Management • Business Tips • Industry Insights • 73 minutes

Toolbox On Call: Training, Risk, and the Scarcity Mindset

November 1, 2022

Episode Overview

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Every trade business owner struggles with similar questions about best practices for their company, including training, inventory and growth.

No two companies will follow the exact path to financial success, and there’s no silver bullet that can magically put all your processes in order.

That’s the tip of the iceberg of advice offered by ServiceTitan Vice President of Customer Experience Tom Howard and Haller Enterprises President Eddie McFarlane. 

During a special listener call-in episode of “Toolbox for the Trades,” Howard and McFarlane outlined experiential guidelines for training new techs, maintaining inventory and knowing how and when to grow your company. 

Training. Especially with younger-generation candidates, training has to be interesting, Howard says. 

“Don’t make it boring,” he says. “The younger generation doesn’t want to sit in a room for eight hours for training. Frankly, if they did, they probably would have gone to a four-year university for something else. Hands-on stuff is going to be better.”

McFarlane agrees.

“We don’t learn in the abstract,” he says. “There should be a point and an arc to learning. You don’t start in the middle; you start with the basics. And it should be cumulative. Just be thoughtful, have a point and recap.”

Inventory. Material costs are on the rise. More so than ever, controlling inventory (in and out of the warehouse) is a crucial part of oversight.

“Inventory is a necessary evil,” Howard says. “It’s something you have to carry, but it's not something to be proud of. It’s like cash rotting on your shelf that can depreciate, be stolen, get broken or be lost.”

Howard admits there are circumstances when having inventory is critical. However, he points to an ideal system where inventory is controlled by a supplier. 

“The supplier does it all,” he says. “They deliver the bin and make sure everything needed for an install is on it. They replenish what gets used. You have to build a good vendor relationship for this.”

Growth. All business owners have to find a balance between growing the size of the company and maintaining personal well-being. 

“A big part of determining when to grow is quantifying the unknowns,” McFarlane says.

Growth can be daunting and scary, Howards adds.

“You can get terrified if you don’t have a business plan and don’t have a budget for a growth plan,” he says. “So get with your team. Make a plan for revenue, cost of sales and gross profit percentage.”

Howard and McFarlane agree there’ll always be a risk to growth. But the risk is easier to manage when you make a solid plan. 

Tom Howard and Eddie McFarlane recently joined ServiceTitan’s Jackie Aubel on a special Season 7 episode of the “Toolbox for the Trades” podcast, which included Howard’s and McFarlane’s thoughts on:

  • Recruiting young service techs.

  • Picking the right trainers.

  • Creating training centers.

  • Overseeing material costs and inventory.

  • Planning for sustainable business growth.

To hear more stories from the trades, subscribe to Toolbox for the Trades on Apple Podcasts, Spotify, our website, or anywhere you get podcasts.

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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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