Small Biz Talk

Would You Like Fries With That?

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It’s Not a Sin to Ask For More Work

Retail and fast food chains survive by getting customers to add more food to their current request. You know what I’m talking about. You go grab a burger and the cashier asks, “Would you like fries with that?” You were thinking just a burger and they helped you add fries or a soft drink to your meal. How many times have you said yes to their question? Hint…most of those chains are doing well today!

Contractors can learn something from these chains. The easiest way to grow one’s business is by asking for more work from your existing customers, especially while you are currently working on a project. One of the hardest things for business owners (and I’ve seen this first-hand while working with my dad) is getting employees to sell additional work. It is like pulling a tooth that won’t budge. I think there are two ways to make it happen.

You Get What You Inspect, Not What You Expect

First, my dad always said, “You get what you inspect, not what you expect.” You need to continually remind, manage and follow up with your employees. You can’t just tell them to ask for more work. You have to tell them, and then follow up until it gets done. I talked to one contractor who said when he follows up with his employees on how they are doing with seeking additional work, he can add 10% to this annual revenue goal. That is with minimal effort on his part. When he gets busy and doesn’t follow up, that number drops below 5%. So follow-up is step one.

Don’t Just Tell Them To — Train, Encourage, Set Goals

Second is to train and encourage your employees: make it easy and even fun. You can have contest if you’d like or just give your employees tangible goals. I spoke with my dad about this recently. We figured if everyone could look for $450 a week (each crew leader) it would add 10% to the annual revenue goal. $450 of extra work is nothing in the painting business. It might be the front fascia, an entry door, a small bedroom etc.

The technician in the field could have a very high closing rate in selling additional work because of the trust he or she has earned with the homeowner. He has built the rapport, and it is only natural to take a little initiative and ask for more work. Here is how it might sound. The project manager/crew leader is wrapping up a job and mentions to the owner, “My crew is just about done with your project. Is there anything else we can do for you while we are here?” That one question could open up a world of extra work. Homeowners might respond with a simple, “Can’t think of anything right now.” But others may say, “Hmm, I’m not sure. What do you think? Are there some areas you think need attention?” Or “Not that I can think of. Why? Did you have some suggestions?” The ideal client will want your crews to make sure their home or property looks great. He or she will be relying on your company’s expertise. So encourage your employees to always ask if there is something more you can do. This is a way of serving your customers. Many homeowners will be glad you asked!

Got any other ideas on how to ask for more work? Love to hear about it here, by email or on my facebook page.

Recruiting Services Now Available by Summit

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A number of you know that I have a strong working relationship with a full service business consulting firm, based in Philadelphia, PA: Summit Services, Inc. I have been connected with them since they started in late 2003. When they started, their target audience were painting contractors. In more recent years, they offered full business and financial coaching to any small or medium size business. They now have a wide variety of business industries in the network.

In addition to business consulting, Summit also offers an in and outbound Call Center, Marketing Management (thru me), Sales Training and now… Recruiting. 

Finding Good People

Recruiting is perhaps the single must frustrating thing for small business owners. Many times you spend weeks looking to hire someone and that individual doesn’t work out half the time. I’ve seen this happen many a time. Summit Services can now offer full headhunting and recruiting at a very reasonable fee too!

One special feature that makes Summit the go to place for recruiting a salesperson, production manager or office manager is due to their connections with Linkedin. They have full access to profiles in their national professional network. Through advanced search tools, they will be able to search for and proactively recruit candidates (profiles) that meet specific requirements that you or they define.

The bottom line is Summit Services will do all the work. If you need to save time and get professional help from a great company, I strongly recommend you get more information about their new recruiting services.

Learn More about Summit or call them: (610) 449-0960

NOTE: I am not an employee of Summit (nor do I receive any commission for referring people to them), but we both have a strong referral network. So I refer them, they refer me. I also happen to like working with them! Their coaches and staff are awesome. They get results.

 

Running a Small Business Doesn’t Have to Be So Complicated

Posted by | Small Biz Talk | 5 Comments

If you run a small business, chances are you’ve read or heard a thousand times from all the best business books, classrooms, seminars and business coaches that in order to run a successful business you must do many of the following things: have a marketing plan, a business plan, researched competition, have completed a SWAT analysis, a system for tracking leads, a CRM program, created a employee manual, an exit strategy and so on. If you are like me, your head starts spinning when you are plagued with all the things you’ve got to do to be successful. I think sometimes all the business leaders out there make running a small business complicated. It doesn’t have to be!

Don’t Try To Keep Up With the Big Guys

Attending seminars and filling up your notepad or notebook app with pages of todos and goals is ok if you like that sort of thing. Maybe you listen better by doing that. I sure don’t. Don’t get me wrong. I’ve just seen a lot of businesses struggle to make it because they are trying too hard to follow all the “rules of success.” They try to keep up with the big players in their industry. They want to be successful, make more money, work less, look and feel big. They do this by overcomplicating what it takes to run a small business.

