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Nav­i­gat­ing Sys­tems, Growth, and Change: A Con­ver­sa­tion with Nolan Consulting

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.

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