Most people think of leadership as a skillset that is separate from their company.
However, this is not true.
Your leadership creates your company.
There are leadership gurus out there who teach useful but generic lessons on leadership. Problem is, many of them come from a multinational corporate environment where the suit-wearing CEO stands up in front of his or her company once a year.
That’s not the life of a Contractor. As a Contractor, you are in the trenches—perhaps running your business from a smaller office with a few (or few dozen) employees, or maybe even running calls just like one of the techs who work for you. You’re leading, but it’s a very different type of leadership than the CEO I mentioned earlier.
Weird Leadership Secret #1 – Your Leadership Creates Your Company
Most people think of leadership as a skillset that is separate from their company. However, this is not true. Your leadership creates your company. Here’s how:
Your company is made up of the entity and structure itself, as well as the staff (obviously!), but those pieces interact with each other and with the rest of the world through your company’s culture.
Weak leaders will have their company culture determined
by the strongest personalities on their team.
Your company’s culture is the attitude and personality of your business; it’s how your team views themselves and your customers. And guess what: it’s all determined by your leadership.
Strong leaders decide what their company culture will look like and they lead their people in that way. For example, a strong leader will want a company that values integrity, hard work, and service to customers. However, weak leaders will have their company culture determined by the strongest personalities on their team. For example, weak leaders will constantly fight against employees who create a culture where they walk all over the owner or they do as little work as possible.
If you’ve ever been frustrated by your team, the solution starts with becoming a stronger leader.
Weird Leadership Secret #2 – Your Employees Will Follow What You Do
This may not be that much of a secret, but many forget it so it’s worth mentioning: you can tell your employees everything you want them to do but they will only actually DO what they see you DO.
Do you want your employees to work hard… but you lock yourself in the office to handle paperwork? Your employees don’t see you working hard; they perceive that as avoiding work.
Do you want your employees to go the extra mile… but you won’t go the extra mile for them? Your employees will only go as far as they see you go.
Do you want your employees to LOVE where they work… but you show up frustrated, tired, and angry? Your employees will only love their workplace when you love it too.
Being a leader means being aware of what your employees perceive and demonstrating leadership that portrays the qualities that you want your employees to have.
Weird Leadership Secret #3 – You Lead Your Customers
Most people tend to think of leading as being a boss-employee dynamic. However, it’s much more! It’s a company-customer dynamic too!
The saying is “the customer is always right,” which may be true but you and I both know that many customers don’t understand the technical, complicated world of Contractors.
Customers may think they are always right but what they need is a strong, confident leader to lead them to the right decision for themselves and their family. They need a leader who shows up and assures them that the problems they are facing with their home can be solved by your company. They need a leader who demonstrates the high value that you deliver (which helps to resolve price sensitivity and buyers’ remorse). They need a leader who tells them what they need to do next (such as: make a decision to purchase).
Customers need to be led (ethically, of course), and the Contractor who is a strong leader can do just that.
Weird Leadership Secret #4 – Your Employees Need More From You Than You Realize
As a leader and the owner of a Contracting company, you might think that you are delivering exactly what your employees need: a steady job that pays a wage.
But your employees need more than that from you if you want them to follow you!
Employees are followers, and they need the following things from a leader:
Structure (a predictable place to work)
Training (show them how to do the work you want them to do)
Direction (help them know what to do)
Guidance (help them along the path as they do it)
Empathy (talk to them with understanding)
Encouragement (let them know that they are valued)
Attention (let them know you hear them)
Care (take a moment to learn about them)
Opportunities (create a long-term win for them)
Hope (let them know that they have a job for the long-term if they do the work required)
Community (create a great place for them to work)
(Now, some people might read this list and think that it sounds like you need to coddle them and be a babysitter. But that’s not true at all! You can create a strong work environment while still providing these things.)
Your employees aren’t just looking to trade their hours for pay; they spend a large portion of their day with you and your company and they need much more than dollars to help them follow you. Use the list above as a starting point to make sure you are adding value to your employee’s lives.
Want a stronger company? It doesn’t start with better employees or better marketing. Those are important, but it actually starts with stronger leadership. Most people don’t fully understand what leadership is or just how important it is to growing your company. But when you master leadership, including these four weird secrets, you’ll create a strong company of followers who will work hard to grow with you.
How Service Business Owners Can Work LESS and Make MORE
Aren’t you tired of putting your entire life into your business and seeing no growth? Here are a few things you can do to achieve service business growth while working less “in” the business.
Growing a service business takes time and effort.
You know that already. You’re spending every waking moment working in the business.
And nothing’s happening. You’ve hit a standstill. Revenue has plateaued and you can’t figure out how to improve your service business.
As for your personal life…
Let’s just say your partner’s not too happy with how things are going. Why would they be? They haven’t seen your face for more than five minutes in months.
Something’s got to give.
Do you just up and quit? You built this business into what it is today. Can you really just walk away from it?
Of course you can’t.
That means you’ve got to stick with it. However, you don’t have to keep doing things the way you’re doing them right now.
You can achieve service business growth while spending less time working.
Growing a service business isn’t about how many hours you put in. It’s about getting the right things set up so that your people handle all of the heavy lifting.
Here are a few things that you can do.
Tip #1 – Build and Evaluate Your Systems and Processes
You’ve started this business because you’re an expert in your field. You can install an HVAC system in your sleep. Landscaping jobs are your bread and butter.
What you haven’t learned along the way is how to build systems and processes into a business.
