This issue of Electrical Contractor features the 2020 Construction Outlook (page 18), and I am certain you will review the information with an eye to your own 2020 business predictions. First and more important, you need to take a step back and review the book of business you had last year. What projects were the most profitable? For the work that was not profitable, what could have been done differently to change that outcome? Was there a good mix of projects or did you stick to the same types you have done in the past? Assuming you had goals and a plan for 2019, how did you measure up?
Without a plan, it will always be easier to follow the path of least resistance. You may have been too busy responding to requests for proposals you didn’t have time to even think if the new request was helping you to get closer to your goal.
Napoleon Hill, author of “Think and Grow Rich,” wrote in his book, “Positive Action Plan,” that “having a definite plan for your life greatly simplifies the process of making hundreds of daily decisions that affect your ultimate success. When you know where you want to go, you can quickly decide if your actions are moving you toward your goal or away from it. Without definite, precise goals and a plan for their achievement, each decision must be considered in a vacuum. Definiteness of purpose provides context and allows you to relate specific actions to your overall plan.”
You are probably thinking that you were so caught up you did not have time to evaluate whether you were on track to meet your goals. Harvey McKay, a seriously busy businessperson and author, is frequently asked how he manages to get so much accomplished, given the constant distractions he deals with. His primary advice seems simple. Get organized. In other words, define your immediate needs and long-term goals and plan your time to accommodate both.
McKay said, “Start with a daily planner. Choose a system that gives you at least one page per day, and then make sure you pay attention to the commitments. If a distraction is going to put you off-schedule more than a few minutes, either reschedule your prior commitment as soon as possible or plug the new item into the planner.”
What about thinking of your growth over the next five years? I hate predictions because I think they are just best—albeit educated—guesses as to what might happen in the future. However, using the 2020 Construction Outlook as a basis for a general starting point to help you plan for this year still makes sense.
We are now experiencing a relatively good economy and our most pressing issue is finding enough trained workers. But you should always include a plan to even out the common bumps in the construction industry. In a good economy, most contractors steer away from renovation work because new construction is plentiful, easier and possibly faster work to complete. However, I encourage you to look beyond your current capabilities to determine whether renovation work will help smooth the way. Will a better mix of other systems installations help you reach that goal?
As the economy moves closer to an inevitable recession, you will find owners upgrading or replacing their fire alarm systems because they determine moving to a newer building is not in the cards.
Dodge Data and Analytics predicts construction starts will fall 4% in 2020 in the United States in an orderly pullback. They also predict there will be no recession. According to Dodge chief economist Richard Branch, “The decline, however, will be nothing like the Great Recession, and there will not be a recession in the overall economy. Instead, growth will slow.”
This is the best time to better educate your current technician base in proper, efficient installation techniques of fire alarm systems. This effort will also help you to retain good technicians during a downturn, no matter how mild. A downturn also presents the opportunity to hire those experienced technicians you cannot get now. You need to plan to have the necessary work for your expanded workforce so that you can continue to grow, even in a recession.
To be prepared for a downturn, a good mix of fire alarm systems, both for new and existing buildings, will help you to stay on target to meet your goals. Use specialty systems installations, such as fire alarm and mass notification systems, to meet your goal of continued growth.
Remember, Napoleon Hill said, “Drifting, without aim or purpose, is the first cause of failure.”
Don’t drift. Plan.