Stop Being Busy and Start Being Productive

Written by Todd Liles

It’s easy to do the wrong thing too often. Especially when a person is new to management. New managers often fill their day with familiar tasks, as opposed to productive. These tasks give us a false sense of accomplishment.

These tasks fill a person’s day but create a problem when it comes to productivity. In an article by the Harvard Business Review, a study of over 1300 managers concluded that “only 47% of their working time is taken up with managerial activities.” The remainder of the time was unproductive time wasters.

One of the biggest time wasters is the “comfort task.”

What is a comfort task?

A comfort task is an old action that a person falls back on when they need to feel “productive.”

An example would be when a service manager jumps in the truck to run some calls. Running calls makes the service manager feel productive, and it’s comfortable.

But, are running calls a productive use of the service manager’s time?

That depends on the “why” of the service call.

The productive “comfort task.”

If the sales or service manager runs a call with a team member to boost their skill, then it’s productive. Or if the purpose is to discover potential problems in a process, it’s also productive.

If the manager runs a call to make himself/herself feel good, then that’s the wrong “why.” That’s not productive and has no value. The comfort task is a waste of energy, money, and has no intended purpose other than filling time.

What to do about comfort tasks?

The first step to becoming more productive is to decide on the tasks at hand. In our Manager Series program, we teach the following Managerial Principles about task management.

All tasks fall into one of four categories:

  • Personally Responsible
  • Delegable
  • Automatable
  • Destroyable
Personal responsibility for a task.

The tasks only the Service or Sales Manager can do are the ones that deserve energy and time. After all, only you can do them, so do them well!

Other tasks that need to be done, but not by you, should be delegated.

Delegating a task.

Some tasks require you to think on them, study them closely, and then make a decision and a plan. That often means pouring over data, but not assembling it.

In this instance, you may delegate the task of data assembly to another person. This is a huge time saver and solves the problem faster.

Of course, there are times when you need to gather the data because it’s a part of the thinking process; such as a ride-along to discover service problems.

Several tasks occur often and require the same information prior to action. In those cases, use automation.

Automation of a task.

These tasks should be automated to save human energy and time. Example: data gathering, data reporting, email marketing, and repetitive physical processes.

Automation of these tasks prevents errors and energy drain.

Destroy the task.

If a task is not critical or needed, then it should be destroyed. Don’t waste you or your people’s time with unimportant tasks.

Time and energy-wasting tasks are demotivators and should be removed.

Managers Complete Meaningful Tasks and Lead People

As a manager, you have the responsibility of Leading People. Because they do the work (aka tasks) that make a company function. So, you must be focused on leadership, properly assigning tasks, and clearing obstacles that waste time, energy, and money.

Todd Liles is the founder of Service Excellence Training.

Service Roundtable is dedicated to growing your bottom line and helping your business maximize its full potential. These group of contractors work together to assist you with marketing, sales, business, and so much more. Twice a month, seminars around the United States and Canada are held to network and further assist your business. Visit Service Roundtable.com to see if there are Success Days in your area!

Your Comfort Zone is a Liar…Does it Cause Your Marketing to Miss the Mark?

Written by Danielle Putnam

I recently polled 100 contractors about marketing. Out of all who answered the survey, would you believe that 15% responded that they don’t have a clue how to market their companies? Another 15% said they felt stressed about marketing and 31% felt that their marketing was inconsistent. There was only one person that answered the survey that said they felt comfortable with marketing, and even they have room to grow.

Let’s face it: marketing freaks a lot of us out. We aren’t comfortable with it, it seems to come with a looming price tag, and we aren’t even sure it’s working. So, we procrastinate. We procrastinate when things are outside of our comfort zone. But, as my Vice President at The New Flat Rate, Matt Koop, says, “Your comfort zone is a liar!” The growth you want for your company is just on the other side of your comfort zone. We must step outside to reach for what we want.

