Category Archives: Company Operations

Bug ‘Em Til They Buy Or Die!

I bet you hate to make cold calls. Thankfully, over the last ten years or more, you didn’t need to cold call, market, or sell much to win your share of contracts or profitable work. The phone just kept ringing and you stayed busy. You also like it when potential customers call you with jobs to bid or propose on. This ‘old school’ marketing plan of letting your reputation speak for itself and waiting for referrals to grow your business used to work. Now it doesn’t.

In today’s tough work environment, that old school marketing plan doesn’t work. So in the new normal of less work and more competition, you need to make outbound sales calls and implement a marketing system to keep your pipeline full of potential projects to bid. The following is my simple marketing system that doesn’t require cold calls. Instead, it’s more like a form of that Chinese water torture you saw in the old movies — Drip! Drip! Drip! I call it: ‘Bug ‘Em Til They Buy or Die!’

‘Bug ‘Em Til The Buy Or Die’ marketing system:
1. Create Awareness Of Your Company
2. Pique Potential Customer’s Interest
3. Stay at Top of Customer’s Mind
4. Generate Inquiry
5. Get Belly To Belly / Face To Face
6. Convert a Bid or Proposal Into a Contract
7. Develop Customer Relationships
8. Get Referrals

The 8 step ‘Bug ‘Em ‘Til They Buy Or Die’ marketing system is designed to move the prospective customer through all eight marketing steps without a single cold call. The goal of this system is to get potential customers TO CALL YOU versus you calling them.

The ‘Bug ‘Em’ system builds an AWARENESS of your company and what you can DO for customers over a period of time. Drip! Awareness is based upon the ‘Rule of Seven.’

The Rule Of Seven
You must have at least seven contacts with a potential customer before they:
– Remember YOUR NAME
– Feel they KNOW YOU
– TRUST you
– Will TAKE ANY ACTION towards you

To grow both our construction and speaking businesses, we use the trusted U.S. postal service to make potential customers AWARE of us. Drip! We mail something to everyone on our mailing list at least 4 times per year. Drip! Drip! Once is not enough and we don’t just mail any old boring piece of mail. We send creative, different, unique, fun, factual, caring, and informative articles, photos, postcards, white papers, mini-brochures, checklists, and guides. We use a professional design firm to keep our image consistent. Orange and blue are our colors. Everyone recognizes our orange hardhat or our blueprint background on every piece of mail we send out. Drip! Drip! Drip! Now you’re creating and building AWARENESS. Everything you send out must do one of three things:

– Pique customer INTEREST
– Create a Perception of VALUE
– Reinforce customer RELATIONSHIP

To pique customer INTEREST, you must send out something different, crazy, funny, eye catching, bold or unique. You want to stand out from the crowd and make a statement. Try to be clever, creative, and fun enough to create the ‘WOW!’ factor. Never send those same old throw-away pens, ball caps, and notepads like everyone else. If you send out cheap stuff or tacky give-aways, your potential customers will think you’re cheap, have low standards, and not financially strong enough to handle their work. Send professionally created materials that consistently reflect your image. Quality counts.

Match your mail-outs to your customer targets. We use a newsletter that looks like a blueprint for our construction customers. But to attract bank investors we use traditional white stationary with blue ink. On a mailing to lawyers we sent out messages on legal pads and when we mail to meeting planners, we use a theme based on helping them make THEIR meeting a success. To attract investors for real estate development projects, we send out aerial photos of the neighborhood along with pictures and renderings packaged in typical real estate folders. Potential customers respond to the familiar.

To peak their INTEREST we also rotate mailing out cartoons, jokes, small hardhats, mini CDs or DVDs, estimating grid notepads, paper clip holders, coffee cups with hammer handles, business card holders, post-it notes, golf tees, golf ball markers, and American flags on the 4th of July! Once we mailed envelopes full of nails with the banner: “When can we nail down your next job?”! Last year I sent postcards from Maui, Hawaii with the note: “Thanks to my loyal customers for sending me skiing. I appreciate your business!” The best things to mail are items that pack flat, play big, and will not be thrown away. Don’t forget to put your name and logo on all of your ‘Bug ‘Em Til They Buy Or Die’ mail.

