by Bill Prosch
When evaluating a business for sale, business brokers often consider the “intangibles” in the value of the business.
What are these intangibles? They are things you can’t see or touch.
For instance, your company has a certain culture, and depending on how well you’ve cultivated that culture, it can add value. You can’t see or touch the culture, but it’s there. It’s part of the company brand. The same applies on a personal level to attitude. Your attitude is a part of your personal brand. When it comes to the effect attitude has on work, I really had my eyes opened in 1976. That’s when I met a guy named Duncan Hardin.
Here’s some background… we will get to Duncan soon.
At 21, working as a carpet and hardwood installer, I was in the best shape of my life. I’m not a big guy. In fact, I have seldom hit my head on anything. But, at that time, I still held the record at my former high school for the heaviest amount of weight ever bench pressed. And, like some people that age, I was just a little cocky.
Granted, I wouldn’t know everything there was to know, at least in my mind, for another four years (the pinnacle of my cockiness), but my co-worker, Jim, and I could install 200 yards of carpet each day and be on our way home by 6 p.m. We thought we were awesome. That is, until our company experienced a surge in business and Jim and I, along with the other installers, couldn’t keep up with the workload.
My boss decided the best way to deal with this surge was to bring in some outside help. By pairing his in-house installers with outside talent, he could temporarily double the size of his installation team without sacrificing the quality our company had become known for. He had just the guy in mind to work with me. The boss claimed this guy could help us get some serious stuff done. The way my boss described him, I expected to meet Arnold Schwarzenegger’s bigger brother.
When 50-year-old, 5-foot 4-inch, 120-pound Duncan Hardin walked through the door, I was underwhelmed. My initial thought was that his biggest accomplishment for the day would be climbing into my four-wheel drive work van. But I was wrong. Way wrong.
The biggest, best part of Duncan demonstrated itself almost immediately when he said, “Hi fellas! What do we get to do today?” Duncan exuded a positive attitude and a genuine confidence unlike anything I had ever experienced. You immediately lost all sight of his diminutive physical appearance and were instantly drawn to him. This guy actually wanted to work! But I was still skeptical. A great attitude is one thing, but having a 50-year-old elf as a helper is quite another.
We loaded up my van and began the half-hour drive to the jobsite. The half-hour went by in a heartbeat as Duncan wanted to hear all about me and my family. There was even enough time to learn a little about him. But, as soon as we got to the jobsite, it was all business. We surveyed the job, decided on a plan, got to work, and finished our 200-yard job by 2 p.m. —four hours earlier than it always took Jim and me to finish the same size job.
The next morning, Duncan once again bounced through the front door asking, “Hi fellas! What do we get to do today?” This time, I didn’t see Duncan as an elf. I simply saw him as a co-worker. When I told him we were doing a virtual repeat of the day before in the same model of house, he smiled and whispered to me “Hey, let’s see if we can beat yesterday’s time by half an hour!” And we did. What’s important to understand is that we were paid on a piece-work basis, not by the hour. So, technically, the faster we completed a job, the more per hour we earned. Getting back to the shop early allowed me to clean out my truck, load up for the next day, and get home early to spend time with my one-year-old daughter.
The following day, when Duncan popped through the door with his now normal greeting and question of “Hi fellas! What do we get to do today?”, I didn’t see an elf or a co-worker. I saw a giant. This time, Duncan said, “We’re never going to beat yesterday’s time, but let’s do this — if we match it, I’m buying lunch.”
As Duncan and I were sitting in the restaurant having lunch, he told me about the stuff he loved in life. Duncan wasn’t married and he didn’t have kids. He had a Golden Retriever named Buddy and a passion for fly fishing. After work each day, Duncan would load up Buddy and his kayak and go fishing. And I think Duncan invented the selfie. He had a camera mounted on his kayak with a remote shutter release that he activated every time he hooked a fish. When he got the fish close to the kayak, he would release the hook from its mouth, thank the fish for the competition, and let it go.
Before long, we caught up with the backlog of work. Duncan went back to his regular job, and Jim and I began working together again. But now, it was different. Every morning I would walk into the shop and say, “Hey Jim, what do we get to do today?”
Duncan didn’t make me a better carpet installer in the technical aspects. He didn’t show me better ways to lay out carpet in a house or show me any shortcuts. But Duncan taught me that my attitude about work could make all the difference. To this day, I start each morning asking myself, “What do I get to do today?” It’s a little change in my attitude, but it makes a huge difference in my performance.
Perhaps your personal brand could become more valuable with just a small change in attitude. Try asking yourself, “What do I get to do today?” and see what happens.
Bill Prosch, CR, is a Business Development Adviser for Violand Management Associates (VMA), a highly-respected consulting company in the restoration and cleaning industries. Prosch is a leading expert in operations and a Certified Restorer. He has a deep understanding of entrepreneurial challenges having owned and operated a successful restoration company for more than 30 years. Through Violand, he works with companies to develop their people and their profits. To reach him, visit violand.com or call (800)360-3513.