Whether you’ve been in busy one week, one year, or 10 years, you should constantly be learning, improving, and refining your operation, looking for the way to eek out that last bit of performance and efficiency. Our company, Custom Theater and Audio, has been in business for 23 years, and in that time, we’ve mostly nailed down the practices and day-to-day operations that help us to keep running like a mostly well-oiled machine.
Our job estimation procedures are pretty standardized, our prewire practices are locked down, billing and accounting processes rarely change, and we have our ordering and scheduling methods about down to a just-in-time science. But over the past couple of years we’ve made a few changes to help us stay on top of a few things even better.
In retrospect, these are all simple, “Why haven’t we been doing this already?!” items that should have been implemented long ago, but that just slipped through the cracks. And these are all things that literally cost us $0, so there is no reason not to do them.
Here’s five changes our company made that might help your business run a bit smoother:
1) Monthly Job Boards
For years, now, we have had two dry-erase monthly calendars up on our office wall, displaying the current and upcoming month. This is where we schedule all work, so we can plan what days are available and which employees are doing what, where we block off holiday closures and vacation time, etc. These boards are prominently located in the office so we can bring clients back to figure out what install date will work for both of our schedules.
It’s simple, but it is an effective way to quickly see what is going on for the upcoming 60 days. For years, we just erased the previous month to make way for the new one without a second thought, but inevitably there would be some question as to if or when something was completed. Recently I started taking a picture of the previous month’s calendar prior to erasing, giving us a permanent record that we can consult if there is ever a question.
2) To-Be-Scheduled Board
Next to the two-month job boards, we added a “To Be Scheduled” board where we write down those small things that constantly pop up that need to be scheduled at some point. This is perfect for those non-crisis “get to it when you can” kinds of service calls that we can fold into the schedule when we’re slow or if we know that we are doing another job in a nearby neighborhood. It is also a great place to jot down those little things that are still outstanding projects—a remote command that needs touching up or a reminder to take a specific part—that can sometimes slip through the cracks, or a reminder to order a TV on an upcoming sale, or just some client-related note that needs attention.
3) Daily Worksheets
Every night before leaving the store, I type up a daily worksheet of what the installers are doing the next day—where they are going; the customer’s name, address, and phone number; the overview of what they need to do, along with any gear they need to take, etc. Like the monthly calendars, these were sheets that we typed and never saved for some reason, and inevitably, we would find ourselves needing to refer to something that was scheduled to be done on a given day. We’ve started saving all of these worksheets and archiving them.
4) ‘Due Now’ Language on Invoices
After noticing that more and more customers were requiring two and three bills to be sent to them before paying, I added a line to our invoice master template about a year ago. Now at the bottom of every invoice it says in bold, “Invoices not paid within 30 days of due date are subject to late fee of 1.5% or $7.50 per month, whichever is greater.” I also added a second line that reads, “Credit card payments over the telephone are subject to a 1% transaction fee and limited to $2,500; Credit card charges over $5,000 subject to 3% transaction fee.” These simple changes have vastly sped up the time it takes to get paid, and has also cut down on the costlier telephone key-in transactions.
5) ‘Rate Us’ E-mail Sent After Project Completion
Customers frequently tell us that they are happy with our service and that they would be happy to serve as a reference or send us glowing thank you letters for a job well done. This is terrific, and certainly a morale boost to the team, but actually giving out a customer’s phone number and having them get a cold call from someone else to find out the job we did is kind of awkward. Now, when I get a customer that is really interested in serving as a spokesperson for us, I send them an email thank them for their business and including links where they can write an online review for us on Google and Yelp. This is a much more low-pressure way for them to say something (hopefully) nice about us, that also improves our online presence and visibility!
If you’ve made any simple changes to your company’s operations, please share with me via Twitter.