This is the last in a series of articles about how Dr. Stephen R. Covey’s landmark book, “The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People,” can be used to create powerful results in your contracting business. This article explores Synergizing and Sharpening the Saw.

Habit 6 — Synergizing is the habit of creative problem solving. The objective is to take the input of all concerned parties and developed a “third alternative” when searching for a solution to an organizational problem, which is better than the sum of the parts.

The idea is that 1 + 1 does not necessarily equal 2, but that 1 + 1 can equal 10 or even 100. In other words, when searching for a solution to your business problem, you are better off not compromising (1 +1 = 1.5) to get to a mediocre solution. Instead you are better off looking for a third alternative that is better than any individual solution — a third alternative that produces a solution that no single individual could create.

The process of creative problem solving requires that each party demonstrates a willingness to engage in synergizing. Each party must be committed to the process and be willing to make room for the possibility that a new and better solution is possible. As the process unfolds, each party agrees to allow the other party to speak until such time as the person feels “heard.” Then and only then does the other party express their solution and idea.

Getting to synergy requires more than just tolerating the opinions of others. It requires celebrating the differences and realizing it is our differences that make the third alternative possible.

I remember once in my business where we faced an Internet marketing problem. A young woman in our office who was a recent college graduate proposed a solution that was potentially better than our previous way of dealing with the problem.

While I recognized the validity of her proposal, the old man in me struggled to celebrate the diversity this young woman offered. After recognizing this in myself, I subordinated my opinion to hers, and the ultimate solution she implemented turned out to be an enormous success. But allowing her to take the reigns required me to celebrate our differences, rather than simply to tolerate them. This is the essence of Habit 6.

It’s time to sharpen the saw

Habit 7 is Sharpen the Saw. This habit embodies the necessity for constant improvement and renewal. In Habit 7, Covey discusses four areas of our lives that require continuous improvement.

The four areas are physical, mental, social and spiritual. Effectiveness, argues Covey, requires that we are aware of our needs in each of these areas. Whether it is the need to exercise, read constantly, develop deep meaningful relationships or satisfy our individual desire for spiritual significance, we all possess the need for continuous improvement in these critical areas. It is the gradual improvement in each of these areas that give us esteem, significance and a real purpose in life.

In my opinion, there is no area in our business that benefits more from continual improvement embodied in Habit 7 than sales. Whether it is constant training of our service techs to solve problems for homeowners or training our sales team to create substantial value to our customers, sharpening their saws with ongoing role play and training is the key to sustainable success and profitability in business. There is simply no substitute for those two activities.

At the end of the day, the private victories of Habits 1, 2 and 3 combined with the public victories of Habits 4, 5 and 6 provide a framework to help us increase our personal and professional effectiveness. Consistent application of these principles allowed me to transcend 25 years of poverty and struggle and create an Inc. 5000 residential HVAC company in just 60 months. The habits can do the same for you.

Weldon Long is one of the EGIA Contractor University faculty members. EGIA Contractor University has assembled the most experienced and dynamic faculty ever put together. Faculty members have personally built some of the most successful contracting companies in America. Visit Contracting Business for more information and to learn about the Contractor Leadership Live event.

Weldon Long is the NY Times Bestselling Author of The Power of Consistency and one of the nations leading experts on building profitable contracting companies. His clients include Direct Energy, Clockwork Home Services, FedEx, Dex Media, Carrier/Bryant Corporations, Goodman Manufacturing, Rheem/Ruud and many of the best service contractors in the nation. Dr. Stephen R. Covey, Tom Hopkins, Tony Robbins and the Napoleon Hill Foundation have endorsed his work and books. Learn more at or