Being in the service industry is hard. You’re not allowed to have bad days; you have to be on all the time and hold a smile when asked not-so-smart questions; and many days pass without so much as a thank you. When you’ve been in the industry for a long time, it’s even easier to forget why you started doing it in the first place, what you love about your job, and just how big of an impact your daily work really has. It’s easy to get burn out and to lose perspective.
If you’re starting each day with a pessimistic, “why bother?” attitude, here are some tips to help you recharge and refresh.
Stop & Reflect.
First things first, when you’re burnt out and you’ve lost perspective, it’s easy to forget the good times — the moments when you felt truly satisfied in your work. STOP. Take a few moments, or maybe even an afternoon, to reflect on your time of service and remember the moments when you were thanked, when you felt fulfilled, and when you saw just how much your work mattered to your community. Reflecting on these moments can help recharge your service battery and keep you focused on the positive aspects of your job. In fact, to prevent future burn out, we highly recommend making reflection a regular thing. Make it a priority and put it on your calendar, just as you would an important meeting.
Many people in the service industry don’t think much of the little things they do or little ways they go above and beyond, which is why it can be beneficial to ask others. Your friends, family, employees, coworkers, and customers may be able to shed some light on the ways your heart for service really made a difference and you went above and beyond what you were called to do. Plus, hearing others say positive things about you is always good for the spirit.
Perhaps the most fulfilling part of life is the relationships we form. Are you taking the time to connect with your customers and form a bond? On each and every service call, make it a point to find some way to relate to your customer. Empathize with them. Care about them. It will make all the difference in the way your customer perceives you and in the way you perceive the customer and the service you bring. This may be easier to do with some customers than others, but even if it’s a stretch, find a way to do it with each and every one.
Recognize Your Value.
You have a heart for service, and not everyone does. But if you want to take care of others, you have to also take care of yourself. When you’re burnt out, take the time to refuel and reflect, even if you only have a few minutes in the truck on the way to the next job. Remind yourself of your worth and the value you bring to those you serve. Although it’s nice, what matters is not that each and every customer acknowledges the worth and value you bring — what matters is that you do.
Ok, so you haven’t yet set aside the time to develop SOPs, even though it’s been on your list of things to do for the last year. Maybe you’ve had a million other things come up or maybe the process of developing SOPs seems daunting to you. Whatever your reason, there’s no better time than now. Yes, you may have to carve out time you don’t feel like you have, but developing and adopting SOPs can save you so much time in the long-run. So put in the effort up front and just know it’s going to pay off tenfold. Alright, let’s get started!
#1 Start By Breaking The Task Down
While the development of an SOP can get complicated, it doesn’t have to be. Coming up with an SOP can be as simple as sitting down and listing the different steps you take when performing a task. For example, here’s one for how to make a quick and tasty burrito:
- Put an extra large tortilla on a plate.
- Evenly distribute shredded cheese along the center of the tortilla.
- Evenly distribute taco sauce.
- Add a half a cup to a full cup of black beans.
- Add a half a cup of rice.
- Throw in some jalapeños.
- Add fresh cilantro, if you’re into that sort of thing.
- Lift the long sides of the tortilla to center the ingredients.
- Fold in the sides of the tortilla.
- While holding the sides in, fold the side closest to you over the ingredients, tucking in the ingredients with the tortilla.
- Roll the burrito away from you to close it up.
- Put the burrito in the microwave for one minute.
- Brown the tortilla (about 30 seconds on each side) on a skillet over medium-high heat.
- Add hot sauce to every bite.
- Love life.
Now, I know making a burrito is a lot less complicated than performing a technical job or a job that has step after step after step, but my point is that it’s doable and it doesn’t have to be such an overwhelming process. Just start with the basics and break it down into bite size chunks.
#2 Determine What’s Law & What Can Vary
Next, look at the list of steps you’ve come up with and determine which steps are 100% necessary and which ones can be up to personal preference or situation. Whatever is law, make it clear; wherever there’s flexibility in the process, identify it.
#3 Make Each Step Easy To Understand
In order to be effective, your SOPs need to be clear and concise. Ultimately, you want to be able to hand the SOP to a new employee and have them perform the task without needing clarification. So don’t use complicated language or lingo that someone coming in wouldn’t be able to understand and easily digest.
