What makes a successful business owner stand out against the competition? One key element is their personal habits.
A business owner’s routines and characteristics will affect every aspect of their business, from daily processes to hiring decisions to how they handle marketing. Good habits lead to better efficiency, while poor habits tend to result in disorganization, poor communication, and even high numbers of employee turnover.
Read on to learn the 18 habits that business owners in the field service industry should cultivate in their daily lives, and which ones to avoid.
1. Get Organized
When you’re disorganized, it’s easier to waste time on tasks that shouldn’t be top priority. This can lead to working long hours and having little time for family or personal life.
Look for areas where you can delegate work instead of trying to do everything yourself. Set deadlines and track milestones to keep yourself and your teams on schedule.
2. Manage Your Time
Are your teams known for their ability to meet deadlines? Or does your company struggle to complete tasks within specific time constraints? If you never seem to have enough time or resources to finish a job on time and within budget, chances are that you need to improve your time management.
Managing time is an essential part of your role as an owner. You must be able to efficiently manage your own time as well as that of your team. Use time blocking to separate your day into meetings, deep work, and personal time. Teach yourself how to work within specific time constraints.
3. Adopt Technology
A study by McKinsey and Company showed that companies engaged in field labor often have little insight into what their employees are doing on a daily basis. During a detailed look into one industrial equipment manufacturer, the firm discovered that technicians were wasting about 40 percent of their workdays on unnecessary drives, visits, and periods of inactivity.
Digital scheduling tools were able to significantly improve the efficiency of these field labor companies and cut company costs. Job schedulers allowed companies to coordinate their technicians’ schedules, which resulted in more efficient and productive workdays.
As technology grows in today’s business landscape, field service companies must learn to adopt it — or risk being left behind.
4. Focus on the Big Picture
Whether you own a construction company, a landscaping service, or a remodeling business, you are responsible for many moving parts. It’s challenging to keep the big picture in mind when you are trying to manage a crew, deal with upset customers, review sales and bids, reply to emails… the list goes on and on.
One way to keep yourself on task is to identify your mission. Why does your business exist? What do you aim to do for your clients? What makes you different from your competition? Take a moment to quickly jot down the answers to these three questions, then combine them into a few sentences.
This should be your guiding mission statement. When you’re caught up in the details, use your mission statement to remind yourself of your priorities.
5. …But Don’t Lose Sight of the Details
The catch-22 here is that owners still have to be involved in the more pressing, immediate tasks of the business. When dealing with remote employees, shipments of parts, budgets, and materials, even one small hiccup can delay a project. Use a project management software to get a birds-eye view of all the details, and set up regular meetings with managers for milestone check-ins.
6. Learn How to Delegate
As your business grows, you must get comfortable with delegating work. This can be difficult for business owners, especially if you grew the business from the ground up on your own. In the beginning, you may have had to roll up your sleeves and jump in to help your team. But in order for your business to succeed, you have to take advantage of the expertise of your employees.
First, make sure that you are handing off work to the right person. Don’t expect your office manager to take on tasks that a VP of operations should handle.
Next, be as specific as possible about your expectations. Define the scope of the work, the deadline, and the outcome. A good leader doesn’t expect employees to read his or her mind.
Now that you’ve handed off the work to the right person and clearly conveyed the expected outcome, it’s time to let your employee work on their own. You can follow up to make sure that the task is progressing on schedule, but resist the urge to micromanage.
If you constantly feel nervous about delegating to your employees, take stock of your hiring process. Are you recruiting and training high-quality employees? If the answer is yes, you may need to turn the focus inward. Often, owners struggle to delegate tasks because they are used to handling every problem alone. Learning how to delegate may take some personal emotional growth.
7. Set Specific, Measurable Goals
Goals are small steps that lead to your overall mission. Get in the habit of setting goals on a quarterly, annual, and even weekly basis. If you’re working on a large, complex project, break it down into smaller deadlines. Track these milestones and make sure that your managers are keeping their teams on schedule.
If you struggle to meet your goals, your objectives may be too vague. Try incorporating SMART goals, an acronym that stands for Specific, Measurable, Achievable, Realistic, and Timely. Your goal should be:
- Specific. What is the outcome that you are trying to achieve? Steer clear of vague ambitions such as “make more sales”, and turn them into results-focused statements such as “increase sales by X number during X time period”.
- Measurable. Frame your objective in terms of numbers, dates, or another quantifiable metric.
- Achievable. Have you assigned the goal to the right team?
- Realistic. Reframe idealistic goals into practical ones. Doubling the number of jobs completed would be great, but is it doable? Choose a feasible milestone.
- Timely. If you haven’t already, set a deadline or timeframe for the goal. Do you want to accomplish this within 3 months, 6 months, or 12 months? Setting a concrete date will help with achievement.
8. Know How to Prioritize
As much as we’d like to accomplish every single one of our goals in a day, successful leaders know that this is not always possible. A good business owner will intuitively know which tasks to prioritize and which to set on snooze. Until your intuition takes over, try practicing manually by writing down a list of to-dos then reordering them according to importance. Keep the list as a visual reminder so you aren’t distracted by lower-priority tasks.
Another excellent way to prioritize is by using the Eisenhower Matrix. Start by splitting your tasks into four categories:
- Urgent and Important
- Less Urgent and Important
- Urgent and Less Important
- Less Urgent and Less Important
Once you’ve done this, the Eisenhower Matrix will tell you exactly what to do about each task.
