Maybe you have a little extra time on your hands this holiday season and want to do some reading on running a business.  Below are some titles we highly recommend, they range from general information on running a business to creating a vision to specific information on marketing, sales, etc.  Enjoy the read:

  • The E-Myth Revisited – Michael Gerber
  • Sales for the Self Employed – Martin Edic
  • The Complete Guide to Finance and Accounting for Non-Financial Managers – Steven Finkler
  • Built to Last – Jim Collins
  • Good to Great – Jim Collins
  • Think and Grow Rich – Napoleon Hill
  • The Millionaire Mind – Thomas Stanley
  • Guerilla Marketing – Jay Conrad Levinson
  • The One Minute Manager – Kenneth Blanchard

Finding Your First Employees

You’re just starting your Dealership and as you start to market and speak with customers, a question keeps coming up in the back of your mind, “when should I hire someone to help me get these jobs down?”

Most new Dealers have concerns over whether to hire someone when their book of work is not covering a number of weeks, but they are also concerned about how to manage their time effectively when they starting to install the work they have sold while keeping the pipeline filled with new customers.  Below are some tips for transitioning from a one or two person operation to hiring your first employees.

Friends and Family:  Many times a son, friend, brother in law or wife can be the first help your business utilizes.  This doesn’t have to be a permanent solution (unless you and the person want it to be), but can get your business in a scheduling and cash flow situation where hiring someone full time becomes easier.

Temporary staffing companies: There are many local and national companies that provide temporary staffing for the construction industry.  Performing a Google search for “temporary construction staffing companies”, will give you the information you need.  These companies will provide your Dealership the labor it needs for as many or for as few days as you need.  This gives you the luxury of having help when you need it but not incurring the overhead expense of a full time employee until the business can afford it.

EMS and Firemen: Folks who work on ambulances or as firemen normally have schedules where they work two full days and are then off two full days.  This schedule works well with most installs and provides labor for you without having to keep the person on full time.

Making your material go farther

Did you know using CTi’s Smart Prep System can make your Hallmark products cover more?  The Smart Prep product line was originally designed to create a better preparation process for the concrete and to repair cracks with a better system.

Many Dealers are now using the Smart Prep to create a smoother finish that allows the CTi decorative products to cover more and to perform better.  The Smart Prep product line allows the decorative products to create an even stronger bond with the concrete which allows for better performance in the long term.

Concrete Technology would like to congratulate the following businesses on their November anniversary date as CTi Dealers:

ADC Concrete Creations – LA – 14 years
Black Diamond Home Innovations – TX – 13 years
Surface Concepts – MO – 12 years
Concrete Designed – NY – 3 years
Re-Crete Solutions – AL – 3 years
Alabama Concrete Technology – AL – 3 years
Custom Concrete Creations – TX – 2 years
Acrylic Concrete Designs – FL – 2 years
Inland Empire Concrete Restoration – WA – 2 years
Kiss Home Services – FL – 2 years
Kingcrete – MO – 2 years
CTI of Dallas County – TX – 2 years
Southern Concrete Design – MS – 1 year
C4 Concrete Technology – VA – 1 year
McCrory – CTi Services – TX – 1 year
Custom Concrete Restoration – MN – 1 year
Concrete Designs of Tampa Bay – FL – 1 year
American Tile Descaling, Decorative Concrete Division – CA – 1 year
Creative Concrete Solutions – TN – 12 years
Concrete Solutions of North Georgia – GA – 6 years
Artistic Concrete Solutions – PA – 9 years
Classy Concrete Solutions – WI – 7 years
Klas Concrete Designs – Dominica – 6 years
Coastal Concrete Design, Inc – AL – 4 years
Ben’s Concrete Resurfacing – PA – 4 years
CTI of St. Clair County – IL – 3 years
CTI of New Haven – CT – 3 years

