Daily Cut: November 10th – 14th Summary

 

Video Transcript

If you’re in the residential business and you’re thinking about going into commercial or you’re in commercial and you’re thinking about going to residential because you’ve heard of all the money that’s in the other business, I can tell you that I’ve been in both, in multiple industries. Here’s what I found, and I think this will hold up in most, but it probably doesn’t hold up all the time. Residential involves a lot more phone calls. Residential requires a much higher level of service. Residential requires a lot more customer touches. Residential is generally harder, in my opinion. I like residential.

If you’re going to expand from residential into commercial, the contract or the amount they’re willing to pay, their quality requirements are probably lower. That’s a broad statement. How do you take people on your residential team and say, “When you’re doing homes or residential properties, do a crazy good job.” Whatever that crazy good means. “When you’re over here at this commercial property, do good work but don’t spend as much time. Do a little bit less.” How do you do that and keep your commercial quality level from becoming your residential quality level?

If you’re in commercial and you want to go to residential, you generally can’t take your commercial quality level, your commercial customer follow-up level – again, broad statements here – and be successful in residential. Residential will drive you out of your mind. There’s too many transactions, too many moving parts. It will drive you crazy. Before you go from commercial to residential, be aware it’s a totally different game. Be staffed for it, have the technology for it, have the training for it. Again, that big people problem, it’s very difficult to use the same people to do commercial as residential. It’s almost like two different businesses in most businesses.

I’ve got a book recommendation for you. The book is The Fish That Ate the Whale: The Life and Times of America’s Banana King. I highly recommend this book. It’s about a guy in the early 1900s that went from literally nothing to a banana mogul. He was ridiculously wealthy for that time, and he built his entire business on the banana business. It’s not a simple story. What went into him building this business and all that he went through, it’s absolutely fascinating. I really recommend this book. I read a lot of business books. I read some self-help books. I read a diverse set of books, but they tend to be themed around business, marketing, sales, things like that. I don’t read a lot of books just for pure entertainment. Although, I find it entertaining to read business books.

The experience I had with this book was that it was really well-written and it kept my attention the entire time. It felt like I hadn’t read a really well-written book in three or four years. It reminded me what a really well-written book is. A lot of times, your really well-written books are not business books; they’re books you would read for entertainment. Two things about this; it’s a great story, it’s a true story. It’s sort of like reading a biography, in a sense, but it’s just really well-done. If you’re into reading and you like business books, I think you’ll find this entertaining.

Quite a number of companies that do not accept American Express because American Express does charge higher fees, so they don’t take American Express and I understand. I think that’s a mistake. I would highly recommend that you do take American Express. I’d set up an account with American Express. If you accept credit cards, take American Express, but an option is … It’s really important to have American Express when you serve the commercial market. If you’re really concerned about this, one thing you could do is on the phone when your team is speaking with a client or when you’re in person, just say, “Would you like to pay with Visa or MasterCard?” You’re immediately implying that it’s one of the two choices. You might not even promote that you take American Express. However, when asked or pushed for it, you’ll have the ability to take it.

Don’t promote it; have it and then accept it when you need to. If you don’t just make it available and say, “We take American Express,” then you won’t have to worry about as many people just automatically using their American Express. For example, I use my American Express for everything, but if they don’t have American Express or they don’t take it, then I have a Visa card as well. Everybody has a backup card, I would imagine.

I would recommend, number one, accepting American Express, and then if you’re really worried about the fees, just don’t promote it, don’t ask for it. Maybe change the language you use internally in your business to get the MasterCard or Visa, but then happily accept it when that’s all that they have or if they’re a business. Most businesses want to use American Express, and it puts you at a deficit compared to your competitors or it’s not fantastic customer service when you don’t accept it.

To get started in business, the absolute easiest way to do it is to just start. I know that sounds silly, but let me explain. When you think about building a company, you think I’ve got to find customers; I’ve got to set up an LLC; I need to get a bank account; I’ve got to buy equipment; I’ve got to buy a truck. You imagine all the stuff that’s going into your business. Also, when you’re starting a company, you’re picturing what that business is going to look like in a year or two years when it’s operating and running. None of that matters now.

Most guys that dream of starting a business and tell everybody they’re going to start a business and buy info products when starting a business never get started because they’re thinking about it all wrong; they’re trying to do too many things. All you need to do is make a thousand dollars. That’s all you’ve got to do. You provide one service and make a thousand dollars. It doesn’t even need to be a recurring thousand dollars.

On a side note, there’s all these businesses that you might think of. For example, maybe you want to be in the lawn care business or maybe you want to be in the cleaning business, and then as soon as you do a thousand dollars worth of work or five thousand dollars worth of work, you realize this business sucks. I don’t like this. I couldn’t imagine doing this all the time. The best time to figure that out is right now before you buy equipment, buy trucks, get licensed, all that other stuff. Just focus on making a thousand dollars. Block everything else out of your mind; don’t worry about anything else. You just want to make a thousand dollars.

Then after you make your first thousand dollars, then your next goal is to make one thousand dollars on recurring money each month. Just set your business up so each month you have enough work coming in if you do nothing else that you’ll make a thousand dollars. It’s that simple. You don’t think about anything else. You don’t buy any equipment that you don’t absolutely have to have to provide that one service that will make you a thousand dollars a month. If you keep it that simple, it’s not nearly as intimidating. Your odds of being successful because you actually get started will go up tenfold. Go make one thousand dollars immediately. Only do that and nothing else.

Good morning. It’s about eleven o’clock in the morning on Monday and I’m heading into the office. My family and I just got back in town at about four o’clock this morning. We were out of town for the weekend, a surprise event. My aunt had passed away, completely unexpected, never would have guessed. We just got back in town and it got me thinking. I was talking to one of my cousins over the weekend and it got me thinking about wills.

I for a very, very, very long time put off doing my will. Even after I had accumulated a fair amount of assets and I had kids, I still had put it off. I had it on my to-do list, but it just kept getting bumped and bumped because I knew that I needed to go to a lawyer and I needed to get this thing done. This is my suggestion for you. If you’re in a situation where you’re like me, you’re crazy busy and you’ve delayed for many years and you said, “I’m going to do a will. We’re going to get a will done or we’re going to redo our will; it’s been so long.” You keep putting it off because you know that it’s a lot of effort to go find a lawyer and then deal with the lawyer on it.

What I ended up doing because I had put if off so long, it dawned on me, let me just take a first easy step. I did this quite some time ago, and I just went and I did it on … You can go to Nolo.com; you can go to some different websites. I just went and did it online, and I recommend that you just do that, just as a first step. I’m not saying that’s the only thing you should do. I’m not saying you shouldn’t use a lawyer. In fact, if you have a lot of assets, if you own a couple of businesses or your business is complicated, if you have a number of key man life insurance policies, if you have quite a few different things like that, you really want to- and you have kids, you might want to consider a lawyer.

At least as a first step, for a hundred bucks, there’s LegalZoom; that’s where I did it. There’s Nolo.com. Go to one of those sites. Just do you will. It will take you a couple of hours. It will force you to get everything organized, and it will force you to double-check all of your insurance policies and everything to make sure that your beneficiaries are the right people. If you have the wrong beneficiary on your life insurance policy but in your will say something different, I believe that the life insurance policy will trump the will. It will make you get everything organized and together.

I’d highly encourage you to go check on your will today, your life insurance today. If you haven’t done a will, just go spend a hundred bucks, knock it out in a couple of hours, and then keep on your to-do list going to see the lawyer, but at least get it done today, especially if you’re a business owner with kids.

Daily Cut: November 3rd – 7th Summary

 

Video Transcript

Are you being cheap? Think about what it is in your business that you use all the time. What is that thing you live on? What is that tool or equipment you use constantly? Now, have you bought the best? The most productive, the easiest to use, the thing that doesn’t frustrate you, the thing you don’t curse at all the time? As an example I live on a computer. I don’t use my cell phone much for phone calls, in fact it’s near impossible to get a hold of me on my cell phone but I have a cell phone for texting and emergencies and it’s an iPhone.

