Part 1 - 7 tips to grow your business with Tim Charles Transcript

Greg Wilkes (00:00):

The construction industry can be a tough business to crack from cashflow problems, struggling to find skilled labor and not making enough money for your efforts leaves many business owners feeling frustrated and burnt out. But when you get the business strategy right, it’s an industry that can be highly satisfying and financially rewarding. I’m here to give you the resources to be able to create a construction business that gives you more time, more freedom, and more money. This is the Develop Your Construction Business podcast, and I’m your host, Greg Wilkes.

Greg Wilkes (00:37):

Welcome to the podcast everyone. Welcome back, or if you’re watching on YouTube, great to have you watching us. So today I’ve got a special guest I’ve known for many years. I’ve known you Tim, it’s got to be what, 20, 25 years? Something like that?

Tim Charles (00:52):

Probably. Yes, probably started off playing football, didn’t we?

Greg Wilkes (00:54):

Yes, quite a few long time back. So yes, known Tim for a long time. Tim Charles, who’s joined us today, who’s a highly experienced chartered accountant. So this is going to be a really useful podcast for everyone because we’re going to get Tim’s best tips and strategies on how we can grow our businesses successfully. So Tim, you’ve worked with hundreds of clients over 25 years and seeing a lot of your clients grow really successfully, but I guess you’ve also seen businesses potentially not listen to you and make some bad mistakes. Is that fair?

Tim Charles (01:29):

I guess for most people, having a business is a bit of a rollercoaster ride, and obviously, there’s the ebbs and flows, the good bits and the bad bits. And I’ve been running Charles Accountancy now for about 13 years. And then before that, I was working for other accountancy firms, and I’ve seen a lot from the very small clients that I’ve had to the very big ones. But one thing that I’ve always tried to emphasize, and it’s something that we’ll probably come across as we’re chatting today, is that the key point is that “turnover is vanity and profit is sanity,” and it’s so easy to start chasing after sales, but really life’s all about the profit is the money that’s in your pocket at the end of the day. And you can have 1 million pounds in sales on your turnover at the top of your P and L, but if there’s not much profit at the end of it, then it’s basically all being vanity and a bit of a waste of time. So you never want to be a busy fool. You want to be smart and make sure that your profit margins are tight because the only thing that hits your pocket at the end of the day.

Greg Wilkes (02:32):

Exactly. Yes, that’s a really good thing just to highlight for us. So what we want to do, talking about being smart, we’re going to talk about seven steps today on how to grow your business successfully. And obviously when we’re talking about growing a business, as Tim said, we’re not growing it for the sake of it. We’re growing it to become highly profitable. So that’s what it’s all about. So if you’re listening in today, just take this, whatever this is, 30 minutes, 45 minutes, whatever we’re talking for, take some time out of your business, give yourself the gift of a bit of uninterrupted focus today because we want to work on your business. It’s your future, it’s an investment in yourself. You are going to give that gift to your clients when you go and price up a job for half an hour of uninterrupted time.

And we really want you to think about your business in a different way because oftentimes you can be really frustrated as a trades person or as a construction business owner where you are working all the hours and you might feel like you’re not getting a lot back for it. You feel like you’re slaving for your business a bit, whereas your subcontractors, they just turn up, do the job, and go home without any stress whatsoever. So we want to turn it around a bit for you and we hope that these seven steps, if you implement just a few of these or all of them, it makes that difference for you. So it makes your business a little bit less stressful and of course make it a bit more money. So Tim, seven steps to Grow your business. What’s the sort of principles around this? What we focusing on?

Tim Charles (03:55):

I think that what we’re going to discuss today is nothing’s going to be rocket science and nothing’s going to be something that potentially no one’s ever heard before. But I mean we’re both into cycling. And so David Bradford obviously is someone we can all learn a lot from, and he said something, he said, it doesn’t matter how small the improvement, we’re going to do it. So there’s the 1% factor. If you can make a 1% improvement in lots of different things, obviously it adds up to a big thing. They call it the aggregate of marginal gains. And say someone makes a suggestion to you, say you’re doing a big job, and someone makes a suggestion to you that can save 100 pounds, you think, oh, it’s not worth all the agro or whatever it is for a hundred pounds, but if you save a hundred pounds here, there and everywhere, it soon adds up to thousands of pounds.

