Do you want to operate your home service business remotely? Softwares like ServiceTitan, Podium, Zapier, Slack, and Zoom are must-haves! The show’s guest today is Tersh Blissett, Chief Executive Officer at Service Emperor. Tersh discusses with Josh Crouch that every decision he makes with his team daily is to stay remote. Join in the conversation as Tersh gives valuable automation strategies to make processes seamless. If you want to operate your business remotely, you need to listen to this episode. Tune in!
Listen to the podcast here:
Easy Tips On How To Operate Your Home Service Business Remotely With Tersh Blissett
Tersh and I had a guest lined up and he had to reschedule so we are going to turn the hot seat around on Tersh and talk about managing and growing your business remotely. Anyone reading this blog for any length of time knows Tersh has been remote before it was cool and before the pandemic started. We’re going to go ahead and ask him questions. We’re going to try and get some questions from the audience and see what we can do to help you all grow your service businesses and start to think outside the box a little bit. This is unique for me, but welcome, Tersh to the show.
How are you? I spotted this albino leopard.
Where is your little bad joke thing?
It was the least I could do. Get it? I spotted an albino. That’s good. We’ll move on.
Do you Google your jokes?
Should I? I probably should.
Some of you know that Tersh and I were at the Service World Expo. It was nice for me because Tersh and I have only met in person twice. Sitting there for several days, being able to chat, catch up and ask all these questions you wouldn’t normally ask on a phone call. Tersh was telling me how this year they’re having explosive growth. Tersh operates 100% remotely, so there are no coming in the morning, having your coffee meetings or your huddles in the morning at least in the traditional sense.
We thought we would do something where we turn it around on Tersh and allow you to ask some questions. I have some questions and that way we can get a little more insight into how Tersh, Julie and the gang are growing so quickly, how they are managing things like culture, communication and all these things that are super important for a service business. I don’t know if you want to start and catch us up with where your business is at and then we’ll dive into some of the questions.
As most people know, Service Emperor came about in January 2020, which was an amazing time to rebrand, basically revamped the entire business. All the employees, most of the clientele revamped the whole system and processes, everything, and then we had COVID hit. It was a blessing in disguise. We figured out some pain points while people were dealing with other pain points. It masked some of our errors, which is pretty cool in a not pandemic way. We’ve grown this 2021. We’re well over 380% growth. Our target is to continue to grow in that aspect year over year.
I’ve said from day one that I wanted to be remote. I wanted to be able to operate remotely because, in the long run, I knew that I wanted to be able to operate companies and a business from here, even if it’s located in a different state. That was one of my main targets. When I started Tri-Star in 2014, that’s our other business. We couldn’t really do it. There were a lot of limitations. There wasn’t much in the cloud at that time. I couldn’t do a whole lot. We use FieldEdge at that time. I’ve used DESCO in the past with the previous business that I worked at.
I knew what to expect there, but once they moved to the cloud, it wasn’t the same thing as it was on the desktop. It was a challenge because every decision that we make on a daily basis, it’s to deliberately stay remote. Sometimes that’s easy. Sometimes that’s a challenge. The number one question that we get is culture-related. First off, we have chats. We constantly chat throughout the day.
What do you use for that?The biggest frustration we had was getting notified too much. And once you become notified too often, you start ignoring it. Click To Tweet
We use Teams. We used to use Slack and I liked Slack. If someone’s read this and they have never done any internal communication, if they’re still using a group chat via iPhones and you’re scrolling constantly trying to remember what chats go to what, Slack is too simple to use and it’s free up to 10,000 messages or something crazy.
It will continue to be free, but once it gets to 10,000 messages, it won’t store those if you do have things you want to store for later use because we use Slack for our business. There’s a little bit of a learning curve. You have to figure out like, “What channels do I want? Who do I want in those channels?” Streamlining communication through Teams or Google Hangouts or Slack, there’s a bunch of these programs out there, is super beneficial for your business. It’s helped us to keep organized because it is impossible to remember everything you get told on a daily basis.
Emails are great for certain things, but they suck for internal communication. It’s hard to find emails. I don’t know about you, but when I try to find an email on my mobile device, I go through G Suite and try to search for something, I can’t find the emails on my mobile device that I can find on my desktop. It’s annoying.
If I’m not sitting here in my office, then I have my iPad or my laptop with me. That’s the biggest thing for me. We use Microsoft Office. Outlook on the phones is difficult to search also. A few years ago, we had a little meet and greet dinner event with Ari Meisel and he’s the King of Automation. He wrote a book called The Replaceable Founder and I took what he said to heart there and did a lot of the things. One of those things was spending a little bit of time and creating different categories inside of Outlook and stuff like that.