Creating a More Productive Crew

Productivity is at the heart of a successful home service business. Your operation can only be as successful as the people who work for you. Working with Dealers for over 25 years, I’ve found enhanced productivity comes from focusing on three main areas:
1) Motivation – this comes from a number of different means, but mainly it’s the atmosphere and culture your company provides your crew people. I’ve seen owners and crew chiefs who can get more out of their people by setting a pace on the job site, keeping the atmosphere upbeat and letting the guys know when they’re doing a good job. Other ways to motivate are also bonuses when a crew exceeds production goals for a time period, this could be money, lunch, or other material ways to show the crew you appreciate them.
2) Training – In working with the Dealers, I’ve noticed a distinct difference between when a crew is unmotivated and when they are not properly trained. A poorly motivated crew normally moves through the entire project in slow motion; a poorly trained but motivated crew will normally show signs of slowing down only during the phases of the project where they are not as sure due to the poor training. To combat this, you first need to understand where the training gaps exist. The easiest way to do this is to simply ask the crew or observe them in action. Most people want to do a good job and if they are unsure how to do this will tell you what they need to be better if asked.
3) Organization – This culprit is all too prevalent in the home services industry these days. Most businesses in this industry have to take their materials and equipment to the homeowner’s location. This leads to a challenge of insuring everything needed is in the trailer when the crew arrives for the project. When a crew has to go back to the warehouse to get missing materials or equipment, you not only have the downtime of the employee who is retrieving the materials, but many times you have the downtime of the entire crew to contend with since they cannot move any further on the project. Checklists of all items that could possibly be used on a particular project is one of the best ways to address this issue. If a crew shows up Monday morning and is preparing the trailer for a project they are starting that day, a checklist should be provided to insure they load everything possibly needed in order to avoid the dreaded downtime.
Working with your employees, motivating, training and keeping them organized will not only lead to higher productivity, but will also lead to better longevity with your crew and higher profits.

Word of mouth advertising is one of the most effective and profitable for a business.  Word of mouth advertising comes from your Dealership offering the following:

  • An agreeable buying experience for the customer
  • A top quality installation
  • An education for the customer on what the product can do and can’t do
  • Ongoing follow up to insure future satisfaction from your customer as well as giving your customer a chance to give you referrals.

With this said, your first area to examine is how your customer buys from you.  This starts with how the phones are answered, how your Dealership looks regarding your trucks and how you and your crew is dressed.  Did you show up for your initial appointment on time? Did you complete the job on schedule? How do you leave the job when it’s done?  All these factors help determine whether how a customer feels about their overall buying experience.  This is one of the most important factors as to whether you’ll get referrals or not.

Second, is the installation quality, this is a two-edged sword.  On the one hand, the perception of the customer can work for you since your customer’s job is normally the first one they’ve seen in reality.  This excitement normally overcomes any small inconsistencies you develop during the job and the customer satisfaction is normally the easiest part of the whole equation.  The other side of the coin though is that particular customer you may run across.  Are you doing everything within reason to satisfy this customer?  Too many times we are trying to get the job done quickly so we can get paid and get on to the next job.  A fussy customer can sometimes be your best referral if you take the time and work with them to insure their satisfaction.

Third is the ongoing satisfaction from the customer.  This is best accomplished by educating the customer about what to expect from the product.  Basic things such as telling the customer to hose the area down periodically to keep it clean can keep your customer happier than the one who feels the product should be self cleaning.  In addition, explaining to the customer that the product is not bullet proof so if they drag a heavy, sharp object across the area they’re not surprised that it scratches.  An educated customer will normally talk about the product more because they understand more about it; this creates the word of mouth advertising you want.

Lastly, is the ongoing follow up.  Business owners are hesitant to call their existing customers because they’re afraid the customer may have a complaint.  It is always better for the customer to tell you about any concerns they may have than the 7 or 8 friends that could have just as easily been referrals.  Calling your customers offers you the ability to diffuse any concerns before they become problems and also provides you with a chance to ask the customer the simple question, “do you know anyone else that may be interested in having their concrete beautified?”  Referral business is the key to bringing your Dealership to incredible heights as far as growth and profitability, don’t let this ideal chance pass you by.

Use a follow up system that insures each customer receives the same attention, an example would be:

  • 2 weeks after the sale, send the customer a thank you note
  • 30 days later, a questionnaire mailed out asking the customer for the thoughts on their experience with your company.
  • 2 months later offer a special for existing customers only (10% off any job over 300 s/f)
  • 90 days later, a request for referrals.
  • A birthday card on the anniversary of their installation. This also serves as a reminder for the re-sealing every two years.

