Nexstar Master Trainer Dave Boduch discusses technical jargon and how using words that your customers will understand will help you build trust and better relate to your customers. Click on the photo to play the video. To learn more about Nexstar’s results-driven training: http://www.nexstarnetwork.com/Pages/SureFireSystems.aspx.
Preparation is Key
By Jodi Peter, Nexstar® Network Business Coach
It’s March and the calendar, and our clocks, now say it is spring. But if you are the owner or general manager of a successful air conditioning business you may already have a distinct summer glow. Air Conditioning companies make up to 70% of their profits during the summer months. You are undoubtedly working hard to find employees, review your business systems, and execute your marketing plan in advance of the most important 13 weeks for you this year. You know you need to grow revenue during this short window to make your goals for the year. You know you have one chance this summer to build customer relationships and provide the customer service that makes a positive first and lasting impression. You know one mis-step or unplanned event can have a tremendous impact on your ability to increase profit.
You also know the need to prepare for your busiest season does not change year to year. You know the time to prepare for summer is now, before customers start calling. Here are the top five areas to focus on ahead of time to ensure you maximize your earnings potential for the entire summer season.
- Pricing – In order to meet your profit goals, you need to make sure you are priced correctly. Calculate your break-even and desired profit and know what you need to charge. Your pricing needs to be strategic and not just what you believe your market can bear or just a dart on a dart board. Set realistic goals for the company and every revenue producer in your company.
- Installation Processes – Review your entire installation process with your staff. Revisit the technician training your staff has had or still needs. Include a close look at your transfer process for handing off an installation from Comfort Consultant or Installation Manager to installer if needed. If you don’t have a good process, or if your staff is not comfortable in how to communicate with homeowners, it can be awkward and unsettling to customers.
- Hours of Operation – Establish before the season if you are going to extend your hours of operation or how you are handling emergency service calls. Then make sure you have staff trained in customer service working the extended hours. A good place to start is to role play scenarios from call center training with anyone who may answer the phones during regular or extended hours. Customers should never feel like they are talking to your “B” team, no matter what time they call.
- Fleet & Equipment – Nothing can stall a good summer like having a truck break down. Make sure you have your entire fleet serviced ahead of time to prevent or fix any minor problems. Inspect your current equipment and make plans now to bring in any additional inventory or equipment you might need.
- Staffing – At the end of the day, the biggest key to a good summer is having the right people doing the right jobs. Quality technicians and installers have completely different jobs and skillsets to support what they do. Your job is to make sure your employees are in the right jobs so they can be successful. For more about preparing your staff for the busy season, see my article in the March issue of The Reeves Journal.
If you take the time to focus on these five areas now, you will be well prepared for summer when the customers start calling!
Today I will be presenting at the Pumper Cleaner Expo in Indianapolis. I am thrilled to be able to share The Art and Science of Business Management with business owners like you and me. We all face similar challenges in running our businesses. We are tapped for time, drained of energy, out of money and tired of fighting fires. How do we get out of that rut and figure out our real job and the real jobs of our employees? That’s where learning the principles of Business Management come in, the tracking, measuring, coaching, accountability… just to name a few.
One of the most powerful strategies I am teaching today is the concept that just about every issue in your business revolves around training and accountability issues! Make sure you have a training process in place so that your employees are given the knowledge and tools needed to efficiently and effectively do their jobs. How do you develop a training process? Here are some simple steps:
- Determine your training budget
- Identify your resources (Internal and External)
- Send employees to appropriate training
- Conduct regular productive staff meetings
- Communication and follow up
I cannot stress strongly enough the importance of training. In fact, I believe so passionately that effective training is critical, that in addition to owning my own business, I am also a Master Trainer for Nexstar. In this role I facilitate training across the country for owners and managers of contracting businesses just like you. Training is essential to retaining and motivating good employees, which directly impacts the success of your business. Joining an organization that specializes in adult business training, like Nexstar, can help you create the most effective training plan for your company’s needs. Nexstar offers a thorough catalog of leadership, front-line staff and call center training for every trade area, that will help your employees be the best at their jobs, and ultimately help you stand out with your customers and grow your business.