As soon as I’m scrolling through things, I can easily move it to certain areas and then create rules. The biggest thing is creating rules that automatically move things after I’ve looked at it or after it’s forwarded to somebody else. Steve Cassette is a great guy. We had him as a guest on the show. He asked about handling IT. All our office workers have laptops. They use a platform through Apple management for the iPads.
Is that Jamf or Jamf Now?
Yes, that’s it right there.
We use the same thing for our iPads.
That was a royal pain to set up and I’m still playing with it at the same time, but it’s one of those things where I actually have a stack of iPads laying around here that are locked out because the password has gotten forgotten or something. It’s definitely worth the frustration of dealing with it and getting it set up to start with. We use Teams. That’s what we use now. That’s what I was getting into with Slack. We went from Slack to Teams.
With Teams, do you want to talk a little bit about the structure, what you do for channels and stuff like that so the people who aren’t familiar with this can get some ideas on how to structure something like this to keep communication relevant to certain people? That way, you don’t include all of your employees on all these channels and nobody gets anything done.
The biggest frustration that our guys had, even with Slack, was that they were getting notified too much. Once you become notified too often, you start ignoring it. I’m guilty of that myself. It’s the same way with emails. I used to be the type of person where I couldn’t have any red dots on my screen, on my phone, but now there are certain ones where I just know like YouTube. I get so many notifications from YouTube that I’m like, “Whatever, it’s going to be there.” You’re going to have red dots.
Teams and Slack were pretty much the same way. Teams is a little bit more finicky. If you’re new to the IT side of things, if you’re not tech-savvy, Teams will be slightly overwhelming. Slack will be easier to navigate but it’s the same way or the same channels for the most part. We use a 5, 3, 1 process. Level fives are the worst or the most important. They’re not worse, but they’re either going to make us money or cost us money. I have labeled channel one as Banter, where people are goofing off. Everybody has their notifications turned off for Banter so that it’s not chiming all day long.
That’s where people are going to send memes and whatnot. That’s where we build culture because we can goof off a lot in there, within reason. I stuck in number two and that’s Team Chat. It’s not quite banter, but it’s not level five important. You get to it. Level three, I have Office Chat, which is our office staff. I have a level three as Service Department, which is our service techs. I have a level five or number five and there is Important next to that.
Part of our communication is the Important Channel, where all notifications are turned on. Your Banter notification is turned on. Everything’s turned on. I have dispatch and debrief requests. Whenever somebody is ready to be dispatched, they hit in there that they need to be dispatched. The same with debrief. I don’t want to go too deep into the weeds with this, but our debrief process is pretty fast. Even though what I’m going to say sounds like it’s not very fast, but they complete a form and it’s the same form every single time. They know what to expect on the form. The dispatcher reviews the debrief form.
That is in ServiceTitan, right?
Yeah. As long as everything checks out, she’s like, “You’re good to go. Let me know when you’re ready to be dispatched.” Most of the time, they’ll say, “I’m ready to be dispatched now.” She can go ahead and dispatch them. Otherwise, they’ll message in that same channel, “They’re ready for a dispatch.” Whenever they say, “Dispatch, please.” or something to that effect, whoever gives them a thumbs up is the person who will dispatch them. That’s how the technician knows that it’s been acknowledged and expects that person to dispatch you.The challenge with rebranding is letting the audience know you’ve rebranded. Click To Tweet
There are three different people typically who would dispatch someone. We have one main dispatcher, but if she doesn’t catch it, then we have a couple of backups so that they’re not sitting there waiting. We have an Installation Channel and then we have a Marketing Images Channel. This is going to the marketing teams. One of the biggest challenges we have with that channel is having everybody take pictures in landscape mode instead of vertical. We’re constantly trying to get them to take horizontal photos and upload them. We do a lot of yard signs. Every time, they put a yard sign out, they’ll take a picture of it and upload it to that channel.
We have parts tracking information. Our techs typically order their own parts, but if it’s something that’s special ordered, the dispatcher or the office staff will do it. It’s put into that channel and that’s not going to be your capacitors or contactors. That’s going to be something that’s a special order. Let’s say we have to order a coil or something like that. It’s not something that’s a truck stock item. We have PO requests whenever the guys need a PO, the information goes in there and captures in there. I could do a deep dive into that accountability of purchase orders.