If I’m going to carry this thing in my pocket all the time even though I don’t use that much, I’m going to have the best phone. I happen to think it’s an iPhone. Everybody has a different opinion. I live on my computer more than anything else. I have a $2,200 Mac. I think that because I spend all my time on my computer I should the best computer. Now, there’s stuff that’s best, but that’s the fine. That’s the in between point where at $2,200 I get everything I possibly need and it’s what I want need.

If I was sitting on a lawn mower all day, I’d buy the best most productive lawn mower. If I was cleaning a house I would have the very best equipment chemicals, chemicals is probably the wrong word to use in cleaning, but I’d have the very best materials available to me to clean that house. If I’m in my truck all day long I would have a fantastic seat, a good interior. If I was in my truck I’d have a CD player to listen to audio books or I’d have an excellent iPhone or a mobile device that I can connect with a Bluetooth or plug in so I can listen to MP3s and audio books and such.

What are the things you’re doing everyday that use all the time that just drive you nuts, that are always having problems, that are always costing you waste and frustration or that just don’t make your life easy? Spend the money on those things. Those are the priorities that you should spend on money on. Spend a day and evaluate where all your frustration points are fix them. That’s money well spent.

The late Zig Ziglar had a saying that your car can be a mobile university. Basically that you can get a college education driving around in your car. For so many of us in the service industry that’s so true. You’re doing estimates, you’re doing sales maybe you’re going between jobs to actually perform the work. Whatever the case may be you spend so much time in your car. If you’re just listening to ESPN Radio, or Talk Radio that most of the time is just going to wear you out mentally because you’re convinced the world is going to end. Or whatever the case maybe, maybe even just listen to music which is great and which I like, you’re missing out on so much.

I highly recommend if you don’t have a subscription to audible which is 14 bucks a month or $24 a month, in fact there is a link on my Lawn Care Millionaire website on the right side that will get you a free month. If you’re not doing that or you’re not listening to podcast, there are so many smart people that now have a free podcast. If you’re not listening to that stuff all the time you’re really missing out on incredible education.

So many people don’t like to read. I don’t have time to read every book. I listen to a lot of books on audible. You can listen to them at double speed once you get used to it. If you don’t like to read and you’re a person that says, “I don’t read books. I would never read books I hate. I don’t have time to do it.” Get an audible account and you can just blow through books. If you start a book it’s cheap. If you start a book and it’s not very good, stop. Don’t read it. If it’s not resonating with you move on to the next book.

Use your time and I think it will just massively change your business. It will change your attitude. You’ll feel so much more positive. You’ll feel like you have so much more potential and possibility because like they say, knowledge is power.

Last year the president of a company that I’m partnering basically pranked me and sent me a text and said he needed to talk. I think as usual I didn’t respond right away because I’m slow about responding to text message and horror bound at responding to phone calls on my cell phone. He sents me this text, I don’t immediately respond so then he sends me this longer text if I’m getting all my facts right, and basically tells me he needs to talk. He’s grateful for the opportunities at the company. It’s been a fantastic ride, on and on and on but he’s just got to do some things for his family. A new opportunity has come up and basically he’s going to move on.

Now, I wouldn’t have thought that would happen and I thought it was joke because he’s good at that stuff, but I got to say my heart stopped. Here we are like a year and a half later and I was thinking about today’s topic and this thing popped in my head and it’s a great reminder. Today as you’re going through your day, this week as you’re going through your week, where are the weak spots in your company? Where are you at risk? Where do you have people with no backup plan?

What things are happening in your business that there is no backup plan? If a person leaves a piece of equipment breaks, a truck breaks down, a phone system stops working? We’ve had some problems with our phones at Service Autopilot and we’re on this really high-end phone system now. We’ve had some problems with our internet. Now we have a backup system in our company for our wireless internet. If one of our $500 routers goes down I have a $500 router that takes over.

In our software system that runs Service Autopilot we have ridiculous redundancy but that’s a no brainer. Where do I have redundancy in my company if somebody’s laptop crashes? Do I have another laptop I could pull out of the closet and give it to them so they can keep functioning because labor is expensive? Today in this week, think about where all your weak spots are. Just make a list. Just jot them all down, don’t worry about fixing them just make your list. It’s something to start working off as you continue working on your company. It will let you sleep a whole lot better at night when you get all of those things fixed.

I’m trying to figure out, okay, what am I going to record a video about today, I thought of something that happened a couple of months ago that I think it’s a great lesson. I doubt you would ever do this, but boy, it’s a great reminder and it’s especially important to pay attention to your team and make sure they’re not doing something this insane. When we moved into our office a while back we had to sign a contract with a company Time Warner to get fiber optic service into our office space.

We were going through the motions, we had the sales person and this sales person puts herself out there as a beauty queen whatever. You completely get the feeling that she is completely selling based on her looks and that’s the angle that she’s going to play. Everything about dealing with her although supposedly she’s one of their top sales people was pretty much a turnoff. I’m pretty frustrated with her. I’m not getting her to negotiate the way I want. I don’t like the terms on and on and on so I get another company involved to help me negotiate try to find somebody else that’s better. Try to find me basically a better deal.

I get an Email from her, after we haven’t had that great of a relationship and she sends me an Email and she says, “Will you please help me make my quarter. Today is my last day. If you will please do me this huge favor and sign the contract today I would really appreciate it. Can you do this for me?” It’s really worded almost exactly like that. Then she calls me as well and I ignore the phone call. That just pissed me off more. That’s the point of this video. Is what might it be that you and I and our teams say that’s phrased as benefits for us and not benefits for our client.

I didn’t give a flip about this girl. She was a terrible sales person and there was no way I cared to do anything to benefit her. What I wanted was her to give me $300 a month cheaper or whatever it was I wanted and better terms on our deal. I wanted something. I wanted anything. She came back to me with nothing. There was no benefit to me. There was nothing. What are we saying to our clients, our potential clients in a way that benefits us and is about us and matters to us versus saying it in a way that matters to them? It’s about them we’ll make their life better make them feel better.

We want to make sure that everything we’re saying and doing is phrased towards their benefit and not to ours. I hope that’s a helpful tip today. It sure was frustrating to me and I think phrasing things correctly to the client to benefit them is a huge, huge thing in this act of selling and in fantastic customer service.

This video won’t apply to everybody, but if you have cash and you have any desire to see that cash grow then you’re well aware that money market funds pay virtually nothing. If you happen to be in California, Arizona, New Mexico, Colorado, Texas, Alabama and Florida, BBVA compass and you can find them online at compassbank.com, they’re offering one percent on your money in the form of a money market fund through the end of 2015. This applies to any amount deposited between 10,000 and two and a half million.

I highly recommend that if you’re in any money market funds or you have a lot of cash just sitting in your checking account that you take a look at this. I personally moved a fair amount of money because I had it sitting in Vanguard. I do think you need to keep money in a number of different places, but I highly recommend that if you have a bunch of cash at least 10,000 that you can deposit there is a great opportunity for you to get one percent on your money which is far better than most money market funds pay and then we evaluate it at the end of 2016. Hope that helps.

Daily Cut: October 27th – 31st Summary

 

Video Transcript

Ever heard of profiling you clients, so I’m not going to tell you who to use on this one but there’s a bunch of ways to do this. I’m going to tell you about a concept that’s absolutely worth it. I’ve done it in the last several companies that I’ve used.

What you do is after you get to some size in your business, you take your client list, name, address, phone number, things of that sort, email address, and then you take out of that list the clients you don’t really like or you don’t want more of or don’t really fit into your business. Maybe you like them but they’re just not the perfect client. Basically you get your list down to a point, maybe it’s 60% of your list, maybe it’s 70% of your client list, but you get your list down to a number that really represents your ideal clients. Or maybe if you want to get really advanced you get your client list down to just the top 20% of your clients that probably generate somewhere between 70 and 80% of your revenue.

From that list you send it to a company. That company will reverse-profile it. Now I’ve done really basic reverse profiling but then you can get into more advanced stuff that will get into psychographics and different things and it will give you a really detailed picture of your clients’ ability to spend money and different things of that sort. You can do this a couple different ways.

