We've asked some of our best contractor advisors for some tips on staying busy and becoming more profitable. These ideas are especially valuable during slow periods, but you can apply them at any time.
1. Do you have a mission that's well-defined and known by all employees? If so, it should reflect on all areas of the business transaction. A strong, specific mission statement clarifies for everyone how we must treat each customer every hour of every day, says Dulcee Loehn, founder of Focal Point Business Performance. It includes things that are out of sight of customers, but are still important.
Documentation is an example, she says. If your mission is to be efficient in all areas of the business, this includes timely and accurate documentation. Many contractors say paperwork/invoicing from field personnel is a challenge. Well, have you made "paperwork on time" a goal? Technology is helping to create paperless businesses, but if you don't have it, you must help employees make this a habit.
2. Shepherd your customers, Loehn says. For some jobs, the customer service experience is short. But on other jobs, the process can be long and require many steps and handoffs. It's important to make sure that someone is accompanying your customers through every step of the process, until the last service is performed.
3. Market to your existing customer base, says Barbara Keil, president, Keil Heating & Air Conditioning, the 2005 Contracting Business.com Residential HVAC Contractor of the Year. To do this most effectively, make sure that when technicians are in the home, they get all equipment information — even if they're not servicing everything. Make sure equipment is added into computer database and aged properly.
4. Be strategic, says Greg McAfee, president of McAfee Heating & Air Conditioning. No dream — no matter how small or audacious — will come to life without a strategy. Get the right people at the table to help you, and continually update and refer to your plan to stay on track for your dream.
5. Tommy Estes, Estes Heating and Air Conditioning, says to find new revenue sources. Be willing to step out of your comfort zone and examine any feasible opportunity to generate revenue. "We struggled some in 2011, but because we now do plumbing, electrical, and home performance, we were able to maintain our previous year's sales volume of $17.8 million," Estes says. He was the 2010 Contracting Business.com Residential Contractor of the Year.
6. Respond to changing markets by changing. Randy Seaman, president of Seaman's Air Conditioning — the 2006 Contracting Business.com HVAC Commercial Contractor of the Year — says the company has expanded into markets they hadn't considered before. And, service segments are no longer treated "the same."
"Our service for commercial, industrial, hospital, and manufacturing customers are packaged differently. We're trying to be more specific in the things we do," Randy says. They're also using more social media.
Incorporate any new idea you can this summer, and lend an ear to employees who might have a better way of getting something done. Don't neglect training, reward "extra-mile" performers, and have fun (after-hours cookouts on company property, for example).
LET ME KNOW of any new ideas you try that bring in new business, when you "have a minute." firstname.lastname@example.org
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