Show notes from podcast episode 78.
Having support on the home front is critical. In this episode of the podcast Nick talks with his wife Michelle about the struggles along the way and how they were able to overcome the unique lifestyle that is entrepreneurship.
A few key takeaways:
#1 – Communication
Being on the same page on a day to day basis about feelings is important. If you let them fester and build up without talking them out it only gets worse and builds more stress. Keeping your family in the dark when it comes to risk, planning, goals and more isn’t fair to anyone.
#2 – Expectations
When expectations are unknowingly or unfairly put on one another its a recipe for disaster. Communicate what is expected, the plan and how each party can be held accountable and both people can feel good about the roles and division of labor.
#3 – Aligned goals and eagerness to sacrifice to achieve them.
Building a business is a family sacrifice. Everyone suffers initially. You’ll miss time with your wife. You’ll miss time with your kids. But its all about achieving the goal of financial and time freedom 3 or 5 years from now. You MUST have everyone on board and supportive of those goals. If one party is not on the same page it will be impossible to deal with the stress of business while also managing stress and resentment in the household.
#4 – Confiding / advice / blind spot recognition
My wife is great at spotting when things just aren’t right. She can walk into a room and feel tension and more often than not predict the parties involved and why. She’s an excellent person to lean on for advice because she knows me so well. She knows what I’m good at but more importantly she knows my blindspots. She knows what information I could be missing or ignoring when I’m about to make a big decision. She helps me identify and avoid the blind spots that could cause catastrophe.
Show notes from Podcast episode 77.
Its not easy. There will be sleepless nights. Its definitely a sacrifice. Kids are tough. I’m no expert. Take this with a grain of salt and get a lot of advice on this.
Going without sleep makes you delusional and emotional and it kills your critical thinking and decision making. I’ve been there. You’ll lose deals. You’ll mess up and lose sales. You’ll make mistakes that will cost you money.
Like with anything else thats really hard and worth doing its really easy to fall into a victim mentality. To point at the family stuff and blame it for lost business or use it to justify working less hard or less smart or giving up all together. Its easy to just stop working on your business and let it go away because family is more important and its “too much” to keep going. Its easy to think that the family needs you more than the business does and you should quit and make changes.
Thats the wrong way to think about it. Thats victim mentality. Thats what will get you back in a desk job working for the man 60 hours a week and missing the important stuff for the rest of your life.
Your number one job as a parent is to care for, love, and spend time with your family. Your second priority is to provide for them financially and pay the bills.
You don’t have to chose between your family and your business. You CAN do both. You can balance being a great parent and running a successful business. Its hard. But you CAN do it if you work smart and do the hard things.
You need to do some things that might help your baby sleep better so you can function and stay productive.
Do some reading. Babywise is the one we read but there are many that say the same thing. A 3 week old is pretty young to get serious about any kind of sleep training but there are some things you can do so here is my 2c.
We had our first one sleeping through the night at 12 weeks old and our 13 day old baby is sleeping in 2 hour chunks all night and not doing any significant crying. I can sleep all night and my wife can wake only to feed him. My 2 year old’s sleep routine: bath, brush teeth, goodnight hug and kiss and then I walk him into his room and lay him down on his big boy bed. No stories. No cuddling. No laying together. No rocking. He just says “night night daddy” and then falls asleep. He does this because we have worked with him on it and he is comfortable doing it.
First of all you and your wife need to be on the same page. If she isn’t on board you’re in for a long road and it will not work because she is with him more than you are. Remember its a tough time for her – especially the first baby. Emotions rule and logic is fleeting. Go easy on her and COMMUNICATE vs draw hard lines and making mean remarks about it being her fault.
The main concept: If you hold and coddle your kid all the time you are in for a nightmare. If you rock him to sleep every time you’re in trouble. If you aren’t comfortable letting your kid cry a little bit you’re in trouble. My friend still has to lay in his son’s bed for an hour every night and for every nap to get him to sleep. Most nights he wakes up and goes into mom and dad’s room and sleeps between them. Its ridiculous. Try having a normal sleep schedule and a normal relationship with your wife in that situation. They complain they have a tough kid but its 100% their own fault for allowing it.
Coddling and holding all the time develops horrible habits like co-sleeping and a ton of sleepless nights. Also creates kids that know a single cry can get them anything they want and they’ll use it until they are 10+ years old.
I’m not suggesting ignoring your children. I’m not suggesting letting them scream bloody murder for hours. I’m not saying you shouldn’t enjoy cuddles and holding. There is a fine line between neglect and working to form healthy habits.
I don’t really believe in “crying it out”. If you have to cry it out you haven’t worked hard enough during the days and leading up to that moment. There is a system called “eat, play, sleep”. The main concept is don’t feed the baby to sleep.
For a 3 week old it might just mean changing the diaper after the feed vs before it and then laying the baby in the bassinet before he is all the way to sleep. If the baby starts to wimper put your hand on his belly and talk to him. Don’t pick him up. If he starts to cry hard pick him up, calm him down, and then put him right back down in the bassinet.
I spent hours with our first one doing this pick up, put down routine. It helps to start doing this in the day time. Don’t hold the baby all the time! Don’t use a swing or vibrating bed. Don’t use those pouch things for the mom to have the baby up against her body all day.
Laying in a crib or bassinet without a warm mother’s touch is uncomfortable for babies. It takes a while for them to get used to it and get comfortable doing it. You have to work with them. You have to avoid holding and coddling the kid and most importantly get your wife on board with that. If the baby isn’t crying it should be in the pack n play, on the floor on a blanket, or in the bassinet.
If the baby is still just really not doing well its easy to think its colic. But it likely isn’t. Only like 3% of babies really have colic but around 40% of parents say their kids do. Its likely an insensitivity to something mom is eating. Cut dairy first. Then soy. There are lists online of common things that irritate babies. If the baby is formula fed then switch formulas cutting out key ingredients (proteins first). Go down the list. For my son it was dairy. We nipped it quickly and he was a new baby who wasn’t in pain anymore.
Hope this helps and good luck!
Luke is currently a 32 year old salaried employee from a national beverage dispenser repair company in the St. Paul/ Minneapolis area of Minnesota. In his current position as a “machine technician,” he has gained an invaluable skill set that will provide economic opportunity for the rest of his life. He also owns two rental properties, which allow him to live rent-free. During the winter of 2018, Luke started an appliance repair company, with which he is able to earn at least few hundred extra dollars a week. He has invested in tools, building a website, business cards, a business bank account, and more.
Luke’s ultimate goal is to build his real estate and appliance repair service businesses until he achieves true financial stability and independence in his thirties.
In order for Luke to achieve his dreams, he will have to save and work hard for 2-3 years while making sacrifices and budgeting his time. He will need to build relationships in order to grow his business.
Luke’s target customers are landlords and chain businesses that will frequently need repair and maintenance on residential and/or commercial appliances. Luke understands that providing service for businesses may be more predictable and lucrative because there is less variety in equipment and the business need the machines to work in order to satisfy their customer and make money.
Luke will need to find these land lords and businesses by being creative and networking with others. He will need to learn to be OK with rejection and persistently introduce himself to these ideal potential customers and give them his contact information. He will essentially need to act as a “door to door salesman.”
Luke will need to invest in his online presence by uploading various content, and researching and investing in online advertising and keywords. Providing great content and service will gain the trust of those interested in using his services.
Luke will need to provide top notch customer service by providing quality customer service, calling before he arrives on site, being punctual, sending thank you letters, etc. Building a loyal customer base will bring more business through word of mouth.
Luke will need to pay attention to what is most profitable and in 5 years and he should have his services narrowed down to working on just one type of machine. His business needs to be both profitable and scalable.
Luke wants to quit his full time job and work for himself as soon as possible, but needs to have a good amount amount of savings before doing so, as it reduces the risk. He can potentially wind down hours in his full time job or get a different job until he takes the leap of faith into self employment. Luke will need to focus, hustle, and sweat to get more out of life.
Show notes for podcast episode 74.
Hiring good employees is hard. Most service businesses grow to the workload capabilities of their owners and then stall. How do you break through that barrier?
#1 Charge more for your service
Provide a great service on a quick timeline and you can justify charging a premium. Then you can afford better employees and you have the financial stability to take on the overhead needed to delegate and build a healthy company.
It took me a while to realize that not every customer was for me. My service was for people who were willing to pay a little more for quality. The customers who wanted the lowest price weren’t my customers. I had to cut the emotional tie I had to trying to win every customer at all costs. Its often better to convert less leads at a higher price.
#2 Simplify the job so your employees can focus and thrive
Don’t have your employees do 10 jobs at once. They’ll be weak at all of them. Take what you can off of their plate so they can focus on doing what they do best. Centralize your billing. Centralize your quoting. Have one employee do all of the estimating and another do all of the punch list items, for example.
We had our drivers also unloading trucks, making invoices, making schedules and doing customer service. We took all of that off of their plate so they could focus on getting the 5 core tasks done the right way. It was a game changer.
#3 Train resourceful employees and empower them to make decisions
When they come to you with a question you have two options. Answer that question and solve that problem yourself or teach them how to solve the problem. When you make the investment in teaching the framework you use to make decisions two things happen – you learn which employees have potential and can be trusted and you create extensions of yourself.
Want more? Subscribe here to get short, concise emails from me once a week to help you build a better business. I also share a business idea like this each week to get you fired up and get your gears turning.
Staining decks is a business you can bootstrap for almost no money.
Buy a web domain and get hosting for $1.99 per month. Put together a WordPress website using a free template. Make a logo and some marketing material for free on Canva. Send a Google My Business postcard to your apartment and build out your profile. Get some business cards made at your local print shop or order them online for $30 for 1,000 of them. If you can scrape up $500 thats all you need to hire out perfectly good freelancers to do this stuff for you but I suggest learning it.
First lets think about who can refer you business? Who do people ask when they need to get their decks stained? How about carpenters that build decks… They aren’t interested in coming back and staining them. They just want to build them.
Go on Google and search “deck building + your town”. Make a list of the names, numbers and addresses of the top 100 results on Google.
Call them all. Tell them you are a local contractor who specializes in staining decks. Ask them about their business. Make conversation. Ask them if they would refer business your way to treat and maintain the decks they build.
The thing about deck building is you have to wait until the deck weathers for a few weeks/months and the lumber dries out before you stain it. Tell them you’re their guy. Send them an email. Maybe even offer to stain their home deck for free to show them what you can do. Do this for friends as well and push them to leave you Google Reviews.
Go see the ones that have offices. Walk into their businesses and give them your card and take theirs. Follow up with them relentlessly reminding them to send you business and that you’re happy to stain the decks they build.
Go on Zillow and Realtor and look at homes for sale. Track the ones with decks and look at the photos to see if they need stained or not. If they do wait till closing and then send a hand written letter to the house offering to stain their deck for a reasonable price. There are certain neighborhoods where all the homes were built around the same time and they all have decks. When they’re 5 years old or so go around and knock on every door. Introduce yourself and tell them you’d be happy to give them a quote. Give them your card. If they don’t answer the door put a door hanger on it and move on to the next house.
