Sometimes you can just tell a great business when you see one.  Walking my dog this morning I happened across one of my neighbors getting their house resided.  The contractor was just setting up shop for the day and you could tell immediately that these guys were good.  First, their trucks and trailers were clean, late model, and extremely organized.  The only advertising they had was a customized front license plate on each of their trucks (this said to me that they had plenty of business).  The team was clean cut, wearing company tee shirts, and moved with a calm but methodical purpose.  They started by organizing their tools and materials and preparing their work environment.  Walking past their work trailer I was amazed by how organized it was.  The trailer had custom workbenches and storage made meticulously out of plywood and every tool and item had a place.  It looked as good as I am sure it was functional.  I was struck by the pace, it took me a while to figure out what was intriguing about it.  The weren’t rushing, but they had a purposeful pace that had no wasted effort, seemed extremely efficient.  It was sort of like an orchestra with an effortless, beautiful result.  All too often I experience contractor’s work areas that are messy and disheveled, they usually have people scrambling around with a herky jerky appearance.  Not here, while there were tools, material, and scrap around, it was all clean, neat, and orderly.  I can’t help but to come back to the term, graceful efficiency.

I am going to make some assumptions about this business just by observing it in action…

  • They have a large backlog of work
  • They have a low cost of sales
  • Their employee turnover is way below industry average
  • They receive few complaints from their customers
  • They get great reviews on social media / review sites
  • They charge average to slight premium rates
  • They make 3-5x industry average profits

Fast-forward…  I was doing my daily creeping today of the team in action and one of the young guys was by the trailer getting something.  There was a piece of material he was working on, on the sidewalk and he quickly moved it to get it out of my way.  Out of politeness I asked him if he was the owner (I figured the middle-aged gray hair guy was) and he said yes (I would later learn he was 26, he started and been running the business for 4 years).  Once I overcame my shock of his age, I introduced myself and shared my observations with him.  He was humble, but very conscious of his company.  Then I asked him about my assumptions above, I was right on every single one of them.

For the record, his name is Ryan Martin and his company is Martin Contracting and Design from Saxonburg, PA.  He has a bright future and if he continues on his trajectory will create ever increasing value for his customers, employees, community, and his family.

One of the key points I took away from these observations is that you don’t have to be running around at 100 miles per hour like a chicken with its head cut off to create results.  Planning, organization, purposeful execution are keys to success.  Obviously, results are the goal and without them nothing else matters.

In any business, regardless of industry, size, and geography, there are opportunities to be world class and run exponentially better businesses than the competition.

Is your business world class?