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Technician Scheduling: How to Tame the Beast (Once and For All)

January 31, 2019 • When you decided to start your own home service business, it probably wasn’t because you love to make schedules. In fact, the logistics of scheduling likely weren’t on your mind much at all until you made your first few hires. By now you’ve probably realized that technician scheduling is one of the most important tasks you handle on a regular basis. After all, an organized, well-thought-out schedule allows you to maximize bookings and service more customers. As your team expands further, your ability to make smart scheduling decisions will continue to play a huge factor in your success as a business owner. So, how can you do it better? Let’s take a look! What Are the Biggest Challenges of Technician Scheduling? Good question. In theory, technician scheduling should be quick and easy to take care of – but that’s rarely the case. Here are some of the most common problems home service business owners face with technician scheduling. Unproductive Gaps in Your Schedule: This is more than a case of simply under-booking. If your schedule isn’t optimized to fit in as many appointment slots as possible, you’ll have awkward gaps that are too short to squeeze in a maintenance call but long enough to hurt your revenue. Having unproductive gaps in your schedule means you’re not billing as many hours as you could be – which eats into your potential earnings. In fact, according to studies by Bain Consulting , poor scheduling decisions can cost you up to 50-60% of your revenue. Scheduling Conflicts: On the other end of the spectrum, you can also run into problems if your schedule is too tightly packed. This type of overbooking can result in issues like technicians showing up late to appointments, accidentally sending two technicians to complete the same job, or expecting a technician to get across town faster than possible during high traffic times. Lost Business and Revenue: Disorganized or short-sighted technician scheduling can cost you revenue as well as potential customers. As a small business, you can’t afford for your technicians to waste time driving back and forth across town in between appointments. Or to have gaps in your schedule, no-show customers, or techs who show up late to appointments – especially because 64% of customers won’t rehire a service company that’s an hour late to an appointment. 6 Tips HSB Owners Can Use to Simplify Technician Scheduling If you want to make technician scheduling as easy and efficient as possible, you need to think about your priorities and plan accordingly. For instance, do you want to schedule by location to save on gas and minimize travel time? Or would you rather assign specific jobs to specific technicians based on their skills? Let’s take a look at how you can simplify your technician scheduling practices to maximize revenue, boost customer satisfaction, and keep your techs happy, too. 1. Schedule Technicians by Skill Set One simple way to make scheduling decisions is by assigning technicians to specific jobs based on their experience level and skill set. This works best if you’ve got a larger team or technicians with varied skills and expertise. For instance, if any of your technicians specialize in one area of your field, it makes sense to ‘save’ their skills for jobs that require their expertise. Otherwise, you’ll lose out on that business if your experts are all booked up with routine maintenance – something that could be handled by a generalist or more junior tech. 2. Book Appointments by Location If it doesn’t make sense for your industry or team to schedule by skill set, a good alternative is technician scheduling based on location. Scheduling jobs based on location is more efficient than booking work all over town to fill your schedule. That is, it’s better to cater to one region or zone on a given day than to have your technicians driving all over the place, wasting gas and time in between jobs. For example, on Mondays, Wednesdays, and Fridays, you might only book jobs in service zones one and two. On Tuesdays, Thursdays, and Saturdays, you might focus on servicing zones three and four. 3. Expand Your Availability If your availability doesn’t line up with your customers’ expectations, you’ll have a hard time filling your schedule even if customers want to book appointments. For example, if you limit your technician scheduling to 9-5 on weekdays, you’re cutting yourself off from a huge range of potential customers who have to be at work during that time. Considering extending your business hours to accommodate customers who work during the day and can’t take time off to let you into their home for their service appointment. By offering a more flexible schedule that includes early mornings, evenings, and weekends, you’re making it easier for customers to find appointment times that fit into their busy lives. 4. Take Advantage of Home Services Software You can streamline your scheduling process further with the help of home service management software. Technician scheduling software allows you to easily manage your call schedule, maximize bookings, and avoid scheduling conflicts. Home service business software like Housecall Pro streamlines internal communication, which prevents problems like sending two techs to the same job site and ensures your techs are always on time for appointments. Plus, a real-time dispatch system allows your technicians to receive alerts about upcoming jobs, update their availability, and mark work completed right from the job site. 5. Automate Service Reminders Your home service management software can also help you avoid last minute cancellations and no-shows by sending automated service reminders to customers with upcoming appointments. If you schedule out maintenance or seasonal work in advance, there’s a good chance some of your customers will forget by the time their appointment date rolls around. So, rather than dispatching technicians to job sites only to find that no one is home, use your technician scheduling software to send out automated service reminders in the days leading up to an appointment. 6. Offer More Convenient Booking for Customers Encourage more customers to book with you by making it easy to view your calendar and book a time slot online. A digital booking system that displays your availability allows customers to choose a time that’s most convenient for them. It’s also a good idea to ask for customer feedback about your scheduling practices. For instance, do your customers feel that it’s easy to book an appointment that fits into their schedule? You can use customer input to improve how you handle technician scheduling going forward. The Right Technician Scheduling Software Can Help As a business owner, there are plenty of things you could be spending time on besides technician scheduling. But hey, it comes with the territory – if you want to run a profitable home services business, you need an efficient scheduling strategy. The key is to find the right process and tools that make managing your technician scheduling as fast and simple as possible. Home service business management software like Housecall Pro makes it easier than ever to book more appointments and maximize productivity. Want an easier way to manage your home service business and technician scheduling? Book your live demo today to find out how Housecall Pro can make your scheduling more efficient, so your business can be more profitable.

