Hands typing on computer for blog

Housecall Pro blog

Everything you need to succeed as a Home Services company in a digital world.

TOPIC: Success

Home Cleaning Business Trends: 8 Shifts, Statistics, & Predictions That Are Shaping the Industry

July 31, 2018 • Residential cleaning services is an expanding market. Franchised residential cleaning services alone pull in $865 million and are growing around 3% each year.  With growth comes new competition. So how can you stay on top? What follows are eight statistics and trends to keep you informed about changes in the industry and ways to expand your business. 1. Specialty services allow cleaning businesses to differentiate Although the home cleaning industry is fragmented, major players still dominate much of the landscape. The top 50 cleaning companies generate about 30% of the revenue for the entire industry. Sometimes, offering quality service isn’t enough on its own. When there’s high competition in a local area, it’s often the best-known and the cheapest home cleaning businesses that stand out. Companies must differentiate to survive and grow. One way that home cleaning businesses are standing out amongst the competition is by offering specialty services — such as home cleaning for pet dander or reducing household allergens. This is especially true online. Adding specialty services allows you to rank higher in local searches by adding more keywords that people often search for. The other major benefit of specialty services: you can charge more. While the national hourly rate for standard home cleaning services run from $25 to $90 per hour, many specialty services such as carpet cleaning and window cleaning come with higher rates, averaging $150 to $200 per hour. 2. Businesses will grow largely through upsells Finding new clients is often a much more expensive and time-intensive process than adding new value to existing clients. In fact, studies have found that acquiring a new customer costs 5x as much as retaining one. On top of that, existing customers are 51% more likely to try new products/services and 31% to spend more money when compared with new customers. Where specializing can help you find new customers, upsells target your current customers, enabling you to get more value out of existing relationships. With growing and fierce competition, incremental revenue will drive growth for many cleaning companies. One upsell tactic is encouraging clients to move to a more expensive cleaning package — such as a more frequent cleaning schedule or a package offering more services. Another tactic is selling customers on one-time offers. Customers often have cleaning needs they might not think to ask for — things outside of your normal contract, such as a once-a-year garage cleaning or spring cleaning. Cleaning Business Today suggests twelve promotions you can offer your existing customers throughout the year, such as a deep clean of the kids’ rooms or porch cleaning. 3. Millennials are driving demands for “green” and “eco-friendly” cleaning services The “green” trend is nothing new. But it appears to be growing across nearly every industry, thanks mostly to millennials and their shopping habits. A study from Nielsen found that 75% of respondents prioritize--and are willing to pay more--for products and services that are environmentally sustainable. For cleaning services, this means a shift toward eco friendly cleaning products as well as cleaning practices that minimize waste. 4. The gig economy is driving recruitment and staffing Is your business growing? Now is the perfect time to be looking for part-time help. According to Bankrate, 44 million Americans have a “side hustle.” Who’s looking for side gigs? Younger millennials (ages 18-26) are the most likely to have a side job to pull in extra cash and typically earn less from their side job than older side hustlers. However, even retirees are looking for extra spending money. Nearly seven in ten women use a side hustle to pay for expenses compared to the four out of ten men polled. 5. Marketing technology will separate winners and losers If you’re looking for new customers, word of mouth will only get you so far. More consumers are relying on the Internet to find local services. In 2017, 97% of consumers looked for local businesses online. A website is a necessity for a home cleaning business, but having a site is not a complete promotional strategy. Small businesses also need marketing tools, such as Facebook or Google ads, to help them gain an advantage over their competition. When potential customers do ask their friends for recommendations, they often do so online. Take advantage by having a professional presence — complete with contact information and other valuable info — that your customers can link to. 6. Online reviews force transparency and competition There’s no hiding bad or unreliable service anymore. Negative reviews can go viral and have a major impact on your business. What should you do if you receive a negative review? Respond professionally. According to a recent survey, over half of consumers expect a business to respond to a negative review within seven days. It will show that you’re listening and that you care. On the flip side, positive reviews can be a major asset in growing your business. The same survey found that more than 60% of consumers read business reviews on Google. 7. Online booking, text message alerts, and other non-verbal communications are non-negotiable More and more cleaning services are using online platforms to manage and run their business more effectively. These platforms save business owners time when it comes to managing appointments and invoices, but that’s not the only reason to use one. Customers have come to expect technology-enabled services, such as text notifications and online booking. In fact, over a third of consumers are more likely to start services with a business that offers online booking. 8. Customers spend nearly 20% more when they can pay with credit card Each year, fewer individuals prefer paying cash or check. Cash and check payments are expected to decrease by 24% and 46% in 2018. Accepting credit card payments is especially important if you serve a younger clientele. Nearly 70% of millennials won’t shop at a store that doesn’t accept credit, debit, or mobile payments. This preference is bleeding into the services industry, as well. Accepting credit cards not only makes customers happy — they also spend more. Customers will spend on average 18% more on the same purchase when they pay via a credit card. Online payments also save you valuable time. Depositing a check just takes longer. Accepting credit cards can reduce the amount of time it takes to get paid by up to two weeks, as well as reducing trips to the bank. These trends are driving change in the industry, but it doesn’t need to be scary. Between new technology and service opportunities, there are plenty of ways to expand your business and build customer loyalty. To take advantage of most of these shifts, you just need strong online presence and business platform to maintain and grow your home cleaning business.

