Contractor Corner

Every leader looks for ways to keep employees engaged, motivated to try their best and to produce excellent work. The easiest way to motivate employees, of course, is to give them a raise. And while we certainly recommend giving salary bumps when you can, and when it’s appropriate, it’s not something you can do every day! Simply put, your business can’t afford it.

With that said, there are other ways to keep your technicians, office staff members, and sales reps motivated—to show them that you value them and appreciate their ongoing good work. Best of all, these motivational methods won’t cost you a dime—though some of them may require you to change some of your habits.

Motivating Your Team Members – Without Blowing Your Budget

  • Praise them generously. Not all of us are comfortable paying praise to others—yet it’s a skill worth cultivating. Your employees want to feel like their labors are noticed and valued. A simple pat on the back can really inspire your employees, particularly those who are wired to be praise-oriented.
  • Offer autonomy. Another way to help employees feel valued is to give them some room to roam. As your employees prove themselves to you, try giving them more projects where they can shine, and where they can make decisions without being micromanaged. If you can’t give a raise, maybe you can give more responsibility.
  • Ask for input. Are you planning a change to your business, or a tweak to the way you do things? Ask your employees for their honest feedback and hear them out. This doesn’t mean you have to take their suggestions. It’s just a good way to show that you value them as people, and care about what they have to say. This is a simple yet effective way to keep them motivated.
  • Consider small rewards. Maybe you have an employee who’s really been knocking it out of the park lately, but you don’t feel like you have the resources for a big pay bump. Something like a $100 gift card can be motivating for a fraction of the cost. Gift cards, movie tickets or an afternoon off show that you appreciate their efforts.  If you can make it personal, a gift card to their favorite coffee shop, for example, means even more.
  • Offer some face time. Finally, and as your schedule permits, consider inviting an employee for a non-working, one-on-one lunch. This level of personal investment can be a powerful motivator in and of itself.

You don’t have to break the bank to show employees how much their good work matters. Consider some of these methods for motivation in your home service company. To learn more about effectively leading your service trade business, reach out to Contractor in Charge.

It’s a big commitment and a major investment to find, recruit, and train employees. Naturally, then, you want those employees to stick with you for the long haul. But what happens when one of your employees simply isn’t performing as you had hoped? What can you do for the employee who’s just treading water—not rising to meet his or her full potential?

We’ll start with what should be your last resort, and that’s termination. Yes, it’s unpleasant to fire someone, and it’s frustrating to see that hiring/training investment blow up in your face. But there may come a point where you simply have to cut the employee loose, rather than have a suboptimal performer drag the entire team down.

Again, that’s a last resort. Before you reach that point, we recommend doing what you can to coach your employee and resolve some of those performance issues. The question is how.

Three Ways to Help an Underachieving Employee

There are a few options you might consider.

  1. Mentorship can go a long way. This doesn’t have to be a complicated, formalized program, although it certainly can be. It may be as simple as pairing an underachieving employee with one of your top performers. Have them tackle projects together once or twice weekly. Incentivize the mentor in some way, encouraging him or her to really be mindful about coaching your struggling employee.
  2. Another option is to change the employee’s position—though this may only be possible in larger home service companies. If you have a struggling sales rep, though, consider if you can move him or her into a position answering phones or providing estimates. Your employee may be struggling simply because you’ve put them in a job that’s not quite aligned with their real strengths.
  3. No matter what else you do, it’s always important to set the right goals. Talk one-on-one with your struggling employee and be very clear in laying out the goals you expect him or her to meet. We recommend the SMART goal-setting approach, which means setting goals that are specific, measurable, achievable, relevant, and time-sensitive. Again, it’s vital that you and the employee be on the same page and have a clear sense of expectations.

You may still find that the employee is struggling—and you may reach that termination point. But remember: Each employee is an investment, and it’s worth the effort to protect that investment as best you can.

Learn more about building a strong, healthy home service team; reach out to our consultants at Contractor in Charge today.

 

In the digital era, there’s little reason for home service professionals to cling to outdated business practices. For example, we still encounter a number of plumbers, electricians, and HVAC service pros who use old-fashioned pen and paper to provide estimates and invoices. That tried-and-true methodology obviously works just fine—but is it the best way of doing business?