Another is Receipt Capture. Every time they get a receipt, they have to take a picture of it and put it in there. We also use Dext and that’s been helpful. The Receipt Capture Channel is for accountability. We don’t use it for anything other than accountability. Everything else, like our receipts themselves, goes into Dext and then it’s transcribed and then sent over to QuickBooks.
You have a lot of this stuff integrated together.
A lot of these systems talk together. It’s one of those things and I beat that drum all the time. It’s like, “No, you do.” The longer you take to start dipping your toe into Zapier, IFTTT or Pabbly. I’ve seen one of those alternatives. The longer you take to dip your toe into that stuff, the more difficult you’re making your life. Softwares now almost always come with some API connection where you can connect programs together.
Instead of you manually taking one task from your CRM, moving it to another software that maybe helps you with marketing or operations, get it done automatically, so you don’t have to manually do that task and hire more people because you have all these tedious manual tasks. The one thing that was an overwhelming problem that we talked to people at Service World Expo was, “I can’t find enough good people or workers or technicians.” We have to adapt.
That’s where we really shine is because I don’t have to have someone in Savannah, Georgia to run an office. Our bookkeeper is in Charleston, South Carolina. Also, we didn’t have to hire someone for data entry or not full-time anyways. We’re at the size where a typical company would have a full-time data entry clerk of some sort, whether that’s the bookkeeper or that’s their position.
Like accounts payable, accounts receivable or stuff like that.
Also, using programs like Dext. Somebody has to go in and make sure Dext didn’t screw something up but other than that, it’s sent over to QuickBooks. At that point, our bookkeeper’s checking everything out and she’s remote. We had Spencer Sheinin. He’s out in Canada. He’s a really good dude. I was with him in New Jersey. He wrote this book called Entreprenumbers.
It is a really good book about simplifying your bookkeeping, but he does remote bookkeeping and CPA. There are so many platforms and programs out there that will do that and they don’t do it. They’ll do it for you full-time or they have people’s staff that will do it for full-time, but you have them doing it for you full-time. They will have part-time wages to do something like that.
Speaking of Zapier because this is something that jogged my memory when we started talking about it. There is an event coming up. It’s on October 21, 2021. It’s five-hour event. It’s not whole day. It’s 11:00 AM to 4:00 PM Central Time. It is talking about automation, how to get started and going into some of the different things that you can do. If you don’t know this, which many of you may not, there are essentially marketing companies that this is all they do. I’m pretty good with Zapier, not as good as someone like Steve. Tricia and I probably have a battle back and forth with who’s better on that stuff.
I have a guy or an agency that when I run into something difficult, I send it off to them and they pay an hourly fee, but here’s the thing. People like that are going to be able to help you. You’re going to ask them questions and they’re going to know how to get deeper into this stuff without having you to figure it out yourself. The biggest statement I get on Zapier automation is, “I don’t know where to start.”You have to be creative with remote team meetings. Click To Tweet
Hopefully, people reading this take this seriously. Sign up for that event. It’s free. It’s five hours long in a decent time of the year where it’s not super crazy for people. Start learning, start dipping your toe, start reading, watching a few videos and stuff like that. Connecting your business to automation is going to really help you be more efficient. I don’t know if you have anything else to add on some of the automation stuff, Tersh?
We do 2,800 Zaps. Keep in mind, that’s not with one business, that’s a couple of businesses there that we do all those Zaps. Within ServiceTitan, we’ll Zap after every single service call, whether it needs to be a happy call from one from our CSR or if it needs to be a happy call/out bounding call from our out bounder. It’ll automatically go into their task management. We do a lot of Zaps. A lot of Zaps pertain to ServiceTitan. Actually, Steve actually got us set up with a couple of Zaps back in the day before ServiceTitan had Zapier integration. Steve had created one for ServiceTitan, which he helped us do a lot of really cool Zaps also.
That’s actually how I got set up first too. It was the unofficial one and then the official one, I realized that the unofficial one was better than the official one.
There are a couple of things on the official one that have been pretty cool. Every new residential client that gets added to the system automatically go into Mailchimp. They get added to our monthly filter reminder into Mailchimp.
Stuff like that is super easy. Think about your marketing. I use this a lot because I own a marketing company, but that’s some of the stuff that we do is we help connect that stuff. Because before Zapier and before I knew how to use it, every month or every week, we would export our list. I’d have to clean it up, send it over, import it and make sure it was right. It took me probably 20 to 30 minutes every week to do this. When we got busy, guess what I forgot to do? I forgot it for 4 or 5 weeks and I forgot where I left off and now, I got duplicates. It’s a mess.
