The REAL Reason You Need Goals (and how to make them)

A friend of mine started a handyman business many years ago. The only goal he had when he first “opened his doors” was to make enough money to live on for the following month. He didn’t write it down either—he just kind of knew it was a goal.

Fortunately, I helped him get out of that mindset five short months later. We did some meaningful business planning that helped him forge strong short-term and long-term goals and projections.

Now I’m sure you’ve heard all the benefits before; goals keep you on track, they help with decision-making, they improve communication, they give clarity, etc., etc.

And, of course, that’s all true.

But do you know the biggest reason this goal-setting exercise helped Marc? It gave him control. And isn’t that the fundamental reason people start their own business? To control their future?

Running a business without goals is like shooting a rifle in the fog. You know there’s a target out there somewhere –but you certainly don’t know where – nor do you know if you hit it.

Successful business people don’t operate like that and neither should you.

How to set goals

There are various processes and techniques for determining your business goals. We here at Remodelers Advantage recommend our Roundtables™ members to use the SMART criteria, attributed to Peter Drucker’s management by objectives concept.

SMART is a mnemonic acronym that stands for Specific, Measurable, Assignable, Realistic and Time-bound. So all of your goals should successfully meet these criteria:

  • Specific: what exactly do you want to have happen?
  • Measurable: what will success look like? How will you measure it?
  • Assignable: who will be assigned the responsibility and be held accountable?
  • Realistic: this is not the place for pie in the sky goals. Save that for your long term strategic planning sessions. (See BHAG).
  • Timely: set deadlines. Goals should never be open-ended. You must set an end date.

Some companies will replace criteria, such as Attainable instead of Assignable. However, we’ve found that this variation is the most effective way to determine goals that will drive your company forward.

*Sidenote: In actuality we ask Roundtables™ members to use SMARTeR Criteria. The last R is for Resources: What resources will you need to achieve this goal?

What about you?

Do you set goals? What criteria do you use to establish the goals that need to be set?Please share in the comments below!


Continually Learning to Improve Your Business

Recently, I met over 70 savvy renovation company owners and staff who attended the first RenoSummit held in Vancouver and Calgary. I was joined by Robert Koci, associate publisher of Canadian Contractor magazine, Paul Winans as we led a series of sessions focused on critical areas of business management including creating a plan for profit, improving sales processes and results, hard hitting lead generation tactics and more. An array of door prizes and a networking reception rounded out the day.

As is often the case at such conferences, the level of business know-how ranged from those just entering the business to those who have been successfully running a renovation business for many years. However, everyone there was eager to talk business, to spend time sharpening their business saw as they prepared for another year. Each of these renovation company owners and key staff members invested their time and money to improving their business processes.

What business improvement actions are on your calendar? Here are a few ideas to get you moving in the right direction.

1. Read a great business book. Most of the highly successful remodelers I’ve met are avid readers, completing a dozen or more business books each year. What was the last business book you’ve read. I find that each time I dive into another book, I get excited about the possibilities and eager to use the new information I’ve learned to improve the business.

Here are a few suggestions (most are golden oldies that still deliver a punch!)

    1. Raving Fans by Ken Blanchard
    2. The Great Game of Business by Jack Stack
    3. Good to Great by Jim Collins
    4. The Remodelers Guide to Making and Managing Money by Linda Case

2. Sign up for a webinar or teleseminar. Every topic you could hope to learn is available via the web. Below are a couple of resources I use to keep up on marketing developments.

    1. Marketing Experiments
    2. Marketing Profs

3. Attend a seminar or workshop

    1. Keep your eyes open for workshops or seminars happening in your area that focus on a skill that needs improving. Some suggestions:
      i.   Dale Carnegie’s Leadership Training for Managers. Could be great for your staff too!
      ii.  Sandler Sales Training. This franchise organization offers regular seminars in most major cities.

4. Visit a company that you think does a fantastic job. Look around and think about companies in your market that really do a great job. Not other remodeling companies but those in totally different industries. Perhaps it’s a deli, like Zingerman’s in Ann Arbor, Michigan. Or a furniture store like one I heard about in Boston. Or a auto service company. I truly believe that we can learn so much from other kinds of businesses.

A key to continuing success is continuing education. I hope that some of these ideas will help you improve your business skills and help you have a fantastic future.

Reduce Stress and Prepare for Tomorrow

One of our most popular business coaches is Paul Winans.  Many of you know Paul from his days as President of NARI or from his many blog posts and articles in the industry press.  Today, many of our members call on Paul to share practical steps they can take to improve their company performance.

Many times, these steps include a thoughtful assessment of your business situation and tactics to reduce stress and help understanding that it won’t always be like this.  If you’re feeling burnt out and overwhelmed, listen to Paul as he shares what he learned from being a remodeling company owner just like you.


Tomorrow Will Come

In my work as a consultant to remodelers I am hearing from clients about the challenges they are facing. A downturn looks different in each person’s world. A signed job (or two or three) is canceled. Permitting obstacles delay or prevent a project from starting. Pricing pressures tempt or force the reduction or absence of profit, as work is needed simply to cover overhead. And so on.

It is worth noting that there are remodelers who have work and are doing more than well. Why? To some extent the answer to this question is the same for both situations, both good and not so good. For most remodeling companies, getting the job or not makes a huge difference. If your company does twenty jobs a year and you don’t get 5 in a row that can be devastating. On the other hand, if your company gets an unusually large job the business can be carried for several months until more sales occur. In doesn’t take a lot to make a big difference, one way or the other.

So what can you do?

Consider all possibilities

In general, people tend to get wrapped up in the way things are. The thing is that is just the starting point. Take some time for yourself to reflect on what you would do if…. Many of us never think about such things. We just work a little harder and a little longer thinking it might make the difference.

