Join Early Retirement Today
Reply
 
Thread Tools Search this Thread Display Modes
Taking a small business to the 'next level'
Old 12-03-2007, 08:49 PM   #1
Thinks s/he gets paid by the post
thefed's Avatar
 
Join Date: Oct 2005
Posts: 2,203
Taking a small business to the 'next level'

What exactly does that mean?? "The next level" surely means different things to different companies, but the general principals should still be the same.


I own two mildly successful service oriented businesses : Air Duct Cleaning and Lawn Care. Each is independent of the other, except for ME being the common factor. The lawn care business is not my concern right now, as there is endless potential I have yet to tap into. This company's gross sales far exceeded expectations, with only a very simpling marketing plan implemeneted. I KNOW I can grow the lawncare company 150-200% this coming year...no doubt.

My air duct cleaning company however is stagnant. I'm not getting a lot of business lately, when I get leads I'm not closing them as easily, etc . (EX: I usually close 40% of leads from a particular source. These last 3 months I've closed maybe 15%) HOWEVER, I have exceeded last years gross sales by nearly 25%. It just seems like I've hit a brick wall in the last 3 months or so.

I'm not so sure how to take the duct cleaning business to the "next level". It seems I've tried every marketing approach I can afford and nothing works better than what I'm doing. But what I'm doing isn't GROWING, I'm stagnant. I currently rely on some referrals from HVAC and other professionals (home inspectors, mold guys etc), as well as targeted online advertising. I also get good business from ServiceMagic contractor referral service. I've all but given up on newspapers or coupon clipper magazines. I've tried door to door fliers. Ads in local church or school bulletins. Etc etc

And now I'm stuck!!! Any ideas where to go next
__________________

__________________
thefed is offline   Reply With Quote
Join the #1 Early Retirement and Financial Independence Forum Today - It's Totally Free!

Are you planning to be financially independent as early as possible so you can live life on your own terms? Discuss successful investing strategies, asset allocation models, tax strategies and other related topics in our online forum community. Our members range from young folks just starting their journey to financial independence, military retirees and even multimillionaires. No matter where you fit in you'll find that Early-Retirement.org is a great community to join. Best of all it's totally FREE!

You are currently viewing our boards as a guest so you have limited access to our community. Please take the time to register and you will gain a lot of great new features including; the ability to participate in discussions, network with our members, see fewer ads, upload photographs, create a retirement blog, send private messages and so much, much more!

Old 12-03-2007, 08:50 PM   #2
Thinks s/he gets paid by the post
thefed's Avatar
 
Join Date: Oct 2005
Posts: 2,203
huh, that was my 1000th post. figures it'd be me stressing out about making more $$
__________________

__________________
thefed is offline   Reply With Quote
Old 12-03-2007, 09:10 PM   #3
Administrator
W2R's Avatar
 
Join Date: Jan 2007
Location: New Orleans
Posts: 38,949
Quote:
Originally Posted by thefed View Post
I'm not so sure how to take the duct cleaning business to the "next level". It seems I've tried every marketing approach I can afford and nothing works better than what I'm doing. But what I'm doing isn't GROWING, I'm stagnant. I currently rely on some referrals from HVAC and other professionals (home inspectors, mold guys etc), as well as targeted online advertising. I also get good business from ServiceMagic contractor referral service. I've all but given up on newspapers or coupon clipper magazines. I've tried door to door fliers. Ads in local church or school bulletins. Etc etc

And now I'm stuck!!! Any ideas where to go next
Are local TV ads too expensive? I have never run a business large enough to advertise, and know nothing about it. But someone I know who has, once told me that either a business is growing or it is shrinking.
__________________
Already we are boldly launched upon the deep; but soon we shall be lost in its unshored, harbourless immensities.

- - H. Melville, 1851
W2R is online now   Reply With Quote
Old 12-03-2007, 09:21 PM   #4
Give me a museum and I'll fill it. (Picasso)
Give me a forum ...
 
