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Productivity expert David Allen wrote a book called “Getting Things Done: The Art of Stress-Free Productivity.” Within it, Allen shares practical insight and tips that small-business owners and managers, including those in the building industry, can use to get things done more efficiently and cost-effectively. In our next several newsletters, we’ll break down Allen’s five-step process and share how you might apply them to your business as you juggle sales, bookkeeping, human resources, customer service, marketing, and the many other duties besides your building project work.
In this issue, we’ll begin with a high-level overview of Allen’s steps to productivity.
This step involves getting your decision-making and to-do list out of your head and, instead, captured in some form or other that you can refer back to later. Doing so frees your mind to concentrate on the tasks at hand while keeping other priorities on your radar.
This part of the process is unloading what you’ve captured on your list and determining what’s next. It involves reviewing your captured items and determining what you need to act upon (including details of what that will entail), what you can delegate, and what you can disregard.
This step is about keeping information in the correct spot so that it’s easy to access and ready for use at the right time. It involves sorting items into categories and containing them in some form, such as notebooks, a software application, physical file folders, or a calendar (if the items need your direct attention or have deadlines).
“Reflect” is about stepping back to review everything from a broader perspective. You’ve all heard the phrase “couldn’t see the forest for the trees.” Well, reflecting helps ensure you keep tabs on the fine details and the big picture. By regularly reviewing the items and notes that you’ve captured in your organizational system, you can avoid letting things slip through the cracks and clear out anything that may no longer be relevant.
Productivity depends on putting effort into the right things at the right times. The engagement step involves judging what will be the best use of your available time. Sometimes, forging ahead with actions you planned and scheduled will be ideal. Other times, you may find it more important to tackle an unexpected problem. If items must get pushed aside, the first four steps ensure they remain in view and get attention later.
The Getting Things Done® (GTD) process is similar to building a deck. You don’t build a deck all at once; first, the footers are dug, then the frame is added, and then the decking is placed. These “to-dos” are broken down even further to make them manageable.
Stay tuned for our follow-up newsletters, which will dig deeper into how your business can improve productivity using Allen’s GTD steps!
- Have a strategy.
If you would like to do more of a specific type of project, work more in a particular geographic area, or have more customers in a certain demographic, ask for referrals from satisfied customers who meet that criteria. By requesting those targeted referrals, you can begin to tailor your sales pipeline to opportunities that play to your strengths and preferences.
- Make it a policy.
Ask for a referral soon after you have successfully completed a project. Don’t let too much time go by because you may forget! A casual, no-pressure approach will allow you to ask without making your customers feel imposed upon.
- Follow up quickly.
Reply promptly to calls and emails to prospective customers who were referred by your past customers.
If you fail to respond or wait a long time to get back to a referral, it will reflect badly on you as the contractor and the friend/family/colleague who referred the prospect to you.
- Show appreciation.
Take a minute or two to thank your customers when they refer other customers to you. Whether a phone call, email, card, or (if a sizable project) gift, that gesture will build goodwill and potentially lead to even more referrals.
If there’s one thing we can count on lately, it’s the unexpected. As contractors, you know this more than anyone! With the COVID-19 pandemic still looming, a presidential election fast approaching, and other issues at hand, here are some tips for helping your business survive and thrive during these times of increased uncertainty.
- Don’t take success for granted.
Even if your business is in an upswing with plenty of work, realize there might be economic factors hurting other industries that could eventually impact your company. The more aware you are, the better prepared you can be financially for potential downturns.
- Stay vigilant about good safety practices.
With the coronavirus a continued threat, customers are more tuned in than ever before to what their contractors are doing to keep them out of harm’s way. Make sure that everyone at your company is stepping up and following the safety rules and procedures you have in place.
- Don’t adopt a “build it and they will come” mindset.
Staying top of mind with prospects and customers doesn’t happen accidentally. It requires sales and marketing efforts. Put yourself at a competitive advantage by keeping in front of potential customers through your most effective marketing tactics and sales strategies.
Uncertainty, while unnerving, doesn’t have to be disastrous for your business. Stay aware and be willing to adapt to help ensure your company can weather the unexpected.
In this issue of our newsletter, we finish our series on Stephen Covey’s seven habits with Habit #7: Sharpen the Saw®.
At face value, this seems logical—after all, you can get more done with a sharp saw than a dull one. But that’s not what Covey is talking about. Rather, “Sharpen the Saw” involves making a commitment to improving ourselves.
SO HOW DO YOU SHARPEN YOUR SAW?
Make time for personal and professional development to balance yourself mentally, socially, physically, and spiritually.
- LEARN: Read, listen to podcasts, sign up for webinars, etc.
- CONNECT: Even during these times of limited social contact, try to make meaningful connections with other people.
- FUEL YOURSELF PHYSICALLY: You can be a more productive person if you pay more attention to eating well, getting enough rest, and exercising.
- FEED YOUR SPIRIT: Several ways you might do this include praying, enjoying nature, listening to or making music, or by meditating.
HOW CAN THIS HELP YOU PROFESSIONALLY?
