A Day in the Life

Frank Blau
Contributing Writer

When you decide to go into business for yourself, you may have had a vague idea of what a day in the life of a successful entrepreneur might be like. For some people, it’s breeze through the door at 10:00 a.m., chat a bit with the office staff and then troll through the service department inspiring the adoring dispatchers and service techs. Then, after a heavily martinied lunch, comes a leisurely round of golf. Your evening would be spent at some exciting social event, rubbing elbows with the rich and famous.

A typical day for the owner of a contracting firm, right?

Okay, I can hear the laughter out there. The reality is that most contractors spend their days battling fires and doing all the work that their employees won’t do. Your desk (or is it the kitchen table?) is pilled high with molding invoices, unreturned messages, outdated and unread trade magazines and the crust of yesterday’s sandwich.

Pretty bleak. But take heart, there is a way out.

Success does not necessarily resemble the first scenario filled with leisure activities. The truth about this or any other business is that to succeed, you must work hard.

I don’t think that’s much of a problem in this industry. By and large PHC contractors are not lazy. Even the slugs tend to be hard workers. My criticism always has to do with the fact that contractors work too hard for too little reward. They need to learn to work smart and devote more time to the business end of contracting as opposed to pulling a wrench.

I for one still work hard (and I hope, smart). Work to me is tonic. I love it. My day resembles scenario #1 only in the occasional leisurely round of afternoon golf. After four decades of hard work, I’ve earned it.

What I work on day to day has nothing to do with tools, code issues or the other nuts and bolts of the PHC business. These things are important, and that’s why I have hired some of the best people around to handle these tasks. As for me, I invite you to follow me around on a typical day in the office and see what duties I think important for the CEO to tend to.

The Perfect Day: Up at 7:30 a.m., followed by an hour of exercise. Walk, run, swim – do what suits you best. Take time over your morning coffee to read the Wall Street Journal and the latest issue of Plumbing & Mechanical.

When you arrive at the office, take the long way around the building to notice the physical appearance. Make a note to have someone pick up litter and fix a torn piece of siding. Greet everyone by name as you enter the office, and introduce yourself to the new employee in the accounting department.

Slide into your comfy chair at your desk. Spend a few minutes reviewing your goals and purpose in life – personally, professionally and spiritually. Write down these goals and have them close by. Edit when necessary, but remind yourself each day of your purpose in life. Heavy stuff, but this is important if you are to create reality from your dreams.

While your mind is fresh, review your business plan. Read the current financial statements and create a battle plan for buying a new service vehicle. Meet with your service manager about his plan for implementing your sales training program. Approve his new plan for technician compensation. Remember to thank him for his work on the project.

Get going on your telephone errands. Call Phil, a Nexstar member. Ask him about his new television ads. Find out how he is tracking the effectiveness of the campaign. Tell him that brutal joke about the lawyer and the fishing pole (unprintable here, unfortunately).

Uh oh … you are interrupted by your customer service manager. She just received a phone call from a livid customer who’s threatening to sue you for millions. Apparently the service tech spilled something on the driveway. Have Doris take a few deep breaths and coach her on how to handle the problem. Invite her to make the call right from your office so you can lend support and bail her out if necessary. Congratulate her on her great communication skills after she negotiates a reasonable plan for handling the problem with the customer. Resist the temptation to make fun of the overreacting customer.

Afternoon: Lunch time. You meet with Kevin, an ambitious fellow who just started a company that provides office-cleaning services. He is hot for your business and you’re willing to sign on – provided he spends some time with you learning business basics. You remind him that he won’t be providing much service if he goes Chapter 11. Kevin pays for lunch.

Back at the office you sift through your mail. How nice to read the wonderful comments on the report cards that service techs leave with your customers. Mrs. Jones says that Steve was such a nice guy – he remembered to leave the dog in the backyard when he left. You make a note to have Doris respond to the fellow who is unsure if he will use your company again, as the price was higher than expected. You open up the pay stub from your automatically deposited paycheck and smile. You’re making LOTS of dough. Sure makes it easy to respond generously to the note from the local grade school soliciting funds for a new library.

Time for some fun. You call a competing company and, using a British accent, identify yourself as Mr. Fernwicky and ask them the price of a new disposal. You groan inside as your hear the phone representative diagnose the problem and quote a too-low price. Adopting your best little-old-man-who-could-fix-it-himself-if-he-only-had-the-tools voice, you call your own service department. Arlene answers and follows procedure beautifully in explaining why she cannot either diagnose the problem or quote a price over the phone, but how nice it will be when we take care of the problem. You hang up and race over to the customer service department to give Arlene a high five!

Time for your weekly coaching session with Suzette, manager of accounting. You review her statistics for the week and approve her plan to improve AR collections. She fills you in on how each of her staff is faring, backed up with statistical evidence. You marvel at how much saner it is to review performance than attitudes – the way you use to evaluate employees.

Holy smokes, 5:00 already. Tonight’s agenda is a barbecue on the patio with the whole family. You plan to kick some serious butt during the croquet tournament with the kids.

Can you imagine that a day like this might be yours? Thought begets in your mind, you will take the first step towards making it happen. You’ve also created the standard that you can use to compare each passing days, and determine whether you are moving towards that perfect day.

The ideal scene must be attainable. Then dreams come true.                                     


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