Go see the top 20 realtors in town. They could be big referrals of business for you as well. Walk into their offices and introduce yourself. Tell them you do affordable deck staining and can turn them around quickly. Realtors know a nice stained deck looks a lot better and shows better than an old ratty one. They’ll start recommending you to people listing their homes as part of the “sale prep”. They’ll also recommend you to people who just bought houses with decks that need stained. If they really like you and you form a connection they’ll even tell clients during home walk throughs “Oh don’t worry about that deck it will look brand new if you stain it and I know a guy/gal who can do it for you at a great price!”. Offer to stain the deck’s of the realtors for a really low price in exchange for some referrals and maybe a Google Review with a photo of your work!
Get out and start staining decks. Do it with only the basics at first and upgrade equipment as you go. You’ll need to wash and prep the decks before you stain them, usually a few days before. There are lots of resources online about preparing your surface. You can spray deck cleaner on it and then scrub or hose it off. Be careful not to ruin a deck with a power washer so do your research first. Cover areas in the splash zone with cheap painters plastic.
You can up-charge things like algae treatments and speciality stains, decorative light installs, painting, board replacement, nail/screw replacement.
Take before and after photos of every deck you stain. Make little video clips of your work and upload them to Youtube. GeoTag them and put them in a gallery on your website and upload them to your Google My Business page. Get customers to include these photos in their Google Reviews. Ignore social media and yelp – not in your 80/20 for getting new customers.
Customers will start to come. Contractors that build hundreds of decks every year may start using you to stain the decks or recommending you to the customers. Realtors will start sending you business. Make sure to THANK the people who refer you business and send them notes and maybe even gifts. If they feel valued they’ll keep recommending you.
You’ll start to gain some momentum. Start to get some equipment and maybe even a work van to haul your stain and washing equipment.
If you answer the phone every time with a smile and turn quotes around quickly you’ll be leaps and bounds ahead of your competition and you’ll be able to charge a higher price. If you send clean cut employees who are friendly and do your invoicing online you’ll be in a league of your own and customers will start to recommend you to all of their friends. Use Google Maps to calculate deck square footage (right click > measure distance > click 4 corners of deck to get area and then quote them right on the phone. Zillow also has photos of a TON of houses so check to see if there is a listing and you’ll often get photos.
Get before and after photos on your website like this in slider format. That will be awesome for you to showcase your work.
You’re on your way. Its time to hire some employees. Summer is the busy time so consider hiring students. Put a process in place to cover everything in harms way from potential stain splashing. Speed wins in this game. Give your employees the tools they need to go quickly and see if you can give them bonuses for working quickly. Use a phone app to track their hours AND their location so you can not only keep them honest but analyze labor expenses on a job by job basis as well as lost time (on no job at all) to traveling, lunch, etc. The data will help you get better at quoting.
Don’t feel like you need to get every single job and don’t get emotional about losing bids. Converting less leads at a higher price is often better than converting more leads at a lower price. There are certain customers you don’t want. The ones that want to beat you up on price. The ones that aren’t willing to pay extra for fast turnaround and a quality trustworthy employee on their property. Avoid being a subcontractor for this reason. They only care about price. Your value add is quality and speed. Deal with the customer directly wherever possible.
Grow from there. Maybe expand to other services like sealcoating pavement, gutter cleaning or power washing!
Don’t like staining decks? Take a look at this list and take your pick.
Show notes from episode 70 of the podcast.
If people would just get out from behind their computer and look around them they would have no problem finding opportunities galore. I started my business hauling boxes up and down skinny stairwells during finals week. Sweating my butt off. I worked hard physically for a year or so then kept working hard from behind a computer. Now I don’t do much work at all and the business is larger and does better than it ever has ($3MM in revenue at a ~20% margin).
GET OUT FROM BEHIND YOUR COMPUTER AND LOOK AT THE PHYSICAL SERVICES PEOPLE PAY FOR EVERY DAY.
I am working to finish my basement right now. Can’t get anyone to come out and even give me a quote. The trades I understand but you name it – drywall, tile, flooring, framing, cleaning, landscaping. Anything that requires a little skill or labor is so massively undersupplied right now. I called 10 tile setters (to do my shower) and not a single one even returned my call. If one person would answer the phone they could charge me $300 per hour and I’d have no choice.
When I moved into my house the same thing. Cleaners and carpet shampooers were impossible to get on short notice. Lawn care companies didn’t return my calls. Pest control companies the same thing.
You are competing against people with no websites and no management training. They run businesses like its 1985. They don’t market. They don’t utilize software tools that could make them way more efficient. They don’t charge enough money.
But my background is in management and software and digital marketing. I’m a techy! I can hear the cries already. Thats GREAT! Even as a local service business owner you won’t be doing any of the work yourself beyond the first few months. You’ll be on your computer. You’ll be building systems. You’ll be implementing new tech and digital marketing and software. You will be competing with someone who doesn’t even know how to hire a freelancer or run a CPC campaign and sends bids by fax. I’m not joking. I got asked what my fax number was and my lawn care guy at my storage facility sends me invoices in .jpg format by taking a picture on his flip phone of the printed invoice he then mails to me.
You don’t have to look far for opportunities. All I’m asking is that you look up from your computer screen and give the physical world a second look through your entrepreneurial lens.
Show notes from Podcast episode 69.
Hi this is Drew from Brisbane – one of my business ideas is around beer line tap cleaning. There is a franchise in my area that I could buy into for a reasonable price. With the fees you pay they provide support and training however I have a technology background and I feel like I could do a lot of the things myself. What are your thoughts on franchises?
First of all you have a lot of questions you should ask and research you should do before you make the jump and purchase a franchise. A lot of them are great but others are designed for the franchisors to make money and the franchisees are left to figure out how to pay the fees.
There are two main pieces of the puzzle here to consider. The first is how your business looks and feels from the outside from the perspective of a customer. The second is how your business operates and looks and feels from the inside from the perspective of an employee.
Franchises hand you that structure out of the box. They hand out an appearance of professionalism to instantly put in front of customers. They also hand you a guidebook and a set of operational procedures on how the company should work from the inside. If this happens then that happens. If that happens then this happens. For any possible situation.
Lets start with #1 – the customer side of things. While the company can give you a legitimate website and software to manage your customers, getting customers is not a gift franchises can give you. They don’t just automatically get 300 calls a month heading for your phones. If you want to open up a franchise because you think its a sure fire way to get customers walking in the door you’ll be sadly mistaken. You’ll still need to do a lot of marketing and have your own sales strategy. They can likely do some of it for you but they’ll charge you a premium for that and you’ll still need to pay for the clicks or commercials or whatever you implement.
Then #2 – they hand you systems to manage your team. They have a customer relationship management system for collecting payment and sending bids. They have an organizational chart with positions and job titles. They have training materials to get employees up to speed on completing the job. They might have a call center for you to help with customer service in a centralized location. This is all important to consider and really try to figure out the value of this to you in your current situation.
The tools they give are often outdated and expensive. Before CRMs like Jobber were available for $100 per month companies were forced to spend hundreds of thousands to design their own software solutions that are now outdated and don’t do things like GPS tracking, text message customer notifications and other things.
The fees are brutal. In most cases you’re paying branding fees, equipment markups, marketing fees and franchise fees that can total 10-15% of gross sales + an upfront buy in. That sounds reasonable until you think about the bite out of your profit margin that comes out to be! 15% of gross revenue on a business that has a 30% profit margin (standard in most service businesses) would be 50% of your profits! These fees are forever as well. Operate a successful branch for 10 years and you’ll have spent millions in fees that would have otherwise went directly into your pocket or reinvested in the business.
You have very little control. There are often terms in the agreement that make you a drag along partner who is forced to follow along for any rebranding or corporate decisions that are made. Want website upgrades? Too bad. Want new updated tools? Not your call. Want to stop paying for a billboard or radio advertisements? Hush up already.
The investment and the risk are higher. If you aren’t a semi-experienced manager with capital and a plan there is some risk involved in buying a franchise. You’ll have immediate bills to pay. Fees to the franchise. Mandatory equipment purchases. Insurance. Etc. There is no taking your time and easing into it here in a low risk way.
Getting customers is the hardest part of running a business in the early days and while you might get some help here it will largely be up to you. You’ll need to execute and fund your own marketing.
Things to find out:
What kind of content marketing and SEO strategy are they implementing? Some franchises do a notoriously weak job of ranking for organic search results. I recommend hiring a freelancer to actually do an SEO audit on the company’s website before you buy a franchise. They’ll be able to tell you how good or how bad of a job they’re doing getting ranked in local search engines.
What kind of software are they using? Get a demo of Jobber and then also get a demo of whatever software your franchise provides? Does Jobber do the same things? Is it up to date?
What is the fee structure?
How much control will I have – if any?
You’ll want to see profit and loss statements from current franchisees. How are those branches performing?
There is generally no obligation to look into a franchise and begin speaking with the company about this and you can learn a lot. You’ll find out really quickly if they are working hard to sell franchises or working hard to support the franchisees and build a system that can be a win win for everyone. Unfortunately there are a lot out there that have the #1 goal of selling franchises and everything else comes second.
So the questions you should consider:
How hard would it be for you to build a website and some systems to manage your customers?
How hard would it be for you to acquire the equipment and develop simple systems to get started?
How hard would it be for you to implement a great content marketing and SEO strategy to get your business ranking in your local area?
How hard would it be for you to implement your own marketing strategies to drum up some early business?
What are the advantages of being backed by a major brand in your potential space? Do people prefer a national brand or are they happy to shop local and is it a level playing field?
How profitable are the branches that are currently operating in cities with similar demographics? What are the worst performing branches? Why are they doing poorly?
If this happens then what? If that happens then what? What if I want to sell? What if I start losing money? What if I want to purchase and embroider my own employee uniforms? All of those unique situations should be discussed with the franchise. I also recommend an attorney to take you through the process if you’re interested in finalizing something after your initial audit and research.
As time goes on and technology gets better it gets easier and easier to get the tools set up to appear professional in the eyes of customers AND set up systems inside your business to organize and manage your team. The value proposition of a franchise in a local service business (being a business in a box) is shrinking every day.
Out of the box software as a service is getting incredibly powerful and incredibly cheap. It’s easier than ever to operate a business from anywhere with location services and blazing fast internet anywhere.
It used to be really hard to find specialized work to help you with the day to day tasks of running a business. Content marketers, web developers, accountants, bookkeepers, graphic designers are all available in the form of freelancers at very reasonable rates to help you where your skillset lacks. Gone are the days of needing to hire all of these people in your office in your local town or depend on your franchise offices to take care fo this for you.
We live in a time where everyone wants to spend massive amounts of money on digital marketing and social media campaigns. While it can be effective and generate a positive ROI its competitive and also simpler than ever to outsource to a digital marketing freelancer**. I personally believe the marketing opportunities right now are in the local grassroots guerrilla marketing and sales approach.** There aren’t many advantages to be part of the franchise when it comes to marketing and sales unless they have a specific strategy you like.