So some of the things we discussed, maybe they’re not essentially groundbreaking ideas, but if you can just implement a few of these ideas, then you can make a difference. And another thing that would like to say is sometimes in life, and I’m very much guilty of this as well in life, you tend to have note-takers and action-takers. And some people like to maybe listen to podcasts, read books, listen to Audible, they’re listening to lots of things. Maybe you could say they like to have their ears tickled because they like hearing all these things, but they’re not actually taking the action. So if I can encourage you today to just try and pick up at least one thing and actually take action and do that one thing, then that’s something that can move your business forward and make that continuous improvement.

Greg Wilkes (05:24):

Yes, definitely. It is about action, isn’t it? And we’re not talking about massive changes in business, as Tim said there. It’s the marginal gains. I think we’re both waiting for David Bradford to write a book on this aren’t we? Because it’s like he’s really sort of pioneered this topic. We’re desperate for him to get something on paper about it. But just going back to that analogy of marginal gains, team sky, they were doing such small things, weren’t they to improve. I think they had their own pillows and duvets and things that they would bring to hotels just to make sleep a little bit better. Do you remember some of the other things they were doing?

Tim Charles (06:01):

They used to say you’ve got eight or nine riders in the team. They would carry nine mattresses from each hotel they go to so that everyone’s sleeping on the same mattress every single night, a mattress they’re comfortable in. And, someone might say that’s a lot of hassle to cart around nine mattresses, but if it made sure that rider had a good night’s sleep rather than going, because they can’t choose what hotels they go to, that is chosen for them by the Tour de France. So they could just be in a run-of-the-mill three-star hotel and it might not have a very nice mattress. And the rider gets a really rough night’s sleep, and obviously, that’s going to affect his performance. So they’ll prepare to go to every level, and obviously, we’re always used now to using the alcohol gel rubs and keeping ourselves clean and hygiene. But David Bradford was doing that right at the beginning. He knew if any of his riders got a cold or any sniffles or anything that’s going to affect performance. So he was looking at those tiny little marginal gains and anything they could do just to move the needle one tiny little dot, they would do it because they know in the long run that’s just going to add up to a big gain.

Greg Wilkes (07:08):

Yes, that’s really useful. So, as we go through this, think about what changes you can make, but don’t dismiss what’s being said here. You might think, oh, what difference is that really going to make in my business? They do, it might be small, but as we said, it all aggregates, doesn’t it, to big improvements over time. So, the first topic we’re going to discuss, we’re going to go through seven here, seven steps to Grow your Business. And the first one we were going to discuss was generating high-quality leads. So leads in your business. We often say like lead is the lifeblood of a company. If you’re not getting those leads coming in, you’re really going to be struggling, aren’t you, to be able to convert them to the other end. We talk about your sales funnel. If anyone’s seen a picture of a sales funnel, it’s like an upside-down triangle, and at the top, you’ve got all your leads coming in, and then ultimately, at the bottom, those leads whittle down gradually as interest wanes.

And then, at the bottom, you’re going to get someone who’s going to buy from you. But if you’re not filling the top of your funnel with high-quality leads, it’s going to affect what happens at the bottom of that funnel. So I’m sure you’ve experienced this as well in just your accountancy business, Tim, and seeing some of your other customers. What’s the danger if you’re not getting high-quality leads? What sort of dangers do a lot of businesses experience when leads are just poor quality? They might be getting plenty of leads, but they’re not the right quality.