That was one of the first things we set up with Zapier. In your CRM, when a job is completed, we send that customer’s information over to a list. ServiceTitan is much better at this than most, but you can segment that list based on job type, based on how much they purchase from you. I know one of the vendors we met and you were showing me before that you got a little cooler from them of cookies from To Your Success and stuff like that.
They integrate with ServiceTitan also. Whenever we got back in town, I had a package here and it was a little cooler. Parcel + prose sends it to us and it actually came from To Your Success. Julia and I are on this 75 Hard Challenge. We can’t eat these cookies, but they’re sealed.
I’m not on 75 Hard Challenge. If you want to ship those up to Wisconsin, you go right ahead.
We were talking to them the other day at the show and you can set it up so that if it’s someone over $5,000, they spend over $5,000 or maybe you want to make it over $10,000, you get one package and the next package is down. Somebody spends over $200, but not $5,000, then you might want to send them like a smaller care package or a wow package. It’s private branded and you can have it, so it has your logo on it just like the team from parcel + prose that had sent it over to us.
I think they had ones at the show. You could co-op those too. If you put the Daikin or Lennox or Carrier logo on it, you can co-op these things, so you’re only paying like 50% of it. The whole point of the automation thing is to make you more efficient. You get your crap together.
Otherwise, you have to have someone manually package this stuff and bake the cookies. You think of all these hours saved, you don’t even realize it and it is a full-time job or three. It’s one of those things. I can beat that drum all day. Before 2020, you were Icebound Airconditioning and Refrigeration or Icebound US. What was the name?
Technically, it was just Icebound and it was implied HVAC and refrigeration. I liked that brand. I didn’t dislike the brand. I didn’t like the logo. I didn’t hate it or anything, but it wasn’t my favorite thing in the world.
What I’m envisioning Tersh is you dressing up as a mascot and walking around waddling like a penguin to all these events, shows and stuff like that.
I’d do it. Attention beats marketing 1,000%.
You get so much good publicity in the local Savannah market for that. You already got the Savannah Bananas guy. Now, you’re going to have the penguin and you can soap to the baseball games.
I’ll tell you, they have the parking penguins. I was trying to sponsor the penguins at the parking lot because they had the parking penguins and they were dressed up as penguins but that was right about the time that we decided to do the rebrand. We had to. Also, another reason was that a penguin doing plumbing didn’t really make a whole lot of sense. We knew that we were bringing on other trades. Before we got large, I wanted to make sure that we rebranded the company.
The biggest thing with the rebrand is letting our audience know that we’ve rebranded because even people that I know within the community, they were like, “I thought you went out of business.” It was in 2020. People were like, “I just assumed that you went out of business because of everything.” We had actually sent out emails. We’re still sending out emails, “Did you know that Icebound is Service Emperor?” and that type of thing. It’s something that’s a constant battle because we don’t want our new clients referring anything to Icebound. It was a fine line. We don’t want to throw too much of Icebound stuff out there.
I’m sure you had helped through your coaching organization, CEO Warrior. This is part of what they do. They helped my previous boss with the same thing. It’s not quite the same process. It’s a very thorough process. It’s a lot of understanding what is in your local market because you don’t want to be the same colors or the same type of brand or the same mascot or anything like that as a competitor because then all of a sudden, you’ve got people leaving you reviews and they meant to leave it for different companies and stuff like that.
As far as marketing, the most important thing is to be prepared to have a story about why you rebranded because rebranding just to rebrand doesn’t mean anything to anyone like it. The companies want to rebrand because they want a better image or they want to stand out more, but there needs to be a quantitative reason to your customers and to your local community of why? It’s because you felt like this was going to allow you to grow and continue to add jobs in the local community or add services.
If your name has heating and air conditioning in it and you want to add plumbing or electrical, generally speaking, you have to change your name. Stuff like that allows for a story. You’re in the right place. KickCharge is phenomenal at this. They’ll help you do brand story. They will do a kick ass logo for you. I work with a ton of people that use have used KickCharge. Dan and his team do a phenomenal job of being thorough. They don’t cut corners on this stuff. I’m sure he’ll have an entire process for you to help roll out.Make gossip a non-negotiable in your business. Click To Tweet
George, you work with me, so we’ll be able to help you with that too, on some of the communication side. Some ideas and things to get out to your local market, but honestly, letters and emails to your customer base. Making sure that this stuff is bold on your website while you rebranded and maybe put something like formerly Advent Air or whatever your name your company is so people know they’re in the right spot. Otherwise, the worst thing that can happen is they go to your old website and they get redirected somewhere else. I’m like, “What the hell? Who is this? I don’t know who this is other company.”
