Myth No. 14 — If It Didn’t Work Out, It Wasn’t Important

This probably never happened to anyone but me but imagine that you are following a really good lead, maybe a prospect just down the street from a job you are doing well; the lead knows your current customer; you have a good design they like, the proposed job is near enough to the budget that it’s a fit — you feel so good about it that you have already filled out the deposit slip for their money. And then you don’t hear anything — nothing, you leave a voicemail, no return — What happened? I know I had the job in my pocket. Wonder what I did wrong? Then you just move on — you can’t win ’em all.

How about the project manager prospect that looks like the best thing since sliced bread — he’s in business for himself, good skills, honest, just not getting anywhere on his own and he wants to join your company and start planning a career with you. You hire him, the customers like him, good move! The first job goes well, a little over schedule but he’s learning your system — you discuss it with him and he understands. The next job, people like him, job goes a little more over budget and time — some more coaching on picking up the pace — but by and large it’s not bad. Well, after two more jobs, the situation is deteriorating to the point that (I’ll call him) Joe has been put on probation and while he’s a good guy, it just isn’t working so you have to let him go. What went wrong? He seemed so a natural for the job; he knew what it was like being in business; what didn’t we see? You scratch your head and move on.

We have been thinking about changing electricians; our present one has been with us for years; the boss, the president, has brought in his son who is taking over their field supervision and it’s been really rough on us — we feel loyal but loyalty will only buy groceries for so long. We take quotes from some new firms and get some really good proposals, prices are lower; job productivity looks as though it will increase so we change. The first job or two go smoothly, on time, price is right, we’re good on pay and then quotes start inching up. Availability for starts is threatened, we are all unhappy and finally we part company. What happened? It looked and was a good deal; where did it go wrong?

What do all three of these mini-bad dreams have in common? Sure, none of them worked out the way we thought it would, no, we were sure they would — hey, I’m no rookie. What the Sam Hill happened? We didn’t know because we didn’t ask.

We didn’t get the job because the lead just bonded with our competition’s salesperson — closer to their own age. We didn’t do anything wrong; we just missed one. We shouldn’t have changed our presentation but we messed with it because we didn’t know. Our project manager, Joe, who didn’t work out, had customer schmoozing as a top priority rather than profitable operation, but I didn’t figure it out until it was too late — we might have seen it but didn’t. And finally, the new trade contractor got too expensive because we did something differently than they were used to. They felt they had to charge more to get it done but it still didn’t fit well so we drifted apart. If we had asked, they probably would have told us and it could have been changed and the trade saved, maybe, but neither of us asked so we both lost.

At times when something doesn’t work out for us, we miss the lesson to be learned by not finding out why; by asking or checking it out. The fancy term for this is called the “Exit Interview.” Using lessons learned from losses can be very beneficial — often we can learn more from a loss or problem than we do from a success but we have to find out why we crashed. It’s important to be successful and we practice it and remember sometimes success comes from figuring out how NOT to fail, while you’re here . . .

M M “Mike” Weiss has been a full-service remodeler for over 25 years. As an instructor for the CGR and CAPs programs,
he spends many weeks each year on the road teaching other remodelers. He is also a past chairman of the Remodelors Council of the NAHB.

And while you’re here . . . Agree? Disagree? Want to know more or even argue? Send me an e-mail with your ideas or suggested topics, we’ll think about them and see what we can do.