The first time I ever did I just reverse-profiled my list to find out that my clients live in a certain size home, that they’re a certain age, that they make about x amount of money, that they have on average 2.1 kids. It was that type of a reverse-profile. More recently we had our list reverse-profiled and we found out the clients’ risk tolerance in a sense, the risk that in a down economy they might cancel service, things of that sort, how much money they might make. This will tell you a lot about your business.

Then if you want to get really detailed with this, more advanced, you then take that list and you use that profile to buy lists of those exact best clients to go market to. Consider profiling your clients. It will be an eye-opener.

One thing I’ve learned, it’s advice that’s been given to me, I’ve experienced it, I believe it, and that is you we’ll never build a big, successful, highly profitable business by cutting expenses and managing expenses. In your own personal life, in my personal life, especially when I was younger, I would really pay attention to the little expenses: going out to eat; I remember when I was even younger, magazine subscriptions; buying books. I would try to save money on all these little things. The example of not buying a Starbucks coffee everyday will save you $5 a day, that’s silly advice. The real money, the real expense is in the big stuff: the cars, the houses, college, those big things. That’s where you blow money, and you blow it really fast. You could do one big purchase every two years and it’s three times more costly than the silly Starbucks coffee example.

The exact same thing I believe is true in your business. You cannot manage your way to success and high profits by constant cost-cutting. Now you should optimize your business and you should pay really close attention, but spending most of your effort trying to save on your phone bill is, for the most part, a complete and total waste of time. Your time is much better spent trying to grow sales and marketing. You might save $100 a month by fiddling with the phone bill for a day, a day a year; whereas if you spent that day you might be able to put something in place that generates you an extra $5,000 in sales per month, which is a better activity.

That’s my point. The focus on cost-cutting and constantly obsessing over small bills in the business is a total waste of time. You can do that some day, but for the most part you should hardly do that. You should spend the majority of your time on big 80/20-type tasks: sales and marketing, hiring the very best employees, mentoring and training your employees.

The point of this, and maybe the encouragement, because it’s something I’ve learned because I’ve shifted from a penny-pincher personality to look at things the way I’m describing them, and I think it’s had huge results – the benefit to you is less stress, less concern, less worry, bigger profits, more time, and an overall better business. Become a guy that thinks about 80/20 and not a guy or a gal that talks about cost-cutting and penny-pinching.

A lot of people push the concept of starting a business part-time. I don’t talk that works. Now I think you can get to your first thousand in revenue, your first thousand in monthly recurring revenue part-time. If you’re building a product-based business, I think you can sort of do some of that part time, but if you’re building a service-based business you can’t go very far part-time. When you’re part-time you give yourself 5,000 reasons not to be successful. You still have a crutch; you still have a backup plan.

The moment you put yourself in a position that you either win or lose, that you make it or you fail, you will do everything that it takes to make that business succeed. When you have to, you will. When you can slide by, when you don’t have to, when you have a backup plan, you’ll take shortcuts, you’ll procrastinate, you’ll delay, you’ll find reasons not to do this or that. You’re not as committed. You’ve got to be 100% all in if you want to give yourself the maximum possibility of being successful in your new venture. That’s why I don’t think part-time is the answer. Earn your first thousand in recurring revenue, then go full-time, all in, all your cards on the table. That is your most likely formula to success. A lot of people would disagree with me on that.

Hey, there’s a long-standing debate when it comes to painting, wrapping, lettering your vehicles, your trucks. Should you have phone number, web address, both, a list of the services that you offer? Should you have your logo, a graphic? Should it be colorful? What should it look like? How fancy should it be? How simple should it be? Or maybe should you put anything on your truck at all? That’s actually a debate as well.

My attitude on this is that all that really matters at the end of the day is your web address. Is your truck clean, does it look good, and will I, when I drive past your truck at 30 miles an hour, 60 miles an hour, if I even care or even notice you, what will it be that catches my attention that I remember when I get home or to the next stop light? Or if I’m in a neighborhood and I drive by your truck and I slow down for a second, what is the one thing that I most care about? We no longer live in the age of picking up the telephone and calling a service provider. We want to text our service provider, email our service provider, fill out a website form, go to their client portal. We don’t want to pick up the phone and call them.

If that’s the case, what’s most important? My argument is it’s the web address. I personally have phone number and web address on our trucks but if I could only have one thing, and I believe in simple, I would have the web address. My position is have a web address, have it be your company name if it’s easy and memorable and unique, and it’s easy to spell, and if you can’t accomplish that, make it a phrase that benefits the client, such as crazygoodservice.com. Now crazygoodservice.com is not the web address I would use. It doesn’t state the benefit well enough but that’s an example of what I mean by a phrase. If you do not have your web address and it’s not memorable, I would correct that immediately on all of your vehicles.

I’m at the Service Autopilot office today. It’s Saturday and I’m going to show you something that’s worked out really nicely for us. I’m in the support area right now where our support team is that works with all our clients. Back here we are trying out a new headset. Let me show you what they look like. We’ve used Plantronics headsets at this company and then another company that I own. The Plantronics at the other company are nicer. I don’t know what this one costs right here. We’ve been using some at the other company that are a couple hundred bucks to $300 and they’re wireless. For some of our team that can work from home and they can just hook it on their waist and they can walk around and it’s completely wireless.

Here they’re plugged into the phone and then we just have this wireless setup right here, and they’re pretty good. We’ve been testing this one right here. We bought it from headsets.com. In fact, the box is actually still sitting here, headsets.com. Really like them; they do a good job. I might record a different video about those guys at some point. Here’s the headset. I don’t even know how to pronounce it. We’ve been trying it for two months and we really like it. I can’t even tell you all the benefits of it because I was originally looking for a good headset. If I zoom in here and you can see the name of it. You know what? I’ll put the name on the screen when I do not video here because I don’t know how the heck to say this name. It’s Sennheiser and it’s the DW Pro 2. It basically just sits on this little thing. It’s completely wireless. It covers up both of your ears so you don’t hear anything. Plus it has noise reduction, and it has a really good boom mic on it so that it just picks up your voice. It doesn’t pick up everyone around you. The support team’s in a pretty open environment here in the back.

This is the charging station and the wireless station. I don’t know if you saw how far I walked when I walked back in here. I think this room is about 3,000 square foot that I’m in, this particular support section. If you go all the way to our front of our office, which is over 6,000 square feet away. I don’t know how to put that exactly, about 6,000 square feet away. This thing still works perfectly fine. You can walk all the way up to our boardroom and work in that area as well. Headsets.com. This again is the brand. Think you’ll like it.

Daily Cut: October 20th – 24th Summary

 

Video Transcript

Regarding website strategy I used to give the advice that you should have a multi website strategy, that you should buy domain names optimized for your industry in that city. So if you were lawn care it would be something like lawncaredallastexas.com or it would be cleaningmiami.com, something of that sort. Not necessarily those exact domains but you’d have your core website and you’d have multiple additional websites selling specifically for a city and for a service type. That advice hasn’t held up in at least a year. I’m not quite sure how long now but where I’m going with this is it’s not that you don’t do it but it’s a very much down the road strategy now if you want to do it.

I wanted to correct some advice that I’ve been giving for a long time and it was right at the time but today things have changed. Google changes their algorithms all the time every year. The strategies in marketing when it comes to online marketing evolve. I do not recommend now having and spending the money on a bunch of separate websites. I recommend spending your money on one website, making it fantastic, putting a lot of work and your SEO effort into that site.

Now if somebody says you should have a second site they could be right given the scenario and the situation. I’m just saying for the vast majority of companies trying to have 10 websites no longer makes sense. You should have one. You should put all of your energy and time into that one website and make it the site that dominates the market when your potential client is searching for someone like you.

Here’s how I recommend you setup your profit and loss statement. Inside your accounting system more than likely is QuickBooks I recommend that you turn on a couple of things. If you look at my screen you’ll see that I have September 2014. That would be the current month. The month thereafter, August 2014 was the month before, so it’s last month. Then the third column is percent change. You’re looking at the percent change in revenue or expenses from August to September. For every line item on your profit and loss statement you’ll have a percent change column that will indicate again the change between August and September, between this month and last month.