EJ Brown

Keys to Ensure Employee and Customer Satisfaction

July 25, 2018 • We’ve talked about branding, customer service, and advertising. But guess what? All the effort you put into these things can be wiped out if a customer has a bad experience with one of your employees. Even a polite employee can create a problem if he isn’t prepared or shows up late. As a business owner, your responsibility is to put your employees in a position to show their best work and reflect positively on your brand. One of the most effective ways of doing this is through smart scheduling of employees and the work they do. When people are put into situations where they are successful, a lot of good things happen. Customers see a motivated, skilled person taking their work seriously. That is probably the most valuable validation and will help earn you repeat business and word-of-mouth approval. But the employee is also rewarded because he or she is doing something they are good at, and that generates a positive feedback loop that encourages them even more. It helps with employee retention and job satisfaction, which ultimately makes your life easier. The reality, however, is that your jobs and customers are different, and your employees don’t operate in a one-size-fits-all model. The woman who’s skilled at wood refinishing may not have as much experience when it comes to sheetrocking - don’t put her on jobs where sheetrocking is required. Or, you might have a customer who likes a quiet house and minimal interaction while jobs are being done; putting “Loud Larry” on a job at this guy’s house would be a disaster. At the most basic level, it’s best to operate off the principle of: For every job, assign the person who is best equipped to create a successful outcome. Here are things you need to consider when figuring out the best way to maximize employee effectiveness: Skill set: You have smart, skilled people working for you, but not every employee is good at every task. That means the actual work itself needs to be matched to what the employee is competent at. You probably have some generalists who can handle most jobs, but on staff are likely people who have unique capabilities. Make sure you know what they are capable of and find ways to get them work where they can highlight those skills. That will demonstrate your commitment to them, and it will impress customers who will benefit from quality, specialized work. For these people, either place them on projects where there is a natural fit, or try to up-sell customers on additional work where these employees’ skills can be be especially valuable. Working with customers: Some people love to press the flesh while others want to be left alone to get to work. It’s important that you know both your employees’ ability to connect with people and the types of customers you have. Some customers want a connection - for those people, get your outgoing types on the job. Others prefer to have the job done quickly and with as little intrusion into their life. Those gigs are probably better suited to employees who are introverts and not as likely to randomly strike up conversations about their recent fishing trips. Just like any relationship, it’s important to know personalities of your customers and employees and match them up accordingly. Know your employee’s strengths: The Institute on Character published a study about worker happiness and engagement. They found that people do better work and are happier in their jobs when they are able to do things that map to their strengths. The first issue for you is to know the people who work for you. Don’t just presume that someone is good because you’ve never had any complaints about him or her. Make time to talk with them about the work they prefer and how they approach customers. Get time to watch them in action. It will help you in the long run if you can avoid putting square pegs into round holes. Implement training: You’re not doing anyone any favors if you allow employees to be stagnant. It’s important to identify both tactical and customer service traits that you want employees to demonstrate to customers, and work with them to improve. Through regular training, mentoring, and feedback, you can help your team get better at the work they do and the way they perform it. This type of training is hugely valuable for employees and shows that you’re willing to make a commitment to them; it’ll be great for retention.   Your team is the most valuable piece of your business. While you’re investing in marketing, equipment, technology and other parts of your business, don’t neglect the simple aspects of helping people be successful, which in turn, will help make your business more successful.  

