Contractor’s Survival Guide
As the COVID-19 pandemic continues to grow, more and more companies are being forced to adapt to new norms. In times like these, it’s hard to know what to do next or how to handle running your business. But just because the world is shutting down doesn’t mean your business has to. Our goal is to help contractors like you stay productive and grow your business, no matter what’s going on around you. We’ve created a Contractor’s Survival Guide to help get you through these uncertain times. Here’s how:
To view the slides for Part 1 of the Contractor’s Survival Guide webinar series, click here.
We understand how the transition to a remote workforce can be difficult, but luckily, the JobNimbus team has mastered remote work over the last 8 years. Our Contractor’s Survival Guide series will give you in-depth details on each of the topics we are about to touch, starting with getting you equipped and ready to work from home.
With that said, here’s what you need to do:
1) Get Your House in Order
- Have a weekly “coffee” with a department. No need for an agenda, just focus on building trust & loyalty and give your team confidence.
- Hold a weekly company all-hands meeting. Uncertainty in the market causes employees to stress and become anxious about their jobs. This causes them to be unfocused and unproductive. Use this meeting to tell the truth about your business, get into details, and calm your team down so they can refocus. Make sure to always have a Q&A at the end of the meeting to answer everyone’s concerns and reassure them.
- “Hug” your customers. Your customers will be going through a lot during an uncertain market. Reassure your existing customers, show empathy, and look beyond your commercial relationship.
- Over-deliver. Ask yourself, “How can I add more value?” “How can I be more available to my customers?” Note: be careful about price discounts. Give away what you can and go above-and-beyond.
- Increase your marketplace exposure. While everyone else in the market panics and retreats, you should advance and conquer. Do more promotions, spend more on advertising, or at least keep your spin where it’s at right now rather than decreasing.
2) Tips and Tricks to Work from Home
- Have a dedicated workspace
- Use a good microphone for video
- Have dedicated breaks and a set of
regular working hours
- Socialize with colleagues via phone or
- Communicate more so that ideas are
- Decide boundaries at home for your
- Do your personal errands before or
- Replicate your office layout at home
- Take time to get dressed and do normal
- Plan out a structured daily schedule of
3) Communication is Key
- Find a way to talk to your customers face-to-face. You can use tools like Zoom or GoToMeeting to still meet with your customers through technology.
- Find a way to talk to your employees. Take this time to let your employees know you have their back, set your goals together and plan what you’re going to do to get out of this hard situation. Tools like Slack allow you to video chat, instant message, call, share screens and more to get projects done.
4) CRM Software
A CRM is the next most important thing for your business after your nail gun or ladder. It’s a customer relationship management software for you to control and is a central location for:
- Your leads
- Job tracking
- Plus more
It gives you remote office abilities and gives you a birds-eye view where you can see exactly where everything is in its stage.
5) Getting Set Up
- Write, edit, and share documents. JobNimbus has several integrations including with Google Docs so you can easily create, access, and distribute documents with your team. JobNimbus also gives you the ability to create templates for invoices and estimates and easily send material orders for fast processing.
- Organize structured meetings. JobNimbus has a mobile app that lets you easily schedule appointments, assign and complete tasks, create meetings with your team and distributors, and more.
- Forward your calls from the office to mobile. Make sure your office number is forwarding business calls to someone on your team before you leave to go home. This will keep you up-to-date with the needs of your clients.
To view the slides for Part 2 of the Contractor’s Survival Guide webinar series, click here.
In this segment of the Contractor’s Survival Guide, we’re going to walk through a number of specifics around your business and how we can potentially help your sales operations. You’ll learn some great tips and tricks on how to facilitate moving your outside sales organization into an inside sales organization and more. Thanks to our partners Leap and EagleView for joining us for this webinar!
1) Provide Structure with a Template
Our first topic of discussion is around providing a structure with a template for your sales team. You can break up their day into very specific blocks for them and help them identify that by facilitating them into lists, calendars, prioritization, and more. You should also set at least one goal per block and avoid switching the block-oriented routines.
