Build a Business That Works for You Using “Company of One” Concepts

Part 2: Leadership Qualities

Our series inspired by Paul Jarvis’s book Company of One: Why Staying Small Is the Next Big Thing for Business continues! To refresh your memory on what our first article covered, “company of one” isn’t defined as a one-person business. Rather, it refers to running a business resourcefully and not trying to grow a company for the sake of growth itself.

Today, we’ll focus on Company of One leadership qualities and the nuances of growth (covered in chapters three and four of Jarvis’s book).

What characteristics do effective leaders have in common?

Leaders who embody Company of One principles share many of the same qualities:

  • They have well-rounded business acumen; in other words, they know a little about a lot!
  • They have good communication skills.
  • They are resilient.
  • They understand what motivates people.
  • They are decisive and focused.
  • They know when to say “when” and how to avoid getting burned out.

Note that excellent leaders aren’t necessarily charismatic. Introverts can—and do—make stellar leaders.

How do they approach growth?

Smart leaders think of growth not as a goal but as a result of improved products or services. They don’t let their egos drive growth. Instead, they pay attention to what will benefit their customers. That’s especially important for small businesses with limited resources; it costs about five times more to acquire new customers than to keep existing ones!

By approaching growth as an effect of serving their customers optimally, leaders make it clear that they are in tune with their greatest strengths.

Stay tuned: In our next Company of One article, we’ll touch on how a leader’s mindset affects business success.


Business-Building Breakfasts

Please join us for a free breakfast and learning session at the New Holland Coffee Company from 7–8 a.m. on the last Friday of each month from January through May. At each session, a Homestead Outdoor Product vendor will talk about new products, installation techniques, and more.

RSVP to reserve your seat! Hurry! Space is limited to 40 people per session.

Send an email to sales@homesteadoutdoorproducts.com or call 717-656-9596. 

Join us!

  • January 27 Superior™ Plastic Products
  • February 24 Otter-Tech™ Underdecking
  • March 31 Fiberon® decking
  • April 28 Wolf® Decking Pro and Key-Link™ railing
  • May 26 Wolf® Siding and Evolve® Stone

The (Not So) Secret Formula for Sales Success in 2023

Selling comes naturally to some people. But for the rest of us . . . not so much. Regardless, it’s crucial for small businesses. Without sales efforts, the well of potential customers will quickly run dry.

Fortunately, the following tips can help you get results even if you find selling uncomfortable. 

1. Organize your contacts. 

Who have you talked with on the phone, exchanged emails with, or had a conversation with at the local diner about your services? Capture important information about them. 

  • Name and address
  • Phone number 
  • Email address
  • How did they find you?
  • What are their interests or needs?
  • Notes about your last discussion

Then save those details in some type of system. Whether you handwrite everything and keep paper documents in a file cabinet, use an Excel or Google spreadsheet, or subscribe to customer relationship management (CRM) software, organizing this information and storing it in a central location allows you to refer to it and update it later.

2. Make a plan for following up—and stick to it.   

Don’t let sales activities slip through the cracks. Sometimes it can take multiple interactions before a prospect becomes a customer, so create a plan for how frequently you want to follow up with your leads. Consider blocking out a set amount of time each week for reaching out to contacts. This way you won’t forget to follow through.

3. Document everything.  

Strive to document every conversation (whether in person, by phone, or electronically) with your prospects and existing customers. Use that information to recall interactions and assess your next steps. Even when conversations don’t go all that well, you can still gain insight—and learn valuable lessons. 


Build a Business That Works for You Using “Company of One” Concepts

Part 1: Is Growth Really Necessary?

In the book Company of One: Why Staying Small Is the Next Big Thing for Business, author Paul Jarvis shares insight to help business owners create companies that support how they want to live their lives. While the phrase “company of one” implies a one-person business, Jarvis’s book applies to businesses of all sizes.

This article is the first in a series that homes in on how contractors can use Company of One principles to guide their decisions, workplace culture, and customer relationships.  

 Are You Running Your Company—Or Is It Running You? 

In the first two chapters of his book, Jarvis shares some considerations for business owners to think about before deciding to grow their companies. Inspired by Company of One, here are some questions to ask yourself: 

  1. Will making your business bigger make it better? Will expanding it allow you to live the lifestyle you want? Sometimes there’s a tradeoff: Making more money may mean making more personal sacrifices.
  2. How can you improve your business without adding the complexities of “more”—time, responsibilities, staff, costs, funding, etc.? How can you leverage technology to do more with less?
  3. Is it the right time to grow your business? Do you have the infrastructure in place to handle it (sales team, accounting software, project management tools, work supplies, etc.)?
  4. What’s your definition of success? Who has achieved it and what can you learn from their journey?

A “company of one” mindset isn’t anti-growth but rather pro-growth if and when growth makes sense. Sometimes a business doesn’t have to scale to succeed. The above questions will help you determine if growth makes sense for you.

Next in our series: “company of one” leadership qualities and the nuances of growth.


Business-Building Breakfasts

SAVE THE DATES!

Beginning in January: Business-Building Breakfasts 

Plan to join us on the last Friday of each month from January through May 2023 for learning sessions over breakfast at New Holland Coffee Company. Various vendors are lined up to talk about new products, installation techniques, and much more. 

Stay tuned for more details soon!


Tips for Using Winter Downtime to Boost Productivity Year-round

Winter’s threats of inclement weather often leave contractors with lulls in work. But even with less demand for decks, fences, and other outdoor projects, you can still strengthen your business. 

1. Fine-tune your systems and processes.
While you have some breathing room, look at your internal operations to find areas needing improvement. For example, if you haven’t reviewed your employee handbook recently, assess if any policies (such as vacation, social media use, etc.) are outdated and in need of revision. What about your organizational chart and job descriptions? Do they still make sense for the way your company operates now? And your sales processes . . . what roadblocks might you remove that are standing in the way of turning leads into contracts? 