Just growing a company large doesn’t mean you will be profitable and have a healthy business. I know a few businesses that run small companies under the “business success radar” and are more profitable: make more money than the big guys.

Stop Comparing and Succeed

If there is one takeaway from this blog post, I’d hope it would be this: stop comparing your business to everyone else out there, be yourself and begin moving your business forward. Instead of trying to follow every jot and tittle of what it takes to run a business (that you’ve heard works) just do one thing that you feel comfortable with right now.

If your customer hires you because your brushwork looks and feels like glass when finished, then start there: deliver those same results to every customer. Make ever customer’s home look the best. If customers hire your company because they feel they can trust you, don’t every let them down. Make it your goal to focus on 100% customer satisfaction with all your employees. Share that vision with each employee and make sure they all get it!

All the other “stuff” that you hear about can have its place at the right time. Setting goals, working with budgets, tracking leads, all important things. Just take it one step at a time. Slow down, enjoy your work, and focus on making your business the best it can possibly be.

P.S. Don’t just take my word for it. Order a copy or download to your digital device a copy of REWORK by my friends at 37 Signals. It goes against everything you’ve ever heard about running a business. When you get the urge to write out your action plan, stop. Just re-read and enjoy it.

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What To Do When You Get an Email from an “SEO Expert”

Posted by | Small Biz Talk, The Obvious | No Comments

Do you get emails weekly or even daily from people who are guaranteeing they can get you onto the top of Google search engine? I receive them now and then and my clients get them all the time. I have a good laugh when I read over some of these. Here is one I found very humorous. I cut out a portion of the email and deleted my client’s URL for the sake of privacy issues, but here are the highlights:

The person then leaves his full name and phone number, no company email or web address about his company. The email my client received above is first of all not accurate. There are far more than “two Google back links” and his website does show up very well in search results. He has hired a reputable SEO company in the past that ended up being very beneficial for him. So this company definitely did not do their research. The thing I found amusing was the ending paragraph which reads, “I found your site in the Google search…” That pretty much narrows it down right there. Whomever wrote this email found my client’s site using Google search and then tells him the site in not ranked well at all. Folks, when you get emails telling you your site sucks on search engines and gives you a bunch of data as to why everything you are doing is wrong, consider this as SPAM. Don’t trust these emails.

When to Trust
Now, if your website really doesn’t show up well on the search engines, don’t get tempted to call up a person of one of those bogus emails. Make sure any email or phone call you get is a legitimate company. Make sure they have a quality website and that IT RANKS WELL. That is right. Do a few search terms yourself and see if that SEO company shows up high for their own search terms.

Base CRM Offering More Features and Paid Plans (Now Zendesk Sell)

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Update: November 2018: Base has joined with Zendesk Support. Their new name is Zendesk Sell. Their pricing structure has changed as well. It spans from $19, $49, $99 and $199 per user. I use the words Base CRM in the article below, written in 2012.

Base CRM (affiliate link) is still one of my favorite small business CRMs on the market. The features, user interface and design are high quality and simple to operate. Base CRM is a lightweight Customer Relationship Management program hosted in the “cloud.” It does what most small business sales people need it to do. The main reason I like Base CRM is its integration with mobile devices and Google Apps for Business. If you have an Android or iPhone, Base CRM has native applications built for each platform. A salesperson can truly be on the go entering sales information and/or looking up contact information from anywhere. Read More

What’s Keeping You From Blogging?

Posted by | Small Biz Talk, The Obvious | 5 Comments

We all have hobbies and habits. Some of us like playing golf, running, reading the morning newspaper, weekend rides, even playing around on our new techie gadgets. How much time do we spend doing these activities each day or week? Here is my challenge as we enter the spring season. What is keeping you from adding something new to your weekly routine? How about starting and maintaining a blog? Already have one but the last post was 2011? Keep reading.

So what’s keeping you from blogging? Is it that you are not sure what to write about? Or are you afraid you’ll run out of ideas? Maybe you are not a good writer and are afraid of what people might think when you misspell “except” when it should be “accept.” I can think of a dozen more reasons why most small businesses don’t blog.  I think the number one reason is that small businesses don’t make the time to fit in this very important marketing idea. There is room for everyone still to begin and continue to write what they are passionate about.

