Business Profits

What do you do with your business profits? We’re talking profits today. If you’ve looked at the cost summary of a job in PEP this week, you may have noticed a new line for gross profit. Gross profit is everything that isn’t raw wages or materials. Some of that gross profit will go to pay business operating expenses (insurance, rent, loans, advertising, etc.). What’s left after paying those expenses is your net profit.   So what do you do with your business profits? Pay yourself? Go on vacation? Put the money back into the business? The list of what you can do with your business profits is endless. Here are 3 suggestions to consider:   3 Ways to Invest Business Profits 1. Savings. Cash flow can be an issue for seasonal businesses. Poor cash flow can lead to bad business decisions, like dropping your price to close a sale. Putting money into a savings account will ensure you have cash down the road when you need it. 2. Put profits back into the business. That could mean replacing tools, upgrading equipment or technology, buying another vehicle, or trying a new advertising campaign. Anything that will improve productivity or attract new quality leads is a worthwhile investment. 3. Invest in your employees. Spend some of the business profits on employee training; you’ll end up with more productive employees. Or consider giving your employees a raise. Raises validate the hard work they do and lead to happy, loyal employees. Clients will notice their competence and confidence (and that’s great for your company brand).   Don’t rely on net profits to pay...

Communicate Better

Every painter I’ve talked to in the last few weeks is moving at a hundred miles an hour. Anything we can do to simplify or speed-up tasks is welcome. Email reinvented how we communicate with clients and potential customers. But it’s also become overwhelming. Any reply is better than no reply. Say a new client wants you to make changes to an estimate. You want to quickly respond to let them know you’re working on it (you can follow-up with the changes later). With the need for fast, concise responses in mind, here are two email tools that can help you communicate better:    1. For Gmail users: Smart Reply This feature popped up on my phone a few weeks ago. Smart Reply suggests 3 responses based on the content of the email received. Choose one and a reply email will open with the selected text already there. You can edit it, add to, or just click send. 2. For PEP users: Automated eBid Campaigns Use an automated customer follow-up campaign to solve the problem of remembering to touch base with clients after you send them an eBid. Just set it and forget it. Your customer will receive the emails in the campaign sequence automatically. You can also set up a “Thank You” email to automatically send when the eBid is accepted. Check out this post for video...

Group Like-Items

Getting organized takes a little time upfront, but the results are always better than without organization (faster, smoother, more efficient, less frustrating!). Not that I do this, but grouping like-items on a shopping list makes it possible to breeze through the store. Group items on a packing list and it’s easy to see that you’ll take everything you need for vacation.    Organization is one major benefit of using PEP. Group tasks together by AREA to make sure you’re accounting for everything on the estimate. Set up estimating forms that quickly pull up the items you commonly use with all your preferred settings. We’ve even taken it one step further: Group like-items together on the eBid or proposal. Rather than having multiple lines for detailed prep work, or trim, or repairs, you can now group those items together onto a single line for your clients.   Check out this video to see how to group like-items and what grouped items look like on the proposal.   Two more videos show you how to engage the grouping feature on the eBid or proposal and how to adjust your default settings (that’s if you love grouping and you want to make it the default).   FYI You can assign categories to items on estimating forms and save the settings. The next time you use the estimating form, those category settings will already be there. Categorized items will still appear individually on the estimate within PEP. The grouping actually happens when you make the proposal or eBid. Assigning categories to items DOES NOT mean that items will automatically be grouped together on...