One of the best practices for contractors to do from home is to practice. Many companies have really good sales presentations or processes. When switching from being at work to being at home, it’s really important to practice each of those steps.
The next step of this is to digitize any stage and stuff that you don’t already have digital. For many contractors, this stuff could be contracts, pitch books, presentations, or other materials that need to be digitized. Follow your sales process closely and fine-tune it for when you start selling remotely. Get good at following up with your customers as well so you can put together a good plan for moving your lead forward.
Another suggestion for providing a structure with a template is to have consistency. Create a workflow for each job and continue using tools to help you keep on track and create dialogue, whether that’s a CRM software like JobNimbus, Leap, or EagleView. You can use these tools to engage with homeowners whenever possible to build a trusting relationship with them.
Another thing is to have a routine. Don’t use your remote work as a way to get distracted. Make sure to keep a to-do list and stay focused.
Lastly, confidence is key. Consistency and routine will help you stay confident and win the job. Customers will also gain confidence in you if you show confidence in yourself.
2) Let Technology Drive Success
Get the proper roofing technology needed to help your sales team feel comfortable and confident to do their job from home.
Other than the simple things like a computer or headset, you might need more complex tools like a CRM or project management tool, along with the integrations that come with it, to optimize throughout this period.
You can also use technology to keep customers engaged via video conferencing tools. You’ll also want to use measurement reports via tools like EagleView to get accurate quotes for your customers and show them visuals in your reports to show them you know their roof and what it takes to repair it.
Find technology that works well with the tools you’re already using. Many systems will work together so that you can leverage your integrations and eliminate entering the same data more than once. You should also automate your steps of the process so that sales can sell, marketing can market, and production can produce.
3) Negotiating Virtually and Misperceptions
There are a number of misperceptions based around negotiating virtually, however, we negotiate virtually all the time. Negotiation doesn’t always happen in person. You don’t necessarily need to facilitate your sales team’s negotiation methods because they probably know the best way to do it themselves. However, you can help facilitate your sales team to be problem solvers. For example, if the right tool or material isn’t with them, help facilitate how they can be problem solvers from home and focus on what they can control. Leading customer communication is also going to be a key component in negotiating virtually.
Next, help your sales team sell virtually. When communicating with a customer, you really want to focus on what you’re saying and use visuals (images and videos) to tell your story. This will keep them focused on your message and listen to you. Invite your customers to participate. This includes having active pauses, asking them a question, and making sure that the customer is receptive to you’re saying. This will also help you prepare to facilitate the close.
Just because you’re moving away from face-to-face interactions doesn’t mean that your bottom-line has to suffer. Embrace your remote sales process and digital project management. While doing so, you should find what works best for you and your customers, use your resources, and be optimistic about the change. If you can do this, you’ll be in a much better position than businesses that are hesitant to adapt during this uncertain time. It will make an impact on your confidence and ability to succeed.
*The following are the poll results from questions we asked in Webinar 2:
To view the slides for Part 3 of the Contractor’s Survival Guide webinar series, click here.
For this segment, we’re joined by special guest Nate Tall, sales director at Podium, to explain how to boost lead generation. We’re here to provide you with some valuable insight on boosting lead generation during a pandemic.
1) Short-Term & Long-Term Lead Generation Strategies
First, we want to help you define what your strategy is to generate roofing leads. Is your objective from a long-term play or short-term play? Long-term would refer to a strategy that would play out for 6-months or longer and slowly deliver and slowly nurture relationships throughout the process. Short-term play would mean that you’re in need of leads right now and would have to achieve goals quickly.
We recommend that you focus on both long and short play strategies at the same time. Some ways to do that are through nurture programs, which will have multiple touches for the same customer through multiple channels.
For short play goals, a big thing is to create urgency for the consumer to make a purchase. You should also understand the needs of your customers to help convey the value of your product/service.