Has it worked for me? I’ve been writing about a blog a week for six years and believe me, I sometimes want to quit. I, like you, run a small business, volunteer at my local church as a trustee, am one of the managers of our church building project and raise 4 small kids 6 and under. Do I have writers block? Do I sometimes want to stop blogging? Yes! Quite often to be honest. I have the same fears my clients have but have to stuff away that head trash. Has it helped my business? In more ways than 1. It has given me opportunities to do public speaking and travel all over the country, gain new clients and grow my business without spending any money on traditional advertising. Actually, I did just spent $35 when I reordered business cards! 🙂 Ok almost no money on traditional advertising. The point is, if you personally will not blog, you’ve got to get someone to start blogging on a regular basis and be faithful to continue to write for your audience. Don’t stop! Press on!

Still Need Help?

If you are not sure where to begin, fill out my quick contact form and let’s talk. I’ll point you in the right direction. As always, I recommend blogging in house before outsourcing.

Photo credit: Woman in Thrisis

Narrow Down Your Service Area

Posted by | Marketing Advice, Small Biz Talk | 4 Comments

Most service companies would love to be well known all over their city, even a large metropolitan area. In order for that to really happen, one would need a substantial marketing budget. Instead of trying to market all over your city, it is best to target your market closer into your key area. Take a look at where you do most of your work. Ask questions like, “Where do most of my leads come from?” and “Where do my most profitable jobs take place?” Look into the sizes of those cities or towns and see if there is enough work for a company of your size to dominate the area.  Instead of writing down your top 10 cities, start with 2 to 3. How can my company be the #1 painter, roofer, plumber in this city? After you answer these questions, begin doing research on how you can begin to build your brand awareness. Your budget should include some branding items such as: community events, association newsletters, little league, Boy Scout troops, yearbooks, marathons, chambers and so on.

By narrowing down your service area, you will begin to build a stronger brand and grow your company. As you grow, you can have goals to expand into other towns, but not until you are #1 in your key service areas.

How do you build brand awareness in your area now? What is working for you? A penny for your thoughts?

Writing Before and After Blogs

Posted by | Marketing Advice, Small Biz Talk | 4 Comments

I’ve heard these statements numerous times, “I am not sure what to write about!” or, “I may run out of ideas.” and even “Nobody wants to read about painting!” What is my response to these comments? “Head trash!” It is head trash. Now I doubt most of your customers or the general web visitors will be signing up to read your weekly blog post, but I can guarantee they are reading good content online and researching answers to their home improvement questions. So get rid of the head trash and start writing. Use good content and answer questions to your audience. Don’t worry about how many people subscribe or comment.

Writing before and after blogs is probably the easiest way to start blogging if you don’t know what to write about or where to begin. You have a very visual business.  Your customers want to see the work before it began and what it looks like when finished. Mrs. Franklin wants to know what her neighbor Beth chose for her dining room walls or what type of countertop she selected for her kitchen remodel. This is the perfect opportunity to write up your story. Talk about the project, the location (keywords), what the customer had in mind, how the project went, materials used, colors selected and much more. End with a quote from the client (or a video). Take the blog, once it is posted and submit it to your Facebook or Google + pages (if you decide to use those channels).

We live in an age of information. People want to know something? They look it up online. Be the place that they come to find the answers and get inspired. Have you seen success writing blogs? A great follow up is to read Marcus Sheridan’s post on a similar subject, Why Facebook and Twitter Don’t Mean a Dang Thing for Online Success for Some Industries”

Slow Down Professor

Posted by | Marketing Advice, Small Biz Talk, Small Business Solutions | 2 Comments

Too Many Social Networking Sites!

Did you know there are over 200 active social networking sites on the web? What do I mean by active? Popular and still in business! This number does not even come close to all the small, no-name social networking sites that exist, probably numbering in the thousands. The big name sites are familiar to most of us: Facebook, Google +, Twitter, Yelp, Linkedin, delicious, XING, Windows, Live, Tumblr, and MySpace.

“Whoa! Slow down, professor! I’m trying to keep up!” Isn’t that what you are thinking at this point? If you are like me, you’re overwhelmed. It seems like every week I get invites to join a new social networking site. Sometimes I’ll join for a little while just to see what is going on and what it is about. Yet many of the sites I join won’t last. So what should you as a small business owner do when faced with so many choices of social media sites?

Two years ago, I was a fan of having one’s brand on the top 10 social networking sites. I thought like many online marketing guys did, “I want my clients to be #1 everywhere!” Yet I realized that good social media etiquette means to be real with people and connect as a human being. I now believe that by having your company brand on too many sites makes it almost impossible to

  1. Be faithful to keep up all of them
  2. Keep it real. Each social networking site has a different audience. Not all your company updates and blog posts should be posted on all these different sites. At some point, you’ll get discouraged that no one is engaging with you in return and you’ll burn out with too many posts and updates.

Keep Things Simple

My suggestion is to step back and look at what you are doing. Ask yourself, “What do I want to accomplish by marketing my business online or using social media tools? The primary purpose should be listening to and engaging with your ideal customers.