Winter is Coming

The seasons are changing, and for many contracting businesses, that means the slow season is coming. By the time we realize we need to market and have time to do so, we already have gone too many days with no generated business. Do you have any slow season solutions in place? If you know that you are not going to get any A/C repairs in October, consider something else that you could offer to your customers. And consider it now before October is here. Fall tune-ups, gutter cleaning to get rid of the falling leaves, winterizing the home, pumpkin spice air filters (I’m kidding…sort of), etc.

The first thing you have to do is start somewhere. And where better to start than where your company is already present? Yes, I’m talking about in the homes of your customers, and you already have the army on the ground, your technicians, to help you.

  1. Make sure your technicians have a written marketing process. If you don’t have processes in place that your techs can refer back to, there is no consistency, and it is impossible to have expectations.
  2. Train your techs on the process. Communicate the motivation for the process, and make sure that they know exactly how the process should manifest. Show them how an ideal implementation of the marketing process within a customer’s home will look.
  3. Have practices and simulations to ensure that your techs know the process. You’ve shown them what should be done and what you expect. Now let them practice until it is second nature.
  4. Implement the process for marketing within the homes. Put the marketing tasks on technician checklists, provide them with the proper materials to do so, and discuss the completion of such tasks in each wrap-up call as your tech leaves the home. There must be accountability, so make it a practice to give them the tools and then ask if they are using them.

Technician or Marketer?

So, what kind of marketing should your techs do? They didn’t sign up to be marketers. The great news is, your techs are supposed to be techs, and techs are in the home with customers. So, they need to know the process of informing the customer of all your available opportunities.

  1. Tag the homes of your customers: Sticker everything (within reason) once a job is done. If you worked on the furnace, place a nice sticker with your logo and contact number on the furnace, the water heater, put a nice magnet on the fridge…you get the point. It is inexpensive advertising, and the next time something goes wrong in the home, you’ve already replaced Google for “local _____ repair near me.” And don’t forget, shut off valve tags are a no brainer too.
  2. Have your techs carry your next flash marketing piece with them. By flash marketing, I mean the next upcoming coupon or promotional piece. Give your customer something to be interested in, and if it isn’t a coupon for what they called you out for, that’s great, too. That leads me to point three.
  3. Mention other verticals within your company. This is where those creative slow-season solutions come into play. For example, on an HVAC call, have your tech mention that “by the way, we also do plumbing, attic renovations, duct cleaning, mold removal, roof cleaning”…whatever it may be. Mention it and use any of those verticals as the theme of your flash marketing.

We often get stuck living in a comfort zone of marketing – thinking that word of mouth alone is all that we need. But our marketing doesn’t have to be expensive, just extensive.

Do we follow up with our customers? How can we ensure that they aren’t going to call someone else the next time they need something? We have to make a lasting impression, thank them for choosing us, and provide unforgettable service so they can’t imagine calling anyone else.

I know I mentioned it previously, but once again, if you come to Service World Expo, I invite you to join me for my session; I’ll tell you how to Dumb Down Your Marketing and focus on what works. I just might even have a free gift for you; like I said…flash marketing.

Danielle Putnam is the President of The New Flat Rate and Women in HVACR.

Service Roundtable is dedicated to growing your bottom line and helping your business maximize its full potential. These group of contractors work together to assist you with marketing, sales, business, and so much more. Twice a month, seminars around the United States and Canada are held to network and further assist your business. Visit Service Roundtable.com to see if there are Success Days in your area!

The Cash Calculator – A Financial Model for Your Business

Written by Marc Tannenbaum

Many of the contractors we work with are very good technicians. They’re extremely talented at doing the work of the business. Their businesses have grown well, but further growth is now limited by the very thing that has led to their success to date.

The owner is typically the best in the business at marketing, selling, and/or installing the services of the business, but is unable to show or teach others how to get the same quality of result that he or she gets when doing this work. “Nobody can do it as well as I can,” is a complaint we hear from owners all too often. They are stuck because of his/her success – and the business can’t grow because the owner can’t duplicate the results that they get when they do it themselves.

