Spinning So Many Plates at the Same Time Can Make You Dizzy

It’s Up to You How Many You Spin

This title might seem familiar, and it should. I used a very similar one for a post in March of 2018. That post’s focus was on trying to run a business without a plan.

This post is going to address a different question that has been coming up in almost every construction conversation I’ve had over the past several weeks. These discussions have been with other contractors, sub-contractors, my team, customers, and even with people in other industries. This is not a new topic but seems to be reaching an increased ‘plate breaking’ point.

Most of us have seen plate spinning acts in some form or another. When I was growing up, I remember seeing Erich Brenn performing his plate spinning act on the popular Ed Sullivan Show. I remember him running back and forth, trying to keep all the different plates spinning at the same time. It was amazing. (Be sure to watch this video)

I’ll bet you’ve felt just like him.

Most businesses are operated in a way that feels a lot like trying to keep all those plates spinning at the same time. Just like the performer who keeps putting more and more spinning plates up on the end of sticks, we keep trying to do more and more.

There is a limit to how much we can do. We can only run back and forth keeping the plates spinning for so long before they start falling and breaking. This means there is a maximum number of people that we can provide service to, before things begin falling around us.

Why do we continually keep adding more plates?

That is the million-dollar question. There seems to be some inherent traits that self-employed people are born with that causes us to continually take on more. I believe that it is directly connected to having a servant’s heart. We have a God given talent that someone needs the benefit of. We instinctively say yes to help those in need of it.

The problem of course, is that there is a limit. A limit to how much we can do, to the amount of time we have each day, to the number of people we can help. And we instinctively know this. When we say yes to that next thing, the voice inside our head says, “How are you going to do that?”. We shrug our shoulders and say yes anyway.

Trying to do everything makes it hard to do anything well.

This is a problem that has been around as long as people have. The question is…What are we going to do about it? How are we going to get this plate spinning madness under control? I keep asking myself this question over and over.

The answer to this question is inside each of us and there are as many answers as there are people asking the question. The answer starts with realizing the problem and recognizing that we have control over it. We can choose to answer it or pretend it doesn’t exist and keep spinning more and more plates.

This is where things begin to get tricky. Looking for and figuring out your answer, the one that is exclusively yours, takes time. I know that you are already too busy spinning plates to add another.

If you don’t spin this plate you will never keep the rest spinning.

It’s Important to Have the Right Tool for the Job

And There’s More to the Right Tool Than Meets the Eye

For those of you that remember the TV sitcom “Home Improvement” you’ll remember Tim ‘the Tool Man’s’ attempts to give everything from cars to household appliances “more power” and the infamous ‘grunts’ that accompanied this.

There’s something primal in finding a new tool and learning to use it.

You’ve heard it said that, “The way to a man’s heart is through his stomach.”, which I agree works pretty well. However, I would argue that an even better way is…give him a new power tool.

There is a tool out there for every job and often times more than one. As cool as tools are, they’re worthless if you don’t have them, don’t know how to use them and then actually do so.

The biggest “tool” problem is…the lack of “business system tools”.

Most “construction guys” would prefer to use a circular saw or screw gun rather than a computer. Paperwork usually isn’t what they think of when considering tools.

One of the most important tools in the “construction tool” arsenal is paperwork. Profitability and the success of the company hinges on the accuracy and knowledge of income and expenses. It requires having the right tools, knowing how to use them and then actually doing so. 

One such tool is the Blueprint for Building a Better Proposal system. Early on I had no system for doing proposals and like most contractors I guessed. That’s when I decided that I had had enough and developed a system that took the guess work out of proposals. I’ve been using and refining this Blueprint for Building a Better Proposal for more than 25 years. You can use this same tool by purchasing the downloadable system (complete with templates, instructions, and examples). This way you can stop rolling the dice with your profits and take control of your money and your business.

In talking with construction companies about the bidding process they all see the benefits of having a system but can’t see the value for the price. These same people wouldn’t think twice about spending hundreds or thousands of dollars to buy cordless tool kits or pneumatic nail guns and compressors, not to mention the price of skid loaders.

