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Daniel Gunther, Owner, Gunther Electrical

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Ben, Co-Owner, KVA

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0800 461 219

65 New North Road,
Eden Terrace,
Auckland, 1021

41 min view

Getting your trades business through lockdown




Next hour, for those, we'll be talking about lockdown coming to Australia again. So, um, for those who are on your lines have been muted, so we don't get background noise, but you can ask questions through and Dave will read them out, or we'll answer them at the end, depending what they're going, So let's do this begin, So this time Dave and I have been on a webinar together, I believe, Dave, with other people on it. Yeah, yeah, we've done a couple of recordings, but nothing on a webinar together, like probably the first and the last if it goes well, And, uh and also, I'm actually really happy excited to have a dino here from, and I would like to have on again and again. Um, Dean's a champion deans from deans from But what I'll do is I'll do, we'll do less than 60 seconds on each of us in case there's anyone new who doesn't know who any of us are. So I'm Dan. I'm the founder of Fergus. I'm a gosh, I've been a plumber since I was 17 years of age, and I'm not 25 more 45 but during that time, I've had quite a few businesses. Um, a couple didn't go well at all. A couple closed from stress and money problems, but my last pluming company got quite large 25 staff and, uh, and during that time, I got that large. I got into software by accident, and Fergus is now 60 odd staff in three countries. And, um, and a couple of years ago, we need a a CEO with the capability to take it to the next level. And, uh, that's my story. And hang over to David. Who are you? David. And you looked for that guy, You couldn't find him. And instead I got the gig. Uh, yeah. So I I came joined just on two years ago Now, So, um, to help us, um, serve customers across the ditch, Uh, a little A little bit more, um, readily. And also sort of take it out to new markets. So you now opening the UK, um, up at the moment, which is fun, um, which, which allows us to invest more in the product, which is is exactly what we're trying to do. So it's been a lot of fun. Um, and, you know, spend a little bit of town down in in Melbourne. um, when I do go and see my mate Dean at Rips, um, which is probably about as good a Segway as you're gonna get, mate. So I'm, uh, Dean Spicer. I run an electoral contracting business in Melbourne has been going for 16 years. I've been in the industry for 30 years this year, which My goodness, that goes quick. And, um, also didn't step back quick enough and ended up on the Nikki Council in Victoria and have been president for four years. So, um, yeah, There you go. That was all good. Quick. You guys said well, right. I will send you a recording at the end. get to tell the staff. But let's just start with the questions, right? So we're going to give you the questions up between the two of us. Um, but we're going to talk about first of all, uh, especially to Dino. What? Did you see that tray? Especially because you had Nikki here and from Nikki here. A lot of the stories. What do you reckon the trad didn't do? Well, last time in the lockdown, it was just starting. I think a lot of them failed to really reach out to their customers. Dan, they were really busy worrying about what was happening. The phones went quiet, and initially, you feel that you're doing something wrong. But when you start to talk to your peers, you realise very quickly that everyone was in the same boat. Service is the bread and butter of our businesses and Um, when these lockdowns kick off, you know, you find that people just go into hibernation and the phone stops. So you spend a lot of time worrying about that, Whereas you need to be talking to your customers and making sure they're OK, Um, and your team, because I think I just want to come back to that point in just a second. But you raised a good point. Last time we chatted about you, named it covid depression, that it was real. Like, what did what did you see? And what does that mean to you? Because I think if that's taking hold in your business, that's stopping you talking to your customers and your staff and getting on the front foot. So yes I have experienced in my business. Some behaviours that were really, really out of character for people. Um, they were all struggling with, you know, cash flows. And, um, you know, they're worried where they can pay their mortgages. They've got Children who are home schooling. So everyone's got their own set of problems. And, um, you know, I observed some behaviours that were just out of character for my team, and so I think one of the most important things you can do as a business owner and a leader is to bring them together and have a chat to them. Make sure they're OK. Um, you know, through n A, we actually have hunter link that we offer to all of our members and to their families. And so I would you know, I encourage people to share that with their staff regularly and encourage them to use that service and make themselves available for their team because I think that's the because it's that weird thing, isn't it? Like, how long is the lockdown in Sydney going to go on for? Does anyone actually know? No. At this stage, that they they They're talking today about end of September, uh, October. Now. So, uh, we'll see. Depends on the numbers. But Melbourne had a long lockdown, right? Melbourne also had gosh the best part of three months, didn't they? I think we're 100 and 50 days that we've been locked down in total now, Um, certainly the one, uh, in July. August. You know, it was actually August, September, July, August, September. That was horrific. Um, the restrictions are really tight there, and, um, we were very fortunate when I reflect at the moment that we had jobkeeper. But, um, You know, the guys up up north, they're gonna do it a lot tougher without that. Um, so it's it's gonna be tough. Why will they do it tougher to a Kiwi? He doesn't understand. So jobkeeper came in and and and basically took the the largest issue for trades businesses off, which is payroll. so you know, we know the work will come back, but, you know, how do you pay your staff Until that work comes back is the biggest issue. So jobkeeper was very much aligned around keeping your staff on. Um, you know, standing them down, obviously during a lockdown. But still getting paid is a big is a big thing. So helping everyone understand the payroll components this time is a little bit, um, less clear. Uh, and most of those payments are going directly to the actual employee. uh, on the new scheme. And and it's not as generous as as jobkeeper was from that perspective. So it's it's, um it the the benefit this time of that scheme, however, is it's instant. So you've got a lot of people who have applied for that because they've had less hours or whatever it might be. work. Um, and it's literally that week, whereas jobkeeper took a little bit of a while to get some money into everyone's account, so it looks like it's less payment, but faster. Um, so, uh, I I'd probably still take jobkeeper if if if if I had my choice. Jobkeeper was sensational. It, um, gave you that? thinking that at least their entitlements were covered and not their entitlement. They were guaranteed 750 bucks a week, and you could reduce their hours to suit. But it kept them engaged with your business. And that's probably the other challenge that they the guys need to think about is keeping their staff engaged with their business. Don't just forget about them. You know, they need to look