How to put down the tools

It’s when you put down the tools that your business starts working - and you work less.

The tradie who wins at business isn’t necessarily the one with the best reputation, or the best workmanship. The most successful ones have mastered the art of being at the helm.

If you’re spending too much time on the tools, you probably know that being onsite all the time is really holding you back. You may have discovered you can let go for a little while. But soon end up back where you started. Getting off the tools (and staying off the tools) is not an easy leap to make.

By “on the tools” I mean either:

  • working on the job alongside the team - getting the work done
  • organising the work - making sure everything runs smoothly onsite
  • running around chasing jobs - getting enough work. 
     
“On the tools” is anything you could pay someone else $30 per hour (or less) to do.


Sure, this stuff has to get done - otherwise, the business stops. But being on the tools too much means you can’t get the important stuff done:

  • the things you do to find the real dollars
  • the things you do to grow and expand
  • the things you do to streamline your business, free up your time and get your life back.


It’s a cycle every self-employed tradie gets caught in. Getting out takes effort. But when you do, everything gets better. Because you now have time to focus on the things that drive profit. So you can make the real money.

The thing is, the captain of the ship can’t be below deck. They need to be up top, directing the ship. That’s the only real way to get where you want to be. And it also means you can see things coming - so you don't run aground.

If you can master this, you can have the lifestyle you wanted when you first went out on your own. More time to spend with family. More time for you. The time and money to go on holidays (without things turning to chaos in your absence).

“Great, sounds awesome. But how do I take off the toolbelt?”

The most important thing is to keep the standards and the quality of work that YOU have established. So you step back slowly - and systematically - while getting your guys to take responsibility.

Go through this process too quick or too big - that’s where you’ll get into trouble - and fall back. Here’s how you do it:

1: Record

Write down every part of the job you want to stop doing. Step by step. Every detail, as if you are teaching someone your job and they are going to do it for the next 3 months on their own, without you.

2: Checklists 

Make checklists and staff policies for all of the most important parts that needs ticking and signing off at each stage.

3: Train and delegate 

Hand each part over to one of your team who is now responsible, or get a new team member if you need to. Someone capable of being in charge and being your eyes and ears on the ground. Make sure you train them well so it’s a smooth transition.

4: Check in

Let them get on with it, without interruption. But follow up on their work. Check in with them regularly to make sure they are doing it right. This is key.

5: If you change the way you look at things, the things you look at will change.

I was speaking with a business owner recently who was looking for drivers. Their comment was “you just can’t get drivers.” I know there are not many around. But to say you can’t find drivers ever? That’s going to trip you up.

We talked it through, made the job advert more appealing, got interview questions ready, and threw the dice.

Go for it. You might be surprised who you find. And it could be the next game changer for your business and your sanity.

By Daniel Fitzpatrick
Next Level Tradie