The real question is value…not price.

When considering tools, you should consider the return on your investment. Those power tools that you purchase are going to wear out over time and need to be replaced. The Blueprint for Building a Better Proposal won’t. You can purchase the Blueprint for Building a Better Proposal for less than the price of a good quality cordless tool kit and the return on that investment is priceless.

Having the right tools, knowing how to use them, and then actually doing so can be the difference of having a successful company or giving up and going out of business.

You’ve never been afraid to get a new power tool and learn how to use it.

Don’t be afraid to get a new “proposal power tool” and learn to use it either.

The Difficulties of Doing Things You Don’t Know How To

What to Do When Faced with Something You’ve Never Been Taught

When faced with things that we aren’t proficient in, there’s really only three options.

  • Attempt to do it ourselves
  • Hire a professional
  • Close our eyes and pretend like it’s not happening

There are variations of these, but ultimately these are the three choices.

We all have our own areas of expertise and skill. I don’t know about you, but mine isn’t marketing. Marketing is defined as “the activity and processes for creating, communicating, delivering, and exchanging offerings that have value for customers, clients, partners, and society at large”. The term developed from the original meaning which referred literally to going to market with goods for sale.

As entrepreneurs we tend to be of the mindset that we can figure “it” out whatever “it” is.

I know this is certainly my default approach to obstacles. An “I’ve got this” attitude can be an asset…it can also be a liability. It’s great to learn new things and I like knowing how things work. This learning comes at a cost.

In my forty plus years of doing construction I’ve learned a lot about building, both physical construction and how to operate a successful business. One of the things that I’ve never needed to know much about is marketing. When doing quality work and taking care of customers, word of mouth is marketing enough.

Whether it’s time or money, there’s a cost.

Now that we’re expanding our business to include business coaching, systems and training as well as customer consulting and educating, we need some marketing.

For several years I’ve been working on this. Trying to learn how while not spending any money. Then I spent a little money here and there on programs that I thought might be the trick with still no traction.

After years of very little forward progress, earlier this year I decided that I had “closed my eyes and pretended like it’s wasn’t important” for long enough.

At that point I began investing in myself and my idea. I started by joining Kingdom Builders Mastermind. It’s not cheap. In that mastermind I met Bryan Switalski who is a digital marketer using the Story Brand system which I had already been working to learn. I’ve hired him to help me with a lead generator and some sales funnel work. Through Bryan and Becky Warner another mastermind member. I found out they along with Dean Kaneshiro were getting ready to start a 90-Day Launch course. Designed to get a product to market in 90 days.  

This is a substantial investment of time and money, but

What has it cost me in the time over the last 6-7 years and I haven’t sold anything yet?

I realized as I was going through this process to improve my marketing, that the same reasons that I hadn’t moved forward sooner, are the same reasons construction companies don’t do accurate and consistent proposals.

They never learned how.

They’ve either came up with a “guess-timation” way of giving customers prices or they’ve “closed their eyes and pretended it’s not important”. Either way the outcome isn’t very good.

This is precisely why I designed the Blueprint for Building a Better Proposal system. The peace of mind and lack of stress alone is worth the investment of time and money.

How to Make Wise Business Decisions

Having a DeLorean Time Machine Would be Helpful

I’ve been fighting more dragons than normal over the last few weeks. When speaking of dragons, I’m referring to the business difficulties and struggles that seem to come in herds or clans. (This is one name for a group of dragons)

Throughout my years of being in construction I have witnessed the gap between construction companies and customers. To narrow this gap construction companies need better business systems and customers need to have the process explained.

Narrowing this gap is the reason for Solution Building.

This onslaught of dragons is the culmination of the Timber Creek Construction production workload and trying to find time to build the business in coaching and consulting. This sense of overload has pushed me to consider what things on the long list should be given the priority spot.

As I have discussed this topic with different people one of the questions that continued to come up was…How important are your blog posts, currently, to moving things toward the goal? That is the question.

