By Mike Dingler / Published February 2022
In the movie, Field of Dreams, a farmer had to take his crop field and turn it into a baseball diamond so that the ghosts of the greats would come and play baseball. The movie showed that the farmer had to go against the natural inclination to plant his crops and do something different to get what he wanted. This movie illustrates a great business idea as well; if you want the greats to come and play, you need to build a park for them to play in. You have to get your business ready before they step in the door, and that is a big task to take on! Luckily, we have the framework of every successful business to study and find out what works to implement in our own business.
There are unlimited free resources to keep us occupied in learning about business ownership—YouTube videos, podcasts, books, etc., are all at our fingertips and ready to be used in our plan to grow our business and get off the truck. One problem however is information overload or listening to the wrong people. If you were getting ready for a race, would you want your trainer to be a 50-year-old overweight asthmatic man or a 23-year-old athlete who just set a record in the last race he ran? The choice here is obvious, but sometimes the asthmatic man can be very persistent that he knows what’s best, especially because he is at a keyboard. This best describes some of the exterior cleaning forums on social media. “The blind leading the blind” is a statement many have used to describe these forums. And if you are new to the industry, it’s often a very negative experience if you ask a question others may deem to be “dumb” or “easily googled.” The key is to find a person who owns a business and is further down the road of success than you are (mentor is the best term here) and also find sources of information that are credible; that is built by someone who knows what they are doing and the results of their business attests to their proficiency in the industry.
The Home Service Expert podcast by Tommy Mello is very advantageous to listen and subscribe to as it has over 200 hours of business-related content by business owners, business coaches, business book authors, etc., and addresses up-to-date issues and resolutions we as business owners must face and learn from. Tommy is an entrepreneur who built his garage door business from one location to multiple locations in 13 states, and he did it all by constantly learning and evolving while his business was growing, and now he tells you how he did it and interviews other awesome business owners from around the world on his podcast. What more can you ask for? Many more podcasts, audiobooks, and videos can be found on the internet and consumed by us for free, so the next time you are driving or working, think about what you are listening to: does it help you in business? Or is it just noise?
If we want star players to come play (work) with (for) us, we must tear down our field of crops, our field of what used to work, in order to pave the way for something better. This is hard for us because we planted those crops, nurtured them, and watched them grow. But what got you here won’t get you there. There is only one of you, and you have to run the business, not work in it every day. The business will not grow until you decide to grow. For your business to grow, you must devote all the time you have off the truck and on nights and weekends to learn how to take the next step in business to get to where you want to be, as illustrated below. This is not easily done, and most will fail because it takes adaptability to change and dedication and courage to be a business owner and scale a business.
If you are a one-man band, you are one injury (see article in December) away from being out of a job. That is what your business is, a job, for you. If you stop, it stops. That is no place to be if you want longevity and consistency of income and business. To scale and get team members (not employees) on your field, you must get it ready. A welcome letter, SOPs, and the safety manual and organizational chart are just the beginning. Remember that you must constantly look for ways to take care of your team for they are the ones who will become the face of your business. Richard Branson has said the following: “Train people well enough so they can leave, treat them well enough, so they don’t want to,” and, “Take care of your employees and they will take care of your business.” Whatever you think you want to pay technicians, make it more. Whatever you think is good enough for your employee handbook, make it better. Whatever equipment you are thinking about buying, make it the best. All these things will signal to your team that you care about them and the job that they do. Make it a habit to ask your team, “How can I make your job easier today?” and listen to their feedback. If you don’t have a CRM, get one. Even if it’s you and a helper right now, get the CRM (build the field so that they will come, nothing makes a playing field look better than a great CRM like Jobber or Service Titan). A CRM is paramount because it constantly conveys professionalism and proficiency of your company to your clients and prospect through reminder texts and emails, quote follow ups, etc.
