When Disaster Strikes

A Prussian Field Marshal, Helmuth von Moltke the Elder is the first person credited with saying that no plan survives contact with the enemy.  It applies in war.  It applies in business.  I saw it applied firsthand at a recent trade show and personally, the next day.

Planning is important in war and business.  Those who act without planning often fail.  Yet those who cannot act and adjust after plans go awry, are almost certain to fail.

Molke was given credit for the phrase by British historian, Correlli Barnett.  In his 1961 book, “The Desert Generals,” Barnett wrote that “Rommel took Moltke’s view that ‘no plan survives contact with the enemy.’  If his plan got him into battle, it was enough.  After that, Rommel would fight by ear and eye and tactical sense, like a duelist.”

This came to life a couple of weeks ago at the Southeast Michigan Air Conditioning Contractors Association (SEMIACCA) Trade Show.  I had one of the first speaking slots at SEMIACCA, so we arrived a good 45 minutes before the conference part of the show began.  When we arrived, we were greeted by chaos.

The event center hosted a serious party the night before.  The morning clean-up and set-up crew failed to show.  Trash littered the floors.  The tables and chairs for the conference set-up were out, but neatly stacked.

Members of SEMIACCA who arrived early were scrambling to get tables and chairs in place.  They were joined by exhibitors and speakers who had arrived early.  People were draping cloths across the seminar tables.

The people who arrived early had been promised breakfast in every room.  No one had showed up to prepare it.  Worse, at least from my jet-lagged perspective, there was no coffee.

Colleen Keyworth from Online Access was in charge.  Anyone who knows Colleen knows that even if she was not formally in charge, she would have taken charge.  She did it with a smile and good humor that I found rather miraculous under the circumstances.  She seemed resigned to the fact that she could only control what she could control.  She did her best with what she had.

Colleen was following Rommel’s example.  She was recruiting people to help.  As a testament to the character of the people in the service trades, no one said it wasn’t his or her job.  Everyone pitched in.

I focused on getting the AV set-up for my presentation, the screen placed, and the chairs and tables in order.  In the room where I was speaking, a large, raised dais extended into the center of the room.  It looked like the spot where a band had played the night before.  We simply placed the tables and chairs around it.

Meanwhile, someone made a donut and bagel run in lieu of breakfast.  Mercifully, someone from the event center had arrived and managed to produce coffee.

The first session started.  We made do and it all turned out okay.  The people who arrived after the first session had no idea a disaster was averted.

Disasters are averted every day in business.  While it is preferable to avoid them, it is not always possible.  Stuff happens.  When it does, it is the response that matters.  When you face a disaster, can you act “by ear and eye and tactical sense, like a duelist,” like Rommel?  I got my own chance the next morning.

My arriving flight landed after midnight before the event.  When I got to the hotel, I stayed up adjusting my presentation to update the statistics used.  Because tax examples were involved, I had to make adjustments for Michigan’s state taxes.  As a result, I didn’t get a lot of sleep.  Since speaking involves an adrenalin kick, I was fine when presenting.  The price gets paid afterwards.  The trade show ended at 8:00 p.m. and a group dinner followed.  When I got to the hotel, I was wiped.

I checked email, then used the same charger for my laptop to charge my phone.  I remember setting the closed, black laptop on a navy-blue chair next to the bed.  If you’re thinking, uh oh, you’re on track.

The next morning the alarm went off at 5:00 a.m.  The light home departed at 7:30 a.m.  Sleep deprived, I stumbled through the morning routine, packed, and headed off to the airport.  When I boarded the plane, I pulled out a book, computer charger, and… no laptop.

Oh… crap.  Crap, crap, crap, crap, crap!  I had left the black laptop on the navy-blue chair and hadn’t noticed the missing weight in my backpack because of all of the books I carry.

Awesome.  Can you spell idiot?  How about disaster?

My initial thought was to get home and get the hotel to ship the laptop.  The better thought was to go get it.  Sure, there was a risk of getting stuck in Detroit or being assigned to a middle seat between two sweating 400-pound men.  I rationalized that the pain to get another flight was less than the pain of recovering the laptop.  As I thought about it, the pain of renting a car and driving to Dallas was less than the pain of recovering the laptop.  So, I got off the plane.

Fortunate smiled on me.  I was able to rebook in a similar seat on the 1:30 p.m. flight.

Now I had to get to the hotel.  It was the Delta, a Marriott property.  I asked a Marriott shuttle driver if he dropped off there.  He said to look for a white and blue van.  Voila, a white and blue van was parked next to a sign that read, Westin and Delta.  I hopped on, told the driver I wanted to get off at the Delta.  He dropped me off at Delta Airlines.  Oops.