Now what do I mean when I talk about systems and processes?
This is a sequence of steps that you must follow to complete a task. Your morning routine is a system. You get up, shower, brush your teeth, get dressed, and eat your breakfast. Then you’re ready to go. An example of a system in business is using automation for collecting data from several spreadsheets to create a report.
Simply put, a system is the combination of steps that you need to take to make something happen.
A process pulls together a lot of mini-systems that usually involve multiple people.
Let’s take money handling as an example. This process includes the following systems:
Taking cash or a check from the customer.
Sending that money to the finance department so they can do what they need to do.
How that money gets to your bank.
These are all little systems that have to work together to create a process.
Your business needs these systems and processes. Yet so many service business owners don’t implement them. Or, they make the classic mistake of “setting and forgetting”.
This isn’t a one and done thing. A process that worked when you started out isn’t going to help you in growing a service business.
You’ve got to build, implement, and measure your services and processes.
The key to good management is to build great systems and check them regularly. Get everything running like clockwork and maintain it. That means you spend less time in the business while giving yourself the structure needed for service business growth.
Tip #2 – Craft a Winning Culture
How important is culture to service business growth?
Just ask Ted Puzio. He’s been a Warrior since 2014.
Ted Puzio runs Southern Trust Home Services, Inc. When he came to CEO Warrior, his business was at a standstill. He put so much of his time into the business but he had no clear direction for growth.
Transforming his culture helped him to change that.
Before becoming a Warrior, Ted says the business had a poor culture if any. Today, the company has a defined vision and a strong management team. That means he’s able to step away safe in the knowledge that the business can operate without him.
Since 2014, the business has gone from making $800,000 per year to $5.2 million.
It’s a simple message. Culture is the key if you’re trying to figure out how to improve your service business.
Here are a few things that you can do.
Build a Warrior Team from the off. Set out your vision, make sure everyone understands it, and unite the entire team behind it. This means you spend less time resolving conflicts and set the stage for service business growth.
Make a list of the people on your team and write down the things they need to know to do their jobs better. Focus on giving them the tools and holding them accountable for their work.
Create start-doing and stop-doing lists and execute everything on those lists. You’re setting an example for your people to follow. Be the person that you want your people to be. That’s how you create A-players who can take the responsibility off your shoulders and help you grow the business.
Tip #3 – Talk to Your People
Let’s come back to your systems and processes for a minute.
They don’t all have to come from you. Your people have their own little systems and processes that they’ve created for their work.
You probably don’t even know about them. But they may be things that you can implement across the entire business to make it more efficient.
You have to understand the power of good communication. That’s what Bart Palmer learned after attending a Service Business Edge event.
Bart Palmer runs Rues, LLC. The business did decently. But decent is the enemy of good and good is the enemy of great.
Bart wanted to make things great.
To do that, he had to learn more about himself so he could become a better leader for his people.
Since becoming a Warrior, Bart’s business has doubled its yearly revenue from $5 million to $10 million.
Quality communication is a key aspect of becoming a better leader. Your people have to feel like they can talk to you and share their ideas.
The best part is that those ideas can help you to build systems into your business that save time and help you grow.
Tip #4 – Create Checklists
So you’ve got all these systems and processes in your head. But if your people aren’t executing them, you’re going to spend too much time correcting them.
You want this stuff to be clear and easy so that the business can grow and you can spend your time on more important stuff.
I have a solution that’s just so simple that you’ll kick yourself for not thinking about it.
Using checklists is key to growing a service business.
They help you nail down all of the steps you create. You can hand that checklist out to someone and know that they have all of the information they need to get the job done.
Teach your people that following each step on the checklist is very important. It builds consistency into the service you’re offering. That consistency is going to help you build a great reputation that leads to more business. It can even be one of the X-Factors that you build your marketing around.
Tip #5 – Use Leverage to Motivate Yourself to Execute
Leverage is something that every business owner wants. But it’s so hard to get, as Josh Hedges discovered.
Josh Hedges of Pristine Clean came to CEO Warrior with a simple question.
How do I get more leverage?
What he really meant was “how do I motivate myself to achieve what I really want from my business?”
During the event he attended, Josh made a commitment. He committed to donating $100,000 to a charity of his choice if his business didn’t make $3 million for the year.
Now he’s got his leverage and the motivation he needs for growing a service business.
So what does leverage mean in the context of how to improve your service business?
It’s all about motivating yourself. Josh’s commitment is something that’s going to cause him a little pain if he doesn’t achieve his target. He may not even have the money to make the donation.
That’s going to give him the push to actually take action instead of just talk. And that’s the key to all of this. It’s all just talk until you take action and start making changes.
It’s that mind growth that’s so important. That’s how you start treating yourself as a leader instead of just another member of the team.
Use your leverage to motivate yourself to take action.
The Final Word
So how can you improve service business worth while working less?
It all comes down to your systems and processes. Getting them in place gives your business the framework it needs for growth. They also ensure you’re spending less time on fixing problems because you know you have systems in place to keep things running and growing.
Step back and figure out your systems and processes. Create checklists that nail down all of the steps and talk to your people to see what ideas they have.
Focus on crafting a culture that makes people want to give more of themselves for the business. And create the leverage that’s going to motivate you to take the actions you need to take.
CEO Warrior can help you achieve this and so much more. Our community of service business coaches and business owners are here to support you every step of the way.
