More Leads Online Podcast Episode 013
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Nathan Young (00:00):
Hey everybody. This is Nathan Young. I’m back with Al Levi today. Thank you. Thank you so much. Uh, I’ve been, I’ve been making a fool of myself on Instagram and LinkedIn recently, like making sure that I corrected myself, but then also like letting everyone awkwardly know that I biffed it a couple of times
Nathan Young (00:24):
Al, just for anyone who didn’t catch the first round. So we’re talking with you, you wrote the book seven power contractor. Give yourself like a quick re-introduction just to catch up anybody new or anything like that?
Al Levi (00:37):
Yeah. So, uh, many moons ago, my family started out of a gas station in 1936. Um, my father and uncle then took it out into the fuel oil business, which is what like propane is to the rest of the world. And then, um, myself and my brothers arrived my two older brothers and we worked in the business and, um, honestly it was, we were making a lot of money. It’s just crazy days and highly stressful to say the least. And I just looked up one day and said, I’m going to be a really rich dead guy. And that was not my desire. So we put a lot of systems in place and then finally came a time where, you know, these were working and humming and I’d done everything I pretty much wanted to do. I gave my dad and my brothers three years notice and off I went. So I’ve been doing this for 18 years where I’ve been traveling the country and actually Canada as well. Um, got a big following in Australia, go figure the power of the internet. Really. It’s all about, you know, getting good people and putting them in great systems and seeing how far they can go.
Nathan Young (01:36):
Awesome. I recently, re-read the book seven power contractor, which you wrote. And I took a bunch of, out of that. I talk about traction and the EOS system really constantly in everything I do. And basically as I was listening to that, and I just said this to you was you effectively wrote traction, but specifically for the contracting industry,
Al Levi (02:03):
I would say having never read it, that’s quite true, but I am really all about copyright protection that I want to tell you without any concerns, I’d never even heard of Gino Wickman till about a year or two ago. And people were my people I work with and people I respect told me, man, you gotta read Gino Wickman’s rocket fuel because they were trying to explain to me about this integrator and implementer. And I never even knew about it, except because I was both. I’d never even thought that there wasn’t both, but it explained a lot because why was people that I was bringing these systems to wildly great success and some other people struggled and you know, so that’s really kind of a thing that really opened my eyes. So now I have a homework assignment I have to go retraction, so. Okay.
Nathan Young (02:50):
Right. Awesome. Well, uh, so from that last time we dug in on a couple of the powers this time. I want go question by question. So I, I, um, I asked a couple of people what questions they had. Um, I basically rounded up like the insights that I felt like I took, that I was the most curious about and what other people were asking me. And so I have a list here. This will be more like an FAQ maybe, um, instead of a general overview on some of the powers. I want to dig in to some of the things that reading through the book and people I asked, like, this is the stuff that popped out to us. So I’m just going to go one by one
and then take it away after that. My first question is you say in, and I’m going to jump all around all over the book as far as like what powers are and stuff like that. Cause that’s how the book, as long as you’re asking me,
Al Levi (03:44):
Page 63, do you remember when you wrote this? Because that’s, I do get that in seminar webinars and it’s like, uh, no, I don’t remember it by page number. Right? C3 paragraph two in the audio book. You, do you remember what that says? Yes. Yes. I was drinking in a bar when I remember I wrote that. Right.
Nathan Young (04:07):
Well, so you say in financial power pricing driven by your budget, not the market and that is perhaps not intuitive. Can you just flat out repeat that idea and like how to charge per hour or why or why not to and how that, how you should be breaking that down?
Al Levi (04:30):
Yeah, no, I, I stand on the shoulders of great people in our industry was Frank Blau and Georgia Brazil, uh, where the contractors realized that, you know, we were pricing jobs all wrong because the person we were copying as competition going broke. So why are we going down that same road about delivering higher levels of services stuff? And so they were the first ones to really introduce this concept way back in the nineties about, you know, you gotta do a budget, you gotta know what it’s cost to be in business. You gotta know what you need to do because customers don’t want to pay for that stuff, but they want that stuff. They want you to answer your phone, 24 seven, three 65. They want somebody who’s educated in his truck, fully stocked with all the equipment and the know half how to do that.
Al Levi (05:17):
And so in the high technology today, we basically were technology companies as contractors. It’s just what we become. You couldn’t run your company. And the great news is, thanks, Kevin. We were because COVID hit and you would have been out of business if you didn’t have this capability. So what this really is about is that, and it’s a great Ellen Rohr. Who’s a disciple of Frank Blau, really very close friend of mine, but really we were co consultants. I’m not sure if I mentioned this the last time we’ve been the best of friends. We’ve worked on jobs together and we decided a long time ago. We love each other, but we’re never going to get married. So we always worked together and date. And so she handled the financial, but here’s the thing about this whole idea was, you know, it’s a simple budgeting and she’s got some great budgeting too.
Al Levi (06:04):
That’s Ellen Rohr, R O H R. And so it really just makes it, she has, I think we had mentioned to the last time was she has two of the books that I feel are the most profound business books that you need to read when it comes to what Nathan’s talking about here about financial, which is where did the money go? And the second book is, how do, how much should I charge? Because that was always the question we had. I was working with the great timing bellow yesterday. We were doing a podcast for a service Titan and he mentioned, he goes, I was making $22 million a year. And I’m asking myself, where did the money go? Because he worked with Ellen as well. And he said, worse than that, I get this huge tax bill and there’s no money. He said, so, you know, this is the kind of thing.