We did something where we had a redirect page from our old website to a landing page for our new website. The landing page basically explained the process of what happened. They’re like, “Service Emperors, who you need to search for now.” I haven’t looked lately. For a while we had a lot of traffic on that page, but we also redid our website because of Google’s updates and everything. I don’t know the exact traffic on that page now. I knew it was teetering off pretty drastically as people were picking up our new brand.
Over time, people forget who you used to be. There might be some people that have been with you for a long time that will know it, but otherwise they’ll know you as the new brand. It doesn’t take a long time. You have to be consistent with your message and even answering the phone. Let’s say you named yourself ABC Heating Company and you used to be a different name. I would answer your phone differently, at least for the first, probably six months, “This is whatever your new brand is, formerly whatever your previous brand was, how can I help you? How can I make you smile,” or something like that?
It has to be well thought out. You have to essentially go back and reverse engineer, look at your calls and how you answer emails. Don’t forget your signature in the email. There are so many little things that come along with a rebrand. As you’re going through the process, make a list of the marketing pieces that customers may see like email, signature, phone calls, business cards and stickers. All these little things that you hand out on every service call is going to have to be updated. It’s one of those things. Sometimes people are like, “I want to rebrand. Everyone’s rebranded. I want to do it. Let’s do it.” They get to it. It’s a lot of work.
It can be expensive, too.
Just the graphic design part isn’t cheap. You have all the pads of paper and the in-home things that you can use. It gets to be a lot. I didn’t change my logo but I changed the colors of my logo. There are places online I run into it and I have the old colors and I haven’t updated. It’s a lot of things because everything is so interconnected these days. It farms out to a million places and trying to corral that back in is different.
That’s one of the challenges of using something like Zapier and Airtable. I’ll create 30 posts in a month and then Airtable sends it to Buffer. Buffer sends it to all the social media platforms. Getting back to where it’s originally at can be a challenge.
If you use Housecall Pro or ServiceTitan, we have on official Zapier groups for both. Steve is in the ServiceTitan group and it’s probably one of the most frequent commenters because Steve is really good and brilliant with this stuff. He’s way smarter than I am. I’m the facilitator. I usually tag Steve. I’m like, “Steve, can you help him? Steve, can you do this?” Housecall Pro, we have a group, too. Housecall Pros, ServiceTitan or Zapier integration it’s not great. We’ll just leave it there.
You manage everything remotely. When it comes to technicians, what do you do? This is the whole thing. Most HVAC companies or plumbing companies have all their parts in one central location, their central warehouse. Everyone comes to their central warehouse to grab stuff and that’s usually where the meetings occur with your technicians. What do you do that is different to keep your remote, keep them efficient and make sure they have what they need?
We have the storage units nearby their house, and it’s fully stocked with basically a little bit more than a one truck worth of inventory. Some of them, especially around the installers, there are lot more than what really needs to be there. It’s like inventory anywhere else. It can get out of hand if you’re not careful with it. We make this, so they stay out of SupplyHouses because they get paid flat rates, and they don’t want to be in the SupplyHouse. It’s inefficient for them and they get irritated when they have to go to a SupplyHouse typically. It’s right there. They can replenish it. The vendor actually is on VMI. It’s a consignment. They will help replenish the inventory there.
Who’s in charge of that? Is it someone internally at the company or is the technician that’s in charge of maintaining their stock levels? How do you do it?
All of the above. We have inventory through ServiceTitan and then we have an inventory manager that works part-time and goes around and checks everything. The TM from SupplyHouse, they do a double check on it. Nothing gets restocked if the service technician didn’t put it as a material on a job. They can’t get a truck replenishment if they didn’t fill out the invoice properly. It was a check and balance. We had three different checks and balances there.
What Tersh is talking about is ServiceTitan and other programs. When you add a line item to an invoice, you need materials and there’s a truck replenishment thing in ServiceTitan where you upload all the stuff that’s in your truck. It’s like you would at a retail location. If you’re at a Target, they do the same thing. If you pull one from stock, it shows in the inventory system so they know once they get to a certain number, if you get down to two capacitors of a certain size, we need to reorder so we can get back to six in the truck or whatever the case is.
It’s a little bit an automated system because the software’s doing the work and the technicians just have to fill everything out. If the software does the work, it allows you to continue to operate. You can even connect that with your suppliers and they can automatically place orders for you and keep sending you stuff.