at their industrial agreements and see what are in place to be able to stand them down. And they might be able to cut back their hours. And that way they might be able to reduce their overheads a bit and get them through, because what sort of work can can they do? Like if they can get on top of it? What sort of work can they do in the next eight weeks during during these lockdowns in Sydney the the good news is that the construction industry has been pretty, um, vocal about getting out pretty quickly. So, you know, we don't expect that construction will stay at lockdown for the full broader lockdown. That construction will be one of the first industries that comes out. Um, purely because, you know, the majority of construction can actually work in quite a safe environment with with proper social distancing, So That that's the the good part. But what? What can we expect? You know, while you're waiting for that, you know, if you're on the tools, Not a hell of a lot. But as a business owner, there's a lot of things you can actually do. Um, which I think, you know, we we're gonna go into in a minute. This is gonna be a little bit controversial. Maybe it's, uh it seemed to me that Melbourne in the last, um, lockdown behaved very responsible and took it quite seriously. and they responded well to the Fergus forms, and the employees followed all the you know, they followed all of the protocols more sort of willingly. But the sort of protests in Sydney have left me going What's going on? And so because, Are the homeowner gonna be just as concerned that the traders are following protocols? Keeping them, keeping the family safe and the people in these houses safe like is that is it a cultural thing or what's going on? Or is it just a small minority? We we did find that in Melbourne, um, people were hesitant to have you in their business. We needed to follow all that protocol. Um, personally, I think there's a bit of a moral conundrum that people need to think about. If you keep all racing around the way you are, it's not gonna end. and so you've sort of got to tether it back a little bit and stick to doing essential work, whatever that is defined in Sydney as but in Melbourne during the lockdowns, we could only support essential businesses, so it just did slow down. They also reduced the percentage of staff that were allowed on projects. There were some pretty significant fines that were touted, if you got it wrong and permits to get out and working. So, it's a real tricky thing for people to to think it through. But you know, if they do the right thing, they'll get through it. Um, and everyone's got to have a little bit of pain, Um, to make that happen. So Dave's holding it back. So Dave, like, don't you think that, like businesses like just being a like, All those things for me, it's not a moral conundrum like, I want cash flow in my business, and I'll follow the rules and processes because I want to keep working, keep the cash rolling the door for me. It's like it's that simple. And so therefore, as long as you have good process, good systems and keep working, Yeah. Look, the data shows some some interesting differences. So we've We've seen three heavy lockdowns now with lots of data from it. So, um, the the New Zealand Lockdown, which was the first one, Um, we saw jobs jump off a cliff. Um, you know, it it literally, you know, 80% of jobs just evaporated straight away. Um, we saw that socially, the moral, um, let's call it the moral fibre of the Kiwis. was you could shoot AAA gun down the street and you wouldn't hit anybody. You know, the place was a ghost town. Everyone was just locked up and and and not doing that, um, in Melbourne, less so when we look at the jobs in Melbourne, but, you know, still pretty good, um, in Sydney? Not at all. You know, So and and you know, some of that seems to be, um, a social thing, but some of it also seems to be communication. So a lot of this lockdown in Sydney has been we? You know, we strongly advise that everyone stay at home. Well, is it a lockdown, or are you strongly advising everyone to stay at home? so the It's only really been in the last two weeks. They've gone. We're serious, guys, you need to stay at home and we're gonna give you fines. It's like, Well, OK, now you say that everyone will stay at home and, um and and, you know, obviously the publicity. And around the 3.5 1000 gooses that were running around the streets on the weekend, um, sort of you know, it's you know, six million people. Basically, if you look at the the broader. You know, Newcastle all the way down to Wollongong is basically locked out. 3.5 1000 Isn't that many? Um, So the vast majority of people are behaving themselves and and being let down by those idiots? Yeah, so but I think that's the interesting thing. I was like, what the data shows is When it does ease, you're gonna be super busy. But the other issue is it's actually not that far off the Christmas rush. And then Like, did you experience it as well, Tina, like we kind of expected trad. Maybe they were going to work right through the Christmas rush and and go hard in December and January, and the data was like, Nah, they took. They took basically that long, December and January break, Well, I think we touched on it before Dan. With covid fatigue. It takes a toll on your teams and people. And although you can't get away for a holiday to the Gold Coast, if that's where you like to go, people just need to get away from work. I found that people are working longer hours in order to try and keep it together. They've got staff working from home, which they're not used to, so that takes additional time to manage. So, you know, people just need some time to themselves and to walk away for a little while. But that's interesting as a business owner, right? so, you know, because it's interesting with. So if we gonna go through the logical steps, right? So the the lockdown is happening now we know from the last data. and from talking to trades that that first week, at least, people, especially trade designers, really were quite poor at getting on top of calling the customers to reschedule work, manage that work didn't put in process to start trying to collect cash making payment plans and then the 2nd 3rd week. So those impact started to really take take a toll on people as well. And so there's a lot? Actually, you have to start doing in these first two or three weeks so that the rest of it doesn't go so hard Yeah. And you've got to try and navigate the rules that continually change to work out how you can schedule your team so that then you can schedule the work. So it's really hard to ring customers when you don't have the answers that they hope you have. So it's really tough for business owners out there then, sure. But the answer, though, is you still have to get on the phone, though, right? 100%. That is the key to it. You need to talk to your clients about if they're having cash flow issues. If you can put them on payment bans and at least try and schedule the works, at least by scheduling and having to reschedule. You're having a conversation, which is you know, what it's all about. And I think that's that's like, If you find it difficult. I mean, I always say Like You have to call the customer. That's non negotiable. but it doesn't always have to be you that calls the customer like you could find another staff member or a partner or someone. But someone's got to contact the customer, right? 