As part owner of a contractor marketing agency, I have access to a lot of information about how contractors have managed to build, scale, and even sell their businesses for multiple 7 & 8 figures.
What you’re about to learn comes directly from the interviews I’ve conducted for one of our virtual events—The 2018 Contractor Success Summit—with some of the most influential contractors and business coaches in the home service industry.
If you’re looking to build your contracting business from the ground up, or want to learn what it takes to grow into a massively-successful home improvement business, then you’ll want to keep reading
Here are a few of my favorite takeaways from the interviews…
1. Systems = success
I had the pleasure of speaking with John Warrillow, founder of five companies, best-selling author, and the creator of The Sellability Score.
If there’s one thing John made very clear, it’s that systems are crucial if you want your business to be worth something.
If you’re not familiar with John’s work, do yourself a favor and read Built to Sell: Creating a Business That Can Thrive Without You, and then go through his proprietary Value Builder System to see how well your business is doing from a systems standpoint.
In just a few minutes, you’ll understand how investors analyze businesses they’re thinking of acquiring and where yours might be falling short.
It’ll have you challenging the way you generate leads, close new business, service clients, and carry out your day to day operations.
If building a successful contracting business is your ultimate goal—and more importantly, a contracting business that can run without you—then improving your systems needs to be your starting point.
Note: John’s most recent book, The Automatic Customer, is also a must-read. It’ll give you that extra push that you need to finally put in place that service agreement program you so desperately need.
2. Your logo is not your brand—your employees are
Kenny Chapman, founder of The Blue Collar Success Group, said something that totally blew my mind about halfway through our session:
The number of trucks you have on the road is the number of brands you have. – Kenny Chapman
In other words, each and every single employee you have is an extension of your company, and the way they treat your customers is the way your brand is perceived.
You can have the nicest logo, website, and best-looking trucks in the city, but if your team isn’t putting friendly, quality service above all else, then you’re not going to win in the contracting game.
Keep your teams happy, and they’ll care for their work and represent your business appropriately. Do the opposite, and you’ll have a hard time keeping up your reputation.
But Kenny isn’t the only one that believes employee happiness is key to a strong brand.
Tommy Mello, The Home Service Expert, says a focus on employee happiness is one of the main reasons he’s managed to grow his company to over $30 million.
He believes paying top dollar is key to attracting and retaining quality talent, and that it might cost more upfront but pays big in the end.
Once new employees are onboard, he invests both time and money—whatever is necessary—to provide them with all the tools and resources they need to get the job done.
His employees also have the opportunity to control how much money they make, thanks to performance-based pay structures that he swears by.
The takeaway is this…
If your staff is happy, they’ll put everything they’ve got into their work, translating into jobs well done, happier customers, more frequent referrals, and a massive impact on your bottom line over the long term.
Dig deep and find ways to create happiness across your company.
Happiness has a tendency to go viral, and that’s a good thing.
3. Always Know where you’re at and where you’re headed
What better way to get a pulse on your business than by digging into your finances?
Problem is, that’s usually the last thing on anyone’s mind.
You’d rather talk shop, pick up new tools, or focus on winning new contracts. But to run a profitable contracting business, you need to know your numbers.
If you’re not in tune with things like payroll, material costs, and revenue projections, then do yourself a favor and hire an expert to do it all for you.
Hell, even if you love finances, you should still hire an expert. They’ll do it better than you can without a doubt, and you can put your time towards other things, like bringing in more revenue.
Having an expert like Randal De Hart or Diane Gardner in your corner can save you both time and money.
They’ll talk you through where you’d like take your business over the next 1-3 years, and they’ll make sure that you’re planning appropriately for growth.
- the perfect corporate structure
- withholding enough from each job
- making estimated tax payments
- maximizing legal deductions to pay as little tax as possible.
All these are things that can have a significant impact on your profit margins.
“Fearing the IRS is NOT the answer,” says Diane Gardner.
Planning is the answer.
Another tip is to use Randal De Hart’s 80/20 rule to figure out if you’re wasting time on unprofitable jobs:
- Pull up the Job Profit Report within your accounting software and sort your jobs by profitability.
