Winters Coming!Mar 16, 2022
Silly Season.. Heating Season.. Busy Season..
Whatever you call it, I think we all can imagine the famous line in Game of Thrones and the uncertainty and sometimes dread that comes with Plumbing Memes stating that "Winters Coming!"
The annual cycle of grafting your "bolts off" for 6-8 months, looking forward to summer, ending it disappointed with the weather and worrying how we will cope with the workload when the cycle repeats and the winter calls kick in. This cycle happens every year without fail. So why do so many people stress in the lead up to "Busy" Season?
As most people reading this article will be Heating Engineers, it is only natural that as our team, marketing activities, and customer database grows, the winter months become increasingly busier than the summer months. A compound effect causes the built-up demand with all the previous year's customers adding to the current winter's emergency calls and all those old-timers "wanting it done before it gets cold".
The knee jerk reaction from the business owner is often the addition of team members to help with the excess workload. More team, more work volume, often only increases the gulf between summer and winter months further. So how should we approach the "Busy" Season?
Rome wasn't built in a year and probably was not planned one night over some grapes and a bottle of vino. Rome learned from and adapted to its problems. Planning, building and systemising for future growth.
What's this got to do with Gasman Gary and Paul from Potley Plumbing & Heating?
THE PLUMBERS ARMS
Let's imagine Paul and Gary sat down in the Plumbers Arms with their tasty pint and a packet of crisps. They are friends and have similar-sized small businesses. Gary has been in the game a few more years, so Paul often buys the drinks and picks at Gary's experience.
They summarised the common problems and discussed the plan to avoid the winter stress. They both agreed the biggest problem is keeping everyone happy and the lack of time to do so. Previous customers, new emergency customers who need a quick response and larger installation projects all wanting the work done this week. As they sip on their tasty pints, they agree on the following:
Previous Boiler Customers
Although it's not life or death that the boilers they installed in previous years have their annual boiler service done this month, both agree that these customers must be prioritised. Building up their database and service plans is part of the long term plan, and getting as many of these customers into summer would help balance demand and cash flow.
New Emergency Customers
Gasman Gary's business is slightly more focused on repair work than Paul's mainly installation based business. Gary offers customers a repair cost and a replacement cost, which, if not repaired, often leads to him replacing the boiler, so it's a win-win for Gary. However, both Gary & Paul agree that boiler replacement is their best-paid day's work.
Also, to build Service plans, prioritising new boiler customers is a good strategy for building those service numbers. But the problem is Paul is often tied up on Larger Projects and cannot turn around quick emergency installations.
Larger Installation Projects
Gary learned a few years ago that filling his diary with larger installation was less profitable and far riskier compared to his other jobs. He advised Paul that if he simply delayed those larger Installation jobs until January or the summer months, he would have more capacity for the emergency work and could easily double his labour costs. Learning to say No to customers freed up Gary's time to focus on the less risky, most profitable work.
As they finished their tasty pint, they concluded that first Paul would have to complete the work that had already been accepted, trying his best not to lose any existing customers over the next few months. He would now set one day a week for servicing only and ask these customers if they wanted to move their annual service earlier into late summer or a little later into the springtime. Finally would slow down how many larger jobs he quoted for and explain before the survey the months that he can complete the work.
CALL TO ACTION BOX
There is no one size fits all strategy for business. Every business is different to the next. Although fictional, this type of conversation is common between 1400 heating engineers in The Boiler Business Community. For Industry-focused Business chat, videos & future training dates, join us on Facebook www.facebook.com/groups/TheBoilerBusiness