Tim Charles (08:33):

Sometimes, it tends to be like a feast or famine, doesn’t it? When you’re getting those leads and all of a sudden you’ve got loads of leads and you might have to turn down some jobs and then later on you’ve completed a few jobs and then you’re getting, not desperate, but you’re prepared to take anything you take on that bad quality job, which you know is going to have low-profit margins and potentially a lot of aggro and not something that’s within your skillset to take on, but you’re just taking on anything. So having a consistent pipeline of leads, as you say, there is the lifeblood of the business, but trying to get that consistency so that you are always ready to take on the quality job.

Greg Wilkes (09:10):

Yes. That’s exactly right. I always illustrate like a tap, just as a bit of a builder’s analogy, is your lead flow, like a rusty tap where it’s really painful, you can’t turn it on, and your leads are just like drip, drip, that phone’s just hardly ever ringing. So you’re just literally taking every drip you can. Or your lead flow might be like an airlock tap where you turn it on, and nothing all of a sudden it’s really inconsistent. And then the next minute you’ve got loads and loads of work coming in. But what we all want is a brand new tap where we control the force of that. We can control how many leads we want, and then we can turn it off when we don’t need any more. And that’s the ideal scenario to be in. But how do we do that? How do we get those consistent leads coming into your business?

Well, a mistake that a lot of people make with the lead flow is they think straight away they look at what everyone else is doing, and they might think to themselves, let me just jump on and invest a load of money in Facebook ads. I’ll jump on and start boosting all my posts. Or they might register on a site like say, I don’t know, Check A Trade or MyBuilder or things like that where their ideal client might not be at. Now, it might be your ideal client on there, but it might not be. If you’ve been on MyBuilder and you are a million-pound company already, you probably know that’s not where your ideal client is at. So it can lead to a lot of waste of time for people. They’re getting a lot of tire kickers we call them, where they’re just shopping around for quotes.

And that could be really frustrating because you are out there constantly spending hours and hours pricing work, and alright, you might be getting the leads in, but they’re the wrong client. That’s not who you want to be pricing for. So the question really is how do you generate high-quality leads in construction? Well, one of the first things you need to do, and this is the most crucial thing that I’d recommend anyone who’s starting out in trying to develop leads does, and this is for any business really, is generating your ideal client avatar. So Tim, how would you describe an avatar? What would an ideal client avatar look like?

Tim Charles (11:16):

I mean, you can give me really specific on avatars, and you can say my client, ideal client avatar, let’s say I’ll talk from experience from if you’re doing residential jobs, say you’re doing loft conversions, or you’re doing rear extensions, you say my ideal client avatar is a family that have children that are preschool age, and they know that they need a bigger space because their children are growing and I want the family to live in a certain postcode, and I want their income to be a certain amount. And you can be really specific on that avatar. And I think the more specific you are, then it’s easier to target that specific person in your advertising and in your message that you give out.

Greg Wilkes (12:03):

That’s right, yes, because the danger a lot make or the mistake a lot of people make is that they try and cast their net too wide. They’re trying to catch everybody. And if they’ve got a huge net, you might have big holes in the net, and you’re letting all the fish out potentially. So we don’t want to try and catch everyone. We don’t want to beat all things to all people. One of the worst USPs that I see is, not many USP, but one of the worst taglines is no job too big or small. And you see this on the back of ads, you think, who are you appealing to? If you want a hundred grand extensions, are you really going to go and change a tack for someone for a hundred quid? So that’s a big danger, isn’t it, where people try and appeal to absolutely everyone, which is a big mistake.

So yes, as Tim said, the first thing you want to do is work out who you are pitching to. And what that then does is once you are clear on who your avatar is, it changes your language, it changes how you communicate to these people. So when you’re on social media, let’s say for example, your ideal avatar was a busy professional, maybe a doctor or someone who’s reasonably affluent, but they’re a busy professional or an accountant like Tim. Now, a busy professional, you want to think what is going to appeal to them as an ideal client? What could you formulate your USP to be your unique selling point so that it appeals to that busy professional? So, for a busy professional, it might be that they don’t want to have any involvement in the job at all because they’re earning great money doing what they’re doing.

