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Contractor/Small Business Corner The Habit Trap: A Roadblock to Growth and Profit By Chris Keating, CID


The greatest driver of behavior is habit. Habits are easy to form and difficult to break. Since humans tend to take the path of least resistance when faced with chal- lenges, it’s easy to revert to habits to work through the tasks.


All organizations wear the personalities of their owners and leaders. Employees tend to mimic those traits. As owner, you must be aware that all of your actions become the model for your employees’ behaviors. For example, if you habitually arrive late to the office, can you expect your employees to be punctual? How can you hold them to a higher standard? Do you procrastinate? If so, others see this and begin to do the same.


It is often said, “Habits take 21 days to form.” Knowing that, you quickly realize how important it is to address issues quickly to prevent the formation of negative hab- its. This is true in our businesses and our personal lives. While it takes a short time to create a habit, it will always take longer to break it and replace that habit with a more positive one.


Your purchase decisions are also driven by habit. Where and what we buy may seem carefully considered, but when looked at closely, we often find that it’s just easier to buy the same thing today in the same store today that we did yesterday or the day before. This behavior is the same in the supermarket as it is in the supply house. There is a difference. Buying the same cere- al each week will not affect your compa- ny’s profits.


When habit blocks your ability to examine products or services that could improve your company’s bottom line, you, as the owner, must at the very least, consider alternatives. Do you let your employees dictate your purchase decisions? If so, you may consider this “empowerment.” It may


be because employees are hanging on to their daily habits. Do they block consider- ing a new technology or supplier because “it’s too difficult” or “customers don’t like it?” It’s not suggested that you rush out and change your supplier or brand allegiance, but truly question if you are satisfied with your growth and profits. If not, everything must be on the table for consideration and analysis.


When I teach profitability classes, immedi- ately after introductions, I ask two ques- tions of the group. First, I ask if everyone in attendance is completely satisfied with his or her company’s bottom line. I rarely have


anyone say yes. Next, I ask if anyone in the room would like to earn more money for their hard work. This is usually a unanimous yes. These are simple questions with seem- ingly obvious answers. I ask these ques- tions because later in the class, when the attendees are challenged to examine their business behaviors, they often defend their habits. The ammunition I need to help them look at things outside their habitual processes can be found in their answers to those two initial questions. It’s hard to stand firm in defense of certain practices once you realize they may be impeding profit and growth.


Chris Keating, CID, is the district sales manager, Southeast, for The Toro


Company. His 42-year industry experience includes irrigation contracting, distribution sales and management and manufacturing. He served as a direc- tor on the IA board and is currently vice chair of the Irrigation Foundation.


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