The fourth column is this month, so if we’re in the month of September right now then a year in the past, so this calendar month last year, what was our revenue, what were our expenses, all of the line items, all of the rows that show up in your P&L will show up here, so you’ll have your 2014 for this month and 2013 for this month last year, as that way you can compare year over year.

Then I would also turn on a fifth column which is the percent change for this calendar year, this month’s calendar year versus last year say in calendar month. In my example it would be the percent difference between September of 2013 versus September of 2014. You can quickly scan this report every week and you can see if any of your expenses are out line with last month. You can see how you’re doing compared to last year and then you can look at the percentage of every expense and all of your revenue all in one quick snapshot to see how you’re doing.

I think this is the ideal way to setup your P&L. If you want to you can do exactly this on a week by week basis. I just happen to look at it on a monthly basis but you can have this setup as week one, week two, week three, week four. You can get even more creative about it but these are the recommended columns.

I had a really interesting weekend. This past Friday I’m at the office. We’re going to do a system update for service autopilot. Around two o’clock in the afternoon I just have this insane headache. I don’t normally get sick, I don’t normally get headaches, and it’s just driving me crazy. By 10 o’clock that night we’re still at the office. We have a team at the office. We’re going to do an update. I have to go home. By Saturday around two I’m in the emergency room and they’ve just told me that I have to have my appendix removed. I’m about to get prepped for surgery. My 12 year old gets injured with a slight tackle. They bring him into the same emergency room thinking that he’s got a broken shin. Basically in the course of 24 hours everything is upside down. I feel horrendous.

Now I’m a person that eats healthy. I take good care of myself. I haven’t always because I work like a dog and I’ve always pushed, pushed, pushed so I’ve let things slide, but for the most part I absolutely consider myself ahead of the game on eating and health and working out compared to most people, so this really threw me for a loop. I just could not understand why I am having a problem with my appendix. What did I do wrong?

Here’s my point. I think this is probably the most important video I’m going to record all year. If you’re like me and you’re working really hard and you’re focused on your business, you’re trying to take care of your family and you focus on that stuff to the detriment of your diet, to the detriment of sleep, to the detriment of working out and granted I was doing things right but I still feel like I got a little bit of a wakeup call, a little bit of a reminder that in 24 hours everything changed. I’m in the emergency room. I’m going to have my appendix removed. My son is in the emergency room. Everything changed in 24 hours. Everything worked out fine. It’s all good. I’m back at work. He’s fine. But things can go fast and everything you’ve built, everything you’ve worked for if you’re not taking care of yourself could be for naught. If your family is done with you and they leave you because they get no attention it’s for naught.

This is a reminder that today for the rest of this week really to be thinking about how are you taking care of yourself so that all that you’re building, all that you care about, all that you’re working on will still be around after you’ve built it. Or that you can even get to your goal. You’ve got to have the energy to get there. I got a bit of a wakeup call, a reminder better said. Hopefully this will encourage you to assess what you’re doing in your life and how you’re taking care of yourself.

This is a reminder why you are worth more money than you are charging, and your team is worth more money than you’re charging. I have to constantly remind myself of this too because I am convinced I under press on everything just like most of us do.

You’re looking at a picture of inside the door of one of my cars. I got to tell you a quick story. This car doesn’t have a door handle on it. You push a little bitty button and the door pops open. It’s all electric. About three years ago I take this car and I hardly drive this car. If I do it, it’s not on the road usually.

I took this car to the dealership about three years ago to do something else. They look at this and they say it’s probably about 3000 bucks to fix. It just didn’t sound right to me I said, “No, I don’t want to do it right now. It’s easy enough for me to put my hand through the window and pop open the emergency release on the door.”

I then take it to the guy probably a year ago that does mechanic stuff on another car that I have. He says, “You know what, I’m not 100% sure but we need to start with replacing this one thing in your door. It’s about 1000 bucks. And then after we do that we’ll move on to the next thing.” A week ago I have my car. I say “No, let’s not do that either. It just doesn’t sound right. I don’t know why but it doesn’t sound right.” So a week ago I take my car to a guy that does race prep work and he probably bills, I think he bills me $150 an hour for labor. This is the picture he texted me on my phone. I pay him $150 for an hour of diagnostic work and he fixes it. It’s a wire in the door.

This is the reminder, what your clients are paying you for and what they’re paying me for is expertise and know-how. They’re paying us to know how to solve things and solve things fast. If you’re providing some service and that service is a $40 an hour service if you can do it faster than everybody else you’re worth more money. You should get $50, $60, $70 an hour for that service. You’re worth more, because you know more, because you have experience, because you’ve been doing this a long time and you have the right answer and you have the right answer fast. That is difficult to explain to the client but that is critically important to remember when you’re pricing your services.

… or all your best leads are coming from? Do you know where all your best clients live? How well do you understand the geographic details of your business? So if you don’t know that and I bet you don’t because most of us don’t, I highly recommend buying a wall map. It’s going to cost you several hundred dollars. There’s some sites you can go to and custom order a wall map for your area. They’ll laminate it. They’ll mail it to you. You unroll it, put push pins in, hang it on the wall.

Then what I’d recommend is get a couple of different colors pins, green, red, blue and every time you’re on the telephone and you talk to a lead you spin around in your chair and you stick a pin in the map for where that lead is at. Every time you sell a new client you spin around you put a different push pin into that map to represent the client.

Now get a map that’s at street level. You want a street level base map of the geographic area that you serve. You may even take it a step further which I personally did in the past and I recommend for clients to have two different push pins, maybe even for leads. The first push pin color for clients is the one where you get off the phone and you think, “You know what, I like this client. They’re going to buy a lot of stuff. They’re pretty cool. I like talking to them. They’re friendly. They’re great. I think they’re going to pay.” The other push pin is for the client you get off the phone and you say, “I sold a client, that’s awesome, but yeah, you know, the conversation was okay. I just didn’t get that one fuzzy feeling where we feel like they’re going to be awesome.”

Take it one step further down the road you’re looking at your wall map and you’ve got a client hanging on your wall and you’ve got that push pin in there that represents they’re a great client, but they’re slow payers, they cause you problems, they complain, whatever. Change the pushpin out with the other color, the one that represents they’re not your perfect client.

Do this for a year and see what you learn about where your best leads come from, where your best clients live, where they come from, what the best markets are, who you want more of. You’ll learn an awful lot about your business based on geography. It’ll change your entire attitude about your market and I guarantee I’ll break down some assumptions that you currently have. I did exactly that five years ago. I should’ve kept doing it. I learned a lot from it.

Oh by the way, quick tip, when you put your map up do not hang the map directly on the wall. Hang it on a particle board, hang it on something because when you have to paint the wall, move offices, whatever, it really sucks to pull 2000 push pins out of your map. Put it up on the wall in such a way you can just lift the whole board off, move that board to a new wall without having to move your push pins. I made a really bad mistake the first time I did that.

Daily Cut: October 13th – 17th Summary

 

Video Transcript

Today I’ve been thinking about something I used to do that worked really well that I’ve quit doing.  It’s like so many things in life. You do something, it works really well, you get success, you feel good, and then you slip out of your habit and you stop doing it.

What I’ve been thinking about and that I’ve got to return to is what’s called theme days. If you’re an office dweller, if you can construct your day in terms of themes – for example, today I do meetings, today I do phone calls, today I work on finances, today I work on marketing, today I work on sales, today I do my project meetings – if you can construct your life in terms of themes – Monday is X, Tuesday is Y, Wednesday is Z – you what ill be far more productive because you’re grouping like work. Instead of taking phone calls everyday randomly throughout the week, what if you could group most of your phone calls on Tuesday afternoons and Thursday mornings?

That’s not possible for everyone, but that’s an example. What if you could never think about accounting but only do accounting on Fridays? What if you could reserve two full days to sales and marketing? If anything comes up that’s not sales and marketing-related, you say “Hey, I can’t deal with it today. I’ll get with you on Friday.” That way every week you are accountable to two days of sales and marketing, the most important activity in your business. Think in terms of theme days. A lot of really successful people do this. I’m sure a lot of really successful people do it with great success, and then they stop just like I have. I’m committing to going back to my theme day approach. Hopefully it will help you as well.