I personally would not buy a service franchise unless there was a special opportunity to do so or a unique circumstance where you had the opportunity to take over a currently thriving business or one you could turn around.
Cleaning windows sounds silly but its a great low cost business with the potential to help you buck the rat race and can be a great first business to build.
Before you do anything make a list of competitors in your area. Call them all and ask 100 questions. Ask how they price. Ask how many crews they have. Pretend to be a concerned customer. When can they come out and give you a quote?
If the calls go unanswered or they are too busy to clean your windows in a timely manner that is a good sign. If the main companies don’t have websites that is a good sign. If they don’t have videos on youtube that is a good sign. If they don’t take credit card and don’t have a payment portal online that is a good sign.
Proceed onward if the competition is weak and you think you can carve out a piece of the pie. Remember you don’t have to be the only show in town. There are a lot of customers. You just need a few of them. Don’t let one or two decent companies scare you off. Competition is a good thing. That means there is a market here that is thriving.
Buy a domain name and hosting for $1.99 per month. Build a website on WordPress. Make a logo and some other materials on Canva. Order 2,500 business cards and 2,500 door hangers. You’re going to need all of them.
Send a Google My Business (GMB) postcard to your home and build your profile. Upload photos. Create posts weekly. Get a Google Voice number to communicate with customers and get your domain email address forwarded to GMail so you can use the tools there. Check out this list of tools to use in the early days.
Not sure what to charge? No problem. You already called your competitors and did a the best market research you could ever do. Note all of the companies and make an excel spreadsheet of how they charge both businesses and residential jobs. Do they charge more for 2nd story windows? What about screens? Record it all.
Decide where you are going to price. Don’t be the cheapest. If you want to get early customers by dropping your price thats fine but long term you don’t want to be the cheapest. More on that later.
Time to go find customers.
Wake up at 7am on Saturday and put the 2500 door hangers in a backpack. Go to the nicest neighborhood in town and put a hanger on every door. Then the second nicest neighborhood. Then the third. Then the houses that are all pretty close together downtown. Spend the entire day hanging these things on doors. You’re going to be WORN OUT by the end of the day.
On Sunday wake up and get in the car with the 2500 business cards. The retail stores are open. Walk in every single one in town and ask for the manager. Introduce yourself and tell them you’d love to clean all of their windows for free to show them what you could do and work to earn the contract to clean them on a contractual basis. Give them your business card but more importantly TAKE THEIR CARD. When you have their card you can follow up with them and send them an email once a month. Don’t stop sending them emails.
If you can get a little time off during the week go see the non retail businesses. Do the same thing as above to the dentist offices and the service companies and anyone else with a store front. The realtors are the target here because they could possibly recommend you business. When someone is trying to sell a home or commercial property it shows much better with clean windows. Walk in and introduce yourself. Give them a card. Take their card and add them to your lead book and follow up with them often.
The people you meet and have good conversations with consider sending them a hand written thank you note. Put a rating system on the back of the cards so you can remember who you had good conversations with. The note will blow them away.
If you feel like getting extra gritty let’s do some sidewalk chalk marketing. Next time there is an event in your town like a fair or a parade wake up at 6am and head downtown with a box of chalk. Write on the ground (
Notice anything about finding customers? It’s HARD WORK. It’s uncomfortable. You have to SELL your services. Introverted? Too bad. Take an acting class. Turn it on. You HAVE to do it.
Let’s talk about online presence. Ignore social media. If you have the budget for Google Adwords that is a great option but if you have no budget no problem. Let’s focus on small business content marketing. The goal here is to get a ton of valuable content on your website, YouTube and your Google My Business listing.
Remember that this stuff takes TIME to come together. You can’t just build a website and the next day show up on the first page of Google. This will take 6 months minimum. If you can do this online stuff 6 months prior to launching your marketing efforts thats a good idea.
Build a nice looking WordPress website with some cool features like this. Write an article on your website titled the ultimate guide to window cleaning in [your city]. Make it 2,000 words or longer with photos and a video as well. Make it extremely useful showing people how to clean windows, what soap to use, what equipment to use, how to clean windows from the inside and more.
Make YouTube videos with [your town] Window Cleaning in the title. It can be a 2 minute video of just yourself introducing your company and talking about what you do. Make a lot of videos with different little clips about your company and with keywords in the title. Put the videos on your website and link to your website and GMB from the videos.
Nurture your GMB listing. Get reviews from happy customers. Ask them to upload photos on the reviews. Complete the listing 100% with videos, pictures, specials, hours, website links and more. Post on it DAILY early on.
Customers will start to call you. If you can’t answer the call because you are at work thats no problem. Set up a VERY professional voicemail greeting telling them you’d LOVE to earn their business. Call them back at your earliest convenience.
Book all of your early jobs on weekends.
Friday after work walk in Lowe’s and buy some dawn dish soap and some vinegar. Also pick up a 5 gal bucket, an 8 ft pole, scrubber, squeegee, scraper and sponge. Thats it. $50 worth of supplies. With the hosting and business cards you’re still probably less than $200 in.
Start to get out and work in your free time. Get a feel for it. Take care of customers. Learn as you go.
Buy some yard signs and ask customers if you can put them in their lawn for a week after the service. That will help spread the word.
Exude eager professionalism when you communicate and service customers. Genuine excitement for the opportunity to help them. Smiles. Firm handshakes. Laughter. Put on a show of how passionate you are about cleaning windows. This isn’t your style? Figure out how to make it your style.
Write handwritten THANK YOU letters to anyone who uses your service. Word of mouth will be your best marketing. If you blow your customers away and are a like-able person you will get referrals and they will come over time. Business is about momentum. It takes consistent hard work over time.
When you start to get some momentum get a CRM like Jobber. Do your billing online. Set up notifications and invoices to be auto delivered when you complete a service. Set up an awesome quote request form on your website. Your competitors aren’t doing this.
Soon you will be busy and it will be time to hire some help. Recruiting employees is much like earning business. You need to go find people who would make good employees and convince them to work for you. Taking applications on Indeed or Craigslist isn’t going to cut it. Keep business cards in your pocket at all times and introduce yourself to anyone who is clean cut and looks like they would make a decent employee. The trick is to not ask them if they want a job but if they know anyone who wants a job.
To grow and scale the business you must charge more than your competitors. If customers want rock bottom prices and flakey companies they can go elsewhere. If they are willing to pay for a reliable company who does quality work and they can trust in their homes they call you.
Don’t get emotional about getting every customer. It’s a numbers game. The ones who beat you up on price aren’t the ones for you.
If you charge a higher price you can afford to pay better employees. You can get nicer equipment. You can invest in the company. You can scale it easier and work less if you have more money to delegate things.
And thats all I got. Does it get any lower risk than that? Get out there and give it a shot!
Show notes from podcast episode 67.
The first one started out by opening a single pizza restaurant with two friends in a small town in Ohio. 4 years later he sold 30 pizza restaurants. Then he built and sold the next business and the next one after that. Now he is a wealth manager and makes a living investing for and advising mega wealthy families and buying and selling real estate and businesses.
Another started making caricature t shirts of NBA players and selling them out of the trunk of his car. Ended up getting the contract to provide the NBA champions with custom T Shirts (and selling them to all the fans) when they won the title. Sold the clothing brand a few years later and was one of the first investors in the planet fitness franchise and made boat loads of money at their IPO and now buys shopping centers in major metro cities.
Another started by remodeling his friends house for him in a super small southern indiana country town. Then he built a house for himself. Then his neighbor. Then another neighbor. Then a restaurant. Then a local doctors office. Now he builds, owns and leases hospitals and nursing homes to nationwide operators for $150k a month and has a portfolio of 30 of them.
What I learned from them…
Start really really small. Don’t try to change the world on day 1. Business is like a snowball effect and it grows with time. The first step should be doing something simple and risk free with the goal of quitting your job and getting your time back.
Then you move on to the next thing and the money grows and the opportunities grow. We read biographies of Steve Jobs and Elon Musk and watch shark tank and everyone thinks they need a new revolutionary world changing idea to be an entrepreneur.
All of these people started out super super small and LOCAL doing things that other people were already doing.
It’s all about not being afraid to work hard on something others would think is boring and “unscalable”. Get your feet wet. Learn entrepreneurship. Make some money. Learn to sell and interact with people and manage expectations and deal with money.
Then keep your eyes and ears to the ground and make really good logical (not emotional) decisions on what opportunities you should say NO to and what opportunities you should say YES to.
Show notes from Podcast Episode 66.
Hey Nick it John from Vancouver. What are your thoughts on taking over a family business?
I think if you analyze it right and take the right steps its an amazing opportunity to own a business that is years ahead of one you might otherwise start. You can also likely get it at a fair price, have an idea of the inner workings, trust the parties involved and make a deal with low risk and a lot of upside.
It can also be hell. Personal relationships can deteriorate if expectations aren’t aligned with reality or you don’t communicate properly with the necessary parties before jumping in.
The opportunity to take over is a semi-successful family small business that has a lot of room for improvement is a very common situation. There is a LOT to unpack here. Lets dive in.
First you must keep in mind that there is a massive human element to this. In stressful life-changing situations people are not always logical beings – they are emotional. Family and business intermingling creates a very emotional situation. Your family member has likely built this business from scratch and it has been their entire life for a long time. It is their identity and their legacy. Their customers and employees are like family. Their retirement is likely tied up in the corporate bank account. You are taking a chance and changing your entire life and career path to take this over. Two very emotional parties right?
Remember something very important. Most forms of conflict and resentment stem from expectations that are not met. Somebody has expectations of someone else that likely aren’t properly communicated (most often they are assumed). People may have totally different ideas of how something should work. People may have different goals. People may have not clearly outlined day to day responsibilities.
The main theme of this post is that it’s all about effective communication and managing expectations. You have to figure out what everyone in your family EXPECTS to happen. Not only your family member that owns the business but also your siblings.
If you properly communicate and lay out everyones expectations on paper, manage those expectations and make decisions based on this information you will be much more likely to succeed. It’s a lot more likely to shake out without anger or resentment or a family feud when money is involved. You’d be amazed at how many families end up resenting each other and going to court over things just like this. Don’t let it happen to you.
You first need to do some introspection and figure out exactly what you want out of this deal by asking yourself a series of questions.
Does it align with your career and professional goals? Does it have growth potential? What would need to happen to make it worth it to you?
What is your relationship like with your family who owns the business? What are your personality types? Would you get along in co-management roles?
Do you have the skills and ability to take over? Will you need your parent on board for a while to keep it above water?
Many times the business is a job for the owner. It isn’t set up to run without them if they quit? What are your thoughts on this matter from the outside looking in?
What is the future of the business if you don’t take over? Is it large enough to run itself? Would your family member be able to sell it on the open market?
