In Zig Ziglar’s ham story, he describes how the bride in a newly married couple cut off the end of the ham before baking it. Her husband asked why. The wife responded that her mother always cut of the end of the ham and that was the way it was supposed to be.

Not accepting “the way it was supposed to be,” the husband called his mother-in-law and asked why she cut of the end of the ham before baking. The response was that her mother cut of the end of the ham.

More curious than ever, the husband called grandma and asked her why she cut off the end of the ham. The answer was that she had a small oven and that was the only way to get the ham to fit.

Grandma had a reason for cutting off the end of the ham. The next two generations did not. They were blindly following custom without rhyme or reason. It was “the way it was supposed to be.”

How many of your customs do you follow because you perceive them to be the way they are supposed to be? Probably several.

For years the way it was supposed to be in the industry was to charge customers time and materials. Many still believe that’s the way it’s supposed to be despite surveys revealing over 90% consumer preference for contractors providing a firm, upfront, fixed, flat rate price. In fact, the last large scale survey showed that the majority of contractors still charged time and materials. And this was only a few years ago.

How complicated is your pricing system? Could it be simplified? Why not?

How about technician pay? Most contractors who accept the need to use flat rate pricing continue to pay technicians for their time, not their performance. Why not pay the same way you charge? Why not pay for performance?

I know. There are many reasons. Yet, progressive contractors have figured out solutions. They’re enjoying greater prosperity while their techs are making more money than ever. Why not you?

Do you stop scheduling at 5:00 p.m. every day? How about Saturday and Sunday? When opportunity knocks (or rings) do you wait until Monday morning or answer the call, make the sale, and install the system while your competitor’s still sleeping? Why can’t you work your techs and crews four days on and three days off?

How about your material mark-up methods? Do you mark-up material based on a hand-me-down mark-up table that may or may not have been appropriate 30 years ago when it was first developed for a specific contractor who incorporated it into a flat rate system that was since replicated and sold?

What about your terms of sale? Do you still carry customers because that’s the way it’s supposed to be? Or do you let Visa and Mastercard carry them while you carry cash in the bank?

Do you still depend on the yellow pages as one of your primary sources of lead generation? Or have you begun migrating to pay per click, paid search, and other forms of Internet marketing. For that matter, do you read your news in print or electronically?

Why do you sell the line of equipment you sell? Is it because it’s what you’ve always sold? Or, is it the line that offers you the greatest combination of pricing, reliability, and support?

Why do you buy a certain brand of trucks for service and not another? Do you absolutely need a full size cargo van? Or could a smaller vehicle like the Transit Select work? Or, maybe a taller vehicle like a Sprinter, which offers a larger billboard to promote your company message would work for you?

Why are your trucks white and not another, more distinctive color? Why do you take up so much space with the phone number on the sides when it could be reduced in size and placed on the cab door to free up more space for a cleaner marketing message or for your website?

Why do you cut off the ham in your business? It’s the second decade of the new millennium. It’s time to question everything. Why do you do the things you do? Is it for a reason or habit? Is there a better way? Are you being constrained by the limitations of the past?

Break free of conventional wisdom and past practice. Look forward to unlimited opportunities and new approaches to your business.

Matt Michel is the CEO of the very affordable Service Roundtable and comprehensive Service Nation Alliance, which help contractors break free of the restraints of the past. For a free tour of the Service Roundtable and/or to learn more about the Service Nation Alliance, call toll free 877.262.3341. Don’t be limited. Explore something new and innovative.