#4 Ask Your Employees For Input
For the best results, lean on your employees. Think about it: even if you’re still out in the field doing the technical work, it doesn’t hurt to hear how your employees do things and find out why they do them the way they do. After all, just because you learned to do something a certain way doesn’t mean it’s still the best way. Ask your employees and find out what their SOPs would look like if they were writing them. Show them what you have and see if they have any questions or suggestions. You may even find this to be a teaching moment for you or your employee.
If you’ve been out of the field for a while, employee input is even more important, as there’s a good chance you’ve forgotten some of the minute details and procedures and that procedures have changed because of technology or new safety information. Talk to the guys and girls who are out there doing the task day in and day out. It will save you time and help you get the SOP right.
#5 Try it out!
Alright, now take your SOP out for a spin. See if you can perform the task solely by running through the listed steps on your SOP. Look for gaps or missing steps, and adjust your SOP as needed. If no adjustments are necessary, make and distribute copies to your team or determine where you’re going to compile and keep your SOPs for easy reference.
Rinse and repeat until you have every possible process within your business down to a science.
If you don’t have a solid block of time to really knock them all out, schedule smaller blocks of time for SOP planning and development here and there — at the end of the workday while you sip a cold one or even on your phone’s notepad while you’re in the restroom — wherever and whenever, make it work. Who knows, you may even start to enjoy crafting SOPs, thinking of all the time and effort they’re going to save you and your employees over the years.
Thinking of launching a business or product? You’d be surprised how many vital steps get missed by the dreamers and schemers. Think about it: love is blind. When you’re really attached to an idea, maybe even in love with it, there are things you overlook. Unfortunately, these can be pretty big things. So, save yourself time, hassle, and frustration, and do these six things before you invest a ton of time and effort.
- Make sure there’s a market. You may be in love with your idea, but if there’s no market for it, it may be better left in your idea journal. Do some quick market research, ask around, do a Google search for similar products and businesses, and see if people want or need what you have to offer. Doing this upfront can save you a ton of time and money and keep you from investing your resources in something that’s not going to do well.
- Come up with a list of names. The name of your business or product is so important and will set the tone and give a first impression of your business. Choose wisely! We’re in the age of information overload. If your potential customer or consumer can’t glance at the name or see it in passing and know something about what the company or product is or what it does, they’re not going to go out of their way to investigate further. Your name should be easy to understand, convey something relevant, and pique the curiosity. If your name is something completely irrelevant or non-descriptive, even if you think it’s cute or catchy, it’s probably not going to be memorable or effective.
- Google the names you’ve come up with. There are few ‘creative’ and ‘unique’ business names in the home services industry. Whatever your industry, make sure you Google the name ideas you have before falling in love. If you’ve slapped your first name in front of the words “chimney services,” “plumbing services,” etc., you’d better be sure there isn’t a business in your area with a similar business name or you’ll have a whole host of nightmares once your business is launched.
- Check the availability of the domain name. Even if you’re not 100% sure which name you want to go with yet, go to godaddy.com and check the availability of the domain names for each of your ideas. If they’re available, buy them right then and there. If they’re not, scratch the names off your list unless you’re willing to pay top dollar to buy them from someone. Most available domain names cost around $12, and even if you’ve only whittled down your list to five and can’t make up your mind, the cost to buy all five domain names will be a lot less than the cost of wasted hours because you didn’t check the availability of the domain name before you fell in love and started branding.
- Check the availability of the social handles. Almost as important as the availability of the domain name for your new business or product is the availability of the social handles. Go to Twitter, Facebook, Instagram, Pinterest, etc. and make sure the handles for your new business or product idea are available. The last thing you want is to have inconsistency across your social platforms or some impossible to remember or figure out handle, all because you didn’t check to see if the one you wanted was taken on each of the major social platforms.
- Talk with others in your trusted circle. Remember our earlier conclusion: love is blind. When you’re in love with a product or business idea, you may miss things, important things — that’s why it’s a good idea to involve others early and get their input. Different people in different age groups with different perspectives who are less attached to the idea than you are may see things you don’t or think of things you overlook in the excitement. If you bring trusted people in early in the game, it will only save you time and frustration. After all, two heads (or three or four) are better than one.
During our last FAQ, we focused primarily on reviews, Maps, rankings, and PPC. This time, we’re going to answer some of the more “offline” questions. If you have any questions you’d like Chris to answer next time, please submit them in the Comments section of this post!