How important are these posts to you subscribers?

So –

If you read this post clear through, let me know in the comments below.

If you like getting these posts weekly, let me know in the comments below.

If there are things you like or dislike about my writing, subjects or post schedule, let me know in the comment below.


Negative Communication Can Be the Most Positive

Saying No Is Hard, But Often the Best Answer

Just Say NO was an anti-drug advertising campaign from the 1980s. This campaign was aimed at discouraging children from engaging in illegal drug use by offering various ways to say no. Saying no is hard to do in all sorts of situations not just drugs.

We need to initiate a “Just Say NO” campaign for other things to.

“No” is one of the first words we learn. Two-year-olds are famous for saying “no”. They use this word more than any other. It’s an easy word to say and at two, they’ve heard it as much or more than most. These toddlers are on to something; it’s okay to say NO!

As we mature, we are looking for acceptance and inclusion. One of the ways to avoid being left out is to say yes to everything. I think this is where the problem with saying “no” starts.

Not only is “no” one of the first words we learn, it’s also one of the first words we forget.

As adults we continue to want to be accepted and continue saying yes. This week one of the things on my mastermind accountability list is: Say no to at least one thing that I would normally say yes to. As I thought more about this, I realized I had written about this several times. Here is an excerpt from a post I wrote late in 2019 discussing this topic of saying “no”.


We can’t DO everything.

Our natural desire to help others is a big driving force behind too many yes’s. There are so many people with so many needs. A servant’s heart leads us to over promise. This can be controlled, but it requires intentional actions. Especially in business, we don’t want to say no to any potential opportunity. Too many yes’s is not a good way to treat customers. Trying to be everything to everybody isn’t a good business plan.

The big question is how do I know what to say yes to?

This is definitely a big question and one that’s hard to answer. As we begin to approach the end of 2019, I’m beginning to think about 2020 and all the things I want to do. As I think through the list it becomes clear that clarity is needed.

Focusing on the right yes’s is going to be my goal for 2020. After all, 2020 is perfect vision. It isn’t going to be easy, but it can be done. It will require a clear plan of what the highest priorities are and removing things from the list that don’t qualify.


Here we are, half way through the year and I don’t feel that I’ve done a very good job of being clear on my yes’s and saying no. I can’t change the past only the future. The process of growing and improving is a never ending one and we will never be perfect at it this side of heaven.

I can either quit trying or keep working at getting better.

A few weeks ago, in one of our mastermind meetings Ray Edwards said something that I’ve heard several times before but sums this up well.

“You can do ANYTHING you want; you just can’t do EVERYTHING you want.”

What am I going to say “NO” to this week?

What are you going to say “NO” to this week?

Share your “NOs” in the comments below.

What is it About Proposals That Construction Companies Don’t Like?

That’s Okay…I Think They Want to Know Too

Last week I wrote about making construction proposals better. I shared some of the problems caused when communication with customers isn’t clear. As a business owner you are the professional and it’s your responsibility to provide clear communication.

A professional is one who is engaged in or suitable for a specific profession; is engaged in a given activity as a source of livelihood or career; having or showing great skill, an expert.

If you’re in the business of construction and aren’t providing your customers with a clear description of the work you are going to do, including an accurate and set price, then you are operating as an amateur. Someone who engages in an occupation on an unpaid basis; someone who is incompetent or inept at a particular activity.

A professional takes their occupation more seriously than an amateur.


If a construction company strives to be professional, why would they not provide their customers with a thorough and accurate proposal? I think there are four main reasons for this.

Don’t have enough time – It takes more time to prepare a detailed written proposal than scratching out a few numbers quickly. People in the construction industry are already so busy they struggle to keep up. Having limited time to get the physical work done, it’s hard to spend any preparing proposals. The problem is, without an accurate proposal that communicates clearly, the chances of losing money increases.

Spending the time in the beginning will pay dividends in the end.