If you are at the Pumper Show today, stop in to see us at the Nexstar Booth #5361. If you are interested in learning more about the training offerings from Nexstar, contact Lisa Schardt or Bryan Martin at 1-800-240-7827 or firstname.lastname@example.org.
The Business of Contracting
By Jack Tester, Nexstar® Network President & CEO
As owners in the plumbing, heating and cooling, and electrical businesses it is our job to make sure that we run a profitable and ethical company. We also strive to serve our customers, our employees, our employees’ families and our communities. But, we also need to take care of ourselves. How do we do that? Simple, we have to know how to price our services correctly so we can be profitable and afford to pay ourselves and our employees adequately.
Nexstar’s founder Frank Blau Jr. introduced this idea in The Business of Contracting in 1987. His goal then was to help contractors build a profitable and healthy business, life and legacy, and his philosophy is still applicable to contracting businesses today.
The Business of Contracting by Frank Blau Jr. is about business owners and leaders accepting responsibility for the state of our industry and deciding to change it. It’s about creating an environment where customers are treated with unbeatable service; where employees receive comprehensive benefits and take home a paycheck commensurate with the level of service they provide; where companies like yours earn a profit, grow healthier and leave a lasting legacy for generations to come.
It will be my honor to present Frank’s The Business of Contracting at this year’s Pumper & Cleaner Expo, next week on Feb 25th, in Indianapolis. Here are some key strategies you can expect to take away from the presentation:
• Be purposeful – plan your business to support your life.
• Don’t let uneducated competitors chart the course for your business or your life. YOU ARE IN CONTROL!
• Remember Business is Math: Sales – Costs = Profit
• The business equation starts with the right selling price
• How do you get the right selling price? Sell on value, not on price.
I encourage you to attend my presentation at the Pumper & Cleaner Expo then visit with me and Frank Blau, Jr. at the Nexstar Booth #5361. If you have questions about Nexstar or our presentations at the show, please call Lisa Schardt or Bryan Martin at 1-888-240-7827.
Does it make sense for my business to “Like” another company?
By Susan Kimball, Nexstar® Network Marketing Coach
Is your company new to Facebook or even still considering a Facebook page? Or maybe you’ve had a Facebook page for a while, and are now wondering what you should be doing with it? Here are a couple basic thoughts about how to view Facebook and how it can work for growing your contracting business.
Generally, local residential service businesses similar to yours turn to Facebook to get the phones to ring. Companies want people in their community to “Like” them so that they can communicate and build relationships with those people. The people who “Like” those companies represent an engaged group of potential customers. Further engaging this pool of customers can lead to more business and referrals, as well as expanding brand awareness to “Friends” of those people who are also likely to be members of that community and therefore potential customers.
Asking other HVAC contractor companies, either from Nexstar® or other business or trade organizations, to “Like” you from their company page doesn’t meet the goal of marketing to potential customers because they are probably not located in your community where your potential customers live. That said, if you are trying to reach the number of “Likes” needed to get a vanity URL (i.e. www.facebook.com/NexstarNetwork) or if you are just starting out and want to look more popular so others will “Like” you too, then asking peer contractor companies to “Like” your company Facebook page may be a good tactic.
If your company brand on Facebook is incorrectly set up as a personal profile rather than a business page, and you “Like” other contractor pages, their posts may appear in your newsfeed. Your personal newsfeed is where your “Friends” as well as potential customers who have “Liked” your page may see this posting activity from other businesses as well as how you interact with them. You need to ask yourself, will this communication exchange be meaningful or annoying to them?
If you and another contracting business “Like” each other acting as company pages then the posts each company makes won’t appear in your personal timeline unless posted directly on your wall or if you are tagged.
