Start Your Engines!
I was fortunate enough to be a guest of Greg Biffle’s 3M Racing Team at the recent NASCAR event in Talladega. As I thought about all the things that go into fielding a winning race car that Sunday, I saw four parallels to how the most successful shops are running their businesses. Follow along with me while I explore these four shared traits of fielding a winning NASCAR team and running a successful business.
Strategy – Before the green flag ever drops, many hours are put into setting up a car for a particular course and coming up with a race strategy to amplify your strengths and avoid your weaknesses for a given race. Some teams are better on road courses, others on super speedways and still others in restrictor plate tracks. The trick is to determine what you can do that weekend and try to do that extremely well; avoid the mistakes that can really hurt you. You cannot win every race, but you want to place as highly as you can even when a particular course does not suit you or the team. The team has a strategy for every race before they ever unload the car from the trailer.
Likewise, assuming that you cannot do everything perfectly in your business, none of us do, how do you focus on doing what you can do well to “finish” the best that you can? Have you spent time analyzing both what you do very well in your business and what you are not so good at? Is your strategy focused on getting better at the things you do well, or fighting an uphill battle trying to do things that do not suit you or your business? My advice would be to take a close look at this and start playing to your strengths. Look to get even better at what you are already doing well and you will be much further along than if you try and fight an uphill battle in an area that is not suited to you.
Preparation – Once you have your strategy in place, it is time to start making preparations around that strategy. For the race team this might include making sure you have the right equipment to carry out that strategy, learning/practicing the methods to be utilized in that strategy and then getting the equipment and personnel in place to carry out the strategy.
Your business runs on this same principle. If your strategy is to grow your commercial business, have you hired the right people to pursue that type of work? Have they been adequately trained in the product and the company strategy? Do they have the right equipment for sales presentations and installations for this work? The best laid plans will fall apart if you do not prepare ahead of time to put your team in the best possible position to execute the strategy.
Execution - At some point, you have to put the strategy and preparation to the test and begin executing on the plan you created. In the race, once the announcer says, “Racers, start your engines!” it is time to find out how good your planning and preparation has been. This is the time when everyone on the team must focus on their role and get down to the business of getting it done.
Your business is the same. When Monday morning comes, it is time to put that strategy and preparation into action as the first customer walks through the door or you stop at the first appointment of the day. You know the saying “Plan your work, then work your plan;” now is the time to work that plan. If you want to increase the average ticket in the shop, are you offering up-sell products to the customers or did you forget when two phone lines began ringing and there were three people in the shop? If you want to get more referrals for your residential business, did you take the time to ask the homeowner if you could place a yard sign? Did you hand out 20 door hangers to the neighbors after you completed the job, or were you too tired or in a hurry to get to the next job? This is where executing the plan becomes important. You created a strategy, now stick with it.
Flexibility - Once the race is underway, there will inevitably be things that occur that the best laid plans could not have anticipated. The teams that win and finish well are the ones that are best able to understand the changes that have occurred and have the flexibility to adapt their plan to the new realities of the situation. Does that large wreck dictate a change in pit strategies for this race? Does a looming rain cloud indicate that a change of tires might be advisable? Likewise in business, unforeseen situations arise nearly every day to cause you to adjust your plan. An angry customer comes is demanding that their problem be taken care of immediately. A homeowner decides to add windows to the job, or changes their mind on the film they want, in the middle of an install. The commercial job does not have the workspace clear giving you the access that you need to do the job. All of these things, and many more, come up on a regular basis. How able are you to adapt to a changing situation in a way that enables you to get the job done AND keep the customer happy? The best companies find ways of handling the “wrecks” that occur each day, change their plan to fit the situation and ultimately succeed by getting the job done and creating a happy customer.
Hopefully you see the same parallels between fielding a winning race team and running a business that wins as I did. As we get into the middle of the busy season, do you have an overriding strategy for this year? Have you prepared your employees and your business to be able to implement that strategy? We are in now in the heart of the prime selling season. Have you began executing on the strategy daily, even when things gets busy? Finally, are you prepared to face the obstacles that are going to get in the way of you seeing your strategy through to success? Remember the saying, “If you fail to plan, you plan to fail.” Plan to make 2014 the best year ever for your business!