Another recommendation for short-term play is to make yourself available for the people that are looking for you. While you can’t be face-to-face with them, your business should use text to communicate with customers and create a way for customers to be able to text you first.
For long-term play, take any extra time you have to evaluate ways you can improve your business operations via cutting costs, saving time, and thinking ahead.
2) Identifying the Right Lead Generation Channels
Another method to get new leads is through identifying the multiple channels you can use to communicate with your customers and market to them. You can use:
- Snail Mail
- Lead Services
- Phones/Word of Mouth
- Synergizers and Automation
Double down on what is still working for your business and what is your most effective channel. Take advantage of digital methods to get new leads, such as online reviews, placing CTAs on your website, and leaving a footprint on other pages.
3) Establishing a Budget
As a business who’s concerned about business costs, you need to first create a budget. Look at whether you’re going to invest more, less, or the same amount into your budget. Focus on getting the best value for where you’re at and where you want to go. Then, consider ROI. Look at different types of lead generation platforms and what is going to be the best ROI for you and your market with the budget you have.
Also, ask yourself how are you going to supplement your budget. There is a lot of free marketing that you can do to help your business, so you should really just be investing in operational costs.
Co-Ops are great opportunities you can do that are often available and pre-budgeted so you can get ahead of your competitors. Simply reach out to any vendors, manufacturers, or subcontractors that you work with to try to put together joint programs with them.
Also, be aware of the new CARES Act by the SBA and local banking to give you additional financial assistance.
4) Executing the Plan
Now that you’ve got a budget in place and what channels to use, you need to execute the plan. Draw it up, make sure you have a long-term and short-term plan, and avoid perfection. Often times you want things to be perfect and exact, but some marketing is better than no marketing, especially when you’re looking to act quickly. Get your message right, but interate the details as you go.
Once you’ve activated your plan, make sure you have some metrics or goals in mind on how you’re going to measure the success of your program.
Additionally, you should have different plans for your short- and long-term strategies. What are your plans for different time frames (today, 1 month, 3 months, 6+ months)? We also recommend that you network with the people you know to see what’s working and what isn’t to get new ideas for your business.
5) The Message
The message is an often overlooked area of lead generation strategies, but very important. You must have a CTA for each new message. Also, determine your value propositions and align your messaging around those. Don’t get distracted on other features.
Your copy also has the power to convert prospects into leads. Copy is a science. Don’t overlook or underestimate it, look at resources to learn more about writing good copy. You can use YouTube, podcasts, or books to get free information on any of these subject matters.
*The following are the poll results from questions we asked in Webinar 3:
To view the slides for Part 4 of the Contractor’s Survival Guide webinar series, click here.
1) Take Care of Your Employees
You want to make sure as a business owner that you take good care of your employees. Don’t force any of your employees to come into the office or knock doors and put others at risk of COVID-19.
It’s your job to guarantee everyone’s safety. You can’t wait for the virus to happen. Doing so will enrage others and negatively influence your business. Don’t let it get to the point where you’re risking it. Be proactive about working safely from home and treat it as seriously as it is.
2) Apply For Help
We hear in the news a lot about government payroll assistance, loans, etc. for struggling business owners. If you have an employee who has been infected by COVID-19, you have to give them at least 2 weeks paid time off.
The first thing you can do to take advantage of this is to get a tax credit for their paid time off and use it as a tax deduction later on at the end of the year.
It’s ok to take a loan in order to survive during hard times. Many people argue that loans and debt are really bad for a business, but we would argue that it’s how you apply and use it that matters.
If you’re taking a loan to pay your employees and keep employment so you still have a team when the pandemic ends, it’s a good business loan and it’s good to be mentally ok with it.
3) Managing Virtually – Selling
CompanyCam, especially tied with JobNimbus, can help you sell, produce, and communicate virtually so you can manage your team in a virtual world.
