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Management • Operations • Business Tips • Marketing • 56 minutes

How the Right Documentation Saves Time & Money

August 17, 2021

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Episode Overview

“I’m always trying to get people to row in the same direction.”

— Josh Kelley

After Josh Kelley took over the family-run business, the operation caught fire—literally and figuratively. Kelley’s doing $2.5 million in annual sales running both Magic Broom Chimney Sweeps (service) and Tri-County Hearth and Patio (retail) in Waldorf, Md. On “Toolbox for the Trades,” he kindles conversation about documenting workflow, disseminating Standard Operating Practices (SOPs) and using YouTube to educate customers. Here are Josh Kelley’s top tips for heating up any home services business:

All of the tactics and tips from Toolbox for the Trades Season 3 in one PDF, download now!

Precise documentation leads to sales.

Kelley says most customers don’t understand the functions of a chimney or its different parts. Chimney sweeps have to be educators first. 

“To do that, we really need to document, document, document,” he says. “People call for maintenance and don’t know there’s a problem until after we do the inspection. 

“We’re heavily dependent on the forms inside ServiceTitan. We take a lot of photos. There are a lot of autofill options. Before we tell them how much it will cost, this is all part of how we explain chimneys to customers.” 

Customized brochures also lead to sales.

Especially on the retail side, Kelley needed to differentiate his skilled services from what was printed on manufacturers’ brochures about the products he was using. 

“If I hand out a manufacturer’s brochure, people say, ‘Oh, I can go out and buy this online,’” he says. “That was a terrible way to start the conversation. Now, we’re selling our expertise with (our own) brochures, and I can move someone into a higher-end fireplace because the conversation doesn’t start so negatively.” 

Educating clients brings in business. 

Kelley notes that the brochures are structured to educate, not so much to sell.

“There’s no place to put pricing or anything like that on there, because I want to be the trusted source of information,” he says. “I have custom graphics made to make sure I get my point across. 

“I bring home the point of why they need to get this done—not so much that the product is going to fix it, but that we’re going to fix it.”

Find a good designer who will work on your schedule. 

Kelley found he needed custom images to show customers what was wrong with their chimneys and how they could be fixed. However, finding a designer he could actively communicate with was frustrating. 

“I don’t know of anybody with a creative mind who is up at 4 a.m. with the rest of us,” he says. “But I found a guy in Spain. He’s six hours ahead. He’s up when I’m up, and we can FaceTime and share screens. 

“English is not his first language, but we communicate better than anybody I’ve worked with in the United States.”  

Put your SOPs on Google Docs. 

Having your company’s Standard Operating Practices in binders isn’t practical in this day and age, Kelley says. It’s especially not practical for field techs who aren’t in the office every day. 

“I started putting the SOPs in Google Drive a few years ago,” he says. “Google Docs are highly searchable. I started with putting (customer service representative) documents on there, with FAQs and things like workflows. It’s really stupid-easy to do.”

Emphasize data availability when onboarding new hires. 

From Day 1, the company emphasizes to new employees that they read through the company handbook.

“They should know that anything they need to know is most likely in the company handbook or on the website,” Kelley says. “Getting employees there and getting them acclimated with that is a top priority. 

“There’s no reason to not know a policy, because with one or two keyword searches you can find whatever you want very quickly.” 

YouTube is a multifaceted tool.  

Kelley’s team makes use of YouTube both internally and externally. First, he makes training videos for his employees on how to diagnose specific parts. He also posts videos for customers to help remind them how to operate their appliances. 

“They don’t always pay attention during orientation,” he says. “We were getting callbacks after callbacks. So, I went into the showroom with a camcorder and went to town.” 

Rather than spend time (and money) on the phone with customers, Kelley’s team has the videos to help customers with how-to reminders.

It’s never too late to master communication. 

Sharing information across a company is a difficult task, and Kelley says the sooner you realize that, the better. 

“We have a retail store and a service department, and each hand needs to know what the other is doing,” he says. “I’m always trying to get people to row in the same direction. When all the information is shared across a company, there’s no excuse for you rowing upstream when everybody else is rowing downstream.”

Recommended research and reading

They Ask, You Answer by Marcus Sheridan The E Myth by Michael E. Gerber

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Toolbox for the Trades is a podcast where top service professionals share the tips, tricks, and tactics they use to succeed in their industry. Hosted by Jackie Aubel, this podcast is brought to you by ServiceTitan—the leading home and commercial field service software.

Episodes will feature stories and strategies to help contractors grow and scale their service business.

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