At the shuttle pick-up location near Delta Airlines, I kept waiting for a van from the Delta Hotel.  After 15 eternally loooooong minutes, no van.  But there was one for the hotel next door to it, so I took it.  When I finally got to the hotel, I still had my room keycard.  It worked.  Inside the room was my laptop.  And… there was the bed.  With a flight boarding five hours later, a nap beckoned.

It’s said we should expect the unexpected.  Okay, but it’s hard to expect what you cannot expect.  The best you can do is can prepare yourself to adjust if something unexpected comes up.  Then, don’t be surprised when something does come up.

No plan survives contact with the enemy… marketplace… competition… weather… circumstances… your own stupidity.  Like Rommel, make adjustments with your eyes, with your ears, with your tactical sense.  Be like a duelist.  Be like a Comanche.

© 2022 Comanche Marketing

They arose from the northern plains and migrated south.  They were masters of the horse.  And they were masters of war.  As they swept down from the north, none could stand before them.  They drove the Apaches out of Texas.  They beat back the Spanish.  They carved a territory across the plains where they were the undisputed rulers.  The Utes called them “the ones who fight me all of the time.”  The Utes called them Comanches.

 The Comanche Warrior is one who fought all the time.  The Comanche Marketer is one who markets all the time.

The Comanche Story – Take a journey with me

Written by Matt Michel

Around a quarter century ago, I started Comanche Marketing.  Just saying that makes me feel old.  Of course, compared to 25 years ago I am old.  In a world where everyone is focused on “What’s in it for me,” Comanche Marketing is an example of giving before receiving.  Take a journey with me and I’ll share how Luke 6:38 (look it up) describes the world.  If the Bible’s not your thing, Michelangelo said almost the same thing.  So did Zig Ziglar.  So did thousands.  It’s an eternal truth.  If you expect to receive, you must first give of yourself.

Comanche goes way back to the defunct HVAC industry trade show, Comfortech.  Starting in 1992, I had begun writing for Contracting Business magazine, which operated Comfortech.  I was given a speaking slot and asked for a title.  I had a vague idea about what I wanted to speak about, which was small business marketing tactics.

I thought it might be cool to frame them around an American Indian nation.  After all, Native Americans were great tacticians.  This led me to begin researching various Indian tribes/nations.  After a lot of research, it seemed to me that two of them were kick- uh, butt.  These were the Seminoles and the Comanches.

Having grown up in Tallahassee, Florida, I had a natural affinity to the Seminoles.  It turns out the Seminoles are the only Indian nation that is technically still at war with the United States.  Rather than give up, a contingent of the Seminoles faded back into the Everglades and other Florida swamps where the U.S. troops either couldn’t find them or didn’t want to try.

Since I currently live in the middle of Comanche country in Texas, I had to admire them as well.  Man for man, the Comanches were some of the fiercest warriors in the history of the world.  However, despite their battlefield success, disease and slaughter of the buffalo made moving to the Comanche reservation in Oklahoma a better choice so the great Comanche chief Quanah Parker finally accepted a place in Oklahoma for his people.

Seminoles or Comanches?  What should I choose?  Okay, what sounds better, Seminole Marketing or Comanche Marketing.  Boom.  The Comanches had better alliteration.  Comanche Marketing was the title I submitted for my presentation at Comfortech.

About the same time, I went to a Homeowners Association meeting.  The meeting started with the HOA’s secretary announcing that the president and vice president had both quit.  In short, the HOA was in disarray.  I’m not quite sure how this happened, but I offered to write a newsletter for the HOA and ended up as president.

This was the 1990s.  Email was far from ubiquitous, but I suspected most of the people in our affluent neighborhood had an email address.  I thought email would be a great way to keep the people in the neighborhood informed about the challenges and opportunities we faced.

I wanted to use an email list, but these were brand new.  I didn’t want to look like an idiot (it’s bad enough being one without looking like one).  I decided to practice.  I created an email list using the now vanished, Listbot.  I needed a friendly audience to test the email list.

Without a lot of thought, I decided to write about small business marketing and other tips.  I called it Comanche Marketing and invited three people to subscribe.  During those days, I popped out one tip a day.  They were short, usually less than 200 words.

It seemed to be working.  My three subscribers all emailed me that they received the email I sent.  Beyond that, I wasn’t paying a lot of attention.  One day I checked the stats.  What started with three subscribers grew to more than 50.  A few months later, there were a hundred.

