What is your unfair advantage?

The good news I’m told is that the tide is starting to turn, but I’m still hearing complaints from certain quarters about the lack of enquiries, savage under cutting and a drop in sales conversion rates. Fortunately, regardless of who you are none of these issues is insurmountable. In fact the simplest solutions are often the most effective.
“The secret of business, especially these days, is to focus relentlessly on your unfair advantage – the thing you do that others don’t.” – John Rollwagen

Guys, this is so easy to do in the building industry it’s beyond a joke. I’ve been vocal about these three “magical” steps below for years.

1) Return your phone calls. Most builders and contractors don’t return their phone calls at all. The ones that do are often 2 – 3 days later. Phone calls should be returned the same day or by 9 am the next day.
2) Show up for your appointments. On time. Won’t that surprise them! Not showing up for appointments, or showing up late, is one of the major gripes clients have with builders and contractors.
3) Do exactly what you say you will do, and do it when you say you will do it. It’s the little things that count!

So there you have it, just these three actions alone should give you an “unfair advantage” over your competitors. Remember making sales is first and foremost about building trust and confidence in your company and in you. The best way to build trust in any situation is to “demonstrate” it.

Once you’ve established a level of trust you need to set the parameters under which you will work. If you don’t set these parameters, the customer will.

One of the first questions I recommend with any prospective client is, “What is important for you when selecting a builder or contractor?” (In other words what is their selection criteria for choosing a builder or contractor?) Followed immediately by, “When would you be ready to start the job?” These two questions put the prospect on notice that you’re not there to dish out prices.

Let them know you’re serious about doing your work and if they just want a price, you’ll be on your way. Other more detailed qualifying questions coupled with a sprinkle of tact of course are no doubt also required here.

The primary purpose of your questioning is to discover what the owner is thinking. If their primary interest is price, then sorry, It’s time to leave and look for someone willing to pay a fair price for your services.

If you find you’re experiencing too many price sensitive people, it’s important you look at how you’re attracting enquiries. If you are offering “free quotes” or reaching out to people looking for low prices, that’s what you’ll get. And if your competitors are coming in at half your price, and getting the job, you’re aiming for the wrong market.

Should you be charging for quotes ?

If you are already charging for quotes, congratulations you “get it”, so no need to read any further. Otherwise for a question that’s bandied around now more than ever, here’s my take on the situation.

The short answer is YES, you should be charging for quotes, especially if you do itemized quotes or D&C. Now you’re probably thinking, but Kurt my competitors aren’t charging for quotes so how am I going to get any work, especially when the phone has stopped ringing! If this is you then you’ve got a marketing problem and that’s a whole different conversation, which incidentally needs to be had before you start charging for quotes. (See our article on how to generate a continuous flow of profitable work to sort your marketing out).

Remember your Marketing should position you as the expert, the “go to” person in your chosen “Niche” or specialty. Once you have this positioning securely in place you can plug your sales process into the back end. With sales being the biggest area of “inefficiency” in this industry (i.e. lots of quotes done for too few contacts signed) the number one purpose for your sales process should be to QUALIFY your prospective clients. Handling your inquiries correctly protects your time and let’s your potential client know how you do business. Handling them the wrong way gives them the opportunity to waste your time.

So here’s a scenario where even if you don’t intend to charge for quotes, you definitely should be. Bearing in mind the aim of the game here is to “qualify” the prospective client. So lets say you get a call for a Reno, first floor addition, bathroom whatever. You show up at the appointed time to speak with the nice people about their proposed job. At some point in the conversation, the potential client makes the following statement: “I want a complete itemization of your proposal and when it’s ready you can just send it to me by email or snail mail. “?How do you, or did you, respond? If you’ve been in business a long time, you’ve had this happen. It’s critical to know how to respond to a super-controlling prospective client. Let me share a response that keeps you in charge of the situation but also allows the client’s ego to remain intact.

The sooner you let the potential client know how YOU conduct business, the better. In fact this should happen during the “Pre-Sales “ process when you send them your profile and clearly outline the YOUR process for doing business with them. You start that part of the conversation with, “Mr. and Mrs. Prospect, let me tell you how we work, Itemization of any kind takes a lot of extra work and I’m happy to do it, as long as I’m paid for that service. When I work, I like to be paid for my time just like you do. We charge $65 an hour with a minimum of 4 hours for any itemization we do. I think that is fair, don’t you?” their response will tell you if they are interested in a win-win business relationship or if they are going to be a classic P.I.T.A!

