Admit it. You got help building your business this summer. You got help all the way from the top. You got help from God! Yup, the Big Guy made it h-o-t, hot. And that’s been great for business. It was great for your bottom line. It was great for your cash flow. It was great for your checking account. Just counting those digits in the bank statement makes your heart all warm and fuzzy. Yes sir. You’ve got money! Now, what are you going to do with it?
Resist the temptation to buy a new bass boat. I know. It’s all bright and shiny. You want it soooo bad. Just remember: the two happiest days in a boat owner’s life are the day he buys it and the day he sells it. A bass boat will drain your bank account, not replenish it.
Maybe a bass boat isn’t your form of temptation. Maybe it’s a fifth wheel. Maybe it’s a Cessna. Whatever constitutes your version of a bass boat, resist it. Resist the temptation. Instead, do the following:
Bank Some Reserve Cash
Get in touch with a broker and park some excess cash in conservative bond funds that may not yield much, but will yield more than the bank without much risk. You may need this cash in the winter. When it’s out of sight, it’s more likely to stay out of your spending pocket, ready for a real need. Cash is king.
Invest in Your Business
Stocks and real estate go up and down. Their direction and timing is beyond your control and influence. However, you can influence your business’ direction and timing. In fact, you have more influence over this investment than any other. Moreover, you are not betting that other people work hard and get things right. You are betting that you will work hard and get things right. You should have more confidence in yourself than other people.
What investments should you consider? Try these:
Technology – Does your company have a blower door? How about an infrared camera? Do you have GPS for your trucks? Is your computer system holding you back? This might be the time to acquire new technology to add to your product/service portfolio or to improve the productivity of your business.
Do not spend money on technology just to spend it or because it’s “cool.” If you do, you will merely increase the supply of slightly used blower doors and infrared cameras on the market. It’s large enough already. If you invest in technology, commit to understanding it, applying it, and making money with it.
Trucks – Do you have old trucks that need replacement? This might be the time to retire them. Or, you might consider expanding your fleet. If you worry about winter work, set some money aside and make a year-end purchase where you get a tax advantage and auto dealers are more willing to dicker and bring the truck online in the spring.
If your trucks are in good condition, but look sort of, “blah,” maybe it’s time to consider wrapping them (come to the my seminar with Steve Miles at Mechanical Systems Week to learn how to get the most impact from a truck identification program).
Training – Invest in yourself and your people. In September, Mechanical Systems Week will be held in Chicago. It’s the single best conference and seminar you will attend all year. Plus, you’ll be able to take advantage of the trade show and some great social/networking events. Be sure to take advantage of the Service Roundtable’s powerful National Roundtable focused on Internet Marketing, immediately before Mechanical Systems Week.
Beyond Mechanical Systems Week, there are local and national training events occurring continuously in the industry. Consider the AHR Show in Dallas in January. You might even consider the world’s largest mechanical/electric/plumbing show, the ISH Show in Frankfurt, Germany in March. We will be leading a delegation of contractors with the editors of Contracting Business and Contractor Magazines.
Marketing – Plan for a strong off-season by marketing continuously. The contractors doing well and growing since the start of the downturn tend to be aggressive marketers. Expand your direct marketing, social media, website, home show marketing, vehicle marketing, affinity marketing, and broadcast marketing. You can grow in a tough economy. Do not let anyone tell you different.
In fact, it might even be easier if you market aggressively since most of your competition will be cut back on their marketing and all but disappear from the market. Why would anyone put less effort into finding customers at the very moment when customers become harder to find?
Reward Your Employees
Your team got you through the summer and with the right leadership, they will get you to the next level. However, they must buy in. They must believe in you. They must believe their hard work is appreciated and rewarded.
Instead of going salmon fishing in Alaska or tarpon fishing in Mexico, consider taking your entire company fishing on a nearby lake. If you’re close enough, drive everyone to the coast and charter a boat for a day of bottom fishing.
Or, show appreciation and reward loyalty by investing in their future. Take people with you to Mechanical Systems Week. Expose them to the larger industry. They will return with greater appreciation for HVAC and for their roles as professionals in the industry.
Do not forget the spouses. In our industry, everyone sacrifices in the summer. Do something nice for your employees’ families, even if it’s gift cards.
Get Ready for the Next Round of Consolidation
It’s not here yet, but the next round of consolidation is starting to rumble. It’s starting without the splash and headlines that characterized the last round, but it’s starting. When it hits, it’s too late to get your business ready. Start now. Make sure your business is attractive when a buyer calls.
Matt Michel is the CEO of Service Nation Inc., which operates the Service Roundtable, Retail Contractor Coalition, and exit strategy focused Service Nation Alliance (membership is less than you will invest to add a truck). Learn more about the Service Roundtable’s powerful National Roundtable focused on SEO, SEM, social media, and email marketing immediately precedes Mechanical Systems Week. Learn about the members only Service Roundtable Tract that features experts in business growth, exit strategies, and more. Service Roundtable Members receive the lowest tuition price for Mechanical Systems Week. For a limited time, you can join for the first month for $9.95. Call 877.262.3341 and ask for the MSW Special.