Biz Tips

Some ideas for success in businesses I have seen and consulted with in the past, not just my business, I have worked with several companies that are large, profitable and dominate their market. One of the first concepts that I learned was that a positive attitude is essential today. Inc magazine just posted the Top Read More

Some ideas for success in businesses I have seen and consulted with in the past, not just my business, I have worked with several companies that are large, profitable and dominate their market. One of the first concepts that I learned was that a positive attitude is essential today. Inc magazine just posted the Top 7 Reasons People Get Fired (http://www.inc.com/john-white/here-are-the-top-7-reasons-people-get-fired-are-you-guilty-of-any-of-them.html) . Number 2 was getting negative. Business is tough enough without an employee adding to the misery, so don’t get caught up in office politics. Remain positive, more flies are caught with honey than an anvil. The exact quote escapes me, but you see where I am going.

Second concept is that we all need a mentor and a coach. No matter how long you have been in business, how large or small you are, a mentor and a coach can prove to be helpful. There is a difference. Ram Charan, in his business book The Leadership Pipeline: How to Build the Leadership Powered Company, says;

“What is the difference between coaching and mentoring? A. Coaching generally has to do with success in the current position, with some emphasis—say, 10 to 15 percent—on the next position. Mentoring is the reverse. Most of the emphasis is on the future, probably 80 to 85 percent; only 15 to 20 percent is focused on current performance.” So could one person fill both positions? Possible, but most find it is helpful to have two separate groups to work with. We see this today in mixed groups, where the group acts as a coach, helping other group members to improve processes and systems. In many cases the person who helped you get into the business (maybe the one you bought the business from) can be a mentor. They know what is going to happen next, sort of like your grandparents. They might not know how to order from Netflix, but they do know what happens when you ignore your teenagers for extended length of time.
Several quotes from How to Win Friends and Influence People by Dale Carnegie, a pioneer in human relations and how we can influence others.

“You can make more friends in two months by becoming interested in other people than you can in two years by trying to get other people interested in you.” So quit talking about yourself, ask them about them.

“When dealing with people, remember you are not dealing with creatures of logic, but with creatures bristling with prejudice and motivated by pride and vanity.” Human beings all make decisions the same way, emotionally, then we justify it with logic.

“Personally I am very fond of strawberries and cream, but I have found that for some strange reason, fish prefer worms. So when I went fishing, I didn’t think about what I wanted. I thought about what they wanted. I didn’t bait the hook with strawberries and cream. Rather, I dangled a worm or grasshopper in front of the fish and said: “Wouldn’t you like to have that?”
Why not use the same common sense when fishing for people?” Ask the customer questions that reveal what they think is important, not what you think is critical. You may say, I wouldn’t do that; it actually doesn’t matter what you would do, it is not your house, not your decision. Some would say, not my circus, not my monkeys!

One final quote from the same book that is somewhat debatable, since it is over 80 years old.

“about 15 percent of one’s financial success is due to one’s technical knowledge and about 85 percent is due to skill in human engineering—to personality and the ability to lead people.” Some say it is dated, and we are in a new time where this doesn’t apply.

But according to Joy Jefferson, in the book published in 2014;

“About 15 percent of one’s financial success is due to one’s technical knowledge and about 85 percent is due to skill in human engineering—to personality and the ability to lead people. It’s absolutely great to be knowledgeable but without personal and communication skills this will get you nowhere. If you want to be successful you have to learn how to best interact with people from all walks in life. Social skills and good interactions go a long way.”
― Joy JeffersonCarnegie: Carnegie, 70 Greatest Life Lessons 

So it may still be relevant, even in these turbulent times. This is actually good news, since we don’t have to be a master in the trade to be involved. We do need to know where to get technical answers, but the most critical element may be our ability to work with others.