100% someone so and also your staff, like, if you don't like talking to your staff, that's fine. But someone's got to talk to the staff, right? you'd hope so. We hope so. Like, I get it. I get it like everyone, you know, you just Gosh, there's some cranky trades. People up there, right? There's some cranky trades, people that we have to interact with, and I was like, Cool. but they get someone else to do it for you. But not doing it is not is not acceptable, is what I always say. Yeah, yeah, I I agree with that. We need to stay in touch, And everything has a lag too, Dan. So the sooner you do it, the the the the outcome will come faster. So if it's a payment plan, then if you talk about it now and don't wait for three weeks, if you wait for three weeks, then there'll be another three weeks before that plan starts taking effect. So the sooner you can get on to it, the better. Yeah, the better. And and the other thing is like if you start going, OK? because Dino did you guys do, um, many of them follow many of the custom forms and checklists, so talking to customers, you know? So when you started turning up on site, the guys were trained and skilled at how to do the checklists and the forms on site. Yeah, we did utilise it, but we found that our customers were all over it, so you weren't allowed on site unless you'd done the forms. Um, people, uh, picked up on it really quickly. Um, the, um government had made worksafe really promote the need for all these requirements because they were worried about the spread of the virus. So most businesses that were open were asking you for all this information. But we had that anyway, but our guys were all over it. They're QR code specialists now, I'll tell you. or scanning it. Yeah. Yep. Yep. So everywhere you go now you need to QR code, so it works really well, And what did you do around the culture of trying to change the guys to? Actually, um, What is I don't wanna get into this into, Have got people who don't believe in it, But what did you guys do around the culture of saying guys just leave all that at the door When you when you're at work, the policies just just follow the policies at work. It was quite funny. We had some toolbox meetings and, you know, we had all the p PE for the guys and we following up and making sure they had it. We had a toolbox meeting, and I I recall that you know, really vividly that we were talking about the virus and there was some conversations around whether it was right or not, right? And one of my staff said, guys, my parents are in their eighties, We're all young and healthy and fit And he said, It's not about us. We need to do it for our parents. And that changed my business overnight. My guys are really good at it. I can't say that, but that statement carried through with a lot of them. They reflected on that. And so you're not doing it for yourselves. You're doing it for the community and your families. Yeah, and so coming back to Dave because like I think like, you know, Fergus is a completely different business model. Right? Um, and so you think I mute Dave is like one of the benefits that Fergus found I think it's applicable to trade people is we had all the system tools to make it easy to communicate digitally in place. And so what can do to start getting comfortable with putting, getting used to, whether it's Microsoft meetings or putting getting zoom in the business but getting comfortable with that technology change so that you can communicate easily? And I think the visual. I think having these visual tools is not just a phone call is actually really helpful for building a connection, Yeah, I think I I think we're this time round. We've all been through some form of a lockdown. So some of these sort of teething technical issues uh, hopefully in the rear vision rearview museum behind us. Um, for everybody. Um, So, uh, you know, if you're not comfortable with zoom or doing an I m. With somebody or or sending them a text or doing those sorts of things, you'd be in the minority. So you know, if if you are on the call and and you and you haven't got around video conferencing and calling your customers and all those sorts of things, you know, it is, it is profoundly different. Um, of Of all the things that I hope come out of this, this thing is is the use of technology. I mean, you and I did Did that thing just a AAA little bit tongue in cheek where where I got you to come over and quote effectively, you know, refitting. a water heater and we see, See if we could actually do that. Quite a tricky bit of a job, Um, or would be a quick, a tricky job when the thing finally dies, um, and see whether we could do that down a video. And we and we found it was actually more. uh, useful than we thought. Even if you don't get all the way to a quote, it might remove, you know 50% of the site visits that you need to do, quoting if that's something that we should be doing now. If you you know, if you're not allowed to go into into a customer's house to do a quote, then maybe you can say, Oh, could you just take some photos? Or could you just you know, while you're on the phone, why don't we just do that as a video meeting and show me it so you can get some stuff going? at the other end of of of this if we think about how many hours we waste as trades people going into the car, driving to the person's house, taking some photos, going back home, doing well, going back to the other job site, doing the job, going home at night and then finishing up your quotes and trying to remember if you could do that more streamlined, you'd save, you know, literally a day, a week for most people in terms of the amount of amount of work you're doing just going backwards and forwards to get these quotes done. So if we adopt technology, things like Zoom may actually enter. The realm of this could save my business a fortune and backwards and forwards in time. Yeah, Well, actually has your business tried to do any sort of with the home and try to get to walk around doing video so you can see what is going on, Or does that not entered? Sort of mainstream. We're probably doing it a little bit more with them getting to put photos up and one of the things I was going to say that we've used and found very effective is toolbox meetings. Sometimes it's not. Sometimes it's a really costly exercise to bring all your team back into your office, to do a toolbox meeting and sometimes as business owners to sprout off a lot of the same stuff that you've told them 100 times. But we need to talk about. We've found we've got better buying with our guys doing um, not all our toolbox meetings, but some on Zoom now and we can talk to the guys for like, five or 10 minutes in the morning before they start work. Everyone's pretty happy. They sit in their van having their coffee. We have a quick chat about a few things, and they go off and do their day. They're straight on the job, which suits them and and, you know, everybody's pretty happy. We still do face to face ones. But, um, Toolbox meetings on Zoom have been awesome. And what is what you know? Because, you know, for those Dean, you've got quite a few guys, right? You're quite you're You know, you're not a small business buy by any stretch of the imagination. You know. You know Dean is organised. Did you guys have any time to keep improving your systems and the lockdowns? Because the reason I mention that is like, you know, city is eight weeks is going to be restricted. So it's like, how can try to maximise this time and just talk touching on like what it means to be operationally efficient, Like what it means to processes so you can grow and scale And what have you guys done around that? um, we've certainly, um, reflected on all our processes. We've started documenting documenting all our standard operating procedures and put them in a format where the guys can access them on the road. And we have to do that. But talk about the interesting part. For those who don't know what that means