[Editor's note: Welcome to the fourth installment of "Money Talks." Each month, Terry Nicholson, president of AirTime 500, will be providing business management information, all with the aim of helping contractors, as he put it, "make money every day."]

If you've ever seen slalom skiing, then you know how important timing can be. Those skiers fly down the slope, weaving deftly in and out of the flags. If they weren't able to quickly change directions and make adjustments, there's no way they would be able to reach their goal at the bottom.

Like those slalom skiers, HVAC owners need to be able to make the same quick adjustments and changes of direction to meet their goals. If something in your business is keeping you from meeting your goals, you must have the ability to quickly change it to keep your company on course for success.

What Does It Take?

What does it take to have that type of command and that ability to quickly alter your company's course to avoid obstacles? First and foremost, it takes an absolute mastery of your numbers. You must know what your goals are each day. You must know how many calls you must bring in, what your average ticket is, and what your profit is each month.

Having that mastery includes getting your numbers in a timely fashion. This is the key to having slalom-like reflexes in managing your business. To get the full effect of your financial statements, you must receive them by the 10th of the month.

Why The 10th?

Why should you shoot for the 10th of the month? Why does it matter? Let's go back to our slalom skier. If he waited until the very last second to change his course, he would never reach his goal unless it was in a rolling, tumbling heap.

It's the ability to be proactive rather than reactive that gets that skier to the bottom of the mountain on his own two feet with his hands raised in victory, and it's that same proactive thinking that you must use to be victorious in your business.

Receiving your financials by the 10th of the month allows you to be proactive. That is, as long as you don't allow your financial statements to collect dust. As soon as you get them, pore over them. Are you reaching your goals? Where are you falling short? What can be done to correct the problems and get your company back on course?

Success is a journey, and staying on it involves making adjustments along the way. The skier makes constant adjustments to avoid the obstacles and reach his goals. You must do the same.

You can't hope to achieve great success by being reactive. If you do, you won't make adjustments until it's too late. Being proactive lets you see things before they are upon you and change course before it's too late.

What Do You See?

When you look at your financial statements, what do you see? This is your chance to get your company back on course if it is straying from your goals. Is your revenue down this month? If it is, look at the causes. See if your technicians were less productive. Was their average ticket down? Did you get fewer calls? Once you determine what is knocking you off course, you can correct the problem to get back on course.

If the problem is productivity, put measures in place to keep your technicians busy. Limit the time they wait in the driveway. If their average ticket is down, how can you increase it? Can you make a special offer on a certain product for the next month? If you're not getting enough calls, what

can you adjust to get more calls? Run an effective marketing piece, schedule maintenance inspections, or call your customer base.

If your financials aren't in by the 10th, you'll never know where you're falling short, and you'll never have the opportunity to correct it. Get your financial statements by the 10th, analyze where you are in relation to your goals, and make the adjustments you need to succeed. In doing so, you'll avoid the obstacles in your way on your journey towards your goals.

Next installment: Today's consumer world isn't built around the idea of billing like it was in the past, and with that in mind, your business shouldn't be built around this process either.

Nicholson is president of AirTime 500. For more information on AirTime 500, call 800-505-8885. Nicholson can be reached by e-mail at tnicholson@venvestinc.com.

Publication date: 04/12/2004