It’s summer. Compressors are whining and dying. Demand service is on the rise. Trucks are trucking. Money is flowing. But when the stress, tempers, and irritability are all rising faster than a Texas thermometer, it’s time to sharpen the saw.

Stephen Covey coined the phrase, “sharpen the saw” in his landmark book, The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People. He explained the concept by comparing two lumberjacks who were competing to cut down the most trees. One went at the task with a vengeance. When he paused and couldn’t hear his competitor, he figured he was taking a break so he redoubled his effort, certain he would be the victor. To his dismay, he lost. Puzzled how his competitor could beat him when he took a number of breaks, he asked him. “I wasn’t taking breaks,” the competitor said. “I was sharpening my saw.”

All of us need to sharpen our personal saws. Our business may not be running smoothly enough that we can take off for a week in the summer, but we can get away for a weekend. Set down your fireman’s hat and find a beach. Spend a weekend on a lake. Kayak down a river. Visit friends. Read books. Do something completely different than chasing after your technicians, handling disputes between your installers and salespeople, and smoothing over the customer service representatives’s office drama.

When you take a break from the grind and mentally put yourself in a different state of mind, all sorts of benefits accrue. The summer stress may not go away, but it will bother you less. Irritants will be less irritating. You will be more even-keeled and less likely to panic or explode. Your energy levels will be higher and your mistakes will be fewer. Like the winning lumberjack in Covey’s parable, you will be more productive and you will make more money.

How often do you need to sharpen your saw?

Whenever it starts to get dull.

 

 

You will need to sharpen it again and again and again. Moreover, you will need to sharpen it in different ways. Sharpen it daily by taking 30 minutes at the start, middle, or end of the day to read Internet blogs, catch up on Contracting Business.com magazine, or read a business book.

Join some type of networking or professional service organization that forces interaction with other business professionals and leaders in your community. Eating lunch once a week with community centers of influence is not only good for your business, it broadens your horizons. Believe it or not, a lunch conversation with a dentist, real estate agent, or banker really can spark you to reassess the way you consider a problem.

Every so often, get completely away from the business with your family. People outside of the world of contracting call these vacations. Try them. You will like them.

Other times, we need to be around our own kind. These are people who really can feel our pain. Two or three times a year, you should interact with other contractors, sharing war stories, learning about different approaches to the same problems we face, and sometimes taking solace from the fact you aren’t the only one with a prima donna who performs so well, you don’t want to let him or her go. We need to feed our brains, learning about new methods of doing business and the latest innovations, whether product related or service related.

Matt Michel, CEO, The Service RoundtableIn early September, an excellent opportunity to sharpen your business saw exists at Comfortech 2014 and the International Roundtable in Nashville. Not only will you get to learn from the industry’s top contractors and consultants, but you’ll have plenty of opportunity to kick back and interact with other contractors at the social events, and to learn about new products at the trade show. I’ll be there. I haven’t missed one yet.

Stop by and say hello.

For the guaranteed lowest rate to attend Comfortech 2014, call the Service Roundtable at 877.262.3341 or visit www.ServiceRoundtable.com. Service Roundtable members will also have a special members only track and meeting immediately before Comfortech. Don’t miss this opportunity.

Matt Michel is CEO of the Service Roundtable (ServiceRoundtable.com). The Service Roundtable is an organization founded to help contractors improve their sales, marketing, operations, and profitability. Call toll free: 877/262-3341 for more information about how to join.