Find out what your customers want to talk about, learn about, read about, watch, and then give it to them. Find out who they are and where they spend their time. If most of your customers seem to spend time on Facebook (800 million users now… chances are they do) then focus your attention on Facebook and pull back on Linkedin, Twitter and the other hundred sites you’ve started to date. If you are a commercial contractor who typically deals with business people, Linkedin is definitely for you. If you are doing market research and trying to see what the word is on the street, or do some networking, check out Twitter.

When The Dust Settles, My Personal Pick

So what is one change I’ve made in 2011? My job is in marketing. So I will still be testing out social networking sites and occasionally you’ll see me on multiple channels. Yet I’ve narrowed my focus to primarily using blogging and Facebook to engage with friends, as well as current and potential customers. I get most feedback from blogging and Facebook. Also, Facebook has done a fantastic job creating THE social network.

Google is trying to outperform FB by creating Google +. It will not stick. When the dust settles, Facebook is here to stay. Why? Because the baby boomers and even many in the silent generation are learning how to use Facebook–not Google+, Twitter or the others.  So I continue to spend a few hours a week writing blogs and posting useful information here and on Facebook, distancing myself from many of the other social sites.

What about you? What do you think about all these social media sites that keep popping up? Have you tried out Google+?  What changes have you made this year in your business with regard to social networking?

Servant Leadership

Posted by | Small Biz Talk, The Obvious | 4 Comments

I subscribe to a monthly publication called TableTalk by Ligoneer Ministries. If you are one who enjoys reading the Bible and wants to dig deeper, I’d highly recommend TableTalk. Even if you have no interest in the Bible, the following ideas might be very helpful to you. During my morning reading recently, I was intrigued by the topic of discussion. It was called, “Leading By Example” and based on a Bible passage from Ephesians 6:9,

“Masters, do the same to them [employees], and stop your threating, knowing that he who is both their Master and yours is in heaven, and that there is no partiality with Him.”

TableTalk ends each devotional with what is called Coram Deo (living before the face of God). Let me quote the devotions complete Coram Deo, since it cannot be summarized,

“President Eisenhower once observed that, “leadership is the art of getting someone else to do something you want done because he wants to do it.” Good leaders do not lead by maintaining uncertain, ever-changing standards or by demeaning good workers. Instead, they serve those whom they supervise by encouraging them and setting a vision that all can seize and run with gladly.”

My Dad’s Example

Today’s study was encouraging to me as it reminded me how my dad led by example when I worked with him at Chism Brothers Painting. He is not a difficult business owner. He shows respect and kindness to his employees. He makes sure that each employee’s voice is heard and that he is approachable at any time. One important thing my dad did while I worked with him is he’d have regular breakfast meetings one on one with his crew leaders. I knew his painters appreciated this time with him. Every now and then a painter would think there was a better position or job out there in the world and they’d go exploring. Many times, those men came back asking for their jobs back.

I remember one man in particular who decided to work for my dad’s competitor. It lasted 2 very long weeks before he begged for his job back. My dad gave it back, and this man still works for Chism Brothers many years later. Once back, he realized just how well the leadership led by example. He felt that he was part of a team. My dad actually got paint on his hands now and then. The men respected him because he was a superstar painter. He also shared his vision and ideas regularly with his employees. He’d ask for their feedback and insight when making certain business decisions. He also rewarded them generously for their hard work. I’ve spoken to some business owners that only give bonus money to employees if they brought a job in under budget. Although my dad watches the numbers carefully, he did not nickel-and-dime his staff. I think that was the reason his company was profitable at the year’s end even with a few unprofitable jobs. His painters knew he was a fair and honest man so they worked hard for Dad.

Marketing and Leadership

One thing I’ve discovered the past few years is a disconnect between most contractors and their employees. Most employees just want to swing a hammer or put paint on the walls. They’d rather not put door hangers around the neighborhood, ask for a referral or look for extra work. In most cases I think it is because many of them just think of themselves as technicians: “I’m just a painter!” or “Ah I’m just a guy who installs cabinets.”

So how do you change this attitude in your employees? My suggestion is to follow my dad’s policy: lead by example, share your vision, connect with your employees just as much as you do with your customers. Spend the time it takes to focus on involving your employees in more aspects of your business and they will begin to play a bigger part in your company. Your field employees do not typically intimidate homeowners. They are the ones who can really connect and get more business. If you reward them for their efforts and you make them feel important, I believe you’ll see your company grow. Not all employees are motivated by money, so find out what motivates them: try to shape their work experience in a way that they want to do the things you ask of them.

How do you motivate employees in your business? What are your thoughts about this topic? I’d love to hear your story and feedback.

For Further Reading on Leading by Serving, see John 13:12-15

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