Don’t like doing paperwork – I started doing construction because I loved to build, to see something that I built with my own hands. This is how most people in construction feel. They learned the trade and like it. The problem is that no one ever taught them business operations. Doing paperwork doesn’t feel like construction. They don’t get the same rewarding feeling as they do from building something.

Without accurate paperwork building becomes a hobby.

No one ever taught me – It’s hard to know how to do something if you’ve never been shown how. When you learned your trade, you didn’t start out knowing how. You learned it over time with someone showing you or through trial and error. Either way the learning process took time. The important thing to remember is, the more tips and tricks you were shown the quicker you learned. Aren’t you glad that someone taught you the trade?

It’s never to late to learn something new.

This is the way we’ve always done it – The older we get, the less we like change and contractors are among the worst. You’ve figured out something that works, or at least seems to, why change. Just because what you’re currently doing seems to work…it doesn’t mean that there isn’t something better. If you hadn’t gone through the process of falling down and getting up, falling down and getting up, you would still be crawling.

Aren’t you glad you tried something different?

What if I told you –  

  • The time you spend doing proposals will provide you peace of mind and more consistent revenue.
  • You don’t have to do paperwork if you hate it.
  • I can teach you how to do proposals just like you learned your trade.
  • Change is the only way you will stop crawling.

Doing proposals before you’re ready feels like trying to run a marathon when all you know is how to crawl.

Communicating clearly through proposals is the act of a professional. If you want to learn how to do professional proposals, check out our Blueprint for Building a Better Proposal.

If you have other reasons that you or someone you know doesn’t do proposals, let us know in the comments below.

How to Make a Construction Proposal Better

The First Thing is to Figure Out What You’re Doing Wrong

As a building contractor that has been involved in construction for over forty years a common topic of conversation, as you might have guessed is…construction. When talking with people who had construction projects done (not my customers) one of the more common remarks is “That was the worst experience of my life.” This is not the way a construction experience should be.

The experience of building a dream project should be one of the best!

When digging into their feelings deeper the problems almost always came down to these issues.

  • Misunderstandings due to poor or no communication
  • Blindsided by cost overruns or hidden costs
  • The completed project wasn’t what they wanted or expected
  • Didn’t understand construction terminology
  • Poor quality workmanship and materials
  • Cluttered and unorganized job site
  • Left hanging part way through an unfinished project
  • Lack of scheduling or poor time management

As a construction professional you should read these posts to give you the customer’s perspective:

            How to Prevent Your Construction Projects from Falling Apart

            There’s a High Cost to No Communication

            What Should be Included in a Contractor’s Communication

            Lack of Quality, Honesty and Integrity

As building contractors we have a responsibility to do everything in our power to prevent these situations from happening.

As a contractor you might say, “But customers are so hard to deal with. They expect so much and want it done cheap. They’re so demanding.” My response to you is, “Then why are you in this business?” You’re the professional. You choose this.

If you don’t love what you’re doing, then you haven’t found your vocation.

This is not to say that there won’t be difficulties in construction sometimes, but my experiences have been completely different. It comes down to a few simple things that when done well make the experience pleasurable for both the customer and the contractor.

The majority of the problems between construction companies and customers come down to poor communication. These issues can be minimized with thorough and accurate proposals. When I started in business, I had no idea how to do proposals, so I did like most…I guessed.

Doing accurate proposals that communicate clearly, doesn’t have to be a roll of the dice.

So, if you’re pricing construction projects like I did when I began. Maybe you could use some help and I would love to help you with this. So that I can know where you could use help the most, I need answers to some questions.

As a building contractor –

  • Have you ever had issues with customer’s, if so what were they?
  • Did these issues involve poor communication?
  • Do you currently do proposals, estimates, time and material or just guess?
  • What is your biggest issue when pricing construction projects?
  • How do you determine the cost of labor and material?
  • How do you determine overhead and profit?
  • How do you communicate the work to be done with sub-contractors and/or employees?
  • What would make your process better?