In the meantime we are miserable, finding very little satisfaction with anything.

Break the patterns and do something different. A client loves to fish but had a hard time finding the time to do so, particularly with the down market he is in. He realized he could take a great client fishing, building the relationship that will translate into more business and referrals, while doing what he loves. What is the equivalent for you?

Live in the present being pulled forward by the future

It is very hard to get up every day and go to work when yesterday was not as successful as you wanted it to be. More of the same old, same old, with likely the same results being realized.

That mindset can cripple your business. You set the tone for your entire company. If you are in sales it is imperative to be focused in a positive way on your future, not being anchored by a yesterday you wished you never experienced. How can you do that without being a wishful thinker?

A client was experiencing real hurdles with his team. They just were not performing the way he thought they could. At the same time, he was not clear about his own goals, the life he wanted for he and his family.

Sales were down. This was before the downturn. Getting people to commit was impossible.  He started getting clear about the life he wanted. He began by doing some simple exercises that got out of his head thoughts that were in there but to which he was not paying much attention. The resulting clarity changed his expectations of his people so that all in the company feel more successful. Clients are signing contracts and the company has work, even when many other companies don’t.

I am not saying it is magic and it works in all cases. I do think that being clear about the point makes you more effective in all areas of your life, not just in business.

For many of us our work is how we define ourselves. After all, we spend most of our working life at work.

Running a small business is very hard, even in the best of times. It does not take much to make it close to impossible to succeed.

I remember in the early 90’s living through a set of circumstances that felt like a perfect storm. Dealing with several difficult remodeling clients, the prospect of no upcoming work in the foreseeable future, and new challenges coming every day: when was it going to end? I was doing everything I could think of and nothing seemed to be working.

I found that stepping away, in even little ways, made a big difference. Carving out some time for me to stop being a remodeler and be a person made me able to be more effective doing what the business needed me to do. For me it was taking walks, reading, spending time with my wife and children, and taking inexpensive short vacations.

You are not your business. Things will get better. What do you want your tomorrow to be? Craft a vision that will pull you forward. And start living it today.


Thanks, Paul!

If you’re looking for an experienced business coach to help you improve the performance of your remodeling business, contact Remodelers Advantage Inc. today.  Our team of coaches are ready to dive in and share the best practices that they have seen work over and over again. Why struggle alone when you can have a business coach to help you become more profitable and productive. To get started, call us at 301-490-5620 x106.

Getting Your Staff to Think and Act Like Owners by Linda Case

I am fired-up! I’ve been to Ann Arbor, MI and it’s a neat college town. But the reason I’m fired up is visiting and learning from a fired-up company that’s based there. Called “the coolest small company in America” by Inc. magazine, Zingerman’s Community of Businesses opened up their operations to 90 of our clients and we saw an incredibly strong brand in operation, learned how a truly shared vision can power that brand and support it with passion and excellence in execution and learned how a company can grow through diversification and shared risk.

First a caution and a strong opinion. Some remodelers are very linear in thinking and feel that their business learning only comes directly from other remodelers. They are partially right in that we can learn so much from our peers who have already conquered some of the hurdles we face.

But if you want to propel your company forward, if you want to think beyond the edge, if you want to beat tomorrow’s competitors before they even arrive, you have to be learning from the very best in whatever industry they arise. This takes a higher form of thinking because their challenges will not be exactly the same as yours and their solutions must be adapted to our industry. But the payoff can be grand.

Back to Zingerman’s, a community of 32 businesses doing $35 million in annual sales selling premium food products in Michigan’s doubly recessed economy. They started as a deli and have progressed to mail order, restaurants, a bakehouse, a creamery and a training arm. Here are just a few of my takeaways:

They’ve developed a well-defined philosophical infrastructure that allows them to align all their staff and all their systems and their culture. Their mission, vision and guiding principles elevate their daily work from drudgery to significance. As the stonemason said (and Zingerman’s repeats), “I’m not just laying stone, I’m building a cathedral.” And they’ve made this philosophy very simple and very learnable. This shared philosophy becomes more than critical in aligning 32 businesses, each of which is expected to support the brand.

Training of each employee is paramount. Each carries a paper pocket-sized “passport” with what they need to learn in their job and what they need to learn about Zingerman’s and as they learn it through formal class or mentoring, it gets checked off. This training includes the philosophical differences that support the brand as well as the metrics that support the business plus the learning that each needs in their job.

The original business had two partners and as they add new divisions to their community, it is run under the corporate umbrella by an additional managing partner who might be a long time employee who has proved their mettle or may be someone new like a chef. The starting of a new business goes through rigorous vetting and must fit the company’s mission and vision. The new partner buys into the new business. This is a business that grows through new ventures that are aligned with the original venture.

There is a triple bottom line and all get measured. They aspire to great food, great service and great finance. They are open book but will tolerate the long financial nurturing of individual businesses financially but must hit the mark on food and service.

The monitoring of key activities leading to success in each business has been made very simple and is monitored on a daily basis during the morning huddle and posted on a large white board that every staff person can see. These metrics are not static but are changed as needed.

We visited their bakehouse, creamery, and a restaurant, eating all the way. We questioned lots of staff to see if what we had learned was really in operation and indeed, it was.

I have to end with a personal experience of the Zingerman’s difference. During dinner at one of their restaurants, a waitperson named Sharon came by to ask if I was “finished enjoying.” What a nice subtlety. Then she asked if I wanted coffee. I said I’d love some decaf but only if she gave me her phone number to call at midnight if I was still awake because it’s not unusual to have regular coffee substituted. She laughed. But soon I was laughing because between the coffee cup and the saucer was a napkin with her name and phone number on it. Needless to say, I didn’t need it.