Pat F

puzzle piece

Remote HQ: How to Be Productive When You’re On-The-Go and in the Field

July 18, 2018 • I spoke at a local high school career day recently, and when I asked one young man what he wanted to do as a career, he replied, “I mostly just want to have a huge desk in an awesome office.” In high school, I wasn’t all that different, and in the mind of a 16 year-old, you can see the appeal. But if you’re a small business owner, especially one who spends most of his time in the field, you know that there is no corner office; for you, work gets done wherever you are. With today’s easy-to-use mobile technology, the new headquarters is remote and on the go. A phone, some supplies, the right apps, your vehicle, and you’ve pretty much got what you need to get business, service customers, and get paid. Of course, there is paperwork to be done and calls to be made; those things are all critical to generating new business and taking care of the business you have in front of you. Because you’re on the road or at job sites most of the time, you rarely have time, space, or the resources to get everything done. The key for you is to rethink your workspace and embrace the idea of the remote headquarters. People operate in a much more agile way these days, and this works to your advantage. The tools required to be successful look a lot different in today’s world, but by employing the right tools in the right way, you will drastically cut down on costs and other logistics issues, and you’ll simplify your life so you can focus on the activities that make you money. Let’s look at what you need to be productive (average cost included): Smartphone: As you already know, you’re on the phone all the time. It’s not just for communication, but as we’ll see, it’s pretty much for any and every activity you’re involved in. Make sure you negotiate an unlimited call and text plan with your network provider, and if possible, spring for unlimited data. An iPhone 8 is $700, which you can pay interest-free in monthly installments over two years. That’s $29/month + approximately $75 monthly fee = $104/month. Good earbuds: You’re going to be on the phone a lot. Get ones that are comfortable. The highest rated earbuds on Amazon are $20 Apps: I’ve installed apps on my phone that let me scan/store/fax documents, bill customers, maintain a history of invoices and bills, do payroll, pay bills, chat with employees, and create/deliver/track marketing emails. Get those apps and make it a habit of using them; later in the blog, I’ll point out some of the features of the Housecall Pro app, which may end up being the most valuable one you use. At most, you’ll pay $10 - $20 for lifetime usage of the apps you need. Let’s just call this a $20 cost. Big, well-made bag: Welcome to your new office. Get a solid, durable bag and pack it with cell phone chargers, laptop (if you use one), the folders for active projects, pens, pencils, paper, stamps, envelopes, water, and Advil (for those rough days). A RedOxx bag is $175. This Asus laptop is among the highest rated on Amazon and is only $319. Everything else you need might set you back $30. There, quite literally, is your toolkit for being productive while you’re in the field or catching up when you have some down time. You need to also throw in some process so you have a strategy for being productive while you’re in the field. So, when you’re operating out of a remote HQ, put these things into place to stay on track and focused: Contacts: Make sure all your customers and hot prospects are in your phone contacts. TIP: Add information about the contact in the “notes” field. That way, if you forget the person’s name, you can search on the terms you remember, for example, “Red house, rotting roof shingles." Customer response: Calling back customers is easy to put off. We often say, “I’ll get to it when I’m back in the office.” Later never seems to come, so carve out time regularly (doesn’t need to be every day), put it on your calendar, and force yourself to make calls. TIP: You already know this, but if you ignore customers, they will ignore you. Make the calls you need to make. Schedule: You have a calendar. It may be paper-based, it may be in your smartphone, it may be on Post-Its. I’m not judging, but unless you have a personal assistant reminding you when and where to go, you are going to miss stuff if you don’t abide by your calendar. TIP: Schedule everything, including phone calls. Also, put alerts on everything you schedule so you won’t miss them. Billing/invoicing: You don’t work for free, so make a billing app your friend. The Housecall Pro app, for example, allows you to create invoices on the fly and deliver automatically to customers. It also keeps track of all invoices so you know what has and hasn’t been paid. It’s an accounting system that automates most of the work. TIP: Deliver your invoice immediately to the customer after the job is done so you don’t forget. Automate marketing: Put your contacts to use and use an automated approach to creating good-looking, trackable marketing materials (like emails and postcards that go out in the U.S. Mail). TIP: Read our blog about marketing and customer loyalty. OK, so you may not have that corner office with the huge desk that teenagers think is so swell, but who needs it? When you get to meet with people every day, do interesting work, and be up and around, you know that being tied to a desk is no fun at all. Doing all these things with purpose and a plan will make your working hours more productive and your non-working hours more relaxing.  

