Some small business owners are totally content with staying small. But for many small business owners, the dream is growth. You may want to run an enterprise someday, but you’ll probably need to generate more revenue -- and maybe even the interest to be purchased by an enterprise.
So, if you’re a small field service operation, how do you plan for growth? What do you need to be thinking about in order to bring these lofty dreams come to life?
Here are four ideas.
- Get your priorities in order
Earlier in 2016, MIT’s Sloan School of Management found that 2/3 of senior managers couldn’t name the priorities of their organization. This study was conducted across 4,000+ companies globally, including hundreds of industries. Oftentimes, these senior managers reported to the CEO, and though the CEO set the priorities, the senior managers still couldn’t name them. This isn’t good. While some companies have a great product or service and can grow despite poor management (there are dozens of examples in the modern business world), most companies need to have some sense of priority alignment in order to achieve scalability and growth. One key aspect of getting your priorities in order is understanding where ‘strategy’ (the big picture) and ‘execution’ (what people do every day) intersect. If you decide to implement a strategy designed around growth but your back-office staff is doing logistical tasks every day, you won’t actually achieve the growth. A growth strategy needs to prioritize relationship-building, partnerships, and customer experience -- not filling in spreadsheets. Before you can do anything else, you need to be clear on your priorities.
- Get your processes in order
Once you’ve set your priorities and goals, you need to come up with processes. Now, one thing we’ve seen in working with smaller field service companies is that they often define too much process. That hurts productivity. You need specific processes that work to move your business forward, not the need for lots of documentation and paperwork that keeps people busy with unnecessary tasks. One major key on the process side in field service is using some type of FSM software or tool. This allows you to digitally integrate different parts of your business (dispatch, scheduling, inventory, technicians, etc.), and usually frees up time to focus on the most important aspects of business development where and when you can. We work with FSM software, yes, but we’re also users ourselves. It saves time and increases revenue. Isn’t that the point for any small business?
- Get your market in order
Some small field service shops start out with a broad focus, only to look at invoices over a 12-month period and realize they’re only servicing HVAC. Once they realize that, they focus their marketing and sales on HVAC and companies who need that type of service -- and that’s where the growth happens. Market segmentation is a super-powerful tool for small business growth, because it allows for that alignment of priority and process we discussed above. Rather than being mediocre at performing 12 different service requests, be amazing at 1-2 service requests -- and you’ll capture a good bulk of that business.
- Get your customer experience in order
Customer experience is everything in the modern business world, and it means even more in service-oriented professions like ours. Good customer experience means referrals and retained business, and those are the cornerstones of growth. You can have amazing marketing campaigns and a great website, but people are people -- they still value information received from those they trust. That’s the core of referrals, and that’s how many small businesses in field service become ‘the big dogs.’ You can’t get referrals without remarkable customer service, a experience so optimized that all your customers finish with you and think “That was awesome.” If customers finish with you and think “Ugh, that was dreadful,” well, there’s probably not a lot of growth in your future.
What other strategies would you add? And please, bear in mind that many articles about small business growth will promote acquiring another company, but we tried to write this from the perspective of a company that isn’t quite at that stage just yet.