The word I’m hearing out there is business is starting to pick back up. While that, on its face, is a good thing, something FCICA Chairman Gerry Swift told me stuck with me a lot more than the latest rosy economic outlooks. He said during an interview that yes, the good news is everybody is busier than ever. The bad news is not everybody has prepared for that level of success.

It’s important to remember how crucial planning is to a business’ long-term health. Even if you’re an independent installer who just goes from job to job in your truck, I’ve got news for you: You’re a business. How you conduct yourself in front of your potential customers and what you say to them can mean just as much as being up-to-date on the latest industry standards and installation techniques.

What I’ve heard time and again while covering this industry is installers are great at working with their hands, but many need to also get better at working with their heads. Even if you’re a one-man or one-woman show, if you’re not taking the time to plan, consider and anticipate potential issues you are most likely losing money. Another saying I hear a lot is “Oh, don’t worry, [this shrinkage] is built into the margin.” Carelessness should not be “built into the margin.” It’s up to you whether you keep the money you’re earning.

Every reader of this magazine has heard of the importance of dressing professionally, covering up any tattoos and generally making the customer feel safe enough when he or she sees you coming up their driveway to let you into the front door. But professionalism goes deeper than that. It needs to be a core belief of taking care of the customer. It can’t just be an attitude of punching a clock for the day and then daydreaming about the weekend. It’s obvious when someone is actually engrossed and engaged in what they’re doing, as opposed to when they’re simply biding their time and thinking about anything but what’s in front of them. That’s when mistakes happen.

The other great thing about being a professional is you have the leverage to ask for more money. Will you always get it? Of course not. If it were that easy, everybody would ask and instantly receive. However, if you can explain with enough detail to make a convincing case why what you’re doing is above and beyond the run-of-the-mill—and you have already shown your ability to listen to the customer, answer any concerns they might have and make this flooring decision something exciting instead of painful—you are already ahead of most of your competition.