but she’s also completely honest in all aspects of our relationship, business and personal. That is what you want from a trusted advisor, the truth at all times. Even when there is bad news to be delivered, you need one who will deliver it and not sugarcoat the opportunity you are facing to simply make you feel good temporarily.
So how can you find such a trusted advisor that can support you with the challenges this business and life throws your way? Perhaps they may be someone you already know. In some cases, a family member may be able to help such as a relative who has been or still is in business and can share thoughts on your plan of action for your business.
In addition, there is no shortage of consultants on the planet; you can hardly swing a cat around by the tail without hitting one. OK, I know that’s sort of a stupid and non-politically correct phrase, but you see where I am going. There are consultants who have been in this industry and have bought and sold companies similar to yours. There are others who have had experience in different industries but have life lessons that apply across many industries and businesses that can help you with the issues you are facing. Ask other business owners whom you respect who they have used and how they have been helped to receive the results they achieved.
You can even interview a consultant and ask about their experience, how they have helped others and what they will do for you. Any consultant should be able to provide references and an action plan for your situation before going on the clock. Just ask.
Another source of trusted advisors are your business relationships, the sales reps calling on you. Many have been involved with contractors who have businesses similar to yours; they may have helped others grow their companies or have learned over time what separates one successful contractor from another. Ask your rep what advice he may have for your business as many have moved from being simply order takers to consultants that will work with you; and without charging additional fees. Many distributors have put together business programs addressing exit strategy, HR concepts, how to work with different generations, Quick Books, and many other concepts. So the next time your rep calls on you, ask him to have a cup of coffee with you at a local coffee shop. Ask for his help with your business or what he sees other successful contractors doing that you may also be able to implement.
A final source of help may be an industry group such as Service Roundtable. With full disclosure, I am a coach and partner in SR; it is the nation’s largest forum for HVAC, Plumbing, and Electrical contractors. It’s only $50 per month and you may interface with companies up to $50 million/year in sales. You can ask the group how they are doing GPS, health care, dispatching, almost anything, and be provided some great resources. It’s a huge bargain! Here is a link to save you $25 off the first month’s membership, from me! http://www.serviceroundtable.com/Hinshaw
Also be aware that none of us know everything about every business and even we can use outside support from time to time. But there is help and advice available all around us. Just do your investigative work and find the person who can fit your needs, budget, and who will defiantly have your back. With your business and livelihood at stake, It can be the difference between survival or going out of business. You need a good chute packer.