Daily Cut: November 24th – 28th Summary

 

Video Transcript

Something to think about today is how are you communicating with your clients. What are you not proactively handling. What I mean by that is, this morning when I was out running before work I stopped and snapped a picture of this lawn with my iPhone. Actually, as I continued running I noticed this exact same problem in a bunch of the lawns throughout my neighborhood. We’re under watering restrictions. We can only water once a week, so everyone watered this morning. In a lot of the lawns the sprinkler head did not fully retract. What happens is, as you know, the grass grows up around the sprinkler head and then the mowers come through and mow the lawn, hit the sprinkler head, break it, we have to fix it. We didn’t do anything wrong but the customer does not understand this problem. They don’t realize this is happening. It’s not their world. They don’t think about it, but we get blamed. When we get blamed they look at it as laziness, or even worse, when we hit the sprinkler head because there was grass all around it, the crews don’t even know, they hit, they break it. Next week they have a gusher in their lawn and they think we’re, again, inept and too lazy to bother to tell them that we caused damage to their property. But again, they don’t fully understand why this happens, how it happens, and why we don’t know about it.

In your business you may or may not have this scenario but you’ve got other scenarios, just like I have other scenarios where innocent things happen, and we just don’t think about communicating those things to the client, so how can you proactively tell your client about this? What could you put on your website? What could you have prepared that when a client complains you could send them a link to a video you recorded explaining the problem, or send them a pre-written email explaining the problem and apologizing, then also telling them “Here’s watch out for in your lawn so you can help us avoid this.”

Being proactive can make all the difference. This is just one example. Think about how this applies to all kinds of different aspects throughout your business. Are you highly visible in your market? As you’re looking at your trucks today, pay attention to how they show when someone that doesn’t know you sees your trucks on the road. Or if you have a whole bunch of white trucks, is that doing anything to constantly pound your name into your prospective client’s mind? Just as important, when you send out marketing or another client refers you, you want the person, the prospect, to have an association with your company. If I refer you to my friend, you want my friend to have thought “Oh yeah, those are the guys I see all the time. I see them.” That gives them confidence. That makes them feel like they’re making a safe, wise choice. Running around in an all-white, all-black truck, while if you’re my competitor is awesome. I would prefer that you continue doing that. But if you’re not my competitor I’d suggest that you don’t do that. Here’s a simple black truck, and just look what the pink accents do to this truck. I guarantee if you have five of these running around, people will remember you. Your marketing will work better, referrals will work better, all kinds of things will work better. Being seen is important, and when you’re seen you need to be able to easily be differentiated from everyone else in your marketplace.

When I was at GIE in Louisville, Kentucky I was reminded that you really don’t want to buy the cool mower. What I mean by that is walking through GIE, and every time I do I’m reminded how many different brands there are, how many manufacturers there are selling walk-behinds and riders. There’s Scag and Toro and Exmark. Those are just my local brands. Then when you get out of those brands there’s Dixie Chopper and Walker and about ten other brands. You probably have a whole different set of brands in your market than I have. It’s so easy to go to the show or hear somebody that you’re talking to on LawnSite or in some other market talking about how great their Gravely is or their Walker or whatever.

It might be fantastic. It may be the mower you wish you could have. But the dilemma is, if you don’t have a dealer right there with you that you can build a great relationship with to get parts overnight, have it fixed immediately, then you really don’t want to buy the cool, best mower that happens to not be in your local market. You’ve really got to buy the best of what’s available to you in your very close proximity of your shop, because when you’re down and you have that much money in a piece of equipment you got to get it back fast. My word of caution is to be careful of the recommendations of friends. Be careful of what you see at the show no matter how great it is. Still only buy what you can easily source parts for that’s right near your shop. Buy only the equipment that you have a local distributor that could fix it right away and it’s not a very far drive for your office. That makes the most financial sense, because labor is where all your money goes, and you want to maximize the efficiency of your labor by keeping them on the very best equipment possible. You got to get it back quick when something goes wrong.

If you’re not using custom trucks and custom truck beds it’s worth taking a look at it. It’s worth considering, especially here over the winter. Optimizing your fleet to give your team in the field the opportunity to be as efficient as possible is smart business. Labor is your number one expense. The more you can drive that down, the more money you make. It’s way cheaper to invest in better equipment, better trucks, better truck beds, than it is to invest in more and more people. Here are several pictures from GIE of custom truck beds. I’m a big believer, as much as you can I think you want to get trailers out of your business as much as you can. Like I said, you want to drive that non-billable time out of your business. The way you do it is by giving your guys a perfect setup to work with by minimizing load and unload time, by making sure they can find all their tools.