Comanche was growing by word-of-mouth.  My full-time job was as a marketing consultant with a big marketing firm.  When I got too busy, I didn’t post.  When the list server changed from free to pay, I found another but did a poor job communicating the change.  Nevertheless, subscribers found me and resubscribed.  This happened three or four times.

I wrote without pretention.  I spoke with a human voice, my voice.  I often shared what was happening in my life and turned it into marketing or other business lessons

I would go to a conference and strangers would come up to me and ask about my wife’s struggle with Parkinson’s.  At first it confused me and kind of creeped me out.  How could these people know all of this?  The answer was I wrote about it in Comanche.  I didn’t realize it at the time, but I was sort of building a personal relationship with more than a thousand people.

With Comanche I shared my insight, my ideas, my counsel, and my experience generously, without any expectation of a return.  I gave.  I gave without expectation of any return.

The return came.  It came in the form of speaking engagements.  It came in the form of job offers.  It came in the form of people buying “Never Lose a Customer”, a book I wrote.  It came in the form of people willing to invest in a radical (at the time) business concept called the Service Roundtable.  Without the investments of people subscribing to Comanche, the Service Roundtable would never have been launched.  Comanche was also the springboard for most of the early members of the Service Roundtable.

The principle of giving before receiving applied with Comanche.  It’s applied every day.  No one, for example, is “given” a promotion and pay raise.  People earn it before receiving it.  If their current bosses do not give it to them, other bosses will.

As ye give, so shall ye receive.

Cheers!

Matt Michel

mmichel@servicenation.com

© 2022 Comanche Marketing

Rock & Roll Analogies

Written by Steve Mores

OK, let’s have some fun! After each song title, say the words “in my business,” and we can analogize from there. Sing along if you like!

Come Together (Beatles) in my business: Having a total team effort with everyone on the same page, working for the same cause, towards SMART goals that have been communicated and are understood by all.

Another Brick in the Wall (Pink Floyd) in my business: Albeit spinning the meaning, build your business brick by brick with a solid foundation to build upon. Each step of the way follows a plan with clearly stated processes and procedures that can be followed and duplicated.

You Can’t Always Get What You Want (Rolling Stones) in my business: Things will not always go your way or as expected. Stuff happens, obstacles get in the way, but we must adjust, adapt, and keep moving forward.

Born to Run (Bruce Springsteen) in my business: Standing still or just keeping pace with the competition is not a recipe for success. Being strategic, innovative, and creative with your products and services will pay dividends in the race for new business.

Take it Easy (Eagles) in my business: Although keeping a fast pace is good for business, you also need to take time for yourself and your family. That is our top priority and the main reason we are building our businesses in the first place. Take time away from business to relax and enjoy some family time and time for yourself.

Imagine (John Lennon) in my business: Dream big and imagine the amazing possibilities that a well-run business has to offer. Don’t let the naysayers get in your way. If you think you can, you can. Dream big.

Living in the Past (Jethro Tull) in my business: Humbly remembering your past successes is a good thing that will keep you motivated. Yet dwelling on the past mistakes without learning from them can be depressing. Celebrate your successes and become wise from your mistakes.

I Can See for Miles (The Who) in my business: Having an annual plan with goals, along with a 5, 10, 15, and 20-year plans, will give you a road map to success. Seek mentors, learn from other successes and failures, read business-related books, and apply the knowledge. Implement and execute daily with your focus on the future.

Turn it on Again (Genesis) in my business: As the saying goes, “If at first, you don’t succeed, try, try again.” Failure should never overtake you when your determination to succeed is stronger. Keep it turned on!

Don’t Bring me Down (ELO) in my business: Don’t let others bring you down by telling you it can’t be done or that the risk is too high. Calculated risks are good for business and are needed to grow. “There are risks and costs to action. But they are far less than the long-range risks of comfortable inaction.”  – John F. Kennedy 

Dirty Deeds (AC/DC) in my business: There is no room in any business for unethical or shady behavior. There is plenty of room to always keep the best interest of our clients in mind while offering valid solutions to discovered challenges.  

I Want You to Want Me (Cheap Trick) in my business: This is what I like to call the “I gotta guy” syndrome. 

Your service should be so extraordinary that your clients want to refer you to family and friends without being prompted or compensated. “You need someone in the trades? Well, I gotta guy!”  

Thank You (Led Zeppelin) in my business: There is always time to be grateful for what our businesses have afforded us, our families, and our team members. Sincerely show gratitude and thanks to your clients for trusting you to service them and to your team members when they go above and beyond expectations. 