Al Levi (06:48):
So what I always talk about top line and gross profit, not one or the other, and you can’t get there without doing budgeting. So I recognize there’s precedent, you know, pressures as far as your other companies, but they cannot be the determining factor about what you need to charge to take your company from what I call a commodity to a niche. And of course you have to be great at sales and marketing. The seven powers who knew as far as like, you know, to be able to differentiate yourself and to be worth the money. Because like I used to share, you know, years ago, all right, ancient history, I used to buy a motor for 30 bucks, paid a service tech like, you know, 20 bucks, $50 charge, a hundred man. I am going to make them bunch of money. And the answer of course was no, I’m not going to make a bunch of money because I didn’t count all the costs.
Al Levi (07:39):
Other than that, tech, you know, the lights, the heating, the phone call, but 24 service answers are, all of the things is just, there’s so many things. That’s really what your chart of accounts on your budgeting thing is, is listing all of what it costs to be in business. And then again, figuring whatever you’re going to do next, but ultimately where’s the money and that’s in the gross profit. And then you have to figure out how many billable hours you have to sell in a today. I know you think you sell stuff, but you don’t. What you really sell is your time, which is billable hours. That’s really what it comes down to. So at the end of this wall here, if I only had like two minutes to sit with you, Nathan, as a contractor, I would take on your eight foot wall, a big fat paint roller, and just write billable hours and walk out because it’s that important. The boil down is billable hours. Yes. It comes from the budget.
Nathan Young (08:34):
Yes. As part of the budget. And you give in the book, you give basically a math formula for coming to this number as an example. So I might put you on the spot here. Do you recall the exact formula of breaking that down? And can you repeat it to us?
Al Levi (08:54):
Yeah. Is it on page 63? Paragraph two. Yeah. So really what it is, what I said is it is not a replacement for doing full-out budgeting. So don’t take this as all. I get what Al said I’m done, but really what I try to help guys who charge like a hundred dollars an hour. Maybe they think that’s a lot or $50 dollars an hour. And they Mark up the parts and they think, well, it’s going to be a lot of money. And most times they find that’s not the case. I mean, far and away, that’s not the case. So what I say is, okay, get your account and give you the chart of accounts, which is everything you spent last year. So it’s what I call a three column bucket. So the first column is all of your charter accounts. What did it take to be in business 2020 now 2020 is a weird year.
Al Levi (09:37):
So let’s use 20, 19, 2019. You’ve been in business a while now, you know, all the expenses, all the things that you have not taken into account. How about insurance? How about taxes? How about everything? So all of it’s there. And then you look at every expense and go, Oh, uh, cost of fuel for the trucks. Is that going to go up? If it is, I’ve got a market up. So I’m adjusting my first column. The second column is you go, you know what? I listen to this guy I’ll levy. And he, the thing about operating manuals is really smart. How can I run my company without manuals that talk about the policies, procedures without the org chart that he talks about all of those things, I’m going to invest the money without. So now in that middle column, everything you’re going to do now, that’s going to make you better for the coming year.
Al Levi (10:22):
Whether it’s next year, three years, five years, I don’t really go out much more than five years because then I think it’s just like a wish or a fairy fairytale. So that’s really what I kind of pay attention to is what are you going to do? It’s going to move ahead. Maybe let’s say there’s a great course out there that you need to attend. Maybe there’s a great tool that if you had this tool, you could differentiate yourself from every other person. Like, so when I was in zoom, we had trucks like unlike anyone else that we could clear drains and way that no one else could. And we could serve residential, commercial, industrial customers, which a guy in a white truck with a snake is no way can do this. So we already differentiated ourselves. And that means we’re worth more money, which we made a ton of money.
Al Levi (11:02):
The last column, if you add these two up, it just brings you out to what it costs to be in business. So the last column is gross. Profit. I’m really not interested in anybody’s net profit or any of these other things. And everybody goes well, net profits important. I go, not really, unless you’re going to sell your company or you have to show that at profit for the banks, you want to win because you need a loan or invest. Otherwise gross profit is the biggest thing. Cause if it’s not again on the top line and gross profit, the two things that I care about, it’s not going to be any further down your balance sheet, proper loss, whatever you want to call it, all the other gobbly goop that goes into it. And so you come up with this number of a million to 1.2 million, and then you decide, well, I got six guys that go working six guys into 1.2 means that every truck rolling has to bring me a minimum of $200,000 at the gross profit I want. So that’s just a really quick sit down with a piece of paper kind of thing. And that will get you really, if I could just tug your blinders off and get you out of this idea. Now it’s not to say you can’t make money at time material. You can, but it’s very, very difficult. I mean, really difficult to do. And you have to really, you know, being sure that you’re really charging enough and adding a lot more into the process.
Nathan Young (12:18):
I think that’s a fantastic answer. I’m going to have, I’m going to make an attempt to have that play into something else, because as you broke that budget down, you talked about what it costs, like what it costs to run your company, things that you want to invest in. Maybe say like truck wraps or, uh, and, and then like advertising. Right? So next question is I had someone asked me recently, we were talking about the book and we were talking about the budgeting breakdown and they asked me well, okay, so, and, and, and this is another question that I’ll reference later, but percentage wise, a company should be spending how much on marketing. And I said, well, it depends who was my first day.
Al Levi (13:06):
And you would consult because consultants, we all learned to go depends
Nathan Young (13:11):
It’s Benz. Uh, because I said, it depends on what you want to achieve. Yes. There’s there is no such thing as a set amount. There are some numbers that set a good starting line. And actually in the book, you mentioned numbers between four and 20%, which makes perfect sense to me. Cause I’m like, it depends on what you’re trying to achieve. So one, help me understand how you come up with some of those numbers. Unpack that a little bit. And do I want to tie that back into this? Like, okay, it’s 1.2 million. You’ve got this multi column breakdown also. What if you want to grow to 2 million?