This is a book recommend. I just finished reading the book The Hard Thing About Hard Things by Ben Horowitz. Now this book, at first glance, is written by a guy, he’s a VC, a venture capitalist, and he has been very involved in multiple technology companies. If you discount this book because it’s a technology book in some sense or it’s written by a guy from technology, you’ll miss out in a major way.

If you’re running a company in the one, two plus million dollar range I think this book will especially resonate with you. I think it resonates most with somebody that has built or is building multimillion dollar companies. Now, if you’re running a smaller business and you’re not there yet, it’s still a great read, but you might want to come back and read this book again as you get bigger, and you’ll be aware of and experience things differently that are said in the book.

I think this is one of those books you could read every year and get new things out of it as your business evolves. If you think your life’s hard, if you think your business is hard, if you think you’ve been through challenging things, you should read this book. Next time you’re frustrated by something, up against the wall on something, and you’re not sure how you’re going to solve it, I think you’ll think about this book and you’ll think “You know what? Some of the stuff i’m dealing with is kind of small. Some of my somewhat creative ideas aren’t that creative.” This is a really, really good book. Check it out, especially again if you’re running a multimillion dollar operation.

If you charge credit cards and you often see your clients in the field, meaning you perform the work, maybe you have them sign a work order or something after the fact and then you collect payment and you just take a credit card number or a check, or you type a credit card number into your computer system right there on site, if you will simply swipe the credit card instead of typing that credit card number in – it’s called a card present purchase – that will save you money just simply swiping card vs. typing the number in.

Great example is the guy that would come to my office to wash my car. When I give him my credit card he types my credit card number in. If all he did was swipe it on his swiper instead of typing that number in, he would save more money. I’m not referring to Square in this case. I’m referring to a more traditional account where you have your own merchant account and you’re not using Square. Reevaluate the way you’re accepting credit cards and make sure you’re swiping the card; it will save you a bunch of money.

I’m in the break room at our Service Autopilot office. If you have a water dispenser, so if you have, for example, Ozarka that comes into your office and you pay them to restash your water or refill water and drop off more water every month, which is what I’ve done historically at different business, and I think we’re paying several hundred dollars per month. When we moved Service Autopilot we got this thing right here. It’s about waist-high roughly to the top. I don’t know what we pay for this, about a hundred-something dollars a month and then we’ll own it in three years or something like that. That includes service. It was a couple thousand bucks.

When you average it out the cost of ownership is way cheaper than having Ozarka bring us water. This is fully filtered water. You can see the button right there, fully filtered water, and then what our team likes a lot is if you’re … going to knock that thing over. If you’re familiar with Sonic ice, like the really soft, crunchy, easy to chew ice, it puts out Sonic ice. The idea on this video is that if you’re doing the Ozarka water thing, I think you’ll probably find that this will save you money, and I like it better and our entire team likes it better. I don’t think there’s anybody here that would rather go back to the Ozarka water, so it does water and ice.

I was at Motley Fool in Washington D.C. at their offices and I have a stand-up desk that I use, and I really recommend having a stand-up desk if you’re an office dealer, you spend a lot of time in the office. I have both the stand-up desk and then I have a table, like a little conference table I can sit down at during the day. I actually sit far too much. However, I was at Motley Fool in Washington D.C. and they have stand-up desks, that they have everything you can imagine. They are a pretty big operation and I think about 300 people.

This desk right here, varidesk.com, it’s roughly 300 dollars. You can set it on top of your regular desk and it raises and lowers. It’s a cakewalk. We bought one for our office here at Service Autopilot just to try it out and test it, and one of the guys on our time, Ty, has been using it. He loves it. He can roughly push a button and stand up, push a button and sit down. You don’t have to buy a whole new desk system. It just sits on top of your current desk. It will easily hold two monitors, keyboard, mouse, everything. You can see the picture and get the idea. I recommend it. I think it’s fantastic. I like better than the stand-up desk that I have, and this is what we’ll be buying going forward.

 

Daily Cut: October 6th – 10th Summary

Topics:

1) Sales Before Systematize

2) Do You Really Need To Offer That New Service

3) Trick To Immediately Improve Your Energy Level

4) Trello – It’s FREE!

Video Transcript

A book I read years and years ago is E-Myth by Michael Gerber. I highly recommend the book. If you read this book and if you talk to a lot of people that will say you should read this book, you’ll be convinced that you need to immediately systematize your entire business and build processes around everything so that you can build a real business, which I’m a big fan of. The problem is that most of the time, systematizing your business is an absolute and total waste of time, and here’s why.

When you first get started in your business, the only thing that really matters is sales and marketing. You’ve got to go grow this thing. If you don’t do that, you’re over really fast. If, instead, you spend your time trying to write processes and employee profiles and systematize everything and you don’t spend almost all your time on sales and marketing, you’ll never get to the point of needing your systems. Oftentimes, systemization is a really easy excuse for us as business owners to procrastinate on doing the stuff we don’t want to do or that’s painful, which is often sales and marketing and putting ourselves out there and growing the business and getting rejected. You should systematize your business later, later in the process.

If you’re a half-a-million-dollar company and you’re saying I should systematize everything in our business, that, too, is absolutely wrong, because when your business is half a million, it doesn’t look anything like it was at half a million when it’s a million and a half or when it’s five million. It keeps changing. My recommendation isn’t that you try to systematize everything too early. Yes, you put systems in place, rough procedures in place, and some things the procedures will hold up, but don’t try to do everything. You just do enough because your business is this evolving organism that’s going to change and change, which means the systems and processes are going to change.

Within that first one million in revenue, you do need to start putting systems and procedures in place, but your goal is not to be McDonald’s, not yet. That’s my personal opinion. Not in the service business. You want the processes and procedures. After you get past a million, it really starts to pay dividends to spend more and more time on systematizing but not in the very beginning. The very beginning is all about sustainability, sales and marketing. Make a mess, create a disaster, fix it later. All you need to do is survive. Sell before systematize. Then, as you work yourself out of the many jobs and hats that you wear, then you focus on systemization.

As business owners, it’s so easy for us to all get so excited about the next shiny object, the next great service, the next new thing that we’re going to do in our business, and that is me to a T. There are so many things I want to do. I’m probably better than I’ve ever been at this, but I’m always wanting to push, push, push, one more new thing; oh, if we just do this thing. As service business owners, it’s so easy to add one more service offering, one more line within our business because a client is asking for it, because five clients are asking for it, because a few people are begging for it, because a few people are complaining you don’t do it.

Every time you add something, a service offering in your business, some service that you perform in addition to the other services you’re already performing, there’s a learning curve, there’s a heightened expense to offer and provide that service because you’ll be inefficient. You might have to hire some specialized people that are going to be expensive and you don’t have enough work to keep them fully busy. There’s a lot of different reasons why this new service offering is a distraction. It takes away from what you’re currently doing. It’s expensive and it’s an investment in the future.

Here’s the problem. All of those things are a problem, but here’s the real problem. If you are not one hundred percent committed and ready to go, your marketing is ready, your messaging is ready, your team is trained, on and on and on, when you implement that new service, this is probably the service where you’re going to drop the ball. What I find, and I found it in every service business I’ve been in, you could be doing five things fantastic for the client, but when you botch it on the sixth thing, that new service offering, when you screw it up a couple of times, they don’t usually just fire you for that. They fire you for everything. Before you get the shiny object syndrome and you offer this new, really awesome service that’s going to change our whole business and make our lives better and make me rich, before you do that, remember that there are about twenty-five million things you have to do to execute that service perfectly so that it doesn’t cost you clients and money.

That’s today’s reminder. Think about or think twice before adding another service offering to your business, and only offer it when you’re totally ready to go full in on that service offering.

Other than Gmail and Service Autopilot, the piece of software I use most, and it’s free, is Trello, T-R-E-L-L-O.com. I’ve got a link here if you want to get a free copy of it. It is a fantastic piece of software, and it’s free. I use it to keep up with to-dos. I use it for brainstorming. I use it for all project work. I share it with other people on my team. I can have what’s called a Trello board. We can be working on a project and I can share files, updates, information. I have probably thirty different use cases for this software. It’s on my mobile device. It’s on my Mac. It can be on any computer or basically any mobile device there’s an app for it.