Facebook does have a ranking algorithm which involves engagement on your posts and content. So, once you and other contractors have “Liked” each other, if you all then start “Liking”, “Sharing” and “Commenting” on each other’s posts it increases the number of people talking about you. It would also have a positive impact on whether your posts are shown on the newsfeed of other individuals (hopefully customers in your area) who “Like” you — which is a good thing. But you would need to consider if this type of activity/content would be engaging to your potential customers or would they be driven to “Unlike” you?
Your business’s Facebook and other social media content also contribute to overall reputation and search rank on the Internet. If you are focused on Search Engine Optimization (SEO) for your company’s website, which I highly recommend you are, then your activity on Facebook will contribute to that success. For more SEO basics, take a look at the Nexstar column in February’s Reeves Journal, where I outline the top concepts that contractor business owners should understand to maximize their online search results.
Is Your Business Profitable? Really?
5 Bottom Line Stumbling Blocks
By: Lisa Schardt, Nexstar® Network Sales
Here are the Top 5 Reasons you may not (really) be profitable:
- You don’t add YOUR SALARY to the budget. You “take whatever is left” at the end of the month. Really? Have other successful CEOs done this? Warren Buffet? Steve Jobs? Bill Gates? You are a CEO, too.
- You don’t pay your employees health care benefits. Remember, you are in the PEOPLE business. You must take care of your people – AND their families – yes, I said pay their families health/dental insurance too.
- You don’t save for your retirement. Okay, now we need to talk. I know you think you are going to work in your business and then sell it for a crazy amount of money, retiring wealthy. Here is the reality. Most companies are worth about $15,000. “Sweat equity” does not count. Your inventory numbers will be inflated and dated, and your old vehicles aren’t going to be worth much. It takes years of careful planning and very wise decisions to sell your company and retire financially comfortable.
- You don’t invest in new service vehicles. Nexstar Founding Father Frank Blau used to call them “rolling *%$@ boxes.” Your vehicles are a reflection of you. Re-wrap them, clean them up or replace them. It’s a good time to invest in your fleet.
- You don’t invest in REAL training and development of your people. Your employees are in people’s homes, dealing with the homeowner face-to-face. Don’t expect every call taker, technician, salesperson and install member to naturally be great conversationalists! They must LEARN that skill. Heck, even fast food restaurants train their employees in customer service – whether they are flipping burgers or greeting diners.
Here’s the key… If you’re not making money, you have a hobby, not a company. (There are a lot more fun things to do as a hobby!) Life is all about choices. Here’s the best small business advice in the world–make the choice to invest in yourself and your business.
Don’t settle. Make the decision to take control or your business and your life with the help and the support of Nexstar® Network. We are an honest, results-driven organization, here to serve you. Call me. 888.240.STAR (7827).
The 2012 Nexstar Network Peer Group Season officially kicks of this February in Paris, Texas. The host company, Hargis Electric, is a three-time champion of the Nexstar Select Service Award of Excellence. Hargis ranked #1 in their revenue category with an 11% profit this year. Hargis’ primary trade is electrical and they have a 40% service repair percentage in residentail and 60% in commercial. Owner, Bryan Hargis, is proud of the fact that, “we have always worked very hard to provide code compliant work in every situation. We are known by the inspectors and the power companies as the local electrical contractor that does it right.”
Are you excited to learn from their success?
Nexstar Peer Group Meetings give you the opportunity to learn by witnessing group dynamics. You can harness the interactive power of a positive company culture and see how Nexstar programs work in a live operation. Participants spend one entire day exploring the host’s business. You get to tour their facilities and witness every aspect of the host company’s operations. Together, you’ll walk inside their trucks, talk to technicians, see their marketing tactics and tracking numbers, review their financial statements and discuss what works and what doesn’t.
From a business coach perspective, when I think about what Nexstar means, I think about Success through Education and Sharing. Peer groups take this motto to the next level. Nexstar has a waiting list every year built by members that want to host peer groups and the best of the best are chosen as hosts and 2012 is no different. Members attend peer groups to see the inner workings of the best of the best companies, but the hosting company is not the only place where members learn. Members spend 2 days together learning from each other as well. Breaks, lunches and even post event conversations are filled with talk about things that are going well in member’s businesses. Success through Education and Sharing is taken to a whole new level from the moment members get together until they jump on a plane and head home. This is what I love best about Nexstar Peer Group events!
In the eyes of a marketing coach, one of the greatest benefits of Nexstar is the members’ willingness to share their experiences to help others. In viewing other members’ marketing materials and results, members are able to gain new ideas and resources for getting the phone to ring. What works for one member, may be tweaked to work in your market.
If you’re interested, give Nexstar a call or visit www.nexstarnetwork.com for more information. Bryan Hargis warmly welcome you to Paris, TX. He loves working in his community because, “our small community makes us focus 24/7 on doing quality work and taking care of our customers.” If you’re ready to learn from the best of the best, come on down!
Check out Hargis Electric’s Best of the Best video!
Jodi Peter enjoys guiding people down the ever-changing road to achieving their vision of success. She strongly believes in setting goals and exceeding them. She encourages members to do the same. Prior to coming to Nexstar, she served as the General Manager of a successful plumbing, heating and air conditioning company with annual sales exceeding $10 million.
Susan Kimball says that Nexstar members have widely varying marketing needs and she loves helping them find the right solutions. She helps members with everything from low cost guerrilla marketing ideas to sophisticated television campaigns. Susan keeps up with the constantly changing world of Internet marketing so members get current knowledge and resources.
Denise Swafford’s Mississippi Mud Cake
Preheat oven to 350 degrees
Mix 1 stick margarine (melted) with 1 cup of sugar. Add 4 eggs, one at a time, beat well. Add 1 cup plain flour; 1 tsp baking powder; 1 large can chocolate syrup. Bake in a greased and floured pan (9 in X 13 in). Immediately after taking out of the oven, cover the top of the cake with 1 package of miniature marshmallows and 1 cup chopped nuts. Add warm icing immediately and cover with foil. Let stand 3 hours before cutting.
Melt one and half sticks of margarine and 4 tablespoons of cocoa. Add 1 box of conf. sugar, 1 tsp vanilla, and 1 egg. Beat well and spread over cake. Make sure icing is hot.
Stacey Billings’ Brandied Peaches
2 extra-large cans of peach halves
1 bottle of Brandy
Pour peaches into bowl, add brandy to taste. Cover and refrigerate overnight. Enjoy in moderation!
Jodi Peter’s Homemade Rolls (her grandma’s recipe)
1 pkg yeast
1 cup milk
¼ cup sugar
1 ½ teas. Salt
6 tbs. melted butter (6 additional tbs. when cutting rolls)
2 beaten eggs
3 ¼ cups flour (approx.)
Dissolve yeast in warm milk. Add sugar and salt and let stand one hour. Beat in butter and eggs. Add flour and knead. Let rise until doubled in bulk.
Punch down dough, and roll out to approx. ½” thickness. Cut rolls with a round cookie cutter (about 4” in diameter – I us a tuna fish can).
Dip cut roll into melted butter, fold in half and place in unprepared pan. Let rise until doubled and bake for approx. 15 minutes in 375 degree oven
A crock pot (just set on warm) is a great way to keep rolls warm when you have a large crowd.
Susan Tigner’s Cranberry Apple Chutney
1 pound cranberries, (4 cups)
1 cup sugar
1/2 cup brown sugar
1/2 cup golden raisins
2 teaspoons cinnamon
1 teaspoon ground ginger
1/2 teaspoon ground nutmeg
1/4 teaspoon ground cloves
1/4 teaspoon ground allspice
1 cup water
1 cup diced onion
1 Rome Beauty apple, cored, chopped
1/2 cup pecan halves
Simmer first 10 ingredients in a 2 quart saucepan over medium heat until berries pop (about 15 minutes). Reduce heat, stir in onion and apple; simmer uncovered until thick (about 15 minutes). Refrigerate, covered, up to 2 weeks. Stir in nuts before serving.