CompanyCam was built for selling in a virtual world. You can use guest user galleries to see how much damage has been done to a roof. You can add the homeowner as a guest user, no cost, where they can upload photos of their roof and you can access the pictures as they’re taking them.
Next, you’re going to use the timeline feature. This is a link that you share with the homeowner that will update them with all the photos and videos of their roof as you’re taking them. That way, you can communicate with them while they’re in their home and you’re on their roof so you don’t have to come into contact with each other to know what’s going on.
The final feature is a report. This shows the homeowner and adjuster what you’ve done in PDF form and send hundreds of photos in one click.
Now that you’ve sold the job, you can look at your job from a production standpoint. Your crew or subs need to be documenting the progress and can do so with the tagging project labels feature.
Tagging lets you draw attention to anything specifically on the job, maybe that’s pre-existing damage, shingle-type, shingle-color, or whatever you want to keep track of. You can also label your project to see where your projects are at in the progress.
The mentioning feature is an effective way to communicate within CompanyCam. It acts like a text message but takes you directly into the photo so you can see exactly what the production guys or sales guys have questions on.
Annotations almost become your blueprint for your production guys. It’s a seamless way for the sales guys to pass things off to your production team.
Communication needs to occur throughout the entire job. In a time of social distancing, communication is more difficult but also more important. It is the key to an efficient company whether we’re in a pandemic or not.
At this time, when you’re not going into the office or sending guys to job sites, you can use conversations so at the project level, you can communicate on what’s going on with the job, whatever that may be.
Again, you can use mentioning where you can point out certain issues. Timelines let you see progress without being there in person. They let you complete or adjust appointments to keep social distancing in real-time.
Finally, you can use marketing to communicate. People are spending a lot more time on social media. If you can afford to, try doubling down on digital ads and content to reach out and interact with your audience.
To view the slides for Part 5 of the Contractor’s Survival Guide webinar series, click here.
For the fifth part of our Contractor’s Survival Guide, we covered production. Guest hosts Jeannie from Beacon and Brie from Elite Roofing advised how to be more virtual in your production and continue to grow as a company. In this webinar, you will learn the importance of health and safety, the benefits of supplier integrations, and streamlining a paperless process.
1) Social Distancing
Unfortunately, many contractors can’t do their job from home. But you can still practice social distancing in order to fix a roof or part of a home. Remember, as a company you should have something in place to tell your subcontractors and crews. Line out your specific protocol for how to represent the company while working out in the field.
Respect the homeowner and give them their space while still doing your job. Stand 6 feet away from their door or, better yet, communicate by phone. If you absolutely have to do paperwork in person, make sure you are wearing gloves.
Before sending a crew out to do a job, check with the homeowner to check if they are feeling ok to make sure no cases will potentially spread. Also, ask your crew how they feel and set a policy as a company if they are experiencing symptoms to stay home.
The NRCA and Construction Industry Safety Coalition put out this list of resources suggesting how construction crews can continue working while still following CDC guidelines. In summary, this is how you can practice onsite safety with your crew:
- Wear gloves all the time
- Use sanitizer or wipes
- Have water bottles for individuals
- Only select people in the trailer
- Refrain from riding together
- If possible, use the same tool and keep to yourself every day
- Stagger breaks and lunches
- Clean shared places and items
2) Benefits of Beacon Integration
Technology can help better serve your customers and help contractors grow their business. The Beacon Pro+ platform can help you run your business from home and at any time by doing the following:
- Get live pricing for materials that are available in your market
- Submit a material order in a click of a button
- Save time because you don’t have to do double entry
For any customers that are using JobNimbus, this information pulls right into JobNimbus software and lets you place orders 24 hours a day directly through the Beacon ordering system.
3) A Paperless Process
Like Beacon, Elite Roofing has leveraged technology to the point where it has been able to become a paperless company. In regards to technology, Elite Roofing has used automations to enhance its customer experience. It’s crucial to have automations in place for anything you are asked to do three times or more. For example, an automated welcome email. You can tie it into your COVID-19 plan to ensure clients that you are being cautious.