To grow the business, the owner must grow. He or she must learn how to attract, hire, and keep good people. They need to create marketing, sales, and installation systems and processes to teach team members how to work effectively and profitably. And they need to learn how to manage, motivate, and lead a team of people that do the work of the business. As Michael Gerber, author of “The E-Myth” says, “he needs to learn how to work on the business instead of in it”.

Owners also need models that allow them to see how their businesses operate and make money. These models allow the owner to see how profit is generated, and adjust levers in the model to make more!

The first model is a financial model we call the cash calculator. It allows the owner to know how profitable your business will be, and what to change to produce more results.

Every business wants more customers, revenue, and profit. The problem is that you cannot directly create these things. Winning customers, growing revenue, and increasing profits are the results of other variables in your business. These are the parts of the cash calculator:

LEADS: The number of customers calling you for an estimate each year.

CLOSING RATIO: The percentage of them you sell.

AVERAGE SALE: How many dollars on average each sale is.

# SALES PER CUSTOMER: This measures repeat business. We can sell more to the same client or do annual service on our installations. If 10% of your sales come from this, then your “# sales per customer” is 1.1.

TOTAL SALES: Annual sales for the year. (A result of the first four variables)

NET MARGIN: This measures what percentage of your businesses total income you did NOT spend, and have leftover as profit. It is a very important number!

PROFIT: This is how much you make as pay and profit left over. If you took a salary then this is profit. If you did not take a salary, then this is your pay and profit together (The result of the five variables).

Here’s what the formula looks like:

Leads x Closing Ratio x Average Sale x # Sales per Customer = Total Sales x % Net Margin = Profit

If you want more customers, you can’t go out the front door of your business and tackle one! You get more customers by creating more leads to run, and closing a higher percentage of your run leads into sales.

Once you get a customer, the only way to increase revenue is to sell them a higher quantity or more often.

Once you have revenue, you must spend less of it running your business to increase your profits.

Here’s an example of a small business to illustrate how the cash calculator works:

Leads (1000) x Closing Ratio (20%) x Average Sale (800) x # Sales per Customer (1) = Total Sales ($160,000) x % Net Margin (8%) = Profit ($12,800)

The power in this model is that it identifies the levers you can adjust to increase the profits in your business. Leads (Run) and the percentage of them that close (Closing Ratio) predict how many customers you will have. The average value of each of your sales (Average $/Sale) and the number of times you sell a customer predicts revenue. The percentage of revenue you don’t spend running the business predicts profits.

Leads (1000) x Closing Ratio (20%) x Average Sale (800) x # Sales per Customer (1) = Total Sales ($160,000) x % Net Margin (8%) = Profit ($12,800)


Leads (1100) x Closing Ratio (22%) x Average Sale (880) x # Sales per Customer (1.1) = Total Sales ($234,256) x % Net Margin (8.8%) = Profit ($20,615)


Leads (1200) x Closing Ratio (24%) x Average Sale (968) x # Sales per Customer (1.2) = Total Sales ($334,540) x % Net Margin (10%) = Profit ($33,454)


Leads (1500) x Closing Ratio (30%) x Average Sale (1200) x # Sales per Customer (1.5) = Total Sales ($810,000) x % Net Margin (12%) = Profit ($97,200)


Leads (2000) x Closing Ratio (40%) x Average Sale (1600) x # Sales per Customer (2) = Total Sales ($2,560,000) x % Net Margin (16%) = Profit ($409,600)

Look at the changes from the first example to the second. The inputs were increased by only 10%, but they make a 61% difference in the profit!

The first step toward improvement is awareness. With the cash calculator, you are now aware of a powerful formula that can dramatically impact your profits.

What do you need to do to derive a 10% improvement in these numbers in your business?

Marc Tannenbaum is President of Attic Systems, a Contractor Nation company.

Service Roundtable is dedicated to growing your bottom line and helping your business maximize its full potential. These group of contractors work together to assist you with marketing, sales, business, and so much more. Twice a month, seminars around the United States and Canada are held to network and further assist your business. Visit Service Roundtable.com to see if there are Success Days in your area!