Staying Motivated

"We get ourselves into most every situation that we end up hating, so start looking at your choices." September 30, 2010

How do you guys get motivated every day? I have been in the trade for 28 years now and my own business for the last five years - commercial millwork from bidding to general contractors. We have a fair bit of work and money in the bank but it just seems like we work like heck to get things done and installed on time and then worry about getting more work. We are struggling to get this out and then getting more work. It is a big vicious circle. It gets tiring after a while. I have one helper. I have tried subcontracting my cut to size but have had issues with timing and quality. The hardest time is starting new work, after having worked to get the previous job completed. Does anyone have any suggestions on motivation?

Forum Responses
(Business and Management Forum)
From contributor X:
Sounds like you need a vacation - something to break the monotony. A change in habits is good. Stop going the same old way of driving to work each day. Get your gas at a different station each time you fill up. Leave your cards. Weather has a lot to do with our boredom, like being up in the north country where days are gloomy and we get cabin fever. Take time off and get out of that cooped up shop. A bit of fresh air (not smog) can brighten your day with a decent walk. Good for the heart. Plan for a vacation and take it during the winter months. Go where the sun is out. Get your mind off of business. Enjoy life.

From contributor B:
Don't make work your life, it's just one element of a much larger spectrum. Share time and yourself. Others could use a hand, like the elderly, the hungry. Habitat for Humanity could use a hand. Love and be loved. Could you lose a few pounds? Hit the gym. Pump some iron. Run before breakfast. Stop eating bad food and get away from the TV. Read about all the things you wanted to learn about. What you envision your life to be, so will it become. Find peace in the small things.

From contributor J:
You've got money in the bank?! That's pretty exciting these days. Do you have an exit plan? Perhaps some forward thinking would renew your purpose.

From contributor G:
It's work. That's why you get paid. Sounds like you need a change in pace. Why not expand what your company does. You would get a fresh outlook on life. Using different ideas and different areas of your brain will make it exciting again, for a while at least. Meanwhile, your bank account may suffer while your motivation soars. After you get the hang of it and start making money you will likely have the same motivational problem.

From contributor K:
A lot of folks (me included) took a hobby and made a job out of it. That kind of kills the hobby. You need to find a new hobby. I like to fish. For some it's golf. It doesn't matter really, but you need an outlet from the day to day.

From contributor O:
Break the cycle. You are stuck in the one man sales vs. production battle. Think about how you got in this rut. The typical scenario is: "I need work; sell, sell, sell! Then, I have all this work; work, work, work! Then, I need more work; sell, sell, sell!" This is continued until eternity.

There are two ways to battle this. The first way is to split your time more effectively. This will entail setting up a schedule where you split your time doing sales and production. For example, work in the shop from 8am to 3pm. From 3pm to 5pm return phone calls from the day, make sales calls and write up bids and proposals. If you don't like leaving the phone unattended, get an answering service. Return your calls at 11am and 4pm. The second way is to hire a commissioned salesperson. You would have to find someone that knows the work, can learn how to accurately price jobs and be somewhat self reliant when it comes to handling problems. Number two is especially hard for most small companies because they have no systems to follow and the owner does not want to let go of control.

From contributor M:
I find that I have a great deal of motivation for both the desk work (planning, drawings, estimating) and shop work (prepping stock, fabrication) at the start of new work. It is the final legs, especially if we install, that drag on and on and I lose interest in. (It is the fact that I need to get it all tied up so I can collect the final check that helps me slog through the end of the project.) I'm usually chomping at the bit to get started on the next one! A lot of good suggestions in the thread, personally I sometimes just need to take a quick paced walk through the woods in the middle of the day to clear my head and/or get the blood circulating again!

From the original questioner:
Thanks for all the constructive replies. I am going to take all of your good advice and change the way I do things. I think the cold winter is just getting to me. Spring won't be long now and we can open up the shop doors and let the sun shine in.

From contributor H:
When you described your situation, you wrote your own prescription. When I hit the 40ís I started to hate my job, and I owned the business. It may sound selfish at first, but I stopped doing things I did not enjoy (as much as possible). If an employee made my life any worse than it was before he came onboard, I let him go. I began to watch which customers appreciated me, made my job easier and were glad to pay me. I avoid the rest like the plague. The point is we get ourselves into most every situation that we end up hating, so start looking at your choices. Good luck and take good care of yourself. If you don't, nobody else will.

From contributor U:
Whenever I get the "what am I doing it for" blues, I try to think up an interesting project that I do for no other reason than I think it will look cool and I want to do it. I find this helps me to remember that I love working with wood, and the renewed enthusiasm carries over from "the want to's" to the "I have to's".

From contributor R:
You should continually set goals for yourself and then when you accomplish some of those goals make sure you reward yourself! It sucks to work and never get anything out of it!

From contributor H:
On Monday when I come back for a weekend like this I think wow, good to go for the rest of the week. Along about Wednesday I think, I could do that again but should work instead. By Friday I am counting the hours to take off time on Saturday. I don't work weekends anymore, makes the week much brighter.

From contributor E:
Motivation should never be taken as being constant as it can change on a momentís notice. So how do you as a leader affect motivation? People's lives change in an instant, one minute they are happy and doing a great job and the next minute they are depressed and upset. You as a leader have to constantly observe your team and their level of motivation. It could be a phone call that was bad news, a rude customer, argument with another team member to name a few. When you notice a change it is important that you immediately take action. Why you ask, I am not a counselor. You are far beyond being a counselor, you are a leader and leaders take initiative and fix problems immediately.

The comments below were added after this Forum discussion was archived as a Knowledge Base article (add your comment).

Comment from contributor S:
This is always tough. I'm pushing 70 and this is my second business. The way I've dealt with it is to get a secretary to handle a lot of the paperwork and answer the phone, and also delegated work to others. You're not going to get the same quality of work, exactly, but learning to supervise is as complicated as any work in your shop, and if you do the same good job of it as you are accustomed to doing on the work-site, things will work out. The money may fall off a little, but if you can organize the shop to utilize lead men, you can also expand enough to offset the extra expense.