Active months are important for a field service business, but there’s a big difference between surviving and thriving when things get busy.
While often profitable, the busy season means having a lot of work on your plate, which can also lead to a lot of stress for you and your team. If you’re prepared for the busy months, it can mean less stress, more productivity, more profit, and happier customers. In short: surviving and thriving.
But if you’re not prepared, or you’re just struggling to get through the week until things subside again, you risk stressing out your team, your customers, and your bottom line. You might survive, but you will have to do it all again eventually.
Here are a few ways that you can ensure your team not only survives throughout the busiest months of the year, but thrives through them too.
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Prepare for the Unexpected
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“Be prepared” is more than just a motto, it’s the key to thriving. After a few years in the business, you will probably have a general sense of when things start to peak and when they start to slow down again. But over time those peak periods may shift.
Pest control businesses, for example, typically start to get busier with termite season around April, May, and June. But unseasonably warm weather in March or hotter temps in June can start the season early or extend it longer than expected.
This means that normally slower months will have you unexpectedly working overtime. Your best bet is to have a plan or process in place for how your team will handle busy months, write it down, and make sure employees and field techs understand how to adjust if things switch over suddenly.
Of course, when things do get busy, it can be tempting to want to oversee every aspect of the business yourself to make sure nothing is falling through the cracks. But part of the reason you want to create a plan or process for your employees during busy months is so they have the confidence to operate smoothly will less supervision.
Rather than micromanaging employee time, empower your team or delegate roles to others that you would normally handle yourself.
This will not only help things operate more efficiently and save time for your team (they won’t have to defer to you for every small task), but it will also give you time to focus on more important elements of the business, like preparing for the slow down once it comes.
Set Realistic Expectations
No matter how busy it gets, you want to set expectations with those around you. This includes:
- Employees – They should know which processes and jobs to take on and which ones to leave until things slow down again.
- Customers – They should know if wait times will be longer or if schedules will change.
- Family and friends – They should know if you will have more demands on your time that may change your dynamic temporarily.
You want to set expectations for how you will respond to requests and meet obligations, both at work and outside of it. Will employees be able to call you at home if something comes up? Will your family know why you’re out late? Will customers know why their calls are taking so long to answer?
The most important thing is to be realistic. It’s better to under-promise and over-deliver, so if you know schedules or calls are backed up, be clear about what that means for you and your team.
Focus on Admin Tasks
Part of the reason to delegate, empower, and plan ahead is so that even when things pick up you can still focus on all the smaller tasks that often fall through the cracks. Paperwork, scheduling, and inventory often take a backseat to customer service when things get busy. But that approach only leaves more work for your team once things slow down again (meaning you never get a real break).
If possible, take some time throughout the day to plan for admin tasks to get accomplished and, if necessary, hire contingent workers or interns to come help with the small stuff until you get back on your feet.
It’s also extremely important that your team gets to take real breaks. It may not feel like “the best time” to allow for a few hours off or for an employee to switch schedules, but preventing burnout is a priority if you want to thrive on the other side of the busyness.
When people work too hard during the peak season, they often crash during the slow season. This means that less work gets done when it’s slow, which can pile up work again when you’re busy, which can prevent you from operating at max capacity.
As much as possible, encourage breaks (and take them yourself, as long as your team is taking them too) so that employees have time to refresh throughout the month until things get “back to normal” again.
Streamline With Software
You can also make your job a lot easier by streamlining some of the more tedious processes, like scheduling and billing, with automated software. Even though you should schedule time to deal with billing and other admin tasks, it may not be realistic to dedicate the same amount of time during a really busy week that you would during a slow one.
You can help mitigate some of the stress by automating processes or using software to carry most of the burden for you. This will save time and energy for you, your employees, and your customers, which will keep business flowing throughout the rest of the year.
Maximize Slow Months
Finally, you not only need to prepare for when things slow down again (it can be a shock to go from super busy to super slow) but you need to take the time during your slow months to build a solid foundation for the busy ones.
Even if you don’t have a traditional “slow” season, you almost certainly have a few weeks where you notice a drop in your sales numbers. Maybe it’s around the holidays, maybe it’s in the height of summer. The key here is to see those as suitable times to finish up smaller tasks, get your inventory in line, and create a plan for how to handle things when they pick up again.
You can also focus on other things, like refreshing employee training or even implementing new strategies or techniques to drum up more business. Use slow months as an opportunity to grow, but also to prepare again for when that business does inevitably come in.
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It’s important to recognize when things start to pick up past your usual workload and to know your limits.
If there are times where you’re so busy you just can’t take a break, your workers can’t request time off, or you’re turning away business because you just can’t handle it, consider hiring contingent workers to fill the gaps.
You never want to get to a breaking point, so be sure you know the signs of burnout. When you can, take advantage of technology and outside help to make your job easier so that you never have to get to that point.
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