Are You Busy? You Should Be.
The industry group pages and forums at this time of year can be quite the mix of posts. The vast majority of the posts at this time of year relate to a generalized slow-down in the industry. While many spend their time lamenting the slowdown as it relates to their overall income, we suggest using the time for your planning.
If you have been in business for a season, hopefully you have taken note of the trends. And these trends may be different depending on your market and your location. Residential markets may take a dip during the winter months. They also tend to take dips during the the various summer holidays (Memorial Day, July 4th, Labor Day). Back-to-school activities may also affect the residential market. Commercial markets may be affected by operating budgets as well as their fiscal year calendars. These are just a few and again, your individual location and market may vary. But hopefully you have made notes to help you plan. AND THIS IS WHY YOU SHOULD BE BUSY!
Your business needs a solid foundation. We hope you have started with a business plan. Handwritten. Typed. Pictures. Whatever it takes for you to have answers to the "who, what, when, where and how" of your business, should be documented. Your business plan becomes part of the value of your business. If it's not written, then it doesn't exist.
Your business needs marketing. And if you aren't busy during this time of year with income-producing work, and we are assuming you want to work, then perhaps your marketing should be increased significantly the few weeks prior to your area's slow-down. Same principle applies during the other typical slow-down periods. Have you completed a detailed marketing plan that covers the next twelve months? Are you incorporating video? Are you using a variety of social media platforms to advertise? Are you varying your content and advertising methods to cater to select markets? This takes time and effort. But no one said being an entrepreneur was easy, right?
Your business needs systems. Systems create efficiency. A common complaint we hear throughout the year, relates to employees and the inability to think for themselves. Please don't attack the messenger as I am only repeating what you have told us over the year. Some of the largest Fortune 500 companies utilize checklists throughout their operating systems. McDonald's is a prime example of checklists and routine. Sometimes we have to take the "thinking" part out of the equation. I know that's scary but it's become necessary. I can't tell you the number of times we hear "I thought it was the equipment but then I realized it's the #$%@ running the equipment".
What checklists might you create? Here are a few to start the thinking process:
- Equipment Pre-Trip - Inventory
- Job Pre-Trip - Soaps, Chems, Fuels, Water, Safety Data Sheets
- Job Arrival Procedures
- On-Site Operating Procedures
- Job Departure Procedures
- Post-Trip Inventory
What methods could potentially make your working time more efficient? Last night we went to see a movie. I think as business owners, we can't help but evaluate other business environments. As we were standing in line for the obligatory popcorn and soda, we were watching the complete lack of efficiency among the counter clerks. And this isn't to criticize the staff because they were trying to hustle. But in completing one customer's order, the staff person had to walk the length of the snack counter at least 4 times. While we didn't have the definitive efficiency fix, there has to be a better method. Maybe it's product location. Maybe a "runner" might be helpful. And that's what you should evaluate in your business. What changes would make your work-life easier? Consider your entire process from acquiring the customer (advertising, bidding, scheduling) to completing the job and getting reimbursed. Take each step and consider all the components and what "partners" you have to make that process successful. When I refer to "partners" I am referring to some of the companies or services that you use to reduce some of your administrative time like a phone service, customer management software or a marketing/job lead company like Angie's List or Home Advisor. While many folks loathe, and I mean downright loathe, Angie's List or Home Advisor, many other folks have had success with them. Consider YOUR market and consider how your current partner services are working for YOU and YOUR business. While the internet cowboys can give a lot of opinions, it's always best to know your market.
Your business needs equipment and supplies. Have you taken the time to evaluate how that equipment has performed for you? Have you found a niche market and it's time to upgrade? Have you completed your research to determine the Return on Investment for new equipment? Remember that business plan that we talked about a bit ago, it should be your guide. How well have your soaps and chemicals worked for your needs? Have you considered alternatives and do you know the costs on your products? Not just the overall purchase price but the individual cost per mixed batch? Depending on the product and the mix rates, the per batch cost can vary. What you may think was a great deal, may really be affecting your product margin. Do you have an easy process for re-ordering your supplies? Don't forget to take advantage of our Winter Sales Event. Take advantage of tax savings by off-setting some income with an equipment purchase before January 1st.
Your business needs maintenance. Are you using this time to tear down, clean, repair and re-organize your equipment? Breakdowns are inevitable but solid repair and maintenance schedules along with those checklists can help to reduce downtime. Check your hoses, fittings, and connections. Clean those filters and replace worn parts. Do you have a "spare parts" box? Many parts are wearable and will break over time. Be prepared. This is your time to get prepared for the busy times.
Are you recycling? We would certainly recommend adapting this practice. Not only is it good for the environment but many of the parts we use can be recycled at your local scrap yard. Separate your scrap into brass and stainless steel. Keep bins and at the end of the year, turn that into some bonus cash!
I truly could go on and on but honestly, I have to finish our 2020 marketing plan and the art-work that goes with all of it. So in addition to our normal work load, we add in some of the very same activities that I listed above. We re-organize, plan, clean and prep. The label-maker starts working overtime. And Goodwill usually inherits a few things along the way. But we are anything but slow; it is truly one of the busiest times of our year.
If you are slow and you have all of the items above handled and in-place, go enjoy the slow time! And kudos to you for your organization and planning skills along with time management.
But if you haven't....what are you waiting for? Procrastination doesn't pay the bills and it doesn't grow a business. Now....go get it!
On a personal note, let me extend our sincerest thanks for allowing us the opportunity to assist so many of you this year with dreaming about your business ideas and helping to bring them to fruition. It is exciting for us to watch businesses start and grow. We feel honored when you choose us to be a part of your business plan. Enjoy the remaining days of 2019. We look forward to seeing all that 2020 brings you.
- Kimberlee Handl