Check it out and think about how you can use it for your to-do list, for your daily action list, for your project planning, for your long-term goal list, for brainstorming. You probably have a bazillion miscellaneous ideas floating around in your head. On your mobile device, you can just type them in at any moment. Or you can set up a means to e-mail yourself, and when you e-mail yourself, it will automatically put it into Trello for you. Fantastic piece of software. I highly recommend it. I use it every single day, multiple times throughout the day. I hope you find value in it.

I hope this tip is helpful for you. It’s been helpful for me. It’s helped my general attitude. Basically, it’s that I like politics and I like topics of politics and religion and money and all these different topics. If you like that stuff, then you probably listen to talk radio and you probably read the news, whether it’s CNN or Drudge Report or whatever. I’d look at Drudge Report; I would listen to talk radio. It generally just beats you down. There’s hardly anything positive. Almost everything is completely overblown. Almost everything mentioned that’s going to destroy us all and end the world never happens.

The more I’ve read and studied, the more I’ve realized that the things that are happening now that seem so catastrophic and world-ending, we had the same craziness and worse in the eighties, in the seventies. There was crazy stuff going on back then. Everybody says the economy is going to end. Things are falling apart. Everything is so horrible in the economy. The eighties, in the early eighties, the late seventies, was not exactly a rosy period of time. Inflation was crazy. You couldn’t get loans. The interest rates were insane. We have so many advantages now. Unemployment was way up.

All this stuff that’s overblown, all it does, all it did to me was drain my energy, made me worry about things, possibly made me make bad investment decisions, possibly hold me back in business because I was afraid to do this or that because this or that was going to happen. Stuff will happen. There’s nothing you can really do about it. At the end of the day, this is my take on it. Whether you agree or not, I hope it’s of some value for you. Stuff is going to happen. I think your energy level, if you’re anything like me, will go way up if you refuse to look at Drudge Report, refuse to look at CNN, refuse to listen to talk radio most of the time. I think you should be educated. I read books and I pay attention, but I really don’t listen to this stuff much anymore.

With that, I highly recommend to prove my case a book that I read about a year ago. It’s called Trust Me, I’m Lying. It’s by Ryan Holiday. He’s got three books out. I recommend all three of his books. He is a fantastic author. He’s a young guy in his twenties. His books are great. This is a must-read book. Read this book and you’ll have a completely different perspective on all the stuff that you’re paying attention to. I had already stopped paying attention to all this stuff before I read the book, and this book convinced me that that was the right move.

This one little tip, if you practice it, will give you a lot more energy in your day and you’ll just generally be a happier person.

Should You Provide Employees in the Field a Mobile Device?

 

The question is, is it cost effective to give all of my crews and technicians a mobile device in the field? There are a lot of software solutions that now use mobile devices. I have two perspectives on this…one from owning Service Autopilot and then also, because of CitiTurf.

Between the two experiences that I’ve had, I think it’s an overwhelming yes to your question. Here’s why. In the early days of Cititurf, we were using a product called QXpress before Service Autopilot ever existed. In QXpress, we had to print out a route sheet and we then had to have our guys write times on route sheet. They had to write notes if a client asked for something and they had to write all of that out. They had to then bring that back to the office and somebody had to put all of that into the computer.

There were times that the paperwork would stack up for a couple of days before it would be entered. There were times that we couldn’t read the guy’s writing and there were all these different things that happened. Clients would call in with questions and we wouldn’t be able to answer because the data hadn’t been put into QXpress. And actually, back then, most people in the company couldn’t even get to QXpress. That’s one of the problems that we were experiencing.

The other one was the amount of time that it took to put in all of the necessary data. It was tedious work putting in start/end times, job skips, job notes, drive time, and product costs.

For many, many years, we never knew our job costing. We would periodically try to figure it out on a small set of data but we really didn’t know how we were doing. Then, we were paying quite a bit of money in payroll to put all of that data into the system. And, if the data had inaccuracies in it, we wouldn’t even look at it. What would happen sometimes is we would have data that was 90% accurate or 90% complete. But, that 10% just made us loose complete confidence and as a result, we would stop looking at certain reports.

I think job costing is one of the most important things in the business. For those reasons and many others, I feel that mobiles are really important and I think it’s worth the cost because I think it helps you react. By having accurate data, you can make far better business decisions.

Yes, you are spending more money on the mobile devices, but there are so many advantages coming to mobiles. For example, in Service Autopilot, and there are other systems that can do this, you can now take pictures in the field, track job times, and in August 2014 you can do signature capture.

You start to think about some of the things that are now coming to technology that are over and above just capturing start and end times. We also capture drive time, parts runs, time for breaks, and all the miscellaneous non-productive, non-billable times as well. Now, that has great value for the guys in the field to have to write all that down and be 100% accurate. Then you have somebody in the office put all of that in. That would be quite expensive and so, I think the cost to some degree is offset by the cost of the mobile device.

More important than that, even if the cost is not fully offset, it’s critical when growing the company and trying to maximize you profit margins that you understand the numbers of your business. You need to know who your good  and bad clients are and know what is making money and what isn’t. That’s my biggest argument for why I think it’s worth investing in mobiles.

The market is so ridiculously competitive that you have to take every competitive advance you can to optimize your processes and squeak out as much margin as you can to be as efficient as you can. I don’t see the cost of the mobile as a pure expense. I see it as being offset by all the advantages that come with it.

For me, I’m not as excited about a mobile where I can let my guys see the schedule on their phones. I couldn’t care less about that. I’m not one of those people that worries about the cost of paper.

I’m more worried about the economic benefits to the business. I wouldn’t buy mobiles, from my perspective, just to eliminate paper schedules even though there are a lot of companies that want to be completely paperless. It’s all the other things that I think are important. For example, taking pictures, signature capture, invoicing from the field, charging your credit card from the field. If those things are important to your business, you will find that mobiles are worth it for your business.

Another option that is happening is that companies will pay the employee a small portion of their phone bill so that the employee can use their personal phone for work purposes. They may pay $15 or $20 a month. I think that is a fantastic plan.

Also, this is a side note, think about the implications of having a guy shoot video from the field and send it to you. Or, they can shoot a video from the field, upload it to Youtube, and you look at it on Youtube to answer question without going out there. How much money does that save?

Then, what you do is, have several mobile devices in your office that are backups in case an employee doesn’t pay their bill or loses their phone. This way you can keep your employees fully functional. I would highly recommend looking at mobiles.

If you think about where technology is going, and I have a little different perspective because I am in this industry, what we’re going to be doing with Service Autopilot and what our competitors might be doing with their software systems in five years, is really pretty amazing. I mean, mobile is it. It’s where it’s at. You just think about the amount of work that you could shift out of your office in the coming years to your guys in the field. Your guys in the field aren’t hardly having do anything, but tap a few buttons and take a few pictures…the system’s doing a lot of automation for them.

If you want to be competitive and match offerings and customer service that your competitors have, you’ll have to be using mobile devices that can facilitate all of that.

I would research your different mobile plans and you definitely want to be in a group data plan. For example, if you are providing your mobile devices, for example I use AT&T, and we have all iPhones and Apple devices in our company. I believe we pay $30 per month for cellular service for a mobile and then the data plan is all shared. We buy big blocks of minutes and they’re shared across, I believe, 15 devices. We have several groups. Within those, there’s a block of minutes that about 15 devices can share and we have several of these blocks.

It’s not a scenario where you’re looking at paying $100 a month for a guy to have a mobile device. It’s a scenario where you’re paying $30 for them to have cellular service and the data is in a shared pool of minutes. The other thing that Service Autopilot is doing now and other systems are beginning to do this as well, there’s more and more scenarios out there where they could sync in the morning, they could work all day, and then at the end of the day, they could sync back up and so they have no cellular service.

I feel though, if you’re going to provide the device, you might as well go ahead and give them cellular. This way they can call and text you. You can see real time where they are, they can capture pictures that come back to the office in real time, you can update their schedules, and stay in contact with your team. There’s a lot of reasons why I think it’s worth spending, in my example, the extra $30 for cellular minutes.