Al Levi (13:49):
Yes. If you, you know, that’s Alan used to call it the stretch buzzer. So you have an actual living budget, which is just pardon the expression, a wild. Guess should’ve said that. And so it’s only as good as you plugging your numbers in. That’s the nature of a budget that just gets you into the ballpark. It doesn’t get to your seat. That’s when we’re able to go back to a wall game full out. But anyway, so the point of it is that’s really what, what makes a difference here as to the four and 10%? That’s based on my own experience, including the people that I was friendly with and work with that I didn’t compete with. But also when I did all this work, right, 18 years is 4% of your market of your total sales. So let’s make the math easy as if it’s a million dollars, 4% is 40, 40 grand, which the other big thing to that is you really need to decide what is marketing and what is not because once do you do, you’re locked in.
Al Levi (14:49):
So his truck wraps a expense. Well, if they’re on a big truck and they’re on rolling billboards and they’re in the service area, the answer is yes. Now you can say, well, wait a second. It’s on the truck. So it’s really a truck expense, and I’m not going to argue with you all day long, but the fact that you just got to decide, how about if I put you in good looking uniforms, is that a uniform expense or marketing expense? So there are some things look obviously online advertising is clearly a marketing expense, a radio, clearly a marketing expense billboards, radio, uh, you know, a bus stops bus taking over a bus. These are all easy ones, but there’s a lot of them that become gray. So once you decide you lock in, but a real good rule of thumb is 4% is what you need as a minimum.
Al Levi (15:37):
If you’re a really good company, established, known, people will get sick, die, quit move, and you have to replace all that until you get to about 10%. So again, easy numbers, a million in sales. That means you have a hundred thousand is going to marketing. That’s already telling you about where you need to charge money, but a hundred thousand is in that gas tank. What I like to think of. So that’s why I always talk about the number one thing. When I put a marketing plan together is the marketing budget, which is the percentage of sales. And the reason, again, we stress is percentage of sales is when you get to Tommy’s company, you’re 22 million, 10% means 2.2 million in advertising. That’s a lot of money and it will drive you crazy. So you say, well, you know, we could probably cut costs and all of a sudden the ad starts to lose and you go, and when the calls go and how do I keep all these trucks busy?
Al Levi (16:26):
And that’s kind of the whole idea about marketing is working a little bit backwards. So if I have 10 guys out there and they need a four great calls opportunity, that’s 40 calls a day, times seven, you know, to see how the math is starting to work. And then if I want to be expanding, which is, this is a weird thing because we, as contractors don’t want to disappoint people, reality is though you need way more calls from the rag customer at the right time than you can humanly do in a day because it forces you to charge more. It helps you get more particular about who you’re going to for the money. And ultimately allows you to add more apprentices who ultimately become your tech.
Nathan Young (17:08):
Yes. Yes. I totally jive with everything that you just said. I also can really appreciate. And I want to actually go just a little bit deeper on one specific thing you just mentioned there, which was that you said 4% is like the button, so to speak. And you also offered this, which was look, truck wrap, business card, or refrigerator, magnet, or whatever, which still affected by the way, as a digital marketing guy. If you leave something, the nice shirt, the nice hat with the logo on it, those are marketing expenses. W if
you want to put them in the truck expense or the employee expense or whatever, that’s fine, but you don’t really need to, because you could get a plane truck and you could have a guy wear the t-shirt. They have
Learn the 6 things to do before hiring a marketing agency
Al Levi (17:56):
The tests, which is very dangerous by the way, because the t-shirt they have usually says, I hate my boss
has guts. It’s not really good when they’re in front of the class.
Nathan Young (18:06):
Exactly. It’s awesome. It’s awesome that everybody likes black Sabbath, including me.
Al Levi (18:11):
Yes. That which who does it. Right.
Nathan Young (18:13):
But as that being the only thing that all of our customers know about Fred, who is in your house, fixing
your thing feels
Al Levi (18:22):
Yes. A little weird. And again, you know, so I personally put it in. When I work with guys, I tell them it’s a marketing expense. You know, they’re walking billboards. I mean, everybody. And I also believe by the way, the inside people, they also come to work wearing. It’s like, if you haven’t been to a NASCAR race, you can’t tell who’s in the crowd and who’s winning the pit because they’re all dressed the same. And so they go to seven, 11 circle, K, wherever they go, and they’re dressed sharp. It is a walking billboard for you. It is such a great investment. And it also brings team cohesion together.
Nathan Young (18:57):
Yes. A hundred percent. Well, so from there, I think we dove into that enough, but I effectively wanted to just solidify that like that 4% you’re saying this isn’t even going to quote, move you forward. This is to help you maintain the fact that just like you say, people get sick, people leave, stuff happens. You need 4% into uniforms, truck wraps, basic advertising just to stay in business.
Al Levi (19:27):
Yes, absolutely. And
Nathan Young (19:29):
I, you you’ll know that. I mean, I think you’ll smile when I say this, but I’ve had lots of guys who take, I would, I would say almost a strange level of pride in going, I don’t spend anything on marketing and of course they’re wearing a company t-shirt and hat and I’m like, really,
Al Levi (19:46):
Okay. I know. And the truck is just, they just spent a ton of money on the truck wrap. So this goes again about what do you think now? It’s true. Look, if, if you’re great at referral marketing and we were, it’s a great way to get inexpensive, you know, and it should be one of your arsenals depending on where you work. And we were really great at acquisition, which has a really low cost if you know how to do it.
