GROWING YOUR BUSINESS: Ten commandments of on-site service company

Growing your businessby Dan Beaulieu
Business consultant

I was walking by a prominent Waterville building the other day and could not help but notice this scene. Well, actually, I heard it first when the solitude of my daily walk was shattered by the blasting of the worst loud music I’d ever heard. This music was so loud that Ozzie Osbourne himself would have felt forced to shout, “Turn that bloody music down!”

When I looked around, I spied the source of the noise, a group of shirtless men working on the roof of this city building. As I stood there, I looked at them. I was stunned to see them running around that roof without any means of safety support, by the way. No harnesses, no support belts, nothing, they were just running around; an accident and lawsuit obviously just around the corner. And by the way they were smoking cigarettes while they worked and throwing the butts off the roof and onto the lawn.

As I tried to cross the street, I found myself looking at a mini traffic jam as the company’s (I assumed they were the company’s, since there were no signs on the them) trucks were parked willy-nilly on both sides of the busy street. “Wow,” I thought, “these guys are the epitome of everything a service company can do wrong.” This group of workers had covered just about every bad habit a company like this can possibly have, when suddenly the music stopped and one of them hollered to another one on the ground amidst a jungle of tools scattered all over the beautifully manicured front lawn of the building. “Hey (expletive deleted) get off your (expletive deleted) and bring up another (expletive deleted) (expletive deleted) bucket of (expletive deleted) tar!”

And there it was, a perfect trifecta of everything a service company can possibly do wrong! And on a public site on one of the cities’ busiest street no less. Amazing, simply amazing!

What a learning moment, what a time to ask you to find ten things or more wrong with this picture.

So, I thought this was the perfect opportunity to lay out my ten commandments of an on-site service business.

The ten commandments of an on-site service business:

  • Thou shall wear shirts (preferably neat shirts with the company logo on them) at all times.
  • Thou shall keep the site neat at all times…no tools and other equipment strewn all over the customer’s property.
  • Thou shall not swear, and curse, and use vulgar language, at any time ( I think this might actually be a real commandment).
  • Thou shall always consider safety first.
  • Thou shall always have clean service vehicle, bearing the company logo and carefully parked so as not to bother the neighbors of passing traffic in any way.
  • Thou shall not play music, any music, regardless of personal taste too loudly…if at all.
  • Thou shall not smoke on the job, and that means vaping as well.
  • Thou shall have some kind of sign proudly signifying what company is doing the work on this building. (Although in this particular case, I’m not sure an identifying sign would have been a good idea.)
  • Thou shall disturb the occupants of the building as little as possible. I’m sure the occupants of this building got a lot of work done this day.

And finally, the tenth and most holy of all these commandments:

  • Thou shall all do their best to represent this company in the most professional way possible at all times.

Follow these ten commandments diligently and your business will also be growing to the point of thriving.

GROWING YOUR BUSINESS: Answer your darn phone!

Growing your businessby Dan Beaulieu
Business consultant

I know you’re busy, out there in the job. Working as hard as you can to please your customers, and grow your business. But there is still one thing you need to do to make sure that your business always looks professional. One thing, that if you do better than anyone else, will set you apart in a big, way, a very big way, and that is the way you handle phone calls, yes, the way you answer your phone.

There is nothing more aggravating to a customer — or potential customer — than not having anyone on the other end of the line when they are trying to reach you. Whether it’s a current customer who wants to talk to you about a job; or worse, has a complaint that he wants to talk to you about, she wants to talk to you now! Or maybe it’s a new potential customer who wants to ask you about your services and rates, now that’s a phone call you really want to answer if you are serious about growing your business. There is no doubt that answering the phone in a timely fashion is one of the most important things you can do for your business and for your customers.

If you think about it for a minute you will come to realize that in the case of a new potential customer, for example, the way you “do phone” will be the first impression that person has of you, your company and the way you do business. So, you’d better be good at it.

Personalize the situation, it has happened to all of us. Many of us have called a plumber because the toilet is overflowing, or an electrician because yours is the only house on the street whose power is off. You really want to talk to someone now! Or your porch roof looks like it is about to collapse under the weight of the 40 inches of wet snow that fell last night, you want someone to answer that phone, now. But instead you wait by the phone for hours feeling helpless as the situation seems to get worse by the minute! And the longer you wait the more resentful you get. If you’re the person not calling them back… don’t count on growing your business.

We all get it. The way you answer your phone, the way you deal with phone calls is critical to the way you keep your customers happy and grow your business.