#1 How Should I Handle Spam Calls?
The more you do with your online presence, the more spam calls you will get. The two most common calls (in our experience) are from people pretending to be Google and advertisers like Yelp, Angie’s List, and YP.
First, let’s talk about the “Google” calls. Google never cold calls anyone, other than to verify business information. If someone is asking about your ranking, wants you to give them information about your Google listing, or threatens that you’ll lose your Maps listing if you don’t ________, they are a scammer. You can hang up on these calls.
As far as advertisers go, the phone calls vary. Yelp tends to be the most tenacious, but they are not the only ones. With advertiser calls, if you aren’t interested in advertising, it’s best to simply tell them that it’s not in the budget right now, but that you’ll revisit the idea later. You don’t want to get angry with advertisers, as you often have a free listing on their site already and it’s not worth upsetting the applecart there.
Generally speaking, we don’t advise people to pay for advertising on individual directories, because the majority of search traffic comes from Google, and we don’t generally see a good enough ROI — but that’s a decision you have to make as the business owner. If a particular directory is very popular in your area, it may be worth it.
#2 What Can I Do To Boost Business In My Slow Season?
Seasonality varies from industry to industry, but let’s look at the chimney industry. Understandably, the early summer can be a very slow time for a chimney sweep. We recommend getting a handle on this by finding ways to reach your annual and repeat customers during this time.
Many sweeps find themselves booked out two, three, or even four weeks out when fall rolls around, and many customers don’t want to wait that long, so they end up calling a competitor who can get to them faster. Get ahead of this by offering discounts to existing clients who schedule their annual services earlier in the year. Forward scheduling is a great way to do this. When you finish at a customer’s house, see if you can get them on the books for an early time next year. Make sure it’s not a binding agreement and call to verify a month or so out. What you’ll find is that this helps get your repeat customers used to you being there during your off-season.
It’s a win/win:
- It works out better for your customer because you’re able to get to them quickly and at a reduced rate.
- It works out better for you because now you’ve freed up some time during your busy season for new customers, while also keeping income coming in during your slow season.
Another option may be to adopt an alternative service that’s big during your slow season. For a chimney company, that may be air duct cleaning or gutter work. Something that is more likely to be needed when you don’t have high demand for your other services. Like I said, this varies greatly from industry to industry, so you have to be creative and figure out what works best for you.
For more on what you can do to make the most of your slow season, check out “What You Can Do To Make Your Slower Season Your Most Productive One To Date.”
#3 How Do I Get My Business Name/Brand Out In The Community?
The key to getting your brand name out there is community involvement. You can sponsor youth sports teams, charity events, participate in festivals, form an office bowling team for a local bowling league, put together a BBQ team to compete at BBQ cook-offs, etc. Basically, be present in your community under your brand name. Being present at the events in your community goes a long way and it goes hand in hand with company culture.
Another possibility that often gets overlooked is scholarships. Offering scholarships is a great way to get your name out there, as many people from all walks of life have kids applying for scholarships.
Social media platforms can also be a great tool for building community presence and relationships, but you do need to educate yourself on the DO’s and DON’Ts before diving in. No one likes to be sold to on Facebook 24/7, and learning how to properly use these tools can be the difference between bringing people in and driving them away.
For more on building your business offline, check out “4 Things You Should Be Doing Offline To Build Business Online.”
#4 IYO, Is It Worth Becoming BBB Accredited?
One thing worth mentioning is that you can have a rating on the BBB, regardless of whether or not you’re accredited. In other words, you could have an A+ rating, benefit from that, and tout that on your website, without accreditation.
That being said, many people hold the BBB with high regard and accreditation may hold a lot of weight with potential customers. When you become accredited, you agree to hold your business to certain ethics and practices, which ultimately, may make those using your services feel secure and confident they’ll receive service with integrity.
Long story short: you’ll need to decide for yourself whether or not it makes sense for your budget and business.
#5 How Can I Get More Referrals?
There are a lot of B2B groups out there that are worth joining: BNI, Chamber Events, etc. These organizations can help get you connected with a lot of other business owners who can refer you to their clients. Just remember that, when appropriate, you’ll want to refer people to them as well. As with many things in life, you get back what you give.