So get your team on the same page, get them skills to help with the interactions they will find in the marketplace. Today the customer is rushed, skeptical, frustrated, and financially troubled. Much going on that they have no control over, it can be overwhelming. Throw in a unit that is down, a hot or cold house, they just may be over the edge. Make sure your team understands how frustrating it could be to come home to a home that is not comfortable, and do not let them say: I understand how you feel, unless they have come home to a hot house. It is OK to say: that would be frustrating, let me go to work, and get to a solution as soon as possible. Smile with honesty and integrity, the customer has a filter that fake smiles will not go thru. And when you ask questions, shut up and listen, you may just hear a clue to what they want from the relationship.

Have you ever wanted to do something really bad? Go with me to 1975, I was working for Meridian Air Conditioning company in lovely Indianapolis, IN. I was selling residential and commercial HVAC, some new construction, some replacement. But this is not about me. It is about Francis Mulhall. He worked with us as a Read More

Have you ever wanted to do something really bad? Go with me to 1975, I was working for Meridian Air Conditioning company in lovely Indianapolis, IN. I was selling residential and commercial HVAC, some new construction, some replacement. But this is not about me. It is about Francis Mulhall. He worked with us as a lead generator. He would run all over town to pick up blueprints, deliver spec books, inquire about new jobs coming up, visited with general contractors, large businesses, guys doing tenant improvement work, in short, anyone who may be in need of a good Hvac company. Francis was a great guy, always had your back, if he could help you, he would.

About the second year of working with him, he shared a life-long desire with me: he really wanted to ride in a blimp! So who doesn’t; they are majestic, quiet, and move with a slow grace. When someone asks, how hard is it to get a ride on the Blimp, here is the official answer. Almost impossible. The website says only to corporate sponsors and government officials.

Francis had the dream, he also had a plan. The Goodyear Blimp came to Indy each year to float over the 500. Francis knew where they docked it, when it came in, how long it stayed. He found out the phone number for Goodyear Blimps, and the local address when they were in town. He camped out, called repeatedly. The call went like this: I want a Blimp ride! The response: are you a government official? If you are one of our corporate sponsors, call the person who works with our corporate team. Francis said I am not in either category, just a guy who wants a Blimp ride.

After the first year, it was easier. He knew when to call, when they were available. And he connected up with some of the office staff.  Remember, this is in the 70s, before internet and cell phones, so it was a lot harder to link up. He learned the schedule of the Blimp, they would make runs over the city for several days before the race. Sometimes they went up with dignitaries, important people. Francis would be sure he was in the vicinity when a practice run was taking off. He would stop by the airport, be available. Francis always wore a coat and tie, which I think was a factor.

A factor in getting a ride on the Blimp. Somewhere about the 3rd or 4th year, he was at the airport where they had docked the Blimp, getting ready to take off again. Francis was talking to a guard, letting him know he was in the system, but probably number 2345, where they would take less than a dozen at a time. Turns out on this special day, someone did not show up. An employee came out, said: are you ready? UH, YES! He got his ride. Said it was magical. Some sound when you take off, but once up in the air, at times it was silent, almost no sound at all. They circled around the city for what seemed like hours, probably only 45 min. Francis was thrilled.

When he shared that with me, he still had his “what an experience” face on. It really meant a lot, as well it should have.

My thoughts today: is there something you have longed to do for some time. We now have a name for these items, call them our bucket list items.   There is even a movie by that title. But I digress.   If you really want it, plan on getting it. Put together a plan; see what it will take, then work hard to achieve that goal. It may be recreational like a Blimp ride. May be focused on business, hitting the next level for your company. Could be personal; lose 15 pounds, bench press 250 lbs. Many of you have received one of my books, just had a distributor rep ask me how the book writing process goes. It goes very slowly, started my first book about 7 or 8 years ago. Actually started 6 of them at the same time, just putting thoughts together in files labeled: Lesson Learned/The Good Stuff/Sales/Never Forget/Motorcycles and so on. Each folder is another book; first two are out, more on the way.