Only send what your customer:
1. Will READ
2. Needs TO KNOW
3. WANTS
4. WILL KEEP

Remember your goal is not only to create INTEREST, but to create the right kind of interest in YOU. Be sure that your mail creates the right perception of VALUE about your company ans how it does business. You have to tell your potential customers what you want THEM to REMEMBER ABOUT YOU. Don’t assume customers know what you know about you. To show potential customer targets we were more than a small “local” company, we sent out maps indicating our project locations covering a 100-mile radius. To show we were qualified in a new business market, we sent out photos and resumes of key managers with years of experience in this “new for us” area. To create the perception of fast service, we mailed out “On-Time Schedulers” and photos of projects with the headline: “Another Successful Fast-Track Project”. Decide what perception of VALUE you want to present to your customers and tell them about it – OVER & OVER & OVER! Continue reading

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Sales Is A Numbers Game!

What business activity makes the most $$$ for your company? I bet you didn’t say: ‘Sales!’ To most contractors, their total sales effort is no more than picking up a set of plans from a customer, estimating the job, turning in a bid, and then waiting for the results. They rely heavily on price to sell most jobs. As the economy has gotten worse, and work is harder and harder to get, many company owners have thought about how to increase their sales. Some have even decided to hire a salesperson to increase their revenue. But then what? These frustrated owners don’t know how to manage a salesperson to get the results they need or want.

Sales is easy!

It’s a numbers game. When competent salespeople make regular sales calls on good prospects who need what you offer, your company will get their share of the business. When you don’t make the calls, you won’t get the business. It’s like professional hockey. The team that takes the most shots, usually wins the game. The more sales calls, the more business. Simple and easy.

Most business owners don’t like to make sales calls. So they try to encourage their estimator to make them. Most estimators are not built to sell. They are built to analyze at a set of plans, use their calculators and computers, and put a price on a specified amount of work. Like business owners, estimators also they don’t like to get out of their comfort zone, go out and make sales calls, and spend a majority of their time selling. So, in tight markets, small business owners often want to hire salespeople to solve their lack of revenue problem.

Why do companies struggle?

A major reason small to medium size companies struggle is caused by a lack of a systemized and focused on sales and marketing plan. They mainly rely on their reputation to earn the right to be awarded enough work to make a reasonable profit. This works in good times, but not during a slower economy. Successful companies must have written sales systems and marketing plans that pro-actively and aggressively look for and attack new customers, targets, and contracts.

As I observe the successful subcontractors who our general contracting company use, there is a common thread. They have a plan to find and attract new customers and follow it diligently. Every week the come by our office as a part of their sales route to meet with our project managers, and build relationships with our people. They are always in the selling mode and ready when we have an opportunity for them. The majority of subcontractors wait until we call them, the successful contractors are already there waiting for an opportunity to attack.

A pro-active sales plan starts with a business owner or general sales manager who will hold their salespeople to a required standard of performance excellence. These required standards can include the number of calls per day, number of customer lunches per week, number of face to face meetings per week, number of proposals, and total proposal volume per month. To know how you’re doing, you’ve got to keep score.

Keeping score with salespeople is often difficult, as they tend to not want to be tied down to a set number of calls required. They like to let their instincts take them through the day. They don’t like to be held accountable or to a minimum standard, and don’t like to track numbers. They also don’t like to write, don’t like discipline, and don’t want to follow a written plan. They generally feel their gift of gab will get them through and reap enough results. But without numbers to hit, most salespeople will fail and not meet your expectations.

Sales numbers to track:
– The type of customers you want
– The markets you want to attack
– The project locations you like
– The project sizes you want
– The minimum fee per job
– Sales calls per day
– Leads from calls
– Face to face meetings per week
– Proposals from leads
– Proposal follow-up tracking
– Proposals or bids hit
– Referrals from customers
– Average job size
– Average profit margin
Continue reading

Last Chance to Register for the Profit Builder Circle Academy

Profit-Builder Circle Academy
July 26 & 27, 2012
Newport Beach, CA

Last Chance To Visit Me In California?
For those of you who have requested I hold my Profit Builder Circle Academy in California, here’s your last chance to get the 50% discount.