Your Brand: A Cautionary Tale

It’s been awhile since I’ve talked about branding around here, but that doesn’t mean we shouldn’t all be thinking about it. Your brand is the image you project to everyone around you. It’s the way people think about you and your company. As painters are ramping up for the summer season, now seems like an appropriate time for a real-life anecdote… Who’s At the Door? A Cautionary Tale of Branding It was a dark and stormy night (okay, maybe it wasn’t, but it hardly matters). It was just after 6 pm and 15 year-old Ellen was home watching TV; her Mom was still at work. Suddenly the doorbell rang. The dogs, Nacho and Chili, started barking and ran to the front door. Ellen stayed where she was on the couch. She never answered the door unless she was expecting a friend or a pizza. From her spot in the family room, Ellen was out of sight behind a half wall, but she glanced over the wall and caught a glimpse of a bearded man wearing a hat. A few moments went by and then the mystery visitor knocked “Shave – and – a- haircut – two – bits”. Nacho and Chili embarked (pun intended!) on a new round of howling and it made Ellen more than a bit nervous. Then, it happened: he tried to open the door. Jimmy – jimmy – shake on the handle. The dogs went berserk! Ellen cowered on the couch.  The door was dead-bolted, and that fact paired with the defensive forces of Nacho and Chili* seemed to deter the would-be intruder. A couple...

Question More – the Dunning-Kruger Effect

WHY? It’s every 4-year-old’s favorite question. To them, the whole world is new. They’re trying to make sense of it and they’re full of curiosity. Have you heard of the Dunning-Kruger effect? I hadn’t until the other day. The Dunning-Kruger effect suggests that people who are unskilled or uninformed in a given area tend to believe they are much more competent than they actually are. Driving is a perfect example.   I would describe myself as an excellent driver. I use my turn signal, I drive the speed limit, I don’t use my cell phone in the car, and the only time I’ve been pulled over was for an expired registration sticker, but I had the new one with me and just hadn’t had a chance to put it on yet.   But am I really a good driver? How would I know if I forgot to signal? How would I know if I cut someone off in traffic? I don’t know. And that’s the whole point of the Dunning-Kruger effect. My confidence in my own abilities might be blinding me to the fact that I am actually not so great.   With the Dunning-Kruger effect in mind, we should all embrace the child’s sense of wonder and QUESTION MORE! Here are 3 business-focused topics to get you started:   Why do we do [insert process here] this way? Is there a better, more efficient or more economical way to do it? Pick a process, any process, and evaluate it critically. How you run payroll, how business decisions are made, what accounting software you use, how materials are purchased, how you...

Be Open and Adapt to Change

Change is tough for me. No sooner do I get comfortable with my surroundings – the version of Windows on my computer, the way my iPhone works, the channels on the tv – then there’s an update and suddenly I can’t find the Weather Channel! But as the saying goes, “When life gives you lemons, make lemonade.” Tips for Adapting to Industry and Social Change The world we live in is in constant flux. And I don’t just mean the weather. No, I’m referring to changes in social habits, the boom in technology, and changing expectations from clients. From observation and experience, here are a few suggestions on how to adapt to change. Keep an eye on trends. Whether it’s a style trend, a social one, or a technological one, you can adapt to change by adopting current trends. One big trend right now is being eco-conscious. Get in on the game by offering environmentally friendlier options. And if your company is already going the extra mile to limit harmful products and processes, let your customers know! It’s a great way to set yourself apart.   Go where the fish are. People aren’t opening the phone book anymore to find a painter or handyman; they’re looking online. Adapt to this change by establishing an online presence. Most companies have websites now; many are communicating with customers and potential customers on social media: Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, etc. It’s important that customers can find you in the places they’re choosing to look.   Accept technology instead of fighting it. Think about the impact cell phones have had on our industry. You...

Email Deliverability

Avoid the Spam Folder   You just put the finishing touches a on big proposal for a new client and you’re ready to email it over. You want that bid to end up in your client’s inbox. In this post we’re going to look at a couple easy things you can do so that the emails you send through PEP get delivered to your client’s inbox and not their spam folder. Email Deliverability is the ability to get an email into the recipient’s inbox. Email spam filters are pretty sophisticated these days. Filters are looking at an email’s content, the ratio of text to pictures and links, the subject line, the online reputation of the sender’s domain (that’s the part of the email address after the @ symbol). It’s complicated and constantly evolving. PEP makes it really easy to email eBids, proposals, and automated follow-up messages. Whether you use PEP or not, here are a couple things you can do to get these emails into your client’s inbox.   Email Deliverability Tips Start with a good subject line. You’re sending professional correspondence when you email a client. Your email needs a subject line that tells the recipient what’s in the message. If your sending an eBid or proposal through PEP, the default subject line is “Proposal”. Keep these things in mind when writing your own subject line: – AVOID ALL CAPS – Avoid *&^%$#@! lots of symbols – Avoid spammy language like “FREE!” and “Buy now”   Always write something in the body of the email. Spam filters are scanning for content, so it’s important to write something relevant...

