Friday, March 20, 2015

What's Special About a Doughnut?

“Ohhhhhh”, exclaims Homer Simpson simply at the sight of the fried dough seen on every street corner in America. So what makes donuts different? You probably don’t go to a specific donut shop…you just go to the closest one because they’re all the same. Right? Might have different sugar or decoration or be cake or “regular”…but your choices are pretty much the same no matter where you go.

Enter Voodoo Doughnut. Branded with old wood and bricks, a guy with a funny hat and a scary face, and a tagline that stages “The magic is in the hole”. The entire website is funky, freaky and oddly fun. Even the “about” section is written and presented like the brand is from some crazy warehouse in Portland. Oh wait…it is.

At Voodoo Doughnut, you  can get married. Yep….legally. On a recent trip to Voodoo Doughnut in Portland at 10:00PM at night…there was a LINE AROUND THE BUILDING.  You can buy t-shirts, water bottles and even sunglasses with donuts on them – you can see out, but no one see in.

So can you take some lessons for your service  company from this? How can you brand yourself uniquely? Every contractor states they offer “fast, dependable” service. Yawn…..

Spend some time with Voodoo Doughnut. I’m not suggesting you implement weddings…or sell branded underpants….but I am suggesting you figure out what makes you unique. Can you rebrand yourself? Can you immerse your company in that brand? And can you offer “extras” that that align with your brand?

© 2015 Robin Jones 

Robin Jones
VP Marketing
Service Roundtable

Monday, February 2, 2015

Why Unlicensed Contractors are Like the New England Patriots

Much of the NFL discussion leading up to last night’s Super Bowl, centered on “deflate-gate.”  Similar stuff happens every day in the service trades.

In case you’ve been living under a rock, deflate-gate is a reference to the AFC Championship game when the New England Patriots were found using under-inflated footballs in wet conditions, making them easier to grip and catch.  New England quarterback, Tom Brady had even mentioned his preference for under-inflated balls in the past.

Colts safety, Mike Adams knew immediately after intercepting a Brady pass that the ball didn’t feel right, so he handed it to his equipment manager for later inspection (Each team provides its own balls, which are checked twice by referees before kickoff).  When Adams intercepted a second pass and discovered that it too, was under-inflated, the Colts complained.  After the game, it was reported that eleven of twelve balls were under-inflated.

It is unlikely Brady didn’t know the balls were under-inflated.  NFL analyst and former Super Bowl quarterback Troy Aikman, not known for hyperbole, commented, “It’s obvious that Tom Brady had something to do with this... for the balls to be deflated, that doesn’t happen unless the quarterback wants that to happen, I can assure you of that.”

Anyone who ever played sports with an inflated ball finds it hard to imagine someone not recognizing one that’s under-inflated.  This goes for basketball, soccer, volleyball, and football.

It also stretches credibility to think Patriots head coach, Bill Belichick didn’t know about the deflated footballs.  This is a guy who manages details to the degree he tweaks the conditions of practice footballs.  He’s stated, “With regard to footballs, I’m sure that any current or past player of mine will tell you that the balls we practice with, are as bad as they can be — wet, sticky, cold, slippery — however bad we can make ‘em, I make ‘em. And, anytime that players complain about the quality of the balls, I make ‘em worse, and that stops. So, we never use the condition of the footballs as an excuse. We play with whatever or kick with whatever we have to use, and that’s the way it is.”

He’s not helped by a past that is full of transgressions and instances of pushing the limits of the rulebook, if not flagrantly violating it.  For Belichick to be innocent, he would be a leopard who changed his spots.

Ironically, any edge the footballs gave the Patriots was unnecessary.  The team manhandled the overmatch Colts.  They cheated without the need.

This is exactly like unlicensed contractors and unpermitted work.  Just like the Patriots would have won without breaking the rules, contractors can succeed and make money by operating within the constraints of licensing laws and permitting rules.  Like the Patriots, they choose not to.  Why?

I do not understand people who cheat when they need not, people who lie when the truth will serve, and people who steal the work of others when they are capable of producing their own.  I assume they are taking what they perceive is the easier path.  I assume they perceive the risk/reward ratio tilted in favor of breaking the rules.

If breaking the rules in the NFL had consequences, New England’s win over the Colts would have been forfeit.  Whether the underinflated balls altered the outcome of the game or not, it was cheating.  At the very least, the NFL could have suspended Belichick and Brady for the Super Bowl.  After a Super Bowl win any punishment seems trite, trivial, and irrelevant. 

It’s like catching a kid with his hand in the cookie jar, but letting him eat the cookie anyway, and then telling him he couldn’t have another.  At that point, who cares?