Join Date: Jul 2006
Posts: 11,020
No answers, just a few questions for you:

1. Is the subprime meltdown adversely affecting the funds people have to spend on "servicing" their homes in your area? If so, next year may be a lean one for the lawn business. Could be they are scraping to pay the mortgage and eliminating discretionary expenses.
2. Are new technologies causing disruptive change? e.g. robot duct cleaners, ductless heating & A/C. Is this a declining market?
3. How's your customer satisfaction? Complaints? What is the number one thing your customers don't like about your service? How many repeat customers do you have?
4. What is the quality of your service? For example, how many calls are completed within your target times? In what ways can you beat the competition's service?
5. How's your pricing? Are you competitive?
6. What is the competition doing?
7. Do you have any strategic alliances, e.g. major furnace installers?
8. If you have already answered all these questions and come up smelling like a rose, you need a marketing plan.
__________________
Meadbh is offline   Reply With Quote
Old 12-04-2007, 06:45 AM   #5
Recycles dryer sheets
 
Join Date: Sep 2007
Posts: 87
Offer an initial discount for duct service work to current lawn care customers. If lawn care is growing over 100%, this can help get your foot in the door.
__________________
ChemEng is offline   Reply With Quote
Old 12-04-2007, 07:59 AM   #6
Thinks s/he gets paid by the post
thefed's Avatar
 
Join Date: Oct 2005
Posts: 2,203
Quote:
Originally Posted by Meadbh View Post
No answers, just a few questions for you:

1. Is the subprime meltdown adversely affecting the funds people have to spend on "servicing" their homes in your area? If so, next year may be a lean one for the lawn business. Could be they are scraping to pay the mortgage and eliminating discretionary expenses.
2. Are new technologies causing disruptive change? e.g. robot duct cleaners, ductless heating & A/C. Is this a declining market?
3. How's your customer satisfaction? Complaints? What is the number one thing your customers don't like about your service? How many repeat customers do you have?
4. What is the quality of your service? For example, how many calls are completed within your target times? In what ways can you beat the competition's service?
5. How's your pricing? Are you competitive?
6. What is the competition doing?
7. Do you have any strategic alliances, e.g. major furnace installers?
8. If you have already answered all these questions and come up smelling like a rose, you need a marketing plan.

THANK YOU for taking the time to respond....these are all things that have run through my head at one point or another in the last few months....and to quote you, i think i come out smelling pretty rosey.

my weakness, if anything, is my strategic alliances. although i've contacted literally hundreds of companies in the past 2 years, i feel like i can be doing more in that arena

What really blows my mind is that every customer has been satisfied with our work. I ask in person. I follow up with surveys. Some referral services allow customers to review us online (we've got 30 5 star reviews and one negative review from what i remember to be a crotchety old man-all hesaid was 'i wasnt satisfied') EVERY CUSTOMER says they think we did a good job-some even give us cash tips as of late- but repeat customers are almost non-existent as this doesnt need to be done but every 5 yrs- and referrals have always been hard to come by. We offer cash to the referER as part of our "Ducts For Bucks" program....but it doesnt seem to help. I'd guess that of the 150 jobs we did this year, maybe 5 were customer referrals, 25 were contractor referrals (strategic alliances), 40-50 were from ServiceMAgic and other contractor referral services, and the rest are from googling or yahoo. This has been the stratification (is that the right word here? looks funny) since I started 2 years ago.


Another weak point I now am noticing is that I guess I don't REALLY know the competition as well as I did 2 years ago when I did my initial market research. SOMEBODY is bidding jobs so low that I'm not getting many, IMHO. But who? What are hey offering? I've been slowly dropping my prices and am starting to snag a few here and there....




I agree that I need a marketing plan....but don't know where to go next


T
__________________
thefed is offline   Reply With Quote
Old 12-04-2007, 08:01 AM   #7
Thinks s/he gets paid by the post
thefed's Avatar
 
Join Date: Oct 2005
Posts: 2,203
Quote:
Originally Posted by ChemEng View Post
Offer an initial discount for duct service work to current lawn care customers. If lawn care is growing over 100%, this can help get your foot in the door.
Great idea. I've been trying to build a good database in order to keep customers info organized in ONE location. Then I can cross-advertise like you mentioned, back and forth depending on the time of year or needs of the company.


Thanks!
__________________
thefed is offline   Reply With Quote
Old 12-04-2007, 08:48 AM   #8
Thinks s/he gets paid by the post
DangerMouse's Avatar
 
Join Date: Jan 2007
Location: Silicon Valley
Posts: 1,812
My question is why do you want to go to the next level and if you do, do you have a plan as to how you would cope staffing wise etc. as I believe you have had problems in that area previously? Does your current business provide you with a good living or do you need to grow the business to put food on table?
__________________

I be a girl, he's a boy. Think I maybe FIRED since July 08. Mid 40s, no kidlets. Actually am totally clueless as to what is going on with DH.
DangerMouse is offline   Reply With Quote
Old 12-04-2007, 02:54 PM   #9
Full time employment: Posting here.
cardude's Avatar
 
Join Date: Feb 2006
Posts: 599
Quote:
My question is why do you want to go to the next level and if you do, do you have a plan as to how you would cope staffing wise etc. as I believe you have had problems in that area previously? Does your current business provide you with a good living or do you need to grow the business to put food on table?
I'm wondering the same thing. Unless the air duct cleaning business provides the bulk (or a large amount of your income) why don't you consider selling it or shutting it down if you can't come up with any good ideas on how to grow the business. It would kill me trying to run TWO businesses.

