by Tom Grandy
Yes, you read the title of this article right. But, let me rephrase the question a bit. If you and your wife have been married for 25 years and were having some problems in your relationship, would you schedule an appointment with an unmarried 21-year-old graduate whose parents are divorced? Sounds a bit foolish, but many marriage counseling services are staffed with people I just described. I understand that they may have Master’s degrees or PhDs and are trained on communication techniques and theories. But, if I were looking for help, I would want to seek out someone who has been married for 40 years who could provide some “practical” advice.
To be fair, I have not interviewed couples who have used the services of our recently graduated, unmarried marriage counselor; but I have a hunch that some of the advice may not be based on wisdom that can only come from experience. On the other hand, suggestions from an older couple who has “been there and done that” would probably help the couple’s marriage relationship a lot.
Last week I spent three days providing free coaching sessions for contractors at the National Air Conditioning Contractors Convention in Charlotte, North Carolina. The sessions went really well, with most contractors picking up a few tips from the old guy who has been providing business training to the industry for nearly 30 years.
Part of each initial conversation centered around the contractor’s experience at the convention. Nearly everyone said it had been a great experience and they had learned a lot. I usually responded with, “I know the seminars were probably terrific, but I’ll bet you learned more by talking with contractors one-on-one than you did by attending many of breakout sessions.” Literally 100% of the contractors I talked to agreed. The real, down-to-earth, practical advice came from talking with other contractors. That is not a slam on the presenters – after all, I am one of those guys! But, when it comes to relating and asking personal business questions, they wanted to talk to someone who had “been there and done that.”
It has been my experience that contractors who are part of a mixed group of peers have found it to be their most valuable asset when it comes to answering everyday questions about their businesses.
In case you are unfamiliar with the term mixed group, it normally consists of 4-6 contractors who do similar types of work, with each living in non-competing territories. They typically meet two to four times a year, taking turns at each other’s facilities. Each visit consists of evaluating the host company’s business while often covering a specific topic like hiring, marketing, KPI’s (key performance indicators), etc. following the company evaluation. What begins as a couple of in-person visits a year quickly evolves into monthly, or even weekly, phone calls covering specific needs to see if others in the group might have some input. They usually do! Every contractor in every trade who I have talked to that is part of a mixed group tells me the same thing. They say it is the best investment they have ever made of of their time, energy and resources.
I encourage you to attend conventions, sign up for seminars, and attend chapter meetings and/or live webinars. You will undoubtedly pick up some great tips that will help your business. However, if you are willing to be honest with others, while receiving practical time tested advice, I would strongly suggest you consider being part of a mixed group.