They don’t want to be involved in the project, they want to just let you do it. So maybe your USP is that you’ve got a project manager, you handle everything for them, maybe you source all the materials they don’t want to know. That could be potentially it, maybe it’s speed. A busy professional thinks I want my project done as fast as possible. So maybe your USP is that we only take one project at a time, we deliver it, and we get off site as faster than anyone because we’re not a stretch between multiple sites. So you need to think about what your USP is, what are your strengths are as a business, and then how can you make that appeal to your ideal client? What’s going to be important to them? So That’s probably one of the big tips. I often say, I’ll give this illustration before it’s let’s imagine you’ve got your price and a job for two clients.

One of your clients is a pregnant lady and she’s got six months until she gives birth and she’s got kids that are going to be living at the house and the family while the work’s going on. And then you’ve got another couple that’s having exactly the same work being done, but they’re retired, and they’re going to go on a cruise while the works are being done, and they don’t want to know anything about it, they’re just going to come back, and it’s all going to be finished. They’re two different people completely, aren’t they? They’ve both got their own needs, they’ve both got their own wants, they’ve both got their own beliefs. And if you just go and pitch to both of them exactly the same way without addressing what really matters to them as individuals and addressing their needs, then what it ends up coming down to is who is the cheapest because you haven’t really connected with that client. So have a think about that, think about your clients, think about your ideal client, and then try and get your messaging to appeal to them directly. And the other thing you want to think about too, is where are your ideal clients hanging out? So again, if you were talking about busy professionals, where are they going to be hanging out on social media? What would you say, Tim? Where do you think the best place to catch busy professionals would be?

Tim Charles (15:38):

There’s a great book, I’ve not read it because it’s a book written for females, but it’s called “How to Marry a Millionaire?” and in this book, basically, you could sum up the whole book with one sentence is “if you want to marry a millionaire, you need to hang out where millionaires hang out.” So if millionaires hang out at a certain bar, that’s where this lady that wants to marry a millionaire needs to hang out. And the same principle applies with our leads and our potential customers. So, another potential lead is if you could maybe build up some relationships with architects and surveyors and if you want to get leads from them. Well, where do architects and surveyors hang out? Obviously there’s networking and things like that, but in recent times a lot of networking’s being canceled. So perhaps there might be architects that have a LinkedIn group or architects that have a Facebook group or surveyors like that and reaching out to these ones. So hanging out with them can be a great source of generating leads, spending time where they are.

Greg Wilkes (16:41):

Exactly. Yes. So we wouldn’t be trying to find architects on TikTok then, is that what you’re saying?

Tim Charles (16:47):

You never know. I’ve seen accountants generating good work on TikTok actually. So you never know. You never know.

Greg Wilkes (16:56):

Is that your next mention? Is it?

Tim Charles (16:57):

I’m not sure about that.

Greg Wilkes (17:00):

Good stuff. Alright, so that’s really useful. And what you probably want to do when you are generating your leads, if you want to analyze where your leads are actually coming from, I always bang on about getting yourself a CRM system or some way your client relationship management system, some way of tracking where those leads are coming from so that every phone call that comes in, every email, you ask a question, how did you hear about me? And that will give you a really good indicator of where people are finding you. Is it could be Google, it could be a website, it could be Facebook, wherever it is. And that will help you build up a picture and then you can target your messaging and your lead generation into those channels. So that’s the first one, Tim, generating quality leads is step number one to grow your business. What’s the next one?

Tim Charles (17:46):

So, the next step after you’ve got those leads is increasing your conversion rate. So again, I could just talk about converting leads into sales, but I had a loft conversion done this year and I had four quotes and of those four quotes, only two builders followed up. And as you can guess, one of those two that followed up, he got the job. So following up on leads is vital. If you think how much effort goes in for a builder or construction business to, how much money they spend on advertising the first place to get that lead, how much time and effort to attend an appointment, travel to the customer, spend time with that customer, prepare the quote, send the quote. So you’ve put in all that effort, so why not follow up? But I guess that the kickback and what they’ll say is, well, I’m too busy, I’m too busy to follow up.