This last picture here is from Tony Bass’s company where they sell custom trucks. I don’t know what they cost. I’m not endorsing them. I’ve never actually even met Tony but I’ve heard great things about I’m. He is right. He is completely on to something that custom truck beds in all different forms. They could be open truck beds. They could be on the back of a Ford Ranger. I’ve got a bunch of those. They could be on the back of F150s. I’ve got a bunch of those too. Or they could be on Isuzu MPRs, which again I have a whole bunch of those. Custom truck beds work, and what Tony is selling with this one picture right here, again I can’t endorse it. Don’t know any about it but he is dead right, and you should look at it in your business whether you work with somebody like him or you figure out how to do it yourself. There’s a lot of wisdom in this approach and there’s a lot of wisdom in efficiency and getting trailers out of your business as much as you can.

You want aggressive salespeople. You want people that are going to sell and they’re going to be like a bulldog, and they’re going to get that deal, and they’re going to get it closed. But you can take it too far. I think it’s something to watch out for. As you think about your sales team, growing your sales team, as you think about how you’re selling, here’s a watch-out to be very aware of. This is a picture in the upstairs of our house in our workout room. We had some water. I actually peeled the paint off of it. Wasn’t actually this bad but we could see some bubbling under the paint. We had some water coming in so we had a leak detection company come out and take a look at it. If you open the window and you look outside the window … That’s kind of a mess, I guess from dirt over the years, but you could see that … Well these are just some pictures outside the window where some water was coming in right around the edges.

We just needed to caulk the windows. Really at the end of the day that’s all we needed to do was caulk the windows. I needed to get this fixed right away so I had this leak detection company out. They looked at my window. They told me a scary story about how big of a problem this is and how it was going to ruin all of the walls in my house over time, and I was going to have brick problems and on and on and on. They quoted me a price to take care of this window of $700. It was not only to fix it but it was also to make it right in terms of making sure this could never happen again. They had this special silicone … It wasn’t silicone, it was some kind of special caulk, but they were also going to do some work on the window itself. We actually ended up letting them do it because I just wanted to get it done and I didn’t have time to deal with it. But then they went and looked at all of our other windows. I will say they did a fantastic job. The work was excellent. It was probably more than I needed to spend. Actually, there’s no question it was more than I needed to spend. But then they gave me a quote for $8,000 to make sure that none of my windows had this problem in the future. I’m pretty certain they felt we had some money to spend so they threw out a quote and thought maybe I’d take it.

Well we didn’t take it but we did let them do this one window. Then, while they’re doing this one window, the sales guy, my wife is home and he’s walking around in our house while his team is working. Then he has this fictitious conversation with his daughter on the telephone about how this is worst window situation he’s ever seen in a house of this type, and how terrible it is, and how the builder screwed us over, and how the alarm company screwed us over, and blah blah blah. We let him fix this. Again, they did a fantastic job. Then we got a second opinion and we got the rest of our windows done for $150 caulked versus his $8,000 quote. One, I think he’s a fraud, but two, I think that it was an overzealous sales guy. Let’s forget the part about them being sort of a fraud and that that they were trying to get $8,000 out of me, but just the whole fear factor of telling us how terrible it was, telling us how this is a huge problem. It really made my wife unhappy to be told that we have such a problem, that something’s wrong with our house, that there’s a flaw. The whole presentation was screwed up because they were trying to sell fear.

The second part of the problem was that then, when they’re actually doing the work, they again tried to use fear to sell us on the idea that we were going to have this massive problem that had to be taken care of and we really needed to spend $8,000 right away. Presentation is everything. Consultive selling is everything, but when you do it or your sales guy are trying so hard to make the sale that they try to scare you, if your people are doing that they’re taking it way too far. These are the kinds of companies that even though they did a fantastic job on the one window they did, I’d still give them a one star review on Yelp. I actually thought about doing it but because I’m in the business I know how much I hate it when people give me bad reviews, that I didn’t.

But they deserved a one star review, not for their work but for the salespeople that they were using to sell it. I will never use them again. I will never refer them. I will never recommend them just because of their sales guy. Watch out for that in your business with your most successful, most aggressive sales guys. Are they selling you a bunch of onetime work but you’ll never have repeat clients because of the way they got the work? And even worse, the clients that you do get, they’ll never refer because they just don’t feel comfortable with the way you sold the work. These are thing to really think about. It’s more than just the numbers when you’re selling. There’s more to it.

