justin jacobs

Justin Jacobs
Marketing Coach

How Contractors Can Lose Trees in the Forest

With two jobs and two small children, my life is pretty busy. Most of my time is spent on someone else’s clock or falling into my wife’s well regimented planner full of t-ball games and dance classes. But every now and then I get a Saturday like this past one to catch up on some of the long overdue projects around the house. So, I rolled out my mile-long list of things needing to be fixed, installed, planted or painted.

Maybe my wife saw the overwhelmed look on my face and decided to rescue me, but she stepped in with a suggestion. “Can you trim the shrubs in the front yard, please?” We have company visiting in the next few days and it looked like our guests might need Tarzan to guide them from their cars to our front door, so I agreed that would be a good project for the day. I now had focus and a goal, so I was off and running.

I got my hedge clippers from the shed and began to set up operations. And as I did I noticed a tea olive tree beside my back fence that could use a haircut as well. I zoomed around the front and went into my backyard to get the other side where it had grown through my chain-link fence. That’s when things came unraveled. I looked around and saw all the shrubs and tree limbs reaching through and over my fence, overtaking my backyard. “How did I let it get this way?” I asked myself. My oldest child, who just turned four, loves to play on her backyard playground equipment, which, at the moment, looked vulnerable to a tiger attack. So, I dropped my hedge clippers, picked up my machete and decided I was going to reclaim dominion over my acre of suburban Earth.

Over the next several hours I hacked, chopped and sprayed the overgrown area around my backyard fence into submission. This was something I’d been meaning to do since we moved into that house five years ago and I was eager to show my wife what I had accomplished. Now the kids could play in the backyard with less fear of snakes and Mom would have one less thing to worry about. Score one for Super-Dad, right?

That night I came in dirty, sweaty and exhausted. After showering I hit the bed hard feeling proud of my day’s work. That is, until my wife asked a simple question that made all my sense of accomplishment go up in flames. “So, how do the shrubs up front look?” Yeah, I had forgotten all about the shrubs up front. You know, the main job… the one she had asked me to do… the one that needed to be done before the guests came… I had allowed myself to get so distracted by something I COULD be doing, I lost focus on the thing I NEEDED to be doing. Not that what I spent all day doing was bad, but it should have fallen somewhere around 97th on the priority list.

I’m sure you are familiar with the old saying, “He couldn’t see the forest for the trees.” That saying is used when someone gets so focused on minor details that they lose sight of the bigger picture. Well, that does NOT describe what happened to me last weekend. It was actually the opposite, I became so wide-eyed, seeing the entire forest (literally) in front of me that I started hacking wildly at anything and everything, forgetting my initial task altogether.     

I laughed a little when I realized what I’d done because it’s one of the exact things I warn contractors not to do during our coaching sessions. When you open Pandora’s Box and start looking at all the improvements that need to be made for your business, or even just on the marketing side, it’s easy to get overwhelmed. The website could probably use a little (or a lot) of attention. It’s been way too long since your customers have heard from you. You need new customers coming in as well, how are you reaching out to them? Have you taken advantage of PPC and looked at your analytics recently? I know, just like in my story working in the yard, you’re busy and only have so much time per week to focus on these things, so how do you make the most of it? The best advice I can give you is a word I should have spoken to myself on Saturday: FOCUS on the most important things first. Get a plan, fix what you set out to fix on THAT given day, and then move on to the backyard stuff that is of lesser consequence. If you don’t, you’ll end the day without much to show.

Put Your Blinders On

Last weekend also held the 146th running of the Kentucky Derby, and I’ll spare you my opinion on the controversial finish. But if you’ve ever watched a horse race you’ve probably noticed many of the horses wear an interesting piece of equipment that wraps around their eyes to block their peripheral view. These are called blinders, forcing them to look forward and away from other distractions. I think as humans we must put our blinders on from time to time if we ever hope to be productive.

I can’t tell you how many times very important marketing meetings get canceled because something else “more important” came up. Over and over marketing projects that could change someone’s business get started then put on the backburner and forgotten. Working 10 minutes each on 50 different projects fills up an 8-hour day, but it still leaves 50 different projects only 10% done. And none of them done well. I get it, life gets in the way and you’ve only got so much time to go around. Multitasking is a valuable skill, but sadly very few people do it well and it usually just leads to sloppy work, missed deadlines, and loss of sanity. The most successful contractors are the ones who know when to throw the blinders on, close the office door, block out time to focus on one or two important tasks and knock them out of the park.

Now, here’s where a marketing coach can be one of your most valuable assets as a contractor. Most businesses get into trouble when they fall into the trap I did – letting their “backyard” grow up for far too long, then it takes a major project to get things cleaned up again. How long has it been since you’ve taken the time to look at your marketing? How often do you do it? Has it been so long that thought terrifies you? If you schedule a regular time monthly, or even weekly if necessary, to look at the situation and do a little regular maintenance, chances are you can keep things manageable. Then you’ll have some expert advice on what’s the most pressing issue to target first and accountability to keep you on track until that job is done.

If you’d like to have some help on your side or if you’ve got a question about what our coaching program could look like for you, reach out to us at [email protected] or give us a call at (800) 489-9099. You’ve only got so much time, let us help you stay focused and make the most of it.

Hopefully you won’t learn this lesson the hard way like I did. I hope my neighbors don’t call the cops while I’m trimming my hedges by flashlight tonight.

Justin Jacobs
Marketing Coach




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