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

On a recent trip, the man next to me was headed to New York for what he said was "sort of" business. As it turned out, he was on the board of directors of a prestigious company and was traveling to a presentation detailing the company's projected 2004 results and its 2005 plan. The board would then determine if the results and the plan were up to par.

Reporting your results to someone outside your business is a great idea, and I wondered why more HVAC companies don't have a "take it to the board" philosophy.

A board of directors brings guidance and direction to a company and accountability to the owners and managers. Since the company does not employ the board, they are usually more objective and provide unbiased feedback and advice.

Knowing this gentleman wasn't getting paid to leave his business and family for this meeting, I asked why he'd agreed to be on the board. "It's a prestigious position," he replied. "It not only looks good on paper, but it allows me to improve my business by seeing how other businesses operate and by networking with other professionals."

All of a sudden, I wanted to be part of a board of directors! So, I'm sure others would love the opportunity to be on your board, too.

Where's Your Board?

What does your board look like? If you're like most small business owners, your board of directors consists of you, your wife, your dog, and maybe a Magic 8 Ball®. In that scenario, who holds you accountable for making a plan and sticking to it?

Just you, and that may be what is holding you back. Too often in the HVAC industry, owners see budgets and plans as New Year's resolutions - everybody needs one, but you only stick to it for a few weeks. Unfortunately, that's because most owners don't know the proper way to create a budget or a plan, and they have no one to hold them accountable.

With that in mind, I believe you and the other HVAC companies in America would achieve killer profits and build tremendous wealth if you had to report to someone.

If you "took it to the board" with the "if I don't perform, the board of directors will terminate me" philosophy, your company would have a greater shot at the success independent contractors should be experiencing in this industry.

Time For A Board Report...

If you were headed to your end of 2004 board of directors meeting, would you be excited with this year's results, or would you fear termination for not achieving your goals? That answer may reflect your success this year.

Even successful people have someone holding them accountable. Even the most powerful person in the world, the president of the United States, has a board of directors to report to - the American public.

What are you waiting for? Get a board! Even if you're a sole proprietor, I recommend recruiting a board of directors for your company to hold you accountable to achieving your results. Meet with them each quarter to show them your actual versus budgeted results.

Excuses Versus Results

Most owners have no plan, and if they don't achieve their results, they blame the weather. They blame the fact that they "couldn't find good help." They claim they had a bad off-season but are now making it up. What they have are a lot of excuses but still no plan or budget.

What would you rather have - a successful year or excuses?

Obviously, you'd rather have a successful year. With that in mind, don't be the one to hold yourself accountable. It's hard to succeed when we're only accountable to ourselves. If it were easy, everyone would stick to their diets and avoid huge credit card debt. Find someone to hold you accountable.

Most individuals, like the gentleman on the plane, will meet with you once a quarter just for the prestige of being on your board of directors. However, if you have to pay them to join your board of directors, it will be a small investment compared to the return you'll see from being held accountable.

Once most people put something in writing and are accountable to a group, they will achieve what they set out to do. It's human nature to want to look good in the eyes of others, and it's business nature for owners to want to look good in front of the shareholders, even if the shareholders are simply you and that trusty Magic 8 Ball.

So this year, when you're planning your budget for 2005, I recommend you "Take it to the board!"

Nicholson is president of AirTime 500. For more information on AirTime 500, call 800-505-8885 or visit www.airtime500.com. Nicholson can be reached by e-mail at tnicholson@venvestinc.com.

Publication date: 12/20/2004