I’m always on the lookout for a wormhole, a way to get from where I am to where I want to be faster. No, instantly!
Here are the best ideas I have recently discovered, or rediscovered, by working with contractors. While the ideas aren’t technically instant fixes, they do have a massive effort-to-effect ratio. In other words, these small changes can deliver big results.
• Everybody gets a notebook: We are too old to remember stuff. My life changed dramatically when I started to write down things that needed to be remembered.
I’d had enough of the “I’ve got it all right here” bravado, accompanied by a finger to the noggin. I was forgetting appointments and project due dates. I was asking the same questions over and over because I couldn’t remember the answers.
So, I started with Post Its. Post Its seemed like a good idea at first. One or two as reminders. Before long, my office looked like a murder investigation diagram from an episode of CSI. It felt like all the Post Its were SHOUTING at me, vying for my attention, without any overall purpose.
I graduated to a single subject college ruled notebook. I started by putting all the Post Its in the notebook. At least I could close the notebook, and silence the noise. That helped a lot. When it was time to work, I would open the notebook and start assembling to dos and projects.
When I left the office I always took the notebook with me. No more indecipherable notes on the back of an old receipt or grocery bag. I once wrote a shopping list on a scrap 2 by 4. The notebook increased my productivity by light years.
Now, when anyone comes to work with me, or at ZOOM DRAIN, they get a notebook.
We communicate that we expect them to write down stuff that they need to remember. They also get a tablet, loaded up with our operating manuals and price book, and other apps which we use daily.
If they prefer, and can type quickly enough, they can use an electronic notebook such as Trello or Notes.
Bottom line, if I am communicating something that needs to be remembered, and the person I am talking to isn’t writing – I stop talking.
You are wasting your time giving “verbal commands.” Those, my friend, are merely suggestions. This one tip could wormhole the productivity of your team.
• Dump the dispatch fee? For a small company, the dispatch fee can help you triage your calls. If you are super busy, and your customer is unwilling to pay a modest dispatch fee, you might be OK letting that call go. (Oooh, I can hardly type that sentence! Still, sometimes you can’t get to everyone right away.)
Also, there is good argument to be made that we denigrate the industry by giving free estimates. Doctors don’t give free estimates. Just sayin’.
However, if you are a bigger company – five-plus trucks – you might consider dropping the dispatch fee. It can be a rock in the road for the customer service rep. Yes, a great CSR can overcome the objections to your dispatch fee. But I’m always on the lookout for tactics that allow a good team member to achieve at great levels. So, taking the dispatch fee out of the equation can make it easier to book the call.
“Mrs. Fernwicky, I understand you want to get the best value for your time and money. I’m happy to send a service tech to your home at no charge to you. He (or she) will diagnose the problem and share options and prices with you to fix the problem. You can decide at that time if you would like to go ahead with our service. May I put you on the schedule for this morning?”
Easy, right? Book. The. Call.
Note that your prices will have to accommodate this nonbillable time. And, this approach only works if your service techs are well trained, use written procedures and have operational, technical and communication skills.
• Simplify your pricing: I run into this roadblock with some frequency: Contractors make pricing jobs way too complicated. They wait to give the price until they have every screw priced out and that may take days – UGH! – to get the proposal to the customer.
You don’t need to have all the parts dialed in at the SALE moment in the customer experience. Don’t make it a hassle for a customer to buy from you.
You could create a price book with estimated materials and a catchall dollar amount for extras. For example, your mid-range disposer task could include a round-high number for a ¾-horsepower disposer, and $25 for other materials. Then, account for the materials used from the truck using a sound truck restock procedure.
For big jobs, estimate the big items (think 80/20 rule) and add a catchall dollar amount for the rest. Then, after you have sold the job, create the detailed purchase order, specific to that job.
Price faster, with rounded numbers for materials and generous labor hours. Make it easy on you and your customers. Really. It will be OK.
• Specialize, don’t generalize: If you are in a small town, you may have to add services to keep busy enough to grow your company. If you operate in a large city, however, I heartily recommend specializing.
Become THE company that does THIS service. Other contractors will appreciate your expertise and refer work. You can refer work right back and help each other grow their businesses. Customers will appreciate that you are the best at what you do.
I know contractors who can literally fix or install anything. I’m married to one. However, if you want to grow your company, you are going to get bottlenecked trying to “clone” you. Consider creating manuals and training that help you and your team get really good – fast – in your area of specialty.
This is a deceptively simple, awesomely powerful way to scale your company and create solid profits and cash. Could be a wormhole.
• Create a morning ritual: I asked a friend what his morning ritual was.
He answered: “Well, everyday I roll out of bed, brush my teeth, get dressed and head to the office. On the way, I hit the McDonald’s drive-thru and get a sausage McMuffin and a large coffee. Black coffee. I’m watching my weight.”
Hmmm. “You do that every day?” I pressed, wondering how long he had been “watching his weight.” Watching it do what?
He admitted that on the weekend he skipped McDonald’s and powered through boxes of cereal while he discovered the Discovery Channel.
This is how we get stuck, right? Same old thoughts and actions, creating the same life, over and over again. If you change those routines, you can transform your life.
I am a high-energy gal, but I don’t wake up like that every day.
I take some time to breathe and stretch, and read or listen to something inspirational. I write in my gratitude journal. I review my goals and affirmations. I avoid the phone and the computer until I “punch in” to work. I make sure my body is warmed up, and my intentions are clear before I take action. I noticed that the most successful people I know have morning rituals so I’ve adopted the practice.
Consider how you can manufacture the energy you want to fuel your day. Self-development guru Tim Ferris wrote a terrific book about the tactics, habits and routines of the world’s most productive people. Check it out at bit.ly/2M1qLR1. And in the meantime, if you have a productivity tip or wormhole to share, reach me at email@example.com.
Ellen Rohr is president of the franchise company, ZOOM Drain, www.zoomdrain.com, and offers "in the trenches" insights to contractors and family business owners. Reach her at (417) 753-1111 or firstname.lastname@example.org. For free business tips, problem-solving webinars, money-making tools and lots of love, visit ellenrohr.com.