Navigating growth and change as a small business is a challenge. So we sat down with Colin Nolan of Nolan Consulting Group to get his insights on business growth and contractors strategies.
Opening its doors in 2003, Nolan Consulting Group has spent over 15 years working to help small businesses achieve their full potential. With years of experience in proven business systems, knowing the numbers, and increasing profits, Nolan Consulting Group is an invaluable resource to its clients.
The team works diligently to provide each client with the tools they need to be successful. Offering business planning, organizational development, and implementation coaching programs Nolan Consulting Group acts as a guide for small businesses navigating growth. Nolan Consulting Group assists them in setting up systems that will lead to further success.
Colin Nolan — son of Nolan Consulting Group founder Brian Nolan — sat down with us to discuss how contractors can overcome common challenges.
CoCam: Going back to 2003 when Brian started Nolan Consulting Group, what was the initial motivation behind starting this company?
Colin: Brian had been within the corporate world for 25 years or so. Kevin Nolan — from Nolan Painting — and Brian decided to get out of the“rat race” of the corporate world and take on a new venture. Once they left, they saw the lack of systems, structure, and small businesses in America, specifically in the trades.
They recognized the trend of skilled tradesmen who start companies because they are great painters, great plumbers, or great landscapers. They’re good at it, find success, and there is business growth.
Then, all of a sudden, it’s not just them and their buddy – it’s them and ten employees. They started the company because they were great landscaping, but now they aren’t the ones doing the work anymore. They’re running the business.
So, Brian and Kevin saw an opportunity to help implement structure, systems, and financial accountability into the trades. They wanted to help contractors and business owners get out of the hourglass.
That’s the big problem: where everything runs through them in the company. They’re the head of sales, the operations manager, the front office, and the receptionist.
Brian came from the corporate world of systems and organizational structure, where there’s an organizational chart, systems built, and people running the systems. In the contracting world that tends to be the other way around — building systems around people.
So, we wanted to flip that on its head. We wanted to have contractors build the organizational chart, write the job descriptions, and find people to fill the roles. To slowly move the owner out of more boxes and into that CEO box. Eventually a business can go from what was a lifestyle business to a value business.
This is the need that they saw. And this is what they’ve, in a nutshell, gone after.
CoCam: What would you say are some of the biggest problems contractors face when trying to implement some of these strategies?
Colin: A couple of things will happen. It can feel counterintuitive for a contractor to stop working in the business and start working on the business.
It’s a mind shift from efficiency. What’s going to make the most money today? What’s going to be best for my business long term? This will take some time; this is an investment in your future.
You may not have more profitable year right away, but long term it’s where you want to go. We really focus on their three-year vision and that becomes the focus and desired state. We help contractors with their big rocks and prioritizing what to start with first.
On the other hand, some contractors are perfectionists. They want to fine-tune systems before they implement them. We always say that“Good today is better than perfect tomorrow.”
Systems will change and they will morph to your company and you adapt over time. So, get started.
For example, just because you don’t have the entire employee handbook written doesn’t mean you can’t implement a HR policy. Or just because the ideal person isn’t operating t‑sheets doesn’t mean you can’t start trying it out.
We try to help contractors realize that good is better than perfect and to start small.
CoCam: That probably creates a shift for contractors. It’d be hard moving from doing something they know how to do to the waiting game of implementing a new system.
Colin: Yeah, it gets uncomfortable.
A lot of what we teach is implementing a system. We have contractors elevate and delegate; changing certain behaviors or activities that they have done for years. But we ask for them to trust us that this is what has to happen.
You’ve got to train someone to do it and let them fail. They aren’t going to ever succeed unless they fail.
CoCam: What is the greatest opportunity for teams?
Colin: The greatest opportunity is really achieving your vision. That’s our goal.
When your business grows, it creates more opportunities for employees to move up. You’re able to create management teams, meaningful jobs, and a culture that’s fun.
One of the greatest opportunities is work life balance and the opportunity to get out of that lifestyle business. You should have the ability to go out on vacation for two weeks. You should know that your team will be able to handle whatever comes up.
Our goal is that they aren’t needed to put out fires anymore. It’s only through the implementation of systems and developing people that you can really get to that point.
CoCam: If you were to give away three things that you would want contractors to know — if they want to switch the culture of their company — what would those three things be? Besides Nolan Consulting Group, of course.
1) Know your numbers. You need to know what your sweet spot jobs are. You need to know what your average revenue per hour is. The more informed you are, the better informed decisions you can make.
The people that say: “I don’t look at my numbers. I know we make the money, but I don’t know what I’m doing right.” If you want to grow and you want to be more efficient, you need to know your numbers.
2) Put time into training. We always say,“Hire for attitude and train for skill.” A lot of people have heard that before. But without a well-run training program, attaining the desired skill is not going to happen.
You need to take time to train and that means being able to have meetings on a weekly basis. A lot of contractors say, “I can’t. I don’t have time for meetings.” But that mindset needs to change if your goal is to maximize daily or even weekly profits.
3) Communication. In order to be successful you need to have constant and consistent communication with your teams, particularly about your core values. Meetings will eliminate side chatter. Commit the time when you’re at work to actual work — as opposed to communicating about things that should’ve been accomplished already.
CoCam: Tell us more about how contractors can get involved in the Nolan Consulting Group.
Colin: People can find us at on our website. There is a ‘Contact Us’ page there where they can reach us. We can set up an exploratory call to make sure that we can provide value and explain what we do.
There are a lot of good coaching companies out there. One of the things that sets us apart is our Summit Group. It’s a group of maybe a hundred contractors from all over the country.
We get together twice a year for events. We believe they’re the best small businesses in the country. The amount of knowledge sharing that goes on there is pretty incredible. It’s certainly one of our assets, one we’re very fortunate to have.
In addition to coaching and helping out clients on a monthly/weekly basis, we put on events. And we bring in great sponsors, like CompanyCam, who came to our Grand Summit last year. It’s really a cool atmosphere, peer-to-peer sharing with the best contractors in country.
For more information about Nolan Consulting Group, read about what sets Nolan Consulting Group apart.