A few months later you decided to expand your list of services, so you learned line striping and pothole repair. But no matter how good you are at asphalt repair and maintenance, you know these hard skills are not enough to ensure your business's success. As an entrepreneur, you wear different hats. You're involved in marketing and sales, and you're in charge of solving problems as they crop up.
And as your team grows, you're also going to cultivate a different set of skills to manage people. And in order to respond to challenges brought by these changes, you need to cultivate different soft skills.
But what are soft skills, and why are they crucial to your business's success?
Soft skills refer to how well you relate to other people involved in your business, such as your employees, customers, suppliers, and peers. These skills can also pertain to how well you respond to and overcome challenges and other curveballs.
Soft skills, on the other hand, are not easily quantified, but can be taught and honed.
Some examples of soft skills include teamwork, time management, and more. But because we are working in the asphalt maintenance industry, we're going to discuss industry-specific soft skills that you can adopt and cultivate over time.
Here are some of the soft skills you need to master to ensure the success of your asphalt maintenance business.
Not everyone is born with the gift of gab. And sometimes, even people with this gift may not be able to convey what they want clearly and get the customers to say "yes" to their proposal.
So what makes a good communicator and how can it help you as an entrepreneur?
Contractor recording a video proposal
A good communicator is someone who can convey what they want clearly and truthfully. As the old adage goes, say what you mean and mean what you say.
You should be able to explain the type of asphalt maintenance services you offer, their benefits to your customers, and why they should choose your company.
But being thorough does not mean a long-winded monologue. Respect your customer's time, listen actively, and be concise.
If you're pitching your services door-to-door, chances are high your prospects are also busy doing other chores or at home trying to maximize the weekend. That's why we recommend that sales pitches should be kept short and full of relevant information.
Door to door sales roleplay for asphalt contractors
Study the services you offer thoroughly before you go door-to-door. This way, you will not be caught off-guard when a prospect asks you a question or raise objections. Understand a prospect's non-verbal signals, respect their personal space, and be tactful. Be confident and assertive, but refrain from being aggressive and pesky.
The good news is being a good communicator can be cultivated and improved over time. Practice clear and effective communication by role-playing with a trusted friend, colleague, and mentor.
All these tips are not just applicable to communicating with customers. You can also tweak them and apply them to how you communicate with your employees and suppliers.
Being a good negotiator is a rare gift. Just ask anyone involved in business acquisition or mergers.
But what makes a good negotiator, and why is this soft skill important for asphalt contractors?
A good negotiator is not just someone who gets what they want every time.
They are also people who communicate what they want clearly (see above), listen to the other party properly, and take their concerns into account.
They can also compromise if necessary and ensure that both parties are happy at the end of the negotiation.
Adept negotiators know that patience is crucial to a sealcoating business's success because they understand that the options they present may not be the right one for the customer today but may be perfect for them tomorrow.
Last but not least, the best negotiators are good at persuading others.
The good news is negotiation skills can be taught and cultivated. You can read self-help books to develop your negotiation skills or better yet, find a mentor in the asphalt maintenance industry who best exemplifies this skill.
According to psychologist Angela Duckworth, grit is the synergy of passion and perseverance that enables a person to reach their long-term goals.
For entrepreneurs who exemplify grit, it doesn't matter if they are facing supply shortages, skyrocketing prices of goods, or any other economic crisis.
People with grit will continue to go to work every day and overcome challenges they meet along the way until they reach the finish line.
You might have given up on several long-term goals in the past, but it's not too late to cultivate grit. How do you do that? Here are our suggestions.
List down your goals for your asphalt maintenance business, and make sure they are as specific as possible.
Here are some ideas for goals:
- Do you want to increase profits by 50% by the end of the season?
- Do you want to make your equipment last longer so you can save money and don't have to invest in a new one in the near future?
- Do you want to acquire 10 higher-paying commercial property customers this season?
- Or do you want to expand your list of property maintenance services so you can continue working in the fall and winter?
Analyze your goal list and narrow it down to the most important – the ones that will help you reach your long-term goals.
Zero in on goals that are more attainable first. Take small steps, stick to your goals, and finish them no matter what happens.
