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Posted by: Samuel Hirshfield on January 15, 2015
Time slows for no man. This includes the contractor who needs a steady influx of work to keep his full team on the payroll or to steadily grow their business. Winter months especially bring challenges for those whose work is primarily outdoors.
There are many different tactics that contractors use to keep the bills paid and crews busy. This can include everything from expanding your suite of services to include indoor work such as tiling and flooring or using the winter months to act as a consultant or designer for future projects. Some contractors embrace the unavoidable and will continually put some money aside through the busier months in order to stay afloat during wintertime.
Even if bills are not a concern or you are the type that cannot sit idle or you’d like to use this time to grow the business by providing other offerings - cold months can bring challenges.
Though not as common, many homeowners are looking to do work and projects during the winter months. Just as people set new years resolutions for themselves, many homeowners have been putting off home upgrades and the new year is the push they needed to put those plans into place. Capitalize on this by contacting some of your previous customers (especially repeat customers) to see what they have on the horizon. Offer to come take a look and make recommendations; perhaps design services or consulting for a fee. Then go ahead and lock them in on your calendar so you have guaranteed work come springtime.
Offer Winter Discounts
Anything is better than nothing. It might require you to swallow your pride a bit, but try offering your services at a lower rate. Even if some of your services are indoor/outdoor and some homeowners have set remodel resolutions this year, the total customer pool is definitely smaller in the winter. For that reason, it may make sense to offer your services at 2/3 your standard rate. Try working with a slimmed down team (in many cases this is inevitable). This means you have less salaries to pay and therefore can still profit on slimmer margins. Also during winter months, consider that material manufacturers may be in the same situation as your crew. Therefore some supplies will be discounted as well. The crew you do have probably won’t be split across as many ongoing jobs so you will be able to be solely dedicated to one or a few jobs at a time. For this reason, you may find that you are actually completing jobs quicker or at about the same rate.
To make your working day a little more pleasant and to keep your time outdoors to a minimum, try renting equipment to expedite the loading/unloading or getting to hard to reach areas.
Focus On Administration And Marketing
Do something this year to separate your company from the rest. When the work slows down, there are many things you can do that can help your work speed up.
Send out mailers promoting your services. Be targeted in this. Go to your local register of deeds and pull the most recent home purchases. When someone buys a new home, they probably have a project list a mile long that they’ll want to start checking off in their first few years.
You can also use this time to get certified and listed on contractor aggregate sites such as Angie’s List and Home Advisor. These sites follow a protocol of making sure all of their listed contractors are licensed, bonded and insured. This is a fairly easy process and requires jumping through only a few hoops. In the busier months, this will make it easy for homeowners or anyone seeking your services to find you online.
Winter months will bring this unavoidable challenge annually to contractors and landscapers, but staying busy and having a strategy in place each year will keep your company in business and perhaps even growing.
What are some of the other tactics you use?
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