and you say documenting it and making it accessible. But what does that actually mean for like? So give me a practical example of I don't know. Filling out the forms when on site. How do you make sure that actually gets done Well, I think if you document the process and you train the people on documenting the process. Then when people don't do what you ask them to do, the conversation is very different when they've got access to the documentation. So if I ask you to create a new site visit when you return to a job, so that when I send Dave there, he knows what's going on and what's there to be done. And I've documented how we're going to do a job and that that's going to happen. And I've trained David on it. Then when Dave doesn't do it, I can say to him, Dave, was the process wrong? Yes or no? and he'll say, Oh, no, the process is right. OK, so then why didn't you do it? So the conversation is very different than in your business. So the accountability changes and people following through on what you ask them to do, because I'm sure I'm not alone when that doesn't happen sometimes. But it doesn't mean you give a warning, right? You very rarely ever give David a warning for it, unless it's just repeated. But what's the process? Because if you're not used to changing or getting You know, voluntary compliance from people because not even get the big stick out and beat Dave and say, Right, here's your first warning for not following the process. But what do you do to try and get Dave back on track to do the right thing? Well, you Dave's got the ability to talk about whether the process is right or wrong, so he'll buy into your process because he's got the ability to criticise it. If you've got a good culture and your team feel that they can talk to you, which is obviously really important in a lockdown situation, Um, Dave can Then make it reflect what he thinks they should be doing. And so, if you listen, you wonder where I'm touching on this. The reason I'm touching on this I get Dave to join because we've got 70 staff, right? And I I It feels like Dave's got me under control and gets me to follow process now as well, and does it in a nice way. And, um, But this is like important through lockdown. If you want your staff to follow forms and checklists and you want to go on site and be safe, you want customers to trust you like this is where culture. You hear people talk about culture all the time, right? But how does culture actually work, David, like, how does like Dean's got it right? I got, I got it. But how would you try and put words around a trait to understand what culture is Yeah, so that they actually do what the you know are supposed to do because they want to do it You're on meet Mr Something's going weird. We'll do that instead. Um, yeah. So, you know, firstly, um, Greg and Noel thank you for your comments. It's, um uh yeah, we We might have a little for an offline chat with you guys around videos and photos and and what we're trying to do with the product, but I definitely think that there's progress there. Um, yeah. My my view is most small trades businesses are very similar to to all businesses in that you get by on on the hustle of of the owner. so the the owner is holding everything up by himself or herself. Um, he he's hustling. He's telling everyone where to go and what to do, and you know what way to do things. And it doesn't matter if you're a trades business or your your your tech business that has a certain limit before your head explodes or you have a burnout or whatever else might happen the next. The next phase of any company's growth comes down to people and processes. So if you want something repeatable that extends beyond the cap capacity of of the owner, then you have to have a process. And the best processes are open and communicated and written down. Um, and and simple right. You don't want war and peace. Uh, I I always try and turn it some people like detail, so you'll see some of the processes in Fergus, you know, 20 page 30 page technical documents for our our engineers who who love that sort of stuff. We will always have a a, you know, checklist on the front of what you know, for for people like me who let's just like, OK, what's the What's the crux of these 26 pages? These three things. You do these three things if you want the detail in behind, but you you know, you turn up with the you know you do this, you do that, Um, and then the people component. is it is more important than than the process as well, which is, you know, checking in with your staff. You know, a lot of a lot of younger managers asking me about this all the time and say, How how do I? You know, what's the best answer? Just check in. Have a once a week or once a fortnight, one on one with every single person who reports to you or works really close with you and just have a chat. You know what's going well, what's not going well, Um, do you feel like we're doing everything as long as you've got your hiring right? that should be it right. If you've got idiots and you, you know you have to off that's a bit more complicated. But if you're hiring good people, um that wanna do Well, if you show some some desire and some some energy in their direction, they'll always reciprocate it. And and that's always the thing. Um, and don't assume that they know what to do cos they've never done it before. Yeah, I agree. Don't assume, but I've also been. My experience is, if you've documented a process People people are are doing really good and they don't want to be the one person who's not following the process. So they talk about as long as it's fair and logical, right, And it's designed to try and be easy. Yeah, people want to do the right thing because Greg just said, Greg has said a great point there, which is also get them involved in writing the process, if you can. and that's when you're training them on it. That's how you get buying on the process, whether it's right or wrong as well. But can I say one thing I didn't say to you is, I believe if it doesn't get measured, it doesn't get done. Fergus is fantastic in It's very visual and you can see what's going on. We've decided the compliance with those processes. We've got some that are really important to us, and we measure it. And we've got a traffic light system which we share with all the team. And um, people just naturally want to get in the green. So, um, with their compliance with our important processes. So I do think you need to measure those key items in your business and and report back to your teams. That's critical. It's like when the inspector comes on site, he's checking your work. You always do it to the slightly slightly higher standard. If you're not checking it, yeah, then then we slip. People need need accountability, but it also drives a little bit of competition in your business to, You know, you don't want to be sitting down the bottom. You want to be in the green. So subconsciously, people just do it without even thinking. And I found that, you know, quite positive. Yeah, So I came back to I'm gonna just sort of getting half hour through it. So which is good, but I want to come back to money So because there's two sides of the money, right, there's the money that you're owed from the customers. And there's there's the money that you've got to pay the suppliers and your staff. What did? Um, Dina, what did you and your members do around trying to manage both sides of those conversations? look. the first thing is you need to get your invoicing out pretty quickly. If you haven't got your invoices out, you're not a chance of getting paid. Then the next step is if you are in financial difficulties, you need to be looking at what your options are. And