Self-improvement/self-development enables you to refocus on your “why.” It can help you step away from the busyness of business and let you think about whether what you’re doing aligns with your business’s goals and objectives.
While it may seem challenging to carve out time for self-improvement, consider the advantages for you personally and your business. Whether 15 minutes every other day, an hour every other week, or a chunk of time during your business’s slow season, find opportunities to “sharpen your saw”!
When customers ask for a brown railing to complement their patios or decks, you now have a stylish and durable option. Available in a rich brown hue (and black and white), Fiberon’s HavenView CountrySide Railing offers beauty and strength. Its satin, PVC finish adds elegance and withstands the elements, delivering fade-resistant curb appeal homeowners will love.
Call us to learn more about this attractive product that offers exceptional performance.
Now, more than ever, people are spending a lot of time at home and in their backyards. So, naturally, they’re looking for ways to transform their outdoor spaces into the perfect havens for relaxing and enjoying time with their families and friends.
However, they may not know exactly what they want. You can help them envision the full potential of their outdoor area by sharing your expertise and asking the following questions to pinpoint their wants and needs.
- What activities will you do in your outdoor space?
- What times of day will you typically use the area?
- In which seasons of the year do you intend to use your space?
- Do you want direct sunlight, shade, or a combination of both in your outdoor space?
- How many people will use your outdoor living area, and how much seating must it accommodate?
- Do you have pets that you want to keep on your property? Do you want to restrict them to a limited area?
- Do you need storage space for equipment and tools or shelter for vehicles (classic car, boat, camper, etc.)?
- Is privacy important to you?
The more thought homeowners put into their projects, the better able you will be to suggest features and amenities tailored to their unique needs and lifestyles. By asking the right questions, you can help ensure that the outdoor living spaces you create will wow your customers and generate referrals for your business.
Stephen Covey’s the 7 Habits of Highly Effective People® – Habits #4, #5, & #6
Covey’s fourth habit encourages people to focus on cooperation rather than competition.
When you, your customers, and vendors work together to create a situation that is beneficial to all involved, it leads to greater productivity and satisfaction all around. Win-win scenarios are a multi-way street. Sometimes, the best option may be to walk away if another party is not willing to meet you in the middle.
SEEK FIRST TO UNDERSTAND, THEN TO BE UNDERSTOOD®
Covey’s fifth habit addresses how critical good listening skills are.
By becoming a better listener, you can help avoid or de-escalate tricky customer situations. For example, if a homeowner is upset because their deck project is on a two-week delay, consider giving the customer your full attention—rather than quickly becoming defensive—as they share their disappointment. Then, acknowledge their feelings, explain (don’t make excuses!), and propose a resolution. After being heard fully, the customer may be more understanding.
This sixth habit involves the concept “two heads are better than one.”
Think about the importance of teamwork in your business. It’s not very practical for one person to design and build a fence or deck entirely by themselves, is it?
Through sharing ideas, collaborating on processes, and cooperating to get the job done, we (our team and our customers) can get better results.
Next Issue: Covey’s final Habit!
Stephen Covey’s the 7 Habits of Highly Effective People® – Habit #2 & #3
Begin with the End in Mind
Covey’s second habit encourages people to use their imagination and visualize what they want to see down the road for their lives and businesses.
Think about your vision and strive to make sure that all you’re doing in the present is moving you in the direction of your goals.
Also, you can apply this concept to shorter-term projects in addition to long-term objectives. For example, let’s imagine you’re feeling frustrated because you and your customer are disagreeing about some job details. By keeping your end goals in mind (nice addition to your portfolio, opportunity for referrals, etc.), you may find the patience to work through the immediate challenges without burning any bridges.
Put First Things First
Covey’s third habit stresses the importance of prioritizing your to-dos. He suggests using a four-quadrant approach for identifying what you need to do now vs. later.
Examples of duties and tasks that might fall into these quadrants include:
2. Not Urgent but Important
Planning, proactive work responsibilities, relationship-building, learning, worker training
3. Urgent but Not Important
Unexpected phone calls that do not require immediate action, other needless interruptions, unnecessary meetings
4. Not Urgent and Not Important
Trivial tasks, time wasters (television, arguing on social media, etc.)
The exact responsibilities, tasks, and developments that fall into these categories may vary depending on your business, the time of year, and other factors. Regardless, it’s critical to focus most of your energy on what matters (quadrant two) while tending to what is immediately necessary (quadrant one).
Fortunately, there are ways to ensure you can spend more of your time on quadrant two activities. For example:
- Order materials for projects in advance so that you don’t have to scramble at the last minute.
- Create a habit of organizing tools and equipment the night before your jobs so that all you need is in place and ready to go.
Planning will help avoid unwelcome surprises and unnecessary stress, allowing you to become more intentional and productive every day.
Stay tuned for more food for thought about Covey’s 7 Habits in our upcoming issues!
Thank you for your continued business over the past two months. We realize these are unusual times, and we greatly appreciate the partnerships we have with you. We look forward to serving you for the rest of 2020 and beyond. As the building business changes, we, as a building community, can and will adjust to meet the challenges together.