Your external customers are the people with dirty houses that you make look brand new again and get paid from. Your internal customers are your technicians, office staff, sales staff, and any other people whom you pay. Internal customers are often very neglected and that is why they leave. It has been speculated that people leave their boss, not their job, and that is scary to think about as it places the responsibility of employee retention all on our shoulders (it is). As small business owners we must take care of our staff and make them feel appreciated, but how do we make them work to the best of their ability? We shouldn’t have to make them do anything, they should be motivated to work, and nothing motivates quite like more money. However, some technicians are motivated by other things, like respect and a rewarding job, but money usually comes first. (Money is not usually what motivates an employee to take a job, company culture, reputation, and a pathway for career advancement are usually the deciding factors, but money is the main motivating factor you can use for performance pay after they are hired) Make your technician able to earn more if he or she does more. Have contests for who can get the most 5-star reviews in a month and give away a television, an AR-15, or simply a wad of cash. Make an upsell program where technicians get a percentage of whatever they add on to the job while meeting with the customer (top piece of bread in the job sandwich). Give raises based on performance, not tenure. Put your technicians on your website with a bio of who they are and what they like to do. Whatever you do, do it with your internal customers’ best interests always, and your internal customers will not only stick around, but they will ride with you wherever you take them because they trust you, usually because you first trusted them and never mistreated them. Make your field as attractive as possible to attract the technician greats. This is what we must do as business owners for customer acquisition and retention, both internally and externally. Said another way, all this we must do to hire technicians and get off the truck.
In review, it takes a lot to step away from the wand. It takes sweat equity, which means nothing works unless you work hard. It also takes a closed mouth and open ears, for both the technicians and the owner, which is hard to find in anyone these days as it is usually the other way around. You must make your new hires feel like you can’t live without them while exercising extreme patience to train them up to where you need them to be (a tip here is train the first hire very well, so they can train your next hire and you continue to stay off the truck) The key is to have a plan like a mission statement, SOPs, safety manual, etc., and show it to your potential hires. Make them think that they would be very foolish to not come with you on your cruise ship in the ocean, because you have a destination (your future company vision) and a lot of cool stops (more trucks, better equipment, more money) along the way. One of the greatest rules to live by is that small things consistently done, produce extraordinary results. This is the greatest habit to form, the habit of doing the same things for your business day in and day out. Get a work journal and write a list of what you want to accomplish for the week and get it done. At the end of the week if it is still not done, then push it to next week or deem it unimportant. The key is to get organized so that you appear to be an attractive business for your new hires to work in. You need the most employee buy-in that you can get. Google “employee buy-in” for a lot of great information.
Stepping away from the wand is very different than stepping away from your business. Very few exterior cleaning businesses out there could withstand their owners to be gone for an extended period of time (two to three months or more) with no hiccups, so don’t think of that as your goal. Being “off the truck” means that you are in the office finding every way to make your internal and external customers 100 percent satisfied with your business. Let the internal customers down, and you are back on the truck. Let the external customers down, and you are out of a job. No pressure! So what’s the one take away from this series of articles? What part do you need to read to get to the point and learn how to get off the truck? All the parts. Parts of leadership books, parts of audiobooks on company culture, parts of a magazine article on how to keep your technicians happy and how to make your customers raving fans of your business, parts of classes at conventions, parts of texts with your mentor, all the parts make a whole. To step away from the wand means you are stepping into the shoes of a business owner, not a self-employed person, and that means you have to learn everything about that job, the job of an owner, which is very different than the job of a technician. It is one thing to wash houses for a living and one very different thing to own a company that does. You must become a student to get this right, and these articles are just the beginning. Find a mentor, find a podcast, find a coach who has built an exterior cleaning business and soak up all the information you can. Read or listen to books on business and most of all never develop an overinflated ego that is so big it prevents you from learning (big egos have small ears), and it prevents you from acquiring great technicians. In closing, make your ballpark awesome, make your cruise ship have a destination, two is one and one is none, and always remember, “if you build it, they will come”!