Houston, we don’t have a problem

I was at a ‘meet the new head’ breakfast at my eldest son’s school.
I got chatting to one of the fathers, as you do.
We cantered through the usual topics of football, TOWIE (shared guilty pleasure), cricket, tennis and music.
And inevitably arrived at what each other does for a living.
It turns out Mr Houston (my son Henry’s friend Peter’s father) runs his family’s carpentry and plumbing business.
I quizzed him about the impact of everyone tightening their belts and supposedly putting off those home improvement undertakings.
He said that living in the village means he has a steady flow and a good referral system.
I asked if he was worried about business dropping off unexpectedly and before you know it you’re in trouble … Jane Norman, Habitat, MFI and Woolworths jumping to mind
He replied very confidently “No”and then explained that his father had handed down a fail proof system to check you were always okay which was based on being able to answer three questions.
• Number of quotes made to jobs booked
• Number of working days completed in previous month
• How far in the future work is scheduled in for
I was impressed.
I’ve worked with MD’s and CEO’s who couldn’t tell me what Peter’s father could.
He knows what the important measures of success are for his business, better than some big businesses do.
Peter’s father went on to state what these need to be.
• Converting 3 in 5 quotes
• Spend no more than three days down time in a month
• Have two months scheduled work ahead of what’s underway
Interestingly, no mention of money.
He explained with this information he controlled pricing, resourcing, services, quality control and production.
What his father’s father referred to as the ‘three answers system’ I know as the dashboard…
With these dials understood, a business can grow. With them in the red or over heating the business will break down unless it makes a change.
Ask yourself, do you honestly know your businesses dashboard dials as clearly as Peter’s father does?
Do you know when they are going into the red, or when they are at full speed?
And what would you do? Panic? Cut costs or resources? Overprice?
Peter’s father always has one eye on the ‘dials’.
No knee jerk price slashing or resource cutting for him.
Peter’s father has no concerns about the years ahead for his business.
His dashboard keeps all of this regulated for him.
We compared dashboards.
I think it is in part the difference between competitive success and failure.
The evening zipped by as we understood more about each other’s businesses.
Peter’s father said he would call me if his dials ever went red or blew up.
And I asked him to pop round and look at a plumbing requirement for us at home.
Between you and I, I think there will only ever be one of us needing the others services here.
So, consultant, carpenter or chairman – know your dashboard!
And who knows, you might just be as successful as Mr Houston.

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