It was another dark night, Larry looked at his watch; and it was midnight. He had his torch light on, but there was no way he would finish framing this house in time for an inspection the next day. It wouldn’t matter if he worked all night. He decided to call it a night and send a bad-news email to Jack, his general contractor. He knew that he would get chewed out the next day. It wasn’t his first time; and probably wouldn’t be his last.
Larry showed up to the construction site to finish his frame work. He figured it would take him at least another two days to be ready for the inspector. Just then, he heard the roar of a V8 engine, and rocks hitting his stack of two-by-fours as Jack skidded into the site.
Jack started yelling before he slammed the door on his pickup, “You Son-of-a-Bitch. What in the hell are you doing holding up my construction project, Larry?”
Larry didn’t say a word. He knew that excuses would only fuel Jack’s anger.
Jack continued, “Get the hell down from that ladder, Larry. We’ve gotta talk!”
Larry slowly descended the ladder and turned to face Jack who was fuming at the bottom. Surely, Jack wouldn’t pick a fight while Larry had the nail gun in his hand.
“What do you expect me to do, Larry?”
Larry was clearly humiliated, “I don’t know what to tell you, Jack. I’ve worked as hard as I could to get the framing done on time; but I just couldn’t make it.”
Jack let up as he saw Larry’s sincerity, “Look, bud. We’ve been working together for a long time. But this is the fourth time you have held up one of my jobs. I can’t keep letting this shit go.”
Larry offered, “It won’t happen again, Jack. I never want to go through this again.”
“With all due respect, Larry, That’s what you said last time… and the time before that… and the time before that. What are you going to do differently to meet deadlines?”
“I don’t know. I guess I’ll just work harder.”
“Larry, you are working your ass off, and it’s not enough. What happened to the help you hired?”
“You know my help can’t do major framing work or trim work or sheet rock work. I guess I need to find better people.”
“Larry, one of my plumbers talked to a guy named Coach Russ. After he started working with Russ, his crew started meeting deadlines. Why don’t you give him a call?”
Jack handed Larry a business card as he offered to connect him with Coach Russ.
Larry said, “I don’t know when I’ll have time to call with all the work I’ve got to do for you in the next week.”
“You’ve got to make the time, dude. There’s no way I’m going to hire you for the next job, unless I know you’re going to meet deadlines.”
Larry nodded, took the card and hurried back up the ladder.
A week later, Larry gave Russ a call to see what this business coach could do for a carpenter that couldn’t meet deadlines.
Russ started, “I’m glad you called me, Larry. How can I help you?”
Larry said, “I’ve missed the last four framing deadlines in a row with my general contractor, Jack; and he seems to think that you can help me meet his deadlines.”
Russ chuckled, “It depends on why you’re late. Why are you missing Jack’s deadlines?”
“I don’t know.”
“I forgot to tell you. There are two statements I never let my clients make. The first is ‘I don’t know’. The second is ‘I can’t’. If you had to come up with the primary reason you were late on this last project, what would it be?”
“I used to make every deadline, no problem. Ever since my framing business has been growing, I’ve been falling behind.”
“How are you growing your framing business?”
“I’m hiring helpers to run errands for me. I’ve got a girl in our office that does all of my invoicing. To be honest, I still seem to be doing most of the work.”
“What is keeping you from hiring framers to do the work?”
“Two things… first, I can’t afford a full-time framer; and second, each time I try to hire a framer, they screw up the work; and it takes longer to fix their screw-ups than if I just did the work myself.”
“I’ll let the “can’t” go this time. So, because you don’t hire framers, you’re doing the work yourself; and are missing deadlines.”
“Now, wait. I told you, if I had to fix my guy’s work, it would take even longer.”
“I think I can help you, Larry.”
“What would you say if I told you that you probably need to hire two full-time framers?”
Larry laughed, “Are you kidding me? I just told you I can’t afford to hire one. And I certainly can’t afford to fix the work of two rookie framers.”
“Let me ask you. How many homes are you framing at any one time?”
“It varies, but on average, I’m framing two houses for Jack and a third house for Carl.”
“How long are you giving yourself to frame a single house?”
“I can knock out a house in about a month and a half by myself.”
“So, you must have committed to four and a half months of construction to Jack and Carl, right?”
“No. They would have never let me get away with that.”
Without Russ saying a word, Larry realized how ridiculous the deadlines were that he had committed to with Jack and Carl. He knew he needed help, but he couldn’t imagine hiring two rookie framers in the middle of this mess and still meet deadlines.
Russ asked, “What do you feel you need to do?”
“I guess I need help; but there’s no way I can find the right guys to do the work.”
“If you could do it, how would you do it?”
“Maybe I could sub it out.”
Russ asked, “What action can you make that will grow your framing business?”
“I suppose I could hire some workers and train them how to do framing.”
“How would you manage these new workers any differently than past failed attempts?”