Final note: I had a bucket list item for years, to go to Australia, and have someone pay me to talk. Got that chance about 7 years ago, it was excellent. Will remember that trip for the rest of my life. So today’s article is about setting goals, having those excellent life moments, fulfilling dreams, all the above. Just realize that most of the heavy lifting is up to you. Not many of us will win the lottery; we will have to work for the things we achieve. So start today, make that list, pick out one item to focus on, and put together a plan to achieve it.

 

After fielding several calls this week, a contractor noticed a product for sale on Walmart’s web site that’s not a normal product for them to carry. In doing a little research, I found similar competing units for sale on the Sears website and Amazon. the following units for sale on major retailer sites. In each Read More

After fielding several calls this week, a contractor noticed a product for sale on Walmart’s web site that’s not a normal product for them to carry. In doing a little research, I found similar competing units for sale on the Sears website and Amazon. the following units for sale on major retailer sites.

In each case, the products are sold by an independent third party, not the manufacturer or the retailer. How often we get frustrated when the customer can find out what our equipment costs. Does it really matter that a few consumers have this information? Get past that, the equipment cost has no bearing on what the customer actually pays in 85% of the time. What value is placed on labor costs? Most homeowners do not place price as the most important element. They rank a trustworthy company, products that do what was promised, employees that can be trusted, and a company that does what they claimed they would do, all before the cheapest price.

A theme I have preached for years is this: you must become the “Trusted Advisor”. Until the customer likes, believes and trusts you, business is gonna be hard to do. So how do we become the “Trusted Advisor”? Several ways.

Do what you said you would do

If you have an appointment for 9 am, prepare to arrive at least 10 minutes early to your destination in the event of traffic delays.

Don’t pre-judge

Don’t assume what the customer can buy or will buy, keep an open mind. I have been surprised many times by a customer who bought a high end system for an entry level home, and also surprised by a couple living in a 5,000 square home who asked me for a used unit.

Ask questions

When we ask open-ended questions, ones demand more than a yes or no answer, the trust level is improved. It’s similar to your doctor. If you say your arm hurts, and he says “Take these pills once a day”, that’s not the level of service you expected. If you say your arm hurts and he asks “When does it hurt, when did it start hurting, what movements make the pain worse, did you fall, does it hurt when you exercise, when it rains?”, you feel better when the physician asks questions to help him or her diagnose and prescribe the solution.

And while we’re on the subject of trusted advisors, quit selling units, sell solutions. Solutions are how you assemble the products available in the marketplace to meet the needs of your customer.

So how do you respond when someone asks you if you would install a unit they bought online? Make sure your entire company knows how to answer that question. It will come. First of all, let them know you know things the internet sales site does not, until a proper evaluation is done, you can’t be certain that product will even perform to their desired needs. However, let them know with certainty that you are there for them in the unlikely chance something goes wrong or the product will not meet their needs. After all, we have all purchased something on the internet, and found out to our dismay, it was not what we needed, or even wanted. The internet is a breeding ground for scams of all kinds. Some units you see for sale online may be from an insurance claim and have no warranty at all. In fact, they may be sold illegally. Additionally, the consumer is typically responsible for taxes and shipping, and the unit is legally theirs when it is loaded on the truck, so shipping damage becomes the homeowner’s responsibility.

You must have third party stories to share with customers like this one. One of my clients was asked to install a ductless mini-split in a garage the homeowner had bought online. The contractor gave him a price that reflected a typical install and backed out the equipment cost only. After some squawking, the homeowner finally agreed to the install price. When the equipment showed up, it was a model made only for the foreign market. The homeowner had to re-order the correct unit. The information was clear about the product from a contractor’s view on the website, but the homeowner didn’t understand what to look for. So they had to pay for shipping and restocking fees that cost him an additional $1400 by the time he was done. These are the kind of things we see all the time, the homeowner just does not know what to look for, or when they are being scammed.

