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There Are No 'Magic Beans'

Dec. 9, 2019

In the fairy tale, “Jack and the Beanstalk,” a poor boy trades for some magic beans, which grow into a mighty beanstalk, allowing the boy to climb the beanstalk, grab the golden goose, and live a life of comfort thereafter.  We know it’s a fairy tale, but contractors still look for the magic beans that will lead to the golden goose of contracting.

The Search For Magic Beans
Contractors usually stumble into business ownership after making a living with their tools.  They know how to troubleshoot and fix HVAC problems, but not HVAC business problems.  In large measure, this is because the newly minted contractor is the problem, but not yet self-aware enough to realize it.  So, the contractor seeks external answers, magic beans to instantly transform the business.

Salvation by Software – Some seek salvation in software.  They think, if they could only have the right software package all of their problems would go away.  The computers will spit out the answers.  Unfortunately, everyone must operate the way the software requires and some resist.  Plus, there’s GIGO, which is “garbage in/garbage out.”  If they struggle to succeed with the software because they fight it, they conclude that salvation lies in the next software du jour.  Software will work, but the contractor must work the software.

Checkbook Marketing – Other contractors believe their favored manufacturer can solve all of their problems.  They write a check to be part of the preferred “dealer” program that pushes the manufacturer’s brand alongside the contractor’s brand.  They participate in all of the group advertising and other manufacturer marketing initiatives.  Checkbook marketing, where the contractor writes a check to others to market for him, is better than no marketing.  However, it is not the magic beans that will give the contractor the golden goose.

The Coaching Wizard – Some look for a coach to tell them what to do.  Coaches can help, especially if addressing one particular area.  No coach is knowledgeable about everything, which is why professional and collegiate sports employ so many.  In addition, a coach’s solutions may be situational.  They work in some situations, but not others.  Even Nick Saban, who would be on anyone’s short list of the greatest college football coaches of all time, failed miserably as the coach of the Miami Dolphins.  Bill Belichick, who has six Superbowl rings as head coach of the New England Patriots, failed during his tenure with the Cleveland Browns.

The right coach for the right needs in the right situation can make a difference to the contractor willing to follow the coach’s recommendations.  However, if it is the wrong situation, the recommendations may lead to mediocrity. 

The Magic Alliance – Some contractors believe joining a contractor business alliance will solve all of their problems.  If things don’t improve or improve enough or they get bored, they decide they need a different gym where the equipment is shinier or the exercise class leaders can motivate them.  If only someone can motivate them, they believe they will be alright.  Unfortunately, the only motivation that lasts is self-motivation.

An alliance helps a contractor’s fiscal fitness the same way a gym membership helps his physical fitness.  You can belong to a great gym with all of the right exercise equipment, exercise classes, and so on, but if you do not go to the gym, you will not lose weight.  Membership counts for nothing.  It’s the hard work of implementation that results in positive change.

There are No “Magic” Beans
The truth is there are no magic beans, no simple solutions.  If the fairy tale was more realistic, Jack would have to do more than toss the beans out of the window.  He would have to prepare the soil for them, plant them, fertilize them, water them, protect the tentative sprouts during inclement weather, pull the weeds that inevitably pop up and can choke off growth.  Jack would have to do hard work over time.  The nature of the work would change as the beanstalk emerges and begins to grow.

All of the beans mentioned earlier can help a contractor.  Software can help.  Manufacturers can help.  Coaches can help.  Alliances can help.  They can all help, but they are not magic and they will not replace the need for the contractor to roll up his sleeves and get to work.

Fortunately, contractors are no strangers to hard work.  Running calls on extremely hot or cold days is hard work.  Contractors know how to work hard, but when they start their own companies, they must not only work hard, but work different.  The skills and knowledge that served them well in the field, is insufficient in the office. 

Smart contractors realize this, so they seek help.  In seeking help, they should not be lured into believing that any one person or any one program will magically solve all of their problems, no matter how self-assured and confident the salesperson sounds.  In the end, it is up to the contractor to solve the problems by working on himself first and his business next.

There is a Golden Goose!
The part of the fairy tale about the golden goose is correct.  There is a golden goose.  It’s the contractor’s business.  Build a business that can run without you and you have built a golden goose that will deliver solid gold well into the future.

When you are done with contracting, with business ownership, there will be buyers for the golden goose.  People will pay for a business that delivers a stead stream of profits.  They will pay enough for the contractors who sell them to achieve financial security.  And, that is no fairy tale.

To learn more about how you can improve your business if you are willing to put in the work, try the Service Roundtable.  It is $50 a month.
For the industry’s best fiscal gym, check out the Service Nation 
About the Author

Matt Michel | Chief Executive Officer

Matt Michel was a co-founder and CEO of the Service Roundtable (ServiceRoundtable.com). The Service Roundtable is an organization founded to help contractors improve their sales, marketing, operations, and profitability. The Service Nation Alliance is a part of this overall organization. Matt was inducted into the Contracting Business HVAC Hall of Fame in 2015. He is now an author and rancher.