Agility, as it relates to business, is described as the ability to recognize changes in the market, respond promptly, and adapt quickly. Being agile also means that you are able to work out solutions faster than your peers in the business.
How do you improve your agility as an asphalt contractor?
Let's go back to our definition of agility in entrepreneurs. The first key phrase in the definition is "recognize changes in the market."
You already know that you can't fight or solve a problem if you don't know what you're up against. That's why it's important to keep abreast of market trends, so you're not caught off-guard when crisis arrives.
Make it a habit to watch and read business news, and ask your supplier if there are any shortages or price increases in any of the supplies or equipment you're using in your business.
You don't have to know everything and risk information overload. But it's good to be armed with the right information so you can spot a crisis from a mile away and be prepared.
Respond to the crisis quickly and adjust your responses as the market changes.
Let's take the recent paint shortages as an example. At the height of the paint shortage, plenty of line stripers were caught off-guard and unable to fulfill their obligations to their customers. Traffic paint was hard to come by all over the country, and what few gallons we had were snapped up pretty quickly during the height of the season.
How do you respond to this?
Be agile and look for alternatives. If you're partial to water-based paint, then use oil-based paint temporarily until the supply of water-based paint stabilizes (just make sure it is suitable for your application).
Video: Asphalt Industry Supply Chain Shortages and Price Hikes
Let your employees and your customers know as soon as possible that there is an acute shortage of supplies so that they can also respond accordingly.
- Know the contents of your inventory.
- Do you still have paint or crack filler to last you through the season?
- Do you have enough sealer until the end of summer?
If you don't, then it's time to talk to your supplier and see what you need to stock up.
Problem Solving Skills
As an asphalt maintenance business owner, you're going to run into a wide variety of business-related problems sooner or later. That's why it's best to be prepared and cultivate this soft skill now.
So what makes a good problem-solver?
People with good-problem solving skills are not the people who are correct all the time or have the highest IQ in the pack.
The best problem solvers are people who can spot a crisis a mile away and act immediately to prevent it from happening.
If the problem is unavoidable, they make proper preparations so it can do the least amount of damage to their enterprise. They can also identify the root causes of the problem, and act accordingly to address it.
Good problem solvers are flexible, and have the ability to adapt to fluctuating situations.
They are creative in coming up with solutions to problems, and they can find opportunities to make more money even during tough times.
They are calm under pressure and analytical. Lastly, they are willing to listen to other people and are good at weighing their options before taking the next step.
Luckily, problem solving is a soft skill that can be learned and developed.
The easiest way is to find someone (preferably a person who is also in the asphalt maintenance industry) who has a good track record in problem solving and ask them to be your mentor.
Put into practice what you learn everyday, and you're on your way to becoming a good problem solver, too.
Another soft skill you have to master to ensure the success of your asphalt maintenance business is delegation.
Sure, you can do everything on your own, but do you really have to?
Proper delegation to your subordinates ensures that different aspects of your business run smoothly and more efficiently. This skill allows you to focus on the more crucial parts of your business and devote your energies on what you do best.
The Everline Coatings team
If you're lucky, you may delegate the task to a subordinate who may be better at it than you are. So don't be afraid to let go of the reins and delegate. How do you do that? Follow these simple tips.
- Even if the person you're considering delegating the task to is already familiar with it, it's still best to document the process step by step to avoid miscommunication and misunderstanding of the scope of work.
- Clearly state the outcomes you want and set clear performance indexes and timelines.
- If you're still looking for the right person to delegate the task to, then choose the employee that you find most trustworthy and someone who has displayed aptitude for the task at hand.
- Provide all the necessary resources the employee, contractor, or consultant needs to succeed. And check in periodically to see if they need further training and coaching.
There you have it: the six soft skills you can cultivate as an asphalt maintenance contractor to ensure your business's success. The Asphalt Kingdom blog has more in store for you. It contains helpful tips on running a successful sealcoating and crack repair business, so check it out now.
You can also subscribe to the Asphalt Kingdom YouTube channel for videos on sales & marketing strategies, roleplays, and more.