The reason the NFL failed to take action is the cost.  The consequence of suspending coaches, players, or instituting a forfeit would have tarnished the league and turned the Super Bowl into a joke.  Most fans would have seen it as overkill.  It was a cost no one was willing to take.  Thus, the reward of a potential edge, no matter how slight, is greater than an ephemeral cost factored by the risk of getting caught.

Similarly, the risks and costs of getting caught operating without a license or performing work without permits represent insufficient deterrence for contractors.  While we could raise the penalties or tighten enforcement to increase the risk of getting caught, no one is willing to accept the costs.  Few in the public would consider it acceptable, for example, to incarcerate an unlicensed contractor.  No one wants to pay for a significant increase in enforcement personnel.

Whether in sports or contracting, you can play hard and still play by the rules.  You can also seek to win at all costs, regardless of rules and ethics.  It’s your choice.  Personally, I choose to sleep well at night and maintain the ability look myself in the mirror when I wake.

© 2015 Matt Michel

If you’re a Patriots fan who is all injured by this column, just remember you won a Super Bowl last night.  Meanwhile, I pull for the Cowboys.  You don’t have to say anything else.

Wednesday, December 31, 2014

Assume the Prospect is Buying


Sometimes people make sales too hard.  Sometimes all you need to do is assume the prospect is buying and proceed.

Think about it.  Only masochists enjoy entertaining multiple sales presentations.  Sure, there are a few masochists out there, but most people really want to buy from you and get it over with.

Sales great, Charlie Greer explained that people want to buy.  The reason they call you is they are hoping that you will solve their problems.  So do your job.

Some people are not great decision makers.  They want someone to make the decisions for them, even the salesperson.  If you are in the role of a consultative salesperson, making the best decisions for the customer is entirely appropriate.

Assume the prospect is buying and proceed.  Do not ask the prospect to sign.  Tell the prospect you need a signature so you can proceed with the next step (e.g., schedule the crew, order the equipment, pull the permits, whatever).

You might be surprised how many people will do exactly what you instruct.  It’s what the prospect wants.  If not, he or she will stop you or refuse, which is valuable too.  It gives you an opportunity to unearth the reason for not proceeding.  Solve it or address it and move forward.

This is called the assumptive close.  Try it.

©2014 Matt Michel

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Monday, December 1, 2014

Networking is Mandatory

If you (or someone in your company) is not networking, then your business is not very important to you.  After all, personal networking is very important to your business.

Zig Ziglar once said, “If people like you they’ll listen to you, but if they trust you they’ll do business with you.”

How do you get people to trust you?  You build a relationship with them, which can only be done by personal interaction (i.e., networking).  Get involved in your community with centers of influence.  This builds trust, which results in business and referrals.  While all referrals are good, those from centers of influence are best because they occur more frequently.

Andrew Twidwell, owner of ABT Plumbing, Electric, Heating & Air Conditioning in Grass Valley, CA and Auburn, CA talks about the power of networking…

I joined our local Rotary club back in 2008. In the years since I've been able to turn more than 3/4 of them into returning clients.  Our club has 92 members.  So was it worth spending an hour every Wednesday having breakfast with these folk?  More than you can imagine.  I went into Rotary to help build my business, it did that and so much more.  I've been sucked into an organization that does so many incredible things both locally and internationally.

By the way, yesterday was my first day as President of Nevada City 49'er Breakfast Club.  The things I've gotten from Rotary are, business, friends, leadership skills, and the honor of helping do good deeds both locally and internationally.

The best networkers are involved in multiple organizations.  Twidwell added, “By the way, I'm personally a BNI member and have one of my plumbers active in another BNI group.  It’s another great organization.”

Steve Lauten, president of Total Air in Plano, TX said, “I've been in Rotary for 25 years. The relationships I've developed over that time has allowed our company to survive some big downturns in the economy and helped us build a referral driven business along with BNI.  In addition I believe in putting ‘Service Above Self.’”

For non-Rotarians, “Service Above Self” is the Rotary motto.  It is this commitment to community service leadership that helps build trust among club members.  Rotary and other service clubs expect their members to work.  If that’s not you; if your only interest is referral and lead generation, you will probably not last long in a service club.  You will, however, find a home with BNI, LeTip, or Netweavers, which are primarily leads clubs.

Steve Wiggins of Quality Air Care in Waco, TX agrees.  He said, “Networking is key.  I've been in Rotary, BNI, and several others.  It works!”

As a company owner, networking should be a major part of your job.  Become one of your community’s centers of influence and your top and bottom lines will grow.  If networking is not part of your DNA, hire someone to be Mr. Outside to your Mr. Inside.  It’s too important to ignore.