In the world of contracting, it feels like customers are notoriously price sensitive.
“Is that your best price?”
“Can you do better?”
“I’m shopping around for the lowest price.”
“Ouch, that is more expensive than the other quotes I’ve received.”
Have you heard any of these? Chances are, if you’ve worked as a contractor for any length of time, you probably have heard some or even all of these.
In the world of contracting, it feels like customers are notoriously price sensitive. Contractors work hard to give their customers good value and a safer, more comfortable home; so you’d think that this industry should be the least price sensitive of them all! (After all, how often do your customers complain about the price of a Big Mac, which his comparatively more expensive than making their own burger at home?!?)
But, for some reason, customers are indeed highly sensitive to the price and may push back on any price that they feel is costlier than they were expecting.
The problem is further compounded when you are selling against other quotes and estimates by low-ball contractors… the customer may not be comparing the quality of work but rather just the bottom-line price.
So, what can you do about it?
Well, you could stick to your guns and tell them: “You get what you pay for” and let the chips fall where they may. (After all, if they hire a cheaper contractor with poor workmanship, you may end up being hired in the future to repair that work.)
Or, you could lower your price, which is the pressure that a lot of contractors feel daily. Some will say, “Let me see what I can do” and they squeeze their profit margins to razor thin amounts. (Don’t do this! You deserve to get paid what you are worth!)
These feel like the only two options that you have available. Fortunately, there’s a third way that you may not be aware of that can instantly change the conversation you have with a customer and help you charge the right price (with the right amount of profit) without worrying about low-ball offers.
If you’re writing a list of the value that the customer gets from you and you think, “Surely this list is long enough”… you’re just getting started.
It’s called “Value-Stacking” and it will change the game for you.
Value-Stacking is simply this: when you create your quote, estimate, or written consultation, stack the value. Keep identifying things that the customer gets from you—stacking one item on another—until the offer seems like a no-brainer.
How much value should you stack? Let me put it this way: If you’re writing a list of the value that the customer gets from you and you think, “Surely this list is long enough”… you’re just getting started. Keep going.
Here are some ideas to Value-Stack your next quote:
Start by offering and delivering great products and services. Identify those pieces to your customer. If you deliver a new product and haul away the old, used one, write that down as two separate things. Both are important things you do and should be noted!
Provide additional services at no extra charge. For example, if you’re walking through the customer’s home and you see a loose doorknob, just fix it really quickly. It takes no time at all for you but it speaks volumes to the customer.
Be an expert. Provide a confident expertise that advises customers, rather than taking the approach that the customer is in charge. You can be kind, serving, and helpful but also the in-charge expert who knows best. (And guess what: experts get paid more!)
Give free stuff. Give LOTS of free stuff! From pens to magnets to flashlights; these don’t have to cost a lot but the amount of stuff customers get can have a big impact.
Provide tons of free information in the form of articles, reports, and even printed books.
Then, on top of all of that, stack testimonials and reviews from other happy customers.
You should be doing all of these… and A LOT of each of them… but the most important is the first one. Whether you are installing a new HVAC system or building a new fence, break out each of your activities into its own service and show the customer how valuable that service is.
Then sit back and watch the customer. You’ll see the difference right away.
They’ll look at the hastily written quote from the cheaper contractor that has one sentence scrawled across it and a bottom-line price, and they’ll look at your estimate, which could stretch on for a couple of pages, and your higher priced estimate will seem higher value because you’ve been Value-Stacking. They’ll see all the little things you’ve done to help them already, like fix that doorknob. They’ll see how you are an expert who advises. They’ll look at the mountain of branded gadgets and freebies you’ve given. They’ll see all the articles, reports, and books you’ve provided. And they’ll see that many other customers have hired you.
Those things add up when you stack one upon the other. They show that your (slightly higher) price has loads of value. And, just like buying a Big Mac some cheaper option, they’ll more likely choose you.
As contractors, we face the problem daily of dealing with price sensitive customers. It comes with the territory! However, you can turn price sensitivity into a no-brainer “YES! I’ll buy from you!” when you apply Value-Stacking to your written estimates.
If you think you need help with handling objections, don’t forget you can reach out and book a strategy call HERE
None of them will take more than an hour to do yet each can have a profound impact on the rest of your year.
It’s 2019. Where did you think you’d be in life and business at this point? For some Contractors, you’re right on track and growing exactly the way you want to be; for others, you’re feeling like you’re behind where you want to be and you desperately want to catch up.
What you’re about to read are five fast, simple ways to change the game for your business in 2019. None of these will take more than an hour of your time each, so you can spread them out over the next week or two… but doing them now will set you up for the best year yet — a year that helps you grow like never before, catapulting you beyond where you are now to a new and higher level.
Let’s dig in to these simple, fast ways. Again, none of them will take more than an hour to do yet will have a profound impact on the rest of your year.
1. Create a vision.
Take some time to envision what you want to achieve for the year. Whether you’ve done this practice for the longer term (to envision what you want in business for the next three, five, 10, or 20 years), you should at least take the time to create a vision in your mind for what you want to do this year.
Many Contractors will close their eyes for five minutes, tell themselves that they want to be more successful, then open their eyes and check this task off their list. However, you should take a full hour (or more if needed) and really dig in to what you want to achieve by December 31, 2019. How many team members? How many happy customers? How much revenue? How much profit? Live and breathe this vision then write it down in detail.