After the homeowner answers your questions, share your solutions with them. The Internet will not be able to do that. And the reality is that we remember the exceptions, not the average customer. Work with the customers in every way possible to support and help them. However, if a homeowner calls you and asks for a breakdown of your equipment and labor, just tell them no and go on to another one who will trust you. You are not selling them just a product or just the installation labor, your are selling them the whole package that includes the knowledge you may have over your competition that provides tremendous benefit to your customers.

Guest Article by Jon Reyes Make a Great First Impression First impressions mean everything when you’re working on plumbing issues in people’s homes and businesses. Have a courteous representative take incoming service calls or be courteous and polite yourself and keep customers informed if there are any delays in getting yourself or any technicians out Read More

Guest Article by Jon Reyes

Make a Great First Impression

First impressions mean everything when you’re working on plumbing issues in people’s homes and businesses. Have a courteous representative take incoming service calls or be courteous and polite yourself and keep customers informed if there are any delays in getting yourself or any technicians out to them – delays do happen, how the customer takes this initial delay in your new relationship is all in the delivery of the news.

People are generally not in a great mood when they call in with plumbing problems. You or your staff should have a positive attitude, and assure them that their repairs will be done professionally, and in a timely manner.

When you arrive, it’s always a good idea to be wearing a clean uniform and look neat in appearance. Always wipe your feet or use booties when entering a customer’s home or business, without having to be asked – Even if you don’t do this in your home, people do have different takes on what they expect.

Always try to be polite and friendly with your clients, and this includes using please and thank you when they address them. It’s important to gather information from the customer, in order that they can affect a proper repair.

If you end up working in an area away from the people who live or work in the building, you might try listening to a radio to fill the air. Be sure that their radio isn’t being played too loudly and form an unapproachable barrier for the customer to come to you, you might miss something the client wants to ask if you are tuned in to the radio instead of the customer.

Go Above & Beyond on your Service Calls

You can recruit many customers, but if you don’t care for them in a proper way, all your advertising money may as well be flushed down the toilet. You need to be sure that you not only meet but exceed your customers’ expectations when they call you for an installation or repair.

Going above and beyond isn’t necessarily time-consuming or costly for your company. You can perform plumbing check-ups when you’re in a customer’s home or business for a service call. If there are any minor issues, you can offer to take care of them either at no cost or at a minimal cost for them. This could range from a quick and efficient drain cleaning to replacing an old aerator on a faucet.

Depending on your company specialties, you can spur referrals by word of mouth, if your current customers are satisfied. Going the extra mile helps retain current customers and also brings in new ones.

The one thing about plumbing issues or costs the people incur as a ‘one off surprise’ is that they tell friends and family about this nuisance and unexpected cost. Going the extra mile and pleasing a customer mean that you and your company are mentioned in that conversation to numerous people that they will one day have an issue requiring your services.

Your technicians should take the time to listen to the concerns of your customers, and then approach the problems professionally and in an orderly way. People appreciate it when technicians take the time to analyze the problems they are experiencing and offer them the best options. If they’re using a camera in their lines, for instance, they may be interested in the process. It only takes a few minutes more to help them understand what they’re doing and what they’re finding in the lines.

A good sense of humor is helpful in the plumbing business, too. Even though the work sometimes seems thankless, your steady customers will appreciate a positive attitude on the part of the plumber with whom they’re working.

Good plumbers help their customers to understand the root causes of their problems and answer any questions they may have. Explain the problems in English, so the customers understand what’s going on.

Cleanliness is vital if you want your customers to be happy about the job your employees do. Be sure they tarp anything that could get dirty, and take off your shoes if they’re working in muddy conditions outside their house. Plumbers should keep their tools laid out in a small area and clean everything up when they leave.

Take the extra time needed to diagnose problems that may arise while work is being done. Especially when working on old lines, there may be unexpected complications. Do the repair for the long term, not just for the day your technician is there. Give them the time to track down and repair any issues, while explaining to the customer what’s wrong.

Follow up

Before your plumber leaves a job site, have them leave them your business card, in case the customers have any questions, concerns or issues.