Here’s a link to these questions if you would go there and answer these questions it will be helpful to us so that we can help you. Or you can answer them in the comments below.

Let us help you to communicate clearer, be more profitable and reduce your stress with a Blueprint for Building a Better Proposal.

It’s Hard to Remember That Not Everyone Gets It Like I Do

We Have to Look at it From Their Perspective

We are so close to who we are and what we know that when we’re communicating with others, we assume they understand. This is not the case. Most of the time when we’re talking about that thing we do…they’re overwhelmed.

We need to sperate ourselves from our calling if we’re going to communicate clearly.

We forget, or don’t even know, that what seems so basic and simple to us, isn’t to them. We’ve all been made with a specific unique gift, one that only we have. Sure, as many people as there are, there’s overlap. I’m not the only construction contractor in the whole world. I am however, the only one who does it the way that I do it.

This situation has become evident in several different situations recently.

Last week I wrote about my preparing to work with Bryan Switalski with Clarity Consulting. After our meeting I was feeling more overwhelmed than before. I was questioning if I had what it was going to take to do the digital marketing thing.

The next day was our weekly mastermind meeting. As I listened to the others in the group share their frustrations in connecting with the people who they knew would benefit from their knowledge or products. In my mind I was saying “Amen, preach it.”

Often before when listening to the group I would feel overwhelmed and inadequate. Listening to them I thought I was in way over my head. They would use terms that I didn’t know or understand. What struck me the most this day was how I realized that they’re struggling with the same struggles I am.

Then the light bulb came on. They, like me, were too close to their calling.

Their struggle, like mine, is the need to step back and look at this from the customer’s perspective. Over the years I’ve figured out how to do this with my construction customers without even knowing I was doing it.

This was confirmed the next day when I met with some potential customers for the third time. As we reviewed the floorplan of the remodeling project, they had questions. As we discussed the project more, I became aware of additional information that helped guide the direction of the project. Now we’re heading in the direction moving them toward their dream.

Too often contractors wouldn’t meet this many times or listen this much. Too often customers would just presume that the first plan was the only plan and this is as close to their dream as they’re going to get.

Now if I can learn to do this same thing with coaching and consulting customers.

After meeting with the construction customers, I began to think about my meeting with Bryan. As a customer I didn’t feel that I had given him enough information to do his job. I was feeling that “lost and overwhelmed customer feeling”. I sent him an email apologizing for my earlier rambling when we met.

Later that same day I received a response with a 10 minute recorded video explanation of the plan and how the parts will fit together, more details, a reiterated short list of what he needs from me and the reassurance that this project will be great when we’re done.

I’m sure Bryan was thinking, this is so simple and easy, but he never hinted to that. That’s what we professionals do when we’re working in our called vocation.

It’s hard to remember that they don’t get it like we do and to view the project from their perspective.

Now I need to separate myself from my calling and come up with a list of reasons that construction contractors need to make better proposals.

I Need to Focus on What I Know How to Do

And I Don’t Know How to Do Everything

You’ve probably heard it said, “Doing the same thing over and over and expecting different results is the definition of insanity.” I have to remind myself of this often. I get started doing something a certain way and it’s hard to change directions.

We are creatures of habit.

My tendency is to try and do everything myself. I think this is a combination of who I am and my upbringing. Growing up on a farm if it needed done…we did it. This isn’t all bad, these things also contribute to my ability to think outside the box and find solutions.

The problem is, there’s not enough time to do everything. I need to be more focused on the things I do well. This doesn’t mean that we shouldn’t be learning new things. What it does means is that we need to be intentional about what we invest our time doing.

Focus is hard, especially when there’s no revenue.

A few weeks ago, I wrote about how frustrating it is, to be doing something and not be achieving the expected results. This frustration increases when you’re sure it’s the thing you’re supposed to be doing. I’ve tried several different things to get my message out to construction companies and customers who desperately need it. CRICKETS

For years I’ve been faithfully writing and publishing Weekly Solutions. I estimate I’ve spent upwards of 2000 hours researching, writing, editing, publishing, etc. Even at a small hourly rate of $35/hour that comes up to $70,000.00. That’s a pretty big investment to have generated no revenue.