We used to use Stock Pro. If you’re doing HVAC and you are a Watsco dealer, they have a free platform that’s called Stock Pro. That’s what it’s called at Baker’s. East Coast Metals calls it something different. They have QR codes or barcodes that you can print out and put inside the van and scan it and it’ll do a min-max on there. It’ll let you know when the technician needs more because they scanned it as long as they’re doing it properly in scanning it. It’ll tell you that it’s time for these materials to be replenished and it’s a free program through your Watsco dealer.
Would you say managing remotely has forced you to become better at systems and processes?
You find loopholes really quick. People don’t see each other doing things, so everything has to be written out or we do a lot of videos. You have to have a video on the process or else people are going to say, “That’s not how it was explained to me.” There are less checks and balances. You have to be very careful with this. Chris Hughes and I spoke on this in 2020 at AHR Expo. We talked about being remote and having that culture and also those checks and balances.
It’s one of those things that every time you find an issue, creating a new process, you don’t want to be so process-driven that it’s overwhelming for somebody that’s onboarding. It makes things a lot less complicated every time somebody has a question about something. They can go to their channel in Teams and it’s there.
That’s another great thing about Teams and Steve made a great point earlier. Google is a lot easier, but Microsoft has a crap ton of features compared to Google. One of those features is everything that I have stored in the cloud in Microsoft 365, I can add to Teams so everybody can access their files. All the policies and procedures are at their fingertips on their phone or iPad, which removes all excuses from any equation.
I know we had Elon, who is a big proponent of the manual switch. Obviously, there’s always value in having those paper manuals. It sounds like you’ve taken a similar approach, but maybe a modern take on it where you have videos from processes. Is that accurate?
We do have videos. We do have written manuals too, because being in the world that we’re in, I have other organizations that are like, “What do you do in this situation?” I’m like, “Here’s our policy,” and they send it over to us and we revamp it if it’s not written to form. We don’t have paper. There’s a printer somewhere here, but if I have to pull it out, I’m usually super irritated because I don’t want to print anything out. It’s in the cloud. We have it there and available. I created a website for our team that has all of our policies and procedures, but once we streamlined Microsoft 365, they just quit using that website. It’s a labor of love, but it’s pretty useless now because nobody really signs into it.
I love the idea of creating video processes. I do a roller coaster with those. I’ll get on a kick and I’m like, “I need to create a process for this,” and I do it. The beautiful thing is you can screen share. If it’s something in service, you can use your tablet and use the screen share function and show, “This is exactly how you add a material to a job. This is exactly how you use task management.”
One of the things that Al said the other day when we interviewed him that I really love and I wish I had heard this years ago was, “Don’t do it 100%. Do it 80%.” I was doing a lot of things 100% like Dext. It used to be called Receipt Bank. I have a full process on how to fill in receipts in Receipt Bank. Here’s the log-in information. Here’s the app. “It’s completely useless now that Dext came along and bought Receipt Back out. Now, I have to go create another one instead of saying, ‘This is how you just log into an app.’ The more important stuff is if fuel goes to fuel,” and that’s been done away with now because we’ve got fuel cards. It takes some of the human error aspects of it out.
George has another great question. How do you handle the human connection if everyone operates remotely at the same time managing the company values?
We have meetings weekly also. We’ll have daily huddles with the office staff.
Those are on Zoom, right?
Yeah, they are on Teams or Zoom. Teams are sketchy. It’s glitchy sometimes but mainly on Zoom. We’ll have an all-company meeting and that’s on Tuesdays. On Thursdays we have a service tech meeting, so it’s a real technical. It’s basically an hour-long Zoom call. We’ll have daily huddles with the office gals. We say our core values. All the guys wear the core values on their sleeves. They have to each one say a core value and how that core value interacted with their day or the previous day, if it’s in the morning.
With the office, we have a Zoom that’s open all the time. I closed it by mistake over here because it was using a lot of bandwidth on the screen. Each of us has a screen. Julie has a screen in her office. I have a screen in mine where you keep the Zoom open all day long, so all the remote staff that’s “office” they’re on a Zoom call all day long.
Everyone is on mute, right? That way, if they do need to talk to one another, just like you would in an office setting. If you had cubicles, you would peer over the cubicle and say, “Hey.” They unmute themselves, say it to the group and then when someone can respond, they respond.You have to understand the authority and chain of command. Click To Tweet
We had to be creative with that too. Sometimes I’ll unmute and start to go into town talking and two other people could be on the phone and they’re like, “Stop.” That’s always me sticking my foot in my mouth. We also do quarterly team gatherings. We go big or go home when it comes to our quarterly functions.