 

Radiant heat flooring is a situation you may encounter if you live in a colder climate.  Radiant heating is the process of embedding tubing in a concrete surface (i.e. interior floors for room heating and exterior slabs to melt snow and ice) and then having hot water or electric heating transmit through this tubing to warm the concrete slab.

The challenge posed by radiant heat flooring is that of not harming the tubing during the preparation stages.  Since the floor has tubing running approximately 2” down throughout the floor, you cannot cut the floor for tension relief.

Preparation of a radiant heat floor must be mechanical.  Use of acid on a radiant heat slab may cause damage to the tubing.  Crack repair procedures can be utilized by forming a small “V” channel in the slab along the crack line and injecting the Fast Crack 1431.  Once the mechanical preparation and crack repair is done, the installation of the CTI System can proceed as normal.

Once the CTI System has been installed, it is recommended that the radiant heat unit not be used for a minimum of 30 days.  This allows the CTI System to cure and so the rapid heating of the concrete caused by the radiant heating doesn’t damage the surface.radiant

trailer-layout-3 trailer-layout-photo
Trailer Organization

Most Dealers operate from a 7’ X 14’ tandem axle trailer.  The weight limit on a trailer of this nature normally ranges from 5000 to 7500 lbs. and can easily hold everything needed for a project of up to 2000 sq. ft.

Having the trailer organized in a way where all items are easy to access and laid out in an trailer-layout-photo2order where they are grouped together as needed is a way to make your crew more efficient.   Before the start of any project, go through the checklist of items that could possibly be needed on the project and make sure the trailer is stocked completely before leaving for the job site.  This extra time spent organizing everything you need will save trips back to your warehouse (or worst, having to purchase items you already have) due to not having items while on the job site.

Trailer Organization

Keeping your trailer organized not only allows you and your installation crews to be more efficient, but also helps in keeping your CTi products in good condition, extends the life of your equipment and provides a professional look for your current and prospective customers when you’re on the job site.  Below are some examples of how to organize a typical trailer, CTi recommends you build out your trailer with the storage and organizational layout that works best for you.

CTi has detailed layouts on where to keep your material, equipment and other items needed for the job site organized in a way where it is not only easy to access but also is easy to find.

With the advent of the Home and Garden Show season, it’s time to get ready for the shows in your area. One good Home Show can result in enough leads to carry your business right into summer.  However, unless you come up with a system to qualify all those leads, you could wind up spending more time appointment-hopping than money-making.  So, how do you weed out the lookers from the buyers?  Here’s one alternative….

Rather than use a legal pad at your show booth for prospect’s names and numbers, create a Prospect Information Form. It should be a simple form that either you or the consumer fills out while visiting your booth. Besides the obvious Name, Address and Phone information, equip your Prospect Information Form with questions that will really help you qualify them. For instance…

  1. Area to be reconditioned?               Approximate size:
  2. Is your garage a one, two or three car garage?
  3. Do you consider your driveway to be long (4 car lengths or more), or short (3 car lengths or less)?
  4. What is the condition of the existing concrete?
  5. Good to some light cracking ?
  6. Several large cracks?
  7. Very poor condition?
  8. On a scale of one to ten (ten the highest), how high a priority is your concrete refinishing project?
  9. Besides CTi, what other alternatives have you considered for the project?
  10. Is someone at home during the day incase we have a cancellation and can get to you sooner?
  11. When would you like us to contact you for an on-site appointment?
  12. Immediately
  13. 2 – 4 weeks
  14. 2 – 4 months

In terms of qualifying your prospects, questions 6, 7 & 8 are the important ones.  You might argue that question 5 is as important, but the answer to question 8 is the true answer to question 5.  By using two questions aimed at the same objective, you can get very precise with your qualifying. Once you’ve got your Prospect Information Form looking the way you want it, run on down to Kwikie-Print and have them make up some pads for you.

By now you should get the picture. Remember, with potentially hundreds of Home Show leads, you’ve got to be able to qualify them. No reason to waste your time following up with folks who aren’t serious about their prospective CTi work.  By creating your own Prospect Information Form you will both look more professional and be able to follow up in the most profitable manner.