For word-of-mouth referrals, I always suggest some sort of perk or benefit if you get a new customer via a referral from a current customer — maybe the existing customer gets $25 off their next service and the new one gets $10 off. This is just an example, of course. There are lots of ways to make this work that make sense for your service and your business — so get creative!
No matter what type of benefit you decide to offer, remember that the single most important factor in getting word-of-mouth referrals is the WOW factor. Go above and beyond what the job requires and really WOW your customer. These are the things that will lead your customers to want to tell others about the amazing experience they had with you.
Lastly, never neglect customer service. Even if you do the job perfectly, a poor interaction with the person on site or on the phone can leave a bad taste in your customer’s mouth. Customer service is as large a part of your business as the work you’re doing — never let that fall by the wayside.
One of the things you will hear from most leaders is, if you want to lead and win, you must read, or listen to, books. When you see their reading lists, they’re chock full of book titles, but we wanted to focus on just a few of the books we’d highly recommend. With this in mind, here is our list, with a short explanation of why we recommend each book.
The one book that we’ve both read multiple times is Michael Gerber’s book, The E-Myth. It’s best to read this when you first start out, because most of us are moving from a technician type of job (actually doing all the work) and into a leadership role (where we lead others to do the work). While both of these positions are important, they are very different, and there are many steps that need to be mastered in the transition. Reading The E-Myth every few years gives you different perspectives along the spectrum as you go and grow from technician to leader, so be sure to revisit it.
Another book I recommend you read every two to four years is Dale Carnegie’s, How to Win Friends & Influence People. This is just a very practical and telling guide on winning people over and influencing their lives and decisions for the better. It’s a must-read for anyone in a sales or customer-facing position.
My third recommendation is a combo: Failing Forward and The 21 Irrefutable Laws of Leadership by John C. Maxwell are both good reads to return to over time. Failing Forward is a good reminder that failure is a part of the process that moves you forward to success. It’s a book that reminds you to make sure you’re learning from your failures and not just failing. I don’t think any of us will ever reach perfection when it comes to The 21 Irrefutable Laws of Leadership, however, we can continuously get better and better. This book is a great one to revisit to gauge your progress and see how you are doing, where you currently are, and how far you’ve come as a leader. It’s also a great tool for identifying the laws and determining which ones you already do well with and which ones you need to work on. Since becoming a better leader is an ongoing process, the book is an ongoing read you should return to again and again.
Thinking, Fast and Slow, by Daniel Kahneman provides a brilliant and revealing look at the two systems at work in our brains that take in information and process it to make judgements and decisions. It’s not a traditional business book, but it highlights the number one job of any entrepreneur or leader, and sheds light on why we think what we think and do what we do. Part psychology and neurology, part university course on logic and statistics, what emerges is a holistic look at the way the grey matter in our brains has evolved to ensure our survival, but at the same time severely handicaps us in an ever-increasingly fast-paced world — a world where life and death decisions get made based on larger and larger sets of complex, interrelated data. Does the lowly human brain, the same basic technology we’ve used for millennia, stand a chance at navigating this new world successfully?
You Are Not So Smart, by David McRaney is a humbling read, and has turned into a sort of “gut check” reference book for me. Like most people, I like to think of myself as intelligent, able to think rationally and believe things based on a diligent survey of all the facts. Turns out, none of us are nearly as good at that kind of thinking as we’d like to think, and the fact that we think we are anyway, well, that’s kind of the whole point of this book. It’s a well-organized encyclopedia of logical fallacies and neuro-benders that will probably make you want to call up someone you know and apologize to them for acting so sure of yourself so often. As with Kahneman’s book, it’s not straight-ahead business, but I guarantee it will help you get where you’re going by giving you a useful toolkit for challenging what you think and believe in any given circumstance.
The Dip, by Seth Godin is something I pull out now and then, when I’m needing to walk to the edge of the cliff and peer over the side. It’s all about knowing when to quit and when to keep going in business. I think Seth wrote it to help people feel okay with a decision to walk away from something in order to do something else. Sometimes we have a false sense of loyalty to our big ideas, when we should really be willing to move away from unprofitable ones much more quickly than we do. But just as important is to recognize “the dip,” or period of uncertainty that often comes right before the breakthrough moment arrives.
Well, that’s it for this list. What are some of your book recommendations? Let us know in the comments section below!