Stephen Altrogge, Author

TOPIC: Performance

6 Ways to Grow Your HVAC Business (Without Spending a Dime on Marketing) [Infographic]

November 6, 2018 • There’s a common misconception that you can only get big marketing results with an even bigger budget. But the truth is, you don’t need to spend a ton to market your business effectively. In fact, thanks in part to free tools like social media and email, there are more ways than ever to grow your business without spending anything at all on marketing. The infographic below digs into six paths you can take to expand your HVAC business without even touching your marketing budget. 1. Ask for Referrals Getting referrals is one of the easiest, most cost-effective ways to get more customers. 84% of people trust recommendations from friends and family. So, now that you know how important referrals are for growing your HVAC business, how can you go about getting more of them? Make an effort to ask for them! Better yet, create a referral program that incentivizes your existing customer base to recommend your services to their network. 2. Generate Recurring Revenue The best way to build a sustainable business is to lock in future revenue from existing clients. You can’t guarantee that a customer will come back to you for future work, but you can encourage them to do so by providing exceptional service and a loyalty program. You can also create long-term opportunities by offering maintenance agreements whenever you install a new unit. 3. Build Partnerships Partnering with other home service businesses can be an awesome opportunity for growing your HVAC company. Local plumbers, painters, and handymen all serve the same type of customer as you – but they don’t offer HVAC services. By forming partnerships with local business owners offering non-competitor services, you can increase awareness for your business and even get a few referrals at no cost to you. 4. Use Social Media The best part of social media marketing isn’t that it can be completely free (or you can set your own budget to whatever makes sense for your business) – it’s also effective. Half of business owners report having increased their sales through social media marketing. There are plenty of different ways to approach social media marketing. Whether you participate in Facebook groups, host an Instagram contest, share your latest blog post all over Twitter, or opt to invest a few bucks in targeted ads. 5. Email Marketing HVAC businesses should take advantage of email marketing not only to land more customers, but to land customers who are willing to spend more over their lifetime. After all, people who buy services from an email spend considerably more money (138% more, to be specific) than your typical customer. Plus, eventually, all units need repairs, maintenance, and a replacement installed. So, schedule reminders to send follow-up emails to previous customers based on the lifecycle of their unit. You can use a template for each type of email so all you have to do is personalize the details and hit send. 6. Get Reviews and Testimonials For better or worse, online reviews can have a serious impact on your business. That’s because a whopping 97% of consumers look at online reviews when researching a local business. This means that as soon as a potential customer discovers your business online, there’s a 97% chance they’re going to read reviews before contacting you to book an appointment. You need positive reviews to help bring those potential clients to your door. So, simply ask happy customers to leave you a review or write a testimonial that can be posted on your website. It’s free to ask – and most satisfied customers are happy to comply. Download Field Guide: How to Hire & Grow HVAC Your HVAC Business Without the Headache

Emily Bauer

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How to Ask for a Testimonial: A Guide for Home Service Businesses