you know, most N has got legal teams that can help you look at where your options are as far as structure, if that's the way you need to go. Also, you might need to talk to your bank and see where your options are? And you you need to be on top of that um, the red letters not gonna mean things are gonna go away. You you can't hide from these problems. Um, but there's people there who can help you through that, um, to try and free up a little bit of cash just to buy you get you through. Because how many bands have you got on the road? You know, roughly, um, 10 10. And would you say Look, I think this can be some help for some trees to believe. Like, I reckon you're probably invoicing every day. Yeah, we do, actually. Yeah, and same as me. It took me a long time to get there. Um, but it's actually, but isn't it the turning point as a business is when you start working out. Oh, I'm going to invoice every day. Not every job is progress, jobs and bigger jobs. Right? But every day you've got, I take it you've got one person dedicated for a time slot doing invoicing every day. Yep, we do. And, you know, and that means that money is coming in every day because it's that weird rule. Right? The The quicker you invoice, the quicker you get paid four weeks to invoice. Four weeks to get paid, right? Yep, yep, yep, yep. And, um, you know, Fergus is really good like that to have people driven to push it through like that's great. And so what should like, you know, this next sort of period for locking people in who are not used to it. What can they like if you if you go out here, this invoicing, but it is not possible. now, because how can people start learning? You mean there's lots of Fergus videos, But like, But if you're that person who likes to watch videos, how can you learn? in the next 6 to 8 weeks. How to get your business to a point where it can invoice every day. How, how how can they go about? Is it through Nika? Is it through their mates? Like, how can they start going around working out an invoice every day? I think part of it's got to be talking to your peers and how they're running their businesses, but And I know we're sitting on a Fergus Webinar, but I've got to say Fergus actually allows you to do it really easily. So I think as a business owner, what you've got to do, excuse me, is get your head around the software a little bit. It actually is the tool that will allow you to do it really easily. So you, as a business owner, really need to understand the nuts and bolts of Fergus. Now, if you're not sure about some of the columns on the dashboard, reach out to the guys and they're really quick to respond. and help you through. But you can actually push jobs through really well. So if you've got your staff taking photos entering their times before they leave, you can invoice every day all day. That's really good. What do you guys do around trying to get the guys to actually put their time in and descriptions? And do you just call them if it if it's not done? Or what do you guys do? Because we measure that Dan. So that's one of my k p. I s that we measure and I have someone who checks at the end at five PM or about, you know, one of my girls will check and make sure that the guys have entered their times and then that will form a k p I. Because that's the biggest headache. Because they leave it till Friday. Well, unless my staff are different to everyone else's No, they're not. No, that that's the we're actually looking at it recently, the number one discussion topic on the discussion boards. You know, which is when you when people doing call outs to their teams via Fergus is time sheets. Now we've got a solution to that, but it will come back after you now because I want. I think that's where every business gets stuck on its growth and pain. Journey is How do I start getting compliance from my staff. So I don't drive myself crazy Right? the million dollar question, isn't it? Carrot or stick isn't Isn't it just that it's but well, I think the the the I mean Dean's got the answer, which is the answer that I got to is. You have to have a person who's able to check. Yeah, And then and then there's our wish list. It would be nice for, um, that automatically to happen? And I know that's on the on the drawing board somewhere guys but a stun gun into the mobile app, so it stuns them in their pocket. I pay for that. It's, um, but my answer was to put a person in charge of calling, calling the trade every day to get it done. Um, but, like I was a bit different. I had we only did maintenance, so we had, you know, 17 vehicles. So it's critical that we were invoicing every day. So we we our answer was We had to call them every morning to get all the data, and so we get an invoice. But if you're a bigger firm, you know you've got a K P I board, but you got to have some other personal process that's checking. You can't just sort of hope till Friday that it's done. It's an old saying, Dan that if you can't change the people, you change the people. I don't know about that. Like I have found a good environment can drag people up quite a few steps. It can't drag someone from the bottom quarter to the top quarter, but it can certainly take people from the second to the fourth quarter. You can definitely a good environment. Mhm. rock. yeah, that that comes back to your processes. Um, er that that that's there. I If you're missing consistently, If you don't know you're missing, that's really on your manager. If you do know you're missing and you can't do anything about it, that's Dean's point. That's probably also on your manager, But But you're leaving yourself open for that manager to be saying, Well, this is if this is third. Go um, rich Richard putting a question in and around that as well, asking around compliant. How do you get compliance from the guys to add their time in correctly, um and you know, I I think the answer Richard is is all in this like you need to either have a person or or yourself, depending on your size that that looks at this. Um, we are trying, um, time time sheets is a big component of what? What we're innovating in and around I used to work in a company that was time dependent. Quite a large business that that even at that business, very senior people still didn't put their time sheets in. So it's not just a junior thing. Everyone hates time sheets. So there are some solutions that we're trying to to do, um, particularly around the mobile app and how you know, how do we reduce the amount of data entry that goes in using technology? Um, and also to provide. um, more, more transparency. So you're looking at the bit, you know, rather than looking at all your staff, you really only want to be looking at the three that haven't filled it out to the hours that are specified or the jobs the jobs that are significantly under on time. You're kind of going well, I estimated this much time. Why aren't we using any of it? Is the job actually done? Or did the people not do their time sheets? Or do they just get the time totally wrong to give you that more of those sorts of insights. But no matter what you've got, hopefully we can with the tool, make it easier for you to find it. But at the end of the day, people not doing time sheets still gonna need a conversation. Yeah, well, OK, OK, Good question. Um, I know my answer. Uh, do you get rid of stuff that just won't help you? Just that just won't grow. to your point. You bring people on a journey, Dan and I agree with that, like most people lift, but as it lifts, the bar comes up. There's always going to be someone under the bar, and pretty quickly you'll figure out where that gap is. And then that's that awkward conversation as a business owner, isn't it where