2. Up your team’s knowledge and skills. 
Consider certifications and product training (much is available online) to help your employees reach their professional development goals and elevate your company’s competitive edge.   

Another idea for improving knowledge collectively is forming an in-house book club focused on readings with practical applications. For example, in past issues of The Homestead Post we’ve included a series of articles featuring the books Good to Great: Why Some Companies Make the Leap . . . and Others Don’t and Getting Things Done: The Art of Stress-Free Productivity.

3. Do some team building.
Plan activities to strengthen the bonds between your employees (and you)—perhaps including your workers’ families. Even a short retreat, like a Saturday afternoon at the bowling alley, can do wonders for employee morale.

4. Explore new revenue-generating ideas.
What projects outside your main lane could be a good fit for your business in the off-season? (For instance, many landscaping companies do snow removal during winter.) Think—and ask your workers for ideas—about how you might make hay even when the sun isn’t shining.


What It Takes to Go From ‘Good’ to ‘Great’

The Flywheel Effect

This last article in our series featuring wisdom from Jim Collins’ book Good to Great: Why Some Companies Make the Leap . . . and Others Don’t discusses how transformation occurs. 

Collins points out that good-to-great transformations don’t happen in “one fell swoop.” He shares that there is a pattern of building up and breaking through—a flywheel effect—before getting to a stellar outcome. When companies try to skip that internal process and take shortcuts to achieve a monumental change, they risk entering a “doom loop” where there’s no consistent direction or progress. 

Flywheel-Inspired Food for Thought

1. Apply consistent effort.
Flywheels store energy, helping to make an engine run reliably. In the same way, your constant attention will help ensure your business runs smoothly and gains momentum as you strive to meet your goals.

2. Don’t try to defy the laws of physics.
Be wary of any “solutions” that promise to accelerate the flywheel too quickly—they might spin your business out of control.

3. Leverage your existing assets.
Build on the tools, processes, skills, technology, and other strengths you already have rather than starting from scratch. You’ll get the flywheel moving in the right direction more quickly.

4. Don’t let things coast for too long.
Though a well-established flywheel may turn on its own for a while, eventually it will need additional energy to keep it spinning. Like a work truck that isn’t maintained, neglected parts of your business will fail if you don’t put forth any effort to sustain them. 

 If you missed the previous articles in this series, check them out on our website: Humble Yet Driven Leaders, The Right People, Confronting Reality, Hedgehog Mindset, and Discipline and Technology. 


The Benefits of Post-job Follow-ups

Do you think of following up with customers as a path to “opening a can of worms”? We challenge you to see it differently!

Why Follow Up? 

1. Following up allows you to learn what customers like most about your work—that’s valuable information you can use to set yourself apart from other contractors. 

2. What if something didn’t go 100 percent perfectly on a job? A follow-up will allow you to learn about it firsthand rather than through the rumor mill. And it provides insight into what improvements you can make to prevent issues on future projects.

3. Following up creates rapport with customers, which can lead to repeat business and referrals. 

Ready, Set . . .

Reach out to your customers via the communications method (phone, email, text, etc.) they prefer. Following up builds a stronger business by laying a firm foundation for quality assurance and ongoing customer satisfaction. 


Three Things Lumber and Building Materials Dealers Want Contractors to Know

1. We like feedback.
We want to know how we can improve your experience. For example, if we can package things differently to make your life easier, let us know. Your feedback helps us understand things from your perspective. The more we know, the better we can be of service. 

2. Eleventh-hour orders carry a greater sense of urgency when they aren’t the norm. 
We happily pull out all the stops to help our customers get materials quickly in emergency situations. However, when a customer’s every order requires an immediate turnaround, those non-stop emergency requests take away the time and attention we can give to other clients. We ask that you plan ahead whenever possible.

3. Long-term relationships = a win-win.
As trust and familiarity develop between dealers and builders, efficiency and accuracy also increase. For example, if we know Bob from ABC Home Improvements usually orders deck clips with his deck jobs, we know to call him to question an order that doesn’t include them. Long-term working relationships allow dealers to know a builder’s habits and preferred business practices—and vice versa. 


What It Takes to Go From ‘Good’ to ‘Great’

Discipline & Technology

In the book “Good to Great: Why Some Companies Make the Leap . . . and Others Don’t,” Jim Collins describes the traits of successful companies. We’ve covered several of them (humble yet driven leaders, the right people, and confronting reality, a hedgehog mindset) in past articles. Now, we continue our series with two more of Collins’ principles.

The Culture of Discipline

Good-to-great companies recognize that employees’ discipline to make intelligent decisions and actions begins with understanding the hedgehog
mindset of the business (i.e., what it does best) and its goals.

The leaders at good-to-great companies know that discipline is not the same as bureaucracy. They don’t micromanage their team. Instead, they empower employees with a clear understanding of what the company is trying to achieve and let them make decisions.

If you have the right people in the right positions, and you have clearly communicated your purpose, goals, and vision, you can trust that your team has the discipline to make informed decisions that affect your business in a positive way.

Strategic Application of Technology 

Using technology as an accelerator to success (not as a way to compensate for a lack of skilled workers or strategic decision-making, etc.) stands as a mark of a good-to-great company, too. Great businesses avoid fads and choose only the technological tools that align with their “hedgehog” concept and propel them efficiently toward their objectives.

From marketing tools (e.g., website, email marketing platform) to customer relationship management software to sales training programs to project planning software, the strategic application of technology will help your company operate more productively and get closer to its goals. Without a solid strategy, it could be a waste of time and money. 

Stay tuned for our next article when we’ll talk about the “flywheel” effect.