After your installers complete a job, you could call your customers back to be sure that they are still happy with the performance of their equipment after an installation or repair and really impress your name on to the customer’s brain. If there is an issue, you can address it immediately and resolve it, so that the customer’s overall experience will be a positive one.

If you want to enjoy a growing plumbing business in your town, you’re not the only company that has their eyes on that prize. If you have happy customers, they’ll tell their family and friends about your service, and gain you more customers without any extra work on your part.

Written by Jon Reyes. Jon is a guest author from Steam Shower Store and is a respected and expert voice in a plethora of health related subjects with over 10 years of writing under his belt.

By Siobhan Ashleigh How many horror stories have you heard about home contractors who didn’t do their job well? Invoice2go, a mobile app that allows small business owners to track work and get paid, recently conducted a study of 803 US homeowners that revealed more than 75% of people have had a negative experience working Read More

By Siobhan Ashleigh

How many horror stories have you heard about home contractors who didn’t do their job well? Invoice2go, a mobile app that allows small business owners to track work and get paid, recently conducted a study of 803 US homeowners that revealed more than 75% of people have had a negative experience working with contractors for home projects. Such terrible experiences have inspired consumer watchdog websites like Contractors From Hell.

According to the homeowners’ survey, a job badly done was the top reason for dissatisfaction, but not the only concern. For plumbing contractors, even if you do a job well, there’s a lot more to giving your client a positive experience, including communication, accurate billing, and convenient payment methods. Every plumber must establish trust with their clients. How? Ranking 2nd in the survey, a full 30% of homeowners cited lack of communication as a reason for their negative experience. To build trust, good communication is essential. Here are 5 tips to help you stay connected to your clients every step of the way:

Be upfront about the job’s timeline and any potential hurdles

Plumbing contractors aren’t traditional employees, so your client won’t be privy to every aspect of your business. Make sure you have more than a verbal contract and handshake. Prepare a contract that specifies deadlines and contingency plans in case something goes wrong. You can hire a lawyer to do this for you, or use an online template to help you build one, like this on Rocket Lawyer.com.

Be professional, but be yourself

From “How to Build Customer Trust” on Inc.com:  Jerry Acuff, author of The Relationship Edge: The Key to Strategic Influence and Selling Success says “Every meeting should be a conversation, not a sales pitch. Spend at least half of every customer meeting listening. And make certain the conversation is substantive and about real business issues, not just office patter or sports chit-chat.” However, do get to know your clients. Be curious (to a point) about their lives outside of your business relationship. Don’t be afraid to ask, “How are the wife and kids?”

Provide a professional estimate before agreeing to take on the project

When clients are hit with unexpected expenses, chances are they won’t be calling on you again. This means you need to do your homework and be prepared well ahead of time with all expenses. Look beyond your own business – make sure any subcontractors you work with are also upfront about costs so you’re not having to pass on those surprise expenses to your client.

Use visuals

Most clients are tech savvy nowadays, so attach photos to emails to show your progress on the project. Use a receipts capture app to attach photos to all receipts. Be ready to break down all costs (materials, time, overhead, etc.) to clearly show what your client’s money is going toward.

Love what you do                                                                                                                               Former MLB player and manager Tommy Lasorda said, “If you love your job, you haven’t worked a day in your life.” If you don’t enjoy what you’re doing as a plumbing contractor, then why are you doing it? Sure, you’re going to have bad days. But overall, you should feel good about what you’re offering. When you value what you do, clients will pick up on your commitment and passion. It will further open your mind to meeting exactly what they need.

As a plumbing contractor, you must work at establishing trust right off the bat with each client you serve. Good communication is vital for this to happen. When you’re honest and open about every step of the project, clients won’t be left in the dark, wondering if you were their best option. Leave them with no doubts and no reason to not contact you again!