Do you mind sharing some examples of what you have done in the past?
We do low-country boils. We live on 250 acres here. Anybody that can come here, we’ll rent a 250-foot obstacle course waterslide blow up thing. Everybody’s kids come and they’ll play all day long. We do a lot of shooting here, too. We have a lot of places to do that here. We try to make a monthly breakfast too. We’ll go to one of our clients, one of the people that use us and we’ll do that. When we have to update our insurance, we’ll go to the insurance place itself and do a meeting there. It’s great because then the insurance guy to pay for breakfast. That’s a win-win for me.
There’s still plenty of human connection. It’s just not every day.
Yeah, we cut out the hour and a half of water cooler talk. Everybody still chats a lot with each other.
A lot of times, on Slack or Teams, people will still have a water cooler channel, which sounds like it’s your number one. Do you find that it helps the gossip crap that goes on because every company we’ll always have this stuff? I feel like if you’re not meeting in person, you won’t have as much of that stuff. Those parking lot talks after the meeting.
We have ten non-negotiables, and gossip is one of them. Gossip is defined as saying one thing about someone else to someone who has no control over the situation. If John has no control over Jimmy, and then Peter is coming to John and telling him all about what Jimmy is doing, that’s gossip. That’s a fireable offense right up.
That’s something that’s discussed a lot. We have to discuss it and continue to discuss it. Even though we don’t have a water cooler for them to chat around, there are times when text message outside of work starts to happen. It’s something we have to be very careful of. That becomes a challenge because we’re not in an office where we could overhear those kinds of conversations.
Are they even more behind your back than they would be? If you see a couple of techs in the parking lot afterwards, and they’re quiet and hush-hush. It’s a little obvious to see that they’re talking about something or someone. When it’s all digital, you can’t see it. You have no idea what’s going on and then all of a sudden, you got a big problem, and you don’t even know what happened.
Dylan said there would be no staff if there was no gossiping. No, we can do it without gossiping. It’s definitely possible. You have to understand the chain of command, the authority command and everything like that.
Julie must be the one planning these events.
Julie is the event manager all day long. About what Steve was saying, Discord is a good platform. I’ve never gotten into Discord much. I have some friends of mine who have a podcast and they are big into Discord, but I never could get into it. I know there’s a lot of gamers that do Discord also.
I haven’t ever spent the time or focus. There’s so much stuff you could do out there that I haven’t spent the time searching. Basically, I have a problem that I need to be solved. I find a solution to it and then I move on.
That can be difficult for me because a lot of times, I like to know what’s out there and all the different functionality. We talked about this at Service World Expo. There is a software company for literally anything. I even ran into a company that has virtual yard signs, if you can believe that’s a thing. You can go down these rabbit holes, but that’s where someone like Tersh or Steve or some of these guys who have this technology in place, they’ve already gone through the trials and tribulations of what works, what doesn’t work. You can talk to people like them, and there are dozens of them out there now. You can save yourself the headache of trying one and then trying another.
Steve alluded to it. With Slack, I love the integration with Zapier because I could share things as myself while Teams doesn’t. It comes in as Zap from Zapier, so it looks goofy, and it’s not as personable. There are certain things in Teams that are just horrendous, and there’s nothing I can do about it. Microsoft doesn’t care what I say about any of these things. I learned so much from Steve. The business that he works for they do a ton of automation, and so you can learn a lot from them also.
I don’t know if there are any other big, outstanding questions you get a lot. People probably come to you and ask you questions like, “I’m thinking about doing this remotely. What do you do for this or that?” Is there a big question that maybe we haven’t answered?
I don’t know about all that writing books and stuff. The communication with clients. With us not being all in one office. With “office staff” they’re not all in one central location. It’s hard for us to overhear conversations. We use Podium for that, so all of our outside client communication comes in one spot and that’s in Podium and that’s been a game-changer for us.
That was one of my notes and we got on different topics, so I forgot. You have your three-office staff who are muted on Zoom. Something comes in through Google My Business, Facebook or whatever, and goes into Podium. How do you make sure multiple people aren’t answering the same request? Is there some kind of system for that?
It tells you automatically on there who’s answering it. Even if somebody is in the middle of typing something, it’ll tell you real-time that they’re typing it out.
You can see that somebody’s doing something before you start typing out a response.
