It is not easy to write brilliant editorials each month that both imparts vital or savvy knowledge that fits most everyone’s situation. When you get to thinking about it, it’s a lot like trying to be all things to all customers. A pretty neat trick when you can pull it off consistently.

Today, let’s make a few assumptions first that will allow us to communicate effectively. I’ll assume that business is good, profits are acceptable and you are personally very busy. With me so far? Being the good businessman that you are, you are gazing into the distance wondering what’s next. Do you just rock along like you are until the next downturn? Do you maximize the current market by staffing up? What should you be doing now?

 

No one set of circumstances will be correct for everyone. However, certain basic generalizations will hold true in a majority of situations. You hear certain truisms from the world at large, from us and from people you know and respect that are generally true. It is the mostly true that causes people the most heartburn. Have you ever heard the phrase “what is true of the whole is not necessarily true of the specific”? Take that to mean each of us ultimately plays our own game and then experiences our own different results. You can be doing better than the market while others are doing worse and vice versa. No, you can’t change how gravity works, can’t create new opportunities out of thin air or sell your services for 25% of what the rest of your competitors sell their services (at least not for long!) and make it up on volume. Certain truisms are well…true! Yet, there is running room along the margins that many of us neither avail ourselves of or can even visualize.

Ask yourself the following question:

Why should I be looking to do something different from what is working for me now?

Answer:

Because what sustains you today will not be the same fact set next month, next year, or forever. Sooner or later circumstances that make you successful today will not support your success going forward.

Living Large is our way of saying you should confidently play your own game and only emulate the good tactics of others when the situation and circumstances dictate. Strategically, you want to play long ball while tactically moving the ball downfield. Enough of the football metaphors for the moment. Let’s deal with some real world examples. Who would have thought that the commercial sector would be under stress at the moment as compared to that wildly overbuilt (think what everyone was saying two years ago) residential market? I sure don’t remember too many people who would have believed we’d see the resurgence of residential markets this soon. Conversely, I met plenty of people who were pretty cocky that we’d see a steadily improving commercial market. As of now, commercial permits are down about 11% year to date in the metro area. Tons of things in the planning stages, but for whatever reason, many have not translated into executable contracts so far.

So, how does playing your own game actually translate into real life? Again, every business and every manager will have a different comfort level and a different take on what that means. For many owner managed small businesses it means playing to your specific strengths and maximizing your efficiencies. Think of it as your own inward looking value proposition. For example:

My company is small, very efficient, cash positive, well respected in the marketplace, makes money off projects others shy away from, and we are able to pivot quickly and adjust to the needs of our customers without internal problems. I look for projects that are technically harder to execute successfully because I’m comfortable playing in that space. This sets me apart from my competitors. This is my value proposition.

Let’s try another self-description. My company is medium sized, efficient, a bit bureaucratic, tied to monthly performance quotas and I am a slave to the policies and procedures of our corporate owner. In this case, I’m looking for steady work from larger projects that I’ll be involved with for a while and that fit better into my company’s overall plan. Risk is rewarded only when successful, my former boss once told me.

The common denominator with both of the above scenarios is that they should not be bidding, negotiating or looking for just any work. Too often we treat all opportunities either equally or without a clear understanding of what winning a project will actually do to/for my company. This goes for GC’s, A/E’s, subs and even suppliers. There are a multitude of reasons why you should be selecting your next project based on a growth and sustainment plan that you created without staring a certain project in the face. The time of going after each and every project just to keep the doors open is over. If not, seriously consider finding another line of work.

Let’s spend just a bit more time talking about growth and sustainment. Too many companies we know are deeply reticent to let loose some purse strings and grow. Their internal tea leaves don’t forecast enough certainty to give them comfort. Many companies are going to miss out on this up cycle and you can’t really blame them; uncertainly is just too high for many peoples’ comfort. On the other hand, if you can control costs, pick your jobs as part of a considered plan and grow rationally; your chances of surfing the current wave are excellent.

Finally, information services such as ours are the tealeaves we have. Not only read, but analyze the available information in those services, ask questions, attend seminars, pick up the phone and ask questions. Be the smartest person in the room and you too will be Living Large and enjoying life.

Did you know that DEC works with select customers on sales and marketing strategies? Email me to learn more.

Good Selling!

Allan J. Feifer

AllanF@DEC-International.com