Do sweat the small stuff

Plumbing contractors don’t have a well-known company name behind them to help gain a client’s trust. When you work for yourself, you are the face and brand behind the company. So it’s all on you to ensure clients that you have what it takes to get the job done right.

We’ve all heard the phrase, “The devil is in the details.” That’s especially true for a plumbing contractor. Even the smallest of details can mean the difference between gaining or losing a loyal customer. According to a recent survey of 803 US homeowners, the top behaviors that positively reflect the credibility of a service provider are small things we might take for granted:

  • Cleaning up after a job – 85%
  • Showing up on time – 84%
  • Presenting a professional estimate – 78%
  • Collecting and providing receipts – 61%

You might be thinking this should be common sense, but when your schedule is full and you’re juggling family, budgeting, recordkeeping, and all the other nuances of your work/life balance, it’s easy to let some of these things slide. How can you ensure these simple things are rarely (if never) overlooked? Here are some tips.

  1. Clean up (and work) smarter, not harder – Before you begin a job, designate a specific place for all your tools and equipment so they’re not scattered all over the job site. This goes for tech-based jobs too. Laptops, headsets, thumb drives, CDs, etc. – keep them within reach so you don’t have to be up and down looking for them, which wastes time and adds needless frustration. For more physical jobs, clean up as you go if at all possible. Also, make sure you have the proper equipment to clean with. Think ergonomic, dependable equipment that doesn’t require a lot of fuss. This article from Dan MacLeod shares ten important principles when it comes to ergonomics on the job.
  2. Being prompt is not old-school – There’s no such thing as being fashionably late when it comes to a small business owner’s work. Woody Allen is credited with saying, “Eighty percent of success is showing up.” Make it a point to always be on time. Be careful with scheduling jobs in the first place so you’re not overbooking yourself. It’s better to have a little down time between jobs than to have so much work you can’t make the client’s deadline. Use calendar apps on your mobile devices to set alerts ahead of start time so you’re not caught off guard and have plenty of time to prepare and travel if necessary.
  3. The power of a good-looking estimate – In the old days, handwritten estimates on carbon-copy paper were adequate. Not so much anymore. In the digital age, you need to be prepared to send estimates that are not only accurate, but look professional. Apps like Invoice2go allow you to do just that. You can add your company’s logo and email (or print) your estimate and send it to your client. Even better, this video shows how you can easily convert estimates to invoices with the same app so you don’t have to do everything twice.
  4. Don’t toss the receipts – For most of us, our first impulse is to toss receipts into a purse or wallet, where we plan to fetch them later, but lo and behold, they’re often lost to the ages. Designate a spot to store paper receipts for your job, like a zip pouch or other secure container and put in your receipts the moment you get them. If you just hate dealing with paper, use receipt capturing apps on your mobile devices to take digital photos of them. Either way, you’ll always know where they are so you can easily show the client where their money is going. Remember, transparency with billing is crucial to gaining a client’s trust.
  5. Don’t forget the legal stuff – In a perfect world, we could work and handle everything in our own bubble, but that doesn’t provide you any legal protection should you need it. Make absolutely certain your business is legit on paper – your business name is registered with the state, you’ve got a tax ID number and any necessary licenses and permits. That way, you’ve got some security should you ever come to a legal dispute with a client. The Small Business Administration has some great advice about these legal necessities.

While a job well done is the most important goal, don’t neglect the little details. Just one lost receipt or late deadline can keep you from securing more work. So, pay attention to the small stuff to establish more credibility, and the big stuff will be that much easier.

About Invoice2go

  • Invoice2go is a mobile app that makes it easy for small business owners to track work and get paid.
  • It’s the number one grossing business app in more than 50 countries
  • Used by more than 200,000 customers to send $1 billion in invoicing every month
  • Customers: Used by every type of business owner. (Contractors from landscapers, plumbers, electricians, and construction workers, to independent businesses like dog walkers, makeup artists, DJs and caterers, etc.)
  • Available in 11 languages
  • Website: https://invoice.2go.com

invoice2go-app