- Eliminate the top 20%
- Of all the jobs that are left, ask yourself which jobs or customers you enjoyed working with most.
If the answer is family, friends, and acquaintances, then you’ve got a serious problem because those jobs aren’t what pays the bills.
This should give you a nice wake-up call and shed some light on where to spend your time and effort.
A good habit to have is what Randal calls The 5X5X5 Rule.
Take five minutes, five days per week, to look at these five reports:
- Cash (how much money you’ve got on hand)
- Receivables (how much money people owe you)
- Payables (how much money you owe)
- P&L (where you’re making and losing money)
- Balance Sheet (what you own minus what you owe which tells you what’s left over).
This is the only surefire way to stay in the know, and developing this habit will help you to quickly spot financial issues before it’s too late.
4. A little synergy can take you a long way
This happens to be one of my favorite pieces of advice because of its simplicity and effectiveness.
My good friend Tom Reber from The Contractor Fight shared a tip with me that he used to grow a wildly-successful painting business.
Whenever he’d be driving to or from a job, if he happened to see a vehicle from another company or tradesperson, he’d quickly size up the business to see if it could be a fit a for a potential partner, and within minutes, he’d dial the number on the truck to get them on the phone.
The conversations typically went something like this…
“Hey, are you the guy driving on route 59?”
“Great! Listen, you build stuff, I paint stuff. We should get together.“
Then, he’d meet with them in person over coffee, ‘shoot the shit’ so to speak in order to get to know them better, and boom! Relationships were made and a substantial volume of business eventually came from these drive-by call-ups.
Extremely easy to do, but just as easy not to do.
Tom says the #1 reason why most people don’t do this is plain old fear.
Fear of rejection and the unknown.
His advice is to pick up the phone and make the damn call before your brain even has a chance to talk you out of it.
Meet people face to face. Shake hands, build genuine relationships.
It still works—even in the hyper-connected digital world that we live in today.
5. Be known for the value you deliver, not the price you charge
When speaking with Kenny Chapman from The Blue Collar Success Group, I came to learn that before selling his Plumbing and HVAC business, he was known for pricing his services at the very top end of the market.
Recommended reading: HVAC Marketing Case Study – $18 Profit for Every $1 Spent On Google Ads
Kenny doesn’t fight on price. Instead, he charges top dollar and offers a highly specialized service and does it better than anyone else.
When it comes to pricing, price your services so that you can afford to deliver products and services that represent what you stand for.
Kenny would also invest tons back into his education, business, employees, technology etc.
“This stuff costs money and if you’re out there trying to beat everyone else on price, you’re setting yourself up for failure.” – Kenny Chapman
The clientele he catered to was very demanding but totally willing to pay the premium to guarantee a specific result.
His staff was highly skilled, showed up in top-notch uniforms, and made sure the customer’s home was left in immaculate condition after the job was done.
This translated into referrals that went a little like this: “If you need plumbing services, call Peterson Plumbing. They’re definitely not the cheapest, but they’re the absolute best. Worth every penny, you can’t go wrong.”
Don’t compete on price. Find what you’re good at, become the best at it, and go all-in on providing that service to the best of your ability while charging what you’re worth.
6. Ultimatums benefit nobody
Sticking with the pricing theme, the last thing you want to do is give your customer just one pricing option.
Removing choice from the equation is a big mistake, and Joe Crisara from Contractor Selling advises people to tier their pricing into at least three options.
Your highest priced option might scare some people away, but for the most part, it’ll get anchored into the brains of your customers, which then makes your mid and entry-level price points seem much more appealing.
Joe shared with me that:
- 15% of people will choose the top tier option
- 74% will choose the middle tier option
- 11% will choose the entry level option
Take a second and think about all the revenue you’re missing out on by offering only one pricing option!
This is one of the simplest things you can implement in your business, and it can make an immediate impact to your bottom line as soon as your next job.
Aside from offering multiple pricing options, make it about the customer.