Right. And I’ve got to say again, if you know how to do it, it’s a lot like buying homes. You know, you have to be able to know how to do it, right. And it’s a method to get rid of fish or go really broke. You don’t know what you’re doing. So of course, you know, you have to have documented systems and there’s good to have a trail guide like myself. We’ve been down this path a ton of times, but even with the customers that I work with, and we’re really great at acquisition, they are not silly enough to think that’s the only way to go to market. Not even close, they just use it as one of their tools as they’re going. It’s kind of like, you know, if you, if you were at up on the old days with a biking ship, it’s really good to put all the oars in the water. If you’re trying to get across the Atlantic, that’s what I recommend.
Nathan Young (20:51):
And that’s going to be a clip that we post on Instagram later, you mentioned in the book and we just sort of said, this marketing and hiring are tied together. And I want to take this a little bit towards the hiring side. You basically have said, I have two reasons for doing this. The first one is, I’ve been saying this for a long time. And people are like, Hey, you’re a search marketer. You’re a web designer. That’s what you guys do. Like what do you know about hiring? And I’m like, I know that we can help. I’m not going to interview anyone for you, but I know that what we do can help. And this is how, because two reasons, the first one is that’s where your eventual employees are, double-checking you. And the second one is it’s both marketing. Like you are trying to attract people. And what people want is to know what the benefits are to them. So I read this part in the book and you basically say, you need to make sure your hiring ads are targeted towards the benefits of the people applying. And I was like, okay, okay. He and I are on the same track. So from there, I wanted to ask you, are you seeing any particular benefits or bonuses working, especially well to attract great talent recently?
Al Levi (22:09):
So first thing I’m going to say is get out of my head Nathan, cause that’s exactly what I was thinking. And so the, uh, you know, just before we move on recruiting and marketing are two sides of the same coin. If I’m really a great marketer, I know what makes my ideal customer tick. I understand that person, I may even have a name for them, like best buy did years ago. And I know what motivates you what’s and if I can sell to you so well, I can sell 10, a hundred a million of you. Well, that skill is exactly the same thing. When it comes to recruiting, you have, first of all, you have to have a marketing budget because I can’t afford myself to be the recruiter of choice out there and make a difference. Part of the problem is with aunts were awful, including by the way, not so smart Al we had awful ads cause we usually did it in desperation when we needed somebody.
Al Levi (23:05):
And really all we ever wanted to talk about was what we want, what we want, what we want. We couldn’t care less what you wanted. And so it wasn’t until I went through, a lot of help on this stuff was that I realized is, you know, it’s just like marketing. And so you got a million choices out there. I mean, really if you’re breathing today and you’re not employed well, okay. Especially in contract with land, cause we’re crazy busy, it really comes down to how are you going to stand out as the employer of choice? So my goal years ago, when I turned to myself and use my marketing skills is we offer careers, not a job, which automatically took me out of everything because everybody wanted pre-made people. And the problem with that is I understand why you want that because it seems easier to have them pre skill.
Al Levi (23:51):
Then I don’t have to do any work, but then that pool gets really small. And by the way, you don’t get the pieces you want, you get the whole thing. So they don’t like to come to work early. They don’t like to not drink in the morning. You know, a driver’s license is optional because it’s been suspended 15 times. So these are these other problems when you don’t spend money in recruiting. Now, the other thing is, of course, if you’re like myself and we began to build people from scratch. And what I mean by that is that we took young, willing people, providing the skills at every position, not just tech, every position on our org chart, every box on that org chart, we were doing that way. And it really does change the dynamic because then we had willing people that had skills and were trained our way.
Al Levi (24:40):
And when you can do that, that really makes a difference, but it takes money to do that. And this is what I was sharing with Tommy and I the other day is what else are you doing with your money other than wasting it? And the other fact that’s changed is, you know, years ago, when I would be doing hiring, I’d be talking, talk and talk and talk and talk and talk and trying to get you to come. After a while, I learned to ask a good question, shut up and let them talk because I, you know, my selling was so, so obvious. I wanted them to sell them on myself. And sometimes what I just wanted to hear way back, when is, what have you done to look into us before you come through the door? Well, nowadays, any decent young employee is already been on glass door.
Al Levi (25:21):
They already know your reputation with your employees. And if it’s bad, my friends, she better go fix it. And so that’s kind of the nature of it. And by the way, who should be your poster? Well, in the case of business, you know, a good friend of mine told me years ago. He said, you know, I kind of listened to what you say, but what I really want to hear is somebody who looks like me. So what he was trying to tell me is that if I’m selling residential customers, whatever I’m trying to sell, they have to be saying how much product really made their life better. The service was really good or how much they love that. You know, we answer our phones, live ourselves, guys are in trucks can go get them done. They have everything they need. If there’s a problem they’re coming back, they’re fixing it.
Al Levi (26:03):
That’s really kept. Same thing for commercial industrial, depending on which market sector you’re going. Well, the same thing in recruiting, which is you could be the face of the company, which is good, but I really want to know what Nathan who works at your company said is, Hey, you know what? I arrived at this company, young person, they train me all. Every one of the companies I work with, they have videos from these people. We talked about, they worked in a mail room and they came with those skills. And today there are service manager and that is not a one-off story, by the way,
Nathan Young (26:35):
Dig a little down further into the hiring training thing and actually the development of people. So you mentioned in the book, or you actually have a name for these people. You call them knowledge, pigs, and it’s going to sound like I’m in your head. Cause I literally was in your head for like, wow.
