Grow Your Business by Working Smarter, Not Harder

Decorative concrete done well is free advertising.

Success can’t and shouldn’t be measured by comparing your business against your peers’. Comparison is a dirty word and an even worse habit. It can lead you down a rabbit hole of self-doubt, worry and personal as well as professional destruction. After all, we all have different motives and goals as why we do what we do. We all want to help you grow your business.

If we remain true to our principles while doing a few things exceptionally well, all the while keeping our eyes focused squarely on the mark, success will surely follow. That sounds easy, right? Here is where the working smarter rather than harder part comes into play.

Decorative concrete done well is free advertising. It’s like having a billboard on the side of the road. I’ve written that phrase or something very similar many times in the past, and it’s true — it is free advertising for the industry.

There’s an old saying John F. Kennedy often said: “A rising tide lifts all boats.” The meaning is clear and applies to our industry as well. A good economy benefits all contractors. Decorative concrete done well benefits the entire decorative industry and serves as a billboard for the entire industry.

The real question, though, is how can your decorative work serve as your own personal billboard and benefit you and your business directly? In other words, how can it raise your company’s ship to sit higher in the water as measured by your own standards?

Realize the ‘big picture’
Over the years, I’ve had the opportunity to meet, work with and get to know many concrete and decorative contractors. Some are outstanding artists and tradesmen, but have no business sense. Others are similarly talented as well as excellent at promoting and marketing their business. While others fall into a third category of being very talented and are thirsting for knowledge
on how to better their business, they just don’t know how. Some haven’t yet realized that they need to.

This third category of contractors is very busy during a good economy and is working hard, doing the job right. During the good times, they have a backlog of work and are moving from one job to the next, placing and stamping concrete, or staining, polishing or whatever their decorative specialty is by day, and oftentimes bidding more work at night. If you visit the job site, they will be in the middle of it all, kicking butt and taking names. What this type of contractor may lack is perspective.

They are so busy working in the moment that they don’t have the proper perspective. I recommend taking a step back to get a better view. It’s like flying over the country at 5,000 feet in altitude versus 30,000 feet. At the higher altitude, one’s perspective changes dramatically, and you begin to see the “big picture.”

You may begin to realize that your crew, which you have trained, is quite capable of doing a lot of the physical work that you’ve always done, with only a little supervision. This can free you up to improve your company in other ways.

Ask yourself questions
Take a few minutes to answer the following questions:

  • Do I keep a database of previously completed projects, complete with pictures?
  • Do I offer and promote a sealer maintenance program for all my projects?
  • If yes, do I ask my clients for referrals when I am completing the reseal?
  • If no, why aren’t I taking advantage of this sales opportunity?
  • Do I have company signs that I can leave in the customer’s yard during construction and for a week or two after completion?
  • Am I active on social media?
  • Do I leverage my relationship with my material supplier to build a relationship with the manufacturers of the products I use most? If not, why not?

We live in a time where information is readily available, a time where a little bit of consistent promotion can go a long way in making your company reach the goals you’ve established.

Recently, I was speaking with a contractor who was active prior to the age of instant information. I asked him one simple question: How did he brand or market himself? He responded by saying that he built a hardscape exterior space at a home and garden center.

Any customer who entered the area was literally standing on his work. They took home his information and he built a very profitable business. He elaborated further by saying, after he completed a project, he walked the block on both sides of the street, passing out business cards and encouraging people to take a closer look.

Interact for success
Now in the era we live in, keeping a record of every project in a database with pictures and details is quick, easy and efficient.

I have both spoken and written many times in the past about the opportunity to make residual income through offering a maintenance package on every project. The average cost of a reseal is between 50 and 75 cents per square foot.

If you’re resealing your own work, the gross profit can be as high as 70 percent. Offering a maintenance package on your own work will become second nature. You’ll develop long-lasting relationships with your clients who, when asked, will be more than happy to recommend your services to their friends and neighbors.

Marketing your company with yard signs and walking the block as mentioned above is a good way to break the ice with curious neighbors.

Check out the various social media platforms such as LinkedIn, Instagram, Pinterest, Facebook, Twitter and Snapchat. Pick one or two and begin interacting within the decorative concrete industry. “Liking” others’ work and providing positive comments, as well as showcasing your own work, will demonstrate that you’re interested in being a positive influencer within the social media community.

Stay positive and stay away from the negative or the need to criticize. By staying above the fray, others will take note and you’ll be surprised by how your opportunities to do the type of project you really like will increase.

Lastly, use appropriate #hashtags. This is a way to collect and store the work you and others post online in the same place. Potential customers can search for ideas, as well as your company specifically, resulting in more opportunities to perform the work and projects you actually like.

Some contractors will take just about any concrete job that comes along — gray flatwork or otherwise — to stay busy. By working smarter rather than harder, you’ll be able to work on the types of projects that bring you joy. Higher profits aren’t a bad thing, either.

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