Getting caught off guard is hardly ever fun. It can force us to react without time to explore our options or to think things through. Not being prepared can be a disorienting experience, one that can damage our business’ success.
On the flip side, being proactive means we’re thinking ahead. It allows us to anticipate upcoming trends and needs. That way, we’ll be prepared for almost any situation. Looking forward is a key for any business including contractors. So let’s look at some ways that we as contractors can take a more proactive approach to our businesses.
We hate to be the ones to tell you, but there’s a lot you don’t know. Same goes for us. There are always new techniques to learn and new fashions to take into account. There are also changes in laws, regulations, and other factors that will affect how we do business.
We could sit back and wait for something to come up, or we could get ahead of the game and invest time in learning. The second will definitely create an advantage.
Potential clients are looking at websites, watching HGTV, and going to home shows to see what the “newest thing” is in interior or exterior design. They’re going to come to you and ask for it. That’s a principal reason that it’s important to be one step ahead and know what they’ll be looking for.
Trade shows – and those same programs and websites – are great ways to stay abreast of what you could be asked for in the coming season. They give us the opportunity to see what new concepts are coming to the market and what’s growing in popularity.
When you’re familiar with these trends and have an idea of how to build or install these new styles is going to help your client feel more comfortable working with you. Otherwise, they may opt for a competitor.
At the same time, it’s good to keep up-to-date on legal changes, whether they have to do with permits, personnel, or taxes. Your clients aren’t going to see how you handle these things, of course. But knowing ahead of time what changes are coming up is going to help you navigate them more smoothly. Your local builders’ association or chamber of commerce can be great sources of information and may even offer workshops.
Another area where planning ahead can make a big difference is hiring.
This, as you can imagine, can require a lot of balance. You want to have enough employees on hand and trained to be able to take on upcoming tasks. At the same time, if those projects never materialize, there’s the risk that you won’t have work to keep them busy or money to pay them.
That probably means you can’t have as many people ready to go as you’d like. At times, you could be stuck hiring last-minute, short-term laborers. However, having some people ready to go can help you be sure of their reliability, professionalism, and skill. It can also help project efficiency since the workers are already familiar with your way of doing things.
Like hiring, purchasing can require a tough balance. You don’t want to overbuy and have too much in the way of materials. It may not go to waste, but it can definitely hurt your bottom line in the short term.
However, buying materials like concrete in larger quantities can help you get volume discounts. It can also guarantee that you have the materials on hand when you need them. That means you won’t have to hold up work while waiting for deliveries.
For tools and supplies that last longer, you aren’t going to have two of everything on hand – not much is going to need to be replaced that often. But having some spare tools or parts can be useful. Having them in your work truck is going to save lost time visiting the store and looking for a replacement when there is a failure.
That can be true for parts like saw blades and other parts that wear out. But it can also apply to tools that have a chance of breaking. Broom handles or even shovels are just two examples of items can crack, so having a spare or two for the crew never hurts.
Proactive Financial Planning
It may go without saying, but it’s always important to plan for a rainy day. Actually, use the rainy days to be proactive about all these other areas!
There are going to be moments when things get tough. Hopefully there won’t be many and they won’t last long. However, every business needs to have money put away to get through those tough times.
That means that saving for those times has to be part of your plan. You can’t spend everything you bring in; some of it has to go toward what may happen down the road.
We talked above about being prepared with extra materials and parts for tools. Obviously, you’re not going to sit around with an extra work truck in case one breaks down. However, you might need to suddenly pay for unexpected repairs to one, or even make a down payment on a new one. Or you might need a new roof or a new computer when you least expect it. Proactive financial planning is going to help you be prepared for whatever may come along.
Finally, your marketing can be proactive as well. You might think that marketing, by its nature, is proactive, since it’s aimed at attracting the client to you in the first place. In that way, you’re correct. However, marketing can also be about raising awareness.
That means that not everyone knows about the service you offer. It’s not just that they don’t know your brand – they just never thought about what you do. For instance, some people aren’t familiar with stamped concrete, or at least haven’t seen many of the ways it can be used.
That means it’s important to put those ideas in front of them through marketing efforts. With new applications for our services, new products, and new ways of using them showing up every year, we can’t expect our audience to know about them automatically. So getting that information in front of them is a great way of proactively marketing.
Social media, radio and television ads, and even conversations are fantastic ways of bring these ideas up. All of these are ways of “pushing” ideas in front of people, rather than waiting for them to look for them. They aren’t going to search for it on Google if they’ve never heard of it, but when they see it on Instagram, it can definitely pique their interest.
In business, it’s never appropriate to sit back on your haunches and wait for something to happen. Instead, working to get ahead of the game is key – whether that’s in learning, hiring, buying, saving, or marketing. Being proactive will help you be prepared and ready to face challenges as they come up, rather than being knocked off balance by something you never saw coming.