Al Levi (26:50):
Now it’s big was referring to me first. And every one of you, other contractors out there listening today, you’re all knowledge pigs. I know you
Nathan Young (26:58):
So recently I was talking to Chad German and he is, I think he actually just transferred to a full-time position, teaching new electricians, helping people get their licenses. He’s like the Utah electrician guy on Instagram. He is a fantastic leader in the trade services and especially in the electrical industry. And he was basically just like crying out, like we’re missing leadership and continued education. But one thing that he actually had to say about this idea. And so I wanted to say this and see what your reaction is. You call out knowledge, pigs as like a again, I’ll use that term. Um, but you kind of call out this idea that like you succumb to fear and think that it’s your job to know everything. And maybe if they learn all this stuff, you know, that makes you useless. I kind of mentioned that idea to Chad.
Nathan Young (27:56):
And he was like, no, no, no, no, no. There’s a step. Even further than that, you’re lacking the leadership. So you’re not training the people. So not only are you holding on to knowledge, they need so they don’t have the career. But the second thing is your tendency is to hold on to knowledge. And that means you’re not gaining continued education yourself. Probably they’re actually going to pass you up. They’re going to go right around you, whether that’s in your company or leaving your company to find it somewhere else. So being a knowledge being this like holder of knowledge, this keeper is actually going to lock you in place and people are going to pass you right up. What’s your response to this idea?
Al Levi (28:35):
Yeah. So, you know, knowledge pig was really about, um, you know, the highest levels of training myself and my brother Richie would go to for the biggest jobs because we didn’t want to spend the money and invest and take guys. And then we also felt, well, if we give them all this information, what’s gonna, you know, the classic stupidity is, you know, what, if I train them and they leave. And then of course the answer is what if you don’t train them and they stay. And so we had crews on at night, by the way, I’m talking about, we actually had crews on, not this thing about on-call call, wake me up out of bed. There were people on two rotating ships. And so they would get to these big jobs and they couldn’t do it. So what did they have to do either had to call out or call Richie and we hated them for waking us up.
Al Levi (29:20):
Cause we finally got to sleep when we finally got tired of blaming them. And this is now when we’re in the magical path is we said, well, you know me and Richard said, how do they get to this job and know anything if we’re not going to share it. So they had to go to training with us, but we wrote some manuals that said, you know, before you call Alan Richie check that there’s fuel, there’s air, there’s spark. 50% of our calls went away. When I decided to give up the knowledge pick and what I share with my company, I had a lot of guys when I put the magnets way back together and the rest of it and I would ask them, and one of the words you would use, I would ask about something, then you’d go, well, it depends. And then you ask another thing about a procedure and they go, well, it depends.
Al Levi (29:59):
And finally I put down my pen and I go, the way I’m saying is you don’t want to give him the information because you think that’s what makes you valuable. Well, here’s the thing you don’t know. If you go across the street and a bus hits you, I’m out of luck. So if that’s how you’re going to hold me hostage, you might as well go. Now I’ll figure it out. Or, or you can stay here, help me get this knowledge out. Because the real value you have is in how you empower others to be successful. Because if you can do that, I’ve got a great career for you. And I will say overall, and with people that I’ve coached, it’s really
made a monster. It’s different as to like, you know, sharing the knowledge and being, wanting to be the go-to person. I’ve shared this story before, which is, you know, I’m in my truck, my lucky enough to have the best team guy in the world.
Al Levi (30:46):
Who’s an author and writer at this point going out and jobs, which was so rare. And so, you know, everything is going off, my beat, my phone and everything. And they’re all looking for me. And my friend looks at me and just goes, you think that’s normal? Don’t you? And I stopped thought to myself. Yeah. And I hate everybody for doing that. And then I stopped for a second and I just thought to myself, wow, I’m indispensable. Look at me. So that’s really the trap. And that’s where owners get hung up. And so, yeah, you know, as far as the training and the rest of it, also, one of the things we did though, I will share is, you know, we used to go to these classes and pirate people from others. So if you were out there, be aware and we recognize you guys are trying to do the same thing.
Al Levi (31:31):
So whenever we sent them out, the training, myself and brother Richie, or a service manager or field supervisor would go with them, not so much to keep them. You’re not, you’re not a slave or servant to us. But the reality is is that when they would go to class and they would see us all there, they’d look around and go, wow, there’s nobody else doing this. And they just were so attached. We were really great. When I always talk about staffing. Power is five steps. Always be recruiting, always hiring, always, always training. And the one we all miss always retaining. We figured it out on the team until they’re not. And so training and concentrating, which was, if you’re at our company, you are always in training, never ending. You’re always in good meetings, not miserable doughnut meetings, but we talk about nothing over and over again. Especially when we have manuals, we’re talking about one to two pages about how to get better all the time every week.
Nathan Young (32:24):
It sounds like you’re saying this too, which is so correct me if I’m wrong. What Chad basically said was this dearth of leadership. This lack of leadership often comes from the person feeling like if they write, if they stick with you, they’re stuck as opposed to if they stick with you, they’re going to keep growing. And so I wonder, because what you’re saying is you would show up at the training, you’d show up in force. And I wonder how you would feel about this statement, which is, it is more likely to me in my head that you retained people better because they got to look around and go, these guys that are about to ask me to come work for them, none of them brought their teams. But if I stick with this company, I get to show up every time. No, I’m, this is where I am. Yeah.
Al Levi (33:15):
I know. My guys were always being pirated by other companies, especially like, you know, now of course it’s crazy because of, you know, everybody buying homes and choice of materials. I mean, if you’re a contractor, you don’t have jobs and crazy busy, what’s wrong with you. And so, um, the reality is this is just another part of the cycle. One of the benefits of living a long life and I’ve been here before and when the.com thing happened, you know, people were calling up my guys at home all the time about, Oh, we’ll give you some extra money or whatever. I didn’t lose anybody. I mean, zero. And the reason is that I knew what the reason was because they knew their career path up to your children. They knew that I was going to take them every step. They could even go off and run a branch.
