3 Things You Can Do Right Now to Run a Better Home Service Business


Steve Kiernan
Co-Founder & CEO
May 14, 2018
minutes to read

Get to the Point:

  1. Build, Measure, and Learn - Try new things, and see how they go… Adjust as needed to improve all your processes and service
  2. Environment of Motivation - Trust your employees to be the best they can be, and give them the opportunity and tools to thrive!
  3. Check The Outcome - Have clear expectations between staff and managers, then regularly check in to make sure those expectations are being met.

It seems you can always spot the owners of small service businesses. Intended or not, they spend a lot of time wearing many hats. Unfortunately, they also lose a lot of productive time because they don’t establish concrete processes and rules within their organizations. My business partners and I have started and grown several service-based businesses over the last 20 years and here are three practical things you can do right now to make your life less stressful and your business more productive.

Build, Measure, and Learn

There is widely used expression that’s doing everyone a terrible disservice; that is ‘practice makes perfect.’ Truth is, perfect practice makes perfect and most us of aren’t perfect. Our version of this concept is ‘practice make permanent.’ If you don’t change how you practice as you move along, you’re not going to make progress toward your goal. Whenever we build a process for our businesses, we start with foundational assumptions based on years of experience. Sure we hope those assumptions are correct but we know that’s not always true.

Once put into practice, we constantly measure the outcomes from that process. Are the results in line with our expectations? If so, great, and we still look for areas needing improvement. If not, great, we’ve learned something so it was time well spent! Then we adjust our process based on whatever we learned.

This build, measure, learn process (BML for short) creates an environment where you’re creating experiments as quickly and inexpensively as possible to see what improves your business. If there’s one huge advantage you have over your larger competitors, it’s that the big boys are too slow, too sluggish, and too afraid to upset the apple cart. Not you! You’re smaller, faster, and better equipped to try something new. It’s your advantage, so take it!

Strive to Be an Environment of Motivation

In all our businesses, we strive to create an environment where employees have 3 essential ingredients to motivation and happiness. Those are Autonomy, Mastery, and Purpose. Autonomy means letting good people do the thing you’ve hired them to do and letting them freely execute within a set of established company beliefs. If you’re micromanaging everyone you hire, you’re wasting your and their time (and lots of your money). Mastery is letting people take ownership of their process and helping them turn that process into their craft. I don’t know about you, but when I see someone doing the thing they’re great at doing, I’m often mesmerized. I’ll admit it, I love watching great salespeople sell. I love watching world-class customer service. I love watching elite athletes make it look easy. When someone achieves mastery, it’s not only a pleasure to experience, it pays exponential dividends back to your business. Foster it at every opportunity.

Finally, there’s purpose. Purpose is the reason people do what they do. Autonomy and mastery without purpose means nothing and it won’t help your business. Purpose, in our businesses, means helping individuals and teams understand how they impact the company. It also means finding people before they become your employees who buy into your company mission and philosophy. Don’t put the wrong butt in a seat because you’re panicked and need the help. We see that so often and it’s a critical mistake. I don’t care what industry you serve, if most small business owners are being honest they’ll tell you the hardest thing about running their business is finding the right people. Feel good about that. You’re not alone! But, don’t make the same mistakes your competition is making. Spend time creating an environment of motivation and fill it with the right people (see right attitudes), and in no time, you’ll see dividends.

People Expect What you Inspect

Sometimes people feel this one runs counter to our principles of creating autonomy. Rest assured it’s not. You still have a business to run. You have lots of work to do, milestones to achieve, and promises to keep. Good managers deliver clarity to their people and that’s what we’re talking about here. In our businesses, managers keep to-do lists of daily, weekly, and monthly tasks. We do this for a few reasons. First, it sets a clear message to your key people or managers that you have specific expectations. Second, eliminates the stress of having to remember what to do and when to do it by putting it in black and white. Finally, it ensures the consistent flow of data and other information back to you and other areas of the business. That consistency becomes the basis for identifying potential areas of improvement whether that’s customer-facing, an internal process, or personnel decisions. This is a practice that requires discipline, but it’s time well spent and it will give you two options as you move forward. For those small business owners who aspire to expand, this process ensures that institutional knowledge transfer to your managers as you grow. For those of you who want to remain small, this process will help you understand which behaviors lead to profit.

If there’s another thing my partners and I have learned in the last 20 years it’s that you have to find what works best for you. We spend lots of time helping entrepreneurs start and grow businesses and each successful business we’ve seen along the way had the patience to seek out information, the wisdom to listen and try things to seemed applicable, and the courage to discard things that just didn’t work. I would advise the same here.

Yours in service,


Look at Pricing

The start of the year is a great time to look at pricing. Usually, you have an idea of how your company fared the year prior, and you want to ensure you will continue to grow in the months to come. Many of us make New Year’s resolutions with respect to spending or saving in our personal lives, and it’s no different for business owners. Making sure your pricing is in line with where it should be is one of the strongest ways to start the year the right way.

Part of looking at your price book is finding where the issues are, and that can take time. An HVAC company in January is going to be very busy, so it’s a difficult time for a close look. However, a plumbing company might not be as busy. Whenever you tackle this job, your best bet is to look at what your labor rates are. Start there, and let it trickle down across the board. Ask yourself, “Are my labor rates helping my business stay profitable?”

Remember, there are many different services out there and many different groups or communities that you can engage. Never hesitate to say, “Hey, I’m a business owner in Florida. What should my labor rates be?” You can build your price from there. There are also some great billable hour calculators available.

Set Goals

There is no better time of year for looking inward than January. Set your personal goals and company goals for the following 12 months. If you can break those down into departmental goals, even better! Perhaps that means a CSR booking closing rates a little better, or a truck doing 250,000 a year rather than 200,000.

Many companies have found that using an Objectives and Key Results (OKRs) goal-setting system pays off. Looking for a guidebook when it comes to OKRs? Check out Measure What Matters: How Google, Bono, and the Gates Foundation Rock the World with OKRs by John Doerr. 

One key question is the best way to handle setting goals: Is it smarter for business owners to handle this solo, together with staff, or to delegate completely? 

The best approach is to set goals at the department level. As an owner, you need to take the time to understand what the goals are in each department, and make sure they are in line with your goals for the company. No one likes to set unattainable goals for themselves, so make sure you push your departments to set goals that are lofty, rather than simple ones to feel good about hitting. Entrust your staff to aim higher, and watch how they respond.

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