By Dan Perry of HandymanStartup.com
As a one-man handyman business owner, I’m always looking for opportunities to be more efficient and save time. After all, time is my most valuable asset. I understand that by being more efficient, I’m not only able to spend more time doing other things I enjoy, but also free up space to improve my service. This not only makes me happier, but it makes my customers happier as well.
Here are 5 strategies I’ve learned over the last few years that may help save you hours each week.
Tip #1: Batch Common Tasks
There are hundreds of small tasks that you need to do to run a service business. Things like shopping for supplies, bookkeeping, following up with customers, writing up quotes, and on and on. The default way to complete these tasks is to do them either when they cross our mind or as soon as we get a chance.
Often we will keep a mental note of all the things we need to do. You’ll know you’ve done this when you suddenly realize that you forgot to call a customer when trying to fall asleep.
There’s a better way to get these things done – Batching. By batching these common tasks, it puts you on a schedule of when do to a certain task. Plus, it eliminates the constant starting and stopping of new tasks and running around constantly never completing anything.
Here are some common tasks to batch:
- Bookkeeping: Once a month.
- Picking up the mail: Once a week.
- Going to the bank for deposits: Once a week.
- Checking E-mail: Once or twice a day.
- Following up with customers: Once a week.
- Shopping for supplies: Once a week.
You may find it hard not to deposit that big paycheck you just got from your customer, but going to the bank more than necessary is a waste of time. Checking your e-mail is always interesting, but it’s rarely ever necessary. You aren’t going to miss anything critical.
This can take some discipline to start, but once you do you’ll be hooked and you’ll be saving hours every week.
Tip #2: Schedule Jobs 1 Week Out Minimum
Unless your business model relies on having super fast service, it’s much more efficient to schedule customers one week out, even if the current week isn’t booked solid.
This may seem counterintuitive, but it can save a lot of time among other benefits. The way it saves time is by allowing you to batch your shopping. By having your entire week scheduled, you know exactly what jobs you will be doing so you can do one single run to the store instead of 5 spread throughout the week.
Aside from the time saving benefit, it also creates scarcity in your customer’s mind. They see that you are booked out at least a week and therefor think you must be in demand. This is a powerful psychological trigger that will increase your perceived value and get them to take action.
Lastly, it prevents you from training your customers to expect super fast service. If you are just getting started, chances are you aren’t booked out a week yet. But, as you get established, it’s very common to be booked out one, two, or even three weeks. In fact, that should be your goal. You might as well start receiving the time saving benefits and build the appropriate expectations for your customers now.
Tip #3: Keep Your Service Area as Small As Possible
It’s pretty obvious why this can save you ton of time driving to and from customers and getting caught in traffic.
As a handyman, you don’t need many customers to keep you very busy. More specialized trades typically need more, but even then they rarely need to service an entire city. So, why not keep your service area small to save some gas and time?
I once interviewed a handyman who only served a single subdivision with his services and was able to keep his schedule booked solid. Lawn care companies that target “mow and blow” jobs can’t even stay competitive unless they stay within a small radius. The extra time driving between jobs kills their profit margins.
Even if you do decide to expand your service are, there are other ways to manage the wasted time driving. One example is to schedule certain areas of town on certain days of the week (another benefit of scheduling jobs a week out). Another example is to have certain employees service certain areas.
Tip #4: Keep Running Lists
Smartphones are amazing and you should be utilizing them to save you time and make your business easier to manage. One of my favorite features is the ability to keep notes. I use my phone to keep running lists of supplies I need, tools I need, or customers I need to follow up with. This can be achieved through your phone’s native note taking app or even better, using Breezeworks built-in note taking feature.
Let’s say you’re at a job and you realize you just ran out of shims, or you need a new metal blade for your grinder. If you make a mental note of it you are not only wasting mental capacity, you’ll probably forget when you actually have a chance to buy. If you make a habit of adding those items to your running lists right when you think of them, you’re days of running out of supplies and tools will be long gone. Who knows how much time that will save.
Tip #5: Minimize Correspondence.
Many handymen I know will tend to let their phone go to voicemail while on a job. Or, they’ll answer and let the customer know they will call them back. I actually recommend against this because it wastes time.
Having to call your customers back, even if you batch this task, often takes much longer than the original conversation would have primarily because they don’t always answer their phones. Then you end up playing phone tag which wastes time.
Instead, I find it best to answer my phone when it rings and figure out the next step on the spot. If they are looking to get on my schedule, I put them on speaker phone and enter them into my phone right then and there. No writing notes on a piece of paper to reference later either. It goes straight into my phone while I’m talking to the customer. This saves me an extra to-do later and adds almost no time to the conversation.
A Final Note
Saving a few minutes here or there may seem trivial or like it’s more effort than it’s worth, but the truth is that those little things add up. For example, 5 Minutes a day adds up to 30 hrs over the course of the year!
By saving time you are not only freeing up space to do other things you enjoy, you’re making your business more efficient. This allows you to either be more competitive, more profitable, or both.
For more tips from Dan Perry on how to get more customers, make more money, and enjoy your business, visit HandymanStartup.com.