CYBER MONDAY SPECIAL - Just for reading this blog, I want to offer you the opportunity to join Service Roundtable for just $10. Get marketing, real world mentoring and money back on things you already buy for just $10. Now through Dec 31.  Cyber Monday Deal

©2014 Matt Michel

Monday, November 3, 2014

What to Put On an Important Numbers Magnet

What to Put On an Important Numbers Magnet
You want to create an important phone numbers magnet to earn some of that valuable refrigerator real estate, but are stumped on what numbers to use.  Never fear.  Here are a collection of national numbers and the local numbers you might want to use. 
There are more numbers than you could possibly use.  You will need to pick and choose. 

National Numbers
  • AKC Companion Animal Recovery - 800-252-7894
  • Animal and Pet Travel Resources
  • Airplanes/Airline Regulation - 800-545-USDA 
  • Center for Missing & Exploited Children - 800-843-5678
  • Lyme Disease National Hotline - 800-886-5963
  • National Battery Ingestion Hotline - 202-625-333
  • National Child Abuse Hotline - 800-422-4453
  • National Do Not Call Registry - 888-832-1222
  • National Domestic Violence Hotline - 800-799-7233
  • National Poison Control Center - 800-222-1222
  • National Runaway Hotline - 800-786-2929
  • National Sexual Assault Hotline - 800-656-HOPE
  • National Substance Abuse Hotline - 800-662-4357
  • National Suicide Prevention Hotline - 800-273-TALK
  • Pet Loss Support Hotline - 888-478-7574
  • Pet Spay Helpline - 800-248-SPAY
  • Reduce Unsolicited Credit Card Applications - 888-567-8688
  • Social Security Administration - 800-772-1213
  • Stolen Pet Hotline - 800-STOLEN-PET
  • Stop Unsolicited Junk Mail - 800-288-5865

Local Numbers

You will need to look these up for your community.  Some towns may not have all of them, but this gives you terms to search for.
  • Emergencies - 911
  • Animal Control
  • Cable Company
  • Child Protective Services
  • County Clerk
  • County Court
  • Crime Tip Line
  • Electric Utility
  • Fire Department
  • Gas Utility
  • Hospitals
  • Library
  • Main City Phone Number
  • Marriage License
  • Municipal Court
  • Municipal Water and Sewer Department
  • Newspaper
  • Parks & Recreation
  • Phone Company
  • Police Non-Emergency Number
  • Post Office
  • Public Schools
  • Public Transit/Transportation
  • Sheriff’s Office
  • SPCA
  • Suicide Crisis Hotline
  • Teen Crisis Hotline
  • Victim’s Assistance
  • Waste Removal Services
  • Water Department
  • Weather Forecast
  • Woman’s Shelter

Businesses for Cross Marketing

In addition to your company, you could partner with reputable local businesses with good customer bases and cross market the magnets.  Here are some businesses you might consider:
  • Air Conditioning 
  • Appliance
  • Carpet Cleaning
  • Electric
  • Flooring
  • Garage Door
  • Heating 
  • Home Health
  • House Cleaning
  • Landscaping
  • Lawn Maintenance
  • Lawn Treatment
  • Painting
  • Pest Control
  • Plumbing
  • Pool & Spa
  • Roofing
  • Solar
  • Tree Service


You might leave space on a magnet for homeowners to add a few personal numbers.  Here are some ideas.
  • Auto Insurance
  •  Doctor
  •  Pediatrician
  •  Relative
  • Veterinarian


One option is to create important numbers magnets around a particular theme.  Specialization means greater investment, but also greater interest on the part of the right target.  Besides, magnets are relatively inexpensive.  Here are some examples of specialization.

  • Important Numbers for Babysitters
  • Important Numbers for New Homeowners
  • Important Numbers for New Parents
  • Important Numbers for Pet Owners

©2014 Matt Michel

Friday, September 26, 2014

How Everyone Wins With Service Agreements

How Everyone Wins With Service Agreements

Any business in the service and repair space should offer a service or maintenance agreement.  Correctly designed, a service agreement program is one of the biggest no-brainers around because everyone wins.  The customers win.  The employees win.  The Company wins.  Everyone wins.  Here’s how.

Defining a Service Agreement

First, let’s define a service agreement.  It is NOT an insurance program or extended warranty, similar to what the consumer electronics big box stores offer.  It is real maintenance work, discounted because it is pre-purchased and scheduled during slow periods.  For this reason, many service companies seek any name for their program other than “service agreement.”  It can be a maintenance agreement, a protection plan, a savings agreement, etc.

How Customers Win

Service agreements are a deal for customers.  Here are five ways they win.

1.    Service Agreement Customers Get Needed Preventative Maintenance

Maybe the biggest benefit is it encourages them to get beneficial maintenance work performed, which is too easy to overlook year after year until something breaks. The prevention of product failure is only the least of it.  Good maintenance extends the life of mechanical equipment.  Because the efficiency of mechanical equipment tends to degrade over time, maintenance restores lost efficiency, which is a serious benefit given today’s energy prices.