November 5, 2018 • Choosing a business for an in-home service isn’t easy. There are so many different businesses to choose from. From carpet cleaning to garage door repair to electrical work, how do you know you’re going to get quality work at a good value from a trustworthy professional? If only there were a way ask a friend, someone with experience in the industry of the service you need. That’s how testimonials have the power to help you increase your business. 92 percent of consumers read online reviews and testimonials when they’re considering a product or service. 88 percent say they trust those online reviews and testimonials just as much as they would trust a friend or family member. And 72 percent of consumers say good reviews and positive testimonials make them trust a business more. It’s clear that if you aren’t using testimonials as part of your marketing strategy already, you need to start. But unfortunately, getting those great testimonials will require a little action on your part. Customers are pretty unlikely to leave a testimonial unless prompted, which means it’s on you to ask for one. If you’ve never asked your customers for testimonials before, it can feel like a daunting task. But asking for testimonials isn’t as hard as it seems. Here’s how to ask your customers, and how to put their testimonials to the best use to bring more customers to your business. Ask for a testimonial after receiving praise from a customer If a customer has already given you some glowing feedback, congratulations! You’re in the best possible position to ask for a testimonial. Since you already know the client has good things to say, simply ask if they’d be willing to share those thoughts with other prospective clients. Most likely, they’ll be happy to. It’s that simple! Unfortunately, this isn’t the norm. Even when customers have great experiences, they don’t always go out of their way to tell you that. So you may have to ask for a testimonial in another way. Don’t worry, you still have a ton of options. Try to have a conversation with every customer Before leaving a customer’s house after finishing a job, if it’s appropriate, have your technicians  strike up a conversation. A friendly comment about an upcoming holiday, a weather change, their home decor — anything can open the door for the customer to mention how much they appreciated their experience. And that’s the perfect time to ask about a testimonial. Follow up with your customers via email If an in-person opportunity to request a testimonial doesn’t come up, hope is not lost. You can still follow up and make the ask. A great way to do this is to email your guests a thank you for choosing your business. Somewhere in the email, in a prominent font, you can include something like, “If you had a great experience with us, help others find our services by sharing a testimonial for our website.” Link to a form they can fill out with their testimonial information (more on this below). But it’s important to strike while the iron is hot. The happy sentiment customers have after a positive service experience fades quickly, so if you don’t follow up quickly, they’ll be less and less likely to leave you a testimonial. Keep that in mind, and try to send out your thank you emails as soon after a service call as possible. If you can’t follow up by email, regular mail works too There are going to be situations where you don’t have a customer’s email address. If that’s the case, you can follow up and send a thank you by regular mail, instead. Keep in mind, though, that this puts you at an automatic disadvantage because of the time it will take a mailed card to get to your customers. After that much time has passed, you may want to offer them some kind of incentive for providing a testimonial, like a discount off their next service or a gift card to a local restaurant. Aim for video testimonials While written testimonials are powerful, video testimonials are even more so. Ask your customers if they’re comfortable giving a video testimonial. Some won’t be, but others may be fine with it. It never hurts to ask. Once you have the testimonial… Once a customer has agreed to give you a testimonial, your work isn’t over. Here’s what you should do next. Help your customers with what to include Since most of your customers aren’t writers, they might need a little guidance about what they should include in their testimonials that will really benefit your potential future clients. For example, potential clients want to hear about the experience — what it’s really like to work with you. Your happy customers need to know to include that. So it might be helpful to provide customers who have already agreed to write testimonials with a form that prompts them to explain exactly what the experience was like and why they would recommend it to others. You can link to that form in an email asking for testimonials, or include a hard copy to be filled out (along with a prepaid, addressed return envelope) with mailed requests for testimonials. Edit your written testimonials Not everyone is a writer, and that goes for your customers, too. Edit their testimonials to correct any mistakes in grammar and usage. If these testimonials are going to persuade new customers to choose your business, they need to be clean and professional. Include as much information about the customer as possible Testimonials should be made to seem personal to your potential customers, so you should aim to include as much information as possible about the customers who supplied them. Ultimately, it’s up to the client what they want to include. But you should try to have, at a minimum, their full name, their business name (if it’s relevant), their location, the date you provided them with your service, and their headshot or business logo. Include all of this on the testimonial form, and make sure you explain to them that any information they provide you with may be used for your marketing later on. Display your testimonials in the right place Finally, it’s time to put your testimonials where they’ll have the most impact: In front of the eyes of new potential customers. There are a lot of options for where you can place them on your website, but one thing is for sure: They need to be prominent. That’s why your homepage may very well be your best bet. That’s the most visited page of any website, after all, so it’ll get your testimonial in front of the most possible eyes. Another option is to put testimonials on a dedicated testimonial page. As your testimonials grow in numbers, this is a good option because it gives you a place to put them all without overwhelming your homepage, where you need to convey other information. You can always continue to include the best few testimonials there. You’re well on your way to collecting the testimonials that will help you take your business to the next level. All it takes is to ask, and with these tips, you’re ready to make the request.

Paul

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3 No-Brainer Investments You Should Make to Grow Your HVAC Business to Over $1 Million