 

 

Day 1 – GET YOUR BIZ TO WORK!
The BIZ-Success Blueprint For Contractors.
Strategies, Systems & Structure To Grow & Make A Profit.

Day 2 – GROW YOUR BIZ!
How To Find New Customers & Win More Contracts.
Steps & Strategies To Overcome The Low Bid Process.

You’re Invited!
We will have a small group attending. So this guarantees you’ll get lots of personal attention from George Hedley. The cost includes a detailed workbook, a copy of his new book and 2 complete days with George who’ll teach you how to grow and make a profit.

The regular price is $1,997. But, for this July Academy, the cost is only $997. PLUS – additional attendees can attend for $297.

Register today – email leanne@HardhatPresentations.com for the brochure and registration form.

2 DAY INTENSE BIZ-BUILDING BOOT-CAMP

2 Day Intense BIZ-Building Boot-Camp
June 14 & 15, 2012 – Charleston, NC
July 26 & 27, 2012 – Newport Beach, CA

“HELP! I’m Stuck! I Want My BIZ To Work!”
Want To GROW Your BIZ In Tough Times?
Want More Bottom-Line PROFIT?
Want A Great Management Team?
Want Written Goals & Plans?
Want Organized SYSTEMS?
Want To Let Go & GROW?
Want New Customers?
Want To Make More $$$?

Stop waiting for the economy to turn around!
Let me help you get your business back to work!
Profit-Builder Circle Academy 2 Day Boot-Camp Outline

Day1: Get Your BIZ Back To Work!
How To Build A BIZ That Grows & Always Makes A Profit!

Most business owners work too many hours for the money they make. They’re too hands-on, stressed-out, out of control, over-worked and under-paid for the energy they put into their companies. They’re stuck, don’t know what to do next and need help!

Learn how to take your company to the next level, get organized and in-control, create a dynamic organizational chart and management team, develop operational systems, design a working marketing plan, develop streams of steady income, build equity, create wealth, and get your business to work for you.

George Hedley, professional business coach, author of the bestseller: “Get Your Business To Work!” and a “Entrepreneur of the Year” award winner will share how to implement his proven step by step system. You can get the results you want without your full-time hands-on, make-every-decision supervision by making sound decisions so you can enjoy the benefits of a growing company.

Upon completing this program, the participant should be able to:
1. Create a written business plan with targets and goals for growth, people, sales, systems, and profit.

2. Build a business that works, replace yourself with operational systems and build your company to meet your goals.

3. Develop written BIZ-Systems to always make a profit, market and sell, find and keep great people, get organized & in-control.

4. Create an organization and team that allows the owner to let go of control and focus on priorities that make a difference in the bottom-line.

Day 2: Grow Your BIZ!
Find New Customers, Win More Contracts & Stop Selling Low Price!

Being low bidder won’t win enough profitable work today! To develop a successful BIZDevelopment action plan to grow your BIZ, generate more sales and win more construction contracts, you’ve got to give customers better reasons to award your company work.

Learn how to improve your estimating and bidding strategy, set your company apart from the competition, differentiate, build loyal customer relationships, seek better opportunities, get on the right bid lists, find more viable leads, convert proposals into contracts, improve your professional presentations, develop an effective bid follow-up system, and track your bid-hit ratio.

You’ll leave with a winning marketing & estimating template and calendar to build loyal customer relationships, negotiate more work, offer more than low price, and get in front of decision makers to win more work.

Upon completing this program, the participant should be able to:
1. Implement a winning BIZ-Development, marketing, sales, proposal, estimating and bidding strategy to win more profitable customers and contracts.

2. Develop an action plan, template and calendar to find new customers, markets, projects,and value-added services to win more work.

3. Get in front of decision makers, negotiate to win, present professional presentations, and follow-up to win more negotiated work.

