Building a Fire of Business Success

Yesterday afternoon I built a fire. It was nippy outside and there was snow on the ground. I wanted to enjoy being outside in my yard but I wanted the fire to take a bit of the nip out of the air. Starting with small sticks and newspaper and kindling I got a small fire burning. I then added progressively larger pieces to the flame. At first it was hard because some of the larger pieces of wood were wet and they resisted the flame that licked up from the smaller sticks. I found that making the fire grow took constant attention, prodding, poking and adding of new fuel. It was okay that it took my constant attention because I wasn't out there to read or listen to music or talk with a friend. I was outside to enjoy a fire and to be alone with my thoughts and the beautiful nippy weather.

I own a small handyman business. I have been in the business for several years now. It's nice to not have to punch a clock in the morning. I find it motivating that I am in control of my own income. If I have a successful month it's because I have made some good decisions in the past that allowed me to have such success. A handyman business is definitely not a one and done sale. Unlike a roofer or a company that sells replacement windows a handyman business relies on repeat customer relationships to prosper.

I often ponder about some of the key elements to success in this business. So, I have to mention the first thing first. Communication! For me, I find it helpful to include as many details in my bids as possible. If I am going to build a 100' fence I don't simply state build 100' fence in my quote. I will include the grade of wood that I intend to use. I state in the proposal how deep I intend to set the posts below grade. I specify what kind of nails I am going to use, how long they are and whether they are coated. I state in the bid exactly how I am going to deal with elevation changes of the grade. I specify whether I will step up the fence or whether I will gradually slope it up with the contour of the land. Think of a detailed proposal as your way to justify the price you intend to charge. It is your chance to give your prospective customer this message, I am a professional and I will complete your project in a professional way.

A business ethic that goes hand in hand with Communication is reliability and dependability. In other words, say what you're going to do and then do it. This concept sounds simple, doesn't it? Apparently it's not simple, because most of your competition is not doing it. Here are a few examples of dependability (of course this list is not exhaustive): If someone takes the time to call you on the phone, answer your phone! If you can't answer your phone for a legitimate reason then call them back swiftly. If you say that you will show up for an appointment at 10:00 then show up at 9:55. Remember, there is no such thing as On time. You are either early or you are late. Think about it. Think about it because your customer has already thought about it. Really, it's a matter of trust, isn't it? If a customer can't trust you to keep your word about what time you will show up for your first meeting can they trust you to complete a $10,000 bathroom remodel for them?

When considering the above you must keep in mind the facts. The facts are that you have a lot of competition. There are literally dozens of other guys in your city or town that call themselves handymen. Another fact is that anyone with a pickup truck and a Makita drill can call themselves a handyman. So, how are you going to set yourself apart? How are you going to be different? The answer is, be different by being dependable.

Another very important question is how am I going to attract repeat customers? I believe that a key to this question is in the way that your customers think of you. Do they think of you as a handyman or do they think of you as a home maintenance and repair expert? There is a big difference in the two titles. You have to build a level of trust with your customers so that when they need a plumber they call you. You might ask, why would a homeowner call a handyman when they need a plumber? They will call you because you have discussed with them that they should feel comfortable to call you for everything home related. If you can't complete the work yourself you will be able to get their job completed quickly and headache free. And isn't that what homeowners want? They want someone to take the headaches out of home maintenance.

This reminds me of a customer that I had a few years back. A friend of mine referred me to a customer. The man called me and asked me to give him a bid to install a doggy door. Actually, it wasn't really a doggie door; it was more of a custom home dog entrance system. The job went seamlessly. I was out to the site quickly to review the job and prepare a proposal. I kept my promises and sent him a bid when I said that I was going to send it. I completed the work in a timely manner and the job site was left in a clean neat condition when I left. Well, the homeowner was so thrilled with the doggie door that he hired me to remodel his library and his kitchen. The total dollar value for the doggie door project was less than $800 and the total for the library and the kitchen was almost $65,000. Did this customer consider me as a solution to his doggie door dilemma or did he consider me a home maintenance and repair expert? He trusted me with the kitchen and library projects because I was trustworthy with the small project.

Earlier I mentioned the fire that I built yesterday. It was nice to enjoy a fire while there was snow on the ground. Keeping the fires' flame going took work. The fire kept me warm and I kept it burning with my constant attention. Pay close attention to your handyman business and it will keep you warm. Fuel your business with good communication, dependability and the relationship skills necessary to have your customers think of you as a home maintenance and repair expert.

Article Contributed by:
Jack Severens
Severens Construction Management

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