We’d argue that there are a number of benefits to going paperless—and plenty of tools out there that can make the transition easy.

The Benefits of Going Paperless

You can probably think of some basic perks to the paperless approach. Your business can save on the cost of paper—sometimes a major expense—and it can also effectively “go green.” But even beyond these fundamentals, there are some critical, bottom-line benefits to going paperless:

  • It makes it easier to communicate with your customers. With the right platform, a service tech can email customers their invoice or their estimate before they even leave the job site—and customers, in turn, will have a document they can easily access from their smart device, not having to worry about keeping up with a physical piece of paper. And that’s not all: The presence of a digital invoice or estimate also enables them to call or text you with questions, all at the push of a button.
  • It enhances your invoice capabilities. We’ve said before that, if you want to get paid quickly, it’s best to invoice efficiently. Again, the paperless method allows you to send an electronic invoice before you exit the job site; customers, in turn, can quickly pay with credit or PayPal. You don’t have to use the mailbox for invoicing any more, which means the time it takes to collect payments can be significantly abbreviated. This is great news for your cash flow!
  • It automates Keeping up with projects and customers, adding to your schedule, checking on the payment status of an invoice—all of that’s streamlined by the paperless approach. You can even sync up your paperless invoicing system with your email marketing efforts, allowing you to quickly reach out to past customers and establish new touch points, perhaps encouraging them to sign up for a maintenance agreement or a similar service.

Find the Best Way to Go Paperless

Embracing the digital age can obviously be beneficial—and what’s more, it can be easy, especially when you have the right guidance. At Contractor in Charge, we are trained in a number of leading paperless invoicing and customer management technologies, including the highly-regarded ServiceTitan. We’d love to talk with you more about how you can implement this platform on behalf of your service trade. Contact us today to schedule a consultation!

It’s something that homeowners hear all the time: “Thank you for providing me with the estimate; I’m actually gathering multiple quotes before I make my final decision.”

You have to hand it to the homeowners who say this: They’re playing smart, ensuring that each service contractor they call feels compelled to give their best price, their best service, their best value. It also frees the homeowner from having to listen to a lot of pushy sales rhetoric. But what’s great for the homeowner can sometimes be rather frustrating for the home service contractor.

Simply put, you want to beat out your competitors—and when a homeowner is weighing multiple quotes, you want to make sure yours is the one they pick. What can you do to make that happen?

Beating Out Your Competition

Here are a few guidelines to keep in mind.

  1. Affirm the homeowner. Don’t speak ill of your competitors, and don’t let the homeowner know that you’re frustrated with them. Instead, tell them they are doing the wise thing. Immediately, this makes you their ally—someone they can see as trustworthy, someone with their best interests at heart. Say something like: “I’m a homeowner, too, and I’d be doing exactly what you’re doing.”
  2. Try to get more details. Without being too pushy, try to get as much information as you can about the product in question. The homeowner may say that they want a new bathroom fixture—but why? Because an older family member is moving in with them? Because they’re going to be renting out a room? Because they’re empty-nesters and are finally pursuing a long-dreamed-of bathroom remodel? Try to understand their motivation, which can help you speak to their needs more clearly and specifically.
  3. When you provide an estimate, always note value. Don’t just say that you’re charging X amount of dollars for labor. Note that you’re providing expert installation, a 15-point safety check, full diagnostics, time spent with the homeowner showing them how to use their new fixture or appliance, etc. In other words, make sure you attach dollar amounts to real-world benefits.
  4. Educate your homeowner without being too pushy. You don’t want to seem like you’re desperately trying to sell them, but you should leave them with as many educational resources as you can—ideally, brochures or pamphlets that underscore the value of your work or the benefits of choosing your company. Make them feel like you are guiding them in their decision-making process.
  5. Follow up. The more customer touchpoints you have, the better. Within a day of providing the initial estimate, send an email to let the homeowner know how excited you are to win their business, and to invite them to contact you directly if they have any questions or additional concerns.

These steps don’t necessarily guarantee you’ll win out over the competition—but if you follow them, you’ll be doing everything you can to make yours the attractive estimate.