4. Build loyal customer relationships, set your company apart from the competition & offer more than low price.

5. Add more services to generate ongoing steady work.

Don’t Be Left Out!
Sign-Up Today To Get The 
50% Discount!
Expires May 21, 2012 

Email me for more information, a complete brochure or the registration form:
Email: GH@HardhatPresentations.com

Hire the Right Players Now!

If you were the owner of a NBA basketball team, one of your top goals would be to have the best players on your team. With only five players on the court at any one time, every one of them is critical to winning. If you don’t do a good job hiring the right players, your team won’t win many games. And eventually the fans will stop coming out and spending their money on tickets. In other words, the success of your winning team is to have the right players on the floor at all times.

Business owners tell me they can’t find any good help. But how much time do they actually spend finding the right players? What you get is a direct result of your priorities. When you don’t take enough time to find, cultivate, and train new players, how do you expect to grow a winning team? Professional sports teams have a full time executive in charge of player personnel – finding the right players, managing their contracts, and keeping them happy. But most small companies don’t spend more than a few hours a year making sure their roster is balanced, robust, and excellent.

Before the annual draft, every professional sports coaching staff makes a list of all the positions and their current players to analyze what they need to change or add to improve. In your company, the draft is now. To get started, make a list of all of your company positions, the talents required at each job, the player currently assigned each position, and then rank how well you think they are doing.

Player Personnel Ranking Chart
Position Talent Required Player Ranking

  • Estimator Knows accurate costs Jim B C+
  • Completes bids on-time Jim B A-
  • Maximizes sub-bid coverage Jim B B-
  • Presents company well Jim B B
  • Project Manager Manages budget Bill C+
  • Maximizes change orders Bill B
  • Keeps customer happy Bill A
  • Paperwork on-time Bill B-
  • Superintendent Finishes jobs on-time Dave A
  • Pushes crews to the max Dave B+
  • Safe jobsite and no accidents Dave C-
  • Coordinates subcontractors Dave B-
  • Foreman Manages crews and jobsite Sam B-
  • Brings jobs in under budget Sam C
  • Knows how to build quality Sam A
  • Follows company procedures Sam C-
  • Carpenter Can build per plans Joe A-
  • Hustles & works efficiently Joe B
  • Takes initiative & action Joe B-
  • Team Player & good attitude Joe D
  • Office Manager Completes tasks on-time Sue B-
  • Understands accounting Sue C+
  • Understands construction Sue B+
  • Team player & good attitude Sue A Continue reading

Do-Over #2: Diversify, Market & Serve Customers Sooner Than Later!

When business is steady with lots of bidding opportunities coming your way, it’s easy to keep busy working for a limited number of customers doing the same type of projects. This business model works during a good economy. Once you establish a few repeat customers, they continue to feed you work to bid on. You don’t have to go out and find new customers. You don’t have to market or sell. You don’t need an updated brochure or impressive website. And you don’t have to have a customer service or follow-up program. Work is easy to get: wait for the phone to ring, pick up a set of plans, and go bid the job. If you bid enough, you’ll get your share.

The second most popular “Do-Over” I hear from seasoned business owners is they wish they would have built up a broader base of customers, worked on many different type of projects, and developed a solid marketing and referral program that delivered diversified types of profitable work. Today I hear sad stories of underground contractors who kept very busy only doing private housing tracts for a few homebuilders. I also hear similar stories from contractors who didn’t want to mess with government jobs because of all the added paperwork. And I hear stories from companies who didn’t add any extra services like green technology, design-build, post construction services, or maintenance to attract and keep customers. These companies are now left without any customers. Continue reading

Win More Contacts At Your Price!

Every construction company business owner wants to charge a higher price for their services and products. And especially today, I’m sure you are looking for the magic ingredient that will give you more jobs at your price. But why should customers award your company a contract? In this tough economy there are less jobs to bid and more competition. Many of your competitors are pricing jobs at prices lower than their costs. They are trying to keep their doors open and crews busy hoping something good happens soon. Ask yourself this question:

Why should customers award your company contracts at your price or higher than your competitors?