Pat Flanders, Guest Author

Cafe

How Virtual Receptionists Increase Your Business

June 4, 2018 • Running a home services business is not like running just any small business. To be sure, life is plenty busy when you’re operating a local dance studio or tutoring center, but owners and operators of home services businesses have a unique constraint: you’re out of the office a lot. The better business is going, the more you’re absent from your desk.  And that means two things, primarily: a lot of work (estimates, invoices, receipts) waits till you get back to the office, and a lot of calls and emails are missed. Client management software that runs on your phone, like Housecall Pro, handles the first problem; virtual receptionists resolve the second.  If you’re not yet using a live answering service, here are 5 major ways it can help you increase new business and make your current clients happier. 1. Capture & qualify leads New leads are coming from referrals, Yelp, Google, Thumbtack, Facebook, and many other sources. You might even be paying for placement on these sites. When someone sees your business and calls about your services, if you don’t pick up, they’re off to call the next business. If they’re filling out web forms, often the company that wins the business is the first to respond. A receptionist service can ensure you’re responding to new leads as soon as they come in. A great receptionist service doesn’t just pick up the phone, though -- they also qualify the lead. Are they in your service area? Are they willing to pay your hourly rate? Do their service needs align with the services your business provides? These are just a few of the questions you can use to filter out the great leads from those that won’t convert to real clients. 2. Intake new clients So, your receptionists have captured and qualified the lead. Now what? It’s time to get that new client in your system. Identify the information you need from all new clients, like basic contact information, plus information that will help you build a quote or book their job. If you clean carpets, for example, you’ll likely need to know the carpet type, room size, whether pets or kids are present, and more.  Your receptionists can capture this information and pass it directly into your CRM or client management system. If you’ve created a client intake form within your CRM, your receptionists can complete and submit the form on behalf of each client. 3. Appointment booking & reminders Once a client has agreed to your fees, they’re going to want to book an appointment as soon as possible. Your receptionists can not only handle this step of the process, they can also call clients to remind them of upcoming appointments and maintenance reminders. If you really want to go the extra mile, nothing delights customers more than having a check-in call from a business. Remote receptionists can call recent clients you serviced and see how they’re faring. If they respond positively, this is an excellent opportunity to ask for a positive review on one of those sites that generates leads for your business. 4. Provide work status updates Some home-service work isn’t done in a day. Perhaps you’re a roofer, landscaper, or floor refinisher. It doesn’t necessarily have to be you following up with current clients to share work status updates. Are the new roofing tiles in? Bad weather coming and a job needs to be rescheduled? A virtual receptionist can make these calls for you while you tend to other matters that do actually require your personal attention. 5. FAQs & first-tier customer support Even when you’re available to take calls and return emails, that doesn’t mean answering them is the best use of your time. How many times a week do you field the same questions? Sure, the answers are on your website, but sometimes new leads want to hear them from a live person.  