I'm actually coming to the same conclusion with my business. I've hit a wall the last couple of years and can't seem to grow. Plus, the business is demanding more and more capital just to maintain the same amount of sales, so I'm trying to sell it and ER for awhile until I decide what I want to do, or maybe I'll ER forever............
__________________
cardude is offline   Reply With Quote
Old 12-04-2007, 04:16 PM   #10
Thinks s/he gets paid by the post
thefed's Avatar
 
Join Date: Oct 2005
Posts: 2,203
The money is too good to consider selling the company for a lump-sum....and it does make up the bulk of my income. It's not AS seasonal as lawn care, so it's a bit more reliable month to month.

I want to take it to the next level because, as was already stated, a company that is not growing is shrinking. I feel that if I don't perpetually try to improve and make things more profitable, then I will more easily fall into the trap of 'shrinking;.

I'd love for this business to be my SOLE source of income some day...but to do so I'd need to at least double sales.I have the labor available to do that, if the calls come my way. But they aren;t going to ;come my way'...i need to MAKE THEM come this way!!
__________________
thefed is offline   Reply With Quote
Old 12-04-2007, 05:40 PM   #11
Give me a museum and I'll fill it. (Picasso)
Give me a forum ...
RunningBum's Avatar
 
Join Date: Jun 2007
Posts: 5,201
Maybe you hinted at this with the "strategic alliances", but have you been working with duct installers to come up with a plan where they sell or advertise your contract when they sell/install the ducts? Or how about partnering with other maintenance types, like painters, commercial or house cleaners (not sure if your duct cleaning is one or the other or both), real estate agents, house inspectors, etc.

Basically if the decision making person is comfortable with a contractor in one aspect, they might listen to their recommendation for duct cleaning.
__________________
RunningBum is offline   Reply With Quote
Old 12-04-2007, 06:48 PM   #12
Full time employment: Posting here.
 
Join Date: May 2004
Location: Worldwide
Posts: 913
Cold Calling is very effective and little expense.

Create a 30 second script something like this.

Hi my name is ____ and I am with ABC Duct Cleaning Service. You know who we are, right? (if yes, move on to below, if no = We are one of the premier duct cleaning business in the area. )

The reason I am calling is that we are offering complete air duck cleaning for your entire house . Would you be interested in receiving some information on this service?

Yes = Great, can you please give me your address to mail the information to. ( send a flyer detailing your service rate and testimonials, follow up in 7 days )

No = thank you good bye
Next call.

Good luck to you.

Billy
RetireEarlyLifestyle.com
__________________
In 1991 Billy and Akaisha Kaderli retired at the age of 38. They have lived over 2 decades of this financially independent lifestyle, traveling the globe.
Billy is offline   Reply With Quote
Old 12-04-2007, 08:30 PM   #13
Thinks s/he gets paid by the post
thefed's Avatar
 
Join Date: Oct 2005
Posts: 2,203
RunningBum, and Billy- you both bring up excellent points

I started this company by cold-calling contractors...days and days, phonebooks upon phonebooks - HVAC, maid services,general contractors, roofers, chimney guys, mold contractors etc etc For my time invested, the return has been phenomenal and on-going. If I can only multiply those efforts ten-fold, perhaps the residual business would increase ten-fold and I'd be set!!! I'd love to hire some people on a commission only basis to sell my services. Even hourly might be worth it if they are good salespeople....but I dont think I could afford/attract good enough salespeople for my standards
__________________
thefed is offline   Reply With Quote
Old 12-04-2007, 08:43 PM   #14
Recycles dryer sheets
 
Join Date: Feb 2006
Posts: 403
You need to hire hard workers who you can trust and then manage them effectively. It's the most difficult part of any business.
__________________
macdaddy is offline   Reply With Quote
Old 12-05-2007, 09:27 AM   #15
Give me a museum and I'll fill it. (Picasso)
Give me a forum ...
FinanceDude's Avatar
 
Join Date: Aug 2006
Posts: 12,484
Quote:
Originally Posted by cardude View Post
I'm actually coming to the same conclusion with my business. I've hit a wall the last couple of years and can't seem to grow. Plus, the business is demanding more and more capital just to maintain the same amount of sales, so I'm trying to sell it and ER for awhile until I decide what I want to do, or maybe I'll ER forever............
What business are you in??
__________________
Consult with your own advisor or representative. My thoughts should not be construed as investment advice. Past performance is no guarantee of future results (love that one).......:)


This Thread is USELESS without pics.........:)
FinanceDude is offline   Reply With Quote
Old 12-05-2007, 09:32 AM   #16
Give me a museum and I'll fill it. (Picasso)
Give me a forum ...
FinanceDude's Avatar
 
Join Date: Aug 2006
Posts: 12,484
Quote:
Originally Posted by thefed View Post
The money is too good to consider selling the company for a lump-sum....and it does make up the bulk of my income. It's not AS seasonal as lawn care, so it's a bit more reliable month to month.

