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Winners and Losers

Originally published
Originally published: 3/1/2014

The difference between winners and losers is how they handle losing. Let’s face it: you’re not going to win every time. An effective leader must be resilient because no one can win all the time. The pitfalls and troubles that come with owning and operating a business are immense. As the old saying goes, “if it were easy anyone could do it.” The fact of the matter is that it is not easy. It’s far from it.

Entrepreneurs must be willing to fail and try again — to learn how to come back after setbacks and, most importantly, to avoid making those same mistakes time after time. The last several years have tested our management skills, as disruptions and setbacks seem almost common — even among the most successful companies. Resilience, according to Webster’s, is the ability to recover from change or misfortune and become successful again. This resilience is the ability to adapt, and it builds confidence in those leaders willing to get back up and try again. Successful people will tell you they’ve learned more from their failures than their successes. To quote Dale Carnegie, “The successful man will profit from his mistakes and try again in a different way.”

For those of us who watched the Olympics, there were dozens of inspirational examples and stories of athletes whose resilience and ability to overcome adversity ultimately landed them on the podium. Business owners rarely have such publicity and acknowledgement of what they’ve overcome. However, the most important people in your life (i.e., your family, friends and co-workers) are always watching. Ultimately, this builds a stronger network and team moving forward.

The adversity we deal with generally falls into two categories: circumstances outside our control; and those roadblocks we put in our own path. The winter of 2013-2014 has presented significant opportunities for HVACR contractors, as it well documented that our industry prospers on weather extremes and the associated equipment failures. But this winter has also been challenging. I’ve spoken with dozens of you who have more work than you can handle and are dealing with employee burnout, especially the service techs on the front line.

Many of you have been down this path before, the question is: what to do now? What did you learn in previous years when we faced what seemed like a never-ending winter? Did you turn down work? Were you honest with customers about long lead times? Did you hire additional, perhaps temporary, staff? How did these decisions play out for you in the past? As business owners, it can seem heartbreaking to turn down good money, especially for after-hours emergency repairs and installs. Sometimes hiring new employees can help lighten the load; sometimes, if we’re rushed through the hiring process, we make hasty decisions and end up hiring inexperienced people who tarnish our brands. It helps to take a step back — if only for a moment — to consider past decisions so we don’t keep repeating the same mistakes.

Of course, weather is just one unpredictable circumstance that can impact our business. What about those factors actually in your control? The self-inflicted wounds? One common regret of business owners is that they failed to view a specific line item as an investment rather than an expense. Investments involve a temporary outlay of cash or time. Good investments generate returns over and above the initial cost. For example, some business owners don’t invest in employee education and training. They can’t afford it, or are concerned that once properly trained, the employee may leave for a different, higher paying job. The irony here is that if you don’t invest in your employee’s training, they are likely to pursue opportunities in companies that do offer educational programs.

Marketing is another line item that is an investment, not an expense. Marketing and advertising generate sales and sales leads, and you would have significantly less business without them. Sometimes, new trends like social media stop us in our tracks. You might wonder if it’s just a fad or a lasting change worth the investment of time and money. Let your past experiences guide your decisions they will help you make better choices.

Entrepreneurs take calculated risks. They view mistakes as learning opportunities. When they fall, they may feel sorry for themselves for a few minutes, but they pick themselves up and begin again with new perspectives.


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