It is what it is!
Perhaps you are starting to realize that it’s not what it was. The new economic reality is here to stay for at least 3 to 5 years. If it hasn’t hit you yet, get ready. Just a few years ago you could do a pretty good job and get lots of work from your customers. But today, your old sales strategies won’t get you enough work to stay profitable. It takes more than doing a good job, producing quality work, and bidding projects per plans and specifications to win contracts. Now, you must do more and offer something different than your competitors to win contracts. You need to renovate, innovate, change, improve, and upgrade your estimating systems, bidding strategies, proposal format, presentation methods, customer contact approach, marketing plan, and sales tactics to be successful today.

I started my construction company in 1977. At that time there was not a lot of competition and getting work was relatively easy. Through my business contacts, I could find a nice job to bid, call the customer, meet them, get a set of plans to bid, do the take-off, estimate the job, and then turn in my proposal with a reasonable mark-up on it. A few days later I would call to see if I could meet with the customer to review our bid. At the meeting we would negotiate the terms, inclusions, exclusions, and agree on a final price. Simple. 

Slow and Steady Wins the Race!

My wife and I get up every morning around 6 am, start the coffee, and together we read the Los Angeles Times and USA Today. Last week I was traveling to the CONSTRUCT show in Indianapolis later that morning, so I didn’t have time to read every news section I wanted to. But I did read one newspaper article which made me think about the typical construction company trying to do business in today’s tough and slower economy.

In California, total unemployment is predicted to reach ten percent or more over the next few years. Construction unemployment is almost double that sad statistic. But the monthly statistics which got me thinking even more, were construction permits issued in the State. Commercial construction permit dollar volume was down 66% and residential permit dollar volume was down 75% since the peak years of 2005 through 2007. This is a horrible situation if you are a contractor in California trying to keep your doors open and make a profit.

At several large construction conventions I have spoken at this past year, I have repeatedly heard shocking and similar sales figures from national companies who supply construction materials like cement, drywall, light fixtures, and lumber. Your state might not be in as bad of shape as California, but it does make you think about your business model going forward.

What type of company would you own?
If you were not in the construction business, what type of company would you want to start, buy, or own? Would it be dependent on the Federal government or your State to produce enough budget money to insure there was plenty of work for your company to bid on? Or would it be dependent on potential customers to ask you to bid plans and specifications against an unlimited number of competitors – qualified or not? Or would it be a business where you were awarded contracts based on the lowest possible price, regardless of your capacity, reputation, service, quality, or workmanship. Would it be a business where you do all the work and don’t get paid for weeks after you finish? Would it be a business where you do a great job and then the next contract is awarded based on the lowest bidder? Or would it be a business where you do a great job for a customer and then they may not have another job for you to bid on for a few years, if ever?

Being a contractor is a hard way to make an easy living. Or not! Most observers think contractors make a minimum of ten percent net profit and have all the freedom in the world. But the reality of our business is that as you may build a better and better company, you are really at the mercy of the market and customers to create opportunities to generate your revenue potential. In other words you don’t create your own future. You are at the mercy of others to decide to build and then give you an opportunity to present a proposal. Continue reading

The 8 Traits Of Great Companies! Traits 5 through 8

Competition | Pro-active Sales | Operational Systems | Investments
Part 3

Trait #5 – Set your company apart from your competition!
When I drive down the freeway and see contractors’ trucks, they often have signs on like: “Joe’s Electric – Commercial, Industrial & Residential.” I chuckle and ask myself: “What do they excel at, what kind of jobs are they the expert in, and why should I hire them?” Based on my experience working with tens of thousands of contractors, my best guess is they chase any kind of work they can get and don’t make a lot of money doing it.

Are you in the “Yes” Business taking any kind of job or project thrown your way? Experience shows that companies who specialize in a specific type of project or service do better work, are more competitive, have more loyal customers, and make a lot more money than their “jack of all trades” competitors. Perceived experts are the first called when a customer needs a professional to complete a tough or special project. Experts get the first chance to propose on jobs which require complex engineering or technical knowledge.

