Posted by Denise Mejia
Nu-Air Heating & Cooling
Uploaded 132 days ago
Since we started Nu-Air, our heating and air cooling company, my husband Edgar and I have sat in on several meetings about the manufacturing and distribution of HVAC supplies. The meetings are generally run by business people in fancy suits who get up and talk to a bunch of very timid business owners.
It’s not that these business owners aren’t confident about what they do. I know that they are, and that they’ve been able to run successful businesses. But now the industry is changing in a way that they’re not prepared for.
In these meetings, manufacturers talk about new technology, and ask business owners if they’re using this app or that tech platform. And in return, they tend to get a bunch of blank stares.
Except for us. We’re consistently the only company in these meetings that is able to give testimony that we are using different platforms successfully.
See we have two advantages. The first is my background, having spent seven years in IT sales. The other is that we’re young. Because of this, we didn’t build our business in the old school way of doing things, which is going away.
For instance, in the HVAC industry, it’s traditional to maintain a warehouse space, and keep the shelves stocked with common supplies that technicians can grab for a given customer. With this setup, your company pays all the upfront costs for supplies, as well as the rent and insurance on the warehouse space.
As for us, we don’t keep any products that don’t fit in our truck. Instead, we partner with several manufacturing companies that utilize advanced supply chain processes. We can send in an order and have it delivered right to our customer the next day. In this way, we save costs on supplies and storage.
This is an example of modern outsourcing.
I believe that it’s processes like this that have made us so successful from the start. During our first year of business, we set an income goal of $250,000. We met and exceeded that goal and have doubled our revenue for the past two years.
In this article, I’ll explain the rules I use to select business solutions for our company, all of which involve outsourcing and automation.
I left my IT career to spend more time with my kids. When I left my job, I was earning seven figures a year.
It wouldn’t make any sense for me to leave a seven-figure salary to go work full-time for Nu-Air, which is why outsourcing is such a big deal for us. I get to find solutions that will work well for the company, and then step back and reap the benefits. In other words, I get to support the business while focusing on my family.
For instance, we outsource all of our calls and messages to Ruby Receptionist — a virtual receptionist company. We’ve developed dozens of scripts that their staff uses to answer calls about our services. We then get emails for any new request that comes in.
Ruby Receptionist guarantees that friendly, industry-knowledgeable people talk to our customers. In return, I’m not stuck in an office answering phone calls, and we don’t have to worry about training paying a staff person’s salary and benefits.
Does outsourcing your phone calls sound scary to you? Then, let me tell you another story.
There’s another HVAC company in our area whose office manager is hurting their business. Technicians and customers are leaving because of this person’s bad attitude. So why hasn’t the company fired them already? While I don’t know for sure, I can take a guess: replacing someone is difficult!
It also takes time to retrain a person on all of your systems, work processes, and technicians. And if that person quits, you’re stuck with no-one to answer the phone or someone at a different pay rate doing it.
There’s a comfort in outsourcing, knowing that you’re paying a company (ideally with a good reputation to start with!) that is committed to providing quality service. Instead of needing to be jack-of-all-trades, they do one thing well.
Not everything can be outsourced. Sometimes, it would take more time and effort to have someone else do a task than to simply do it yourself. When this is the case, I look for tools that are heavily automated.
For instance, Edgar and his technicians create quotes or invoices on the job site. It wouldn’t make sense to tell the customer to wait while they send it off to some other company to create. But with Housecall Pro, much of the process of creating an estimate and getting it approved is automated. Our techs can quickly create an estimate or an invoice by adding commonly used line items.
And here’s where the automation comes in: the estimate is tied to the customer’s information, so as soon as a tech creates the estimate, they can send it to the customer to approve with one click. That estimate will automatically create an invoice, and once paid, the customer will automatically receive a receipt.
The less Edgar and I have to do, the more time we have to spend with our family and build up the business in other ways.
So how do you find the right companies and tools to work with? Here are three rules I use when looking for a business solution.
1. I Look for Solutions Tailored To My Market
No matter what solution you’re looking for, you want to know that it works well for your industry.
When we were looking for a website hosting company, I Googled “HVAC website hosting companies.” If a business comes up at the top, it’s more likely to be good at what they do.
2. I Follow Oprah’s One Step Rule
Years ago, Oprah did a show about a one-touch rule that I’ve lived by ever since. If you’re packing and you take a picture off the wall, do you put it on a table and then put it in a box? No. You put it straight in the box. Ultimately that saves time.
And the same goes for running a business. If I write an invoice and then I have to manually enter it into Quickbooks, something is wrong. That’s two steps, not one, and it takes twice the time.
This is where automation comes in. With heavily automated tools, much of the time, you should be able to get something done in one step, not two or three.
Effectively running a business is all about saving time and effort, and the same goes for your customers. When your air conditioning goes out at 2am, do you want to call someone or maybe push a button? We’re living in an age when we’re on our phones all the time and yet we don’t want to talk to anyone. If our customers can spend thirty seconds filling out a form in the middle of the night and then go back to sleep knowing someone can come fix their AC the next day, then we’re making the customer happy by making things easier on them.
3. I Follow My Own Attic Rule
Any technology we use in the field needs to be accessible to someone who has just climbed down from a 120 degree attic. This includes technicians who are used to old school practices, like writing paper invoices.
But actually, ease-of-use should start with your customer. If the technician loves the product, but it’s not useful or intuitive for the customer, then it’s not going to work for you. Start with what your customers love and work backwards.
When we look for solutions, we think about our local clientele. We work in higher end homes, and we want to make sure we’re automating the process as much as possible. We want our clients notified when a technician is going to arrive and who is coming. Our technicians use tablets on site along with Housecall Pro to take payments or discuss financing at the client’s home.
You put the mechanisms in place so that your business runs without your constant attention. You still have the ultimate control. In your business, you want to be like God. You oversee everything, but you don’t have to do everything yourself.
You also know when to step in. For instance, between Ruby Receptionist and Housecall Pro, customers can request services without us. But then we step in and schedule a technician for the visit. While there are ways to completely automate scheduling, we choose to do this ourselves because a system doesn’t know what the technician is in the middle of from moment to moment.
You’re In Control of Your Company, But Solutions Providers Are The Experts In What They Do
When I was in IT, I never went to the customer and said, “Tell me what you want me to sell you.” My job was to find a solution that fit them, because I was the expert. Similarly, we never want our technicians to go into a house and say, ‘This is wrong, and this is wrong, and this is wrong.’ Our techs are meant to offer solutions.
If you’ve found a business solution you like, then listen to the advice of the people who have created it. They’re experts in their field: whether it’s finances, customer service, or field service management.
With every solution we’ve chosen, when we get ready to implement it, we go to whoever's the expert and say: Hold my hand. Here's our business. How does it make sense with what you provide?
This doesn’t mean naively doing everything they say. We take their feedback and then combine it with what we understand of our own business needs.
It’s also helpful to remember that you don’t have to outsource forever. If you get in our groove and decide you want to pull it back, then go forth and conquer. But you have to look at the costs associated with doing the work internally as opposed to allowing the expert to do what they do best.
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