So, keeping that in mind, here a few tips on how to deal with phone calls:

  • If your company is small, and you have no one at the office, or the house who can answer the phone, then carry a cell phone and answer it wherever you are. Take the time to answer it to at least find out what the caller wants and let her know when you can get to her place to fix the problem, if it is an emergency. If it’s not an emergency then tell him when you will call him back, preferably that evening.
  • Another idea is to have two phone numbers; one for normal business and one for emergencies and get your customers to use the emergency number only when there is an emergency. Oh, I can hear you groan that some people will always use the emergency number, and yes, you’re right. But for the rest of the customers. It will be an impressive option and show how much you care about customer service, and they will indeed honor your system.
  • Put all of your current customers’ numbers in your phone so that you will see who is calling when they are calling which will allow you to instantly triage the calls thus giving you some idea of who is calling and more easily make a decision about calling them back.
  • If you are lucky enough to have an office with a person manning the phones then always make sure that person is courteous and is well trained enough to know when the call is important enough to notify you to call the customer immediately, or when there is time so that you can call when you have some free time later in the day. This person should also have your calendar so that he or she can make appointments for you.
  • And finally, the voice mail. That necessary evil of all businesses. Make sure your message is clear, concise and, of course, courteous and maybe add a clever little statement that will make the caller smile a bit when leaving the message. And always, always let the caller know exactly how long it will take for you to call her back

In the end, it’s all about looking and feeling professional to your customers. The way you answer your phone and the way you return phone calls will go a long way when you are truly serious about growing your business.

GROWING YOUR BUSINESS: Making your small business outstanding!

Growing your businessby Dan Beaulieu
Business consultant

When running your own business, no matter what size, it is important to find ways to make your business stand out. This is especially true when your business involves working at your customers’ homes.

When it comes to being special and outstanding it’s important to remember that the devil is in the details. It’s the small things that are going to make your company special to your customers, make them remember you, and use you again and, best of all, refer you to other potential customers.

Here are six simple things you can do to make your company outstanding:

  • Look professional: No matter what your business is, when you are going to people’s homes you have to look professional. Providing company shirts, for example. Make sure that your equipment is well-maintained and up to date. Make sure your vehicles are always clean and bearing your company’s name on the doors. It will make your look professional and, most important, serious about what you do.
  • Respect the customer’s property: If you are going into the house, make sure your shoes are clean, wear shoe covers, for example, this goes a long way to assuring your customers that you are a true professional. If you are working outside, don’t leave your tools all over the place and most importantly don’t be blasting music loud enough to be bothering not only your customer but the entire neighborhood as well.
  • Always be courteous and make sure the rest of your team is as well. You might think this is a given, but it’s not always the case. I have witnessed incidents where people were loud, or rude or, worst of all in one case, where a small business actually got into an argument with the customer! Always be impeccably polite. This puts the customer at ease and makes them comfortable enough with you to keep you coming back.
  • Listen. listening is one of the most important characteristics of any great customer relationship. Listen very carefully to what you customer wants you to do. Make sure you actually hear what the customer wants. And then repeat it back to the customer to make sure you are both on the same page. In some cases, it will not hurt to actually write it down in front of the customer. These are your instructions and you will be judged on how well you fully followed those instructions.
  • Clean up after yourself. No matter what your service, always leave the property as you found it, or even better than you found it. This will be very impressive to your customers and keep them coming back.
  • Provide the extras: Offer to do more than the service you were contracted to do. Notice things that you can do for your customer. If you are there to mow the grass and you see a shrub that needs trimming and shaping, do it without being asked, if you notice that the driveway needs sweeping, do that. It’s those little things that the customer will remember about you. Make sure you “get caught” performing those extra tasks. It pays off in the end, and also can lead to more business.

And one more…follow up. Within 24 hours of completing your job contact the customer to make sure that he is fully satisfied. This will not only make a very good impression on the customer, but it will also be a good opportunity to ask for more business, or, better yet, a referral. And that’s a great way to grow your business.

Dan Beaulieu has owned his own business consulting firm since 1995, during that time he has helped hundreds of companies all over the world with their sales growth challenges and issues. Originally from Maine he returned a few years ago and is ready and willing to help his fellow Mainers start and grow their business. He can be reached at 07-649-0879 or at danbbeaulieu@aol.com.

GROWING YOUR BUSINESS: What’s your trademark? What will people remember about your service?

