On record: Step back

Here are two scary words for you: strategic planning. Or it could be they’re not so much scary as remote. Strategic planning is for the big guys, not someone like you with fewer than 30 employees. You’re busy from sunup until past sundown making sure you meet all your commitments – especially those to your crew.

Gerald Roberts, one of our 12 Contractor of the Year finalists this year, found himself in the same situation. The Berthould, Colorado, site development contractor entered the business at age 18 and found himself doing it all – estimating the work, managing every project, running his crews and writing the checks.

“What’s the big deal?” you may ask. “So do I.”

The big deal was that in the middle of all this Gerald had gotten married and had two boys (his wife Joby is now pregnant with twins). He found the 80-hour weeks he was putting in left him too exhausted to devote much time to his family. So he called in an outside consultant, which more than anything gave him a new perspective. Now instead of concentrating on all the niggling details of his business, he focuses on marketing and selling his company … and can be home in time to tuck his boys into bed. “I’m on the verge of working on the business rather than in it,” he says. Another benefit: he’s down to a 50-hour work week.

Ah, but I know what you’re thinking: “consultant equals expensive.” Maybe, maybe not. I don’t know what Gerald’s consultant cost, but he did tell me he just used him once. And while companies like IBM may pursue strategic planning in a quest for higher revenues and profit, my guess is Gerald’s reason would be more like yours: a better quality of life. What profit is there in building your business if that’s all you have left at the end of the day?

Besides, this kind of strategic planning or reorganizing your priorities or whatever you want to call it may only involve the expense of your time. Look around you. Who’s got a good business head? Who’s separated enough from your business they can have an unimpeded view of your prospects two years from now? Whom can you confide in, knowing there’s no question of a breach of ethics? You could even form an impromptu committee made up of several individuals with different strengths.

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It’s not like you don’t know how to ask for help – contractors call on each other all the time to get out of jobsite binds. But sometimes the trick is knowing when to ask.

“I knew there had to be an easier way,” Gerald says. And for him, there was.