What improvements would you make the the business? Digital marketing and web presence are likely some improvements you can make but keep something in mind. There is a good chance the business doesn’t have a customer problem. They probably bring in plenty of revenue and have their hands full keeping up as it is.
Building a nice website, running online ads and getting on the first page of Google sounds great and all but thats not the hard part of running a service business.
Every business has either a customer problem (not enough sales) or an employee problem (not able to deliver solid service to the customers you have). Which problem does this business have? Which one of these factors is limiting the growth?
The employees and the internal systems are the hard part. What would you do to improve the business in this regard? How would you organize the company structure? How would you recruit and train employees? How would the pricing the business charges the customers need to change to make this happen? The Sweaty Startup is dedicated to helping solve these problems but they are complicated and they take a certain level of management know-how to do.
The point I’m trying to make here is that you aren’t going to just put together a website and some digital presence and all of the sudden add a ton of value to the business. The real value is being able to deliver and build an organization with systems and processes to solve the employee problems and be able to deliver these services. So make a plan for that and get serious about this part of it because its the key.
Before you do anything else put pen to paper and organize your own wants, desires, goals and plans. Going into this without a plan is not a good idea. Saying to yourself “oh I’ll just get started working and we’ll figure out the details later” is not a good idea. Figure out what you want before moving on to the next step.
Think of this as an investor presentation. You are going to walk into a meeting with the person who owns this family business and tell them exactly what you’d like to happen for it to be worth it to you to get involved.
Some considerations to make while making your plan and building your presentation:
It’s not all about the money but it’s an important part of the equation that is often ignored. Don’t name a price off the bat but realize that it needs to be agreed upon before you start working in the business. Think of it as an option. If I start working now I have the option to buy the business for this price 6 months from now or a year from now. The last thing you want is to start adding a ton of value and make the business way more valuable and then end up having to pay a higher price or disagreeing on the price when it comes time to ink the transaction.
Consider doing a trial period. Have all the hard conversations with the necessary parties and then come on board either part time or full time with a trial period and the option to leave. Begin to work alongside your family member. Get a feel for the business. Dive in and start analyzing the books. Get feedback from customers and employees. Get to know the inner workings of it all.
When you uncover information that changes the initial discussion or the agreed upon price or the future of the company have scheduled times to discuss them.
COMMUNICATION IS THE KEY.
A quick note – if the business is very small or you aren’t taking it over this may not make sense. There is a difference between going back to work for the family business and going back to take it over. Sometimes you should just jump in. Maybe you’re just out of college or not even going to college. Maybe you don’t have a lot to bring to the table. Maybe you’re unable to make a plan because there is so much unknown. Look at it as any other opportunity in this case.
But if you’re leaving your job and relocating your family and beginning to take risks and invest capital its worth making a plan right off the bat. This is what I’d do:
Go meet with your parents first. Tell them your plan. Tell them you’d like to take over the business on these terms starting with a 6 month trial period. Tell them exactly what you expect. Tell them or ask them exactly what they can or do expect from you. Discuss your job description and responsibilities. Tell them your goals. Tell them or ask them exactly how the hierarchy will work and what you want input on and what is non-negotiable.
Play the what-if game. What if the business fails? What if we miss our revenue targets? What if Dad and I disagree on a big decision? Who gets the final say? What if the family member wants to stay involved and still needs income? What will the salary be? When will they retire? Are they living on the business? What if one of us gets sick? What if the other siblings also want to come get involved? What if somebody goes bankrupt? What if somebody stops working and gets lazy? What if the business needs to borrow money? What if I do a trial period and decide I don’t want to move forward with the purchase? What if the terms would need to change if something is uncovered during the trial period?
Lay it all out there. Have the hard conversations. Discuss all the difficult situations BEFORE they happen so you are in agreement and can get on the same page with each other’s expectations.
Then it’s time to talk about money. How much is the business worth and what will be the payment terms? Will your family member finance it or will you need to get outside financing? Will it be a gift? Are the terms favorable because you are a family member?
I’m not going to go into the rabbit hole of trying to tell you how to value a business. It depends on so many factors. Many times you can come to a fair figure by having a discussion. Sometimes you should get some consulting and pay for it.
If you are going to take over the business and you want to control it its often best to purchase it outright. Feel free to get creative with your financing and terms. Maybe put an option in place to purchase the business one year from now for an agreed upon price and on agreed upon terms and then do a one year trial period to get in and feel it all out. If you like what you see maybe you execute the option and go forward or maybe you walk away.
Talk to your siblings. Don’t make the same mistake that so many others make. It happens all the time – somebody is given a business or they purchase it at a heavy discount with favorable terms without even cluing the siblings into what is going on. They find out later and they are rightfully upset because it wasn’t fair. Getting a major financial gift from a parent, especially an aging parent without an equal gift going to your other living siblings is a great way to make everyone upset and even bring upon legal action.
When you discuss and organize how everything will look with your family member who will be selling or giving you the business the next step is to have a conversation with any living siblings and their spouses. Tell them what you’re doing. Tell them how much you’ll pay. Tell them how you came to the number. Tell them what type of financing you’ll use.
If the thought of sitting down with your siblings and explaining this makes you uncomfortable its not a good sign. You’re likely getting favorable terms that aren’t fair to the other siblings. Ignoring this and proceeding onward is a horrible idea.
Get them in the loop with the entire family involved so people can voice approval or disapproval of any part of the deal.
If there is no record of a conversation it didn’t happen. I always advise spending the money on an attorney to help you put together a purchase and operating agreement. It’s worth the heartache and stress that could be caused down the road if people flip sides or everything wasn’t exactly clear. While good communication helps it means nothing for the future if you don’t have any record of it.
Any two parties, family or not, can totally disagree on how and when certain things were discussed if there is no record of it. People forget things. People reconsider things when more money is involved. People change their mind and go back on their word if its convenient to do so.
In the very least draft out the notes discussed with all family members, siblings included, and distribute by email. Ask them to read the email and send a confirmation email back to you. Thats a good way to have record of what was discussed as a worst case fall back. They’ll voice miscommunications right then and you can iron out any kinks before things get big and emotions get involved. An email is not something that can hold up in court but it’s a lot better than nothing.
Don’t hesitate to get some outside consulting when going through a process like this.Maybe an appraisal for the business valuation. Maybe a consultant who will charge by the hour to come in and help both parties sort through the details of how it will all work.
In closing… you might think after saying all of this I’d say it’s a bad idea to take over a family business. That couldn’t be further from the truth. I think it could be an excellent opportunity and you should definitely consider doing it.
Just make sure to communicate effectively and consider these factors and you’ll set yourself up to have a great experience and a successful business for many years to come!
Show notes from Podcast Episode 65.
“Hey Nick this is Andy from Louisville KY and I’m a wedding videographer. I’m looking to expand into the corporate market making videos for small businesses, real estate developments and similar things. How can I break into this market?”
Get lots of advice from people in the industry but I’ll give you a perspective you probably won’t get anywhere else on this. I’m assuming you already know how to make great video, edit it, put it online and show it off with a flashy website.
Videography is competitive because it’s a passion project. A lot of people love doing video and the equipment needed to record and produce quality content is getting cheaper and cheaper. I almost put this business on my “Businesses I hate list” but then thought better of it. Why?
This business is about sales and marketing. It’s not about the quality of the work. Any college student with a G7 and a hobby can shoot and edit above average video. Don’t get me wrong its important to do quality work. But many are racing to the bottom on price and going hungry because they can’t find work.
Ask anyone who has built a large video production agency what their key to success was. They’ll try to say we just did quality work. Wrong. Somebody was a good salesman. Somebody could lead others on a shoot and walk into a room and convince business owners they NEEDED what they were selling.
SALES AND MARKETING AND NETWORKING. If you can do this stuff and master it you’ll be different. You are generally competing against artists with visions. You aren’t competing against salesmen. That needs to be your play. Focus on sales and getting uncomfortable and building relationships and ASKING for business and you will thrive.
You need to get out and get face to face with potential clients. Thats the only way. Cold emailing won’t work. Cold calling wont work. Making great video and uploading it to instagram and youtube won’t work.
This is very low risk. Put up a bare bones website. Get some business cards. We’re talking $500 or less to get it going and less if you want to put some time into it. Don’t register your business yet. Don’t incorporate yet. Don’t worry about insurance yet. Do all that after you get some business.
As soon as you get that done get out and find people who you know could benefit from your work. Nearly every small business in America needs a nice 1 minute promo video on the front page of their website to gain trust with customers. They need it for the YouTube search results. They need it to help their business grow.
Start local. In your town only. You have to be able to reach out and get face to face with these people to increase your odds of getting some momentum. Analyze local businesses. Find an amazing website like this and then use that to sell other local businesses like this. Strike fear in the business owner that they are falling behind and they’re missing the future of media and online sales because they really are and we all know it.
Find those businesses and walk in the door. Get on the phone. Get a meeting. Get out of your comfort zone. You’ll get rejected. Its a numbers game. On to the next one. Do whatever ritual you need to do in between meetings to keep moving. Take business cards from all of them and follow up relentlessly. Sell sell sell.
Remember that there are two types of businesses. Business that don’t want to pay very much for a video and businesses that do. Don’t waste your time with the low margin businesses or the owners that don’t value your work. The ones that want a video that requires 40 hours of work for $500. Ignore them. They’ll nickel and dime you and it will be tempting to take the work. Especially in the early days. Thats fine for a while to build your portfolio but its critical that you start telling them no and walking away when you spot them.
An introvert? I don’t care. Take an acting class. Find a way to be personable and talk to people about their business and their life. Smile and exaggerate your facial expressions and your body language. SHOW GENUINE EXCITEMENT about what you are doing and the kind of difference it can make. Make it clear you are EAGER to help and you really know your stuff.
Read Never Split the Difference by Chris Voss. Sounds stupid because its coined a negotiation book but its Sales 101. Mirroring and keeping them talking about them. Every sales situation is a very emotional negotiation. Master the EMOTION of it.
This is what 99% of videographers aren’t doing. They suck at sales. They have anxiety making cold calls. They hate talking to strangers and especially hate selling to strangers. They’ll never walk into a business and try to get a sale. They want to do the art and be the artist. But remember this business isn’t about the art. Its about sales and marketing.
You aren’t selling video. You are selling trust. You are selling a first impression on a customer.
Get out and sell the crap out of it and you will be successful.
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Show notes from Podcast Episode 64 where Nick mentors a mobile car mechanic who just quit his job to start growing his young company on a full time basis. The main theme here is an in person sales approach to gaining early clients.
Targeting a service technician like a plumber or lawn care guy with 8 vehicles in the back. His vehicles make him money every day so he can’t sideline them to take them in somewhere. If you gain trust with a company like that he’ll do $10k every year in maintenance with you and maybe more.
You can get scheduled and recurring business. Easier to plan staffing around. Easier to bulk purchase equipment and make money there as well.
Take the Max Maher approach and make a list of 500 local businesses that could possibly use your service.