2. Pick a theme for the year.
You and your employees show up every day to work. Over time, each day and each year tends to blend together in your minds and some days it just feels like you are running out the clock. What you need in your business is a fun, engaging theme that ties together everything you want to achieve in the year. Your theme will focus your employees’ minds and give you something to talk about at company meetings. Create activities, contests, and internal marketing documents around these concepts.
If your vision is to grow by 25% then you might have a theme around 25% growth; then you talk about what it means to improve everything by 25% — what that looks like in the day-to-day work. Or if your vision is to build a strong culture then you might have a theme around being a tight-knit Special Forces; then you talk about how you never leave a man behind, and how you stick up for each other.
3. Assign KPIs.
Key Performance Indicators (KPIs) are measurements that you make on specific activities by team members. For your sales team it might be the number of contracts they close; for your techs, it might be average time on a job. If possible, tie your KPI to the theme you’ve chosen for the year (so that if you are focusing on 25% growth then your KPI should be whether they are 25% better in some aspect than the average).
If KPIs are new to you, and if they seem like a daunting amount of bureaucracy then pick just one KPI that you can measure your employees on. Don’t try to do a whole bunch. Make it easy on yourself and easy on your team to know the one important measurement you need to make this year. The added administrative effort of tracking KPIs might seem like a lot but you will notice a profound difference in your whole company when you take your KPIs seriously — it will focus your team and you’ll grow like never before.
Find experts, mentors, coaches, and teachers who can give you the information and guidance to fill in the gaps and show you how to do what to do.
4. List your challenges.
Every business has challenges; every business owner has frustrations. These can hold you back from growth by taking up a lot of your time to solve them every day. Make a list of your biggest challenges that keep you awake at night and then work on solving them. (If there are too many challenges and you’re not sure where to start, identify the ones that are keeping you from achieving the vision you created, above).
How do you solve them? Build a system. For every problem you have, build a system around the problem so that it is solved automatically. The easiest way to start is to identify a problem then build a checklist that someone has to fill out to ensure the problem is solved. For example, do you have team members forgetting to return shared equipment at the end of the day? Create a checklist that everyone needs to fill out when they return the truck keys, and that checklist should include: “Did you return the shared equipment to the warehouse?”
5. Create your learning plan.
It’s one thing to want to improve; it’s another to actually do it. Contractors end up lost in a sea of information as they flail around looking for answers to questions they haven’t fully articulated. The better approach is to be strategic about your learning: based on your vision, what do you need to know in order to achieve that vision?
Make a list of the topics, opportunities, and challenges that you face. Then, start reading strategically about those specific areas (a great place to start is right here in CONTRACTOR Magazine!) Next, find experts, mentors, coaches, and teachers who can give you the information and guidance to fill in the gaps and show you how to do what to do. Instead of drowning in information, you end up getting laser-focused on learning what you need
Are there other things to do for a great year? Of course there are! But these five simple, fast strategies will give you a strong start to the year and help you turn 2019 into a record-breaking year for your business. Every contractor should do these every single January to elevate their business for the year. These five strategies may seem simple (and they are very fast to do) yet they can have a massive impact on how your business grows this year.
Good growth doesn’t happen by accident. You have to be deliberate about the steps you take if you want growth dreams to become reality.
Every plumber wants to grow their business. Sure, you may not want to grow in exactly the same way as the next plumber, but every plumber wants to grow.
Some want to expand by adding employees; others want to remain the same size and grow into greater revenue and profitability; others want to simply solve the challenges that prevent them from finding the balance they want to achieve in life.
You want to grow. Problem is, many plumbers aren’t sure how and so the “wish” never becomes “reality.” Rather than grow by design, plumbers end up allowing their business to evolve by default — the unintentional victim of customer requests, employee hassles, and economic pressures.
Here’s a simple six-step path to follow to improve your ability to grow by design. No advanced business degree necessary.
Step 1 – Pick an area to grow
It starts with being specific. What do you want to grow? Yes, you want to grow your business, but that is too vague. Narrow it down. Do you want to grow revenue? Profit? Number of employees? Number of trucks? Service area? Number of customers? Average ticket?
Pick a few areas that are related but try not to do too many. Realize that there might be spin-offs as well: Instead of focusing only on growing your number of trucks, you’ll probably want to focus on growing the number of employees, which will force you to increase the number of trucks.
Step 2 – What should it look like?
Next, decide what this area should look like at the end of the year. Don’t just think something like “I want more employees” because not all employees are created equally. Another example: You could double your customer base overnight, but they may not be the type of customers you want to have.
Instead think very specifically about what the ideal version of that growth area looks like. Happy, loyal customers who spend a specific amount? Hard-working “A-player” employees who show up on time? Double-digit profit from fewer services? It’s up to you but you need to know exactly what you want.
Step 3 – Create steps
Change occurs over time and rarely happens all at once, so create steps to follow that take you down the path of growth you’ve established. If you want to add 12 new employees in a year, that’s one a month. Even if you ultimately end up hiring two in one month and none in another month, at least you know what you should be averaging. Therefore, in this example, you need to build the steps required to hire one employee each month.
Think about what actions are required to complete that step. Is there marketing that needs to be done? What resources are required? Are there others you can delegate some of the work to? How long does each step take so that you know when you have to start?
Step 4 – Create metrics
Look at each step you have to take (or that you are delegating to someone else) and figure out how to measure it. How do you know when it’s done and you can cross it off your list?
