An installer calls because he’s short the tube of caulk it would take to close out the job. You take the call, jump in your truck, and head for The Home Depot. Two hours later, you’re back at your desk visiting the usual list of bookmarked blogs and contractor chat rooms. The phone rings again. A salesperson says he’s quitting, and you realize you need someone to run the extra leads. You schedule yourself for a 7 p.m. appointment. Stress isn’t sexy. And every business owner fights fires. You can run a company that way, but there’s not a lot of satisfaction. Nor does it leave much time for planning and strategy to get you to new levels of revenue and profitability.

Start With the Money

If you’re running your company this way, you’re probably not making a lot of money either. Say you had the right guys doing the right jobs with the right materials. Chances are good your installer won’t be missing that caulk because it’s on a checklist somebody went over before the truck left. If, somehow, it fell off the truck, your designated service person makes the run. The problem never reaches your ears.

Salesman quits? You have three good candidates ready to go. They know that your company closes, sells at good prices, and offers commissions above average.

It takes money to do this. If you sold jobs for 20%, 30%, even 40% more, you’d have the resources to hire good people drawn by pay and benefits. With such people in place, you can step back from the day to day and create the right systems and processes to ensure your customers are taken care of. Quality — people, materials, installation, management — costs money.

A Third of the Time

An owner should spend a third of his time working on systems and processes. Impossible? Not if you start small. Restructure your day a little at a time. Instead of visiting those blogs, take an hour to rework your pricing to get the gross margin you need to afford the best people.

Make a list of those places where daily fires break out, and one by one figure out what can be done to prevent them from starting. Do this every day, and in time what happens is that when the phone rings it’s something other than the latest calamity. Now you own your business, the business doesn’t own you. 

Scott Siegal owns Maggio Roofing, in Takoma Park, Md., and is president of Certified Contractors Network, a membership organization promoting best practices.

Related articles:

Second Set of Eyes: Business experts can help you make key decisions, or develop the systems you need to control your business

Process & Technique: Tips for improving both your process and technique of executing that action

What Exactly Is a Business System?