you've got to make a decision that none of us like to do? Um, but it's holding the rest of your team back. So that's your culture, isn't it? Well, I think that's one thing. It took you years to learn it. I mean, it's in your opinions when you've got that one person who's consistently hanging just dragging you down. But you want the labour to get through the work and you don't let them go. You don't go and you hang on for years with them. and then finally let them go and you go? Why didn't I do this sooner? How many times have you heard that So So I encourage everyone. If you're in that point, it just let them go you don't you? Don't ever miss that person you're dragging every day, even though they're a worker. If you don't miss it, you don't miss the drama. And if you share your problem with somebody like a mate, or just talk about the facts of what your issue is to them around this person your colleague. Whoever you choose to share this with has no emotional attachment to this problem. And they will give you the logical answer most of the time, which is in your gut. You know what you've got to do. But you know the person you know, their kids and all that, and so it's a really hard decision to make. But, Never again. It's actually rather to be too busy and not have that person dragging you down anymore. Once you once you learn, it's like, Oh, my gosh, Never again. So in that boat, This is a good time to, uh, to prune the vine if you've got the person that won't lift. And it's different if that person is apologetic and helpful and trying to grow and trying to be good. That's all good. But there's only so many months. You can do that before you go. You know what a different boat you're required to go on. Not this boat. It ends up costing too much of your time. So it's got to happen. And I think the other thing I learned from me a few years to learn it is that the the other stuff get really annoyed because that person is getting so many more allowances and dragging them back that it really does affect the culture. Correct? I totally agree with that. So, um, So we're sort of touching on all the main points. so hopefully if you've been good Not you, too. Um like this week next week, Call or call your customers or get someone to call the customers right? So those are your first things. See what's going on for them. See what payment plans put them on after pay credit card payments, whatever, but you got to get that money in second. Priority is do your invoicing right? Yep, Push your jobs through your through your workflow and get them out. and have a look at your third one is call and have a chat to them, right? And actually you got to start and it's a group call, right? It's not one on one. It's all group call call you? What are you doing as a team, right? and then getting their input and and look at what your industrial agreement is so that you can reduce their hours or how that works for you. And get advice on that because that's going to reduce your outgoings. If you can reduce your wages every week because that's one of the killers you've got, your work drops off and you've still got to pay them. So and you could get them to use their entitlements, Um, as well. Here's a good question in a big city, because Auckland, you know, what are we? 1.5 million people, you know. Sydney is 56. Melbourne is 5 4.5. 5. Are there firms like plumbing and little things that are really massive that will soak up good labour that comes on the market and pay them reduced hours just to secure that labour. When the lockdowns end Does that happen in the big cities? So if you if you know, if a small firm loses a good labour, they may never get it back again Yes. And that was the good thing about jobkeeper. It kept them in touch with your business so that you didn't have to let them go. And then when that champagne co burst again, you could just get them re engaged with your business. Melbourne, Um has probably a few networks of people where they will share labour and and help each other out. But I think you know, that's really done by people. with their own networks. Um, but I know that, you know, when you ring Nika, they'll know who's busy and who's quiet and who's looking for people. And people will share labour because, yeah, you don't want to lose them because, I mean, there's a chance with David and Dean to jump in here because, like protecting that labour source, I mean, that is the value in your business, right? That is literally how you make your value. So retaining those your staff through this next two or three months is actually critical. Because if you think if you're if you're panicking and worried and don't know how you're gonna make it work and let them all go, When it ends, you'll be like you're in a In many ways, you are in a worse position because now you can't. You can't grow your way out because there's that old saying like in a depression you have to save. You have to save your money, to stay alive. But when it's an expansion economy, you grow your way out of trouble. It? Yeah, well, actually that Yeah. That that's what led to the Depression. Um, was the fact that we actually saved. So what we worked out in in the the great G f c was you need to actually spend your way out. Particularly central governments need to spend their way out. um, which is what we're actually seeing this time around. I I If if our government hadn't done jobkeeper, we'd be in a really bad situation. It from a from a construction industry perspective. Obviously the travel industry still hit and miss, right? It it it it it's got boom times with domestic tourism. But if you go into lockdown, it's it's all over. Um, but a A as it as it relates to staff. We know it bounces. We know it bounces within hours. Uh, you know, the jobs aren't going anywhere. In fact, there's more jobs than than ever before. Um, particularly domestic and resi work, Um, because it doesn't take as long to get rolling. Um, and that works just there and waiting. And And if you send your guys home, then you got to staff up, which also has a cost to it and the time to it. So that was that was the great thing about job keeping. It meant you could just go right, Guys, we we're gonna back off the half hours, quarter hours dead Stop if we have to. If it's a full and as soon as that you're out of lockdown, you get back on, and you and you just you know, as long as you've called those customers and manage that workflow for, you know, slowing it down and then speeding out up again if you've got the staff. You can get back into it if you haven't got the staff. You kind of stuck? You're going to be really stymied, so you do have to get on that front foot. So this is getting prepared for the restrictions to lift is not panicking right now, right? Like that's So it's not panic. You've got to get on the phone, the blah you got you got. And if you if you're stuck in that covid Depression state, so it's the next few minutes we're going to talk on that again, Is because it's the most critical part. Because this is, if you have been in business a long time, you know, like all of us are the wrong side of 25 aren't we? Sadly, sadly, um, like when you've been doing it 20 years in business, right? You're 30 approaching that as well, actually, um, all up. And it's like you get really calm to these These storms that come and, you know, you know, you'll write it out, right? and so if you don't know how to write it out, you've actually got to talk to people who do know how to write it out. true. But like the really cool thing, I think for the guys on the Webinar is to look at your data. You guys shared a graph that showed that the jobs came back. I've told you in Melbourne it came back, but it's really