field service business, field service

6 Make or Break Hurdles All Field Service Businesses Will Face

Jan 11, 2016

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By Taylor Tuomie

Owning a business can be fun and incredibly gratifying. You're your own boss, you make your own hours and you sign your own paychecks. Those are things a lot of folks only dream of, but you're making it happen. 

But it isn't always sunshine and roses. Problems arise daily, there are reccuring issues that are tough to put an end to and some that are simply uncontrollable. Here are six common make or break hurdles that all field service businesses will face and how they can help strengthen you in the long run:

 

Growing Pains

Successful field service businesses will grow. There will come a point in time when that growth causes issues. You might be gaining customers like crazy, but if your crews don’t have the bandwidth to service new accounts, you’re no better off. And actually, that can cause even more problems for your business further down the road. Negative reviews online can be a detriment to future of your business and if you aren't holding up your obligations, say goodbye to your existing customers.

 

How it can break you


How it can make you

  • Having a scalable business plan in place can create booming growth
  • Using a documented hiring/onboarding process to acquire and train employees
  • Delegate - If you’re growing, you can’t spread yourself too thin. You’ll need to learn to delegate and trust in your management team to get the work done right. This might mean either hiring outside for someone with experience or promoting an employee or two

 

 

Customers Not Paying You

Unfortunately, this is a reality for many field service businesses. Don’t believe me? Check out this LawnSite.com thread. There are customers who will fight tooth and nail to avoid paying you for the services that you provided - even if a contract is involved.

The reason some people get away with this, is that they know the time, effort and money that it takes to fight back as a business owner might outweigh the money that you are chasing. Again, it is an unfortunate reality that many businesses face. Some owners will send out to collection agencies, pay them a percentage of what is actually recovered. Normally, people don't recover much. And the cost to take someone to court over non-payment is often times much higher than the amount they owe you. Either way, you lose.

 

How it can break you

  • A customer might have been getting away with it for a while. They've received multiple services without payment
  • Allowing it to affect your service to your good customers
  • Chasing down amounts that cost you more to pursue than what you would gain
 

How it can make you

  • Learn from the problem - don’t let the same mistake happen again. If someone is late on payment for a recurring service, don’t let customers continue benefiting from your service until they pay
  • Create a “pay up front” policy for larger jobs. Some people require their customers to pay with a credit card, which could help in some situations

 

 

Payroll Issues

If your employees have discrepancies with their pay, they’re going to bring everyone else’s morale down with their own. They become quicksand. It is an issue that field service businesses will eventually have to face. There are things that you can do to reduce the risk like using a field service software to track time and activity and also by using a quality accounting software, but still, they are not foolproof. Employees might have a different idea of how many hours they have worked than you paid them for.

Think back to the last hurdle. No one likes not getting paid for the work they did. And even if you are 100% certain that your employee is wrong, put yourself in their shoes. They aren’t happy. If they aren’t happy, your customers likely won’t be either.

 

How it can break you

  • Letting the situation drag out
  • Not resolving it directly with the employee
  • Letting rumors/gossip circulate

How it can make you

  • Discuss the situation promptly and candidly with the affected employees - get to know where they feel you were wrong and describe where you feel you’re right. It might just be an issue with how they reported their hours
  • Be professional about it - don’t bring other people into the fold unless completely necessary. There is no reason that your other employees should know how you feel about the situation
  • Resolve it. If you’re in the wrong, apologize. If your employee is wrong, explain how they should go about the issue in the future

 

 

Client Turnover

There are times when losing a client might not be the end of the world. Maybe they’re a problem client that is just extremely tough to please - no matter how hard you try, they aren’t happy. But what if you’re losing your best customers? They might have moved to a competitor with lower pricing or decided they’ll start doing their own work. Whatever the reason, it can be a big issue for field service businesses.

 

How it can break you

  • Letting your customers go without finding out why they are dropping
  • Being resistant to change in customers’ needs

How it can make you

  • Get feedback from customers wanting to drop
  • Adjust to reasonable feedback
  • Keep in touch with old customers. You never know when they'll need you again! I go to a barber that always tells guys jokingly, "Go somewhere cheaper, that's fine with me. You can come back any time and I'll fix what they *messed* up".

 *Insert expletive

 

Not Bidding a Job Right

This happens to less experienced field service business owners just starting out, but can still happen in the later stages of a business. A misbid on a job is more common in lawn maintenance and snow removal, but realistically can happen to anyone. It could be a matter of a few dollars or a couple hundred, either way you could be losing money.

 

How it can break you

  • If it happens frequently on comparable jobs
  • Not knowing you’re misbidding
  • Losing credibility with customers because of the changes in your pricing over time

How it can make you

  • Use the information to bid future jobs right
  • Tell your customer that you misbid the job, but still honor your price for the season - They will respect the honesty and it will give you a reason to ask for more in the future

 

 

Bad Employees

This is never a fun hurdle. Whether you’re an owner or a co-worker, bad employees suck! They come in different forms, from lazy guy to A-Hole, they are tough to deal with. They also can lose your business money. The Catch-22 of the situation is that you rely on them and they know it, because firing an employee and finding a new one midseason is tough to do.

 

How it can break you

  • Allowing behavior to go unchanged or unmanaged
  • Letting bad employees ruin customer experience
  • Bad employees taking good employees to the Dark Side

How it can make you

  • Addressing situations right away, directly with the employee
  • Hold your employees accountable for their actions - The good ol’ Three Strike rule might come into play here
  • Communicate with your employees, understand if it is just a one-off bad day sort of thing or a bigger issue
  • Take more time hiring and training your people

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