Growing your businessby Dan Beaulieu
Business consultant

What makes people remember you?

What are you known for? One of the great marketing and branding moves you can do to make yourself noticed and remembered is to have something that people remember you for. Something about you and your company that makes you distinctive. A symbol, or a service, that is distinctly yours.

It might be your truck. Old trucks are very popular right now. Imagine what kind of impression you’d make driving to your work sites in a perfectly restored cream-colored 1949 Ford F-1 pickup with your logo on the side. People would remember that. You’d be a riding billboard for your company.

There is a very popular exterminator company in other parts of the country by the name of Truly Nolan. And yes, there was a real Truly Nolan at one time. This company refurbishes old cars, puts the company name on the side of these cars, and parks them all over the area they serve. Everybody knows who they are, and what they do, and they are by far, the most successful exterminators in any market they serve. And its all about those beautiful old cars.

But your trademarking doesn’t just have to be about cars. It can be about your uniforms. It can be about your logo or your logo on your uniforms. It could be all about what you do that is special. Right now, in the very competitive hair cutting business, there is one company that has become famous by finishing each haircut off with a nice hot towel rub to the neck. It doesn’t cost much but its unforgettable to the point that their numbers are constantly rising because of those hot towels.

Years ago, when I lived in Milwaukee, there was a fabulous airline called Midwest Express. They were known for their great service, the fact that there were no middle seats, and best of all they served hot and gooey chocolate chip cookies! People loved them, both the airline and the cookies were known as the airline that served chocolate chip cookies. People would go out of their way to fly Midwest Express.

One of the local landscapers in our area gave out beautiful freshly-made Christmas wreaths every year, that was one of the things he was known for, besides the fact that he was a great landscaper, we miss you Ken.

So, what it’s going to be for your business? What are you going to do to make sure you are remembered? To help you out, here are a few ideas that you should find useful:

  • If you have a landscaping company, leave a single rose when the job is done. Or maybe an instruction booklet on how to take care of the plants you just planted.
  • If you’re a plumber, leave a unique calendar, or a booklet on water conservation. Make sure it has your name on it, and if you are into that make it your cause.
  • If you’re an electrician leave them with a flashlight or other such device with your name on it, of course.
  • If you’re a house painter and wallpaper hanger, arrange a small guide informing the customer of exactly the paint and paper you used so they can get more if needed.

Look, we could go on all night here, but you get it. Be unique and be outstanding and people will remember you. Try different things out, not all of them will go over big but keep trying until you find something that represents your company well and also is delightfully memorable. This in the end will help you be remembered and most importantly, help you grow your business.

GROWING YOUR BUSINESS: Dealing with angry customers

by Dan Beaulieu
Business consultant

Look, it’s going to happen. Someone once said that if you don’t make mistakes, you are not trying hard enough. So, yes sometimes you will make a mistake, you will screw something up that will make your customer upset and possibly even angry. And then there are sometimes that because of some misunderstanding the customer is angry with you and it’s not even your fault. And then there are those most challenging times when the customer is just angry, and he is unfairly taking it out on you. How do you handle that? How you handle these situations will define how truly outstanding your company is.

Here are a few rules for handling an angry customer that will work every time:

  • Stay calm, at all costs stay calm. Do not under any circumstances lose your cool. Remember cool heads always prevail. Do not fall to the temptation of talking back, or defending yourself, at least at this time.
  • Smile. No, not a stupid idiotic grin, but rather a friendly calming smile, that will demonstrate to your customer, that it’s okay, you come in peace and you want to gracefully solve the problem.
  • Use the customer’s name, and in most cases, this means using Mr. or Mrs. Or Miss. or Ms. Do not use their first name unless you have permission. There is something calming about hearing your own name said calmly and politely.
  • Listen carefully, very carefully to make sure you understand exactly what it is that the customer is unhappy about. Do not interrupt at this point. Let the person tell you in her own way, taking his own time what the problem is. Get the complete story from the customer.
  • Repeat what they told you. Once the customer has finished telling what the problem is, play it back to her in your own words. Pausing while relating to get her affirmation that you have a complete and clear understanding of what she is unhappy about.
  • Make sure that you now both agree as to what the issue is. Make sure you are both clear on this.
  • Ask the customer what he would like you to do about it? How can you fix this problem to her satisfaction?
  • Agree to fix it. If it is a reasonable request, even if you are not one hundred percent to blame, if you can possibly fix the problem and repair the relationship then, by all means do it. Agree to fix the problem if you can.
  • And if you are not one hundred percent on the wrong side of this issue. Still fix it. Not only fix it, but fix it to the customer’s satisfaction.
  • Make reparations. If you were truly at fault, or mostly at fault, then not only fix the problem but add something extra to make up for your mistake. This will go a long way towards strengthening your relationship with this customer.
  • Remember always, that the important thing is to retain the customer, the last thing you want to do is win the battle and lose the war. You want to retain the customer at all costs. It has been proven that unhappy customers love telling “horror stories” about bad service. In fact, statistics show that service horror stories are repeated so frequently that often over 250 people will hear them. Not a good thing. Especially if you are doing business in a small community.
  • On the other hand, happy customers love to brag about getting great service. It makes them feel so good and so smart for finding a great company that delivers super services and products that they will tell everyone they know about it… and if your smart you’ll make sure that the company they are bragging about is yours! That’s a great way to grow your business.