So there’s a great three words that I love to remember and it’s actually a title of a book and it’s called “A Who Not How.” So think about who can do this for me and not how and that who could also be some software. So for example, I think most of us have probably heard of the Moneypenny service, which is you might just think of them as a call answering service. So if you’ve got people phoning you up and you’re too busy on site to take the call, you can use a service like Moneypenny, a virtual VA that can take the call for you, but you can also ask them to do the outbound call for you. So you could ask a virtual VA like Moneypenny or there’s other services out there just to make a phone call and say to the customer, did you get the quote?

How does our quote compare to other quotes and start laying the seed of you get what you pay for? So if they might have had a much cheaper quote, but plant those seeds in their heads that “well, you need to pay a bit of money to get a quality job with quality materials because good work doesn’t come cheap.” And just mention those things so you can get someone else to do the follow up for you. And I know your last interview was with the software active campaign, wasn’t it? And as you mentioned, there are CRM systems and you can automate that so that the follow-up is automated. So, obviously it’s going to take a bit of effort to set it up, but once it’s set up, then you wouldn’t be able to use the excuse that I’m too busy because it’s already set up for you. So I think having some sort of follow-up system, it is vital and converting those leads into sales.

Greg Wilkes (20:19):

Yes.Follow-up is key. It’s like sales training. Number one has got to be follow-up and you won’t believe the amount of times that people just don’t receive your quote because you’ve done something wrong, you’ve spelled the email wrong or it’s dropped into their spam folder and you are sitting there thinking, well, I’m not going to follow it up if they want me, they’ve got to ring me back. They might not even get your quote. It’s crazy. So you just want as many touch points as possible with people. I think it was Jay Abraham’s who said excellent marketer, world class, but he said that you need seven touchpoint with clients before they’re ready to buy. So follow-up’s got to be one of those touch points. The more touch points you can have, the closer it is that the client’s going to be to potentially buying from you.

So that touchpoint could be that person following up just to say, as Tim said, have you got the quote? And if they start asking questions and they’re only a call handler, don’t know how to answer that, it’s great. I can set you up for a call. I’d love my director to answer that for you. Let me set up a call with him and now you’ve got another touchpoint because you’re going to be able to talk to them. So you just want to keep that communication going as much as you can after the quote’s been sent and keep those touch points to try and get to seven of them.

Tim Charles (21:35):

Just wanted to touch on the quality of the quote as well. I don’t know, back in the old days it would be sort of back of a fag pack packet sort of estimate, wouldn’t they that the builder would give you, but there’s so much great software out there. I recently recommended a client use some software called Quotient. I don’t know if you’ve seen that or there’s lots of quotes quoting softwares out there. I mean that one’s 19 pound a month, really professional-looking quote, and it’s got images on it so you can have pictures of perhaps what a roof should look like or what a kitchen or bathroom, whatever it is, the carpentry. You can have pictures there that show your work and break down the quote to give loads of details of what you’re doing rather than just sort of a couple of lines and then an overall quote.

And when it’s listed out there, it’s more like a shopping list. So you’re less likely to get clients bartering with you because they can see how much everything costs. Whereas if you just give them say, right, this job’s going to be 50 grand, they can say, oh, is there any movement in that? But if you’ve broken it all down, they can see, well no, each section costs this much money. So Quotient, is a software I’d recommend. The great thing about it as well, once you’ve typed it in, you can save it so that you can use some of the same options on different quotes in the future that would save you time and you’re delivering a really professional-looking quote to your potential customer.

Greg Wilkes (22:55):

Yes, that’s absolutely vital. And it is not just about the quote looking professional. I mean a professional quote is obviously really important, but I guess the question needs to be asked, what needs to be in that quote to make it stand out from others? And this is where we sort of move on to point number three there. There’s been studies done on what’s called trust transference. So what happens with trust transference, we all know this, don’t we, that if you want to win a sale, the customer has to come to know, like, and trust you. If you don’t get that over the line, if the customer’s got a bad feeling about you, they’re not going to go with you, especially if it’s a high ticket item, you’re doing an extension or loft or something for someone. So we only buy, all of us, only buy it when we trust.

