If you are anything like me, you probably started your own contracting business because you didn’t want to work for someone else. You wanted the autonomy to control your days and make all the decisions. In other words, you wanted freedom. The irony however, is that self employment and freedom are sometimes worlds apart.
Although you are free in how you choose to handle the numerous tasks of your day you are anything but free when it comes to the responsibilities of being the boss and bearing the weight that comes with the roll. Your commitments to your family, your employees and your clients come first and supersedes any desires of freedom and that is how it should be.
The reality, is that your desire to hold on to the freedom inside of your business, is holding you back. When you first started it worked for you. Freedom allowed you to venture outside your comfort zone and learn how to make it on your own. You watched everyone around you and made decisions on how you would run your business, emulating some and going across the grain from others. You decided how hard you wanted to work, who you wanted to work for and what services you were going to provide. Most of these decisions were all based on feeling and instinct and at that time, it served you well.
Fast forward 10-15 years and you are probably still operating the same way. You may be miles ahead of where you started in terms of experience, revenue and complexity of work, but you still run your business based on feel. You wake up Monday morning and start your day with a mental inventory of all the fires that need to be put out, starting from big to small. Then you get in your truck, put on your fire hat and go to work solving problems and “getting it done.” Next thing you know, Friday has rolled around and somehow you made it further on down the road, but you can’t shake the nagging feeling that you really didn’t accomplish anything other than tasks and you did not move your “business” forward. In other words, another week has gone by where you simply worked IN your business and not ON your business and you can’t help but think, there must be a better way.
“Your feelings betray you young Skywalker”. The immortal words of Darth Vader to his son ring true for you here on planet earth. You run your business and your life on the back of fickle feelings and they are betraying you. Your feelings and instincts may have gotten you to where you are today, but they will not get you where you want to be tomorrow. Your freedom, your choices and all the options that lay before you each day have become a monumental distraction to your success. It’s time to move on from them and develop a new way of thinking.
We have all heard it dozens, if not hundreds of times. In every business and every endeavor, success comes to those who trust the process. From business, to exercise regimens, to diets, and relationships, success can be boiled down to finding the right recipe and then following the instructions. The cooks at McDonalds do not prepare your Big Mac based on feel. They don’t add a tomato because they FEEL like it needs a little more pizzazz. They follow the recipe and fulfill the process over and over again and deliver a consistent product and result every single time. You need to start running your business and life the same way.
Anyone who has tried to go on a diet or start and maintain an exercise program can attest that if you only ate healthy foods or worked out when you “felt” like it, you would surely fail. Jerry West the famous Lakers basketball player and executive has often been quoted that “If you only went to work when you felt like it, then nothing would ever get accomplished” You, as a self employed contractor are no different. In fact, because you have so much personal autonomy, this notion of moving away from working based on feelings to working based on process, will be extremely difficult for you.
So where do I start?
The hardest part of change is just getting started, especially when you are entrenched in bad habits and decades of destructive patterns. The mountain of change before you looks like Everest and seems too high and too overwhelming and you simply don’t know where to start. You’ve also been down this road before and have PTSD from all your previous failed attempts at change. You see them in your mind stacked on the side of the road like cord wood. I know this, because I too have tried to conquer this mountain in my own business for many years, so I speak from personal experience on how difficult it is to shed old habits and move yourself and your business to a higher level.
The End in Mind
Steven Covey is a hero of mine and in his famous book “The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People” Habit #2 is to “Start with the end in mind” is where I tell all of my coaching clients to start. Who do you want to be 5, 10, 20 years from now? What do you want your business to look like 5, 10, 20 years from now? From that ideal, you work back to where you are now and look around you and see if where you are today, matches what you see in your mind for your future. If you are like me, you will be a long way off. The key that I have discovered, is not to attempt to conquer the mountain in one day, rather start preparing yourself and your surroundings for the long journey. No different than a climber preparing to summit Everest, the seed of success lies in the preparation and strategy for the climb, not the climb itself. For us, that means getting our surroundings to align with the person and the business we want in the future.