If you want to grow, you need to measure the actions you take and the results of those actions to ensure progress. Over time, those actions and results add up to the growth you want to achieve. Track your progress with real numbers so you can course-correct regularly.
Step 5 – Get help
Stop trying to figure it out on your own. Get help. This might be something as simple as reading more articles in a trade magazine, or reading a book on the topic, or heading to YouTube for some educational videos. Or it might mean investing in a mentor, coach, or trainer who can help you understand what you need to do.
Many plumbers are hands-on DIY people, so this is probably how you learn everything. Problem is, trying to figure it out yourself can be time-consuming, costly, and error-prone. That’s not how you want to grow your business. If your results will have a positive impact on your business, then it’s worth making an investment of time and money to learn the right way to do something from someone who has the experience of doing it before.
Step 6 – Assess, course-correct, and keep going
Continually assess your progress by looking at the steps you outlined and watching your results. Course-correct as needed to keep yourself on track. Yes, it may mean adjusting the steps you need to take as you realize you’re not hitting goals like you thought you would.
Most important, keep going because some of the best results don’t appear right away but rather take time to show up after you’ve diligently built up a foundation of successful actions.
The recent large drop in the stock market is one of several indicators that we could see an economic downturn in 2019. You can do things to prepare your distribution business for any downturn.
The economy is making the headlines lately, and not necessarily in a good way. While it might be a busy time for some HVACR Distribution companies, we know the good times won’t necessarily last. The most successful HVACR Distribution companies will be the ones that prepare for an economic decline.
While some people have been anticipating an economic decline for a few years now, the signs are starting to appear. There’s a lot more volatility lately. And on December 24, the stock market saw the largest Christmas Eve drop in history. Yes, the market bounced back in the following trading days, but that big drop is one of several indicators that we could see an economic downturn in 2019.
The question you should be asking is: “Is MY HVACR Distribution company prepared for this economic shift?”
Many aren’t. And it could hurt in the same way that it hurt back in 2008’s “Great Recession.” Fortunately, there are 5 Recession Insulation Strategies you can do right now to get ready:
Recession Insulation Strategy #1: Choose Not To Participate
Yes, this one might start off a little crazy, but it’s a powerful psychological “hack” for you, your employees, and your customers. Simply decide to choose not to participate in the recession. When you hear your employees or your customers talking about the declining economy, assure them that your company isn’t participating in the recession in the same way that others are. You’re NOT tightening your belt; you’re NOT cutting back. Rather, you’re continuing business as usual and are expecting to be busier than usual.
Communicate this to your employees to give them confidence, and have them communicate it to your customers.
Recession Insulation Strategy #2: Ramp Up Your Service
You may choose not to participate in the upcoming recession, but your customers might be making cutbacks. This could include consolidating their suppliers and deciding who to continue using. Be the company that they choose to continue using by increasing your level of service.
Increasing your service does not necessarily mean increasing the number of products that you sell; rather, it’s all about increasing the value you provide to customers.
Speed up order-taking
Speed up delivery
Get to know the people who are ordering and make them your allies
Don’t just drop off your latest catalog or deal sheet and hope they’ll buy; become so service-oriented that they would HATE to lose you as a supplier.
Recession Insulation Strategy #3: Help Them Get More Customers
What do your customers want? They want more customers themselves, right? You will become an invaluable supplier by helping them get more customers.
This may not seem immediately feasible but here’s one simple way to start: bring in a home services marketing expert for a lunch-and-learn or after-hours training session, and invite your customers to come and learn how to get more customers.
Do this regularly, and your customers will come to see you as not just a supplier but a key part of their entire business!
Recession Insulation Strategy #4: Educate Your Customers On How To Make More Money
There’s a good chance that your customers are using some of your products and services but not all of then, and, they’re probably not using all of your products and services as extensively or effectively as they could be.
Could they add a new product to their existing offers to make more money?
What if they were able to use the products they already bought from you in a different way to make more money?
Could they add a new product to their existing offers to make more money? What if they were able to use the products they already bought from you in a different way to make more money?
You can solidify a long-term relationship with your customers in a few ways
to lock them in and keep them loyal to you no matter what the economy does.
Most customers likely have untapped opportunities here that are low-hanging fruit for you to help them “squeeze the lemon” to make more money.
Create educational material that helps them see all the possibilities, including tips sheets and how-to videos for their techs
If possible, do a ride-along with your best employees’ techs to watch how they use your products and to advise on more efficient ways to deploy what you sell
Sit down with their sales teams for demonstrations and show how your products and services can be used in the sales process to close more customers
Recession Insulation Strategy #5: Lock In Your Customers With Long-Term Purchases
When your customers are thinking about which suppliers to continue working with and which ones to stop working with, one of their decision-making factors will be who they are “locked-in” with. You can solidify a long-term relationship with your customers in a few ways to lock them in and keep them loyal to you no matter what the economy does. Consider the following:
Offer discounts for larger orders up-front, even if they take delivery later in the year. That way, you generate the income now, and you can deliver later, but your customer is locked-in because they have already purchased
Offer discounts, bonuses, and other incentives for customers who buy a certain amount. This is a lot like the “buy 10 coffees, get the 11th free” that you might see at your local coffee shop. If the incentive is attractive enough, customers will stick with you through the 10 purchases to get that 11th free.