Don’t over notify! Also, know where your notifications go out. For those with JobNimbus, Elite Roofing uses an asterisk for all of its automation statuses.
One of the big benefits of going paperless is work orders. All work orders can follow their own workflow. You can assign them to subs and technicians and set it up via their Contact Type Options in settings. You can also send it with a click or as an email with added documents. If you are not doing this already, get a digital time tracking sheet so you don’t have to keep track of hours manually.
You want to be able to streamline your job submissions by using Custom Fields in JobNimbus to keep track of important job information. Have a CRM that allows you the freedom to be paperless.
In regards to tracking, use JobNimbus Calendar to track your jobs. This will allow you to replace physical boards while offices are closed. You can also keep track of your latest notes right from your fingertips, and use JobNimbus Tasks to sync important events into your Google Calendar.
To view the slides for Part 6 of the Contractor’s Survival Guide webinar series, click here.
For our sixth installment of the Contractor’s Survival Guide, partners Ryan, Founder of SumoQuote, and Danny, Founder and Managing Partner of Breakthrough Academy share their knowledge and experience with managing money. Previously, we discussed following through with production from home. As a recap, we went into depth about being respectful and practicing social distancing, digitizing your process with software and integrations, and how automations make things easy. In this segment, we’ll focus on managing money when it comes to customer interactions and collecting payments from them, as well as internally managing your cash flow.
One of the first things you should do right at the beginning of the sales process is, guide your customers through the process and set clear expectations. Plan out a project schedule to let them make sure they know what’s coming up through every step including the payment side.
You should also be documenting everything for your own benefit and for the benefit of the homeowner as well. You can use photos to tell a story, track change orders, upgrades, and store e-signed documents in the same place.
At the end of the job, you should be able to present what was completed. Communicate the work that you did with a project summary report. You can build a project summary report in SumoQuote. It’s valuable for showing the homeowner the work that you’ve done when asking them for an invoice. You can layout all the things that you completed for the customer then collect your final payment just as according to the schedule.
2) Use Available Tools
Financing is important for the customer to be able to manage cash flows, but also an interesting tool for contractors to win more jobs and upsell to win bigger jobs.
You can use this opportunity to offer financing and e-payments to your customers to one, avoid having face-to-face contact, and two, save time so you’re not having to chase checks and deal with the hassle of accounts receivable.
Some other tools that are available to customers and contractors alike are government programs such as stimulus checks, and insurance.
3) Cash Inflows
For internal management, understanding how cash flows in and out of your business will help you make strategic decisions if you need to cut costs. In a time like this, it’s more important than ever to understand what options you have as a contractor to ensure that the cash/cost of the jobs you’re doing is held by the customer. When it comes to cash inflows, you need to take deposits on a sale. By collecting 10-20% of a job upfront, you can use that money to go and buy the materials, start the job, and pay for maybe the first week of labor.
Progress payments are very similar. These are for longer-term jobs that are over a month. These are where you say when progress payments are due (once a month on X amount of date with X amount of dollars) so that you’re not paying for the job upfront but the customer is paying it for you.
Completion payments are another big one. Having some sort of incentive or penalty for having completion payments paid on time so that when a job is done, you can expect payment by a specific date and ensuring that you have some sort of ramifications and incentive for the customer to be able to pay on-time.
It’s so important that we have some level of accountability and insight on what the AR of AR collected actually is. If there was ever a time to collect AR, now would be it. You should have some sort of accountability around this, such as a tracking file that shows you what customers owe and someone in the company who’s directly accountable for collecting AR that is reviewed weekly.
The other option you have for cash inflows is asset sales. Some of us may have equipment or vehicles that haven’t been used in over a year or don’t get much use. If we’re going into a bit of a slower period, look at what you can relinquish on your asset books to be able to make a sale of so you can bolster up your cast positions.
