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Level Up • From chaos to control • Andrew Houston

May 27, 2016 | By Andrew Houston

Take your business & team from chaos to control • May 27, 2016 – Have you ever had to run a large-scale job with a poorly structured set of plans? Or perhaps you’ve had to run a job without any plans at all?

I’ve been there, and it turned out to be a disaster. To this day, I wonder why my boss took the job in the first place. As I recall, it was a lighting job that cost the company a fortune, but not because we didn’t want to do a good job or the crew was lacking in skill; the fact that no one had any clue what we were supposed to be doing before we even got started is really what created all the mayhem.

The general contractor verbally instructed us every day as to where he wanted the fixtures, changing his mind as often as a baby changes diapers. The special material required was ordered incorrectly, resulting in an 8-week lead-time. The layout changed at least three times, which ran the job more than double the estimated time; it needed 30% more material than quoted, and nobody was happy with the final product.

Whether you’re running a job or a business, you need a set of plans that clearly defines the What, Who and When of how things are going to get done.


One of the biggest problems contractors is that, with each job they run, a huge list of issues starts to pile up, and they don’t know where to start to resolve them. These contractors spend all day acting as firefighters, putting one issue to rest before jumping to the next. Because they’re just applying bandages to problems, rather than coming up with long-term solutions via structure, order and plans, their list of issues just keeps getting longer and more complicated as time goes on.

If you don’t sit down and create structure within your business and plans for your team, it could result in:

• Your team being lost and not even knowing where to start on each project.
• A team with zero accountability that cannot problem-solve on its own.
• Working more hours and losing the freedom to spend time doing the things you love.
• Having a business that isn’t scalable because it’s simply unable to grow beyond it’s current level.

Here are 5 Steps that will help you gain more control over your business:

Step 1: List all of the problems you have in your business. Get your entire team to share what isn’t working for them, and have someone help you sort it out.

Step 2: Write a list of all the roles you have in your business e.g. foreman, electricians, apprentices accounts receivable. Draw this up in a chart I’ve created for you called Contractor’s Role Assessment Tool.

Step 3: Pick a problem, and assign it to one of the roles identified above. Do that with all the problems on your list. This will shed light on the weakest-performing areas and roles, showing you what’s causing the cracks in your business’ foundation.

Step 4: Start fixing the weakest role first. Identify 2-3 improved results you want to see e.g. foreman ensures job is on schedule and in sync with what was quoted.

Step 5: Define the rules and create systems for each role. Using simple visual aids such as flowcharts, checklists, white boards and calendars generally create better outcomes.

When you have a tested and proved system in place for several weeks or months, and something goes wrong, you know who is to be held accountable. That said, you may have to tweak or change your systems over time to better complement your crew and business as they currently stand.

Having roles, results and rules laid out allows you to lead your team rather than boss them around, and keeps you from having to constantly run around resolving problems.

Looking back on that lighting project, we lacked structure, plans and order, and there was no one to lead the way. No wonder it ended in disaster!

Never forget how important it is to find the weak spots in your business and get to work creating systems that’ll fix them and the issues they cause. You can take your business from chaos to control; it’s all in how you lead your team and plan for a successful future.

ABOUT THE AUTHOR: Andrew Houston is the owner and founder of Profit for Contractors. He has been consulting to trades business owners for nearly a decade, helping them improve their business skills so they can achieve their personal and business goals. A graduate of George Brown College, Andrew achieved Industrial Controls Licensed Electrician as well as Electronics Engineering Technologist. Visit www.profitforcontractors.com or call 613-209-3828.

Remember, CLICK HERE to download the Contractor’s Role Assessment Tool to help you start getting control of your business. If you’d like some help with the tool or just a quick chat, CLICK HERE to book a complimentary 30-minute chat, courtesy of your friends at Electrical Business Magazine.

Grade your clients • Tradie Tips with Andrew Houston
“You may be surprised to learn some of the clients who you thought were As and Bs are actually Cs and Ds!” writes Andrew Houston in his April 2016 column “Kick your C&D clients to the curb”. But how? In this quick episode of Tradie Tips, Andrew discusses how to improve your business’ report card by dropping your C&D-grade clients to make room for more A&B-grade ones. Visit tinyurl.com/gn85acj, where you can also download your free “Customer and Prospect Rating Matrix” tool.

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