Membership plans that offer discounts and incentives over and above what you normally give. Make these annual membership plans automatically renewing and treat your members with the highest level of service
I’m no economist, but the signs are clear to me: we will likely see a downturn or perhaps even a recession very soon. When economic downturns occur, it becomes an “only the strong survive” situation. Is your HVACR Distribution company strong enough to survive? These 5 strategies can help to solidify your relationship with your customers and position yourself as an indispensable supplier that they rely on no matter what the economy is doing.
If you don’t do anything else this year, do these four things to be successful, and make 2019 your best year yet.
With the new year upon us, most Contracting Business owners are looking at the blank pages of the unwritten year and thinking about how to succeed and grow. If you’re as excited as I am about the new year here are four things you should be doing right now to make 2019 your best year yet.
Are there other things you should be doing? Sure. But you’re busy running a business, so if you only have time to do 4 things, do these 5 things and you’ll have one of your best years ever… no matter how the U.S. economy performs.
Tip #1 – Build Your Culture
Your culture is the invisible “fabric” of the company. It’s what your employees think and feel about working for you, and it impacts everything they do for you and for your customers.
Most contracting business owners allow their company culture to grow by default. When this happens, it’s often the complainers and negative people whose loud opinions actually determine your culture and hurt your company.
Instead, take a strong leadership position and choose the course for your culture:
Set the example by living the culture you want
Tell people what culture you expect to have and hold people to it
Create contests, incentives, a year-long theme, and internal branding that reinforces the culture
Offer company events that create that culture.
It might be a culture of power, of service, of generosity, of “leave no man behind” camaraderie. You decide. And then, you need to create it.
Tip #2 – Level Up Your Service
When you have happy customers you reduce callbacks, you increase repeat business, you increase 5-star social reviews, and you increase referrals. Quite simply, happy customers make you A LOT more money—period. Yet, many Contracting Businesses train their employees to do the bare minimum of service—just enough to get the job done and move on.
Stop. Invest time to think about what would truly make your customers happy, and then train your teams to deliver more than that. WOW your customers with service they never even dream of receiving from your Contracting Business and you’ll have a happy customer for life. It doesn’t take a lot of extra time or effort but it makes a massive financial difference to your company.
It’s the little things that add up to truly WOW your customer, and it all starts with you deciding what the best service call should look like.
Want a simple action step: Create a Framework For Service that outlines step-by-step the actions that your employees perform on a typical call to your customer’s home. Start from the moment they get the work order and go step-by-step all the way through to the moment that they leave the job finished and return to the office. Think about what they can do at each point to WOW the customer.
Can your employee call ahead to say they’re on their way (and offer to bring coffee)?
Can your employee ask if the customer has a pet and if they can bring a treat for them?
Can your employee change their shirt just before setting out to ensure that the look clean and professional when they arrive?
Can your employee say something nice to the customer when they introduce themselves?
It’s the little things that add up to truly WOW your customer, and it all starts with you deciding what the best service call should look like.
Tip #3 – Cast A Compelling Vision
Chances are, you have a general idea of what you want 2019 to look like. Problem is, most Contracting Business Owners stop with that vague idea in their head.
If you want to grow your business, do this instead: create a very detailed idea of what 2019 could look like. Be specific and include information like: the number of clients served and the amount of revenue generated, and the number of employees you have. Write it down in a way that is thrilling and compelling for you.
Once you have it written down, do one more thing with it (and this will make all the difference)…
Share that vision with your employees. Hold an all-company meeting and read that vision with them to help them see what you are envisioning.
Most Contracting Business owners keep a vague vision in their head and wonder why employees don’t help them achieve it. You’ll increase your likelihood of success when you create and communicate a clear vision to everyone.
Tip #4 – Reverse Engineer That Vision Into KPIs
The other way to help employees achieve that vision is to reverse engineer your vision into Key Performance Indicators (KPIs) that they need to fulfill.
Communicate your vision to employees, and tie your measurement of employee achievement to your vision.
Many contracting business owners keep that vague vision in their head instead of communicating it, and then they measure their employees on something else entirely. The better approach is to communicate your vision and tie your measurement of employee achievement to your vision. You’ll be amazed at how effective these two simple steps are to turning your vision into reality.
To do this, look at the details in your vision and determine how each employee’s work contributes to those details. For example, there might be a specific dollar amount that employees should be selling, on average, during each sales call in order to add up to your revenue total for the year; or, there might be a specific number of leads converted into customers that your marketing and sales teams need to hit each day.
Find the numbers and details in your vision, reverse them out into specific metrics for your team, and measure your team against those throughout the year.
Want to make 2019 the best year you’ve ever had in your Contracting Business? It’s simple: design and lead a stronger culture, raise your level of service, cast and communicate a compelling vision, and wrap that vision in KPIs to measure your team against. There are a lot of things you could do in 2019 but these 4 actions are “needle-movers” that will help you create a stronger and more successful business this year.
Use these five tips to maximize revenue this year and to set yourself up for an amazing 2019.
As 2018 winds down to the close, are you worn-down and beat-up, ready to be done with the year? Or are you energized and getting ready to launch into an amazing 2019? For a lot of service business owners, December can be a time to cut your losses, just try to stay ahead of the winter busyness, and move all the unfinished projects to January. After all, who has the time in December, right?
However, when you do that, you essentially cut out one-twelfth of your already limited time… mathematically, that’s no different than if you slept an extra two hours every single day!
The better approach is to finish 2018 stronger than ever with these five tips. Yes, you will be tempted to short-cut them and put them off but the more you do, the stronger you’ll finish the year—to maximize revenue this year and to set yourself up for an amazing 2019.
