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Three Thoughts for Contractors by Cowboy Legend Will Rogers

Posted by Shawn McCadden on Tue, Apr 16,2013 @ 06:00 AM

Three Thoughts for Contractors by Cowboy Legend Will Rogers

Will Rogers



Will Rogers, who died in a 1935 plane crash, was one of the greatest political sages this country has ever known.  He is well known for his quote:  “Don't squat with your spurs on”.  He also shared many other thought provoking but less popular sayings.   For a little fun I offer these three and what I think they could offer for advice to contractors

“Never miss a good chance to shut up”

Many contractors, me included, have probably had an occasion where we opened our mouths and wished we hadn’t.  Other times we open our mouths, and even though we may not realize it, others we interact with wish we hadn’t! 

Never miss a good chance to shut upHere are a few times when saying nothing might just be the best thing to say:

  • If your customer has already decided to buy, shut up.  Don’t risk giving him/her a reason to change their mind.
  • If you ask your prospect or customer a question, shut up.   Give them time to think and answer the question.  If due to the silence you keep talking or offer them answers to choose from you might not get the real answer.
  • If you have chance to disparage your competition, shut up.  More times than not the person listening to you will begin to think less of you for doing so.  Instead of talking bad about what they do or don’t do, talk about how you do what you do.


“Always drink upstream from the herd”

Will Rogers Quotes


When starting their businesses too many contractors look to what other contractors are doing and assume they should do the same.   The fact is that 9 of 10 contractors typically go out of business within 10 years of getting started.   The odds of copying the right contractor’s strategy are only 1 in 10. 

Here are a few things drinking downstream of other contractors can do to your construction business:

  • Use the wrong labor rates and markup to price your jobs assuming you need to be competitive.
  • Assume because another contractor quoted a price to a prospect you must be able to do it for that price as well.
  • Getting and using legal advice from online contractor discussion groups without consulting legal counsel before you do so.


“If you find yourself in a hole, stop digging”

Contractor Financial problemsA good number of contractors at one time or another find themselves in a financial hole.  Rather than figure out how they got there, they just keep working, often assuming by working harder or longer hours they will eventually get out of the hole.  Unfortunately many of them just dig a deeper hole and eventually the hole is so deep they can’t climb out so they stay in it.  Sometimes the hole can even cave in all around them and bury them and their businesses.  If you want to avoid the most common reasons contractors get into financial trouble check out this previous blog post.


Bonus saying:

Here’s one more from Will Rogers just for fun.  I’ll let you be the one to determine what this means to you!

 “There are three kinds of men:

  1. The ones that learn by reading.

  2. The few who learn by observation.

  3. The rest of them have to pee on the electric fence and find out for themselves.”

 Quotes by Will Rogers


Topics: Business Financials, Margin and Markup, Sales, Fun Stuff, Starting a Business