Into the Great Wide Open (Tom Petty) in my business: There are many opportunities out there, and you must seize the moments. Make it happen and have fun in the process. 

Taking Care of Business (BTO) in my business: I had to throw this one in here since it is so obvious. It addresses all the above!

Don’t Stop Believing (Journey) and Dream On (Aerosmith) in my business: No analogy needed. ROCK ON! 

 

Steve Mores is the Divisional President at Dynamic Air Quality Solutions.

Service Roundtable is dedicated to growing your bottom line and helping your business maximize its full potential. These groups 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.

Three Tips to Increase Productivity and Sales During Shoulder Seasons

Written by Cydney Myers

In the field service industry, HVAC in particular, service providers are all too familiar with the shoulder season. In fact, many plan and track their sales cycles around these typically slow times of the year.

So, when exactly is the “shoulder season” in field service?

Taking a nod from the travel industry, the field service professionals define shoulder seasons as the times of the year when temperatures fall between 45 and 65 degrees – usually during spring and fall months. Because temperatures remain fairly moderate during these seasons, there isn’t as much need for heating and cooling systems – typically resulting in a decreased use, service, and ultimately business for field service teams.

While many service providers plan ahead, hoping to make up for slow service seasons during peak summer and winter months, there are several steps field service providers can take to increase sales and revenue during shoulder seasons.

 

Three Tips to Increase Business and Sales During Shoulder Seasons

1. Proactively identify and document opportunities for additional service

During busy seasons, incorporating additional steps into your technicians’ on-the-job work procedures can help your team identify and schedule follow-up services that can be performed during shoulder seasons. Focusing on scheduling and verifying these additional services while business is thriving can help your Sales teams increase revenue leading into months when demand is typically low.

 

Focus on selling and scheduling preventative maintenance plans

 It’s no secret that well-maintained equipment operates more smoothly and efficiently, lasts longer, and often requires fewer surprise repairs. In fact, research shows that regular HVAC maintenance can reduce the risk of costly repairs by 95%. During peak seasons, scheduling preventive maintenance visits with clients is a great way to generate and guarantee business and revenue for your team during shoulder seasons while also helping your customers avoid potentially costly repairs.

 

Streamline communication amongst technicians and Sales teams

 When performing a specific repair on a job, identifying, documenting, and efficiently communicating additional work opportunities with Sales may not always be top of mind for the on-site technician. To help ensure these new sales opportunities are logged and effectively executed, consider adding this as a required and regular practice for technicians on the job.

Modern technology solutions like the XOi Vision app can easily facilitate this process by allowing service providers to add a simple yes/no step to a job workflow to identify potential sales opportunities. For example, a step may be added to a given workflow in Vision that asks, “Is this unit a candidate for a refrigerant retrofit, conversion, or replacement?” If the technician answers yes, the app can automatically notify the Sales team, allowing them to plan to discuss this additional work during the shoulder season.

 

Visually document signs of equipment wear and tear

 Requiring technicians to capture job photos and videos is the best way to improve transparency with your office and customers – especially when working on complex equipment in hard-to-reach spaces. When capturing these photos and videos within Vision, we suggest tagging any specific signs of wear and tear that may be present on a specific unit. These photos and videos can be valuable sources of visual proof for Sales teams when verifying additional service opportunities.

For example, during seasons when we shift from cooling to heating, consider adding a workflow step to your common on-the-job procedures that asks the technician to photograph any signs of rust on heating elements and exchangers. These images can be helpful tools to Sales teams when recommending additional service during shoulder seasons.

 

2. Plan ahead to hire and train seasonal staff before peak seasons

In HVAC, business owners can guarantee that business and sales will pick up in the summer and winter seasons as dormant units kick back on, and customers increase usage. In response, many service owners plan to add on additional technicians to help support this increased demand. With new staff coming on during peak seasons, many service providers face the added challenge of recruiting, training and supporting increased headcounts.

To help your team grow and scale efficiently while ensuring a high level of quality and customer service, many service providers are turning to modern technology solutions that can help streamline and standardize on-the-job procedures and work documentation while also improving technician training support and troubleshooting.

 

3. Focus on customer service and market differentiation

Research has shown that if a company’s customer service is excellent, 78% of consumers will continue to do business with that company – even after a mistake. In retrospect, a reported 80% of consumers would consider switching to a company’s competitor following a bad service experience.

