Business isn’t easy. Generally, when I look back at how much work it has taken to get a business off the ground, I wonder if I had known what I know now if I would still be willing to put in all that work all over again.
I’m not sure if transforming a business is easier than starting one, but it’s a painful process and getting started can be daunting. Lucky for you, this blog post came along at just the right time and will help organize your mind around all the soul-crushing work you have to do.
Attract Better People
Are you looking for the same sorts of people in all the same spots your competitors are? Analyze the way you are searching for help. Are you using language and incentives that make it clear to the top 1% in your field that you are the best place to work in your industry?
Do you hire only for experience? or do you hire for mindset and core attributes and train for skill?
Clarify your message
What do you offer and what truly sets you apart from your competition? Don’t give generic answers; if the answers you give to these questions is the same as ANY of your competitors, then it’s back to the drawing board.
Once you have it clear make sure all of your employees can recite it backward in their sleep while underwater in a bathtub (no not literally).
Train your employees regularly
How often do you train your employees? If the answer isn’t on the tip of your tongue then you don’t have a good answer. Anything less than once a week isn’t enough. Habits are about repetition. An emailed memo will not change the behavior and habits of your team. Get out there and train, do role-playing and do it all over again next week.
I confess that the very BEST training in our business happens when we hop in the truck and ride around with our people, often we as leaders are the ones getting the training.
Track your key numbers
First, you need to know your key numbers. For years, baseball scouts thought that RBI and defensive stats were among the best indicators of baseball success. Turns out they were wrong. Billy Beane, GM of the Oakland A’s found that on-base percentage was the most valuable number, so he began choosing players and training to that metric instead of the others. Guess what? They started winning.
For HVAC we find that callback rate, customer satisfaction or net promoter score and billable per hour are some of the best field metrics.
For the overall business, you need to always be clear on your cash and you net value (cash + receivables – payables) as well as keeping a close eye on net profit and overhead %.
Prepare for a rainy day
Take all of your business expenses for 3 months and add them up. Do you have that much liquid cash in the bank? If not, start saving retained earnings until you hit that level of reserves. You never know what tomorrow holds and the businesses that last have enough cash to weather a storm.
Learn from your customers
Start by taking customer surveys, but not the way big companies do it. Instead, create a list of 2-5 questions and call your best customers once a year and check in on how they feel you are doing. Some great questions are:
- “When was the closest time you have come to using another provider?”
- “What service or product do you wish we offered that we currently don’t?”.
Get better at sales
Sales is both overrated and underrated, simultaneously. Overrated because what most people think of as “selling” is an antique remnant of the cigar-smoking, back-slapping, used car salesman model. Sales aren’t pressuring customers to buy stuff by a few dudes with the “gift of gab”.
Sales is something all employees need to be doing with every customer by discovering their needs, fears, and desires and then providing them with solutions for which they pay you. Sales is both elegantly simple and ridiculously difficult as it requires the lost art of listening.
The good news is that once you accomplish these 7 hideously daunting tasks you will have a business you can truly write home about…. If you still have the energy.