The final thought for cash inflows is government incentives. Regardless of whether you’re good with your cash flow position or not, take advantage of these government incentives. You don’t know what the next three to six months are going to look like, and it’s better to be cash-rich than cash-poor.
4) Cash Outflows
We all have to spend money to have money. We have variable costs, fixed costs, non-profit and loss items, and owner withdrawals.
Variable expenses are by far the most important area for you to make up for lost cash. These costs include labor payroll, subcontractors, materials, rentals, deliveries, disposal, and more. If monitored properly and driven properly, variable costs can be a huge asset for you to make a better profit on a job, even by 1%.
Fixed costs are expenses that stay equal no matter how much work you do. For contractors, these costs typically include office expenses, vehicle leases, marketing expenses, etc. If you’re going into hard times, know what costs are dead weight and what may cost you a bit more but is ultimately the right tool to take with you through rough seas.
Non-profit and loss items are something a lot of us forget about such as loan repayments and taxes. Know when your taxes are due or use a tax deferral from the government to help you.
As for owner withdrawals, pay yourself for what you need, not what you want right now. Take care of the business to make sure it thrives, but also don’t completely stop paying yourself because you also need to have a normal life and stress-free so you can make good decisions.
*The following are the poll results from questions we asked in Webinar 6:
To view the slides for Part 7 of the Contractor’s Survival Guide webinar series, click here.
For this final episode of our Contractor’s Survival Guide series, our Director of Customer Success Ronnie Smith shared useful strategies for technology and how to use JobNimbus features to work successfully from home. He goes into depth about mobile features, reporting, forecasting, automation and more to keep you tooled for social distancing.
1) Mobile App
One of our favorite things about the mobile app is the @ Mention feature. This feature allows you to communicate with your team within a thread inside the app. It also will let you date and time stamp your conversation internally.
Caller ID is another mobile functionality. This will display when a customer is calling you. It is essential not to miss calls when you don’t know who is calling you. It will also log the length of the call, and you can document the conversation of the call after it’s over.
There is also a texting and email feature within the mobile app. Texting the customer from within the mobile app will allow it to be dated and time-stamped. Creating email templates will make it easy for the sales team to use on the mobile app.
Lastly, you can collect payments on the mobile app. The payments feature also works on the desktop and makes it easier to take credit cards or even electronic checks.
Right now, visibility is key. JobNimbus has sales reporting available that will help you view your sales pipeline. Running sales reports will allow you to conduct a sales meeting with your team. You can also use sales reports to see which of your salesmen are underperforming. Reports will also let you review customer leads and confirm that sales reps are working with the right customers. Use these tools to help train your staff and help your sales team win.
JobNimbus will also provide A/R reports for your business. These reports will help you know the health of your cash flow and allow you to try to collect the money that is due to you. It will also show you who is struggling to pay so you can make business decisions around your cash flow. It’s important to confirm all materials have been sent back to the supplier for credit, so it will lower what you owe the supplier to free up your cash flow.
Our revenue/budget report will let you pre-cap jobs to see where your profit margins land to get the sale, even before you do the job. This tool is helpful to know your cost and commission before selling the job.
JobNimbus forecasting reports let you create estimates to forecast potential business and create invoices to forecast actual business sold (cash flow).
Automations are one of the most important tools we have but need to be used correctly. There are two different types of ways you can use automation. There are event-based and time-based automations. Event-based automations allow you to send an email or create a task when a customer moves to a certain status. With automations, it will help you follow-up with a customer without doing a ton of heavy lifting.
Time-based automations allow a customer to sit in a certain status for a number of days, then it can release either an email or a task to alert you. Many people use time-based automations in their follow-up process. With time-based automations, as soon as you move a job and it’s been sitting for three days, time-based automations will send out an email or task to make following up with your customers easier.
*The following are the poll results from questions we asked in Webinar 7: