1) There is no perfect work-life balance

The first rule about fight club is that there is no fight club.  The same applies to a perfect work-life balance, there is no such thing.  It is impossible to perfectly separate work from life and to carve out the exact amount of hours we need for both on a daily basis. 

Some days you may have more work to complete than others.  You will likely have busy periods and quiet periods, all businesses have them. The key here is to try and balance your work and life commitments over the long term, say 6 months to a year.  Spend more time on work when it is busy and you have an opportunity to earn more and more time with family when work is quiet.  In no way do I mean work simply to make money at the expense of family time but rather make hay while the sun shines

 

2) Do work that you love

“Find a job you enjoy doing, and you will never have to work a day in your life.” - Mark Twain

Creating a work-life balance is far easier if you do work that inspires you and that you enjoy.  Waking up in the morning enthused for the day is a great gift that most people will never enjoy in their workday.  If you can find work that you love it will keep you motivated and reduce the risk of burnout. Further to that, you are likely to be more successful in doing well in your profession.

If you currently do not enjoy your job try doing some work on the side that you really enjoy.  With a bit of persistence and a marketable skill, you can normally work up to a full-time profession from a side hustle.

 

3) Prioritise you

Work-life is not just about family time.  You need to prioritise yourself, your health and your mental wellbeing.  After all, you need to look after the golden goose if you expect it to keep laying those eggs. 

Take time off and try to intersperse activities you enjoy in your day and week to break up the monotony of work.  You will feel more alert, more refreshed and more motivated when you return to work

 

4) Don't be afraid to unplug

Read this out loud to yourself: "I am not my job".  You are a person with a brain that has evolved over 100 000 years.  Technology and specifically email has only been around for the past 40 years or so. Our brains are not wired to always be on and active and the intrusion of a permanently vibrating smartphone is causing havoc with our general well-being.

In the evenings, simply turn off your smartphone, or, if you are worried you will miss an urgent call from a friend or family member, keep 2 phones, one for personal and one for business.

 

5) Go on holiday

Yes, you deserve it.  Do not be a martyr and believe that everything will fall apart in your business if you go on leave.  The work will still be there when you return.  Simply let clients know you are away.  A simple auto-responder on your email will do the trick as well as a voicemail message on your phone.

 

6) Make time for yourself and your family

Regularly plan day outings and trips with your family to ensure you make the most of your time together.  Time spent mindlessly watching TV or playing on gadgets is not quality time spent together.  make the effort to connect with your family on a regular basis

 

7) Set boundaries and work hours

Set your work times and let clients know that they are non-negotiable.  If you perform a good service for clients during office hours they will be understanding when you tell them that you do not take calls after-hours. Some clients might get upset and stamp their feet that you will not take their call but here's a little secret, you do not need clients like that in the first place

 

8) Set goals and priorities (and stick to them)

At the beginning of each month, I like to draw up a list of the goals and priorities for that month on a week-by-week basis.  I also create a yearly goal list at the beginning of the year and I try to use my monthly goals as a means to achieving those yearly goals.

Once you have achieved your goal for the day/week you know you are one step closer to a major goal you have set. You can then stop working simply for the sake of work (busywork), that does not contribute to a goal that you have defined. Sometimes you realise there is some work that you can put off indefinitely because it simply is not important enough to do.

 

9) Just say no

You only have a finite amount of hours in your life to achieve the goals and live the life you want to.  Often, people will ask you to do things that do not fit into your vision of your life or your work priorities.  Learn to simply say no.  Don't say "I will think about it" as a way to try avoid doing it, rather say "thank you for asking but I simply do not have the time to take on this responsibility for you". The other person might be hurt at first but if you try and take on every request you will soon find that you get nothing done.

 

10) Work smarter, not harder

Invest in a good system to enable you to manage your work easily and efficiently.  One such system if you are a tradesperson is IntelliServe. IntelliServe is field service software. IntelliServe allows you to manage jobs and easily convert the jobs to quotes and invoices without duplicating work.  It can also email and text clients directly once a job card or invoice is created, saving you time on your admin. IntelliServe also has a mobile app to allow you to update your work orders while onsite and capture images of the work performed and capture client signatures. 

 

In this day of global competition and low barriers for clients who want to switch to a different provider, it is essential to offer clients the best service you can. Clients are quick to change to a competitor if they don’t receive the service they expect from a company. Conversely, give clients a great customer experience and you will probably have gained a client for life.

Most businesses view their service department as a necessary business expense and give little to no thought on how it impacts the outside perception of their business. With exceptional service, you can win more work just on word of mouth alone, with bad service you are likely to lose potential clients in the same way.

So let’s dive right in and analyse the 4 keys to great customer service and how you can delight your client:

1) Staff

You may have heard that your staff are the greatest asset that your company has and this rings true especially for the client-facing service department. Clients expect to deal with well-trained and knowledgeable staff. This means that you need to make sure your staff are up-to-date on your service offerings and trained in the relevant products that you support or services that you offer. The best advice is to always hire the best that you can afford. There is nothing worse than dealing with a service representative that hates their job due to a low salary or underappreciation. If you look for the cheapest staff, you are likely to find them, and in return, you will get people who only do the bare minimum to earn the bare minimum.

Treat your staff with respect and value their input to the organisation. Staff that are valued are motivated to go the extra mile for your company.

2) Culture

Foster a culture of excellence in all facets of your business, not just service. Reiterate 100 times a day to your staff that by giving the best of themselves, they improve the company, their salaries and the future of all the people involved in the company, including your clients. Lead by example and always hold your staff up to the highest standards. Praise staff that uphold the culture of the company and don’t be scared of being tough on staff that do not. Your staff need to know what is expected of them.

3) Systems

An important key to great service is a great system of managing incoming requests and making sure that they are dealt with on time and to the client’s satisfaction. Scour the market and look for the best possible software that fits in with the needs of your company. If you are in the trade or a service industry business, take a look at IntelliServe, field service software. They offer a free 14-day trial. Their features include custom checklists, quoting, invoicing and ticketing.

A good system should allow you to centrally manage all service requests to allow you to keep an eye on company metrics at all times.

Systems also allow you to consistently offer the same level of service. Once you have set your goals and metrics in a service application, you will be able to keep an eye on them and make sure that everyone is performing according to the standard set.

This is the start of a great service journey. These keys should be revisited on an almost daily basis to make sure that your company is providing the best levels of service that it can

Business Van

The moment you drive your business vehicle off the showroom floor it loses 15 - 30% of its value. Given this, does it make sense to rather lease your vehicle and hand it back to the dealer once the lease expires?  This article describes the pros and cons of leasing vs buying a commercial vehicle and then asks some pertinent questions to help you decide which is best for you.

 

Tips from the world's best salesman

Advertising for small businesses is a tricky, um, business. Where do you spend money when you don't have much money to spend? Should you focus on local magazines and newspapers? Should you spend every spare pound you have on Google Adwords or Facebook ads? The good news is that you don't actually need to spend much money in order to grow your leads and create much more revenue for your small business.

The technique I am talking about comes straight from the playbook of the world's best salesman, as verified by being placed in the Guinness Book of World Records. Joe Girard sold 13 001 cars at a Chevrolet dealership between 1963 and 1978. He sold 1425 cars in 1973 alone and in one month sold 174 cars! Joe Girard passed away this year but his record will remain in the record books for all time since Guinness recently retired the category. 

How did he do it? Did he have a marketing agency working closely with him? Did he have an army of people canvassing the local area? Did he spend thousands on advertising in newspapers? No, no and no. Joe found customers and closed sales using one simple factor, referrals. You may think this is crazy. How could one man make so many sales just from referrals alone? Well, he used a technique unfamiliar to most of us in this modern dog-eat-dog world, he took an active interest in the lives of his prospects. You see, once Joe had the details of a potential lead he would send them cards, not cards raving about the latest sale or about how great his company was, just greeting cards. 

He would send every single person he had ever dealt with a card at Christmas, another at New Year, another for their birthday. In fact, Joe kept a database of every prospect's name, address, telephone number, spouse's birthday, children's birthday and more. More than this, he never sent them mass mailings. Each card was written by Joe directly to that person. So why was this technique so successful? By taking an active interest in their lives, Joe was able to build a tremendous amount of trust with his customers. After the third or fourth card from Joe, he was top of their minds when they next needed a car. They did not bother shopping around, they went straight to him because they felt this was a man they could trust, and if they could trust him they knew he would give them the best deal on the best car for them. Nothing more than that.

How to replicate Joe's technique

1) Follow up

Call your client within a week of providing a service to them. If they are happy with the service, ask them right there and then for a referral, if they are unhappy, ask how you may fix the problem. Note: where possible, ask the customer for an introduction to the lead and not just simply a name and number. The prospective lead will be much more willing to do business with you when they have been told about your service from a trusted friend or relative rather than a cold call from a stranger.

2) Keep yourself in their thoughts

Send emails and occasionally cards (who does not enjoy opening hand-written mail?) to your clients to let them know they are in your thoughts and you care about their well-being.

3) Upsell your services

It is far easier to sell to someone who has bought from you before. Occasionally send your past clients informed about new services or special offers. Don't be pushy in your communication, just let them know you have a service that may be of value to them. If you are a plumber, you can look at selling them an annual service contract for their boiler for a reduced fee. This creates recurring revenue without you constantly having to look for clients.

4) Avoid mass communication

If you use a mass-emailing service like MailChimp, make sure that you personalise each message with the customer's name. Joe would hand-write each card he sent. If it is feasible for you to send out individual emails to your clients then do so. They will appreciate the personal touch.

5) Provide great service to keep them coming back

All of this is for naught without great service from your end to back it up. You need a system to keep your work organised and your on-site staff scheduled. That is where we come in. IntelliServe is an application for managing work, quotes, invoices and, of course, leads. Developed by a services company to solve the issues associated with managing these aspects of a services business. It is ideal for plumbers, electricians, roof repair, HVAC, in fact, any company that routinely calls on clients to perform work at their premises. Email me for an online demo and a free assessment of your business's processes or visit our website

 

Plumbing Calculator

Pricing is the most important make-or-break decision for a plumbing business owner. Setting a price that is too high and you risk putting off potential clients. Setting it too low and you might as well be operating a non-profit organisation.  

 

A common mistake is to simply look at the market leader in the plumbing industry in your area and simply take a few Pounds off their rate. Not only does this not take into effect the cost of doing business but it does not accurately reflect the value that your service offers to the client.

 

Cost Pricing

In order to start determining the price you should charge, you need to determine how much it costs you to provide the service. You will need to do the following calculation:

 

Callout

How much does it cost you in petrol and, importantly, vehicle maintenance costs to drive to the client's premises. Bear in mind that over a maximum distance it makes little to no sense to do the work for any callout fee due to the time wastage in travel. A simple calculation for callout would be (remember that you will need to estimate some of these figures): 

  Petrol cost per mile (a simple calculator for your vehicle can be found courtesy of the AA at https://www.theaa.com/driving/mileage-calculator.jsp) or use the simple calculation: price per mile = Litres to fill your vehicle from empty x Fuel price per litre / Average number of miles your vehicle can do on a full tank.

  + Tyre costs: Price for a new set of tyres / the average number of miles you get out of a set of tyres

  + Services and MOTs: Cost per mile = (service bill / number of miles between services) + (Annual MOT cost / average miles done per year)

  + Taxes: Annual car tax / average miles per year

  + Insurance: Annual insurance fee / average miles per year

  + Interest on Vehicle Loan: Total interest paid per year / average miles per year

  + Depreciation: Depreciation is the total value lost of your vehicle over the period of a year /average miles per year (for an average depreciation per vehicle type go to https://www.themoneycalculator.com/vehicle-finance/calculators/car-depreciation-by-make-and-model/)

  +Time Cost: Time taken (On average this will be approximately 2 minutes per mile (assuming an average of 30 mph)) x hourly rate (more on this shortly) / 60

 

Once you have worked out your total costs you simply multiply it by the distance to the client. I suggest working out the price in 10 mile increments and then quote accordingly to standardise pricing.

 

Average Hourly Rate

Your hourly rate cost should be: Monthly fixed business costs, insurance, taxes, gas, electricity, advertising and any other fixed monthly expense / total billable hours per day (usually 4 - 6 per employee due to travel, admin, lunch, etc.) x 24 (24 working days average per month). Add to this the rate per employee to cover their salary: Monthly salary / total billable hours per day (usually 4 - 6 per employee due to travel, admin, lunch, etc.) x 24 (24 working days average per month).

 

Material Costs

Cost of materials required to do the job, including consumables.

 

Value Pricing

Now that you know how much you have to charge as a minimum to keep the lights on, the next step is to determine how much you should actually be charging in terms of the value you bring to the client. In order to do this, you need to put yourself in the shoes of your client. For example, you might work out that your hourly rate is £40 p/hr with a callout of £25 but when your client calls with water rapidly filling up their kitchen, the value of a fast, efficient response may be as much a £100 or more to a desperate client. In this case, you know you can easily ramp up the price of your emergency callout rate while not ripping off your client

 

Another aspect is your skill and rarity of service. If you are the only plumber in a 100-mile radius that can fix a specific boiler, you then know you can charge about average prices for your expertise as it is a rare commodity

 

Another point to consider is the cost of not using your service. If you have sophisticated leak detection equipment that can pinpoint a leak the nearest centimetre and all the other providers in your area use antiquated techniques that entail breaking through several square metres of bathroom tiles, even if your solution costs twice the price of theirs, the client will likely still use your service as it means they will not be forced to retile their entire bathroom.

 

Conclusion

It is vital that plumbers know what their costs are and how to work out their minimum fees but beyond that, plumbers should understand how their services add value to the client and how to price accordingly in order to be fairly remunerated for work done. Taking £5 off your competitor's price is a race to the bottom and will always end in tears. Remember, that you are not charging a client for an hour of your time but for the hours and hours you have spent over a lifetime perfecting your craft

 

Avoid costly mistakes in your plumbing business.
IntelliServe can fix your day-to-day business procedures to save you time and money.
We will help your business thrive.

Find Out More