2.    Service Agreement Customers Keep Warranties Valid

For recently purchased products, manufacturers may require maintenance to keep longer term warranties valid.  These clauses are found in warranty fine print and overlooked until they jump up and bite you.  A service agreement ensures compliance.

3.    Service Agreement Customers Pay Less

Consumers can get maintenance performed a la carte.  However, they will pay more.  Work performed under a service agreement is discounted so customers pay less.

4.    Service Agreement Customers Receive Discounts

Service agreement customers are also treated better.  Typically, they receive direct discounts on repairs of 15% or more.  In addition, some companies reduce the price for after-hours emergency service for service agreement customers, waive response charges, and so on.

5.    Service Agreement Customers Get Better Service

Since service companies view service agreement customers as their best customers, they treat them better.  Their demand service calls move up in priority over non-service agreement customers.  Faster is better.

How Employees Win

Company employees are also big winners with service agreements.  Here are three ways employees win.

1.    Employees Get Work During Slack Times

Because maintenance work can be scheduled at the company’s convenience, it’s usually performed during seasonal slowdowns or other periods of slack demand.  This means hourly employees have work to do and are not sent home.

2.    Employees Can Earn Extra Money

Since selling or extending a service agreement results in a monetary spiff, company employees can earn extra money.  This includes field service personnel and customer service representatives.  The spiffs may not be large, but they add up.

3.    Employees Get To Do What’s Right For Customer

Since work under service agreements are performed during periods of light demand, there is less pressure to hurry through the work because other people are backed up.  Service personnel and take the time to be thorough and do the job right.

How Companies Win

Companies also win with service agreements.  Here are four ways.

1.    Companies With Service Agreements Enjoy Greater Cash Flow

Since service agreements are prepaid or paid on a monthly basis, they help companies with cash flow.  Companies with service agreements start the week, month, quarter, and year with guaranteed business already paid for.

2.    Companies With Service Agreements Retain Employees

Because service agreements means added work during slack times, companies keep their people busy.  Busy people are less likely to look elsewhere for a paycheck.

3.    Companies With Service Agreements Strengthen Customer Relationships

Some people claim that the only true customer a service company has is a service agreement customer.  All other customers become prospects at large the second the service truck hits the road.  In fact, there’s empirical research to support this.  Even when making significant purchases like heating and air conditioning systems, consumers are apt to forget the name of the installing company within two years of the purchase unless there’s a service agreement in place.  A service agreement means there is an ongoing relationship.

4.    Companies With Service Agreements Increase Their Value

Companies with lots of service agreements sell for more than companies without service agreements.  This is because a customer list with service agreements is a customer list with relationships.  A customer list without them is like a mail list that can be purchased for ten cents a name. 

Without question, service agreements benefit customers, employees, and the company.  They are a triple win, a slam dunk, a no-brainer, and as sure of a sure thing as you can get in the world of service.  In the next Comanche, I’ll explain how you can create a service agreement program and achieve buy-in.

© 2014 Matt Michel

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Monday, August 25, 2014

Thermal Imaging for Every Toolbox

Twenty years ago, I used a $20,000 infrared camera to demonstrate cold air technology.  Flir just announced an iPhone infrared accessory for $349.  This changes everything.

Infrared visually shows temperature differences.  It’s been used for years to identify insulation programs, help track down roof leaks, and identify electrical components about to fail (they heat up when approaching failure).  At $349, this should be added to every residential service person’s toolbox.  It will allow service personnel to troubleshoot faster, prevent breakdowns, provided added credibility by presenting visual proof of issues, and ultimately boost average tickets.

How Plumbers Can Use Thermal Imaging

·        Check water heater sediment build up
·        Detect water heater insulation problems
·        Identify potential water heater leaks before they occur by detecting temperature differences
·        Find slab leaks
·        Identify water pipe locations behind walls
·        Detect stoppage locations in pipes
·        Pinpoint piping and plumbing leaks that may not be visible to the eye
·        Find water damage that’s not yet visible
·        Detect moisture damage behind tiles

How Electricians Can Use Thermal Imaging

·        Identify electrical components that are about to fail and get hotter
·        Detect overheating outlets and light switches
·        Find wiring defects
·        Find electrical shorts

How HVAC Technicians Can Use Thermal Imaging

·        Find duct leaks
·        Pinpoint coil leaks
·        Identify electrical components nearing failure, before they fail
·        Check diffuser throw with the help of a screen held perpendicular to the diffuser
·        Identify points of air infiltration from poorly sealed doors, windows, and other penetrations of the building envelope
·        Detect when gas insulated windows have lost their seal
·        Identify insulation problems resulting from water damage, settling, or simply from new construction mistakes
·        Find cold air drafts

Check out a simulator of the product HERE.  Buy the product for $349 HERE.