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Al Levi (33:55):
Cause we did hub and spoke as well. And they also looked around and go, well, if this guy’s not going to invest anything in my training, this is where I’ll be stuck. And you know, so they didn’t go, I didn’t lose anybody. It really was again, one of the most powerful and I wish I could say, Oh, I knew that was going to happen. I did not. What we found out is the better we trained them, never ending training. They were excited about that. Again, remember we built them from apprentices to tune your texts to a senior techs, to feel supervisors, to big ticket system advisers, to service manager, to install manager, to again, going off and running their own shop with all of our rules and systems and everything else. So we got a great path with them
Nathan Young (34:37):
From there asking a little bit, you, you talk a lot in the book and I totally understand this about sales training and how sales training is actually like you can call it sales training, it’s really customer service training. I wanted to ask a very specific thing along the sales training, that’s really like a sort of a technical, you mentioned about a brag book in the book. And um, I have to wonder how relevant is the brag book now? Do you still recommend bringing a binder or is like carrying a phone or tablet with like your industry?
Al Levi (35:18):
Yeah. Yeah. It would just, it’s just got a name and stuck today. Nobody’s bringing in a book, although there are some physical moments, you know, where we have really good looking folders because when you leave and nobody’s left anything that an email is not very powerful when you’re asking me for 10 grand. And so there’s still some times where we’ll either print. So it’s some things or leave some brochures or, but they used to call it cut sheets about all the different things we could do. Uh, so there’s a mix of both, but brag book is really, may I show you some things and they just flipped like this through an iPad. I’m moving my hand for those who can’t see me. And so swiping, swiping, I have to be careful swiping, right? Swiping left. Would you follow what I’m talking about is you’re rolling them through, but the idea about the brag book is, uh, and, and just to be clear about a term evidence manual is for a tech that says why, what I’m doing is something you should go forward.
Al Levi (36:10):
It’s got testimonials from customers, who’ve done similar work. It’s got your license to pedigree and uh, company insurance and all the reasons it’s kind of pulling the curtain back to see why, Hey, I called you today. X, Y, Z, whatever you are and why this is the best choice I should make. So that’s the evidence manual. And a brag book is for the big ticket salesperson to call person. I called the system adviser and they get to talk about how great the company is. Same as the brag book, sorry, evidence manual. But then it’s also my individual license. I had a ton of licenses. I was authorized by a lot of manufacturers because we had to all this training. And once we were in their class and they knew by far, we were the best trained people out there and they wanted us to be their reps. And so, you know, it’s pretty easy to sell a Teledyne to somebody there when you can go, Hey, by the way, it’s not my word. Here’s my Teledyne’s name. You know?
Nathan Young (37:04):
Right out of curiosity, you mentioned this and I I’ve heard this multiple times, which is not just from you, but like from other people that I’ve talked to, like home service and trade stuff is explosive right now. I mean like, like you said a minute ago, like if you’re not busy, like what’s, what’s going on, you might be
that you’re stuck behind hiring, right? Like here would be a question that I’d have, if you’re in a company. So now I’m going to lower the target of who I’m talking to you for just a second from the owner. And I’m going to go across for a second to like maybe a division leader, someone who’s growing in their career and is hearing us talk about like what leadership looks like and going. If that’s what leadership looks like, and that’s what leadership might look like.
Nathan Young (37:49):
Maybe this weird feeling in my gut that I’ve had is not such a weird feeling. And maybe I either need to I’m I’m maybe I’m willing to invest for a second where I’m at before I go look. Right. Cause maybe I really like Greg and maybe Greg just doesn’t realize this yet. So here’s a question that I would have is if a division leader, someone who is like, I’m willing to be a leader, I’m willing to stake out my claim with Greg here in this company. And I want to grow us. If that guy wants to put together one of these books, whether that’s a physical binder or a tablet, but set of documents, or even just put it directly on a website, whether that page is listed for everyone or not so that he can just use that. What exactly do you have, like a recipe that someone can go find is that on your website, is that in the book somewhere that they can know exactly what they need to build.
Al Levi (38:47):
Now, there, there is a, what I usually start with is a 10 reasons to choose you, whatever the roofing, you’re a roofing business, kitchen, cabinetry, plumbing, heating, cooling, electrical, uh, you know, garage doors. So 10 reasons to choose. And it’s just really kind of simple. Just putting a issue of doubt. Usually it’s on the website because the 10 questions you put there, 10 ways to choose the right thing or the information who is really going is really to unlock their mind that, Oh, there’s actually some difference between you. Because when I get there, I’m going to knock down every one of those 10 dominoes with me. So as to the brag book and the evidence manual, you don’t get to have that much input because I’m a systems guy. So when the evidence magnet, well, it’s pretty much set as for a tech as to what they have to use.
Al Levi (39:31):
When you become a system adviser, it does have some flexibility because you may have been certified, licensed. All the other, your pedigree is even greater than Al’s pedigree. And so if we both come to the job, we have a lot of stuff that’s similar. And then a few things that are going to be different because my pedigree is different than your pedigree. And so that’s where the difference is between those two as to the career, if they don’t know how they make, how they make money, you know, Ellen Rohr, and again, the grail and Roy and I put together a reward program. And we said, if you can’t go home and speak to your significant other in 15 minutes, they know how you make money. There’s something broken in your system. And so that’s kind of, yeah. So the rewards, how you get paid, how you get for going above, what is your next step is, you know, as I was saying the other day is that I used to hate this five.