#1 – Avatar Review. Whether you choose your customers by design or allow them to choose you by default, there is a specific type of customer who invests in your company. But, are they the right fit for you? The best approach is to identify your perfect customer (your “avatar”) and build all your marketing and services to connect with them. If you do this, you end up with customers who need what you are offering and are happy to pay for it. If you don’t do this, you end up clashing with your customers about prices, services, and timelines.
Ask yourself: did you serve the customers you wanted to serve this year? What were the problems that your customers expressed, and were you able to solve them? What challenges did your customers present to you (such as price sensitivity, time sensitivity, etc.), and how did you handle their challenges? Are your customers hiring you again and again for your service?
#2 – Service Review. The services and trade-lines you offer should reflect the needs of your avatar. There should be a perfect fit between what you do and what your avatar needs. If they are constantly asking for services you don’t provide, or if they are not often satisfied with the services you do provide, there’s a mismatch and you either need to adjust who you serve or what you offer your customers.
Ask yourself: are your customers satisfied with your services? Are you constantly turning away great customers because you don’t offer something they need? How can you add new trade-lines (either in-house or in a partnership) to serve your customers the way they need to be served?
#3 – Customer Service Review. How you serve your customers will impact the profitability of your business: if you have to constantly find new customers because they only ever hire you once, you’ll spend more on marketing and free house calls; however, if you offer WOW service and focus on referrals and repeat business, you’ll become vastly more profitable since you will stay very busy with your happy customers.
Ask yourself: what marketing did we send out that got the highest response? And, what marketing did we send out that got the most profitable response?
Ask yourself: on average, how many referrals did you get from each customer? On average, how satisfied were your customers with your services? On average, how often did your customers buy from you more than once? Going forward how can you influence those repeat and referral behaviors with WOW service?
#4 – Marketing Review. Your marketing should be simple, planned in advance, stacked (for frequent exposure), as automated as possible, tracked so you can measure its success, and tested so you can see how to improve it. Unfortunately, too many service business owners do the exact opposite, marketing ineffectively at the last minute with offers that they don’t track or test. The result? Service business owners have no idea what marketing is working, what isn’t, or why… and they are just throwing money at their marketing and hoping that something works.
Ask yourself: what marketing did we send out that got the highest response? And, what marketing did we send out that got the most profitable response? (Sometimes those aren’t the same marketing messages but it’s good to pay attention to both.) How can I track my marketing more effectively going forward?
#5 – Team Review. Look, hiring and keeping a great team is hard, and sometimes service business owners end up keeping warm bodies on the payroll just because they think that a half-done job is better than not having anyone to do the job at all (or because they are afraid to transition underperforming employees outside of the company). Unfortunately, this isn’t serving anyone and it’s probably hurting your business. Take action now to hire great employees and to remove the less-than-great ones.
Ask yourself: which employees are superstars that you want to hire more of and which ones should you be removing? What is the cost of keeping less-desirable employees in your company and is that cost greater than the difficulty of sitting down with them and having a tough talk? Where did you find your superstar employees and are there more employees available through that source? Are there leadership skills you can build in yourself in 2019 to help you turn your underperforming employees into superstars?
Many service business owners are running full tilt toward the end of the year and missing out on one of the biggest opportunities of the year to reflect on the past year to finish strong and build a powerful foundation for the year to come.
Don’t coast. Don’t let the busyness of the season bog you down. This will be some of the most valuable time you spend. Even if you only get to spend a day or two on it, take the time so finish 2018 stronger than ever.
It’s tempting to go on cruise control for the final month of 2018 and wait until the new year to refocus, but you’ll be happier with the state of your business if you finish the year out strong
You made it through another year — 2018 is almost done and 2019 is just around the corner. Are you ready to make 2019 your best year yet?
Not so fast.
While you should be thinking ahead to 2019, many plumbers make the mistake of looking too far ahead and not spending enough time finishing up the current year. People stop paying attention to December and start working on January. It’s a good thing to work ahead but not if you sacrifice your current month to do so.
End result: December turns out weaker than you expect, and your year-end sputters to a dead finish rather than finishing strong.
Here are five mistakes that plumbers make at the end of the year and what you should do instead.
Mistake No. 1. Coasting
One of the biggest mistakes is coasting. It doesn’t matter if you’ve had a great year or a mediocre year, there is a temptation to coast. If it was a great year, it can be tempting to think, “Well, I can ease up a bit because it was such a good year.” If it was a less-good year, it can be tempting to think, “Well, I’ll just take it easy now and then really get going in the new year.” Action step: Accelerate. Double down on your marketing efforts and try to win as much business as you can now. Then build off that momentum next year.
Mistake No. 2. Not Showing Appreciation To Your Customers
At this time of year, do you show appreciation to your customers? Other companies are, and maybe even your competitors are. And if they are not, just imagine how much more you’ll stand out if you do. Even if all you do is send a card to your customers, and perhaps a small gift to your larger customers, the token appreciation goes a long way. It’s not a hassle or expense. This is the time of year when people are giving and receiving gifts, and they’ll notice when you give something.
Action step: Send out a thank you note to your customers, or even a heartfelt video by email to your customers.
Mistake No. 3. Not Showing Appreciation To Your Team
Your team has worked hard all year for you. Not only that, this is also a time of year when they may be deciding whether they will stick with you next year or if some other company can help them achieve their life goals. You can remind your employees that you are the best employer for them. You don’t necessarily have to give out massive financial bonuses, but you should at least take the time to thank your employees and tell them how much they mean to you.