Now, if they start asking about your margins, then you know it’s time to walk. No need to get involved. Do they ask their doctor, attorney or dentist for an itemization? Do they tell their doctor what price they will pay? How about the manager or check out person at the grocery store? So why do they think they are entitled to that information from you? You can try to explain if you wish, but you are dealing with a potential client whose single focus is getting the lowest possible price for their work. Let another builder or contractor do the job, you don’t need it.

As far as sending a quote by email, snail mail or fax, that works for order takers. Order taking requires the lowest price, and that’s not where you want to be, especially as an expert in your field. If you don’t want the work, email your quote.  If you want their business, inform them that when you go to the time and effort of compiling a quote, you want to sit down with them to review the proposal and ask/answer any questions they might have. If they aren’t willing to do that, they don’t want to make a decision and will try everything they can to avoid it. Politely tell them that you have their information and when they are ready to review their job with you and make a decision, you will be glad to come back and go over the job details and your quote for their work. You will unmask the real clients REAL quick with this approach.

Is this ballsy? Is it rude? No, it’s setting the standard under which you are willing to work. Remember if you don’t set it, the prospective client will. The prospect is either at the mercy of your process for selling or you’re at the mercy for their process for buying. It’s your time to do with as you will, but why let some inconsiderate knucklehead waste your time? As a business owner and leader in your community, you must learn to guard your time as you would your life, and insist that others respect your time. That way you can focus on the clients you can do business with, not the clients who want to waste your time.

Woody Allen famously remarked that 50% of success was “showing up.” Too many people stop there, and get 50% of what they could – if they showed up as a real Pro. Alert. Prepared. Practiced. Primed in every way to deliver an extraordinary performance, they’d get extraordinary results. In fact following a well defined sales process and professionalizing yourself and everyone in your business might just be the best way to b


Virtually every builder or building contractor we start working with doesn’t have a clearly defined Business Strategy or Goals. The obvious question always is “If you don’t know where you’re going, how are you going to get there?” Most business owners are directionless and stuck on the proverbial “hamster wheel”. They’ve bought themselves a job and each day, week and month is a carbon copy of the next. This is demoralizing and leads to burnout! This section is about changing that.

Would you like more purpose, direction, motivation and Confidence for you and your team?
Once you’ve set a clear Strategy and Business Goals you’ll stop spinning your wheels and start moving your business in a specific direction. This will give you and your team Purpose, Direction, Focus, Motivation and Confidence. Your team will see you as a stronger leader because you’ll be taking decisive action. You’ll also feel more purposeful driving to work each day knowing you’re moving your business in a direction that will give you and your family the lifestyle you deserve.

For more specifics on how we can help your business in this area, contact us direct to book in for your free “Strategy Session” with one of our expert Business Coaches. Lets talk about your business and see how we can take you to the next level.


In the beginning: Joe the Plumber makes a plan

Joe was at his local pub enjoying a cold beer at the end of another hard day when Steve shot through the front door with a spring in his step and in an unusually jovial and happy mood. Joe and Steve grew up together and had been friends since pre-school, both chose plumbing as their profession. Joe was starting to resent Steve’s newly adopted carefree attitude. Ever since he went to that seminar held by that famous business coach eight weeks ago, Steve   seemed lighter, more confident and less stressed than ever before.

“How you doing buddy,” said Joe in as uplifting a tone as he could muster. “Fantastic! Thanks mate, life’s a beautiful thing, isn’t it?” replied Steve. “You in love or something?” asked Joe “As a matter of fact I am,” replied Steve; “I’m back in love with my business”.

Steve’s comments didn’t help Joe’s mood. Lately Joe had been feeling tired and frustrated. He was becoming more and more despondent with his plumbing business. He felt like he was on the proverbial ‘hamster wheel’. Each day was a carbon copy of the next. Although the money he made was ok, Joe felt directionless, a slave to his business and clients. Steve knew Joe well and asked, “Why the long face mate?” Then, before Joe could answer in a sarcastic tone and with a wry smirk, he added, “Just remember, no matter how bad things get, they can always get worse!”

Joe felt comfortable opening up to his life long friend, and told him how he really felt about his business. “Mate, I’m not sure what you’re so in love with, but I’m thinking of going back to work for Fat Frank.” Fat Frank was called ‘Fat Frank’ not only because of his physicality, but because he had the biggest plumbing business in Sydney.