Walk in to each business and introduce yourself and what you do. Tell them you do reliable mobile work at really great prices. Try to have a meaningful conversation with them. Ask them about business. Leave your card and more importantly TAKE THEIR CARD. Follow up with them. Find out the owner and send him emails or maybe even a little gift. Keep following up just letting him know you are there next time he has a problem and needs help with.
Strategic partnerships – mobile car detailers. While you’re doing the brake job he is cleaning out the interior of the car and waxing it. You can help him get in with the fleets and he can in turn drop off your card in the cup holder of every car he cleans. You both have the same market.
Get connected with dealers or scrap yards. A lot of people end up abandoning cars when the repairs are too high or the vehicle is otherwise totaled. Be able to recommend someone to help them out there and in turn have the guy at the junkyard handing out your card. Junkyards have a lot of DIY guys coming in which isn’t necessarily your target market (especially if they want to source parts and think they know everything).
So what do you do? Add value first. Offer discounts on routine maintenance at first so you can gain trust.
Nurture the Google My Business location and write some really good content. Keep your iphone on you while you’re doing jobs and record little videos around the keywords in your town – the content is a lot less important than the volume and keywords. Brake job. Suspension job.
Work hard to get a good part supplier. If you specialize in brakes and know you’re going to do a lot of certain kinds see if you can negotiate better prices on parts.
I’m usually against a physical shop but in this case it might be a worthwhile goal to build into. Consider a 5 year plan of having a physical shop and work towards that. There are a number of advantages here – real estate tax advantages if you buy the property as well.
You can depreciate your building and write off your mortgage interest. Appreciation. Your building will become more valuable over time.
You can borrow against it because it’s a physical asset.
Lean out your life for now while you build the business.
If your end goal is global domination and scaling this business. People pay for speed and convenience. There is no time that you need someone like you more than if you’re stranded on the side of the road.
I know you said you don’t do roadside work because its not safe. Is there any way you could make it safer?
Long term you need to be doing this work because if you can build up volume and have enough coming in to keep someone busy your margins here would be MUCH better. People will pay $700 for a brake job if you do it at their house but they’ll pay $1200 if you do it for them on the side of the road. Contractors want this too. Their time is money.
Maybe a modified tow rig that can simply pull them to a safe location? I think long term you might want to have a tow rig that is also outfitted with the tools so you can tow the vehicle to a safe spot and get to work or tow it back to your shop for major work.
First hire should be an admin. Someone who knows enough to answer questions but focuses on billing and compliance and helping you from a computer.
But I have a warning. You need to start thinking about how you’d get a second mechanic on and how much money you’ll need to be bringing in to make that happen. Budget it and run cashflows of the true costs to have a second vehicle that you own with a full time employee in it.
It can start part time. You can walk into shops and hand out your card asking if guys are looking for weekend work. You should make your hiring at current shops.
Keep focusing on bringing in business. It will be really easy for you to get up to where you’re making $100k a year on your own labor. Itll be really really hard to make a hire and take your life back.
Do what you do best. Say no to a lot of work that you can’t train someone how to do. Focus on only brakes, oil change, and other quick turnaround simple to diagnose items for your first crew to take on.
Don’t be afraid to raise prices.
As soon as you have a full schedule of appointments and its reliable hire someone to take care of that while you shift to the on-demand roadside assistance and drumming up new business.
Mobile car detailing is a great business to bootstrap and can often be started with the equipment you already have in your garage.
Buy a web domain and get hosting for $1.99 per month. Upload WordPress to your web hosting platform. Either build it yourself with a premium theme for around $50 or pay someone on a freelancing site a few hundred dollars to build a website similar to one that you like. Get someone to design a simple logo and some basic marketing material.
Send a Google My Business (GMB) postcard to your home and build your profile. Upload photos. Create posts weekly. Get a Google Voice number to communicate with customers and get your domain email address forwarded to GMail so you can use the tools there. Check out this list of tools to use in the early days.
Do some reading on content marketing and basic SEO principles so you can structure your site correctly. Use a tool like ahrefs or hire an SEO/content marketing specialist to help you design your site structure and content strategy and also analyze your top ranking competitors with the goal of out ranking them over time.
In your free time read, watch and learn everything there is to learn about car detailing. Write a lot of great content for your website aimed to help people who are trying to detail their own cars or wanting to learn more about the process. Make videos and take before and after pictures of the vehicles you work on and post them on your website, GMB and your social channels.
Consider hiring a mobile detailing outfit (your competitor) to do one of your vehicles. Watch them and look at and note the equipment they use. Maybe even get a part time job at your local car wash so you can get some experience and learn their process. Detail your own vehicles. Detail vehicles for friends (and make sure they leave you a review with photo). Take before and after photos and make videos for your website and other channels.
Taking into consideration your startup budget decide what equipment you want to purchase. You’ll need a nice mobile vacuum as well as a portable generator with enough wattage to meet your power needs on the road. If you aren’t ready to invest in a generator you can ask early customers to use power at their location. I recommend getting some momentum and making some money before making any significant investments.
Early on if you don’t want to invest in all the equipment you could simply do a full interior shop vac and vinyl/leather wipe down. Once you get some momentum and are ready to make additional investments consider offering a number of packages at different price points like shampooing, exterior washing, leather & vinyl conditioning, waxing & polishing and supplies like new wiper blades and air fresheners.
It’s time to get some early customers.
Get about a thousand flyers made with your number, web address and a nice bit of copy. Make sure its legal in your area to put flyers under car windshield wipers.
Go downtown with a backpack and some comfortable shoes. Maybe some headphones and a podcast. Time to do some walking. Put a flyer under the wiper of any moderately nice looking car. Avoid the 1990 beaters with bumpers falling off. At the next local football game or event go through the parking lot and hit a lot more cars in a lot shorter period of time.
Get business cards made. Its time to find people who we know could benefit from your services. Who is your ideal customer?
Realtors need clean cars because they often drive around clients. Walk in your local realtors office. Smile and make conversation. Give them your card but more importantly take their business card. Follow up with them by email reminding them you’d love to offer your services to them. Even send them a gift like an air freshener if the initial conversation was good.
Local businesses might use your service as a way to spoil their employees around Christmas time or during a particularly busy period. My friend who is a loan officer just did this for all his employees as a token of appreciation after they had a good month. This is a great opportunity to show up to one location and detail multiple vehicles. Efficiency = profit.
Add value first. Building relationships with potential repeat customers is more important than making a profit on day 1. Email the realtors and offer them a free detailing so they can see your work. They’ll love it and they might just pay you to do it once a month for the rest of eternity.
Have all of your early customers write you a review on your GMB location and upload a photo. Photos are huge and really help your ranking as well as the trustworthiness of your business.
Don’t compete on price. Make turnaround time your competitive advantage. You will charge a higher price for your service but you’ll be able to fit customers in right away and your service will be superior. You will be professionally dressed and greet them with a smile. Just answering the phone every time and having an attitude of excitement will get you in the top 10% of businesses around.
When you get more momentum invest in some equipment. Buy a used cargo van and get a vinyl decal on it. Get a water tank for it and a power washer so you can do exterior washes without using a customer’s water. Slowly upgrade your equipment over time.
Differentiate yourself from your competitors by getting some out of the box software that allows you to communicate with your customers very effectively. When you’re on your way to their home or business they should get a text message or an email. In that should be a link and a photo of the technician thats on the way and a description of how the service will go and what to expect along with frequent questions answered.
When you leave they should get a receipt emailed to them instantly with a report. You can charge their card on file instantly. Jobber can do all of this.
Now you have a choice. On one hand you can do this yourself and continue to make a really good hourly wage as a side hustle. If you go this route continue to do a really good job and raise your prices until you have just the right amount of work. Your hourly wage will go up. When you get too busy and your lead time starts to slip raise your prices again.
Or make a hire. If you do this simplify the job and take customer service and payment processing off of their plate. Don’t take cash and only take payments online. Have your employees install a time tracking app on their phone that tracks their location and their hours for your review. Use a digital on-boarding and payroll company like Gusto or Paychex. Stay very organized using quickbooks online. Hire an accountant and bookkeeper for $500 per month or less.
A few notes: Make sure to register your business and get insurance before you start. A market study is always a good idea as well to get a feel for the competitive landscape. My favorite way to do this is call around to all the competitors acting as a customer and asking 100 questions. You’ll be surprised what you learn.
Want more? Subscribe here to get short, concise emails from me once a week to help you build a better business. I also share a business idea like this each week to get you fired up and get your gears turning.
Show notes from Sweaty Startup Podcast episode 63.
An interview with Max Maher! The first episode with Max (ep 44) was a huge success and has been the most popular episode so far on the show. He has hired hundreds of labor employees in the past so on this episode we talk about how to find good people to do really hard work.
Its a numbers game. He needs hundreds of applicants to hire a handful of quality people.
He utilizes Indeed, Craigslist and in-person recruiting to get these applicants. The quality is generally low on Indeed and Craigslist but that doesn’t mean it can’t work you just have to look hard for the good candidates.
In person recruiting has been huge for Max. His strategy is to either stand in high traffic areas like outside of gyms or to hand out business cards while going about his every day life. Restaurants, grocery stores, gas stations etc.
The great thing about this is that the first meeting is sort of like an undercover interview because you can get a good feel for their personality and attitude.
Hire for personality and train for skill. Hiring people with only experience in your industry really limits your candidate pool and you end up having to hire subpar people. And personality and their people skills is the important part of what makes a good employee.
Max prefers to hire inexperienced people and groom them with tight training procedures vs hiring only experienced people. You can’t teach someone to be a nice person.
Approaching someone in person can be awkward. You just have to do whatever it takes and make it happen. The easiest way to do it is not put the pressure on them. Instead of asking them if they are looking for a job say “Do you know anyone looking for a job?” That takes the pressure off and strikes their interest if they are indeed looking for a new opportunity. They’ll sometimes even begin to sell themselves on the job.
Don’t be afraid to ask someone who already has a job. They may be comfortable where they’re at but if a new opportunity arises they might just jump at that.
Max has 30 movers at his largest location. He has 9 crews. The best guys tend to stick around. The lower level guys end up turning over quickly.
He recently documented an effort he did to hire 6 movers. He got 140 applicants. 40 showed up for interviews. Made 6 hires. Its a numbers game!
He was able to choose the stand outs! The cost per hire was north of $100 before training.
Getting people to show up to interviews is tough. Sometimes 80% wouldn’t show up. He found that having them call and schedule a time increased people showing up by 2x. The first time he ever did interviews he had 13 scheduled and only 2 showed up. It blew his mind! Office positions 70% of people show up.
How do you organize the interview?
He goes off of general guidelines and it is not structured. He tries to have a general conversation. At the end of the interview he asks himself the following question on each candidate:
Those questions automatically weed out anyone who isn’t excellent. The ones that are on the fence hardly ever work out and they become problems and headaches.
What traits do you look for?
