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Attitude and Focus Beat the Economic Blues

Originally published: 12.01.10 by Ruth King

2010 Results: Attitude and Focus Beat the Economic Blues

How did you do in 2010? The past few years have been difficult for many contractors and devastating for many new-construction contractors. However, many contractors I know did very well in 2010 despite the economy and despite all of the bad news in the media.

I started looking at the contractors who did well this year and noticed one major differentiator — attitude. This is not an “I’m doing great!” false bravado at industry meetings. This is a real, positive focus on what you want and what you can do every day.

True story for one contractor in New York: He, and thousands of other small businesses, had been paying a payroll service to process his payroll. Along with the payroll, the processing company was supposed to submit the payroll taxes he paid to the processing company to the IRS.

Long story short, the payroll company went bankrupt, the owner of the company is nowhere to be found, and the company didn’t pay the payroll taxes for 15 months. The IRS went after this contractor to collect the funds. So, in essence, this contractor had to pay payroll taxes twice. This put a severe crunch

on his cash flow (even with payments to the IRS) in a slow time of year because it didn’t get hot in New York until late summer.

He had a rotten attitude and said that he was going to have to go out of business, too. Unfortunately this wouldn’t help the IRS situation since he was personally liable for the taxes. The business was suffering, and he was miserable. Then, he remembered why he started the business seven years ago. It was tough then, but he pulled through.

His attitude turned around, and he started focusing on what he could do rather than on what was happening. He won an installation job and then another. He kept his focus. Now his installation crew is booked six weeks in advance. The only thing that really changed was his focus and attitude.

Another contractor in South Carolina got serious about his business in 2010. He had dabbled in service and replacement. As an engineer, his business had generated revenues from design and drawings rather than service and installation.

At the beginning of the year he had less than 20 maintenance agreements. He had one installer/technician whom he couldn’t keep busy the entire year. With focus, he increased his maintenance agreements to almost 200 and has four stocked trucks that are paid for — no debt. He is planning to grow exponentially again in 2011.

Many years ago, on Thanksgiving week, I started working with a contractor who had no maintenance agreements. I told the contractor and his employees that they had to enroll at least 30 new maintenance customers by the end of the year. “Conventional wisdom” says that you can’t sell maintenance agreements during the holiday season.

They didn’t know any of the conventional wisdom. They focused, and got almost 50 agreements during a time when people are supposed to say no rather than yes. The key is staying focused with a positive attitude.

What should you be focused on? Increasing your maintenance agreements by at least one every day. That is about 250 per year (not counting weekends).

For those of you who have commercial hvac companies, your focus should be on getting one new commercial maintenance contract per week. Maintenance agreement customers are the foundation for building a strong, profitable company. And, I assume that none of you are “in this for practice.” You all want to earn a profit.

So, if you had a rotten 2010, now is the time to change your focus and execution. Decide what you want by the end of 2011 and focus on it. Determine one thing that you can do every day to get to that goal by Dec. 31, 2011. Think about it often and continue doing the activity, even when you “get busy.” You’ll see the results.

I hope that you have a very happy holiday season and a focused, prosperous 2011. 

Ruth King has over 25 years of experience in the hvacr industry and has worked with contractors, distributors, and manufacturers to help grow their companies and become more profitable. She is president of HVAC Channel TV and holds a Class II (unrestricted) contractors license in Georgia. Ruth has written two books: The Ugly Truth About Small Business and The Ugly Truth About Managing People. Contact Ruth atruthking@hvacchannel.tv or 770.729.0258.

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