Another part of my farm upbringing was frugality. I don’t like spending money on things if I can’t see a clear return. This coupled with my “I can do this” attitude. I struggle with the idea of employing help. Looking at the numbers above, hiring would’ve probably had a better return on investment.

If I want things to change, I need to do something different.

The frustration led me to do several things different this year. I joined Kingdom Builders Mastermind hosted by Ray Edwards. In my cautious world this is a sizable investment. It’s been an investment worth every penny.

Through this group I’ve become connected with others who have experience and skills that I don’t. One such person is StoryBrand Certified Guide, Bryan Switalski with Clarity Consulting. We discussed the possibilities that could be achieved in my hiring him to help me with my digital marketing, clarifying my message and getting that message to those who need it.

My naivete with the digital marketing world is evident when you consider the amount of time invested and lack of accomplishment. I was a little unsure of moving forward with this due to the cost. We discussed options and ways to break the big project into smaller ones.

After looking at the cost of the time I had invested, considering what other things I could have been doing with that time it looks like a good investment to me. Oh, not to mention earlier posts I wrote about this very thing as it relates to construction and the value of a professional and whether or not to hire. I really should take my own advice.

So, if I don’t want to be considered insane, I need to make some changes.

Bryan and I are meeting next week to get started. There are some new and exciting things coming. Something that would be helpful is if you or any contractors you know would share with us your “construction proposal frustrations” in the comments below.


Can Communicating Too Much, Be Too Much?

For those of you who know me or know somebody that knows me. You know that I talk a little…okay…maybe I talk a lot.

When I was in grade school my Mom went to a parent/teacher conference. The teacher asked my Mom if I was forced to be quit at home. My mother said no and asked why. The teacher replied that she thought maybe I wasn’t allowed to talk at home and that was why I talked so much at school. Mom responded, “He talks all the time at home too.” I’ve realized over the years that this is a part of who I am. This doesn’t mean that I’m not continually working to rein in my talking. I also realize it’s part of how God made me and there are benefits as well.

Being able to communicate well is key to good relationships.

Communication is not just what we say, write, draw or even an expression or gesture we use. Communication is also what we hear or see. Hearing is a critical part of good communication. Quite often we forget that we need to listen to what our customers want or to hear the different idea that a team member has. We need to remember communication is a two-way process. I think this is why God gave us two ears, two eyes and only one mouth. He knew that the receiving part was twice as hard as the giving part. If we don’t communicate well, we can’t expect to have beneficial and productive relationships.

We all perceive things differently.

When figuring the price of a new home it can be difficult to know some specifics until after construction has started, i.e. the distance from electric meter to the house. These unknowns can be covered by allowances. Several years ago, while in the early stages of building a new home, we had included a 50’ allowance for running the electrical entrance from the pole to the house. As we were staking out for the house location on the property the customer pointed out that it was going to be 150’ from the electric pole to the house. He asked if that WAS GOING TO BE A PROBLEM. My partner responded. NO, IT WOULDN’T TO BE A PROBLEM. The construction continued and everything was fine…until the final billing. When we gave the customer the final bill with the additional cost for the extra 100’ he was angry. As we worked through this, it was clear what had happened. When the customer asked the question, what he really asked was, IS IT GOING TO COST MORE? When my partner responded what he was really saying was, PHYSICALLY IT CAN BE DONE. Being clear when we communicate is hard, but important.

If we say something once, then saying it 10 times is better.

Saying things enough without saying them too many times is a difficult balance. It’s better to over communicate rather than not communicate enough. This takes longer but can minimize if not eliminate misunderstandings later. This is the main reason that I have developed the Blueprint for Building a Better Proposal system that I use. It comes from years of attending the school of hard knocks. This system will give contractors and customers clarity about what the project includes

If there is going to be a misunderstanding, I don’t want it to be because of something that I didn’t communicate.