People who have hobbies are generally more passionate and interesting and they make good employees. Generally being outgoing and friendly is helpful but sometimes people who are shy can be good too!
What advice would you give on training?
Sit down and write out a step by step process as if you were trying to get a 7 year old to do it. Max has a 2 hour training video system that his employees watch. From there they do a few hours of hands on training on wrapping furniture. Then he’d put them on an experienced crew for 2 weeks getting feedback all the time.
Explaining WHY is important when telling someone to do something. They retain it better and it clicks better with them.
He constantly evaluates the employees. Getting feedback from crew leaders and also calling customers directly to get reports on how things went can teach you a lot!
How can you trust your quality control?
Keep an eye on it from the beginning and stop letting things slip. On the job checkups. Surprise checks on crews. Balance it in the right way and give a lot of compliments as well!
How do you retain employees? Is it about compensation?
He thinks it starts with hiring. Only hiring “non-ass holes” makes a big difference. It makes everyone have more fun and they enjoy each other’s company. Respect your employees! If you can do this pay doesn’t matter as much but Max still tries to pay above the average wage to get top applicants.
Max agrees with Nick’s point that you should train employees to answer their own questions but also thinks having an open line of communication is critical. Not necessarily telling them what to do but why to do it!
When an employee doesn’t show what do you do?
He had a no call no show this morning. His first step is always why did it happen? Don’t make any conclusions until you know the reasoning and have spoken to the employee.
Nick remembers texting employees the night before work and it was a miserable work environment for employees and management not scheduling out far enough. The better you can communicate the easier it is for everyone!
How do you deal with inconsistent schedules and unreliable work in the early days?
It’s all about convincing them to join your mission and get behind growing the company. You have to sell them and keep them excited in the early days so it’s a lot about the relationship you build with those employees.
Any parting thoughts?
It’s all about hiring great people. It’s not about the skills. Its about the personality and the quality of the individual! Its a level playing field and your competitors are up against the same thing. Nick adds that a sales and marketing approach to attracting great people to work for your company is a must. Doing the things that are hard to scale and your competitors aren’t doing to find quality people!
You can find Max on his YouTube Channel!
Show notes from podcast episode 62.
Maybe you’re in high school or younger. Maybe your child is in high school or younger.
What steps can I take right now to prepare myself for entrepreneurship and what businesses could I possibly explore starting as a youngster?
I’ve told the story of how I became an entrepreneur in 7th grade. I was 13 years old.
My father’s company owned a few shopping centers in town and the old guy who mowed the grass for them had a minor heart attack and his doctor told him he couldn’t mow anymore. So my dad volunteered his 13 year old son to pick up about 8 hours a week of mowing. 4 commercial properties and 2 apartment complexes.
I was WAY too young to be in charge of something like that so it became my parent’s headache in a way. My mom drove me to the jobs and charged me $10 per hour for her time. It was 95 and sunny the first day and I chopped up a bunch of trash because I didn’t know to pick it up before I started. I cried and complained and told my dad I hated the job and wanted to quit. He didn’t let me quit.
I got the hang of it a few weeks later. I hired a high school student to drive me to the jobs the next summer. The rest is history. Is this what I recommend you do? Probably not. A 7th grader shouldn’t be put through that kind of treatment.
But hey. I learned invoicing. I learned a profit and loss statement. I learned how to deal with problems and complaints and I learned to talk to and sell to other customers as I picked up jobs and grew the business. I learned how to work with my hands and fix my mowers and have the confidence to do those things. I went to college with $40k in my bank account. I started a business in college. I’m not super rich and I’m not anything special but my life is way better now than it would have been if my dad wouldn’t have volunteered me for that job as a 13 year old.
I’m 100% certain that an entrepreneurial spirit begins in the household and at a young age. Just like the families that talk about money and have a conversation around money raise kids that are financially responsible the same is true in business. Learning to be curious about businesses and their profits and how they work as you walk around life doesn’t happen automatically. It takes influence.
While I think starting a small business would be great experience there are two things that I think you should really try to master whether that is through entrepreneurship or not:
Learn to sell. Learn how to communicate with people. Learn how to get out of your comfort zone. Learn how to break through barriers and create a connection with people no matter the circumstance. So many of your peers are afraid to talk on the phone let alone try to sell something. Work on your communication and your persuasion skills.
Become “handy”. Work on stuff mechanically. Learn to change oil. Learn to tune up a lawn mower. Learn to cut and build with wood. Learn to look at a malfunctioning machine of any kind and diagnose it and repair it. Power wash the deck. Fix the leaky faucet. Clean the gutters. Shampoo the carpet. Clean the filters in the HVAC unit.
If you can do these things you’ll have a huge leg up when you get your drivers license and can start a local small business.
Taking it one step further in high school consider getting a summer job or internship with a tradesmen. Electrician, carpenter, HVAC technician, plumber, welder. Learning skills like this will be an insurance policy for the rest of your life as you could go get a job for $30/hr anytime you wanted.
Starting a business with just a little bit of skill involved is a great way to earn really good money if you wanted just a one man shop and really limit competition if you do decide to grow and build a business. Niche carpentry like trim carpentry, closet building, bar building, cabinetry installation, deck building etc.
Here is a list of businesses that I think are appropriate for high school aged kids:
If you yourself are in high school or younger learn how to sell and learn how to work with your hands. Experiment with business if your parents are okay with that and talk to them about it.
Starting a business while you’re a student affords you a number of advantages. The main advantage is that you’re still on your parents payroll. The pressure to earn hasn’t hit you yet. The skills you’ll learn are valuable in the workforce. You aren’t wasting your time when it comes to making yourself more valuable. I learned more about life, relationships and money in 5 years running that lawn care business than I did getting an Ivy League degree. As a youngster you’ve got nothing to lose. You don’t have a family to feed. You don’t have a mortgage to pay. You don’t have a nest egg to protect.
Business is a snowball. It takes years to get momentum but once you get it it can take off at an exponential rate. Just like saving for retirement the earlier you can start the better off you’ll be.
If you are a parent who wants to encourage entrepreneurship it starts in the household. Talk to your kids about business. Have that conversation. Teach your kids to sell and get comfortable where most kids are uncomfortable. Don’t raise antisocial kids buried behind computer screens. Raise kids that can look you in the eye and get excited during a conversation. Raise kids that aren’t afraid and can figure out how to fix a flat tire on the side of the road instead of calling triple A.
I don’t recommend being as forceful as my dad was but get their minds working and see if a curiosity develops and then nurture that and engage it if you believe its important.
All the best!
Show notes for podcast episode 61.
Question courtesy of Brandon in San Diego:
My main concern is you mention the main benefit of service based businesses over product based is the fact it’s much easier to compete. You mention that trying to create digital products or sell on Amazon, Ebay etc means you’re competing with the smartest people in tech or even worse, competing on price. With these new apps such as Thumbtack, Taskrabbit, or Amazon home services, it seems the “big guys” are now infiltrating the service sector. What is your opinion on how this technology will threaten the service sector. Are we still just competing with the mom and pops or is there a new sheriff in town?
Let me make an important clarification on the first part of your question – the fact it’s much easier to compete.
All services in all cities are not prime opportunities where it is easier to compete. All markets aren’t the same. You can’t just open up any random service in any random city and take the easy street to the top of Google’s rankings and have customers rushing in the door. If you enter the wrong market in the wrong city it can be cutthroat and virtually impossible to get momentum.
We have to be wise where we chose to compete. We have to analyze our markets, call our competitors and make sure there is room to carve out our piece of the pie. There are ultra efficient wonderfully ran businesses in every industry out there. But they’re not all in the same city. We have to find a market in our city that is dominated by a mom and pop business ran like its 1985. Thats what makes it easier to compete.
Its easier to compete because its on a local level. We aren’t competing with web developers from Pakistan or remote services that can service anyone from anywhere. There is a geography aspect to service businesses. We can analyze the market and study it and make a decision on what business we’re going to undertake and who we are going to compete with.
Now lets get to the meat of the question here and address the topic of freelancers and the gig economy.
As service providers we can’t ignore this new wave of on-demand companies and gig platforms linking providers to customers in a seamless way. Before we talk about how to prepare for it lets dig a little deeper and pinpoint exactly what these companies do.
There is an important distinction here. Are they really competitors or are they middle men? Are they lead generators or are they actually providing the service itself? They are middle men. Customers are going to rely on them to find providers and providers are going to rely on them to get business.
The risk isn’t that they are going to launch a lawn care business in our market. That they are going to make the hires, build the company, manage the schedules and actually provide an ultra efficient and affordable superior service.
Are they going to disrupt the way people find these companies and interact with these companies? They’re trying to do to home services what Fiverr and Upwork did to web development and logo creation.
Thats their pitch when they go to raise another round of venture capital. We’re going to be the Upwork of physical services. We’re going to be the Uber of home services. We’re going to revolutionize the way customers find and buy these services.
Lets start with the digital gig economy because its the model companies like Taskrabbit are following.
What happened to established web development and SEO firms when Fiverr got big?
Did they shrink up and go away? Did the people who were buying from them all the sudden go away and start buying elsewhere? Did they stop getting new clients because all the new clients went to the gig economy sites instead?
To scale a business you have to charge higher prices. You have to go after high end clientele willing to pay more for speed and reliability.
Are high end clients getting web work, SEO and logo creation done on Fiverr?
Nope. High end clients are looking for service, quality and speed and they’re willing to pay for it.
So nothing happened to the established firms when Fiverr and Upwork got big. Business as usual. They made the choice early on to compete on quality and focus on generating their own sales.
What happened to the freelancers trading their time for money competing on price? The ones that didn’t know how to sell and relied on lead generation services or third parties to bring them business?
Their world turned upside down. Upwork became their employer. Fiverr became their employer. They raced to the bottom and started competing with developers from Pakistan and India. It got hard and their world turned upside down.
These freelancers are not entrepreneurs. They don’t bring in their own business. They don’t employ others and make money on other people’s time. These freelancers are simply workers working normal jobs disguised as entrepreneurs.
This all happened because they had a choice and while the reputable firms decided to get their own clients and compete on quality they made the choice to rely on a third party to get them business and compete on price.
Add all of this to the fact that its a lot easier to farm out web development and logo creation to freelancers overseas than it is to farm out someone showing up to my house with a background check and an insurance policy and getting up on my roof to clean out my gutters or coming into my home to clean my floors.
Certain types of customers are going to rely on them to find providers and certain types of providers are going to rely on them to get business. You don’t need those customers and don’t be one of those providers.
Something to think about that I’ve written on Yelp and Homeadvisor before. Its dangerous to rely on a third party to build and grow your business.
Google rules the world and Google has nothing to gain from rewarding and ranking services like Home Advisor, Yelp, TaskRabbit, Thumbtack and the countless other lead generating middle men out there.
Google is selling advertisements to service providers. Google is the middle man right now who links customers with service providers. Why would they cut themselves out and let these other companies sell leads and ads instead?
Another thing to think about.
Ikea bought TaskRabbit. That should tell us something. What can we learn from that?