“I’m getting tired of this Steve, I feel like I’m chasing my tail. I’m seriously considering returning to employment and walking away from the stress and responsibility of running my own business.” said Joe. “The money is ok but I’m not sure it’s worth all the extra stress and responsibility,” he continued. Steve let him speak to hear him out. Joe told Steve how he had no game plan or strategy for improving his situation. Ultimately, he had bought himself a job, except now he was carrying the added pressure of running a business and it was weighing him down.

“I know exactly how you feel.” said Steve. And he did, because besides being in a similar situation to Joe only two months previously, Steve had  also spent two years working for Fat Frank before going out on his own.

“Think about it Steve” said Joe “If I work for Frank, I’ll be able to leave work in the afternoons and totally divorce myself from all responsibility. No stress, no worries.” Joe felt a sense of relief and calm just thinking about it. But as they spoke and reminisced about the good old days, Joe remembered Fat Frank’s terrible temper and how it bothered him to take instructions from him.  During those early days, Joe and Steve often spoke about how they would do things differently if they owned Frank’s business.

The more they spoke, the more Joe realised there was a reason he was working for himself; he just wasn’t cut out to be an employee. The realisation didn’t help Joe’s mood, it made him feel stuck, as though he was caught between two bad options. He knew something had to change, he just wasn’t sure what? Joe finally put the question to his trusted friend who always seemed to have the answers to trying and difficult situations.

Steve was quick to respond and told Joe about the website the famous business coach had referred him to during the seminar. These business coaches had packaged all the best real life business ideas and strategies from their collective experience and uploaded them onto a website exclusively for plumbers. Plumbers from all over the world were accessing the information online and then applying it to their businesses. Steve continued, “I soon discovered that the information on the website was both relevant and easy to follow. The first realisation I had after watching the short introductory video was that I had no real plan for my business or my personal life.”

Steve then said, “If I don’t know where I’m going, how am I going to get there? Not having a plan was the reason I plodded along with my business, demoralised and directionless for so long. Not only did I need a plan for my business, but also my personal life.”  “After all, I’m in business for personal reasons not the other way round, right?”
Steve went on to explain that once he was clear on his personal goals his business could then serve as a vehicle to achieve those personal goals. It made perfect sense. “Perfect commonsense,” said Joe. “Something that’s not very common these days,” added Steve, and they shared a laugh.

“Once I really thought about it, I realised I have a lot of things on my wish-list, and I’m not getting any younger,” said Steve with a sense disappointment. Then he added, “There are mates I haven’t seen or contacted in ages. The best man at my wedding, Greg, who lives in London, has been bugging me to come out for a holiday and meet the kids I’m Godfather to.”  Steve spoke about plans for surf trips, bike trips and hiking in Machu Picchu, Peru, all of which seemed like fading, out-of-reach dreams due to Steve’s lack of time and money.

Suddenly Joe felt his mind open up as he had a profound moment of clarity. “That’s exactly what’s been missing in his business and my life! I’ve had zero direction for either my personal or business life.” His face became expressionless as the realisation sunk in. Besides new years resolutions, which rarely lasted more than four weeks, Joe hadn’t set goals since he did a goal-setting course back in College.

In that instant, Joe made a decision to do ‘whatever it takes’ to make his business a success and have it give him the lifestyle he deserved. ‘If other people can do it, so can I’, he thought. He just needed the knowledge that they had; an ability to stay open to new ideas and a strong enough desire to change. Joe knew right then he had strong enough reasons to make changes in his business and his life. After all he had very few alternatives. Of one thing Joe was very certain, before his business could change, he knew HE would have to change first.

Joe finished his beer, gave Steve a big hearty slap on the back, and headed straight for his home office. That night, as Joe typed in the URL for plumberscoaching.com on his laptop, he made a commitment to himself to do every exercise on the plumberscoaching.com program until they were completed, understood, and implemented in his business. This gave a Joe a sudden surge of confidence and hope because if there was one thing he was certain of, when he made a promise to himself he always kept it.

After watching the introductory video Joe’s first exercise was to set personal goals using the wheel of life template in the Planning section of the website. He was both nervous and excited. The exercise required that Joe break his life up into eight different areas and set time weighted goals for each area. There were goals for his career, family and friends, money, fun and recreation, physical health and even personal development and spiritual growth. There were so many things he still wanted to achieve and others that he wasn’t sure he wanted to do anymore. At the end of the hour-long exercise Joe had 45 personal goals all laid out in three-month, six-month, 12-month, two-year, and five-year timelines. He was starting to get a picture of what his life could be like. He knew it wouldn’t be easy but he knew he could do it. Any time he’d wanted something bad enough he’d gone out and got it.