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.

Competing Against Competitors Using Cheap Labor? Consider these points.

Video Transcript…

“My question is, how do I build a business when competitive pricing is based on illegal, cheap labor?  The average quarter acre lot is mowed for $25, half an acre for 35 and an acre for 45-55 in my area.  At these prices, how do I legally hire people and do the work and still make money.  I live in Illinois where the taxes add up to 25%.”

The question is one that I receive all the time.  What I’ve found when somebody refers to illegal workers, which we’ll just call undocumented workers, I don’t always find that undocumented workers equal cheap labor.  I realize that’s out there, but I think the reality of it is that the prices are being suppressed because people are selling work cheap.

The reason they’re selling work cheap is because of two reasons.  One, there is a ridiculously low barrier of entry in this business.  Anybody can buy a lawnmower and be in business.  Then, they don’t know what they’re doing.  They don’t know how to run a business, they don’t know how to price, they look around at what everybody else is doing and they sell work at that same price.

The other reason that pricing is incorrect, in many markets, is because all of us at times are under pricing.  You have a smart guy that knows a thing or two about business, and knows a thing or two about making money.  He enters the market and he’s still under pricing work because he has a lot of lessons to learn.

Underpricing is, across the board, an issue. Take a look at the cleaning industry and some other industries.

Rates, wages, and employee wages are not going up.  They’re the same as they were years and years and years ago.  The reason for that is based on several factors, but there is price suppression in most every market.   There’s a few ways that you escape this.   I gave you a couple reasons why this is happening.

I, personally, don’t attribute it to undocumented workers.  I think that’s part of it. But to me, it’s inconsequential.  There are many other reasons.  The real reasons, as I said, are that it’s so easy to start in this business and there’s no requirement for licensing.

We all at times, again, are under pricing.  We as business owners make mistakes.  We as business owners tend to copy what other people are doing.   These are just a few of the many reasons why prices are suppressed.

Now, you can win this game.  The way you win this game is, you differentiate yourself in a major way.  The problem is that most companies only know how to market and speak in regards to price.  Everything is about price.  The decision is price.  Somebody says, “Hey I need to get my lawn mowed.  What do you charge?”

“I charge 25 bucks.”

“Oh, okay.  That’s too high.”  Or the homeowner, or the person, says “Oh, no.  That’s too low.”

What kind of conversation is that?  You just quote a price.  They know nothing about you except that you are just like everybody else.  I’m not in any way saying that this is what you’re doing.  I’m just saying you have to really re-position this and you’ve got to play a different game.  It takes years to build this.

The way you build it is through the language you use when you answer the phone.  You shift the conversation away from just price.  You shift the conversation toward what kind of benefit they’re looking for, what kind of problems they have had in the past.  I can’t tell you how many times we get calls at our company.  Somebody will call us and we’ll quote some price.

Let’s say we quote 40 bucks.  They’ll say “Oh, that’s too much.  I get it done for 28.”  But two minutes earlier they told us the guy let their dog get out of the fence, they scalped the yard, they do a terrible job, they never answer the phone, on and on and on.  They never bill on time.  Then they say “Hey, you need to match this price.”

Well, that’s insane.  I can’t match that price because I do everything different than the company you dislike.  How do you have that kind of conversation? That’s the reason I just said all of that.  How do you re-position the conversation and address it like a sales person would, and say “Wait a second.”

You wouldn’t use the words ‘wait a second’, but you would re-position.  Say, “Wait.  Here’s why I can’t do it for $28.  Here’s why I have to charge X.  Here’s the difference you’ll experience.  The problem where your dog got out, how much money did that cost you?”

Not saying you go through it like that, but that’s the thought process.  Your team in the office and your team in the field has to talk a different way, dress a different way, act a different way, look a different way.  Trucks have to be different.   Your marketing has to be different.

Everything about you, your attitudes, the way you address reviews on the Internet, the way you ask for referrals, the way you ask a client if they would like to buy more work from you, the way you care for a client’s yard, the way you tell them about things that you’ve observed that they need to do, things they need to watch out for, everything has to be different.

It’s a culmination of fifty thousand different little parts that create an incredibly interesting business that looks different to your clients, and acts different to your clients.  Then they’re willing to pay more money.