Larry was ready to say ‘I don’t know’, then recalled Russ’s rule (No I DON’T KNOW), “I will help them learn to read the prints. I think that’s where things went wrong the last time.”
Russ smiled, “That’s a great start. How about I help you on a weekly basis as you learn how to lead your new framing crews?”
Larry grimaced, “Great. I’m not sure I can afford two new framers, and now I’m going to pay you, too?”
“It’s your choice. I think you have a lot of leadership potential, Larry. But I think you are missing an opportunity to grow your business the right way, if you don’t hire me.”
Larry knew Coach Russ was right. But he was worried about the money, “What if you don’t help me meet deadlines like you promised?”
“Then you fire me. Simple as that.”
Larry took Russ up on his offer. He would look for two framers to add to his crew; and meet with Russ weekly.
Larry hired his two new framers in the next two weeks. They were not the best framers around, but Larry was patient with both of them as they gained experience reading prints and framing houses like professionals. Larry started working on one house and checking the work of his framers on their houses. Larry learned that he would need to hire a third framer, if he really wanted to meet the aggressive deadlines required by Jack and Carl.
The first house they framed was a little rough; and they almost missed more deadlines. After that first job, a strange thing happened. Larry learned that his new framers could complete a house in half the time he originally thought. Russ explained that this was because his new framers didn’t have to worry about all of the other business stuff. They could focus their time on framing houses. The work was not always up to Larry’s standards; but he was able to quickly catch any mistakes and teach his framers how to prevent those mistakes in the future.
Larry eventually hired two more framers, and was knocking out five houses each month. His administrative assistant was busy with all of the paperwork that was needed for the increased business; Larry was making money; and was able to go home nights instead of working feverishly with ‘night framing’.
Russ entered Larry’s office like he had for the last year every Friday afternoon.
Larry beamed, “Russ, I would have never believed it, unless I saw it with my own eyes. How am I making this kind of money with five framers? I’m not even lifting a hammer.”
Russ smiled, “Larry, you have to understand the true benefit of leading other people. Most business owners think they are adding costs when they hire people. Especially, people that do what they used to do. But a growing business works the opposite when a leader trains, and supports his folks,”
“But how does the math work? There are six relatively high-paid people working in my company now. When it used to be just me.”
“You were lying to yourself before. Jack and Carl knew it, but you didn’t know it. You believed you could finish three houses in a few months; but it was taking you more than four months by yourself. Once you realized that you couldn’t do it, you made the right decision and hired new workers. You then made sure that you trained them and ensured that they corrected any mistakes they made right away. You’re now framing five houses in a month. This means that you are framing 20-houses in four months. This was the same time that it took you to frame three houses after upsetting your general contractors. You increased your output more than six times your old production because you hired people who are focused on their primary role of framing houses.”
“But I am paying six times the salary. Even though our output is 6X, how am I making all this profit?”
“You’re not paying six times the salary. You are paying your new framers only 70% of the amount you were making; and so you are paying a little over 4X your salary; and generating 6X the output. Now does the math make sense?”
“Of course! Thanks for your help, Russ. What’s on the agenda for today?”
“As always, the agenda is yours. What do you want to work on today?”
As a business coach, I help my business owner clients change their mindset in a way that allows them the freedom and profitability they have always hoped for, but never thought possible. If you’d like to develop a successful business mindset, I offer two online training packages: 1) Established Business Owners (5-50 employees); and 2) Emerging Entrepreneurs (0.-5 Employees). I have assembled online courses that have been created out of my business ownership experience; and can help you gain the knowledge you need to successfully start, grow and sell a business. If you’re interested in this online training, please click on the links below for the track that best suits your situation.
Established Business Owners
You’ve made it. At least, that’s what you think. You have a business. It is making some money, but it is stuck in some way. You aren’t motivating people the way you want; and you are trapped spending your time at work instead of enjoying the fruits of your labor. This group of seven basic courses will help veteran business owners learn how to lead employees and eventually disconnect from the day-to-day operation of their business. The cost of this online training package will be offered for $777 or $177 per module.
- How is Your Business Serving You?
- Becoming an Employer
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- Stop Doing!
- Leading Managers
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If you want to be notified via email when these courses are ready, please click here.
When you’re trying to start a business until you’ve gotten some traction, you need to learn many of the basics of business. Colleges may teach high-level business ownership, stocks, owning shares… but have missed some of the key components to starting and running a small business. This group of nine basic courses will be offered for only $377 or $77 per module.
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If you want to be notified via email when these courses are ready, please click here.
Note from the Author
My name is Jeff Schuster. I am a certified Life and Business Coach serving small business owners, corporate executives and others who want to transition from “expert” to “entrepreneur”. I have been a small business owner for most of my 30-years in the workplace. I grew an energy efficiency and renewable energy engineering and construction company from nothing to over $10-million/year and sold it in 2013. I now help other business owners make amazing progress toward their own dreams of business ownership independence and success.