GROWING YOUR BUSINESS: Doing everything on time

Growing your businessby Dan Beaulieu, Business consultant

Or ahead of schedule. One of the biggest complaints customers have, whether they are dealing with the cable company or the washing machine repair person, is not knowing exactly when they will show up. Some companies will tell you they will be there sometime on Tuesday! Others will get more specific and say sometime in the afternoon between one and five; while others just plain not even show up or call. There is nothing worse than this when you are the consumer. And there is no worse evidence of a poorly run company, small or big than letting your customer twist slowly in the wind of the great unknown of when their repair person will show up.

We have all been there and done that. We have all suffered through the ‘glorious injustice” of waiting all day for the repair person who was supposed to show up at eight in the morning and arrives at four in the afternoon. Wow! Is that aggravating or what? And the sad thing is this should be the easy part of the job. The hard part is the performing service, the installation or the repair or whatever.

As someone once said, “Showing up is half the job.” And if you can’t even show up on time what does that tell your customer about you and about your company. You have two strikes against you already and you have not even stepped into the batter’s box yet.

But here is the good news. This is a great opportunity to be truly outstanding; this is your time to shine. And because so many of your competitors have this problem, you can be the one company that makes showing up on time a priority. Heck, always showing up on time can be a part of your reputation. Part of your brand.

And it really is easy to do. All it takes to show up on time is paying attention to your scheduling. You can get some scheduling software. Chances are you have Outlook on your phone already and that will do it for you. If you really know what you’re doing, you will be able to give your customers a two-hour window of when they can expect you. A one-hour window would be better, but because customers are so used to being disappointed all the time, they will love even a two-hour window. And then, and this is the best part, call them on the day of the service call. Let them know where you stand in terms of your current schedule and your estimated arrival time as the time nears and you have a clearer understanding of when you will arrive. Creating this system, and sticking to it will make your customers talk positively about you and that in end is what you want.

And one more piece of advice. The phone call, as in returning phone calls. If you can do it, return them immediately. Or have someone in your company return them immediately, or better yet answer them live! Imagine that? But if you are out there all day on your own getting your business started then make sure that your voice mail message, a very respectful message, letting the customer hear how much you want her business and then, and this is the important part… Let her know via your message that you return all calls between a certain time each early evening. This will go a long way in pleasing your customer and letting her know, not only how reliable, and dependable, you are, but also how important her business and her time are to you. With this simple message, these few words you will already be establishing an aura of professionalism that will make your company appear outstanding. And this is with just one phone message. You haven’t even performed the service yet!

So, remember these three simple rules of business:

  • Be on time;
  • Answer your phone immediately;
  • Or if you can’t leave a great phone message, letting the customer know exactly when you will return her call.

How hard can that be?

GROWING YOUR BUSINESS: Getting the word out; Who are you and what do you do?

Growing your businessby Dan Beaulieu
Business consultant

No matter how great your small business is, if nobody knows about it, you will fail. I have talked to many business owners who tell me that they do not need to advertise or market their companies right now because they have all the business they need. I always remind them that they have all the business they need today, but will they in the future? Remember the great recession of 2008: how much business did you have after that?

Growing a business is just that…it is growing. A business that is not always growing is dying. That is just a simple rule of business. And the last thing you want to have to do is start playing catch up when you are out of business to work on. No, the best way to keep your business thriving is to always be telling people about it. The more people who know about your business the better it will be and the more your business will grow.