Al Levi (40:21):
O’clock knock somebody coming to my door, but I knew why they were there. You know, I need to raise the rest of stuff and I hated them. But what I realized ultimately pretty quick is based on the org chart. If I didn’t put, you know, how do you move from one box to another is, Oh, pretty boxes. What does that have to do with me? And then a case of so people would leave. And I realized that again, because one day I was driving truck going off to no heating call. I was in my early thirties. And I thought to myself, if I wasn’t me, what would I be thinking? And instantly I knew, Oh, I’ll just buy a white truck. I’ll charge $5
less than you, Mr. Owner, I’m going to make a ton of money. And unfortunately nine out of 10 them we’re going to go really broke because they don’t know all the things we talked about earlier about what are the costs. The fact that you’re a great tech doesn’t mean anything. And now it’s helpful. Don’t get me wrong, but it’s not the whole thing. You don’t know the financial service. You know, there’s a lot of things that go into the business. There are seven powers. You have to mess
Nathan Young (41:22):
All along that I’m going to stay on the marketing and sales side for just again, something that you brought up. But again, getting back towards that ownership spot in the marketing playbook, you have a testimonial from a person in the marketing power. Within the book, you have a testimonial that actually reads like the target list from this book, the ultimate sales machine by Chet Holmes. And in this book, he espouses this concept of the target list. And then the testimonial that company chose 25 other companies where they basically got all their work or could, because they were often sort of like a downstream company. If, if I can use that word, uh, where somebody else would get the primary job and then they would refer them. Right. And so they basically say we pick those 25 upstream companies, and then we just wrote a limitlessly pursued them until we got a yes or no. And we ended up getting yeses right across the board, but taking taken a couple of years for some, but we got yeses. Do you think this still works?
Al Levi (42:28):
Oh, absolutely. Referral marketing is what I think you’re speaking to zoom is, uh, you know, which was a franchise that I was involved with is that’s really the whole core. And you know, it was one of the most effective ways, but it’s not different than my dad and my uncle when they built the business and really started the boom. It, they were always working with houses of worship, local communities because they had their customers, they work with real estate agents. They work with whoever they needed to do to, to get to the audience they were trying to get to. And so that was another or in the water, how you make sure that, you know, you’re really out there. Yeah. The answer is referral marketing to work now, depending on what you’re trying to go for, I would say works particularly well. And it’s not even like optional.
Al Levi (43:12):
If you’re a commercial, you serve commercial, you really need somebody out there. Who’s going to cool their heels in and office. And, uh, you know, talk to the person in front to get, to see the big boss who has 15 buildings, or is the regional manager of Starbucks in the area that you are, you have to build those relationships and keep them open. Now, in my commercial sales advisor system advisor, actually, it’s a commercial sales at CSA. Basically. They’re not like the brightest people, knowing everything. They just know how to ask a couple of good questions. Their job is to look good to ask some quick questions, know how to get the, the customer potential customer talking about what they don’t like, what they would like and, you know, getting them to just agree to use us and prove that we got it. And then they have testimonials in their brag book that talk about, Hey, you know, there’s a restaurant chain that loves us just like you. And they showed him the picture and the video or anything else of that nature.
Nathan Young (44:10):
Sure. I have two last questions to ask you one for me. And then one about you, the, uh, this one is you brought up service site and just a minute ago, we’ve been researching customer relationship
management or like jobs scheduling a software type stuff. So part a, do you recommend as a home service company using those types of software?
Al Levi (44:34):
Yeah. You know, it used to be years ago, there were a bunch of really good software and they’re still, probably out there, uh, years ago, success where it goes. And I’m talking about nineties early 2000, but frankly they’ve been blown by service Titan and I’m not a paid spokesman for them, but all of my best contractors, what surprisingly is, if you’re like five trucks, it’s not inexpensive by any means, it’s just super powerful. It allows you to do things that, you know, years ago I could just dream of, which is to listen to every call, nowhere we calls coming from. There’s just so much stuff built into it. And they’re always growing and investing in their stuff. And so, yeah, Tommy Mello uses XQ pink continues as it, um, you know, zoom uses it and it’s really been a foundational piece. I will say this about computer software because I was actually in that business for a little bit, as well as I was already a contractor to the reality is any software is only good as you know, it is only, and also resisting the temptation is, well, why can’t you put it in the left column?
Al Levi (45:39):
Cause I don’t want to look in the right comp, well, they designed it that way. Not just for you, they have to support it. So when you make them move stuff all over where you don’t want to learn how they have it, you’re already putting yourself behind the eight ball as to doing it. So yeah. And part of it is to think of it as an investment. I know that’s like a cliche thing here. It’s not an expense, it’s an investment. If you’re talking about maximizing your billable hours, things of that nature, I have not seen another software for contractors now. They’re not necessarily the best right yet on commercial contractors, although they’re getting better and they’re closing that gap, they’re really geared to the residential home service market at this point. And they’re really good. Um, I would say that’s one that I would talking about is at certainly at the forefront of it.
Nathan Young (46:27):
Okay. Well, I mean, my first question was going to be, do you recommend using those types of softwares? And then my second question was going to be, do you have one that you recommend? I think you covered both gaps in there. Yeah.
Al Levi (46:38):
Yeah, no, I, I don’t know how you can operate without really good software. I will say one of the traps is though is, and this was a great Frank Blau. I mentioned earlier. He says, Alex, you can’t figure out your business on a piece of paper. All the computer will do is just make it more difficult to figure it out. So don’t think that all I’m going to buy this software magically, I’m going to fix whatever software it is. I’m a big believer in the CRM customer relationship matters database. And so there’s a lot of pieces that are built in. It’s not the only thing that you have, but it works well with a bunch of different pieces.