Amount: 4-5 cups
In last week’s Nexstar News, we shared that all Nexstar staff will be participating in “a day in the life” of a Nexstar member. Over the past week, many of us have spent a day riding along with technicians. We’re doing this so that we have a better understanding of your experiences, insights into the effectiveness of our training, and to gauge opportunities for improvement. The knowledge gained over the last few days has been eye-opening and we’d like to share our observations with you.
- Service System training is more apparent in technicians who have recently attended a Service System Retreat. We found that technicians who have not attended in over two years are missing some basic steps in their calls, such as:
- Offering a business card
- Asking permission to enter the home
- Asking if their truck is parked in an acceptable spot
- “Selling” the fact that they are putting on shoe covers before entering the home
- Setting the agenda for the call
- Technicians should be focusing more on the benefits and features of products and services before alluding to the price. We’ve witnessed technicians bonding with their customers, and we’ve been impressed with the fact that the technicians really have a healthy respect for their customers. However, many are bypassing the “Explore” step. They are not asking open-ended questions to better understand the underlying needs and wants of the homeowners, and they are missing sales because of it. Often, when asked about a product or service that was not immediately related to the call, the tech would offer to write up an estimate rather than exploring the situation and offering a solution.
- Your technicians are an extension of your marketing department. They should be reinforcing your brand excellence on every call. This can be done with little things that will strengthen customers’ loyalty to your company.
- Cross market your services. Sometimes, there is not a great opportunity to make a sale. However, this can be the right situation to promote your other services. In example, if your technician is repairing a boiler, and the customer has decided that they do not want to replace it, you might want to place a sticker on the water heater and promote your plumbing and other services.
- Have your technicians use business cards and put their photo on them. Train them to hand a business card to customers, and tape a second card next to your stickers.
- Don’t prejudge a customer and assume that they will never spend money. Even if you know your technician cannot sell equipment on every call, they should still be working hard to develop and strengthen loyalty to your company.
- Work with technicians and train them to use very non-technical language. It takes practice to do this, but your customer will trust you more if they understand the services you are providing.
- Ongoing training is key. It should not be optional. Without ongoing training, how will techs retain the information and keep their skills sharp? Nexstar marketing strategist, Ed Cerier, observed, “One thing I’ve noticed in my lifetime is that virtually every hall of fame athlete has one thing in common: they work harder than anyone else. Pro baseball players, for example, spend time in the batting cage every day, and the best ones log as much time as possible. Why? Even though it’s a repetitive action, and these athletes are the best of the best, it takes constant practice to maintain skills and improve.”
These are our observations and they will help us as we work with you to create even more robust services and training opportunities. We’d love to know what you think, so make sure to comment and join in the conversation. If you’d like to explore future training opportunities, visit the events page of the members’ side of www.nexstarnetwork.com.
There are so many resources available to you as a member of Nexstar. You have: The Vault, the Marketing System, the Operations Playbook, recorded Webinars and Podcasts, Strategic Partners, Training Events, Nexstar Staff and Coaches—it goes on and on. But when was the last time you called or reached out to another member to discuss a challenge or learn about another member’s successes? Nexstar was built on Success through Education and Sharing. Lean on the network. It’s a powerful tool.
Here’s a couple of ideas on how you can make the most of the network, TODAY:
- Call a member
- Post a question on the Nexstar Bulletin Board
- “Friend” or “like” other Nexstar members on facebook
- Spend a couple of minutes scoping out the Nexstar Vault: Is there an ad campaign that could work for you?
- Sign up for a business planning or marketing planning workshop (there are plenty of options over the next three months)
- Improve business and enlighten your staff by sending them to training
- Think about attending (or hosting!) a Nexstar member peer group–we have five scheduled for 2012
Do you have an addition to this list? Post it in the comments section!