Remember that the reason you’re swapping out that water tank for a new model along with all the bells and whistles, is so that Laura (your customer’s wife) can get back to taking hot showers, and you get can mobile notifications in the event of a leak or related issue down the road.
That personal connection is not only the difference between a yes or a no, but also the difference between a top tier and a bottom tier pricing package.
Build a connection with your customer. Offer several price points. Boost your profits!
7. Don’t tell them, show them!
When marketing your contracting business, you always want to put your best foot forward.
However, the mistake most contractors make is they try to tell everyone how good they are by screaming, “Hey everyone! Look how good we are at XYZ Company!”
Josh Kelly, Marketing Director at Parker & Sons Plumbing and owner of RevuKangaroo, made it clear during our chat that people trust their neighbors way more than they’ll ever trust a contracting business.
Instead of fighting it, he says contractors need to embrace it.
Stop trying to tell everyone how great you are and let your customers do it for you.
When you deliver great work and manage to collect stellar customer reviews & testimonials, that’s what you want to be putting out in front of people.
And as far as reviews go, the key is to ask your customer to review the employee as opposed to the company.
This increases your chances of getting a review to begin with, and it’s much more likely to be positive.
Pro Tip: If you’re struggling to get reviews, you need to take a look at RevuKangaroo. It connects directly to your website and makes the whole process of collecting and promoting reviews a cinch.
8. The Four-R Framework
I love frameworks.
They’re easy to remember and easy to pass onto others.
That’s why I was super excited when Tony Hoty, often referred to as “The Lead Whisperer,” decided to share his.
He calls it the Four R’s and goes into way more detail about it during his session on The 2018 Contractor Success Summit, but they stand for…
Self-explanatory. Don’t get too caught up trying to win new business all the time. Make sure that your existing customers are coming back for more. A repeat customer means less time and money wasted, and more profit in your pocket.
Make it easy and worthwhile for people and customers to refer you business. When you’re wrapping up a job, take time to meet your customers, thank them for the opportunity to work together, and give them a discount which they can use towards a future project.
If they have no project in mind, offer them to pass the offer along to a close family member or friend.
Another point, often overlooked by most, is that when you receive referrals, you should reward the referrer regardless of whether or not you close a deal.
People will usually reward someone for a sale but rarely a referral. This is a huge mistake, and rewarding everyone— regardless of results—will encourage people to continue referring new leads to your business.
Take the opportunity to canvass around the neighborhoods you serve and make some connections. There are many different ways to approach the conversation, so get creative!
I’ve already touched on the importance of getting reviews, but Tony suggests that you should get an early commitment from your customer regarding a review once the job is successfully completed.
Once you’ve wrapped up your project, a nice little gift basket with a couple of branded items and a warm ‘Thank You’ can go a long way.When you ask for the review, customers will be glad to return the favor.
9. Not all leads are created equal
When it comes to finding new leads, there’s literally a ton of ways to go about getting them.
One really effective strategy is Inbound Marketing.
Spencer Powell, President of Builder Funnel, joined me on the Contractor Success Summit to chat about everything Inbound.
Similar to Tony Hoty’s Four-R framework, the good people at Hubspot created their very own battle-tested marketing framework that works across many different verticals—and it works for contractors too.
Spencer makes a point that there’s much more to marketing than simply driving traffic to a website.
Using the Inbound methodology, businesses need to focus not only on attracting visitors to their site (Attract) but also finding ways to collect email addresses from prospects who aren’t quite ready to buy (Convert).
From there, those prospects can be nurtured via email with content that educates and pushes them closer to the point where they’re ready to discuss working with you (Close).
The last part of this wonderful strategy is to leverage your client relationships in order to help generate new opportunities (Delight).
Very similar to what goes into Tony’s 4R’s, the delight phase is about turning your customers into advocates and evangelists for your business.
So there you have it—a small fraction of what was covered by some of the awesome speakers on The Contractor Success Summit!
Whether you’re just starting out with a home service business, or you’re hell-bent on getting your existing company to do multiple 7 figures, one thing’s for sure—it’s doable!
You just have to start doing things a little differently!