Fix a broken process. Automate Customer Follow-up.

Do you ever wonder if there are clients that you forgot to follow-up with?   I want you to think about your process of following up with customers. It might look something like this: Provide customer with bid. Reach out to customer 3 days later to see if they have questions. Reach out to customer again 4 days later and try to get them to commit   See any problems with this process? There’s a lot of room for human error. You might get busy, or sick, or have jury duty. You might just lose track of time you miss the outreach deadlines. Weeks may go by. New clients have no loyalty to you yet. This break-down in your process leaves them vulnerable to more attentive competitors.   Good News: You can solve this problem with a little automation. And the automation tools you need to fix your customer follow-up process already exist in PEP!   3 Customer Follow-up Processes You can Easily Automate Right Now THANK YOU! You can set up a “Thank You” message when you send the eBid. Down the road, when your client accepts, she’ll automatically receive an email from you saying Thanks (and whatever else you want to include in the message). She knows her project is important to you because you responded right away, even on a weekend. Way to go! Click here for a video tutorial on enabling the Thank You feature and how to make it a standard part of your eBid. Thank You info   HOW’S IT GOING? Use an automated customer follow-up campaign to solve the problem of remembering...

The Secret to Making Smart Goals

Happy New Year everyone! I know, I know. It’s the third week of January and all the holiday decorations are back in storage. But I’m not comfortable writing “2017” yet, so the year still feels new. I’m going to start 2017 by talking about goals. This is related to my ruminations last month about measuring success (here’s a link).   Anyone who knows me knows that I am a big fan of lists. I make lists for everything: groceries, errands, tasks at work, packing lists, book lists. Heck, right now I’m making a list of lists! I love lists for two reasons. First, I’m forgetful. Second, checking items off the list is rewarding. You see, every list is filled with opportunities for success. Checking an item off the list means I achieved a goal – woohoo! I’m being successful!   And that’s the key. Goals are vital to success because they are the method of measurement! Trying to achieve success without clear, measurable goals is like trying to run a race without knowing where the finish line is.  The secret to making smart goals is…   Actually, there is no secret. SMART is an acronym. The components form a template for setting a quality goal. A SMART goal is: SPECIFIC (the opposite of vague) MEASURABLE (it should include numbers) ACTIONABLE (something you can do like eat, learn, write) REALISTIC (keep your expectations high, but achievable) TIME-BOUND (this is your finish line!)   Here are a few examples:   Original Goals SMART Goals Make more money. Increase sales by 1% each month this year. Be healthier. Make dinner at home 5 nights each...

Thoughts on Measuring Success

I don’t know about you, but I always get reflective around the end of the year. Maybe it has something to do with the weather. Or it could be the sappy holiday music that’s been filling every public space for the last month. At any rate, lately the topic of success has been occupying my brain-space. What is success? How should we measure it? Is success in business different than success in life? For small business owners, that’s a tough distinction. We pour so much of our time, energy, and ourselves into our businesses that it’s hard to separate the two.   With that in mind, I sat down this morning to contemplate what makes me feel successful. And here’s what I’ve discovered. Money – a typical measure of success for businesses (and individuals) – does not guarantee that I feel successful at the end of the day. Don’t get me wrong: making money feels great and losing money hurts, but that’s not what gets me through the day. Feeling successful has more to do with my daily mindset. If I feel productive and accomplished at the end of the day, then it’s been a successful day. But if I feel frustrated or discouraged, I don’t feel successful.   I still don’t have any answers to my initial questions (What is success, etc.). My inclination is that the definition of success is unique to each individual. Personal and business goals are probably different, but for small business owners, they are related. Maybe even dependent (ie. Personal success is dependent on business success and vice versa).   While my morning...