The Basics. Hopefully this little section will bore you because you are already well aware of these basic considerations:

  1. Personal hygiene –  Do not show up in shorts and work boots on your way home from a perspiration-filled work day.  Don’t look like you haven’t shaved in two days and, yes, check your nostrils for debris!  Show up looking like a person who, if you didn’t know them, you would invite into your home… a home that often times has been cleaned and tidied up for your arrival.  Remember, emotions will make or break the sale.
  2. Clean vehicle – Don’t pull up in a vehicle that looks like you just competed in the Baja-1000 Race.  It doesn’t have to sparkle, but it should be clean.  If it’s an open pick-up, make sure the truck bed is tidy and hosed down.  Remember, you want to sell them something to beautify their home.  Their impression of your ability to do so will be reflected in the presentation you and your equipment first make. Remember, emotions will make or break the sale.
  3. Be on time! – You will be better off a half hour early than one minute late.  Again, your reliability and ability to perform for your customer will be reflected in how well you keep your initial agreements.  If there is absolutely no way you can show up on time with the proper appearance, call the customer well in advance of the appointment time and ask for their permission to be a half hour or hour (or whatever) late.  Always exercise integrity. Remember, emotions will make or break the sale.
  4. Be compact and focused.   Don’t come stumbling up the walkway like the Keystone Cops with sample boards flying and contracts falling from your notebook.  And, if you’re there to look at a driveway, stay focused on their driveway, not their walkway.   Do NOT turn their attention from their driveway to their walkway unless they bring it up.  And, even if they do, stay focused on the driveway.  “Mrs., Jones, I’ll be happy to look at your walkway, but let’s get the driveway handled first since that’s your major concern.”  There are three reasons for this:  First, Too many choices… too many things for the customer to consider make a sale that much harder to close.  Second, If you throw all of the work around their house into one lump price, the price you quote may be so high that they decide to do nothing.  Third, if you quote them the driveway and they’re wrestling with the price, you can then use a “special” on the walkway to close the sale right there, right then.
  5. Urgency.  Always try to build a little urgency into your presentation.  It will become a powerful ally when you ask for the order.  Urgency can take many forms:  “It seems our work has been discovered.  We’re already booked up three weeks in advance.”  “We’ve had a price increase from the factory that takes effect next month.”  “We only run one Showcased House Program per neighborhood.”  “The first house in the neighborhood gets the advantage of our Referral Awards Program.”  “Our Brick Border Promotion ends this week.”  I’m sure you get the idea, because you’ve been approached this way yourself.  It’s common practice;  it can be handled very naturally and credibly;  and… it works!
  6.   Post Close.  Never run right out of the house the moment you get their commitment.  Schmooze a while, hang out and just talk.  More importantly, always leave your customer with a roadmap for their emotions.  “Mr. & Mrs. Jones,  I know you’re excited this evening about how beautiful your house will look when the project’s completed.  Tomorrow morning, you may wake up a little less excited and wondering ‘what the heck did we do?’  Don’t worry, if that does come up for you, just run outside and visualize how beautiful your house will look when we’re finished.”

Don’t be afraid to ask them if they know what buyer’s remorse is.  “Have you ever heard the term, buyer’s remorse?”  That’s when you go out to buy a $10,000.00 car and come home having bought a $25,000.00 car and you wake up the next morning and go, ‘Oh my goodness!… what have I done?!’  Should you feel that way tomorrow, just run outside and visualize how beautiful your house will look when we’re finished.” Buyer’s remorse is a normal reaction, so get it handled before it comes up.

  1. Answer questions with questions.  If a customer asks a question or raises an objection that you can’t address immediately, gain some time and perspective by asking them a question.  Ex:  “How many jobs do you have in the neighborhood?”  Ans: “Why do you ask?”  Or, “Is that an important consideration, Bob?”  Or, Ex:  “We didn’t think it would cost that much”  Ans: “How much did you think it would be?” (if they answer this question with a figure, you’ve made the sale… just work out the details!).

Answering a question with a question has two effects:  It gives you time to think, and it clarifies the issue in both your mind and the customer’s mind.  Sometimes people just ask questions because they’re nervous.  By responding to them with questions, they’ll get to see that nonsensical questions are just that, nonsense.  Sometimes people ask a question before they have it fully formulated in their mind.  In this case, your question will help them understand their own thoughts.