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A Conversation with Nolan Consulting

Opening its doors in 2003, Nolan Consulting Group has spent the past 15 years working to help small businesses achieve their full potential. With over 50 years of combined experience in proven business systems, knowing the numbers, and increasing profits Nolan Consulting Group provides an invaluable resource to its clients. 

The team of eight coaches 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 and 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 what he’s seen as a coach and how contractors can overcome common challenges. 

CompanyCam: 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. After deciding to get out of the rat race” of the corporate world and take on a new venture, he and Kevin Nolan from Nolan Painting really saw the lack of systems and 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 the business grows. 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 and help 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 you’ve built an organizational chart, built the systems, and you have people run the systems. In the contracting world that tends to be the other way around, where you build systems around people the people that you have. So, we wanted to flip that on its head, 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. 

That’s the need that they saw and what they’ve, in a nutshell, gone after the past decade and a half.

CompanyCam: What would you say are some of the biggest problems or the biggest problem that 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, to being effective– 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 to start. Or just because you don’t have the ideal person in a certain role to operate t‑sheets doesn’t mean you shouldn’t start trying it out. We try to help contractors realize that good is better than perfect and to start small. 

CompanyCam: That’s probably a culture shift from doing something that they know how to do, tried and true, to the waiting game of implementing a new system.

Colin: Yeah, it gets uncomfortable. A lot of what we teach is implementing a system and having the 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, because they are not going to eventually succeed unless they fail.

CompanyCam: What would you identify as the greatest opportunity for teams who can figure this out to make this culture shift in their companies?

Colin: The greatest opportunity is really achieving your vision. That’s our goal. One of the cool things that happens when you grow is that you create more opportunity for people in your company 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. The ability to go out on vacation for two weeks and know that you have a team in place that will be able to handle whatever comes up. Our goal is to actually get to the point where they don’t have to get involved to put out fires anymore. It’s only through the implementation of systems and developing people that you can really get to that point.

CompanyCam: If you were to give away three things that you would want contractors to know, practical things if they want to get started switching the culture of their company, besides just to join the Nolan Consulting Group of course, what would those three things be?


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 make some reliable means of communication, where you’re constantly communicating your core values, the rules of the game. A lot of these meetings will eliminate side chatter and help focus the time when you are at work on the actual work, as opposed to communication on things that should have been accomplished already. 

CompanyCam: Tell us more about how a contractor can get involved in the Nolan Consulting Group if they are interested in knowing more.

Colin: People can find us at nolancg​.com. 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, but one of the coolest things I would say about us 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 and we really believe that they are 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 or even weekly basis, we’re able to put on these events where 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, check out their website: www​.nolancg​.com

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