Winter is coming.
Depending on where your field service business is located, you may have busy or slow periods at any time of the year...but no one can deny that business picks up when pipes are freezing, water heaters are breaking down, and heating systems are stopping in the dead of night when it’s 4° outside.
Whether—and how—you prepare your plumbing and heating business for the heating season can make the difference between complete overwhelm and a big boost for your business. Here’s how to get prepped for more work, less stress, and higher profits. (Need more? Download our free guide, 5 Key Steps to Prepping for the Heating Season.)
How should I prepare for the busy season?
Here's how to get your plumbing and heating business ready for the winter.
- Start now. Instead of waiting for the rush, develop a plan while the sun's still shining.
- Make time. Don't let everyday urgent-but-not-important tasks get in the way of developing and implementing your busy-season plan.
- Get the right tech. Apps like RescueTime and Redbooth can help you streamline your business to save time during the busy season.
- Smooth out the bumps. Brainstorm ways to encourage customers to hire you during slow seasons, such as subscription packages and service reminders.
How let's go into detail on each step.
1. Don’t let the winter sneak up on you.
As we say in our feature image at the top of this article, winter comes at the same time every year—so don’t pretend in mid-December that that avalanche of service requests came out of nowhere. Develop a plan now, while the sun is still shining and your business is humming along smoothly.
2. Plan your work and work your plan.
Your plan for handling the busy heating season might include hiring temporary staff, implementing new productivity tools, triaging so your engineers tackle the most urgent jobs first, and taking steps to spin the busy winter into a profitable summer.
While these are all good ideas, making plans for handling work in the winter is a lot like making New Year’s resolutions: You and your team are bursting with excitement and motivation as you develop the plan, but that enthusiasm wanes when it comes time to turn the written steps into action.
‘All too often, I see companies get excited about an opportunity that exists and they focus so much on the business case and strategy that the plan gets ignored’, writes Sarah Nicastro, publisher and editor in chief of Field Technologies magazine. ‘Momentum builds around the strategy taking shape, only to lead to disappointment on the project because equal time, effort, and excitement weren’t put into developing a plan to bring that strategy to life’.
One planning problem is that when your staff becomes overwhelmed with tasks that pop up during the workday, your carefully crafted plan is the first thing to go. The solution: Develop the plan and then add the tasks to your (and your employees’) calendars, even if it’s months ahead of time.
We like to say, ‘If you don’t control your schedule, other people will be happy to control it for you’. Scheduling tasks related to your winter plan means those time slots won’t be gobbled up by all the urgent-but-not-important-tasks that inevitably come up.
3. Get the right technology.
In another post we busted your excuses for not investing in new technology. Our advice goes double for winter planning, as using the right tech tools will make your field service business more productive—so you can take on more work with less hassle during the heating season.
Next week we’ll tell you about the top tech tools for the winter rush. In the meantime, the easiest way to start out is with free and paid apps like:
- The project management app Redbooth, which is free for teams of fewer than 10 members.
- The workflow management software and app we created here at Commusoft, which streamlines every aspect of your business, from CRM and service reminders to purchase orders and gas certificates.
- RescueTime, a productivity app that tracks the time you spend on applications and websites so you can pinpoint exactly where you’re losing precious minutes. (If you can get yourself and your office staff on board with this, you might all be surprised at where your time goes!)
- Workable, the all-in-one recruiting software we use here at Commusoft. Need to hire extra help during the heating season? Workable offers a 15-day free trial and a pay-as-you-go plan that costs USD 50 per job per month.
For more ideas, this post offers suggestions for time-saving tech, from apps to hardware.
4. Keep the peak season going all year.
While the winter can be a crazy-busy time for your field service business, it sure is nice to see the profits flowing in. In a USA Today article, Rhonda Abrams, author of Successful Business Plan: Secrets & Strategies, suggests making the good times last all year by:
- Developing a subscription package, such as a year’s worth of heating system check-ups and maintenance. This would be a good product to promote as a holiday gift!
- Building your mailing list. For example, add a newsletter signup form to your website (or move it to a more visible location). Chances are, hordes of people will be visiting your site when their heating system breaks down or their pipes freeze, so this is a good opportunity to invite them to subscribe to your newsletter. Another idea is to hold a holiday drawing for your email subscribers, which will encourage people to sign up.
- Staying (or getting) active on social media and engaging your fans, so when the slow times come you’ll have a bigger follower base that will see your summer promotions.
Remember, winter is coming just like it does every year. Make this the year you take control so you can enjoy the season—and build your business minus the usual holiday stress.
We can help you get ready for the flood of calls this heating season! Click the banner below to get a free copy of a checklist and guide that will show yow how to how to prepare for the busy winter.