Communication skills – a key to successful entrepreneurial contracting!

Several years ago I was presenting at an industry association convention about marketing trends. During the traditional Q&A part of the program I was asked a broad question.  The gentlemen who was handed the microphone was an obvious veteran of contracting wars as he; had more grey hair than I and a face that signaled experience with winning and losing. I recall he rose slowly and not without some drama. His James Earl Jones voice caught me off guard with a broad yet direct question. He asked for my opinion on the #1 skill that was trainable and teachable at any life stage that would make him and his family a greater success in their business?

I recall the moment vividly since I did not expect the question and that his presence awed me. I paused and my mind starting working through the difference between knowledge, skills or abilities.  I almost, too quickly responded with my standard promotion of financial management and accounting capability to run your business. However – I quickly recalibrated since in reality many entrepreneurs do not do their own accounting. Yes, knowledge and capability is critical to; budget, forecast, plan cash flow and to overall know your numbers. That can be easily defined as a knowledge or ability. Logic also suggests that if you cannot generate work/revenue or facilitate getting the work done – there is nothing to count.

With too long a pause and hundreds of eyes staring at me I finally said: “honed verbal communication skills!” Of course the questioner asked for clarification. This led me down a path of explaining that:

  • Selling is listening and story telling
  • Coaching is observing and presentation with tact of concepts for corrective action
  • Success can only be achieved by influencing: customers, staff, vendors, and the market as a whole
  • Entrepreneurs can delegate written communication but face to face and face or group presentation is a solo sport

As I was thinking about this experience recently, I started to seek validation of my thesis and found a great article by R. Khera on titled “6 Entrepreneurial Skills for a Successful Small Business.”  The article is worth a read. Khera honed in on 6 skills:

  1. Communication Acumen
  2. Listening Skills
  3. Negotiation Finesse
  4. Administration Details
  5. Leadership Smarts
  6. Promotional Spirit

In your concrete lifting and leveling business you require all the skills above every day. You explain benefits of options for repair to customers and prospects. You coach employees on how to improve quality and up-sell jobs on site and to neighboring property owners. You give demos and present at home shows. And MORE…….

All this begs the question – what do you do to get better? Consider exploring courses or workshops at local universities or community colleges in your area on public speaking. A good program will address all the topics in Khera’ list and:

  • Give you confidence
  • Provide you feedback and practice
  • Train you on structuring topic discussion even in one on one dialogue as the communication principals are transferable
  • Hone your diction and voice control

It is possible you may want consider others in your business and invest in them by suggesting they also hone the skill. “Selling, motivating, coaching and influencing are the skills that bring in revenue and get the work done. How much have you invested in yourself or others to improve the execution of these skills in your company in the last year?”

Paul DelFino is a principal of the consulting firm Opportunity Inc. For nearly two decades he has assisted entrepreneurs in growing their businesses, responding to economic downturns and merger and acquisition activity. He has consulted with HMI and RaiseRite for nearly two decades. His publications include “Avoiding Skewed Entrepreneurial Strategies” available from all on line booksellers

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