The goal of any business is productivity, and that’s probably even more true of small businesses. When you’re larger, you can have unproductive pockets but your resources or market share can often make up (“cover”) for that. It’s a much different picture for SMBs. As you grow, you need a singular focus on productivity to make sure that you’re aiming at the right operational goals and not wasting time, resources, money, or anything else.
If you run a small plumbing business, then, you need to make sure your plumbers are effective and productive day in and day out. How do you do that? Here are three quick tips.
Productivity Tip 1: Batch Tasks
The human brain is not very good at switching between a variety of tasks. (This is why “multi-tasking,” which many people in business always claim to be doing, doesn’t really work that well.) Batching tasks is about grouping similar activities into chunks to increase focus and productivity on those tasks. This is a little bit harder as you run a plumbing business because urgent client needs may arise that prevent your plumbers from batching specific types of jobs. Still, though, if you have recurring clients -- monthly check-ins, etc. -- you can design your schedule in such a way that your plumbers are doing all their larger industrial client check-ins on one day. That way, when that day arrives, you’ve batched their focus on one type of plumbing work. This can help increase their productivity on that day as they move through similar assignments.
Productivity Tip 2: Use Productivity Charts
This is a sample from Harvard Business Review that is more aligned to standard office jobs than field service work, but it will give you an idea:
You can design something similar for your plumbers. The categories could be “fix and repair” (basic work), then “invoicing,” “meetings,” “sales/marketing,” “training,” etc. If they do this for four weeks and regularly keep their time on different tasks, you’ll start to see patterns emerge. Some of your plumbers might be spending way too much on invoicing, for example. If you see that pattern emerge, maybe design a better system for how they invoice -- or ask them to do all invoicing on Friday afternoons. It will vary by situation, but keeping the charts will help you know what patterns are emerging.
Productivity Tip 3: Create a Life Dashboard
This tip comes right from a productivity guru at Toyota, which is considered one of the more productive automakers in the world. He argues that you should forget about all the apps out there -- they won’t help! -- and instead use Post-It Notes to essentially create a dashboard of your life. It will look something like this:
Help your plumbers create one in the morning, or the night before. Try it for five or six days and see if it works. If they lay out their appointments, inventory runs, and longer-term needs, here’s what happens. They turn tacit knowledge (what they intuitively know about their days) into explicit knowledge (direct, vital information with almost no interruption, like this chart above). When you turn tacit knowledge into explicit knowledge, you create a flow in your brain that helps increase your daily output.