A remote receptionist armed with answers to common questions asked about your business can handle these inquiries. Not only can they answer questions from incoming callers, but they can also call people back. Just forward those emails to your receptionist service and ask them to make the calls on your behalf. Now, let’s talk about those calls from unhappy customers, because everybody gets them. The first step to soothing an irritated customer is to answer the phone and not let it go to voicemail. Nothing is more frustrating to customers than not feeling heard, or not being able to reach you. A virtual receptionist service ensures that your calls are always answered during business hours. The receptionist can take down all relevant information and send it to you or a member of your team to respond to as soon as you’re available. Another benefit here is that this buys you time to resolve the issue, rather than being put on the spot while the customer is on the phone. Choosing the right virtual receptionist service It’s important to note that not every live answering service offers lead qualification, new client intake, and outbound calls. Make sure you ask about these features when shopping around.  What’s special about Smith.ai Smith.ai virtual receptionists offers all of these services, and also integrates with Housecall Pro. Professional, U.S.-based receptionists answer, transfer, and return calls during your business hours, and all appointments are booked directly in your Housecall Pro account, so you’re fully in sync. What’s with the “ai” in the name? That stands for “artificial technology,” and it powers the following features: Automatic spam blocking of 20 million numbers Live call transfer requests via SMS and Slack Easy status changes via SMS (e.g., text “Do Not Disturb” when you arrive at work site) Instant call notes via email, SMS, or Slack Unlike most live answering services, billing is per-call, not per-minute. Leads who need to explain their work request in fine detail? New clients who need to complete an intake form? Existing clients who need a work status update? These calls can take 5 to 10 minutes or more. You get consistent billing when you’re charged per-call, and you never incur post-call wrap-up charges while the receptionist completes notes and appointment bookings. Every Smith.plan includes: Inbound & outbound calls Lead capture & qualification Appointment scheduling & reminders Customized call handling procedures for each business (and even each professional or technician on staff) Coverage Monday to Friday, 6AM to 6PM PST / 9AM to 9PM EST Call screening, prioritization, and VIP lists Instant call summaries and end-of-day reports Voicemails transcribed and sent to email or SMS With plans starting at $60/month, small businesses get the experience and quality of an in-house receptionist at a small fraction of the price.  Here’s what one of their long-time clients had to say: “I've worked with many answering services over the 7 years that I have been in business. This one is hands down, my favorite. The messages are clear and concise. They are great at handling clients. Fees are reasonable and realistic. I could not be happier.” - Cathy Green,  UpperCrust Laundry Get started with Smith.ai virtual receptionists If you’d like to sign up for Smith.ai, you may do so online at https://smith.ai, by phone at (650) 727-6484, or by email at support@smith.ai. Housecall Pro users get $50 off their first month with code HOUSECALL! This code can be used in combination with their 30-day/10-call free trial. Contact Smith.ai Questions about virtual receptionists? Wondering how it will work with your Housecall Pro account? Smith.ai support is available Monday through Friday between 6 AM and 6 PM PST at (650) 727-6484 or support@smith.ai.