TrueGreen, in many markets, overprices compared to the vast majority of the market. Yet, TrueGreen is huge.  There are tons of examples.  Scott’s, now, their pricing can be up and down.  Sometimes it’s underpriced, sometimes it’s overpriced. But, there’s tons of examples where they’re selling at higher prices than market and they’re winning the business.

They have a huge cost structure compared to everybody else.  Well, they’re selling at higher prices and they’re the dominant player. There is absolutely price sensitivity. The way you overcome it is, you talk just in terms of price.

The last part of this is, you have to be very focused on getting as much cost out of your business.  I think you take care of your employees because your employees make or break your entire company.  I don’t think you underpay your employees.  That is not where you cut costs, but you become a ridiculously efficient company.

Great example is if you sell flower work, and you’re a maintenance company. Are you putting out flowers randomly as somebody calls in and asks for flowers installed? So, you run and you get flowers.  You put those in and then a day from now somebody else needs flowers.  You go and buy flowers. Same could be true with mulch.

You’re not batching together all your flower and mulch work into a few days of the week, or a week of the month, or whatever.  You’re not being very organized or systematic. And, you’re not having all your flowers delivered at one time, maybe to the job sites, or maybe to one location.  You need to be doing all your flower jobs at one time.  That’s just one example of batching work up and thinking in an optimal manner.

How are you maintaining your equipment?  How are you doing so many different activities inside your business?  Have you looked at the cost of maintenance?  Have you looked at the different cost structures of the kind of trucks you’re running?  Have you looked at how you’re getting your trucks painted and lettered?  Are you looking at every element of your business and figuring out where you can shave cost and create a better company?

That’s what it takes to be competitive in every single industry in this country.  You look at Home Depot’s and Lowe’s.  How many companies have they put out of business because those guys came in and were ridiculously efficient?  They are very cost conscious.  They also provide a different service.  A one stop shop, compared to the old way of doing things where you had to go to multiple little hardware stores.

Think about all of that and you can overcome it.  I guarantee in Illinois, it’s no different or worse for me than it is in Texas. We are in probably one of the most competitive markets in the United States, with tons of undocumented workers coming across the border.  We don’t hire undocumented workers.

Consider those things and realize that there’s a whole lot of guys out there, and a whole lot of companies that are successful in spite of this stuff. But yes, they are having to work really hard.  I hope this doesn’t come across negative.  I hope it’s more encouraging.

The point is that you can totally succeed.  You can totally win at this game.  You’re just going to have to be a smart business person.  Educate yourself.  Read some books.  I would say, put the thought of this out of your mind because it’ll suck the energy out of you and it will wear you down to the point where you don’t feel like trying. I’m telling you, this can totally be overcome!

It’s going to take a couple years, and it’s going to take some hard work to make sure your image, your internal language, is just right.  When that happens, you’ll be able to sell a lot of work and you’ll be able to charge higher prices, and you’ll be able to out-compete your market.

Good luck.

Do I Have to Pay My Employees for Travel Time?

This question’s from Kenny. “When I pay hourly employees, do I have to pay for travel time?”

“When I pay my employees by the hour, should I be paying them for their travel time between jobs?  Do I need to pay them for the ride time between jobs? Exactly what should be included when I’m paying them by the hour?”

My perspective on this is that when you’re paying by the hour, you’re paying for every moment that they work. If you want to be within the law, you’re paying from the moment they show up at your office. You are paying them to drive to the clients’ properties as well as while they are maintaining the properties. And then, you’re paying them at the end of the day to ride back in your truck and unloading your truck. The moment they clock in to the moment they clock out, they’re getting paid.

You’ll see a model in the commercial world where they will write contracts with their employees or contractors, however they set it up, and they will pay for performing the job and not driving. I’m not sure how that fits within the law, but you will see that in the commercial side.

In this commercial model, there will be a driver of each truck and that driver is on the clock from the moment he arrives at the facility to the moment he returns to the facility to unload at the end of the day. But, the individuals in the truck with him are only being paid for any work performed at the shop and job time. They’re not being paid for drive time because their agreement stipulates that they should drive their own cars to every job and they’ll be paid for performing each of those jobs. They can hitch a free ride in the truck if they’d like, but it’s not paid time.

Before you go down a road and follow that type of model, you better be certain you’re double checking that will hold up in your state. You also need to double check that your employment agreements are written correctly and that they will hold up. I can tell you from my experiences in the cleaning industry when I used to own a company with some other partners that there were other companies that were competitors of ours that for years and years had certain payment practices of employees. When one employee became unhappy and sued them, it resulted in settlements for lots of employees.