Nathan Young (47:08):
Yeah. There’s no such thing as a magic bullet, it’s going to solve your problems. If you can’t like what you just said, or like what Frank Lao said, if you can’t chart the, this happens, then this happens. Then this happens on a piece of paper, a piece of software just makes that exact process easier,
Al Levi (47:25):
Easier, more automatic. And again, things that we couldn’t do, like recording calls, we had that conversation. The last time is your customer service reps are right under the marketing manager. And people are always befuddled as to why it’s that way on the org chart. And the reason is, is marketing manager gets the right amount of calls from right customer, the right time fills up a bathtub and lousy CSRs is a wide open drain to your bathtub. And so this software and training, but like my manuals to that point, it’s not, what’s in, you know, they have a couple of what I would call if Bureau up on a high wire, it’s nice to have a safety net. And so that’s kind of what they do. I believe in proactive rather than I fell off the thing I need to suck. Now you can have both. It’s great, but your CSRs have to be super trained really well. And that’s what manuals are about.
Nathan Young (48:12):
That’s a fantastic answer as have they all been. So the last question I had was about you, which is seven power contractor.com is the website. Yes. Yes. Okay. And that was the question, sorry. Yeah. Uh, right. I sound like I’m making really confident statements a lot, but usually they end with a question Mark. So I get in trouble for that. Sometimes I’m like super confident, but then I actually, I’m just like, right. It’s definitely this way, unless you know, better. Um, so seven power contractor.com is the website, where else can people find, you get ahold of you and why should they reach out to you? Obviously you have the ability to answer all these questions, but like what’s the two pains that people are feeling right now where if they’re feeling that they know it’s time to get ahold of Al
Al Levi (49:03):
No, it’s just a case of I’ll take the back part, which is if, you know, if you wake up and you’re putting out the same fires that you thought you had out yesterday, you know, we’re going to break out tomorrow. Cause that was the life I lived and I wasn’t small company, we were 70, 80 people at this point. So it’s not a people thing. The next person you hire is not going to fix that. So if you’re always fighting the same fire sets problems, if you know, you work really hard and there’s no money at the end of the day and profitability is cause you’re running back on callbacks and never get to new work. That’s a problem. If you know, you have to work really long hours, just cleaning up messages over and over again. And you’re acting like first day, you’ve been in business and you’ve been in business for 10, 20, 30 years.
Al Levi (49:41):
And that’s a problem. So those are the things that we talk about, the book that’s available on Amazon, you know, that really does help. Whether it’s books, ebook, audible, it really helps you understand that they’re not 7 million things to do. There’s really seven. Now that’ll keep you busy from the day you put the key in the end and you say, you know what? I’ve had enough and I’m done, but it really is what fixes. These are the foundational pillars that you build. They support everything else. I’ve only worked with two companies. One’s where they run out of time and money. That works as hard as it is. There’s no more hours. And so they have to begin to put these systems into breakthrough, or you’re great at marketing and you’ve done everything. They said, you got more calls than you can do. Problem is you don’t have any people that are any good.
Al Levi (50:23):
And everybody’s figuring it out by the seat of their pants. Every you need the manuals and systems and that’s the program that’s available. There. It’s seven power contractor.com forward slash S O M S. That’s Sam Oscar, Mary Sam AAL, my name Apple Louie. So anyway, that’s, I’m sure you’ve put in your notes, but that’s really a good place to see all of the things, all of the manuals, your chart, all of these other
things that you need to do. If you’re got a question there’s a way to chat right there. You can just hit chat and go, Hey, I’ve got a question or want to know more about the programs, just do that. We’ll set up a phone call and they’re happy to address anything that you’ve got on your mind, because really I have sat in your chair and I know how miserable that can be.
Al Levi (51:10):
And so I don’t really want to see people suffer. I can’t, you know, not like the all I can’t be everywhere anymore. That’s why I moved to these products online and the most important I’ll just seven hours is operating power. You may love what I’m talking about staffing, and I hope you do, but you really can’t do staffing until you have operating map. Your sales are compromised if you don’t have operating manuals sounds weird, but it’s true. And so there’s a lot of reasons that that foundational piece was the first one that I put in there, uh, that program. And again, if you go to the website and you’ll see under products, it’s really easy to click on that tab and you’ll get to see everything that you’re, that you need to look at.
Nathan Young (51:48):
Awesome. Well, how it’s been fantastic to have you back out levy, have you back on the show, I’m going to keep hammering home that I know that I’ve got that. Yeah, yeah. Doesn’t get much better than this. And I know again, that you’ve mentioned, like you didn’t even, you had never even heard of traction or Gino Wickman. I subscribed so highly to them consider myself an integrator in the EOS or traction system. And when I read seven power contractor, if you’re a person who subscribes to the Gino Wickman or the traction ideology, then know that no one holds that in higher regard than I do seven power contractor is basically the same thing, same principles, but specifically for your contracting company, um, you’re here to hear from an ops guy. That’s how I feel about it. Thanks so much for coming on the show. This has been awesome. And yeah, that’s pretty much it. I think that’s a wrap. Sounds great.
Author: 7 Power Contractor
Growing up, Al and his brothers helped to run the family plumbing, heating, cooling, and electrical business. They grew into one of the largest and most trusted trade company’s in the New York City area….until Al realized that the stress wasn’t worth the success. Needing a better way to manage his businesses, Al developed The 7 Power Contractor system, a method for standardizing business processes. With guidance on creating custom standard operating procedures (SOPs) for your business, Al consultants with companies nationwide to transform the ease with which they do business.