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.

Product Spotlight: Evolve Stone® Mortarless Series

Photo courtesy of Evolve Stone®

Homestead Outdoor Products now carries Evolve Stone®, a high-performing, simple-to-install stone veneer with the look and feel of natural stone. Evolve Stone delivers premium quality, aesthetics, and ease of installation:

  • More impermeable to moisture than other stone veneer products on the market because it doesn’t hold moisture against the structure
  • Exceptionally durable to withstand the rigors of shipping, installation, and exposure to wind and weather
  • A beautiful, realistic stone look, with UV-resistant colors seamlessly infused throughout the product
  • Installs up to 10 times faster than other stone veneer products

Installation Advantages for Contractors

  • Requires no specialized labor training—No masonry expertise is needed.
  • Installs with standard tools—A finish nailer is all you need. 
  • No weather-related restrictions—You can install it under any conditions and temperatures.
  • No structural considerations—It installs under vinyl siding structural guidelines.

In Stock Now

We currently have Evolve Stone’s District View style in stock in two colors: Morning Aspen and Phantom Shadow. If you are interested in other Evolve Stone styles and colors, we can place a special order for you.  

Call us or visit evolvestone.com for more information about this innovative, versatile product for exterior and interior applications.

Four Tips for Working Safely in the Heat of Summer

Summer brings the perfect storm of heat, humidity, and the hot sun. It’s prime time for dehydration, heat exhaustion, and heat stroke, so it’s important to make sure workers know the first signs of heat-related problems. 

Early Warning Signs

  • Excessive thirst 
  • Dry mouth
  • Fatigue
  • Muscle cramps
  • Dizziness

More serious symptoms—such as rapid heart rate, no longer sweating, confusion, and difficulty walking—can happen if dehydration goes undetected or is ignored.

How to Stay Hydrated and Healthy

  1. Keep plenty of water (and other beverages that contain mostly water) on the job site, drinking them gradually throughout the day.

  2. Pack fluid-rich foods (such as fruits, vegetables, salad, applesauce, etc.) for snacks and lunch.

  3. While the amount of water individuals need varies from person to person, the general rule is eight 8-ounce glasses of water each day. Sweating increases the body’s need for fluids, so you may have to drink more in the summer.

  4. Pay attention to the warning signs mentioned above.

A safe summer is a successful summer! Be sure you and your workers make your well-being a priority.

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

A Hedgehog Mindset

Jim Collins’ book Good to Great: Why Some Companies Make the Leap . . . and Others Don’t describes the six traits of successful companies. Our past articles have discussed three of those characteristics (humble yet driven leaders, the right people, and confronting reality) as they relate to contractors. Now, on we go to the fourth trait. 

Great Companies’ Trait #4: The Hedgehog Concept 

Good-to-great companies understand what they excel at and stick to doing it—like a hedgehog. Hedgehogs are exceptional at one thing (rolling up into a spiked ball), which pays off because it ensures their survival. 

Like a hedgehog, successful companies focus their efforts on doing what’s remarkably effective for them. 

According to Collins, the path from good to great involves finding the intersection between three considerations. At the center is your hedgehog superpower.

  • What are you passionate about?
  • What drives your economic success?
  • What do you do the best—and better than anyone else? 

Let’s take a look at how a contractor might use that formula to discover what they should concentrate on in their business.

Hypothetical Scenario: Joe Carpenter 

What is Joe’s passion? While Joe Carpenter doesn’t mind doing regular building work, he really loves the challenge of building and installing spiral staircases. He enjoys the art of using geometry to perfect the particulars of each unique installation.  

What drives Joe’s economic success? Not only does Joe enjoy making spiral staircases, but also he earns a really good profit on them. At the same time, he realizes (because of heavy competition) that he doesn’t make much profit at all on standard residential addition projects.

What is Joe exceptionally good at doing? Joe has become known as the “go-to” guy for spiral staircases. He has an innate talent for creating them, and customers rave about his ability to capture their vision. Plus, most other contractors don’t want to touch those projects—and those who do lack the ability that Joe possesses. 

What is Joe’s hedgehog superpower? Spiral staircases are where Joe’s passion, financial success, and talent intersect. It would be wise for him to direct most of his focus, ambition, marketing, and energy toward attracting more customers who want an expert at building spiral staircases.

What’s your hedgehog superpower?

Stay tuned for our next article. We’ll talk about the importance of a “culture of discipline.”

How to Get Referrals: Just Ask!

Referrals from satisfied customers stand as one of the most effective tools for growing a business. However, not all contractors feel comfortable requesting them. They don’t want to bother their customers, or they believe it’s in bad form to ask for referrals.

If that’s your perception, you may be missing out on new opportunities! 

Instead, look at it this way: Your requests for referrals give your customers the chance to help you (a hard-working small-business owner) AND solve a need for someone they know. Asking respectfully doesn’t pressure your customers to “sell out” their friends, family, or business contacts. Instead, it allows them to think about who might genuinely benefit from your services and expertise.

7 Referral Tips for Contractors 

1. Get organized and be selective. Make a list of jobs that went (or are going) very well and ask those customers for referrals. The fans of your work are the people most likely to recommend you enthusiastically. 

2. Choose the right communication method. Consider the persons you will be asking for referrals. How do they prefer to communicate (phone call, text, email, etc.)? Reach out to them using the method they find most convenient because it may help ensure you get a positive response.

3. Make the ask specific. If you’re interested in getting more jobs of a certain type (perhaps they’re more profitable or more in line with your specific expertise), let your customers know. That will help generate referrals for the projects you want to add to your schedule.

4. Ask before the job Is done. If you’ve completed most of a project that has been smooth sailing, consider asking for referrals before you’ve finished the job. Because you’re still actively connected with your customer, you and your exceptional work will be fresh on their mind. That may help make your referral ask more top of mind, too.

5. Be honest. If you feel awkward about asking for a referral, break the ice by telling your customer you’re nervous or uncomfortable. EVERYONE has experienced that sort of feeling at some time. 

6. Be flexible. Some customers may feel most comfortable giving your information to someone else vs. giving someone else’s information to you. Express your preference but let them proceed in whatever way makes the most sense for them and whomever they want to refer you to. 

7. Follow up. What if a customer says they’ll be happy to recommend you but wants some time to think about who might need your services? Follow up with them after a week or so to see if anyone came to mind. 

We hope these tips help you harness the power of word of mouth to grow your business!

A Warm Welcome to Our New Inside Sales Representative

Bill Hursh

We are pleased to announce that William (Bill) Hursh has joined our team! As an inside sales representative, Bill will support our customers by estimating materials required for projects and facilitating a smooth order process. He began his role at Homestead Outdoor Products on March 14. A Lancaster County native, Bill has years of estimating experience in the commercial flooring industry.