It’s a sickening feeling most football fans have experienced at some point. Your team has the lead with just a few minutes left, so the coach tells everyone to drop back in an attempt to prevent the big, game-winning play. “Let’s play this thing safe and keep everything in front of us,” he seems to think. But, with the defense giving far too much cushion, you see the opposing team inch their way down the field bit by bit to score right before the time expires. Everyone is the best head coach while yelling from their recliner, but you just want to ask him, “Why get so conservative now?”
The best football minds will tell you the quickest way to lose is by refusing to stay aggressive with a lead and resorting to what’s called the “prevent defense.” Simply trying not to lose has cost many teams what should have been assured victories. And this doesn’t just happen in sports either.
Far too many business owners go into a shell of self-preservation once they reach a certain level, and it’s actually what’s getting them beaten by their competition. Are you trying to go take home a big win for your company and employees, or merely prevent losing?
Here are a few important questions to ask yourself:
Am I happy where I am? A shocking number of contractors answer this question with a yes. They don’t want to grow any further and deal with new headaches like additional hiring and expansion, so they settle into a rut. They’re happy with the salary they bring home and are satisfied at their current level. But here’s the kicker — even those in this spot can’t kick up their feet just yet. According to Grandview Research and IBISWorld Reports, the HVAC industry is growing at a rate of 6% per year, with 40% of that being in the residential space. Close to 2,500 new HVAC upstarts are going into business each year nationwide. You know those nicely wrapped vans you’ve seen from new companies lately? Yeah, they’re coming for you. They’re all hungry for market share and will be more than happy to take yours if you let them.
When tempted to think you can just keep doing what you’ve always done and expect the same level of success, please know that capitalism simply doesn’t work that way. And if you think you can just live off your existing customer base for years and let them fight over the new households, that’s hard to pull off without a plan as well. Did you know that the average contractor loses 11% of its previous customers each year due to regular attrition? Some people move out of the area and some pass away, but the vast majority of customers leave one business and switch to another simply because someone new starts to show them more attention. Remember, if you think you’re standing still, you are most assuredly going backwards and losing ground. You just don’t realize it yet.
Are you trying to do everything yourself? Another mistake here — in an effort to make sure everything gets handled well, many owners just try to do everything themselves. It’s hard to find, hire, and keep good employees, but mostly what you see here is a trust issue. Especially for those contractors who’ve built their businesses up from scratch themselves, passing off responsibilities to others without micromanaging is a tough ask, but it’s crucial to growth.
Kevin Xu, CEO of Forbes Nonprofit Council said, “If everything in your company depends on you, it can only grow as large as your personal capacity allows.” Layman’s terms? There are only so many hours you personally have in a day, and your personal expertise as pertaining to your business only goes so far — even as the owner.
You might be an excellent contractor and people-person, but do you know how to run payroll, do taxes, and market your business as well as others who were trained in those fields? Or even others you could bring on who have more time to devote to learning these specialized needs? A little humble pie is necessary here. Your efforts to play it safe and keep your hands on everything personally might be the main thing keeping your company from succeeding as it should. It can feel very risky, but find experts you can trust and give them freedom to succeed.
Are you trying anything new? If I haven’t made you uncomfortable yet, this one will probably move the needle. If the postcard you sent last year had decent success, it’ll do the same this year, right? Maybe, but don’t count on it blowing your socks off if this is the 5th or 10th time your prospects are seeing the same tired messaging. How long has it been since your website has gotten an update? Even a year after launch, a website can be outdated and getting you zero new business. Maybe it’s even time your entire brand got a complete refresh. Would that bring renewed excitement? Are you considering any new offerings due to advancements in technology or new demand in your area?
Listen to your market, and more importantly, watch the response you are getting. The people will tell you what needs to be changed, and don’t be satisfied with “just OK” results either. Always be analyzing, experimenting, tweaking, discarding, and adding new ideas until you find the right mix for you. Challenge yourself to move forward and try a few fresh ideas, whether they be large projects or just a few small tweaks. At best, it could open up whole new revenue streams for your business, and at worst, it’s just reminding your prospects that you’re still trying to compete for their eyes and their business.
One thing we know is that the business world can be brutal, and if you try to play it too safe, you’re likely to get passed by others who are willing to step out a little more. Get motivated, find people to delegate to that you can trust, and come up with some new ideas to shake the rust off. Take the game to your competition instead of waiting for them to come take success from you.