I attribute it to marketing and customer service. The better you do as a company, the better your service. The faster you react, the better. Think about this too, if you can’t really get a hold of one of your guys in the field, he has to come back to the shop and then you have to send him all the way back out to the a job. How much money did that just cost you in payroll and drive time and fuel?

If you just think about all the little mistakes that you have made in your business, that if you can eliminate them and fix them and optimize them, and you can do it because you give somebody a $30 a month cellular connection, it’s a no-brainer to me. It’s an absolute no-brainer. For all those reasons, that’s why I highly recommend using mobile devices.

That’s a little information about how they work and the cost structure behind them. If you have any questions, please post your comments below and I’ll elaborate on this further.  Thanks.

Beware: Robotic Lawn Mowers Are Coming

Will robotic lawn mowers eventually hurt your lawn business?

Watch this video and learn what you should be worried about.

If you’re worried about people underpricing you, about too much competition, about somebody stealing your business or your employees, I’m telling you, you’re worrying about all the wrong things. I don’t think about that stuff.

What I worry about is water restrictions brought about by cities that aren’t producing enough water because, there’s too much growth and they’re not dealing with the demands of bringing enough water into the area. I also worry about droughts, chemical restrictions, and yes, I worry about robots.

It sounds crazy but, I’m being totally serious. I’ve thought about this stuff for a couple years and those are the things that I worry about. I’m in the Texas area and we have serious water problems. A lot of it’s because of growth. A lot of it’s because we’re just flat out not getting enough rain. I can’t control that stuff. There’s nothing I can do about it.

I can control my competition to some degree. I can outperform them, out market them, out think them, out wow them, and out perform them. I can do all kinds of things. I have control over that.

I cannot control the weather. I can’t control the city if they’re crazy. I can’t control the population growth in my marketplace. I can’t control that.

I can’t control if eventually they’re going to limit chemical usage from a fertilization weed control standpoint. That will change pest control and lawn care as I know it. I have no real control over that.

But, eventually, I am 100% convinced, you cannot persuade me otherwise, that eventually I will not need guys mowing lawns. They will be mowed by robots. I am positive.

We are going to have self-driving cars. And, we will have something mowing our lawns and it won’t be guys pushing lawnmowers. If you think that’s crazy, you should be aware of how fast technology is moving. Things are moving so fast.

I live in the technology world and I think about this stuff. I’m very aware of the 3D Printing and all of the other things that are coming that are going to change everything. I am certain that my business will not be what it is in 10 years…especially in 20. The point of all of this is, I think that we all must be aware of what’s around the corner.

So many of us start our businesses and go through the motions. This is not the 60s. Things are moving fast and they’re changing, and the pace at which things are changing, is speeding up. I have talked to guys that sold their businesses for huge amounts of money in the late 90s, early 2000s. The profit margins, in commercial businesses, are not around anymore. They don’t exist.

Those margins don’t exist, and therefore, you can’t sell your business at those margins. None of this is to say that you shouldn’t be in this business. None of this is to be negative. You’ve got this problem in every industry. I don’t think our industry is going away.

Just think about all the industries that are gone that were around 10 years ago. Think about all the stores that were really popular that are gone or barely making it now. It’s all due to technology. If you’re not on top of this stuff and you’re not aware of it, if you stick your head in the sand and say, “You know what, that’s silly. There’s no way that robots are eventually going to mow lawns. It’s impossible. How could they possibly weed? How could they possibly edge concrete? How could they possibly take into account all the things that I think about when I’m mowing a lawn?”

I’m serious. You better accept it because it’s coming. The reason I thought to record this video is because I’ve thought about it for several years. I keep getting all these questions that are so negative. They complain about this problem and that. They worry about this and that happening and that the world is coming to an end.

I was reading this news article the other day and it said that something was going to happen to the economy and that China was going to take over the world. Blah, blah, blah, blah. That stuff will just wear you out. You’ve got to ignore that stuff, but at the same time, you need to be aware of the reality of what’s going on and what’s changing in technology, in business, and in your customers’ tastes, likes and wants.

Because, if you become a veteran player in your market and you start to become apathetic, you open the door to some young guy that pays attention to what customers want and where they are buying. You have given him an opportunity to get a foot hold in your market and eventually, to come in and take away your customers and possibly get bigger than you. Just like you did to the guys before you.

As you mature in your business, pay close attention to what’s coming. It doesn’t have to be something as crazy and dramatic as robots taking over the industry. It could be something as simple as the shift in software technology. It could be something as simple as the shift in phone technology. It could be something as simple as going from chemicals to organics and starting to learn that stuff now. It could be anything.

I’m just saying, be super aware of this stuff because if you are, you can start making little transitions in your business so that you’re not caught off guard. Just as exciting as that, you’ll be prepared for opportunity.

For example, I’m a big believer in putting big amounts of money in the bank. I don’t like debt. I want to be prepared for when we have economic hard times.

If you’re not in a position where you have some cash, where you’re not totally strapped, then you’re going to get hurt. You could get wiped out or your business may have to pull back 30 or 40%. Whereas, if you’re thinking ahead and see that about every 7 years, the economy seems to go through a cycle, you can stash some money for the next opportunity. So, when everybody’s closing up shop, you could be out there marketing.

That’s the whole point of this video. I threw a lot of things at you but my whole point here is, really think about where things are going. Think about what you could do different than others. Think about what the world might look like and realize that, technology is getting faster and faster and faster. Think about what might change that you’re not expecting.

I also think legislation change is speeding up. I could be wrong on that. I’ve only been alive for so long. Maybe it’s always been this way, but in my perspective, it sure feels to me that legislative changes are going faster and faster.

That’s going to have an effect on our industry. It’s going to have effect on all industries. Be aware. If you capitalize on opportunity, you’ll be really successful because of it. Good luck.

Organic Program: If I use less fertilizer & water will the lawn still be green?

Using less water and less fertilizer does not mean your customer’s lawns will suffer and no longer be green.  Hear Tom Kelly of BeeSafe talk about how using an organic lawn care program with reduced fertilizer is actually beneficial to your customers’ lawns.

Main Points according to Tom:

  • The quality of the lawn will not suffer under an organic program.  The lawn won’t be as intensely green but it will still be an even, deep color.
  • When it comes to speed of growth, the organic approach does slow the growth of the grass because some applications do not include a fertilizer that results in artificial growth.
  • Since you’re not applying as much fertilizer, watering less is definitely an option.
  • Water education of your customers is a big deal. You can sell clients on saving money through reduced watering and better water conservation.

Direct Mail Advice for Lawn Care Business Owners

Direct Mail is a key component to maximizing profits.  Watch this video for Direct Mail Advice.

Tom:  I’m going to speak to direct mail for a couple of minutes because it really does have a place in your marketing plan. I think when we talk about the most successful, or the source that will drive the most sales, direct mail can do that for you. But, you have to be careful with it because it can get very expensive and you’re kind of taking a risk when doing it.

It wasn’t that long ago that many lawn care service companies, and I’m talking mainly fertilization and some of the bigger companies, such as Truegreen and Scotts, their main source of sales came from direct mail. When managers switched away from telemarketing to direct mail, they pumped millions and millions of dollars into direct mail. It’s not always the most cost efficient means to make sales, but there’s absolutely a place for it.

Let me throw a couple of things out there and see what you guys think. With direct mail, you can typically expect a less than 1% response rate. I remember one year at Lawn Dawg, we sent out 500,000 direct mail pieces and we got a spring northeastern. We got a snowstorm that wasn’t forecasted. It literally was devastating. It was a lot of money to put into direct mail. That’s what I’m talking about in regards to the risk, but you should only expect about a 1% return from it.

What you are doing is generating estimates. You should be able to close those estimates at a pretty high rate, and I think at this particular plan, you’ve got them in at 62%. If we were going to generate 200 direct mail leads, we’re going to expect 124 sales from that. That’s a fairly high percentage, but it’s going to cost a few bucks to do that.