great to be able to. Actually, it's being measured, so it does happen and it comes back faster than ever. And the jobs didn't disappear. They're just getting built up and you end up with the same the opposite problem. You just can't get through them. Everyone wants it done urgently because they're at a lockdown and they want to make things happen. They've been holding on to these things, so it will definitely come back. But how was your so talking about that, though? Because I mean got my own stories from my mates, When they all come back, they were still stressed and they didn't want to do six or seven days a week on the tools they want to do five days a week and then two days at home. They didn't want to do massive days to catch up on the lost pay, and and, work that was still the after effects of it was still quite long, lingering Yeah, I'd agree with that. But, you know, for our guys, they'd taken a bit of a clip because we went on to the JOBKEEPER. And we reduced their hours, and none of them liked having a pay cut. So It was a bit of a double edged sword, because you like, Well, here's your opportunity to get some back, and we'll get them to work 10, 12 hour days to try and churn through a bit of it. And And Did they Were they OK about that for a while? Yeah, they were, but I recognise they were getting burnt out and we allowed them to have that break. So you need to be monitoring that and cycling people through. Yeah, and I take it There's a labour shortage of of good trade in Melbourne and Sydney like like the rest of the world. At the moment, there's no right. So if you let them go like you can't hire, well, I take it in Melbourne, Sydney, can you Uh, there's a few around, but we've got a lot of big infrastructure, so it's absorbing a lot of the good guys. You know, they used to disappear over to the West Gate mining, So chase the dream over there, so, um but yeah, the right people are a central part of your business, like you can always find labour. But are they the people you want to hire you? That's I mean, that's what I'm talking about. If you've got good guys, you've got to try and keep them now, right? 100%. now, so coming into sort of the last couple of slides, really to see. like I don't want to beat up and go on about mental health too much and make it. But I also don't want to understate it. Just trying to work this right. This fine line of being acknowledging it's real. I think we've all of us on this quarter probably lost good mates to to mental health, haven't we? We've all of us have lost good mates, Yeah. And, you know, I I remember my a really good friend of mine. Gosh, you know, you know, he didn't make it. And, going through that, you know, it was 20% Was the family situation. 20% of it was the work. 20% of it was money. And you never It's never just one thing, right? People have got all sorts going on in their lives that all add up to what triggers that, but to sort of try and say that. this lockdown down will have no impact on on you Yeah. there's not fear if you've got other stuff going on in your life, right? If you've got health problems, anything that's going on in your relationships, this will not help at all. No, and running a business. Uh, and your own business is, um, can be really, um a solitary um um, the world looking for a journey for yourself. You feel like nobody cares. You know, You you're probably having money dramas. You you're in trouble with your wife or your partner because you're not at home. Um, so, you know, reach out to someone you can feel you can talk to, like, um, and have a chat to them. And I encourage people to look around their networks for similar people, and you can't support everybody. But, you know, keep an eye on your on your mates and give them a call and just ask them how they're going yeah, I agree with that. And you And also, I think also, you only talk to, probably if you're a business owner, don't even talk to your employees about what's going on for you, I found that's not healthy. No, I agree with that. Um, I think business owners need to talk to business owners because they understand, Yeah. Talk, talk to the to the right. The right peers. But you do have to reach out and go. Yeah, I'm I'm actually I'm actually doing it tough. That's all you have to say right to a business owner. They go. Yeah. Yeah, it's a It's a tough journey Yeah, and and that's actually one of the I. I think one of the benefits these days of of your industry associations I mean, industry associations used to be about providing you information. But then the thing called the Internet came along and and probably, you know, replaced half of the things you needed your your association for, But particularly as the boss you don't have, you know you can't go to the other boss in your business. You know, you might be big enough that you've got someone who's a bit of a two IC, and you can bounce stuff off. But most of most of our customer aren't that size, um, so it's hard to get it. So that's where you you go into these. You know, I I've always found those sorts of industry association meetups. Uh, it it's it's It's almost a group counselling session. Um, I if you if you in because you just don't as as the boss of your own business. You don't get to have a chat with a peer. There are no peers that are going through the sleepless nights trying to, you know, work out how to make payroll next week. David. That's a really good point. But the other industry groups do have regional groups, which we've found really successful and interestingly, with the Internet, younger guys are getting drawn back to them so they can talk to each other. But another option for people can be networking groups or say regional ones like we're out in the eastern suburbs. There's a Whitehorse business group. If you go to those, you're not talking to a competitor, but necessarily about your problems. You're talking to another business owner that although they're not in the electrical industry. They can empathise with you and discuss with you and you're not feeling you're sharing your problems with a competitor. So that's another option for people, because that can be why some contractors aren't reluctant. Yeah. And I also found this is also a good time to join me. Things like, you know, trade and business lifestyle trading. Those are really good platforms for mentoring, support and systems through this time as well as as well, because I think these things, if it's new to you and you want to grow but don't know how to grow like Ferguson are great, right? They're awesome. But if you don't know how to use them, then they're kind of not. How do you get the most out of them? Right. And so those are the groups help you to connect in with people who know how How you can maximise your business in a short time frame. and a business coach could be ideal for you as well, depending on your situation where they can just keep you accountable and steer you in those right directions. Most a lot of business owners are too proud to ask, but sometimes that can be This could be the right time for you to invest in a business coach just to help you gather your thoughts and focus your thinking on where you need to be. Totally. I mean, as I say, it's It's it's OK not to know, but it's not OK not to ask, correct. Yep, to business, it's OK not to know, but it's not OK not to ask you. You can be bloody hard to make those first few phone calls, but once you start talking about it to someone that you know will keep your confidence is that you're actually struggling, then it gets so much easier. People are willing to help. Everybody will help you. You. But the hardest bit is being, um, having the courage to ask, but people will help