- Do these tasks first.
- Schedule these tasks and do them later.
- Assign these tasks to someone else.
- Ignore these tasks altogether.
9. Stay in Touch with Your Numbers
Business owners should always be aware of where they are at as a business. You don’t need to get bogged down with every specific line item — the accounting department exists for a reason — but make sure you are tracking key performance indicators (KPIs), such as revenue growth, cash flow, customer retention, and sales goals.
If you feel out of touch, set up a standing meeting with your head of accounting to review the numbers. Smaller businesses may benefit from implementing a management software that tracks metrics automatically.
10. Stay Determined
Failures are the growing pains of any successful business. It can be easy to let yourself get down after a project goes south or you lose an important client. But successful owners are able to keep a grip on the grit and determination that allowed them to start the business in the first place. Learn from your mistakes, keep moving forward, and keep your eyes on the goal.
11. Know How to Pivot
In the field service industry, unexpected challenges arise all the time. The weather can’t be controlled; third-parties deliver materials late; workers call in sick on a critical day of work. In these situations, a successful leader won’t waste time fretting over what could have been. Instead, they will be able to quickly adapt and figure out a Plan B, then implement the plan through delegation and communication.
12. Establish Open Communication
Healthy communication within a company starts at the top. As the owner of the business, you must be able to communicate your expectations clearly, otherwise, a disconnect will open up between you and your employees. Make sure your workers know that the door to your office is open, not shut. Lead with encouragement and grace. Conduct regular performance evaluations where you offer constructive feedback along with affirmation for a job well done.
13. Embrace a Love of Learning
A good leader is never stagnant. They’re always looking for new opportunities to expand their knowledge. They’re infinitely curious and afraid of standing still.
Challenge yourself by learning about a topic that is outside your particular industry. Pick up a book about business, accounting, engineering, or emotional intelligence. Embrace your inner curiosity. Listen to a podcast on the way to work or on your daily run. Take a training course on a new form of technology.
The best leaders aren’t afraid to learn from their peers, friends, and even their employees. By paying regular attention to a topic outside your field of expertise, you’ll be able to look at your business with fresh eyes and new ideas.
14. Limit your Workload
Experienced business owners know when to delegate and when to simply say no. A good way to do this is to look at new work opportunities through the framework of your mission statement. Passing on opportunities that are not a good fit for your business will free you up to provide high-quality work in your niche.
15. Build a Network
Successful field service owners keep their channels of communication open to the outside world. They work to build long-term relationships with peers and even competitors in their locale.
Get in the habit of making referrals to trusted contacts in parallel industries. Chances are, they’ll return the favor when the time is right. When you treat people with kindness, you reap the rewards.
It’s also important to survey your group of acquaintances. We learn a lot from the people we interact with on a daily basis. By surrounding yourself with intelligent, curious, and supportive individuals, you’ll learn and grow as a leader.
16. Seek Out a Mentor
A wise business owner will seek out role models who are already several steps ahead of them and learn and grow from their examples.
Mentors can share their experiences, offer insights that you cannot find in a book or on the internet, and help guide you through difficult times in your business. They know what it’s like to encounter challenges because they have weathered many themselves.
To find a mentor, start by thinking about your existing network. Who inspires you? Who do you look to for advice? If no one comes to mind, look for opportunities to meet this sort of person. Join a professional association. Attend networking events in your field. Search through your LinkedIn network. Put some time into building the relationship, and if it’s a good fit, the rest will come naturally.
Pro Tip: Look for a mentor who does not have any financial or emotional ties to your business (no investors or family members).
17. Plan Ahead
Experienced business owners know better than to count on lasting success. They’re always looking for new ways to adapt and keep the business alive. When your business falls into a steady rhythm, use that time as an opportunity to look ahead. Improve your internal processes, implement new technology, assess your KPIs, and delegate work to your employees.
18. Don’t Be Afraid to Negotiate
Whether you come from a construction background, home healthcare, plumbing, or electric work, it’s important to remember that you are a businessperson first and foremost. As the leader of a company, you must learn to take a step back and think objectively about what is profitable for your business.
Before you walk into a meeting with an important client, do some research. Gather statistics and case studies of past clients that prove your expertise. Think about what sets your business apart from the competition, and use this to negotiate. If a client refuses to pay your rates, be prepared to walk away.
How to Cultivate Good Habits
In a Forbes article, Ann Farrell recommends focusing on the good habits and behaviors that you want to cultivate instead of dwelling on the bad habits that you want to change. As humans, it’s easier for us to get out of old routines when we have a new routine to replace it.
Say you find it difficult to separate yourself from the day-to-day operations of your business. Focus on learning how to delegate. If you feel like a task won’t get done right unless you do it yourself, focus on improving your communication skills.
Perhaps you have a hard time saying yes to new technologies. Shift your mindset by focusing on the positive elements that the change could bring, and take some time to learn how to use it before writing it off completely.
Running a successful business in the field service industry takes a combination of industry experience, leadership abilities, and interpersonal skills. It also takes self-awareness and a desire to constantly learn and grow. A leader who cultivates good habits in their personal life will be able to make wiser and more insightful decisions for their business.
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