Ikea has a problem that is limiting their growth. A lot of people aren’t buying Ikea furniture because its a royal pain in the butt to put it together. I ordered a little side desk drawer and it was a pain to put together. I actually let it sit on the floor of my office and procrastinated for a week and even considered taking it back to Ikea once I looked at the directions.
So they bought TaskRabbit to solve that problem. They want more people to buy Ikea furniture and getting linked with people who can put it together quickly is a big value add.
But I don’t think its going to take over home services. People might find gutter cleaners or loaders or haulers on TaskRabbit but they aren’t going to find pest control specialists. They aren’t going to find lawn care companies.
The uber of lawn mowing is a big concept lately. I’ve read about a few different startups trying to create the next Uber of lawn care. Need your lawn cut? Push a button and someone will come do it.
This business model is going to struggle. Lawn care isn’t one of those things like an Uber where you decide one day you need a cut and want to order a lawn mower at the spur of the moment. It something as predictable as it gets. If it rains a lot I’ll need a cut every 7 days and if it doesn’t rain much I’ll need one every 10 or so. The grass isn’t gonna stop growing or become wildly unpredictable like my Uber ride demands on a drunken weekend night.
The good lawn care providers don’t want to go through a third party. The high paying customers don’t want to push a button to get their lawn cut. They want to hire a company that takes care of their lawn every week for 5 years.
I can guarantee you something. I’m never going to hire an earthwork professional on Taskrabbit. I’m never going to hire an electrician to do $100,000 worth of work on Taskrabbit. The commercial B2B stuff will be the last to be influenced by this new wave.
There will always be middle men. Most of the people who reach out to me by email just want to be a middle man. They want to help small businesses get more leads. They want to help small businesses by providing some software. They just want to take a bite out of the profit without doing any of the work.
Its a risk. Don’t get me wrong. Amazon getting in the home service game is scary. So how can we protect ourselves when the change does come?
It goes back to being dependent on someone else’s platform. Are you generating your own leads or are you paying or depending on someone else to bring you leads?
Develop your own sales channels. Get your own customers. Perfect your own marketing and customer acquisition strategies. Develop personal relationships with your clients. Get face to face with them. Do the stuff that is hard work and hard to scale but is super effective. Differentiate yourself by embracing technology and efficiency. Adopting an attitude and culture within your company of eager professionalism.
Thats the best way to protect yourself as these big players try to step in and take a bite out of our earnings.
Show notes from episode 60 of the podcast.
The previous post about starting a business 100% remotely got me thinking about a common question I get all the time.
What if you want to move to a new city to build a better life? What if you are about to graduate in a city and you don’t see yourself sticking around? People reach out to me all the time saying they want to be an entrepreneur but a move is in their future. Maybe 6 months out. Maybe 2 years out after graduate school ends.
Basically all of these questions boil down to at least taking some steps to set up a business in a place where you are not currently living.
Let’s run a hypothetical situation. Let’s say you are slogging away at a corporate job in NYC making good money and banking some of it every month. You know NYC isn’t a long term play for you and you’d love to someday move to Asheville NC and raise a family. Or Austin TX. Or Charleston SC. You get the point – anywhere with lower costs of living or a better quality of life based on your interests.
There is an answer here and I’ve actually done it. Set up a shell company in your dream city.
What is a shell company? Its a website that appears very professional and operation advertising a particular service even though you aren’t yet set up to actually provide the service yet.
Not just any website though. A spectacular website with amazing content perfectly designed to help your target customers. A website with a perfect SEO structure around the target local keywords. You can take this on yourself with tools like ahrefs.com or you can hire a content marketer for a few thousand dollars to help you really set yourself up to succeed in the long run.
If you want to get serious build a complementary youtube channel with even more amazing content so you can rank on the second largest search engine in the world. Get a local friend or pay a stranger to let you post a Google My Business location at their address and start nurturing and growing that. Find a way to get some reviews from people who might not be local but can vouch for your ability to provide the said service.
Starting any service business requires 6 months of preparation before you get any significant organic online leads. The beautiful thing about this is that you can do it for a relatively small investment sometimes as low as the cost of a web domain.
I did this back in 2012. My partner and I were building Storage Squad and we weren’t sure what the future had in store for us. I thought back to my lawn care days in high school and realized running a business like that could be a fall back plan if I ever needed cash to hold me over.
So I thought about cities and where I would want to live if I needed to start from scratch and build another business. Bloomington Indiana is an awesome college town with a lot going on and a reasonable cost of living. I had a lot of friends nearby and my family is only about an hour away.
I bought thelawnsquad.com web domain and built a pretty crappy website myself with wordpress in about 5 hours. I had a good friend there attending graduate school so I sent a Google My Business listing to his house. I got a few of my long time customers from high school to leave reviews on that Google listing.
Then I just went about my life and worked on my business. I didn’t do any marketing and I never went to Bloomington.
The first year I got a call or two a week from potential customers. They left messages and I never returned them but I used Google Voice to track the incoming leads. The next year I got more calls. 3 or 4 calls a week. Then the next even more. By 2015 I was getting calls daily. Still not answering any.
By 2015 our business was big and I knew lawn care in Bloomington Indiana wasn’t really in my future. But that year my brother ended up enrolling at Indiana University and moving to Bloomington. I asked him if he was interested in mowing lawns but being an 18 year old freshman navigating his first year in the real world he declined.
After his first internship pushing paper around for a summer he decided he’d rather give entrepreneurship a shot.
In February of 2018 he started answering the phone and mowing lawns on the side. Being a junior in college (he did a 3/2 MBA program) he quickly got overwhelmed and by May he turned off the phones and didn’t accept any new clients. That year he booked about 30 weekly customers and made $30k or so in annual revenue.
His senior year he got more serious. We built a nicer website this winter and he set up Jobber. He still didn’t answer most of the calls because he was in class and on the mower but he followed up and ended up booking a lot of them. He graduated in May and now he runs the business full time. He has expanded to pest control and weed control/fertilization. He’s got over 50 customers and is on pace to earn $50k+ in profit this year with a lot more in the future.
Pretty awesome huh?
Do your idea generation research and your market analysis ahead of time. Do all the work you need to do to decide what business you’d want to launch. A lot of this depends on your skillset, experiences and capital you have. The more specialized and niche you can go the better but its okay to cast a wide net initially and see what sticks.
Get to work now. It’s a super low upfront investment. You don’t even have to ever use it but it will be there if you ever want to make it happen. You’re just putting an iron in the fire. You’re just testing the market and seeing if it has legs. You’re just creating a potential future opportunity for yourself.
Show notes from podcast episode 59.
I received a recent question via email
I want to set up and run a service business from outside of the USA. I have some capital and some experience. What service would be best? What should I consider? What steps should I take to build a business from scratch 100% remotely?
Is geography really a limiting factor here when we talk about these local service businesses? Is it absolutely required for the founder to be on site?
On one hand yes. We talk a lot here about the main advantage to starting a local service business being the fact that you can control your risk. If you can properly execute there is a very high probability of success. Competing and operating in a low risk way requires a presence. You have to build something yourself. You have to learn the ins and outs of the service and the city and the population and their needs. In the early days you have to do a lot of the work yourself to keep overhead low.
On the other hand no. If you have experience, capital and you do things right it can absolutely be done. My partner and I have branches of our business that have been profitable for years that we haven’t actually visited in years. I have never been to many of the cities we operate in. My partner went a hand full of times in the early days and that was all it took to set it up so we could manage it remotely from then on.
Today we manage the company remotely 75% of the time. Dan goes to Boston to meet with our main manager every other month and hits the road during busy season.
Let’s discuss the possibilities and start with the most extreme example of starting and building a business 100% remotely.
The entire country is your oyster. You can launch anywhere. So instead of doing a market study where you begin with a city and try to find a business that works there lets start by choosing a business and then choose a city where it would thrive.
What type of business should you consider targeting?
Let’s start a business with recurring revenue, scheduled services and repeat customers. Those are all really good. The businesses are more valuable if you ever wanted to sell, your income is more predictable and you can schedule out your work in advance. All making your logistics and growth a little easier.
Since you aren’t going to be there we also want to reduce the “emergency factor”. The emergency factor means damaged things, equipment malfunctions, employee error, anything that creates a fire that the owner typically has to put out in person. Think about a lawn care company with a lot of moving parts and a high probability of damaged items, missed spots, equipment malfunctions, getting stuck in a yard after a rainstorm, you get the point. You mess something up its very noticeable.
Needing the customer to be present to interact with your crew also adds another variable that can easily be messed up. You have to be on schedule and on time all the time in that case. So let’s find a business that doesn’t require the customer to be present.
You need something relatively low skilled. Remodeling basements or niche carpentry won’t work here.
Let’s go with something with just enough barriers to enter to keep the fly by nights out and the craigslisters away from the space. Some minor certifications would be great. Just enough of a barrier to give you some insulation from low cost providers entering the market like crazy.
So what is an example of a service that fits this bill?
Pest control is one that comes to mind.
Customers sign up for monthly services so your revenue is predictable and your customers can stay with you for a long time. There is a low emergency factor because your employees are less likely to chop off a sprinkler head or spill paint on someone’s carpet. You won’t be getting “missed a spot” calls. There isn’t a huge risk for equipment breakdowns. You can do the perimeter treatments for the customers when they are not home on your schedule. There is some certification to complete so you won’t have craigslisters willing to do your work for half the price.
90% of the time you show up to the house, spray the same chemical in the same spots in about 20 minutes and leave. Done. No hassle. No razzle dazzle.
I watch all of my neighbors pay for this stuff. A guy shows up in a small truck or a car. He gets out in his blue polo and puts on a breathing mask. Sprays the house for 10 minutes around the soffit and foundation. Gets back in his car and leaves. Then they hit the credit card for $50.
This is something that can be managed from afar.
Obviously it has its challenges that you shouldn’t overlook. You need to be able to treat indoor on 24 hours notice if there is a pest issue. You need to learn how to do it in a safe way around families and pets. You’ll need different chemicals in your arsenal for different situations and different pests. You’ll need to take an online course and pay fees to get registered. You’ll need a nice insurance policy.
Ok so you’ve decided you are going to launch a business like pest control. Now you need to find a city where the competition is backed up with customer demand and has a weak online presence that you believe you can outrank.
Here is a link to the full on market analysis but I’ll touch on the basics.
You need to CALL THE COMPETITORS AND PLAY A CUSTOMER. Ask 50 questions. How busy are you? How does your service work? How many crews do you have? How long have you been in business? How long would it take you to come out and treat my home? How much would you charge me? This is the best market research you can do and you’ll learn quickly wether this company is starving more more business or has it running out their ears.
Find out how hard it would be to outrank the competitor on Google. You can do this yourself by watching a few online tutorials and getting an ahrefs.com subscription. I recommend this when you are early on. When you have it narrowed down you should consider hiring an SEO specialist to analyze this for you.
