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Put Your BIG Priorities First!

George Hedley
Several years ago, after attending a time management workshop, I made a commitment to take charge of my construction company, put my priorities first and focus on building a business that works. I committed to focus on activities that produce the biggest return, delegate as much as possible, spend 33 percent of my time with customers and get home at a decent hour!

When Monday morning rolled around, I couldn’t wait to get to the office. I prioritized my tasks into several categories: must do, should do, could do and don’t have to do. Then I started getting calls and urgent e-mails, which put more immediate demands on my time. So I did what I always did: I went out and tried to fix everyone else’s problems for them.

When I finally got back to the office at 4 p.m., I realized I had missed lunch and my desk was piled with 25 new requests, all requiring my prompt attention. So much for getting to my priorities! Then my best customer called and asked me to play golf with him the next morning. He wanted to introduce me to his banker and talk about his next construction project. How could I play golf? There weren’t enough hours in the day! If you’re like most business owners, this has happened to you. You have good intentions and want to change the way you operate every day, but you just can’t make it happen.

Successful Business Owners Put Their Big Priorities First!

Ask yourself: what’s my top priority that will make my company successful? A successful, profitable, growing company can’t be built with good intentions. It happens when the business owner stays focused on what really matters to ensure long-term success.

Harry is the successful owner of RPM Construction, a $40 million general contracting company. RPM is continually recognized for providing the best service, fastest schedules and quality workmanship. Plus, RPM makes lots of money, and Harry seems to have lots of time for his family, friends and customers. He surrounds himself with a top management team. He makes loyal customers his top priority as his business is based on strong customer relationships. Harry makes it a priority to play a round of golf every week with a foursome of customers, bankers, architects, real estate brokers or potential clients. He hosts numerous customer business fishing trips, big sporting events and golf weekends. He is truly living his priorities. And his personal and business bottom lines are doing very well as a result. When you put day-to-day details and everyone else’s problems first, you don’t have time for the things that make you the most money and give you the greatest return.

Ask yourself:

  1. Is this the best use of my time and talent?
  2. Is this activity helping me achieve my targets and goals?
  3. Will this activity maximize our bottom-line profits?
  4. Will this activity help get my business to work?
  5. Am I doing what I should be doing?
  6. Am I getting a return on energy?
  7. Am I doing what I should do?
Why Have Employees?

Employees work for the boss; the boss doesn’t work for employees. The sooner you realize you have employees to get them to do what you want them to do, allow you to grow your business, help you to make more money and let you to work on your top priorities, the sooner you’ll start getting your business to work. Accomplishing your priorities will make your business successful. But if you never get to them, your business will continue to struggle and you’ll have to keep doing all the important work yourself.

What are Your Top Priorities?

What will make you the most money and give you the greatest long-term return? Business owners make the most money when they spend 33 percent of their time building loyal customer relationships, spend 33 percent leading their management team, and spend 33 percent (or less) actually doing work. If you put your long-term priorities first and focus on what will give you the biggest return on energy, you’ll have lots of time for the important things in your business and personal life.

Why is it so Difficult to get to Your Priorities?

Roger owns Green Landscape Contractors, a company he has built up to one foreman and three crews over the last few years. He is now having trouble getting all of his jobs completed on schedule, finding more help, doing the required paperwork, paying the bills on-time and finding time to take a few days off. He works 70 to 80 hours every week. He e-mailed to ask me to help stop this insanity.

I asked Roger what he really wanted and what a perfect weekly schedule would be like for him. He said he wished he could get more organized, find a field superintendent who could run the field and take over his crew supervision duties, take weekends off, and take at least two, one-week vacations a year. I next asked what he would have to do to achieve his dream. He said he didn’t know what to do first. He had tried to hire another foreman, but couldn’t really find anyone he liked for a reasonable price. He thought he might be able to find a little more time to train his foreman, make a checklist for the crews to follow, and hire a part-time bookkeeper to help him with the paperwork.

Sounded simple! So why hadn’t he done it yet? As the business owner, Roger decided he was the only person he trusted to talk to customers or make field decisions. He hadn’t trusted his foremen to take on more responsibility, he was too busy to train crews, and didn’t know how to hire a construction bookkeeper or what they could do for him. He had postponed doing what he needed to do. So he kept working harder and doing more, rather than get his act together and putting his priorities first.

What do You Need to do to Accomplish Your Priorities?

Stop postponing your big priorities. It’s time to change how you manage your time. Stop taking work away from employees and start making them accountable for results. Start delegating as much as you can by finding the right people, hiring, promoting and doing what you need to do first. Make a list of your big priorities, what you will let go of, and what actions you need to take to get your day organized, focused on your priorities and headed toward exactly what you want.

George Hedley, CSP, CPBC, is a certified professional construction BIZCOACH and popular industry speaker. He helps contractors grow, make more profit, build management teams, improve field productivity, and get their businesses to work for them. Visit for more information.