Maddy Martin, Head of Marketing and Partnerships at Smith.ai

old phone booth keys

3 Ways to Boost Your Professional Network

April 13, 2018 • Many of us fear the thought of "networking.” The whole idea of chatting up people we don't know is awkward and time-consuming. And for the most part, we might get a great collection of business cards, but the whole process is random; we end up connected with people who don't truly understand what we need to be more successful in our business. A better way to create mutually beneficial business relationships that can help you grow your business is to focus on creating a pro-to-pro network that actually puts you in touch with like-minded professionals who understand your challenges and can support your efforts. Customers are always a great source for referrals, but when another trusted vendor recommends you to one of their clients, they immediately validate you and create an opportunity for you to get work without having to do any marketing. People in the field services industry are constantly asked if they know someone who can perform this or that. If they know you do great work and are trustworthy, they can recommend you and deliver a customer primed to do business. It also gives them a new way to deliver value to their own customers. Even though many of us spend our days focused on solving customer problems and organizational issues, the real work we do is all based on relationships. If we can demonstrate competence, integrity, and a willingness to truly connect with the people we work with, it creates positive results in the form of goodwill, loyalty, and support. When we spend time developing relationships with other professionals in our field, we have a real-time sounding board and support system that can help us figure things out when we're stuck, connect us with customers through word of mouth, and give us perspective about how we run our business. Relationships are critical to everything we do, and when we are good at relationships, we can use them effectively in building our network. It sounds great; a bunch of people who understand the trials of building and running a successful business who you can bounce ideas off, and who sends potential customers your way. In turn, you do the same for them, and it's like you all have a built-in growth tool. The reality is that you have to work at it to create and sustain a successful pro-to-pro network. Here are three things you can do right now to get started: Create a structure that works for colleagues and customers Imagine this scenario: a homeowner wakes up to discover his toilet has flooded the bathroom floor overnight. His first call is to a plumber; it ends up being a quick fix. To do it, however, the plumber needs to cut into the drywall to access the pipe. Rather than wait for the customer to freak out when he sees a hole in the wall, the plumber preps him by saying, "I'm going to need to cut a 2'x2' chunk out of the wall, but I work with a very competent drywall installer who can fix it easily, and because he and I work together, I can get him here today and he'll give you 20% of his regular price."  That plumber just solved two customer problems and two business are going to get paid that day. Think of the opportunities you'll have to get your name in front of customers who are in need of your service, and the recurring potential for being put in touch with those people because you're also doing the work to get colleagues gigs as well. The impact of your network gives you opportunities that others won't have because you are being delivered directly to a paying customer by a fellow professional who vouches for your work. The potential monetary rewards are great, especially because your investment in building these relationships is relatively small. While you still need to maintain your regular marketing efforts, you should recognize that when other professionals are sending you business, it can almost be considered like incremental revenue on top of what you're already earning through regular customer acquisition efforts. Use a smart strategy for creating the right network To put yourself in the best possible situation, you have to first know "the guy" who gets the business. You actually have to know a lot of guys who get business, and you yourself need to be "a guy" who can get business for others. Remember that being successful is mostly about preparing to be successful, and a few helpful tips: Choose wisely An important piece of this is to pick the right people to be in your network. Avoid competitors. They can still be your friends, and while many are certainly good people, they aren't going to send any business your way. Look for complementary businesses and get to know those owners. If you're an HVAC guy, maybe you want to connect with plumbers or air duct services. Find ways to make the relationship win-win for each other, and for your customers. Network to build a network Reach out to people by every means necessary. You can do this through social media (retweet and like the things your colleagues post - it may sound like high school all over again, but it works), online discussion forums (get in there and ask if people want to partner), and local clubs (your Chamber of Commerce most likely hosts mixers and open houses frequently, which you should make a habit of attending) are all opportunities to connect with people you may want to include in your network. Get out there If anyone is going to recommend you, they have to know and trust you. In addition to online efforts, there are all kinds of things you can do to get in front of potential supporters. Go door-to-door among your work neighbors or host an open house at your office; invite people to come in for some free food and to see your work. Stop in on businesses and make phone calls. It may not sound like fun, but remember that in addition to building your own network, you're also helping others build theirs. Pay it forward...and backward Remember that a network is kind of kind of like a loop, and you have to keep feeding it in order for it to feed you. So with your own network, you need to be providing value as much as you're getting value. It's important that you're giving leads to your colleagues and helping them build their own businesses. There are a few key ways to do that: Preferred pricing Give the people in your network the ability to offer discounts for your services on your behalf. This is will be a huge value to the customer, which will then be an incentive to work with you. It also makes your colleagues look good because they delivered a deal to their customer. The customer, of course, loves it because they get a sweet deal and didn't have to waste any time looking for a vendor. Say thanks If you develop relationships with these other businesses and they drive business your way, make sure you show your appreciation. Showing up at their place of business with a gift basket or a gift card for a nice restaurant is a nice way to demonstrate that you value what they've done for you. These aren't kickbacks and don't present a conflict of interest; they're just a friendly gesture that goes a long way towards cementing a successful and long-term relationship. Automate it It's one thing to just say, "Yeah, I know a guy who can do this job." It's of far more value, however, if you can connect the customer and vendor with actual details about a potential job. It prepares both parties and offers context to prepare the customer and your colleague for engaging. Housecall Pro offers a feature called Send a Job that enables a vendor to connect his colleagues and customers through his contacts. A simple text is delivered with job details and contact information. This puts the business into the hands of the people who need help and those who can provide a solution. It's also a great way to track how you've recommended, and the jobs you've received from others As the song says, we all get by with a little help from our friends. If you dedicate time to building a pro-to-pro network and foster good relationships within that network, you will develop opportunities to generate new customers and in turn, become a resource for other professionals. The network effect will provide customers with access to preferred vendors and will give you a new, robust channel for new business.