We trust the product or we trust the person we are buying from. And that’s why we spend hours trolling things like TripAdvisor and Amazon reviews. We are just conditioned now aren’t we to look out for those four, five-star reviews because we are looking for trust transference. We are looking for someone else’s experience, the trust that they had in that product. It transfers over to us when we read those things so we can trust someone based on someone else’s experience. And there are studies that have proven this. So we want to think about that. How do we get trust transference across to our customers? And can we do this in the quote that Tim mentioned earlier, when we’re delivering that professional presentation, is there a way of getting trust transference in there? Well, there is a definite way of doing that. And the three aspects of trust transference that this study highlighted were the first thing you need is to provide credibility. The second is ability. And the third thing was called benevolence or goodness and kindness. So let’s just break those down. So can you provide credibility in your quote? So what do you think, Tim? If you received a quote, how would you judge if a company was credible or not? What sort of things would you be looking out for?

Tim Charles (24:55):

I guess if they can show that they’ve won, maybe won some awards, would potentially members of any federations be helpful in that section?

Greg Wilkes (25:08):

Yes, definitely. Yes, a hundred percent. So that’s really important, isn’t it? So if you see an award-winning company, members of the Federation of Master Builders, it doesn’t have to be that one, but others like that, straight away you think, actually I’m dealing with a credible company here. They’ve demonstrated credibility. So that’s key number one that we’ve ticked off. The second thing we need to show is ability. So how do we show our ability when we’re delivering quotes? Well, this would be looking at things like case studies. So if you’ve got case studies, if you’re listening to this, I’m sure you’ve been in the building game for a while, and you’ve probably done some fantastic projects. You want to have a portfolio of projects that you’ve carried out and ideally turn them into case studies so that if you are pitching for a hundred thousand pound extension, you’ve got a case study of a hundred thousand pound extension that you can put into that quote.

So someone straight away looks at that, they see your credibility and then they think this person has the ability, he’s done jobs like this before. So that’s really key. And then the last thing we want to look at, as we said was benevolence that this study talked about or goodness or kindness. So we want people to believe that we’re good people and good guys. What do you think about that one, Tim? That’s a little bit harder. How would we get the point across that we are good people and we’re there trying to look out for our customers?

Tim Charles (26:32):

I guess if you can have testimonials from like-minded people. So if you’re working for a family, maybe some testimonials from families, or if you’re working for an older couple, they’ve retired, some testimonials from someone similar to them so that they can feel that, okay, they’ve got experience, they’ve got the ability, and they’re used to dealing with people like us. I think that would help big time.

Greg Wilkes (26:58):

It really does. Yes. So just think about that when you’re doing your professional presentation. Think if you can include those three things. Show your credibility ability and your benevolence by using awards, case studies, and reviews. That’s really going to help you stand out from everyone else. Just think other builders are probably just sending a quote over with sometimes just a bottom line figure, and it’s awful, some of the quotes that we’ve seen competitors send across. But if you can do something a little bit different to show your professionalism and to get that trust, you are naturally going to increase your conversion rates.

Tim Charles (27:32):

I think most of us do have the Google five-star reviews, but they’re kind of hidden away. So I’d like to encourage everyone, don’t be shy about copying those, review those Google reviews you’ve got, or wherever the views are, if they’re on trusted trade or wherever they are, copy them and put selected ones, ones that match the person that you’re quoting for and copy and paste them onto your quote so that the person can read it at the same time as getting the quote and then seeing your logo with the master builder or what federation’s a member of all on the side.

Greg Wilkes (28:04):

That’s a great tip. Yes, that’s actually a great tip. Thanks for that. I’m going to take a pause here for the podcast. There’s a lot of information that’s coming out of this one, so we’re just going to break it up into two episodes. So tune in to the next episode next week and get the rest of the seven tips.

Greg Wilkes (28:25):

If you’d like to work with me to fast-track your construction business growth, then reach out on www.developcoaching.co.uk.