Never let ‘em see you sweat

By Kevin Smith

Here are some tips that can help you stay organized and prepared.

Customer-imposed deadlines can create a substantial amount of workday tension. For some reason, in all the years I have been in the green industry, these deadlines are frequently associated with a party. It’s easy to think, “So you knew you were having a party and you called me three days before it?” Years ago, advertising agency CEO Phil Slott coined the phrase, “Never let ‘em see you sweat!” These are important words to remember in running your business.

Here are some tips that can help you stay organized and prepared.

Manage your inventory

Thanks to the pandemic, supplies have been harder to acquire. Planning is key to staying on point for upcoming jobs. Communication with your supply house is especially important.

It is a good practice for any contractor to stock enough supplies to complete at least three to five standard lighting jobs. This inventory should include an ample quantity of your normal go-to fixtures and several different sizes of transformers. Be sure to include your normal lamp and cable connections and other materials in this inventory.

For some, investing in inventory like this might be tough financially. Check with your supplier to see there are any large purchase terms. This may lead to a greater discount for you as well. If you are good friends with another contractor, you could consider a team bulk purchase. For instance, I have known many contractors who split purchase a pallet of wire. Both of you can get the pallet price this way.

Form an emergency response team

If you are fortunate to have a good group of employees, you may want to create an emergency response team. Prep this team to be ready 24/7 for emergency repairs or priority expedited installations, like those last-minute parties that crop up.

Of course, this service should be priced at a premium. If an important job needs to be completed for a valued customer, price is usually no object. Your team should be well trained and made up of key employees that you can always count on to deliver excellence, both on and off the job. Since projects like this warrant a premium, consider flexing the wages paid to team members or offering a bonus plan to them as well.

Under-promise and over-deliver

Providing that little something extra goes a long way. For instance, perhaps you are updating a lighting system with new fixtures for a customer. They might have a few fixtures from the old system that are in good shape. Clean them up and use them in an area of the yard that is lacking illumination. When the lights come on, your customer will realize you went the extra mile for them and provided more than their expectations.

Create a contractor referral network

Most of us are greatly confident in our abilities. Sometimes a customer may ask for a service that is not in your normal offerings. If this occurs, listen to them to understand every aspect and their expectations. Use that info to ascertain whether you’re the right person for the job. Ask yourself if this is the highest and best use of your time and talent. If the answer is no, this is where it is important to know trusted sources who are right for the project.

Network with a good group of contractors who will reciprocate referrals and partner with them in cases like this. Whether you refer the customer outright or subcontract their work under your project, do not be worried about losing business to this group. They are going to need your expertise for their projects as well.

These are just a few suggestions to assist with the stressors of running a service business in the green industry. Keep calm and carry on! And remember, never let ‘em see you sweat!

Kevin Smith is the national technical support and trainer at Brilliance LED LLC, Carefree, Arizona, and can be reached at kevin.smith@brillianceled.com.