September 7, 2018 • The initial growth of many small single-proprietor HVAC businesses comes from word-of-mouth and local advertising. And then you reach a point where the growth plateaus. This is an indication that small-business tactics are no longer enough. While things like customer recommendations remain important, to reach the next level of growth, you need to add new promotion and sales strategies, as well as a technology infrastructure to support your growing business. 1. Invest in opportunities to differentiate your company You already know that, in order to compete against huge regional or national chains, you must differentiate your business. Initially, it was easy enough to set yourself apart by providing better quality service that led to repeat customers and word-of-mouth recommendations. But when you’re trying to take your business to the next level, quality service isn’t enough in and of itself. So how do you differentiate on a larger scale? Invest in marketing efforts tailored to your company’s strengths and specialties. Experienced HVAC tech and contractor Dave Miller recommends  targeting a different audience than your competition through specialization. If larger companies put a lot of promotional efforts toward installing multi-split units, for instance, don’t try to outdo them — focus on something else. When you become the expert in a specific area of service, Dave explains, “you can easily craft your sales pitch to be more appealing.” Of course, you don’t need to stick to one specific service, but putting a lot of effort into one or two can help focus your marketing efforts. Dave also suggests marketing heavily to a specific region (what he calls the “sniper approach” where you can build up a strong reputation and people will get used to seeing your service vehicles and logo. As you grow, you can expand that area wider and wider. Facebook allows you to run ads on a specific zip code, which can be a good place to start this micro-local marketing. 2. Invest in SEO and CRO site optimization The majority of people want to work with a local company as opposed to a national chain, so they’re looking for a business like yours. But can they find you? A recent survey showed that 97% of people search for local businesses online and 85% of folks surveyed trusted online reviews as much as personal recommendations. In order to be found, your site needs to be optimized for local searches by using a search engine optimization (SEO) strategy. As SEO expert Bradley Shaw explains, “Local SEO is essential for HVAC marketing. You need to be found in your city listings.  It helps drive organic search traffic to your website. Organic traffic is ‘free traffic’.” Optimizing your site for local search includes things like: Figuring out what people in your area are searching for and making sure those search terms are found throughout your site Linking to your website from local listings such as Yelp, Angie’s List, and Google My Business. While there are simple things you can do on your own to increase your search rankings, to compete with larger businesses, especially chains, it’s worthwhile to invest in expert help. Even a one-time cost of a detailed SEO audit could help you generate dozens or hundreds of new inquiries each year. If you’re already on top of the SEO game, the next site investment with a big payoff is conversion rate optimization (CRO). How well is your site set up to convert site visitors into new customers? A CRO audit can show you different ways to improve your call-to-action on your site, which should always be linked to your online booking page. 3. Invest in technology that makes your job easier Are you equipped to handle a rush of new business? Even if you have a large enough team ready to handle the work, new customers mean more customer calls schedule, and estimates and invoices to write. Successfully growing your business relies on having scalable processes in place to handle this additional work. Step one is automating as many business processes as possible, such as automated invoicing and taking online payments. Step two is moving from separate management tools to one unified platform. When you’re stringing together different software — one for dispatching, another for invoicing, etc. — it requires lots of time and effort to get information from one app to another. This is what Housecall offers HVAC and other home service industries: one unified solution to manage your entire operation. And it doesn’t just make your life easier; it also adds value to your customers. For instance, Housecall offers new opportunities for customer engagement, such as live chat. Per one recent customer service survey, 79% of businesses polled said that offering live chat has increased sales, revenue, and customer loyalty. The secret to becoming a bigger business is thinking about what you’ll need in the long-term and making smart investments that will get you there. Investing in finding and securing new clients needs to coincide with infrastructure investments. Find new business, and be prepared to handle it. These three strategies are proven, time-tested investments that, when done well, will become central to your ongoing growth and success. With the right positioning, the right online presence, and the right technology, you’re set up to reach new heights. Download Field Guide: How to Hire & Grow HVAC Your HVAC Business Without the Headache

Kindra K., Marketing Coordinator

Mobile leads and reviews

How to Predict Your Bottom Line

February 26, 2018 • Running a service business hopefully gives you some freedom and an opportunity to do what you really enjoy. But running a service business is hard. Running a profitable service business is even harder. Marketing to customers, hiring qualified staff, maintaining equipment, negotiating costs, billing, insurance, scheduling...these are the realities of your everyday existence, and they require a lot of work. That said, if this was all easy, everyone would be doing it, so if you're currently running a services business or thinking about starting one, kudos to you for having the courage to go out on your own. But going out on your own is one thing; making a nice living doing it is the real goal. To know how successful you can be, you need to have a way to really see the health of your business and predict profitability. Doing so will help you plan better and position your company to grow, increase revenue, and earn the kind of living that makes all the effort worthwhile. You know as well as anyone that this isn't a charity; you do all this work because you want to get paid. But with so many variables to keep track of, it can be hard to focus on the actual bottom line and make the necessary adjustments about where to where to invest, how to manage effectively, and how to allocate your time. There is a hugely helpful tool called a break-even analysis that can help you understand your business and begin making better decisions that will have a positive impact on your bottom line.  Analysis that offers insight At its simplest, the break-even analysis boils down to this: how much do I need to sell in order to break even with the labor, materials, services, and other costs I have? This is especially important in the services field where you have different types of employees you have to pay, insurance that is unique to the work you do, and materials you have to regularly use on jobs. All your costs fit into one of two categories, and it's important to understand these because it's how you define all the money that you spend and invest to keep the business afloat. They are: Fixed costs: These include costs that aren't dependent upon the amount of work you do or don't do. The rent for your building stays the same whether you have 10 customers or 100. Your business insurance, vehicle payments, and equipment costs are all examples of fixed costs. Variable costs: Some costs scale up or down based on job volume; those are variable costs. Labor will be the biggest one of these, especially when you are paying employees hourly or by the job. You may also need to bring on additional people for seasonal work. Supplies are also heavily dependent on both the amount of work you're doing as well as market prices. Costs for materials can usually work in your favor when you buy in high volume, but can also work against you when you have to make one-off purchases when business is slow or when you can't predict the potential for more work. To truly understand the financial state of your business now, and the possibilities for profit in the future, you have to be clear about all your costs and understand which category they fall into. Then you have to be thoughtful in conducting a break-even analysis to get perspective on where you're making and losing revenue, and how to make adjustments to get on course to profitability. The benefits of break-even analysis It's important to recognize why this analysis is important. Too many business owners operate on a day-to-day plan, which gives them no insight into the future and reduces their ability to control growth. These owners may be happy if bills are getting paid, but then are shocked when they have no reserve funds for when the business hits a bump or a slow season. If you put some effort into thinking through your business, you'll see that you can plan ahead, both to stave off any downturn in business, but also so that you can grow the business and increase profitability. The idea is that, with a little effort, you'd be surprised how much you can learn, and then if you're willing to make the necessary changes, you'll get better margins. That will ultimately give you more money to invest back into the business, as well as more money in your own pocket. Most of the analysis starts with just being smart about your overhead costs in relation to the number of jobs you will need to carry out to break even. You should start by identifying all your fixed costs, and then break down how much each job will cost you in terms of labor, materials, and other things. Then factor in what you're charging (and make sure it's in line with market rates, which you can learn by doing some basic competitive reconnaissance) and determine if you're making a profit. Now you have a sense for what you are making or losing. From that, you can make smart decisions about additional costs that come up. Can you afford to pressure wash all your equipment or purchase a new truckmount? Knowing where you stand financially will give you a far greater sense of what's available to spend. Keep in mind, however, that some of these expenditures will be a necessity. If you need a new transmission on one of your trucks, well, the money you spend to fix it will be less than the amount of money you'll potentially lose out on without the truck. So think in terms of "must haves" and "nice to haves." Even costs like a company picnic or holiday party can be adjusted based on the funds you have available to you or that you can reasonably predict through this analysis. Otherwise, at the end of the year, you could be stuck looking at a negative balance sheet and wishing you had curtailed expenses earlier in the year. The importance of planning Understanding your business through the lens of its financial strength can help you also set business goals and revenue targets. Doing that can get you and your employees focused on generating new business rather than just waiting for the phone to ring. Proper analysis can tell you the number of jobs and amount you need to bill in order to break-even, and even how much work you need to do to create incremental revenue. Having targets and making them transparent to your employees provides everyone with a very understandable set of goals, and it helps them see how they contribute to the company's success. Planning ahead through predicting profitability also helps you determine how much you can take on in fixed costs, as well as how many variable costs you can tolerate and still remain profitable. Insight into your financial health might help you make a decision to fix existing equipment rather than taking on more debt to purchase new items. As a business owner, you know how frequently you face decisions like this, and how frustrating they can be if you're making them without the proper knowledge of facts. You also can be smarter about how you price your goods and services if you know how much you have to make for the year. While it may seem like a good idea to just undercut your competitors, if you do that and lose money, you won’t have gained much of a competitive advantage. Then again, if you can reduce the prices you charge in some areas with the knowledge that you can still turn a profit, you can be strategic about how you price, when to offer special discounts, and how much negotiating room you have when working with customers. That gives you greater flexibility and will help customers see you as a flexible partner. The formula Not all businesses are alike, so keep in mind that you have to know your own business really well in order to benefit from the actual analysis. That said, services businesses usually function according to one of two ways of looking at how they bill, and how they put their resources to work for their billable projects. The following formulas can give you the data you need to get as close to spot-on as you possibly can in terms of predicting your profits for each of these three different types of service business types. Let's break this down: Example 1: Unit = Clients In this type of business, you are billing your clients almost completely for services. Goods and materials aren't part of your business and therefore most likely won't be part of your calculations. Fixed costs For this business, let's say your fixed costs are $260,000 for the year. This includes staff, office space rent, utilities, insurance, and other costs. In this case, salaries are a fixed cost because they are paid irrespective of the number of clients or hours billed. Sales price per unit We estimate that the average amount of time needed per client to satisfactorily deliver services is about 100 hours per year. Based on market rates, you know you will charge $125/hour, which means for each client you'll earn, on average, $12,500 per year (and you thought you were done with word problems in high school). Variable cost per unit As we know, there are variable costs that will eat away at profits. We don't know which clients will cost more and which ones will have very few variable costs, but based on previous years' variable costs, we estimate that additional staffing, marketing materials, fuel, and other costs will run us about $2,100 per client, per year. Based on all this, we can use this formula: Unit = Client FC = Total Fixed costs = 260,000 SP = Selling price per client = 12,500 VC = Variable cost per client = 2,100 Service business breakeven clients = FC / (SP - VC) Service business breakeven clients = 260,000 / (12,500 – 2,100) = 25 We will need 25 customers in order to break even. Let's look at what our balance sheet would look like: Unit Total Clients 25 Revenue 12,500 312,500 Variable costs 2,100 52,500 Gross margin 260,000 Fixed costs 260,000 Net income 0 Example 2: Unit = Hours This is a business that charges by the hour, and we want to see how many hours need to be billed, and at what rate, in order to break even. Fixed costs Fixed costs of the business are $85,000. This includes things like office rent, telephone, insurance, utilities, and some staff (office staff, for example). In this example, the labor costs for those employees working in the field is variable, based on the number of hours worked. Selling price per unit The per-hour cost for all services is $125. Variable cost per unit The actual labor cost to the business (salary and benefits) is $50 per hour. Since labor is increased or decreased based on customer need, it is considered a variable cost. The business also estimates that any additional time spent with a customer beyond normal job scope amounts to an additional $7 per hour. Here's our formula: Unit = Hour FC = Total Fixed costs = 85,000 SP = Selling price per hour = 125 VC = Variable cost per hour = 57 Service business breakeven hour = FC / (SP - VC) Service business breakeven hours = 85,000 / (125 – 57) = 1,250 This business will need 1,250 billable hours in a year in order to break even. A basic income statement for this business would look like this: Unit Total Hours 1,250 Revenue 125/hour 156,250 Variable costs 57 71,250 Gross margin 85,000 Fixed costs 85,000 Net income 0 Nothing is perfect At this point, you should be able to put one of these two formulas to work, depending on your type of business. However, it should be used as a gauge and not as gospel. There are still variables and unforeseen issues that will creep into your business that you will miss if you only rely on your new break-even analysis. In other words, use this to help you predict and plan for your business operations, but don't become a slave to it. Keep your eyes open for all types of things that factor into everyday business scenarios. Bear in mind that, most importantly, the analysis can't tell you how much demand you're going to have. If your business is pumping water out of flooded basements, and this happens to be a severe drought with no rain in sight for months, there's no analysis that will tell you business is going to be slow. You also have to make sure you are using reliable data points, structure your units and prices correctly and are thorough in identifying and accounting for both variable and fixed costs. Be brutally honest with yourself in terms of how to evaluate the various parts of your business. Also be aware that you have to sometimes do things to beat the competition, and that can require costs you don't expect. So, again, use the break-even analysis as a signal, but don't think that it totally defines every aspect of your business. A tech company CEO once said, "Most of the world will make decisions by either guessing or using their gut. They will be either lucky or wrong." With all the data available to us today, there's no reason to leave the future of your business to chance. Use the information you have to gain perspective on where your business is now and where you want to go. You know your business, so you know how you can adapt and change in order to get to your destination, but you have to know what that destination is. Know your costs, know your abilities, and make a smart plan for not just breaking even, but for being wildly profitable.

Pat Flanders, Guest Author

Piggy Bank

Business Checklist

November 2, 2017 • You have been busy all year, and we all know that during busy times even the most organized businesses tend to let some things slip through the cracks. It could be that you haven’t pre-ordered your supplies, or that you have a couple of unpaid invoices that need following up. Now that the busy season is beginning to wind down it’s time to take stock of your business and prepare to finish out the rest of the year. That’s why we created this business check-up checklist. Start taking the steps to get your business back in order. Inventory Payments: With all of the back-to-back jobs you’ve had this summer, there may be some invoices that have yet to be paid. Check in with those customers who have outstanding payments that haven’t been collected by sending them a follow-up invoice. Budget: Take a look at what you had budgeted for the high season and compare it with how much you actually spent. Adjust your budget accordingly for the rest of the year if you need to. Supplies:  Find out what supplies you used the most and keep track of them for next year. Once you know what supplies you used the most, you can use that as a reference to prepare your orders for the next busy season. Reflect on the past year: Acknowledge and learn from any mistakes you might have made this past year. See what you could have done differently and make sure to implement those changes for the next busy season. Some of these changes can be timely, so make sure to take advantage of this slower season to start implementing new structures and workflows now. Look at Your Highlight Reel: Don’t just learn from your mistakes, but focus on your success as well. Make sure to take note of all of your wins so you can continue the actions that have helped your business grow. Set Goals: Once you’ve identified your strengths and weaknesses you can begin to set your goals for the end of the year. You want to make sure to create a distinct set of goals that are specific, measurable, achievable, relevant, and timely - aka SMART goals.   To learn more tips and tricks to help run your business more efficiently, visit us at HousecallPro.com.  

Kindra K., Marketing Coordinator

businesschecklist

How to Turn Your Service Business Referrals into a Gold Mine

November 3, 2016 • Who do you trust more: your friend or an actor in a TV commercial? You probably don’t even have to think twice about it. Advice from someone you know is much more trustworthy than an ad. People are more likely to listen to advice from their friends. They’re also 4x more likely to buy based on those recommendations.  What does this mean for your business? Referrals are a gold mine that you should be tapping into regularly.  1. Provide excellent service. Show your customers the value of what you offer before you ask them to refer their friends. Inspire your customers to send more business your way by going above and beyond their expectations. The happier you make them, the more willing they will be to spread the word. Even if you bend over backwards for all of your customers, they might still fail to refer friends unless someone they know asks for a recommendation. That’s why the following steps are important to ensuring your hard work and dedicated service pays off in more referrals for your service business! 2. Set up a referral program. Give your customers an incentive for sending new business your way. Having a well-organized system to reward referrals will greatly increase your new business. More than 50% of people are likely to give a referral if offered an incentive.  Some ideas for rewards include discounts on future jobs, a free add-on service, a gift card, or some kind of reward, monetary or not. At HouseCall Pro, we created a referral contest with the Grand Prize being an all-expenses paidtrip to Hawaii. While that may not be feasible for all businesses, choose an incentive that fits within your budget that you think would motivate your customers to refer others. 3. Ask away! Find the right opportunity to tell customers about your referral program. Of course, when you have just done excellent work and have a customer already singing your praises, that is the perfect time to ask. If you have a dissatisfied customer, hold off on asking until you do everything you can to remedy the situation. You might be afraid to ask your customers for a favor, but just be sure to ask nicely and let them know how much you would appreciate it. Chances are they will be happy to help you out. Rewarding them just sweetens the pot! 4. Remind them. Your customers might forget about your referral program if you only tell them once. Seize every opportunity to remind them. Ways you can publicize your referral program include in emails, direct mail, social media posts, or any other platform that makes sense for your business. Think of your reminders as a gentle nudge rather than a forceful push. Be careful not to annoy your customers, but do make sure your referral program stays top of mind for them.   By ensuring the satisfaction of your customers, awesome incentives, and friendly reminders, you’ll soon be turning your service business referrals into a gold mine! Check out this article to learn other ways to grow.

Kindra K., Marketing Coordinator

Two men and two women giving a thumbs up

10 Ways to Gain a Customer

July 1, 2016 • Customers are like friends; you can never have too many! Still, it's important to find and keep quality clientele so that business is consistent. What are the best ways to find new customers? Let's start with these 10 trusted methods for gaining new business! HERE ARE 10 WAYS TO GAIN A CUSTOMER 1. Get referrals from your existing customers. Are you struggling to get word-of-mouth referrals? The key to boosting your referrals is simply asking for them! Tell your customers how important they are to your business and ask if they know anyone who could benefit from your service. Remind them later in your postcard and email marketing efforts. Keep reminding them, but avoid being too pushy, as that can backfire.  Offering rewards to your customers is enticing if asking alone is not working for you. Set up a referral program to reward customers who refer new business to you. If you don’t want to offer them a monetary reward, such as a discount or credit toward service, make sure to express your appreciation when customers send new business your way. 2. Boost your online reviews. When potential customers are searching for a service provider, reviews truly matter. 88% of consumers trust online reviews as much as personal recommendations. How do you increase your reviews? Just like with referrals, you have to ask! Don't expect customers to write reviews on their own, as most people won't go out of their way to help you without a little nudge in that direction. After every job, send customers an email thanking them for their business, ensuring their satisfaction, and inviting them to write a review by including the links to do so. Make it as easy as possible and you'll see your reviews go through the roof! 3. Develop a strong social media presence. If you aren't already leveraging social media to gain new customers, start now! Start sharing content that will draw in new customers, such as before and after photos of your work, as well as videos of you in action. Start writing helpful blog posts, such as energy-saving tips if you are an electrician, on your website and sharing them on social media to build your digital presence. Paying to advertise on social media will help you reach a larger audience (more on that next), but if you are just starting out, you can effectively generate new business at no cost. How? Begin by leveraging your current customer base. Invite them to like your page and engage with them so that their connections are exposed to your business. 4. Advertise on Facebook, Google, Yelp, Angie’s List, etc. Digital advertising is a key tool in the arsenal of many modern service businesses. How do you select where to advertise your business online? We'll go over a few of the available options! Facebook is a relatively low-cost and powerful tool to reach a wide audience. Once you start sharing engaging content, it is worthwhile to pay to boost these posts so that they have the greatest impact. You can also create ads just for Facebook to direct people to your website. Learn more about Facebook for business here.  Google Adwords campaigns are a great way to reach people who are already looking for the service you provide. Paid search results display at the top of Google's rankings, so they can easily capture leads that become new customers! Since there are so many opportunities for promoting your business online, you'll want to test them out for yourself to see which ones deliver the highest return on investment. It will vary greatly based on your region and clientele, so it's up to you to discover what works best for you. 5. Increase your search engine ranking through organic SEO. Rank high on search engine results and your phone is guaranteed to ring. Think about the terms your potential customers will be searching for, such as “carpet cleaning in Atlanta.” Optimize your website with these keywords, and hire a specialist if it’s in your budget. Organic SEO is not to be confused with Google Adwords, which are paid advertisements. Organic SEO means your website will be boosted higher in the unpaid search results. Allocating a budget to both Google Adwords and SEO is recommended to maximize your exposure! 6. Do some old-fashioned advertising: send out mailers and brochures, place an ad in the newspaper, put up flyers in local stores, etc. These advertising methods are tried and true. Old-fashioned advertising will also help you target an older demographic of customers who may not be very tech-savvy. For direct mail campaigns, Marketing Donut recommends first checking with data protection laws to avoid any illegal activity. The success of your old-fashioned advertising campaigns will vary based on your area and the habits of your target customers. Test one method at a time to see which delivers the best return on your investment! 7. Sponsor charity events or school functions. Get your business involved in the community. Research local events or charitable organizations that you could contribute to and find those that fit within your budget. Not only will you be able to get your name out there in your area, but you will also boost your business’ reputation by donating to charitable causes. 8. Turn your truck into a moving billboard by boldly displaying your logo, phone number, and website URL. Get your business’ name out there in as many places as possible! Having a well-designed branded truck is essentially free advertising, that is after you buy the truck wrap. Since you are already traveling around your city for work, you might as well turn that into an opportunity for branding and advertising! Make sure your business’ name, phone number, and website URL stand out and are easy to read! 9. Leave behind promotional items at every customer’s house. Never forget to leave a branded item behind after every job! Whether it’s your business card or a useful household item, such as a bottle opener, chip clip, etc., this is an effective method for gaining and retaining customers. Not only does it help increase your repeat business, but it also serves as an effective way to increase referrals. Your customers will have this item to pass along to friends and family, allowing you to gain new business at a low cost. 10. Participate in networking events. Networking events are an excellent way to get your business’ name out there and meet potential new clients! Professional societies in your area will also be a great way to meet business partners and form mutually beneficial relationships. Research what kind of events and groups meet in your area. Be sure to bring business cards and dress in business attire!  After employing these strategies for finding new customers, your phone might just be ringing off the hook. Maybe you'll even find yourself needing to get rid of some business. If that's the case, check out 10 Ways to Lose a Customer. 