Pat F

Board Game Networking

Strategies to Create an Exceptional Team in Your Field Service Business

March 26, 2018 • Being an effective business manager means you have to develop and use a wide range of skills. You clearly have to know your business and your people, but you also have to manage your time, the time of your employees, understand when to say "no" and when to say "yes," how to change course when needed, and about a million other things that can come up when you least expect them. It's not easy, but when done right, you'll develop an environment with happy employees, raving customers, and you'll see solid business growth. In a field service business, there are particular challenges around hiring and managing employees. For one thing, the field service environment is distributed and requires employees to work independently most of the time. They act as agents and ambassadors of your business, and unless they have the right training and incentives, their inability to perform to your expectations could lead to negative results for your business. There are some key management strategies that will help you create a high-performance staff and one that is not only loyal to you but delivers maximum effort to help your brand awareness and perception. It requires a combination of communication, tactical, and organizational skills, as well as the ability to trust your gut and operate with some flexibility. That gut piece is really important; while some things can be ticked off your checklist, most things require you to work on them to make sure they are baked into the fabric of your company. Every time one of your trucks leaves the yard, or one of your technicians visits a customer, they represent a part of your business, and what they do can have a major impact on how customers feel about you. Showing up on time, being courteous, and adhering to your company policies and guidelines will make them look good, and by extension, customers will look upon your whole company favorably. If they show up late or appear unprepared, you can bet that you'll lose out on repeat business and might take a hit through word of mouth talk among potential customers. Because your employees are probably the most important components of your brand, you need to prepare them to be successful. It starts with onboarding and extensive preparation and never stops; continuous education and training are key to maintaining a workforce that knows what's expected of them. No business has the perfect team. People are human and bring to the job their own style and behaviors. Your job is to bring all those people together and create a professional, awesome team that is going to always improve. Great employees aren't always great when you hire them, but you can make them great. According to a recent study, companies with engaged employees outperform those without by up to 202%. It clearly makes sense to create an environment where employees pay attention to what's going on and want to perform well for you. Your job as a leader is to get the best out of them. Here is a list of things you need to build into your business management practices in order to create highly engaged employees who are prepared to make your business thrive: Hire for skills, train for perfection Your employees need to be technically competent; there's no question about that. During the hiring process, find ways to see them in action, and watch how they demonstrate their skills. Now, they may not have everything in order to be 100% capable of handling everything on Day 1, so you also need to assess their coachability. Can they learn new things, are they prepared to try things they may not be totally comfortable with? These people don't have to be masters at their craft right now, so you need to invest in training to help them. Maybe you have a mentoring program where more experienced workers train the younger ones. Or perhaps you find courses they can attend. Showing that you're investing in them will keep them motivated to do a good job for you. According to the Association for Talent Development (ATD), companies that offer comprehensive training programs have 218% higher income per employee than companies without formalized training. But it doesn’t stop there. When you build a culture where training and ongoing education is valued, employees won’t get complacent. If you have a team that provides the most cutting-edge services and functionality to customers, it will be noticed and appreciated through repeat business. Set people up for success The fact is, the world is made up of different types of people, and your workforce will be no different. As a business leader, however, your challenge is to fit people into roles where they feel comfortable but can also do their best work. Some people are natural salesmen; they would be a natural fit to bid jobs and be in roles that require a lot of customer interaction. Others like grinding