Jonathan, have you had any experience with direct mail? What are your feelings on that in today’s day and age?

Jonathan:  I think there’s a move away from direct mail because the web can be so incredibly successful for so many companies and it’s perceived to be nearly free, although it’s not really. I see direct mail as an awesome opportunity. I still love direct mail, but you nailed it. There are guys who don’t even get a 1% return.

Quick example, you’ve got to be very aware of your market. If you’re mailing to a residential street where two out of every 10 people in that street are even a potential buyer of the service you’re selling, you’re mailing out an awful lot of marketing pieces that have zero chance of getting a return.

The very first question to direct mail is, “Am I targeting exactly the right areas with the highest propensity to buy? Does this area have the highest potential?” If you don’t, your returns could be 1/4 of 1%. They could be a disaster.

You nailed it on the snow. I mean if it’s raining on the day the direct mail gets delivered or it’s overcast, it kills returns. There are all of these variables in direct mail that will just kill you. You can mail the same piece to the same area and get a 2% return. If you mail it again three weeks later and you get 1/8 of 1% return and why, it’s hard to explain sometimes.

That doesn’t mean you don’t do it. I think the guys that do it are going to win in the long term. Tom, here’s how I look at direct mail. I think the web is it. I spend a lot of money on the web, and a lot of guys are shocked when they come to find out what it takes to get good SEO rankings. It really does cost a lot of money, but it’s the best money you could spend.

But, the best way to grow your company from a profit standpoint is with direct mail, and here’s why. My strategy and my belief is, you spent a whole lot of money to get yourself out there on the web so that people are coming to you. I’m going to use a residential example again. If you find that you sell a house on one street, and then you land on another street a few miles away, and then you land on another street a few miles away from that, if you only rely on the web, you have a business that’s scattered across your service market.

All the money’s in density. Direct mail is how you get dense. You can’t get dense just using the web. The web drives where you land. Then, when you land on that street, you go in to own that street and you own it through direct mail. That’s why I’m a huge believer in direct mail. You send out direct mail only to the streets that you land on that have a high potential for gaining more clients. Know your market.

That’s my belief and that’s why I so believe in direct mail. Yes, it is expensive. It is a more expensive sale, but it’s the best sale because it leads to the most profit because you build density.

Tom: Yeah, and you know what? You’re nailing it. Density is absolutely the most important part of profitability, and when it comes to lawn mowing especially, if you can park that truck and do six lawns, that’s as good as having a 50,000 square foot property. Plus, it’s going to be much more profitable. One of our branches in Portland at LawnDawg years ago, had 750 customers in just one zip code. The guy would literally just go and park his truck and treat like 15 lawns at a time. They were tiny little 3,000 square foot lawns, but he did 40 lawns before 1:00 in the afternoon. It was by far the most profitable route.

People are asking questions about the United States Postal Service and wondering if they ever do a direct mail option. They really do reduce the cost of it, but I’m not a huge fan because it doesn’t allow you to target the way a good list does. I think the importance of having a good list far outweighs the cost. I think instead of just blanketing certain carrier routes, you really need to drill down where you want to make the sales and where you want to mail those pieces. That’s how you build density and how you improve your profitability.

Jonathan: Yeah, can I make a quick comment there, Tom?

Tom: Yeah, go for it.

Jonathan:  You brought up something that I think is worth an extra minute on, because it is the difference maker in a profitable marketing strategy. I’m going to give an exaggerated example, but if you use this mindset in thinking about marketing and especially direct mail, it will help. Let’s again use residential example. You’re out and you’re doing estimates and you’re meeting with clients. Again, this is a very exaggerated example. You have all these clients and you go out there and you meet with them, and you walk away from the property and think, “I like that guy. Every time I meet with him, he’s a great guy. He’s a great customer.” You just keep having these little experiences.

One day you notice, and again this is a silly example, but one day you notice, that client you liked lives in about a $400,000 house and he’s got a BMW in the garage. Then a week later, you notice that another good customer also has a $400,ooo house and he drives a BMW. What you start to do is you start seeing trends. You notice that the good clients tend to be entrepreneurs, doctors, chiropractors, some kind of professional, who tend to live in about a $400,000 house. Maybe you notice that they drive a BMW, so you go to your mailing list company and you buy a list of everybody in your city that lives in a house between $350,000 and $450,000 that has a BMW and so on and so forth.

Now, that’s a little more expensive list to buy. It’s not free, but now you’re mailing to a group of people that the entire demographic probably has close to 100% chance of being your buyer, instead of mailing to a street where two or three out of every 10 people might be your buyer. What you’ve done is you’ve shifted some of your expense. If you’re spending 28 cents a piece to get bulk mail and post cards out the door, now you spend several pennies per name to buy the list, but you’ve immediately eliminated thousands of pieces that you would have sent that were a complete waste because you weren’t mailing to a specific list.

Exaggerated example, but that’s the mindset in direct mail. How can you narrow the market you’re focusing on and only get mail to the people that are your most likely buyers?

Tom: It’s almost as if you and I conspired about what to talk about during this!

Jonathan: We didn’t.

Tom: We’re doing this on the fly, but what’s happening is, we hit on specific things that literally make the biggest difference to implementing a marketing plan. Let’s stay on this for a minute because I think we need to actually take that exaggerated example that you gave of the BMW, but bring it down to a realistic point of view. In my opinion, a list is huge. Yes, it is more inexpensive to do that than if you do a direct mail. You can blanket as much as you want. Bulk mail is an option, but I’ve always been a firm believer in that if you can identify who your best prospects are, you’re going to increase your closing percentage drastically, or even your response.

If you’re getting a 3/4 of 1% direct mail response, by increasing the validity or the quality of your list, you can get 1% or even higher than 1% response. When you’re talking about the numbers in dealing with direct mail, that’s a make or break 1/4 of 1%. I think that the BMW again is perfect, but when you get right down to it, you want to deal with a couple of parameters in regards to your list. You want to only deal with single-family dwelling units. If we’re talking about residential here, you want to clean out the condos, you want to clean out the apartments. You want to get rid of the renters. You want to deal with single-family dwelling units only and you want to use two things as your main cutoff with who you want to mail something to. It has to be home value and income level.

Most of these companies can actually take it beyond that, and you’re absolutely right, man. You can get lists based on specific interests, whether the people like to play golf, what kind of car they drive, whether they have a vacation home, kids, everything. In our case, if you’re trying to sell organic lawn care, whether or not somebody has children is a big deal, right? If you can specify that in your list, it’s very important, but I think it’s different in different parts of the country. But, you want home value and income level to be the two main things. I don’t know if you want to speak to that at all, Jonathan, but I think it’s important that we let you guys know that the list is a big deal.

Jonathan: Yeah, I’m going to second that with one little comment. It’s not that expensive a list to buy. The common list is the one with the home value, the age, a few demographic pieces of information. For example, the age of the person. That’s a very common list to be able to get a hold of, so it’s not a lot. It’s not very expensive. When you go and add my exaggerated example of the BMW to it, that gets more expensive because now, you’re matching up multiple lists, so it ups the price. Tom, the list you’re talking about, it’s a very affordable, doable list and I’d add one little thing that I just learned over the years. Part of building your company is about building your company with clients you like, and clients that you like doing business with that pay you on time.

You don’t want to build your business around a company you hate because you’re dealing with a bunch of people that drive you crazy. And, years ago, I spent $200 on this huge wall map of my market. This was back when I was still working the phones at CitiTurf in the early days. I hung this thing up on my wall and every time I got off the phone, I put a push pin in the wall for a lead and I put a different push pin in the wall for a sale. The thing that happened was I realized that in my market, there was this one section in my entire market that was about a 1/2 mile by 1 mile and that’s where all our best customers were. They would buy anything we wanted to sell. They weren’t million dollar homes. They were $275,000 to $450,000. Just that little activity clued us in where we wanted to be, and then we bought, Tom, a list exactly like what you just described.

We used that and we bought that list in that area. So, add to what you just said, what kind of homes, how old they are, and now the next question is in what area? Now you can get even more refined in just the zip code. That’s how we’ve done exactly what you described many, many times. It’s a very successful, very affordable approach.