I want to take it to the next level because, as was already stated, a company that is not growing is shrinking. I feel that if I don't perpetually try to improve and make things more profitable, then I will more easily fall into the trap of 'shrinking;.

I'd love for this business to be my SOLE source of income some day...but to do so I'd need to at least double sales.I have the labor available to do that, if the calls come my way. But they aren;t going to ;come my way'...i need to MAKE THEM come this way!!
Here's my 2 cents:

1)Have you checked into the local Chamber of Commerce? They have cheap ways of promoting your business. My Chamber has newsletters that go out every two months, and for $100 you can promote your business to 300 members.

2)Check with the local homebuilders, the high volume ones. Offer them a deal to ahve you do the duct work cleaning afte the house is complete.

3)Hire a telemarketing person and pay them hourly with a per lead incentive, like $1 for an appointment set, etc. Leverage your time.
__________________
Consult with your own advisor or representative. My thoughts should not be construed as investment advice. Past performance is no guarantee of future results (love that one).......:)


This Thread is USELESS without pics.........:)
FinanceDude is offline   Reply With Quote
Old 12-05-2007, 09:40 AM   #17
Full time employment: Posting here.
cardude's Avatar
 
Join Date: Feb 2006
Posts: 599
Quote:
What business are you in??
cars
__________________
cardude is offline   Reply With Quote
Old 12-05-2007, 10:16 AM   #18
Give me a museum and I'll fill it. (Picasso)
Give me a forum ...
FinanceDude's Avatar
 
Join Date: Aug 2006
Posts: 12,484
Quote:
Originally Posted by cardude View Post
New multi-line auto dealership. Decent money, but a pain in the ass.
I was in the business for a number of years. Funny, we always thought the owners just collected the money, until I became a GM............

Which lines? I hope you have an import line in there somewhere, like Toyota or Honda.......
__________________
Consult with your own advisor or representative. My thoughts should not be construed as investment advice. Past performance is no guarantee of future results (love that one).......:)


This Thread is USELESS without pics.........:)
FinanceDude is offline   Reply With Quote
Old 12-05-2007, 10:28 AM   #19
Full time employment: Posting here.
cardude's Avatar
 
Join Date: Feb 2006
Posts: 599
Quote:
I was in the business for a number of years. Funny, we always thought the owners just collected the money, until I became a GM............
What do ya mean? You thought we didn't do anything, or you thought we made more than we actually do?

No imports........
__________________
cardude is offline   Reply With Quote
Old 12-05-2007, 10:51 AM   #20
Give me a museum and I'll fill it. (Picasso)
Give me a forum ...
calmloki's Avatar
 
Join Date: Jan 2007
Location: Independence
Posts: 5,460
J. M.? Not from Texas? You sound different in print - Mum's the word - Sal's guy. I want out too.
__________________

__________________
calmloki is offline   Reply With Quote
Reply


Currently Active Users Viewing This Thread: 1 (0 members and 1 guests)
 
Thread Tools Search this Thread
Search this Thread:

Advanced Search
Display Modes

Posting Rules
You may not post new threads
You may not post replies
You may not post attachments
You may not edit your posts

BB code is On
Smilies are On
[IMG] code is On
HTML code is Off
Trackbacks are Off
Pingbacks are Off
Refbacks are Off


Similar Threads
Thread Thread Starter Forum Replies Last Post
closing a small business grateful Other topics 7 09-15-2007 07:45 PM
small business headaches spark0506 Other topics 5 04-27-2006 09:29 AM
Starting a small business maggieddd Young Dreamers 5 11-20-2005 02:06 PM
Question for Dory, others on a small business brewer12345 FIRE and Money 3 10-16-2005 11:04 AM
work from home small business laurence Young Dreamers 29 08-11-2005 08:25 PM

 

 
All times are GMT -6. The time now is 11:28 PM.
 
Powered by vBulletin® Version 3.8.8 Beta 1
Copyright ©2000 - 2017, vBulletin Solutions, Inc.