To set your company apart from your competition and get hired at higher prices, you must be the perceived expert in your market and offer more than your competitors. According to a survey from the Society of Marketing Professional Services (a national association of construction sales and marketing professionals), the top two reasons construction companies don’t get awarded projects are 1) Their inability to market and properly present the differences between themselves and their competition, and 2) Their lack of expertise in a particular project or service niche. When you continue to be and do everything for everyone, you won’t have enough time to satisfy your customers and you can’t make enough money for all the different types of work you attempt to complete. Continue reading

The 8 Traits Of Great Companies! Traits 1 through 4

Vision | Targets & Goals | Organizational Structure | Profits
Part 2
 
Trait #1 – Start with an exciting vision!

What do you want to happen with your company and where do you want it to go? Leading companies start with an exciting focused passionate vision connected to the specific results they want. Some companies have a vision to be the best company in their marketplace with the biggest market share. Others want to be known as the best service provider, provide the best quality, or offer the lowest price. Great companies ramp up their visions with more excitement. Exciting visions of great companies read like these: be recognized as the leader in customer service, being number one in building difficult technical projects, finishing jobs ten percent faster than our competition, or being known for helping customers make a profit. Bill Gates of Microsoft had a big vision to put a computer in every home. Ask the people who work for you and a few customers, “What’s the vision of our company and what are we trying to accomplish? If they don’t know, you’ll never become a great company. What is your passionate vision that will excite your customers and employees?

Trait #2 – Write and track your targets and goals!
After defining your exciting vision, specific results must be written down and targeted to quantify exactly what’s expected for your company, departments, people, and projects. For example, if your vision is to be the best service provider, determine what specific measurable results would enhance your bottom-line. Some targets you can track include obtaining a referral from every customer, only five percent callbacks, no installation errors, or 98% on-time completion. What specific targets and numbers can you shoot for to realize your vision & get the results you want? Without specific clear targets, your people really don’t know what ‘try to make ten percent gross profit’ or  ‘try to do quality work’ or ‘try to be the best’ really means.

What are your top priorities and specific targets your company is shooting for? You need to then monitor and track the progress if you want to achieve your company, department, and project goals. Ask your people what results are important. You’ll probably get 17 different answers if you have 17 people working for you. To get the results you want, write down and track your targets to get everyone on the same page from top to bottom.

Trait #3 – Draft your structured organizational chart!
Company managers and employees who don’t have written detailed job descriptions, don’t know what they’re 100% accountable for, don’t have authority to make decisions, and don’t have an understanding of the clear lines of communication in your company, can’t be held responsible for producing the results you want. Without a structured organizational chart and a list of accountabilities for every position in your company, your people will wait for their boss to tell them what to do next. This limits employee’s growth, enthusiasm, production, and efficiency. Plus it stalls the company so it can’t grow beyond the owner’s ability to make every major decision for everyone.

It doesn’t take a lot of time to layout your perfect organizational chart. Each position’s duties and responsibilities must be considered, detailed, described, outlined, and assigned listing the accountabilities and expected results desired and required. Only with these clear descriptions can people help the company grow and become great.

Trait #4 – Know your numbers and make big profits!
Many business owners are too busy to be bothered with watching and tracking their numbers. Can you imagine the CEO of a major company not focusing on or knowing their company’s revenue, direct costs, fixed costs, and profit? You can’t make a profit if you don’t know what to charge and how much you need to bring in. Many companies shoot for moving targets by attempting to make ‘as much money as possible’ or ‘more’ than they are currently making. ‘As much money as possible’ is not a target. ‘More!’ More than what? These are not clear targets or goals. 5%, 10%, or 15% are not clear targets either. As your sales and job costs vary each month, your total markup earned changes, while your fixed cost of doing business remains the same. This causes your net profit to move up and down like a roller coaster.

The owners of great companies spend a lot of time making people accountable to achieve the numbers. They set specific targets and keep track of the progress towards them. Annual sales of $5,000,000, overhead target of $600,000, and a net profit goal of $200,000 are specific fixed targets you can shoot for and hit. Not More! Not as much as possible! With specific targets for sales, costs, overhead, accounts receivables, cash flow, and net profit, you stay focused on the lifeblood of your company.