Here are six very easy and economical ways to market your company:

  • The website: Sorry, you need a website. This is the world we live in today. By using one of the many services, such as www.godaddy.com, you can actually build your own website in a matter of hours. Make sure the site is clear, concise and carries your company message. It needs to not only have all the pertinent information about your company (name, and contact information, services you perform and rates if applicable) but make sure you personalize it as well. Tell your story, add testimonials and referrals. Show photos of you and your team. In short, make the site user friendly enough that people are going to want to hire you.
  • Create a paper flyer. Once again, if you have a computer this is easy to do. Basic software packages like Microsoft Word provide attractive templates you can use to create your flyers. Once again, make sure the flyer is colorful and attractive and has all the pertinent information about your company. If you don’t have a computer at home, then go to the library. The Waterville Public Library, for example, not only has computers and printers, they will also be happy to help you use them.
  •  Make sure you distribute these flyers. Either mail them, or hand them out. When you finish a project in a neighborhood, before you leave, distribute flyers to the other houses in that neighborhood. It doesn’t take much effort and it will pay off in the end.
  • Make sure your apparel and your vehicle all display your company name and contact information. And also have lawn signs available to plant in front of the customer’s home if you are a service company working at that home. Ask for permission, of course. In most neighborhoods, people will notice when work is being done on a house and will often approach the service company to come and check out a potential project at their house as well. It happens all the time.
  • Place ads in newspapers such as this one. The ads are very economical and are seen every week by thousands of people. It’s the best advertising money you can spend.
  • And finally get those referrals. They are worth their weight in gold. Nothing works better than one of your customers being so pleased with you and your company that they tell everyone they know about you. When a customer tells you that you have done a great job, is the perfect time to ask her for a referral, or better yet, a testimonial you can use in all of your marketing materials.

These are a few of the easy and most economical ways you can market your business. Have some fun with it. There is nothing better than working on growing your business.

Dan Beaulieu has owned his own business consulting firm since 1995, during that time he has helped hundreds of companies all over the world with their sales growth challenges and issues. Originally from Maine he returned a few years ago and is ready and willing to help his fellow Mainers start and grow their business. He can be reached at 207-649-0879 or at danbbeaulieu@aol.com.

GROWING YOUR BUSINESS: Starting your own business? Here’s how to get started

by Dan Beaulieu
Business consultant

You want to be your own boss. You’re tired of working for someone else, and feel it’s time to go into business for yourself.

What are you going to do? What are you good at? What are your interests? What makes your heart sing? Do you like carpentry? Are you handy with your tools? Do you like building furniture? Maybe you’re a great seamstress, or maybe landscaping is your thing, it could be you have a green thumb? So, what is it going to be? What would you like to do with the rest of your life? How would you like to make a living doing something you love? Think carefully now because to start and keep a successful small business you are going to have to be creative, passionate and very hard working, because you are going to work harder than you ever have before. But as a famous man once said. If you find something you love to do, and get paid for, you’ll never work another day in your life. So, what’s it going to be? Think about it, and while you think about it ask yourself these questions:

  • What is it I love to do best in life?
  • Can I make money at this?
  • Who will pay me for this service?
  • Who will be my customers?
  • What kind of people need what I have to sell?
  • Are other people selling the product or service I want to sell?
  • Why will my products and services be better than anyone else?
  • What will I charge for this product or service?
  • How much will be enough to make a good living?
  • Will it take other people?
  • Will I have to start a company?
  • How will I get the word out about my new company?
  • What will I call my new company?
  • How much money will I need to get started?
  • How will I live while the getting gets started and no money is coming in?
  • Should I keep my current job while I get started?
  • Once started how will I make sure that my business keeps growing?

So many questions, so little time. It’s a lot to think about, isn’t it? And yes, there is considerable risk involved but if you choose the right product or service. Something that you are really good at, the rewards will be inestimable and, yes, with the right amount of courage, creativity and passion you will not only in the end survive, you will thrive!

Are you ready to join me on the greatest adventure of your life? Then come along because in the next few months I am going to be your guide. I am going to go through the process of starting and growing your business in a way that will be fun, exciting and rewarding. Together we are going to work on answering these questions and we are going to help you realize your dreams of working for yourself in your own successful business. Stay tuned for the next exciting episode of growing your business.

Dan Beaulieu has owned his own business consulting firm since 1995, during that time he has helped hundreds of companies all over the world with their sales growth challenges and issues. Originally from Maine, he returned a few years ago and is ready and willing to help his fellow Mainers start and grow their business. He can be reached at 207-649-0879 or at danbbeaulieu@aol.com.