When I returned to the family business in 1977 after a couple of years of teaching, my father had already been in business 24 years and built a solid foundation on which to grow. He’d already done all the heaviest lifting, with seemingly easy work ahead of us.
Over the years, we changed from a residential new construction business to service/replacement, from an emphasis on plumbing to HVAC and grew from just five employees to 50. We succeeded in a large part because of our integrity, emphasis on customer service and the great employees my father had hired.
In the past 37 years, I’ve learned a few more things that helped us keep growing and moving forward. Business is like life — the more things you do well, the better your chances are to excel. Often, the solutions are not as complex as we would like to believe. Here are 10 lessons I’ve learned through the years.
Just be nice to people. It’s almost that simple. Use the Golden Rule and you’ll be 95 percent of the way there. Remember your internal customers (employees) are just as vital as your external. Same rules apply to both.
Over the years, I’ve read scores of books, devoured audio tapes, read trade magazines religiously, attended seminars and conferences, sat under the training of Frank Blau and Doc Rusk, listened to webinars and searched Google for help and insight. I’ve copied from the best and learned from everyone. Sometimes it was what not to do, or simply a reminder and encouragement we’re doing many things well.
Early on someone told me you can’t do well at all three. There simply isn’t enough time in the day, even for the time management specialists. You have to decide which one to spend less time with. From what I’ve seen, spending less time in your business is the wisest, and often most difficult, choice.
The path of least resistance is to become a day-to-day crisis management expert. Working in the business and not on the business. When you’re small, that’s almost a necessity. As your business grows, it’s often difficult to move to the next level of management and see the big picture. Know who you are — if you can’t delegate well, you’re in big trouble if growth is important. If you’re trapped in a day-to-day crisis mode, partner with someone who can. If not, you’ll remain small and frazzled till the bitter end.
Lousy leaders have a “my way or the highway mentality” and never become truly successful. Successful leaders are always looking for new ideas and ways to do things better, even if it’s not their own idea.
Too often we measure the success of a company by its sales or net profit. From my observation, making money is one of the easiest things to do. If you sacrifice enough of your time, energy, family and marriage, almost anyone can make money. That’s false success. When your wife, family, employees, peers, neighbors and customers are touched by your life in a positive way, that’s true success.
The older I get, the more I realize the value of exercise and quiet time to get away from the busy and overwhelming world of which we’re a part. Making it a part of your daily or weekly routine is your biggest challenge. Wellness is a huge unexplored area for most of us.
The best companies go to extra lengths to get great employees and then do what it takes — and more — to keep them. The rewards are huge for companies with superior employees. You’re always looking to spot, find and train the best. Great young people are out there waiting for you to find them.
If you take care of your customers, you’ll want to spend a majority of your marketing dollars on retaining them so they become life-time customers. If you want to get all the dollars out of them the first time, they probably won’t come back and you’ll have to spend big dollars getting new customers who don’t know you. That’s a much more expensive venture. Keep in touch with those who know you or they will forget you.
When times are tough, you need someone to encourage you and show you the ropes. When things are going well, you need someone to keep you humble and remind you it’s not all about you. I’ve garnered four business partners who’ve walked together through thick and thin. That may not be the solution for you, but you need someone to mentor, coach and to be accountable too.
There are many more lessons I’ve learned, and some I’m still trying to figure out. One of the benefits of our industry is there is a ton of information, help, resources and go to people to which we have access. You don’t need to go it alone. Use them to help you take yourself and your company to the next level.
Joe Ranck is managing partner of Robert H. Ranck Plumbing, Heating & Air Conditioning in Lancaster County, Penn. His father started the company in 1953, and Joe worked there growing up during high school and college, and joined full-time in 1977. Visit www.ranckinc.com for additional information.
In the past 37 years, I’ve learned a few things that helped our business grow and move forward. Often, the solutions are not as complex as we would like to …
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