Don’t fall into analysis paralysis. Remember that you don’t need every customer. A single strong competitor is okay. You’ll never find the perfect opportunity. You just want to analyze it and be sure that you can carve out a piece fo the pie.
Ok so you’ve found a city that is ripe for your new business and you believe you can get some customers. What now?
You don’t need to register your LLC, get certified, get insurance and hire someone on the ground right away. You have a lot of work to do from the comfort of your own computer screen.
Start working and doing these things at least 6 months or more before launch. The earlier you can start the better.
Build your website. Write a bunch of great content targeting the local keywords. Record videos for youtube. Your website and your content needs to be 10x as helpful as your competitors websites. Design it as a resource meant to help people learn first and sell second. Consider working with a content marketer or SEO specialist to really set up your site structure the right way so you can rank well as early as possible. Work on building backlinks. Work on creating new content consistently.
What content do I create for a pest control company?
Answer any question anyone who is interested in your service might ask. Then answer any question a DIY pest control person might ask. Be very open book about how it all works. Aim to help them learn. While it is a risk they’ll take what they learn from you and do it themselves its much more likely they’ll start to trust you and be more likely to hire you. The DIYers likely aren’t your potential customers anyway. Add value first!
Creating this content will not only help your customers it will also really help you. You will do a ton of research and you’ll become an expert on pest control. Which is good because you are running a pest control company after all.
Get a Google My Business location in the heart of the town you are targeting.
You’ll need to get creative here. Convince a friend to let you send a postcard to their home. Send a postcard to the home of your first hire. Pay someone to let you park your Google Location on your home. Constantly add photos and post on this platform.
Run through the rest of the items on this list to get your entire business appearing totally 100% operational and professional from the outside.
Don’t incorporate yet. Don’t offer your service yet. Don’t get insurance yet. Just develop your web presence and build it and work on it. Set up your google voice number and answer the phone when customers call and track the calls but let them know you aren’t launching yet.
You aren’t very deep money wise. You’ve got some time sunk in but you haven’t started to take on significant overhead yet. Its low risk so far. The longer you can let this grow and nurture it the better.
The pre-launch planning phase.
The leads are starting to arrive and you are on the first page of Google. Your Google My Business location is ranking for customers in certain areas and you are generating some traffic to your website. The phone is ringing. When do you make a hire, hit the ground and start spending some money?
It depends on your bankroll and your risk tolerance. You can start right away if you are confident in the market and willing to take the risk.
What do you put in place first?
You need to get registered with the local government. Get insurance. Get everything in place to run payroll. Get your certifications to legally offer your service.
Here comes the risky part.
You need to make a part time hire or a full time hire on the ground. Part time can be a great option to save money but they are often unreliable because they desire something consistent and will leave if you can’t provide that.
I recommend spending at least a little bit of time on the ground. The more the better.
Leading up to this time on the ground you should create your job descriptions and really think through the tasks that you will need your on the ground person to take care of for you. Once you have the descriptions you should make your job postings, advertise them if necessary, recruit some applicants, do your first round interviews on the phone or Skype. When you show up on site you need to be fully prepared to do your final round interviews, make your hire and get started working together.
If you do go the pest control route make sure you research your local regulations about employees using your license. They may need to become certified themselves. In this case you can either invest the money to certify them or you can recruit and pay a certified tech with experience.
Once on the ground spend some time with your employee. Go out and service some customers if you are able to do so. Spend time with your hire and make sure you are confident in the organization and setup before you head back out of town. Get organized with your supplies and equipment.
Management and operations…
From your remote location I recommend doing all of your own customer service at first. All of your own billing. Scheduling. Don’t take any cash so you can manager your money all online and control all of that.
From here on its about management and operations. Everything else on the block and podcast can be applicable here just as if you were running a business in person.
Make sure you organize a guerrilla marketing campaign with your first hire.
Being incredibly lean in the early days will be an advantage. Buy equipment used. Save money wherever possible.
Standardize your processes. This chemical for that situation. This flow of actions should be taken place upon each service. Everything action should have a standardized reaction. Build out a training video library. Take out the guesswork and simplify the job of your employees.
Embrace technology because it allows you to really control everything. A great CRM like GetJobber would be a good option. Take as much off your employee’s plate as possible. The more you can do from your remote location the better. Make sure they have a time tracking app on their phone that also tracks their location so you can analyze their efficiency, manage time theft, and also get data on how long each service is taking and how you can charge for that.
Grow from there at whatever pace you feel comfortable with!
A few additional options to explore:
A local partner. Find someone on the ground who wants to found the business for you. Handle the web build, customer service, billing, quoting, sales etc and have them carry out the service and manage the equipment. This is less risky from a financial perspective but also less rewarding. Partnerships can also turn south quickly when fairness and contributions are in question and there is big money involved. If you go this route make sure you lay out how everything will work and have all the hard conversations off the bat. If this happens then what? If that happens then what? If you go get a job then what? If we don’t make any money then what? If I need to come to town then what?
Subcontracting out the work is an option. You could explore hiring a company already operational and certified in the town to do your jobs and take a cut. This should be temporary if you decide to go this route at all.
Don’t forget this is risky business but it can be managed and I’m 100% certain it can be done with the right plan and the right execution.
Marketing our business in the early days came with a significant set of challenges.
We didn’t have any money and what little we did have we spent on a beat up cargo van (yeah really bad but thats me and I was proud) on craigslist for $1500 so we could haul the stuff to and from the farmer’s pole barn we rented in exchange for farm labor a few weeks later.
So how did we reach our customers?
We had a major advantage in that we knew exactly where our customers were. We knew where they lived. We knew where they hung out. We knew where they walked to class.
We thought about standing there and handing out flyers as they walked to class but that would be too time consuming and we couldn’t possibly reach enough people.
Instead of drawing a big elaborate drawing in one high traffic area we took the simple volume approach. About 75 text ads all around campus could be put down in about 2 hours.
So my partner and I did this ourselves. I literally wore out two pairs of jeans the first season doing this because each time I knelt down to write one my knee would rub the concrete. April and May is the rainy season so each time it would rain we would go out and do it again.
When we launched in Boston in 2013 we bought this beautiful truck on the south side of Chicago for $2200. Two days later I filled it with supplies and drove it to Boston and lived there on my girlfriend’s (now wife) couch for two months. I covered that entire city with chalk ads. Tufts. Harvard (they kicked me off in 2 seconds). Northeastern. Emerson. MIT. BU. Brandeis. I was everywhere with boxes of chalk on boxes of chalk. 4 weeks straight of chalking 8 hours a day.
The next year we went to a few more locations and chalked the heck out of them too. Then a few more.
People laugh when I include chalk in my little startup inspiration stories. But honestly I credit that tactic to really allowing us to grow and build up a fairly large customer base quickly.
I hope this inspires you to get out and do some guerrilla marketing that your competitors aren’t doing. It works.
Show notes from Episode 55.
You have three choices in life. You can make things happen, watch things happen or you can wonder what happened.
Most people either watch or wonder what happened.
They react. Life happens and they try their best to survive. They get done with work for the day, go home, flip on the TV and then go to bed. They wake up and do it again. Until one day something changes and maybe they lose their job. Then they react and find another job and do it all over again.
This is called playing defense. Someone else has the ball. Maybe its just random chance. Maybe it’s your boss. But something outside of your control calls the plays. You simply react as the plays happen and do your best to limit the losses.
If we aren’t a small business owner we know this all too well. We live in this city because this is where we got a job offer or this is where we grew up. We work a lot because someone gives us a lot of work to do and we have to do it to feed our family. We aren’t able to make new friends or try new hobbies because all of our time is spoken for.
If we are a small business owner we can fall into this trap and be totally out of control as well. We wait for the next fire and as soon as it happens it takes our attention and dictates our life. We run around solving problems. We take care of the urgent stuff but more and more stuff becomes urgent. More stuff than we could ever take care of. We’re on defense. Our business is on offense and totally controls us and dictates our every move.
They say the definition of insanity is doing the same things over and over again and expecting different results.
People on defense complain about the same things over and over again without ever taking control and making changes.
I get it. A lot of things in life are uncontrollable. You can’t control other people’s actions. You can’t control the weather. If you are in a situation where you have a lot of external factors that you can’t control ruling your life its a bad situation to be in. I call these risk factors. Your spouse leaving you is a risk. Your friend letting you down is a risk. Your health is a risk. Getting fired is a risk.
Here’s the secret:
A lot of these risk factors can be influenced by your actions. People on defense don’t understand this.
You can reduce the chances of illness by treating your body the right way. You can reduce the risk of a friend letting you down by putting yourself around better people with better values. You can even control the weather. WHAT?? That doesn’t make any sense. I totally stopped the snow from falling by moving from Boston to Athens Georgia!
You can change the people you interact with. You can change the city you live in. You can change the job you go to every day.
Instead of continuing to wake up every day doing the same thing over and over again and wondering why nothing is getting better for you start to look at the things you can change.
5% of people are making things happen. They are on offense.
They live where they want to live. They do the things that they want to be doing. They go get a new job if they don’t like their current job. They go get new friends if they keep getting let down by their old friends. They control their income stream and make decisions that directly affect it. They get their situation under control by limiting the risk factors.
Some business owners play offense as well. They call the shots. They decide how they spend their time. They work on what they want to be working on. They stop fires before they start.
So let’s all agree it’s better to make things happen than to react to things that happen. It’s better to control as much of our life as we can. It’s better to play offense.
So how do we switch sides and play offense?
You start spending your time on things that are important but not urgent. People on defense deal with things as they come and don’t do anything to stop negative things from coming. They don’t work on their health. They don’t learn and build their experiences to make themselves more valuable in the workforce. They don’t go to networking events. They don’t make an effort to make new friends.
None of this stuff is fun in the moment. It’s work. Not only is it work but its work that doesn’t HAVE to be done right now. It can be put off easily until tomorrow or next week or next year.
Its work that won’t pay you back right now either. It will pay you back 6 months from now. Maybe a year from now. Maybe even 5 years from now. People on offense understand this and they know it’s worth it.
If you aren’t where you want to be in life and you still have some goals that you want to achieve its time to free up some time and lean out your life.
Remember that it takes courage. It’s scary to make changes and to take chances in the hope that things get better. It’s scary to leave even the most unhealthy relationships. It’s scary to move across the country. It’s scary to start that business. It’s scary to go ask someone for a job or an opportunity. Overcoming the insecurity and fear of failure isn’t easy and it takes guts. Anything in life worth doing takes guts.
Start by setting your goals.
What 20% of your activities bring you 80% of your enjoyment?
How much of your time do you spend doing those things? Maybe its spending time with your child?? Maybe its fishing or cycling? Maybe its traveling? Maybe it’s building something and learning something and you want to do it every day at work?
Then make a plan. Start doing the stuff that is uncomfortable. Start delaying your gratification. Start working hard in your free time to make it happen. Lean out your life. Spend less money so you have more freedom. Guard your time and put it to use.
Get out there and make it happen!