What does it look like? How will working from process change how I spend my days? The simplest answer is that you MUST learn how to become accountable to yourself and trust that the tasks and schedule that you give to yourself WILL BE FOLLOWED. You have to discipline yourself to follow your own recipe! If you tell yourself that you need to complete the Jones proposal by the end of the day then you have to be committed to complete that task and not use your freedom as the boss to get distracted and do other things because you FEEL like it. This will not be easy! Just doing this for 1 day will be near impossible for most of you let alone doing this day after day, let alone on a consistent basis. So, the next question is, what is the first step?
Moving your business from a feeling based and reactionary mindset to one based on process and strategy will take time and involve dozens and maybe hundreds of little steps along the way. The key to moving into this new place is to start small and take first steps.
The solution lies in the extremes. Just as keeping the end in mind captures who and how you want to be way out in the future the other end of that spectrum is the right now and your immediate surroundings and environment. These can be broken down into 2 simple categories with 3 elements for each:
Body and Environment
- Your body (both inside and out)
- Your Environment
- Job site(s)
Don’t be fooled by the simplicity of this recipe as we now live in a world where common sense is not so common and everyone has the answer, but so few actually act on it.
Everything emulates from yourself and if you are starting the day with coffee, donuts and cigarettes, it’s impossible to be your best self. Imagine who you are 20 years from now and you respect that person you see. What does that person put into their body? How do the take care of it? How do they dress and groom? They key word here is respect. You may not respect yourself very much right now as you take inventory and that is ok. None of us should be satisfied with who we are at this moment, we should always be striving to be better versions of ourselves. Look at the future person and see someone you DO respect. That is your angle. That is the person that you want to become. Not Elon Musk or Tony Robbins or Lebron James. Your future self, the best you can be be.
The recipes are are simple yet so few will follow them-
Ingredients for your Body Recipe
- Eat quality foods
- Limit intake of sugar, fast food and alcohol.(start thinking like an athlete)
- If you smoke or do any type of drugs (prescription or recreational) you will not succeed. Period. So quit immediately
- Exercise at minimum 20 min a day regardless of what u do for work. 45-60 min is ideal but 20 min of anything. Mixture of strength training and cardio
- Dress like someone you would respect. Wear clean and professional clothing that matches your job and business. If you have tattoos, keep them covered.
- Keep yourself groomed. Hair cut, shaved or clean beard and clean breathe
Do these 6 things alone and you will be on your way. Supercharge it with the second part and you will start to see momentum you’ve never seen before.
Think about how you feel when you climb into a clean truck versus the messy version with fast food wrappers, coffee cups, receipts and crap everywhere. How do you feel when you sit down at your desk in your office and papers are piled everywhere, files are spread all over the place and boxes line the floor? Do you feel like a professional when you walk on your job site and everything is covered in dust and tools, lumber and trash is spread all around like your teenagers bedroom? How you keep and manage these 3 separate environments will set the tone for whether you and your business will be a success or a failure. The reason why all 3 of these places are not the way you want them is because you operate on feel and guess what? You never feel like cleaning and organizing and staying on top of these things and since you have no process it NEVER gets done!
Ingredients for your Environment Recipe
- Keep your vehicle detail clean and organized every day. In the condition as if you were going to sell it. Delegate this job if at all possible. Employee, mobile auto detail, etc.
- Organize and clean your office before you do any work. If you are trying to exist and operate in a cluttered and disorganized office then you will produce cluttered and disorganized work. Create and maintain an office environment that you like to be in and are proud of.
- Your job site should be the cleanest around. Make this a priority and you will not only stand out from all others but you will have the respect from yourself that is vital for success. Keeping a clean job site and work zones gives you instant credibility with your employees, subs, vendors, inspectors and most importantly your clients.
The fact that I am writing an article on business process versus feel proves that hypocrisy has no bounds and the notion that “Those that can’t, teach” was never more true than right here. I have known what I need to do for many many years yet I still struggle to get to proverbial “next level.” There are many days when I want to curl up in a ball and suck my thumb because I am so tired of taking 2 steps forward and 3 steps back and regressing back into old habits. Yet, I keep trying and as long as you are willing to keep trying, keep working and above all, be willing to learn new strategies and follow them, then you will at least have a fighting chance to eventually have the business and be the person you want to be.