Once his personal goals had been set, Joe’s next exercise was to set business goals along the same timelines as the personal goals and then align the business and personal goals to ensure that when he achieved his business goals, his personal goals would automatically fall into place.

Once he’d set his business and personal goals Joe felt a sense of achievement and excitement creep back into his body. It seemed to come from beneath his solar plexus and rise up through his chest cavity, almost lifting him up out of his chair making him feel lighter than he was. This is what being in business is supposed to feel like. He remembered feeling this way when he first went into business eight years ago and how fired up he’d been during those first six to twelve months. He was almost bursting at the seams with energy and enthusiasm. He remembered what his hopes and aspirations were back then and how people seemed to respond more favourably to him when he felt that way. The past eight years were a blur for Joe now and he couldn’t remember exactly when the fire in his belly had started waning and eventually disappeared. It hardly mattered because now the hope was back and he could feel that fire in his belly again, except this time he would make sure he did things properly.

The next morning Joe called Steve on his way to work. “Mate, I feel like a new man!” Steve could hear the purpose and confidence in Joe’s voice. “That’s great Joe, I’m glad you found some value in the program,” said Steve. Joe told Steve about the goals he’d set and the decisions he’d made to improve both his personal and business life. They compared notes and at the end of it they both felt more motivated and purposeful. They decided that they would buddy up and hold each other accountable to achieving the goals they’d set for themselves and agreed to meet at least once a month to discuss their progress.

When Joe finally finished work for that day he decided to skip the pub and head straight back to the plumbers’ website to review the next step in the coaching program. He was eager to do more work so that he could build momentum in the program and start seeing results in his business. Steve had explained the concept of ‘cause and effect’ and Joe knew the more he put into the program, the more he’d get out in terms of results, and results were what he wanted. The next step in the planning section after goal setting was to write a 12-week business plan. Joe learnt that 12 weeks was proven to be the best timeframe in which to do a business plan. Research had tested longer and shorter periods of time in a variety of small businesses around the world and 12 weeks was shown to be the optimum timeframe. Joe had never done a business plan before and wasn’t sure where to start. Fortunately for him, the plumber’s website had a user-friendly business planning template to help guide Joe through putting together a step-by-step business plan specifically tailored to his business to help move him forward in the direction of his goals.

Although most of the strategies that Joe selected off the business planning strategy checklist were commonsense, Joe soon learnt of the importance of the sequence of the strategies. It was like knowing the ingredients to bake a cake but not knowing the sequence in which to mix the ingredients to get the desired result. The business planning exercise took considerably longer than the goal setting exercise, at least three hours in total. Once Joe had completed the exercise he felt a genuine sense of accomplishment. His plan had 15 goals or projects and each goal had at least 10 sequential steps to ensure their completion over a specific timeline. It totalled 150 steps, which all needed to take place in a certain order for all his goals to be achieved within the 12-week period. Joe printed out the one-page business plan template and put it up on his office wall. He felt more motivated than ever because now he not only had goals, but also a plan that gave him direction, guidance, motivation and confidence. Joe had laid the track and all that was left to do now was put rubber to the road!

Joe and Steve spoke again the next day and arranged to meet over a coffee and compare business plans. They both had different personal and business goals and although Steve was eight weeks ahead of Joe in the coaching program, they found that by reviewing each other’s work, they could give each other objective feedback and hold each other accountable to staying on track with the program. They agreed that meeting once a month to discuss their progress, learnings and challenges would be hugely beneficial for both of them.


Three months later…

Joe and Steve were engaged in lively discussion over breakfast at a cosy café in the Eastern suburbs of Sydney. They were both amazed at how much they’d achieved over the past three months. The changes in their businesses had been significant. They were by no means living in a perfect world and they still faced their daily challenges, but they had both laid a solid foundation for growth in their businesses and were excited about the prospects ahead. They spent a good part of the morning reviewing their business and personal goals and each of them mapped out a new 12-week plan for the coming quarter. As they left the café with a renewed sense of purpose and said their good byes, they failed to see the three business coaches and the man with the peculiar hat walk in behind them….

For more specifics on how we can help your business in this area, contact us direct to book in for your free “Strategy Session” with one of our expert Business Coaches. Lets talk about your business and see how we can take you to the next level.