I recently had the opportunity to interview a contractor who has grown his business from $500,000 to $2.5 million a year in sales over the span of four years, largely because he began to reach out to mentors. Check it out:
1 – How exactly has having a mentor(s) been beneficial in growing your business at such a rapid clip?
Goal setting was the biggest thing. My mentor had me envision where i wanted to be in 12, 36, and 60 months. I answered with a very conservative number, he then had me rethink the numbers without any possibility of failure, and my figures or “goals” instantly increased. My next step was to share these goals with my staff and keep a score card (white board) in the office which I saw every day but my employees also saw, keeping me accountable for the target sales. The data was updated regularly, and this allowed me to make the proper decision every day on how to distribute my time. I wanted to go to the jobs and put my nail bags on, but if my sales weren’t where they needed to be I would focus more on finding more work. This also allowed me to rely more on my employees which in turn gave them more ownership of the projects.
2 – For those who have never approached a potential mentor before, what are some best practices for how to go about it? Any big do’s or do not’s?
The most important thing about utilizing a mentor is to be humble and to listen. When they give you advice write it down. Implement their advice; my mentors were multi-millionaires in their fields, and I would listen intently and take notes. When I had questions regarding a specific topic I would always start by referring to something they had told me prior and how I implemented that advice into a specific scenario I had encountered and whether or not it had worked for me. Mentors are willing to give you their time but not if you don’t listen or they feel you are looking for the easy answer. Every mentor I have has worked very hard for their success – respect that and you will learn from every discussion.
When approaching a new mentor, do so in a way that is very specific – do not generalize. One of my mentors is in the restaurant business, and he became my mentor due to asking specific questions about retaining employees. This grew and developed into an ongoing mentorship that I continue to utilize. Most of my major decisions do not happen until I have gotten input from this person.
Be able to share your results from the mentor’s advice, and let them know you’re listening and trying to utilize their input.
3 – What kind of help should one realistically expect from a mentor in the industry, and what can you do to make it a win-win for both parties instead of just using the mentor and giving nothing back?
First of all, the mentor does not need to be from the same industry. In fact some of the best advice I’ve received is from mentors that have nothing to do with construction, which is one of the greatest lessons I’ve learned. To be a good contractor you don’t have to be good at building but rather a good businessman.
The amount of help you receive is directly accountable to how you implement the advice. If you are willing to accept the help and forego any ego you may have, you will benefit. That is why you seek out mentors that are already where you see yourself headed to.
In order to make a win win scenario for you and the mentor, update them with results you’ve achieved from their advice. When I’ve mentored young contractors, the most rewarding moment is when they call me and tell me how successful their last project was due to utilizing something I had shared with them. Regardless the size of the success for them, it always puts a smile on my face that they listened to my advice and it paid out for them.
4 – Other than reaching out to mentors, are there any other pieces of advice you’d like to offer up to those who are trying to make a go of it in remodeling / building? Something you wish you had known when you first started?
I think the biggest thing I wish I had known going into business for myself at the age of 19, was that no matter how skilled I was at building, there is so much more to running a business.
Anyone that is thinking of starting a contractor business should read the book “the E myth”. It will change your life. Most people start out in the trades and once they have achieved a level of skills they feel is beyond that of their employer they feel they should be ready to start their own business. If you were to look at most of the top construction companies, not one of the people running the business could build a dog house, yet they run companies building some the greatest architectural achievements of our time.
One of the biggest points I would suggest is to invest in self growth: books, CDs, anything to motivate you is worth it. Before any sales meeting I always listen to Donald Trump’s “think big” CDs. He is not my favorite person, but he thinks big and motivates me to do the same.
Before I started reaching out to mentors, I hired a business coach at 200.00 per hour. That seems crazy and I agree, but the things I learned from him increased my bottom line multiple times more than what I paid him.
Strive to improve yourself daily, set goals and post them somewhere you see them everyday.
No matter what you want to do, someone has done it and most likely written a book about how to do it. Learn to ask the questions that give you the information you need to succeed.
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