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Thread: Will someone please run my business... (so I can get some work done).

  1. #1

    Default Will someone please run my business... (so I can get some work done).

    Hello Everyone,

    I'm new here. I hope my 18 years experience running a service based, very small business will help someone else. Mine is usually a good example of what not to do.

    It's the typical story of the Certified Master Technician, now with 27 years of experience in the same field, unable to run a profitable business because no one is in charge. I've hired several office managers over the years. None have any motivation to help run a profitable company.

    Our techs are much more concerned with serving the customer than writing an invoice or work order. Our work is technical. I need to be in the field, but no one tracks their activities or invoices very well.

    Any suggestions on a good direction to turn.

    Thanks,
    TimC

  2. #2
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    Out of curiosity, what field of business are you in? I'm assuming that it's automotive based on the "Certified Master Technician" but am not positive since you mentioned having to be in the field (Do you perform work at the client's site)?

    The industry I am in (Information Technology/Managed Services) has the same issue based on a recent conference I attended and feedback other owners provided. Some take the motivational approach by offering an incentive of some form (Normally cash) and deduct from this amount whenever an issue is encountered (I.E. Time for a client not being submitted properly), others take the fear approach by "making an example" of a person/people who continually do not log time/amounts for clients for us to invoice properly.

    My preference would be a mixture of both and based on metrics/performance, as an example if an employee would normally earn 40K a year, then I would make a portion of that their salary with the remaining portion based on their time/billing/invoicing accuracy. I.E. Using 40K per year as an example, I would be inclined to pay an employee 30K/year or 14.42/hour or 576.92/week as their base pay. If the employee can only account for 60% of their time via time entry/billing/invoices then I would only pay the remaining 10K/year at 60% which would be an extra 2.88/hour or 115.38/week. Over the course of the year if the employee continues to submit 60% of their time then they would only make $36K...This ties back the time/billing/invoicing they do to something that affects them as well and would hopefully increase your billable time.

    You would just have to find what works best for you and your staff.

    Additionally, in your particular field do you charge by the hour/job or ? I ask because if you have a means to quantify the time spent at a client site (I.E. Based on GPS Receiver Reporting, Dispatch Start/Stop Time or etc) then why aren't you using these tools instead of relying on someone to report this information back to you?

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    Great suggestions by MyITGuy.

    My first question would be: Why aren't YOU in charge? It seems to me you are more interested in being one of the employees rather then the owner. No one will care about the business more then you, no matter what the incentive is. Maybe it's time for you to take a course or two in basic management skills, hire someone to take your personal in-the-field workload, and take over "running the office" - setting appointments, prospecting for new jobs, providing job quotes, collecting payments from clients, managing expenses, and holding techs accountable for their time and billings. You know...the stuff an owner would normally do!

    It's tough to fly the plane when the pilot isn't in the cockpit.

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    your the boss...your in charge....why are you in the field???

    i think its important that you be in the field maybe once a week, but why full time????

    im planning on hiring someday and with each employee i hire i will remove myself one step further in the field....whatever your doing in the field is the job you need to hire for....

    if you WANT to be in the field full time i suggest firing everyone at your company and becoming a 1 man business...

  5. #5

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    Thanks for all your replies.

    My company was once a locksmith company. Today we install card access, cameras, locks and security systems in commercial, industrial, retail and government projects.

    Life was different a year ago. I was in the office working on the company, not in it. I had 3 techs in the field and I worked in both areas. Today I have 1 or 2 techs and myself in the field and I still work the office. One of the guys quit to open a competing company and the other quit and no one knows where he went. He wouldn't say. We still don't know.

    The Dept of Criminal Justice regulates our industry and Technicians are hard to find. We have to do fingerprint and back-ground checks. I'm still looking and talking to people.

  6. #6

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    From the beginning, I've always been to start a company, hire good technicians, train the ones that needed it, and hire someone to dispatch them to complete jobs in a manner which saves time, fuel and money.

    I've Always wanted and needed the person to answer calls, dispatch, invoice, set up appointments, order materials, Invoice, help me do many quotes, track employees, verify materials have been invoiced, re-bill or call on delinquent customers, and on. I have never found that person. Right now, those things are all done by me at night, or driving down the road, or in a hotel in another city.

    The goal has always been for the company to be able to run without me. Right now, there is no company without me. My wife has no retirement. If nothing major happens, I have about 10 more years to get it right.

    Thanks,
    TC

  7. #7

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    And what are you willing to pay for said person? I suspect part of the problem you have is that the person is full-time overhead and you can't afford a full-time overhead person with the full skill set you're seeking with the current number of technicians you employ, including yourself. In all likelihood, you probably need to be twice as big as what you are today in order to generate the cash you need to hire an effective office manager.

    As far as others saying you need to be doing all of these things, you certainly bear the accountability for making sure they get done, but it is not unreasonable to expect that a good office manager can do all this if you train them to. But at the end of the day, you will always have to be involved with this business on a regular basis in order to make sure that everything is being done that needs to be done. If your plan is to retire and live off the profits while someone else runs it ten years from now, then you probably need to re-examine your plan. It is likely that you will be working in this business on a regular business until you sell it or close it down. It's unlikely to sustain itself without you.

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    After finding out more about your history, your situation is a little clearer. I had friends in the same business, and it always seems individuals in that industry are doomed to the "too small to have staff/too large not to have staff" predicament. Both Huggy and Lucas had good ideas...either contract and be a do-it-yourself company or grow so you can afford to have staff. Obviously, both options are "easier said then done", and I'm sure you've gone over those scenarios until it felt like your head would explode. If growing is out of the question and you can't handle what you have right now, maybe what Huggy said makes the most sense - lose your employees, reduce your service offerings, and just do it yourself. I've known a few locksmiths like that who made a pretty good living!

    At the point you're at right now, it sounds like you need better processes and/or more automation. Do you have a website that customers can contact you through for bids on jobs? Do you have an accounting program like Quickbooks to help you track sales invoices, materials invoices, delinquent payments, and the like? Is each technician required to have a completed "job jacket" for each job completed, with materials invoices, billable hours sheet, travel expenses, etc.? Have you tried sitting your techs down, explaining the situation, and splitting the company tasks among yourselves, with each person accountable for certain taskings? MyITGuy had a great idea to make the tech pay plans performance-based, which is what the auto industry does. The work you do, the more money you make. Can your wife help handle more of the accounting of the business to free you up some more?

    You have a tough gig on your hands, and good luck with getting it figured out! Let us know which direction you go.

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    I assume with only 2 workers in the field you wont make enough to stay in the office?

    is there a work load for 1-2 more employees???

    if so go out and hire...put out a search all over the USA...these days someone may move to your area just to get a good job.

    if your going to stay in the field you need to change the way you do business...get your business phone line transferred to your cell phone....thats how i run my 1 man company....i handle business all day while i also handle the phones....

    or hire an answering service

    your business has changed.....the problem is the way you do your business hasnt....2 choices...hire 1-2 more employees and get back into the office or change the way you handle phone calls and appointments..

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    Default Do you still need help with your business

    Hi Tim

    Do you have this situation under control or are you still needing help with this issue?

    Based on what you have said so far, I see a few different issues which are feeding each other and causing this out of control spiral.

    Let me know if you still need help and I will expand on my observation

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