Yeah. We have the chain of command or we have who does what and when. Before I would answer anything, I typically would go into Teams and say, “Has anybody answered this person? Are you prepared to answer this person’s question?” I’m the last person to answer the questions in there because usually, I’m way out of the loop. Usually, if I answer, it’s going to be the wrong answer. Everybody that’s on staff with us, they do their job and they do it way better than I do.
One of the things that Julie mentioned in the comments is that, “The office staff, Podium, let’s all of us see who are talking to the clients.” That’s one good thing for me, including the technicians. When the technicians need to text the clients, we know that the technician has texted the client and the accountability aspect of it for the technicians and the client doesn’t know who’s texting them because it all comes from the same phone number. It is funny at times, because they’ll say, “I don’t know if this is Julie or if this is Katie or if this is Tony, but I need this to get to a certain person.” They don’t realize that it goes to us all anyways.
There was one of the things that as we’re talking about the remote team. We talked about this a lot while we were down at Service World Expo. Especially being remote, it’s a little harder to train your office staff on calls coming in, train your team on how to get better and improve. You told me you hired a coaching program to help your staff with answering calls and getting better at booking.
Absolutely. All of our calls are recorded. That’s one of the things with that we really push our technicians to call with ServiceTitan as well, so that it’s all recorded. We use Power Selling Pros. I think the episode was released, Erica of Power Selling Pros. Zach is getting to come on the show, and Berglund is going to come on the show, too. We hung out with them a little bit while we were down in Kentucky. They’re going to come back on the show, and they’ve been on the show a couple of times, but we personally use them for that. There’s a little discount for you to get signed up with Power Selling Pros.
You got to realize that when we went to Service World Expo, Tersh is like a rock star when he goes to these things. I couldn’t walk. I couldn’t walk ten steps without someone say, “What’s up, Tersh. I love your show Tersh.” We were hanging out with the guys at Power Selling Pros, there was young kid, Zach. Steven was teasing them because Zach is in awe of Tersh and is like a super fan. I asked him when his bobblehead collection’s coming out of Tersh so that way we can send Tersh’s bobbleheads to everybody.
There’s a little discount there for you. Power Selling Pros were one of the first companies out there to help with answering your phone. This is something that I talk to clients all the time. There are three ways for you to grow your business, get more leads, book more of those leads and drive a higher average ticket. There are three things to work on and all three at the same time would help you grow.
A lot of times, you have enough leads or you have enough people in your database, you need to either book more calls or you need to drive a higher average ticket and learn how to offer other additional services. This would be point number two. Power Selling Pros helps your team book at a higher rate, provide better customer service and make your CSRs happier when they’re on the phone. They don’t dread it. I’ve listened to calls and I literally want to scream at how people answer the phones because they’re not happy people or they don’t like their jobs.
You got to smile.
You got to smile when you talk and Power Selling Pros helps bring that out of your team. There’s going to be some freaking bald bobbleheads. We covered a wide range of things and somebody gets at least a little bit of value out of this show. I don’t know if you want to close it with anything.
If you have any questions about any of this stuff, don’t hesitate to reach out to Josh or me. This is completely unscripted because this is how we do things all day every day. If you have a question about this, let me know because I could help you out and point you in the direction. There are so many people who have had an influence on making this automation.
There’s a lot of people out there who have helped out tremendously with making us remote and making it possible for us to be remote. It also takes a different mindset for the technicians. If you took your business right now and you throw them out in a remote atmosphere, be prepared for some kickback. It’s something that you would probably ease into if you haven’t been remote and you’ve been in business for a long time. It was easy for us because we were new and the business was young.
It’s one of those things that you need to ease into it. It’s like anything in your life. If tomorrow you woke up and you decide to be a totally different person than everybody knows, they’re going to be like, “What’s going on with you?” There is going to be some kickback. Do it gradually and reach out on Facebook groups and to Tersh. I’m happy to help where I can. I never operate an HVAC company that way, but my company now is remote. I’m going through some of the same things that Tersh has as far as setting up our business and systems and stuff like that.Many people can help you out and point you in the right direction. Click To Tweet
We didn’t talk about it, but there’s the whole aspect of the call. People in the Philippines are answering phone calls and stuff like that. You have all kinds of remote people doing stuff. That’s a whole another rabbit hole we could dive into, but that’s probably best for another show.
Hopefully and again, I don’t have a great outro because this is my first time being the actual host of the show. Hopefully, this was super helpful for anyone reading. Until next time. We do have some cool shows coming up and met some really cool people at Service World Expo. Share this show and get it in front of some other people because we’re going to be talking about some really cool cutting edge stuff here, coming up. We hope that you all continue to tune in.