away at tasks to see them through to completion. Those people would be a good fit for the key work your business is responsible for. Assigning employees in roles where they can shine shows that you respect them. It also indicates that you're actually paying attention and rewarding them for their value. Emphasize the importance of relationships All the talent in the world won't do much for you if someone is rude or arrogant. You need employees who are comfortable with customers and who have the ability to connect with people. They don't need to be back-slapping best buddies, but they need to be polite, respectful, and earnest in their approach. It can be surprising how some have had very little training in this, but that's okay. It's your job to create an environment where they are given the instruction and help so when they go out on their own, they can deal effectively with people. It's not fair to send an employee out without an understanding of how to approach people, deal with unhappy customers, and deal with tough situations on the spot. Employees will take a page out of your book, so don’t forget to model what you want them to do. Be respectful but be firm, and demonstrate to employees that building relationships can help create and sustain business for the long term. Give them the tools they need Even a top-notch team can't do their best work without the necessary tools. That may mean, well, actually tools like wrenches and clamps, but it also means other things, some of which are intangible. And those tools need to be in good shape; that's a cost to you to keep saws sharpened and machines calibrated. Tools that aren't taken care of will cause more work for the employee; it could even cause a job to take longer which could cost you in terms of additional staffing hours you need to pay and jobs that don't come in on deadline. Think through every step of every job an employee might perform, and then ensure you are providing the corresponding stuff that will help them. That includes things like rags and breathing filters and other things that may not be necessary just for the job, but make the experience easier for the employee. Being in the field, your employees will need a smartphone and access to whatever apps and other tools you use that will keep them updated and informed. Use incentives to reward A study of employee loyalty indicates that 77% of employees would work harder if they were recognized by their manager. That shouldn't be news to anyone, but using incentives and making the effort to appreciate employees is too easily forgotten and neglected by employers. Think about using incentives in two ways: Gifts: Everybody likes a gift. For a job well done, and for an employee who's been working especially hard and has been away from his or her family doing work, maybe you spring for them to take their spouse to a nice dinner. Or great tickets to a local sporting event. There are a million ways to gift someone as a reminder that you appreciate them and their work. Think about the individual and what would surprise them and make them feel recognized. The monetary piece will be way worth it in the long run. Perks: It may seem like small potatoes, but things like free food and great coffee in the break room, company parties on holidays, and the unexpected free lunch go a long way in creating happy employees. Invest in good benefits for your employees, too - doing so shows that you are committed to them. A recent survey shows that the top three most important benefits in the eyes of employees are: health insurance, vacation, and performance bonuses. Culture: Employees spend a lot of time at work, so it behooves you to make work a place they like and appreciate. But creating a positive team culture requires more than just high-fiving your employees. You should create expectations about how people treat one another and model that for them. Also, it would not be the worst thing to abide by the great maxim, "Take your business seriously, but don't take yourself seriously." Think about that with your company culture and consider how you present yourself and demonstrate your culture in the ways you communicate and interact with the team. It has to start from their first engagement with the company and continue throughout every step of them being part of the team. Every business must decide what they want to be and how they want to treat employees. The Golden State Warriors and the New England Patriots don't win championships solely because they execute on the court or field. They like what they do, they look out for their teammates, and they have leaders who believe in them. As a manager, you have not only created a great business but now you can create a business that is a model for the rest of your industry. Once you build and lead an exceptional team, you will see happier customers, more repeat business, and growth in revenue

Pat F

Human pyramid using teamwork