Something creative around payroll might work out for you for 5 years but that doesn’t mean that when you do get hit, that you won’t have to make up for the many years of underpaying your employees. They don’t just slap your hands with a fine and ask you to do it right from now on. You get a fine and then have to pay a lot of back pay in payroll and taxes! Before you go down a road like that, be very cautious.

If you want to go down a road where you’re paying more for performance, then I would look at an alternative to payroll, meaning an alternative to hourly pay. I would look at piecemeal. I’d look at pay by the job, and then there’s plenty of things to consider even when you do that. You have to keep in mind overtime laws and a whole lot of other things. If you’re going to do something creative outside of just paying straight hourly time, you want to get counsel from somebody that really knows the laws in your state, to be certain that you can sleep each night and not have to worry about someday when you get hit with some big amount of money that puts you out of business. Good luck.

I Run a Two Man Crew, Should I Hire Someone to Replace Me?

The question is, “This will be my 3rd season in business. I run a two man crew. I’m wondering if I need to step away to sell and market and hire someone to replace me?”

Absolutely. Yes. With that question, there is no other reason in my mind to be in business but to give yourself a little bit of leverage. Now, if you desire to be the guy doing all the work and run a 2-man crew, if that’s what you like and that makes you happy, fantastic. From your message, I’m pretty certain, it’s not the case. You need to start this path, as soon as you can. I’m going to answer your question but I would recommend that you go over to the website, howtogrowyourbusinessfast.com. Put in your name and email address and the website will send you 2 videos.

One is of a talk I gave with Planet. It was a webinar about how to get off the track and basically get out of the field. I think it was about an hour. Then, I also gave a talk at GIE in 2013 and it’s a little bit geared towards bigger companies but there is a bunch of stuff in there that you could take away and that’s an hour and a half long talk that I gave. I would highly recommend that you take those 2 resources and figure out how to get out of the field.

Now, let’s say you go hire somebody to take over your position and now you’re free. What are you going to do and what’s your plan of action?

I think a lot of people stay in the role of running the crew because they can’t get their head around, exactly what, why, and how to grow this business. If you can’t answer that question, then you keep saying, “I’m not quite ready yet, I’ll do it next year.” You procrastinate because you don’t know what to do. How do you solve a potential procrastination problem? You need a plan. What’s the plan? If you free yourself up, how are you going to bring in new business? What are you going to do? Are you going to knock on doors, put out door hangers? What is it? Are you going to  talk on the telephone?

Just because your freed up, it  doesn’t mean that anything magical is going to happen. You’ve got to know what you’re going to do. It might just be that over the winter, you’re going to get a great website put together. You may plan to start working on your SEO or pay per click or content marketing. If you don’t know what any of that means, do some Google searches. You figure out what the door hanger is going to look like. Maybe you put together a gift card or referral program to garner a new business. Watch my videos and learn about marketing and think of let’s say, 3 ways that you’re going to get new clients. Get that stuff all worked out over the winter and then you start doing it.

Be ridiculously specific with your plan. Don’t just say, I’m going to put out door hangers. No, you have to know which neighborhoods you want to hit, on which day, and how many. You might do 500 in one neighborhood on one day and 500 more to a different neighborhood on the next.

You need to have all of this in place so that when you hire somebody, you don’t get overwhelmed or distracted. Spend the time now to think through exactly what it means to put out door hangers, exactly what it means to get a website up and running, exactly what it means to knock on a door and sell certain things or go knock on all of your existing client’s doors and try to sell them something else. Again, be ridiculously specific where you know step by step what to do. Almost to the point that you could hand it to a friend or business partner or employee and they would look at it and have a pretty good idea of exactly what to do if they were going to do.

If you do that, you’ll overcome the biggest hurdle to growing and getting started. You’ll have an action plan. Once you get out of the business and start doing this and practicing this because it’s a new role, you won’t have to do that anymore.

I’m just saying do that first so that you guarantee yourself a level of success when you do hire somebody to replace you. The very simple answer that I could have answered in 10 seconds is a yes. If you don’t take the action I described to go with, the yes of getting out in the field, then you may not be overly successful. You’ve got to make sure that when you get free, almost all of your time is devoted to selling and marketing activities. If you free yourself up and 80% of your time is devoted to inconsequential things like maintenance and other miscellaneous things, and 20% is devoted to sales and marketing, you might as well have stayed in your old role of doing work and then just work extra hours to do sales and marketing.

If you do it right, you absolutely want to get off that truck and you want to do it now, not next year. Good luck.