One of a remodeling company’s most precious resources is its owner. Your company’s success or failure rests on how well you balance and juggle all of the hats that you are supposed to wear. In any one day, you may act as a leader, manager, investor, and worker; however, you are also a human being who needs a personal life.
Let’s Talk About Your Role as a Leader
The dictionary defines a leader as “one who is in charge; one who influences.” Your leadership role still exists even if there are no employees. Your role is to:
- Provide long-range vision, mission, and values.
- Develop, maintain, and model the culture of the company.
- Determine the major goals of the company.
- Manage profitability and growth.
- Learn to generate results through people.
- Bring new ideas and processes into the company.
Provide Vision, Mission, and Values
The best companies reflect the owner’s style and vision. The business started and succeeded initially because of the owner’s methods and approach. As the business grows and adds employees, it becomes critical that this vision be defined and written and that guidelines and rules be delineated to govern how you do business. Only then can you use these tools openly and actively in hiring, training, motivating, and reviewing performance.
Your Vision should be big, long term, and nearly unattainable. Mission is about the company’s purpose for being. It is more practical than the Vision and explains what you sell and what the client is buying. Your Mission is your promise to the client.
Companies often identify five to seven core values by which they agree to run their business. There are many, many admirable qualities (for example, integrity, honesty, teamwork, accountability, friendliness, generosity, dignity, respect, and so on) that could be picked, but do your best to focus only on a few.
Many successful businesspeople feel that hiring employees who can buy into their vision, mission, and values trumps even technical skills. You can teach technical skills, but people either have your chosen values or they don’t—and you are unlikely to change them.
If you don’t manage your company’s culture by defining the vision, mission, and values, someone else in the company will. This ability to create a unique culture is one of the greatest gifts that running a business bestows on the entrepreneur.
Develop, Maintain, and Model the Culture of the Company
The dictionary defines culture as “the training and development of the mind; the social and religious structures and intellectual and artistic manifestations, etc.”
A company has a living culture whether it is defined or not. The right culture within a company can create a competitive advantage, help attract and retain top performers, and help the company increase profits. However, sometimes an unfavorable culture is created unconsciously. This unfavorable culture may encourage gossiping, unfair treatment, poor customer relations, and more. No one wants this, so it’s up to you as the leader to make sure that the culture in your company is positive and upbeat and that it focuses on the types of core values that are important to you.
Here are some ways to determine your existing culture and enhance the positive atmosphere you really want:
- First, ask your employees what they feel are the core values of the company today.
- Survey your trade contractors and suppliers to see how they see your company.
- Develop an action plan to change or enhance your company’s current culture.
- Think about what core values are important to you and communicate these to your team.
- Develop company “stories” that exemplify the values of the company.
- Walk your talk. Lead by example by modeling behavior that supports the values.
- Use the company culture and stated values to help you attract new hires who fit the organization.
Determine the Major Goals of the Company
If the company is to function as a team, the team needs to know what the game is and the rules of the game. The leader of the team must answer questions such as:
- What is the dollar goal for profit?
- What is the dollar goal for sales?
- Are we going to grow volume or focus on increasing efficiency and profits? Will we focus on both of these goals?
- What type of job and what type of customer will the company target?
- Does the company have enough people to handle the volume? If not, how can we increase our capacity?
- Have we created a budget (a financial plan) to reflect the investment in the future?
- How can we alter our plan if we find that we’re not meeting our goals.
Manage Profitability and Growth
Part of running a successful company is creating profits. The profits are over and above your salary for working in the business and reflect a return on your significant investment of time and money. Profits also provide you with the capital to invest in the future of the company and give you a safety net in case of an unexpected catastrophe. Profits are essential. It’s your job as leader to make sure that these profits are being produced.
While most companies aspire to grow, growing too rapidly can be deadly. Typical problems include the following:
- A drop in customer satisfaction as employees are stretched too thin.
- Lagging cash flow that creates a tension-filled, financially unstable company.
- An overworked owner who can’t keep up while job profitability begins to drop.
- A stressful environment which drives away talented employees.
With a carefully planned approach, a stable, profitable company can handle significant growth that can deliver a greater presence in the marketplace, opportunities for employees to grow, and increased profits that the company can use to take advantage of even more opportunities.
Learn to Generate Results Through People
As you grow a business, the results you want will be achieved by working through people. Therefore, one of the most important skills you can learn is how to help your employees grow to the best of their abilities and keep them challenged, involved, and motivated to give you their best. While some people are born managers, those of us who are not can learn these skills through reading books like the Harvard Business Review series or taking classes on management and coaching. As your managerial skills grow, you’ll discover great satisfaction in watching your people blossom.
Bring New Ideas and Processes Into the Company
Find a successful remodeling company and you’ll find a company that is focused on innovation—on finding that next good idea that can be adapted to solve a problem. The best companies in any industry know that it is their ability to increase efficiency, improve productivity, and add value to the customer interactions that guarantees continued success.
Here are some resources to help you stay sharp and at the top of your game.
- Join an association. Most major cities have a local chapter of an industry association like the Canadian Home Builders Association.
- Start an informal breakfast club with other remodelers. You may decide not to share your innermost financial secrets with potential local competitors, but you can share lots of resources and information.
- Join a peer group membership with a group such as Remodelers Advantage Roundtables™ for goal-oriented remodelers. There are more than 400 business owners involved in this powerful organization to date.
- Subscribe to trade publications such as Remodeling magazine, Canadian Contractor and of course, Contractor Advantage! Subscriptions to trade publications often are free.
- Keep an eye out for the popular general business books. Usually the top 10 books each year are worth reading. If you buy a book and find it hard going, move on to the next book.
- Attend one of the regional or national industry conventions. They often combine a trade show with educational seminars, and they can provide an inexpensive yet excellent learning experience. These meetings provide the opportunity to get away from the details of your business and take a look at the larger picture of how your business could operate better.
- Remodeling seminars make the rounds of the country. Go ahead and take a day off to gather new information. You’ll return to your business refreshed and ready to solve some knotty problems.
Follow German General Bismarck’s advice to keep ahead of everyone else in your market. He said, “Fools say they learn from experience. I prefer to learn by others’ experience.”
Acting as the leader of a vibrant company can be very fulfilling professionally and personally. Each and every renovator can learn the skills necessary to lead. The resources are out there just waiting for you.