Learn more about winning business for your home service trade; visit the Contractor in Charge site today!

How do local home and business owners find out about your home service company? The answer to that question has shifted a great deal in recent years. Where once the Yellow Pages held a lot of sway, today’s consumers mostly find local businesses through simple online searches. The upshot for your business: It’s vital that you have a strong local search presence.

Notice that word local. If you have a plumbing company that operates in Boston, it really doesn’t matter whether or not it’s discovered by homeowners in Los Angeles. What you care about is being found by the people who are near to you, who might actually hire you for a job.

To make that happen, it’s important to optimize your website for local SEO. There are many factors in play here, and it can become somewhat technical. Then again, it doesn’t have to. There are some small tweaks you can make to your company website even now, making it more prominent in the local search rankings.

How to Develop Local Visibility

A few basics that can be applied to any service trade website:

Include your NAP on every page. What is NAP? It’s your company’s name, address, and phone number. Believe it or not, this is the information Google uses to categorize your website in local searches. Make sure to use a phone number with local area code!

Submit your site to local directories. Is there a Chamber of Commerce, BBB, or local professional association you belong to? If so, reach out and ensure that your website is listed on their page. Getting these citations is a major Google ranking factor.

Use geographically specific keywords. You don’t need to go overboard here, but if your company is active in Orlando, Florida, note that once or twice on each page. A sentence as simple as this can be helpful: “We proudly serve homeowners in Orlando, Florida and the surrounding area.”

Set up a Google My Business page. If you haven’t already started a free Google My Business account, do so; it takes just a few minutes, and it’s something to which Google gives a lot of weight. Make sure to fill out the profile with a complete list of your services. And, list your NAP information consistently with how it shows up on your website—i.e. the same phone number, etc.

Get Found by Local Customers

For your business to succeed, it has to be found by local customers—and that’s not something you can leave to chance. Use these tips to build visibility—and reach out to Contractor in Charge for additional services growing your company.

Most of us spend as much time with our work families as we do with our real ones—in some cases even more. As such, it’s always sad to see a colleague leave. It’s doubly hard when you’re the business owner, and the employee who quits happens to be one of your best.

Of course, as much as you should try to retain your employees, it’s only a matter of time before one of them hands you their notice. The question is, what can you do about it?

Maintain Perspective

The first thing to remember is that an employee’s departure is not necessarily a referendum on your leadership style. In fact, it’s probably not about you at all. It likely has more to do with the employee’s professional ambitions or family needs. Maybe it’s as simple as this: He or she found a better offer elsewhere.

In other words: Don’t spiral, and don’t take it personally. Don’t assume that your employee quit because you’re a bad leader. Again, it likely has nothing to do with you.

Consider Their Notice

Hopefully, your employee will give you the customary two weeks’ notice. While it is your right to turn this down and dismiss them right away, this usually isn’t a wise approach. You’ll need some time to find and train a replacement, so let them work their two weeks.

As you do so, though, make sure you hold them accountable. For as long as they are your employee, they need to be engaged in their work—not mentally “checked out.” Make it clear which projects and service calls you need them to complete before they head off.

Talk it Over with Your Team

You don’t necessarily need to hold a press conference, but do assemble your employees to let them know what has happened. Maintain professionalism: Make it clear that you wish your departing employee the best.

Also reassure your employees that you’ve got things under control, and will have a new replacement hired as soon as possible. As best you can, be ready to answer any questions about how the departing employee’s workload will be divvied up in the meantime.

Consider A Counter-Offer

What happens if your employee says he or she is leaving due to a better offer, and that money is their sole motivator?

If the employee is worth it to you, you can offer to meet their promised salary. If they say no, though, it’s probably best to just let them move on. Frankly, not many employees are going to be worth getting into a bidding war with one of your competitors.

Do an Exit Interview

Make this employee departure a learning experience. Ask if you can pick their brain about the things they liked and didn’t like about working for the company. You might pick up some good insights that can help you prevent further departures, or build a stronger team.

Remember: Employees quit sometimes, for reasons that have nothing to do with you. You still need to handle these exits gracefully. For more guidance on building a strong professional team, reach out to Contractor in Charge today.