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Putting Out Fires

Monday morning comes at you like a truck. You are hit with a long list of things to do and then, of course, the phone starts ringing with unexpected fires that need to be put out as soon as possible.

Because you are constantly busy it is easy to assume that everything is going well. But, the real question to ask yourself when you finally leave for home Friday night is: Are we really accomplishing our goals or are we just firefighters?

If you find you are falling behind and constantly carrying a fire hose, you need to recognize that these are symptoms of serious problems in your business. Many installation companies are very busy, but are actually headed toward failure due to a lack of leadership, management, planning, and goals.

Are you running your business, or is your business running you? Whether you are a one-man operation or have a dozen employees, there are really only two ways to run your business. You either have a long-range plan or you dont.

A plan involves specific measurable goals. Ive learned that a goal without a deadline is only a dream. Weeks and months will come and go, but without specific plans and clear goals you will never really know if you are succeeding or failing. Here are four steps to setting goals for your business:

Write down your specific goals and the timetable to reach them.

Write down the action steps needed to achieve those goals and a timetable for each one.

Put the action steps on a simple weekly or monthly chart.

Keep track of your progress for each action step and check financial results.

If this all sounds complicated, consider this oversimplified one-year plan:

Goal: Sell and install $2 million of business this year with $100k pretax profit.

Action Steps: In January, set up LLC, lease truck and office, hire staff. In February, finalize dealerships, design core systems, complete materials to begin sales and marketing. In March, deliver $300k in proposals, sell $75K, and update staff training. In April, deliver $400K in proposals, and sell $125K.

Monthly Progress Reports: Detail sales activity, installation, profits. Fine tune the action steps to stay on target. Review all jobs labor hours and expense. Determine how to run lean and mean and adjust your product offerings to meet your goals of profitability. Review all financials regularly.

Your written plan and associated budget are essential for keeping track of the health of your business and is a major influence in many decisions that you will have to make. The big picture plan will give birth to specific details allowing you to set systems in place for your regular operations.

Your entire team needs to understand your big-picture goals and to pull together to help reach them. Clearly displaying sales goals and installation goals helps the whole team feel involved and know where they are going. Everyone on your staff should see themselves as an important part of reaching these goals. Each time an important goal is met, the team spirit grows. Rewards and incentives help everyone celebrate together.

If this hands-on proactive process seems too laborious, you might not enjoy being a business owner. It is not easy to stop and put long-range plans in place. But it is much easier to run a business by working toward specific goals than it is to work in frustration. There is no fun in that. There is no future in that either.