Thoughts, Observations and a Few Strong Suggestions

Having spent the last couple days with a hundred or so of the best pond contractors in the world, I have some things on my mind. I was happy to be a part of Chicagomonium 2014, AquaScape’s event to help strengthen the elite contractors and distributors in their family. Since I work with many small business owners who want stronger businesses, I have some thoughts about how to do that. And, since I am a former contractor I have much stronger thoughts and ideas about my time at AquaScape.

Tom at AquaScapeThe following list is a brain dump. I wrote it down in about 15 minutes following the conference. It’s free flowing and without any structure. The things I wrote are in no particular order because we’re all in different places in our businesses. We all need certain things at certain times.

If you’re trying to grow and build a strong business I’m certain many of these will apply to you as well.


My 15 Minute Brain Dump:

  • Cool industry. I should’ve built ponds.
  • Some pretty interesting people…Boulder Tony, England Mark and many others.
  • First class event in every way. Been to many. This is second to none. Be grateful.
  • I’d like to try Motel’s BBQ. He’s a totally cool biker dude with a BBQ joint and a tattoo shop.
  • Success will take a mindset shift…to that of a CEO. Whatever business you’re in…you need to view yourself as more than a ‘contractor’ or ‘mechanic.’
  • Too many are afraid of technology. It’s not going anywhere so you need to embrace it.
  • Too many are being held hostage by their employees. You own the company. Step up and build it the way you want it to look like. If your people don’t want to share your vision get new people.
  • I urge you to become the expert in your math. It’s not the responsibility of your accountant. You’re the CEO. Know what’s going on at all times.
  • Want more sales? Make a plan to up sell & follow up. Be relentless. Many things will hijack you this season…set time aside to focus on sales…because you’re a CEO
  • Need a quick turn around in your finances? Boost your gross profit. You do that by increasing your price or by lowering direct costs. Get to it.
  • Getting tired climbing the mountain? Lighten your pack. Overhead sucks if it’s not adding revenue to your business. Added overhead should earn its keep.
  • You’re only afraid of your math because you haven’t trained yourself yet. Look at it daily. Get cozy with your calculator. Get help if you need it. It will be worth it.
  • Some of you fear working on your business because it’s new territory. Start with identifying your #1 CEO task of 2014. Put it on your calendar. Do it. Then, take on the rest of the day. Be violently protective of your time.
  • Use Flipboard. Embrace it. It’s a game-changer. You will connect with clients like never before. You’re competitors won’t.
  • Get your numbers in order. Hire a bookkeeper. You should be able to pull your numbers up at any point of the day and have an accurate snapshot of where you’re at. This will help you lead better.
  • These are some really cool people.
  • Build a database. Get emails. Keep in touch.
  • Create your Neighborhood Domination Plan. How can you connect with the neighborhood around each project you do? Personally, I’d read this for an idea.
  • Stay true to your vision. Be disciplined now. Reap a huge win later.
  • Everything your do or don’t tells a story. What story are you and your people telling the world? The right story will make your bags of Benjamin’s. The wrong one will keep your bank account looking malnourished.
  • Raise your prices you chicken.
  • Start having crew/staff meetings. Lay out expectations on each job for time and quality.
  • Celebrate every little win. It will build momentum.
  • Double down and get a professional kick-butt website. Don’t let your cousin build it. Spend the money and send a first class message that equals the type of work you do.
  • If your company sucks right now it’s your fault.
  • Create content for your site. Start a blog and answer every question you ever get from a client. This will set you up as the expert you already are. It will build trust. It will also drive more traffic to your site.
  • Post your blog posts on Google +. This will bump you in search.
  • Did I mention how important it is to use Flipboard?
  • When your people want more money make sure they’re adding more value to you and helping you to not work in the business so much. Then, you can think about more money.
  • Teach your guys to think like you.
  • Have a weekly money meeting. What can you bill for? Who owes you money? Who do I owe?
  • Don’t forget a weekly sales meeting. What was bid? What was sold? What do I need to follow up on? Get a yes or no on all bids.
  • You’re capable of more than you think you are.
  • Know exactly how much it costs you to provide the services you do.
  • Know your break even point and go get it.
  • Train your crew leaders to set up and close out a job. That includes confirming the scope, ordering materials, working with the client and collecting the cash. If they are unwilling or not capable, then you have the wrong crew leader. Young men are leading troops in combat right now. Your guy can set up a job.
  • If you have the right guy, but he can’t set up a job it’s your fault. Create a system. Use checklists. Take him with you and teach him how. Dummy proof the system.
  • Always be hiring teachable people.
  • Build systems. Work the systems. No exceptions.
  • Did you delegate? Great! Now, go check it. Praise them for 5 things before you jump their tail for the one thing they messed up.
  • Embrace resistance. Do the hard things. Do them early before they become tougher.
  • When you build the habit of standing toe to toe with your fears & challenges you will build your strength. Want a strong business? Start here.