During peak seasons, finding ways to differentiate your service and improve your overall customer experience can help boost business during shoulder seasons. For service providers looking to increase trust and satisfaction amongst customers, we recommend utilizing technologies that can help customers better understand, view, and verify the services a technician may perform or recommend while also expediting the time it takes to complete a given job.

 

Cydney Myers is the Marketing Manager for XOi Technologies.

Service Roundtable is dedicated to growing your bottom line and helping your business maximize its full potential. These groups 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.

Winning at the Kitchen Table

Written by Michelle LaFrance

You’ve been invited to a seat at the kitchen table; however, dinner is not served. And to make matters even worse, your competition has been invited as well!

Selling at the kitchen table isn’t easy. Consider the fact that homeowners shopping for plumbing, a new HVAC system, or a remodeling project seem to have it built into their DNA to get three competitive quotes (some are even more enthusiastic and get four or five quotes). You can start to see that your time at the kitchen table is like an audition. Who will land the leading role?

It’s showtime! How you handle your time at the kitchen table is key. And just like a performer needs to read the audience, your ability to close the sale has everything to do with your ability to accurately read the prospect and understand the set of values that will be driving their buying decision.

There are two very important things to understand:

  1. What causes your prospect to say YES to you and your offer?
  2. What drives your prospect to say NO to you and your offer?

It’s the greatest discovery in the history of business. People buy based on a certain personality profile is key to winning at the kitchen table.

 

TIP #1: LET YOUR PROSPECT DETERMINE YOUR PRESENTATION

Pre-determined sales presentations only work with some people some of the time.

Some sales teams use an iPad that some people like, and some won’t.

Some sales teams use a pitch book, a series of set questions designed to gather data that can use in ‘the close .’ However, the answers to these questions may not have anything to do with your prospect’s actual buying behavior.

Any canned sales process that does not consider your prospect’s values will miss out on the very reason that people make buying decisions. On the contrary, when you address values, you’ll not only get the sale, you get a higher level of satisfaction, positive reviews, and referrals.

 

TIP #2: LEARN TO SPEAK THEIR LANGUAGE 

People’s criteria to make a buying decision are so different that you can think of it as speaking another language.

Consider this: Hippocrates, considered the father of medicine, identified four distinct personality types, each so different from the next that he learned to treat them differently medically based on their personality profile. He categorized people into categories that he called the Four Temperaments.

What does this tell you? It points to the fact that any canned presentation that doesn’t consider the four personality types will only work sometimes. It makes sense that to increase your effectiveness, you need to adjust your presentation to match your prospect’s personality type.

The good news is that the solution is easier than you may think. It all comes down to understanding your prospect’s values and knowing how to deliver the right message to the right person.

 

TIP #3: THE ANSWER IS IN THEIR HIDDEN SET OF VALUES

Learning about what motivates each personality type is easier than you think. The best advice is to stop thinking like you. Get out of your head what you think is needed to close the sales and place all your attention on your prospect because they tell you who they are and what they need from you.  

Values are important because they drive behavior and drive buying decisions. 

You can gather a great deal of data from a person’s behavior. You’ve noticed that people behave differently, right?  

  • Have you ever had someone take the wheel from your sales presentation and start driving the process? This is a personality type.
  • Have you had the feeling of your prospect quietly examining you…like you’re being vetted? This is a personality type.
  • How about the person that welcomes you into their home, offers you something to eat, and wants to get to know you before you start addressing their issue? This is a personality type.
  • What about the person that wants the case studies, consumer reports, stats, datasheets, and everything else? Yes, this is a personality type too.

 

~Each of the above behaviors is just one way to identify the personality type you’re dealing with. Many behaviors will indicate who you are dealing with. 

 ~ Each personality type has a hidden set of values that need to be addressed for them to say YES to you.  

 ~Each of these personality types has a hidden fear when deciding who to do business with. Alleviate the fear and increase your odds of getting a YES.

 ~Each personality type has an internal ‘tripwire’ (something that turns them off) and will cause them to say NO to you and your offer.

 

 The more you learn about personality types, and what they value, the better you can successfully move through your sale process. You’ll be able to discern when to break out that iPad and when to leave it alone. You’ll know what to say in response to the set of questions in a way that will make sense to them.

Now…about the invitation to the kitchen table. When you learn to speak your prospect’s language, you can gain confidence in your ability to deliver the right message so that your company will be invited back to do that HVAC install, plumbing, or home remodeling project.

Bon appetite!

 

Michelle LaFrance is a Certified and Licensed BANKCODE Trainer.

Service Roundtable is dedicated to growing your bottom line and helping your business maximize its full potential. These groups 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.