Success Through Connections
Originally published: 08.01.18 by Jodie Deegan
Get out of your silo and connect with other businesses who have faced the same challenges
Remember that show “Who wants to be a Millionaire?” I’m talking about the classic version with Regis Philbin that had millions of viewers tuning in each week. The show had everything: Suspense, intellect, the possibility of winning a fortune and so much more.
I think about it a lot while working as a Nexstar coach, because I love the idea of having a lifeline. It’s crucial that you have a trusted advisor that you can call who may have solutions fr any problems that may arise.
In business we don’t always have a lifeline. Sometimes it can feel like we are on an island. This can be true for anyone in your organization, but it’s usually loneliest at the top. You may not always feel comfortable asking your employees questions out of fear of appearing weak or ignorant.
You’re supposed to have all the answers, right? If you are subordinate, you may not feel comfortable asking your supervisor something that you may be expected to know. This is all dysfunctional.
Healthy businesses have safe communication up and down their chain of command. Having that outside lifeline can be a way around some of these dynamics.
Many businesses operate in isolated environments we call silos. We know how we operate our business, but we may have limited visibility into how other departments or organizations do things. Your exposure to different ways of doing things can be limited without outside connections.
The key to getting out of the silo is to connect with other businesses who have identified best practices or solutions to challenges like yours. Let’s talk about some ways you can connect with other people to learn and share best practices with them.
Join a Best Practice Organization
You can learn a lot by having access to hundreds of other contractors who have experienced the same challenges you have. Typically, there are businesses of all sizes that have found the answer to the process you are struggling with.
Another benefit is that you have access to contractors who may not be your direct competitor. Looking outside your geographic region can give you even more perspective, because your marketplace might be a silo of its own. The smaller the market, the more we do things the same as our competitor. Chances are you trained them, or vice versa.
By meeting and learning from successful contractors who have grown their businesses many times larger than your current size, you can avoid learning everything the hard way.
Establish a Personal Board of Directors
Commonly referred to as a PBOD, this is a handful of businesses like yours who you respect and trust to share information with. Best practice organizations become the perfect place for PBODs to form because there are so many great contractors to connect with.
PBODs typically form organically, and may start with one or two other likeminded people who gravitate towards each other.
As they meet other businesses or individuals they think would be a good fit, they invite them to join the group. The key ingredients here are trust and accountability.
Your Board of Directors must give each other open, honest council to help them improve their businesses.
Most of us attend some type of training within our industry. Members of best practice organizations attend training for all positions within the business.
These are great places to meet and make connections with other people who are doing the same thing you are.
These connections can become your lifeline when you need an outside perspective or a best practice.
If you are a service manager and you attend training with 30 other service managers from around the country, you suddenly have access to a network of support.
Even if you aren’t a member of a best practice organization, you can make connections at local training events held by your distributor.
Just because you are competitors doesn’t mean you should be instant enemies. Having a healthy relationship with and respect for each other’s businesses can benefit everyone and make your market more professional.
Without that respect, companies may start to steal employees from each other or undercut bids, and everyone ultimately loses.
Join a Professional Organization
There are a lot of great trade organizations like PHCC or ACCA, just to name a few. These organizations typically raise awareness for things that affect our industry.
This helps you climb out of your silo a little bit more. Without this interaction, you may not be aware of regulatory changes or other news that can impact your business.
These meetings often feature subject matter experts on topics that we may find complicated or confusing. This is also a great way to connect with contractors who are more experienced in areas where you may be weaker.
For example, if you are not experienced in installing mini split systems and there is a contractor in your group who does a lot of them, that is a great connection to have when you land that install.
Outside the Trades
Joining local business organizations like Rotary, Kiwanis, or independent groups can have many benefits. These come in the form of business referrals, professional services, or different business perspectives.
By looking outside our industry we can find new ways of doing things that haven’t found their way into our world yet.
One of the biggest challenges we are facing as an industry is the shortage of quality technicians.
By making as many connections as possible with potential employees, or employees who know potential candidates, you are planting the seeds that may eventually grow into future team members.
It’s a high return activity, to be sure!
Don’t be the wallflower at the next gathering you find yourself at. Don’t be afraid to strike up a conversation or join in on one.
There is a Zambian proverb that applies here: “When you run alone you run fast. When you run together you run far.”