Action step: Look at what level of appreciation you’ve given in the past and improve upon it. Maybe a holiday party is a good step. Or give their family a Christmas basket for the holidays.
Mistake No. 4. Unfounded Optimism
As 2018 wraps up and you go into next year are you excited about the year to come? Many business owners are, which is good. Optimism is a valuable asset. However, that optimism should be built on the reality of your ability to deliver. What are you optimistic about? Many plumbers are simply optimistic because of the possibilities of the year but they haven’t established a foundation for that optimism.
Action step: Look at what you’ve achieved this year, set a goal to increase it, then make a plan of action steps to act on that goal. Schedule those action steps and get ready to execute. Now you have something to get really excited about.
Mistake No. 5. Failing To Learn
This one is perhaps the most common of them all: Failing to learn the lessons of the year and failing to build an intentional learning plan for next year. This past year was full of ups and downs for your company. You should look back and review those highs and lows and determine how to repeat the highs and minimize the lows in the new year. And you should build a learning plan to help you fill in the gaps next year so you are constantly improving what you know, which will have an effect on what you do throughout the year.
Action step: Look at the past year and consider what successes and failures you experienced, and ask yourself what you can do to get more successes while minimizing the failures. Furthermore, ask yourself what you need to know — what knowledge or strategies or approaches are missing — to help you get to the next level in 2019.
Here’s the part that most Contractors know unconsciously but may struggle to implement: the better and more efficient use of your time, the more money you can make.
Who else wants more revenue and profit? When you think of generating more revenue and profit, you may think of the most obvious ways, like raising prices or offering additional products and services. But what if I told you there was a way to make more money as a Contractor without any additional effort? In fact, you can instantly start making more money today by simply making one small adjustment.
As a Contractor, you sell your time and your expertise. Even if you charge a flat fee rather than hourly, you’re still selling your time—the time it takes to meet with the prospect and turn them into a customer; the time it takes to troubleshoot and service existing equipment; the time it takes to remove and install new equipment.
Now here’s the part that most Contractors know unconsciously but may struggle to implement: the better and more efficient use of your time, the more money you can make. Better time means finishing jobs sooner, which means doing more jobs in a day or week, which leads to more revenue (but at generally the same fixed costs), which leads to more profit.
Chances are, you probably know this already but two things are keeping you from making more money right away:
1. You don’t know how to use this information to make an actionable plan
2. You’re not sure how to get your team to buy into the same mindset as you so they run each job more efficiently too
Small Change, Big Dollars
The small change to make is this: figure out how long each job should take and set it as a target for the team members who are working on that job. Get them to “Beat The Clock” and encourage them to do amazing, high-quality work in less time than your stated time.
Of course your team should still continue to do great work and deliver the highest-
quality service to your customers. That is a non-negotiable that must be present.
This turns a regular job into a fun challenge for your team members and even if they feel that they are busy and don’t have the ability to do the work faster, many of your team members will step up to the challenge and simply do the work faster because they love the sense of competition.
And for the skeptics out there: of course your team should still continue to do great work and deliver the highest-quality service to your customers. That is a non-negotiable that must be present. But there are little things that your team can do to speed up… probably stuff you’ve been asking them to do for years (like carrying more than one thing at a time from their truck to the job site); now with a challenge in place, they may do all their work just a bit faster.
As an owner, you may have been frustrated in the past by team members who don’t seem to go very fast but consider this: simply asking them to work faster may not make sense to them, especially if they are paid hourly or don’t know how much faster you mean. But by adding a “Beat The Clock” time to every job, you now make it clear how fast they need to go to get the job done.
Step By Step
Here’s how to implement this in your business today: First, list the jobs you do and how long each job takes. (If that’s too big of a list to get started then list the top 10 most common jobs you’re hired for and just run a Beat The Clock contest on those most common jobs first, then come back to this step later for the rest of your jobs.) Second, hold an all company meeting and share this Beat The Clock challenge with your team. Ask them if they love the feeling of proving how good they are, especially against the average, and generate some friendly competition between your team members. Introduce this Beat The Clock challenge and tell them, “Starting tomorrow, we want you to do each job at the same level of great service but we want you to try and beat the clock on this job!” Third, starting immediately, put the average beat-the-clock time at the top of each work order so your team member knows how long they have to beat the clock on the job. Fourth, when a job is done, have the employee write the total hours and minutes it took them on the work order when they hand it back into the office. Fifth, hold a contest with a leaderboard and small, fun prizes; award a weekly winner to the person with the most accumulated clock-beating times for that week. Sixth, revisit the Beat The Clock numbers every 6-12 months and shave a bit of time off the average duration, to reflect your company’s improved efficiency and to keep the challenge exciting (but always keeping in mind not to sacrifice job quality for the customer).
When your team is challenged and incentivized to Beat The Clock, they’ll find ways to shave minutes off of each job without sacrificing quality. Those minutes will add up and you’ll squeeze in more jobs each week and month, which translates into more revenue and profit.
You’ll start to transform your company culture into one of efficiency and focus as team members engage in the friendly competition of trying to Beat The Clock to outperform the average time, to outperform themselves, and to outperform their team members.
Everyone wins: your team members get more done and win prizes, you make more money, and your company will serve more customers efficiently.