George Hedley presented the keynote address at the upcoming Snow Industry Exposition & Conference, May 9-11 in Indianapolis.
Wealthy and not working is the ideal business owners should aspire to achieve, says George Hedley.
“The purpose for your business is to be the owner, not the hands-on, make every decision worker/supervisor,” says Hedley, a certified speaking professional and CEO of HEDLEY Construction & Development in Costa Mesa, Calif. “A business owner is the leader of an organized and systemized company that always makes a profit with or without the owner doing all the work. The real purpose of owning a business is to enjoy the benefits of business ownership - wealth and freedom.”
Hedley, who presented the keynote address at the inaugural Snow Industry Exposition & Conference, May 9-11 in Indianapolis, sat down with Lawn & Landscape's sister publication and host of the expo, Snow Magazine, to discuss business management issues and how snow removal professionals can better not only their businesses, but also their business outlook.
SM: What common mistake or error do you witness business owners unknowingly making and how can that error or mistake be avoided?
GH: Thinking they are smarter than everyone else in the world. Most small business owners want to let go of control but don't. This causes their employees to stop growing and not take on more accountability or responsibility. Then the business stops growing and it can't make enough money to get ahead as the company gets stuck at the level of what the owner can control.
SM: There’s a lot of talk in entrepreneurial and business management circles about fostering leadership and its impact on a business’ overall success. Should a business owner hire leaders or develop them from within and why?
GH: Most small business owners can't lead a horse to water! First the owner must be a leader who has a clear and written vision of what the business is all about and where it's going. Then the owner must set clear targets and goals for the company to track and reach for. Next, the owner must insure company operational systems are in place for the employees to use. Then, and only then, can good people become leaders. Hiring good leaders to work for a control freak or micro-manager won't make the company better. Most small businesses are owned by someone who is not a real leader. A true leader inspires excellence in others and trusts people with responsibility to make decisions without checking with the boss. Promoting from within or hiring from the outside both will work if the owner is willing to lead instead of do, motivate others and inspire using praise, recognition, coaching and setting clear targets and goals for people to implement.
SM: Many snow removal contractors rely on word-of-mouth referrals as their most important sales and marketing tool. Is this a sound strategy and why?
GH: Word of mouth marketing is like sitting inside your house waiting for the tooth fairy to bring you money. Most small business owners like to do the work but don't like to go out and get the work by selling. The only way to make a profit and make your business grow is to create customers. The only way to get referrals is to ask your good customers for referrals. The most important strategy to get customers is to have a systematic marketing program in place that guarantees you a constant influx of leads and business opportunities. Successful companies market and sell. Poor, struggling companies wait for the phone to ring.
SM: Client retention is very important in this industry. Outside of reliable snow and ice removal, how can contractors better serve their clients?
GH: Get out of your truck! Take your customers to lunch and ask them how can you serve them better. Ask what else you can do for them and what other services do they want you to do. Also ask what you do well and where you need to improve.
SM: Besides an unseasonable winter, snow contractors cite low-ball/cut-rate competitors as their top business challenge. How do you continue to secure contracts when there’s someone out there willing to do it for less?
GH: Stop complaining about your low-ball competitors. The snow clearing business has a low cost of entry and attracts low-ball competition. Your goal has to be to create loyal customers who only use you. First do quality work with excellent service. Next always offer a little more than your competition. An make it a priority to build customer relationships based on trust. Trust comes spending time with customers at lunch, dinner, or in their office talking and get to know them. Be a pro and you will attract quality customers. Be low bidder and attract low class customers.
SM: When the going gets tough – a warm winter, escalating business costs, fewer lucrative contracts – how can contractors keep things on the business side going?
GH: I don't see how you can make a business profitable waiting for the snow to fall. You have a fixed overhead and cost of business that goes on all year. Build a business based on serving your market 365 days a year. Add more services that will fill-out the seasons and allow you to prosper.
SM: It’s a competitive job market and attracting and retaining quality employees – including both skilled and talented labor and office personnel – is an ongoing challenge. What can an owner do to change or improve his business to make it more appealing to current and future workers?
GH: Why should I work for you? You must offer a competitive wage and benefit package and full-time employment 12 months a year. People don't want to work part time or for less than they can get somewhere else. Good employees flock to companies that pay well, have employee training programs with room to grow, are allowed to be involved with company decisions, are allowed to contribute to the success of a team and are given some freedom to have a life. Trying to hire cheap will continue the constant revolving door of employees looking for a better job elsewhere while working for your company.
SM: If the average business owner could improve his operations in just one way, what would that one way be and why?
GH: Look in the mirror! Write down your goals and targets for your business over the next five years. Then track the progress. The results you get are a direct result of your leadership. Successful business owners are successful because they are successful people. Poor and unprofitable businesses are the direct result of the business owner.