Kindra K., Marketing Coordinator

10 ways to gain a customer

10 Ways to Lose a Customer

June 21, 2016 • Dealing with customers can be a total pain. When customers are being difficult, don’t you just want to tell them to take a hike? Well, stop holding back! Tell them how you really feel....if you want to lose their business forever!! HERE ARE 10 WAYS TO LOSE A CUSTOMER 1. Demand positive reviews. Bully everyone you work with into reviewing you. Guilt them if they don’t. Insult dissatisfied customers. 2. Ignore your customers' calls. Have a robotic answering machine and make it impossible to reach a human. Never call back. 3. Drive recklessly in your company vehicle. Cut your customers off on the road, nearly causing an accident. Use inappropriate hand signals if they honk. Aggressively tailgate everyone who isn’t going at least 10 mph above the speed limit. 4. Ignore complaints. Pay no attention to customer service.  Give customers an attitude when they bring up concerns. 5. Steal from them and/or trash their home. Blame someone (anyone) else. Never accept responsibility for it! Definitely don’t apologize. Let them know they can try to sue you if they want compensation for damages. 6. Send technicians out into the field with no training. Make no effort to train them in your trade or teach them how to interact with customers. Eagerly anticipate the inevitable problems this will cause. 7. Try to squeeze extra money out of them. Take payment for your work and then request payment again. Keep requesting more money from them. Maybe they will be tricked into paying twice and not even realize it! Quote them a price for your service. After you’ve completed it, double that figure. Make up a silly reason why they need to pay twice that price, like “my rates double on Mondays!” 8. Disrespect them. Be as creepy as possible. Call the woman of the house “pretty eyes.” Invade their personal space. Touch them more than is normal while speaking. 9. Act a fool on social media. Post inappropriate, inflammatory commentary from your personal account. Engage in heated arguments with anyone who opposes your viewpoints. Offend and insult anyone and everyone. 10. Break promises. Guarantee results, then fail to deliver. Laugh at the idea of living up to your commitment. When customers get upset, let them know you think they’re unimportant.  As you can see, losing a customer is easy! Follow these steps if you’re just too busy and you need to get rid of some business. If you want to GAIN business check out 10 ways to gain a customer!

Kindra K., Marketing Coordinator

10 ways to lose a customer

Scale Up Your Service Business

June 10, 2016 • Should you stay or should you grow? Every owner/operator will reach a point when they must decide whether to stay a solo act or scale up the business. What will you choose? Get some advice from a pro who decided to grow! When Kevin Cole started his business 3 years ago, he was a sole proprietor providing carpet cleaning services. Today, his operation has grown exponentially. By offering additional services and hiring employees, he has doubled his average sales tickets and more than doubled the size of his business. Does the inevitable headache of managing a team hold you back from expanding your business? As you probably already know, hiring employees is key to growth. What is Kevin’s advice for managing a team and broadening your offerings? Take the time to train new hires Establish an onboarding process to give new employees the education they need to succeed. Relinquishing control to new hires can be scary, but with the proper training, they’ll be ready for the responsibility. Kevin emphasizes the importance of teaching his employees all the features and uses of the app he uses to run his service business. He is grateful that the app allows him to “spend a lot less time managing and directing” because it provides his staff with their schedules, information about customers and jobs, and price lists, making up-selling and cross-selling a breeze. Let digital tools work for you! Using technology to run your business allows you to save time by increasing your efficiency. Kevin appreciates that the mobile software he uses also saves him money, as he doesn’t have to pay additional office staff to handle things like scheduling and communicating with customers. For Kevin, the technology not only streamlines his communication with customers, but also employees, keeping everyone in the loop automatically. Through the automated reminder texts and emails built in to his system, Kevin says he is able to establish a sense of professionalism with customers before he even walks in the door. Kevin credits these notifications with giving him extra authority that allows customers to gain trust in his knowledge and experience, they are extremely receptive when he suggests adding additional services. Diversify your services  While he was still an owner/operator, Kevin noticed that as he was cleaning carpets, oftentimes his customers would also hire house cleaning services. He discovered the need for a company that provided both services at once, so he capitalized on it. Since then, he has expanded his business to become a full-service firm, offering carpet cleaning, commercial and residential house cleaning, and tile and grout cleaning. Cole’s Cleaning Care sales have gone through the roof! Kevin found success through by seizing new opportunities and being versatile. By adapting to the needs of his clientele, Kevin effectively scaled up his business in a short amount of time. Leading an organization may not always be smooth sailing, but being flexible makes all the difference. Adjust your sails with the wind and keep Kevin’s advice in mind!

Kindra K., Marketing Coordinator

Scale Up Service Business