you. Even your staff will help you, by the way. Like it's not. It's OK to say to your staff what's going on. You need to tell them honestly where you're at that the service works. Going quiet. We might need you to take some manual leave. But if you bottle it up and don't tell them all those problems, um, which are just operational problems that they can all see anyway. Most of them will say, I'll take a week off. It's no dramas or take a pay cut or whatever, like talk to them. The thing if you're wondering if I said Don't talk to your staff So just to clarify, to be really clear, feel free to disagree with me. If you agree that David, I I think it's not OK to say to your staff. I I'm struggling to be to operate this business. I'm not coping with the cash flow. I'm not coping with right? I I think that's not OK. I think it's OK to say, Hey, guys, we're getting light. We need to find some time to come up holidays. Have you guys got Can you help me? And so there's a subtle difference when you go Oh, there's a problem, but we're gonna find a way to solve it. But just coming to your staff with your problems, that's that never goes down. Well, I have found No, no, I agree with that. Yeah, it depends on the level of the staff, but, you know, the vast majority won't have the maturity or the understanding. And and and And, you know, all humans do This is is you immediately respond to Well, what does that mean for me. So if the boss if the boss is saying, Oh, we're having a few financial difficulties blah, blah, blah, you can go. Oh, better sharpen my resume. The beauty of covid is they do get the problem like it's not like it's isolated to your business. Th this issue, So by by coming to them and saying, Look, we've got a problem, it's covid. This is what we're doing about it. I I think what all staff always looking for is that you've had a proper serious think about it, no matter what the problem, whether it's, you know, covid or whether it it, it'd be You know what they you know, they've come to you and they they they're not sure whether they want to take their career and whether they wanna be working with with you anymore. If you've given it some thought and you've got some solutions that they'll value that more than that. That's fine, um, the last one is the mental health support if you are in a really bad way, and if you phoning it is getting too much on top of you. With your money and your partners in the work, you do need to call someone right 100%. 100% And I think you know, we're better at talking about these things. Um um, generally and as an industry, um, you know, the construction industry has always been seen as a, um, pretty male dominated bloke, bloke sort of industry. And I think we're talking about this heaps more, and it's much, much better in our industry. It's a problem. It's there to be talked about and and, you know, we all have hassles, so, you know, reach out and get some help. Yeah, well, I mean, I know two friends of mine, they've lost a couple of friends in the network, and one of them was a trade. Who was? I'm just gonna say it because it it was what was going on. He was probably guilty of wanting to look like he was more successful, had the hit the nice vehicles and had leverage himself up too high in terms of debt to look successful. and, you know, had a very expensive premises. He was leasing nice vehicles. Also, unwritten nice vehicles that he probably the least the his financial obligations were too high for where he was at. And he gave the image that he was too successful for where he was at, and he didn't know how to get back from that. And so, yeah, he did take his own life. Yeah. And so that's like if you're in that position, you need to You need to talk to your bank, talk to your partner, call these people. That's OK to come back from that position. It's OK. Totally. And keep an eye on your young people. Um, I'm I'm pretty sure most people who are watching this webinar would now have apprentices that have have found themselves in this position. So, you know, keep talk to your trades people and make sure they're keeping an eye on your apprentices. you know, and keep your eye on each other. Um, they'll pick it up pretty quickly. Who's not acting themselves, and hopefully they can feed it back to you as a business owner, and you can get some assistance for them right? We'll wrap up a couple of minutes. Um, any questions that you want to talk about Dave that came through, uh, I think we answered most of them. Um, I'm just looking looking at the ones, uh, that we have answered. So, you know, again. Thanks. Richard. Noel. Greg, Um, we're We're active in both the chat and, uh uh, in the Q and A, uh are there any other areas that, uh, that we'd like to like to chat around? I mean, I think everyone's concurred that it's a it's a little lonely at the top. Uh, so you know what we can do about that, Which is which is really good. Um, are there other areas people would like to to ask? Um, Dan Dean or myself? just for the summarising. While any questions come in, the first thing you gotta do is call all the people who owe you money and ask, Where is it? Uh, the second one is. Then, uh, manage all the jobs you've got booked in. Uh, do your invoicing talk to your staff a lot of lot of phone calling, and then during the work on your systems and processes, when you're coming out of lockdown and do join your industry organisations whether it's you know, this, whether it's or master plumbers for the industry, right, All the problems that we've discussed today, Dan, your industry associations will help you with that. Um, they're not unique problems to them that that's what they're there for. And frankly, you know, you need a membership that you think you don't use that often. This is when it pays itself back in spades. Um, they're there for you, and they they provide. I know n Victoria and Nika across the country provided loads of great information. And the feedback we got was sensational from our members. So get on it, guys, and just find us a network. There's a statement here from Shannon and Jam and basically saying quote, invoice and take payment on site for maintenance companies. And I don't think you have any. Any argument from Dan as an ex maintenance plumber? That's, uh, that that's kind of where Fergus came from. So yeah, thanks for that, guys. Cash flow. Trying to get cash flow. Um, as we wrap up, Fergus has got tonnes of videos. If you want to just hear us speak a lot about business, there's tonnes of videos. Um, is that or talk to Nika? Um, Dean, a pleasure to speak to you. Thank you for making the time. Um, I really, really appreciate that. You tell me your schedule to talk to us, and, um Thank you very much. Thank you. It was really good guys. That wasn't a pleasure at all. Hopefully, never again. Never again, mate. If you're just lucky, that border is shut. so are Victorians that you're not coming down. I know Jaina doesn't like us. Dan doesn't like us. As in dan, Uh, you know, Doctor Dan down there in Victoria? Not Dan from Fergus, But, um well, like Dean, just not just not people from just not, you know. No, no, no. People from Sydney are horrible, so I don't really understand. Thank you, guys. Thank you very much for your time and, uh, customers. I hope you do well in the next few weeks, and and you reach out to us if you need, uh, from from that perspective and any of our Fergus friends, um, you know, we we're here as well. Thank you, guys. Thank you, Customers. Cheers. Bye.


45 min read

How to pivot your business and develop new income streams

Watch Fergus founder, Dan Pollard, share his story of how his 19 person plumbing business got through the 2011 recession by developing new...