I've been thinking lately that a transaction between a home owner and a painting contractor is a very meaningful exchange, perhaps more than most other transactions.
In a previous post I've discussed that what we, as independent painting contractors, are in the trust business. I still believe that. I still believe that what clients are looking to buy is trust - trust that you know what you are doing, that you can solve their problem effectively, that you can join the family for a couple of weeks. Home owners need to trust you with their money, access to their home, care of their valuables and assets, safety of their family members, their schedule, etc. That is a lot of trust that they are shopping for. And all that trust has a high value to them - they are willing to pay a premium to deal with a company or craftsman they have confidence in.
But I no longer believe that what we are selling is trust. We should be marketing trust, our customers should be buying trust, but that is not what we are selling - the thing that we are exchanging for money is not trust, but it is even more valuable...
It was a strange feeling.
Friday at 2:00 pm and I was clean, sitting quietly paying attention to a speaker, surrounded by business people from diverse fields.
Last week I took an afternoon off of the tools and spent about 5 hours at an event hosted by our local Chamber of Commerce. It featured networking opportunities, a trade show, panel discussions geared toward small business owners, talks about the local economy and some presentations to help business people to deal successfully with the many challenges they face.
It was difficult investing the time and money to attend an event that had no clear ROI. But I'm enjoying getting out of my comfort zone this year and I figures that just meeting one person, or learning and implementing one thing, could make the investment very worthwhile in the long run.
I had to create some space in my regular routine for this event. And it turned out my biggest take away from the day has to do with space...
As entrepreneurs we must be effective problem solvers. Problems come in all variations: financial, health, technical, scheduling, staffing, etc. One type of problem that we will eventually encounter is people problems.
People problems can be particularly difficult to handle if you have an aversion to confict. Many people would rather experience just about anything but having to confront someone about a problem. I know, I used to be one of those people, and I still have to fight that tendancy. And that is a benefit of the road we travel as business people...it exposes our weaknesses and provides opportunity to confront them one way or another before you can achieve success. Learning to deal with people problems is one of the biggest hurdles facing a start-up. We all want to be liked and we all hope to get along with others, but things can go pear-shaped pretty quickly when mixing money, deadlines, personalities and expectations.
So here are 4 things I have found that help to difuse potential hot spots...
You might be thinking about taxes at this time of year. And that maybe causing you some stress.
Or you may be feeling taxed by the stress of a busy painting season just ahead.
I've been thinking about work stress recently, particularly about the toxicity of stress and the toll it takes on our health, relationships and general job satisfaction. Stress is real. The effects of stress can be as simple as being more irritable to more complicated - like the inability to sleep properly, addictions, memory loss, a compromised immune system. Stress can even lead to heart attacks and death. My observation is that some of us don't consider stress enough when looking at jobs. For me, I need to be more intentional about limiting it's influence in my work life where possible.
We are just painters after all, not surgeons, so why all the stress? Is it necessary? What factors lead to some projects being more stressful than others?
Governments tax behaviours that they deem unhealthy for individuals or society, to reduce consumption/exposure and raise money to finance the side effects. So...why not tax stress in your life, particularly in your business? Add a surcharge to jobs that involve more stress, put a premium on that stress to discourage and reduce the amount of stress and raise money to deal with the consequences of stress (vacation, massage, therapy, date nights, exercise, healthy food, etc...).
With that in mind I created a Project Stress Analyzer and Tax Calculator. I fill it out as part of the process for every project I quote in 2017. In fact, I print a bunch of these sheets and use the back side to make my notes during the site visit. If a project has an average (or lower) anticipated amount of stress there is no premium tacked on. But for every degree of stress above average I add 2% to the quote, to a maximum of a 100% stress premium...
As an entrepreneur, you will enter into negotiations on a regular basis with suppliers, employees, prospects or clients.
There are times people just need you to go the extra mile in order to keep a project moving forward toward the goal.
It's OK to trust your gut and make someone happy, making an investment in goodwill.
Other times, people may be out to squeeze the profit out of you, or pressure you to meet unreasonable expectations.
Their demands are a way of gaining control of the transaction and taking your power away. This is a critical stage in a business relationship. Will you blink first?
There is a lot of information available out there on negotiating. But one simple, easy to remember principle that I picked up along the way has served me well over the years...