What To Do When You Get Swamped with Work

Posted by David Chism | Thu, May 2, 2013

 What To Do When You Get Swamped with Work
One of the joys of run­ning a ser­vice busi­ness is deal­ing with the ups and downs of a full and emp­ty sched­ule. Most of my clients are paint­ing con­trac­tors. In the win­ter months, they are all scram­bling to keep their crews busy. In the spring and sum­mer they are swamped with work. It actu­al­ly is a good prob­lem to have, but some of them are actu­al­ly turn­ing away work due to hav­ing such a full sched­ule of booked projects.

An Exam­ple of the Busi­ness Growth Cycle

A slight detour for a moment (though it is relat­ed) A num­ber of years ago, I shared this sim­i­lar frus­tra­tion to my busi­ness coach I had when I was involved in Vistage Inter­na­tion­al. I told him that we had these ups and downs and had a hard time grow­ing our busi­ness know­ing that win­ter was approach­ing and we’d have to down­size again. The same cycle each year! The busi­ness coach shared with me how a busi­ness works and grows. In short, it is called grow­ing pains.” To grow a busi­ness, it is and will be painful. A sales­per­son­’s job is to sell jobs (prof­itably). He should not be as involved in all the oth­er aspects of the busi­ness such as pro­duc­tion and cus­tomer ser­vice. He just needs to sell. Then pro­duc­tion will see all the jobs he is sell­ing and won­der how he is sup­posed to sched­ule all the work. He will con­clude that he must hire new employ­ees. This brings up anoth­er set of prob­lems, train­ing and cus­tomer ser­vice issues. When you hire new employ­ees there is a train­ing peri­od. The staff that has been with you for awhile also might get a lit­tle frus­trat­ed because they have a green” (new employ­ee) help­ing them. What hap­pens when you hire new employ­ees and have to train them? Cus­tomers might com­plain just a lit­tle bit more because of the grow­ing pains you are expe­ri­enc­ing. This too is nor­mal, the busi­ness coach told me. You will then be forced to make sure you have good train­ing and pro­ce­dures in order. You will also make sure you deal with your cus­tomers con­cerns. There is no way around it. So there is the cycle. To grow a busi­ness, you have to be ready to face the fact that you will have those grow­ing pains. You need to face them head on or you will con­tin­ue to go up and down in your busi­ness.

4 Things To Do When Swamped With Work Now

Now back to the main pur­pose of this blog, what are a few things you can do now when you are swamped with work. 
  1. Make sure you have a plan. Pre­pare in advanced for the uptick in work. You need to look at the pre­vi­ous few years to see when work real­ly picks up and slows down. If April 1st is the date (his­tor­i­cal­ly) when the phone real­ly rings off the hook, then your plan should begin ahead of sched­ule. This might be look­ing for an esti­ma­tor in Jan­u­ary and Feb­ru­ary. It might mean hir­ing a few extra employ­ees in March.
  2. Raise Your Prices: If you are real­ly swamped, you also need to look at what you are charg­ing for work. To keep staff busy dur­ing a slow sea­son, most com­pa­nies will low­er their hourly rate, even oper­at­ing at break even num­bers for a time. Stick­ing to your plan of when you know you will typ­i­cal­ly be busy, start bid­ding work at your nor­mal and prof­itable rate ahead of sched­ule. So in March, don’t offer any discounts.
  3. Don’t Let Cus­tomer Ser­vice Suf­fer: This is prob­a­bly one of the most dif­fi­cult things to do. When you get so busy you lose sleep, it is hard to keep cus­tomers hap­py. Going back to step #1 (have a plan) make sure you plan out how you will keep cus­tomers hap­py. Maybe it involves tak­ing an employ­ee from the field and charg­ing him or her with a few new respon­si­bil­i­ties dur­ing the busy sea­son. Make a tem­po­rary posi­tion and call it Cus­tomer Hap­pi­ness Man­ag­er.” Cre­ate a job descrip­tion for this per­son that might require anoth­er 8 – 10 hours of work each week. This per­son can pos­si­bly help estimate/​bid small­er projects, call to con­firm start dates, fol­low up on how the job went, write thank you notes, encour­age online reviews, order­ing sup­plies, etc.
  4. Don’t Stop Mar­ket­ing: The last thing you don’t want to do is pause any of your mar­ket­ing efforts. When you send your mail­ers, email blast etc out, just don’t dis­count. Keep your name out there in front of your tar­get audi­ence. This is also a great time to plan ahead. See if you can pre-sell work for those who are not in a hur­ry. Tell them about your slow sea­son or a rainy day” special.

What Do You Do When You Get Busy

I am curi­ous to what you all do now when you get busy, what ideas you have and what you plan to do this sea­son. I do hope you are off to a great sec­ond quar­ter like many of the con­trac­tors I’ve spo­ken to late­ly. Let me know by email or in the com­ments below.

About David Chism

David Chism started his business out of a passion for helping small contracting businesses grow, be more profitable and become better known to their target clients. One lifelong hobby of David is using techie gadgets. So this blog is a place where he writes about technology, marketing ideas, just for fun (humor), personal thoughts on small business and more.


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