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How to stop working harder – Make your business work for you

Towing is extremely rewarding, but not without its challenges. As I talk to business owners across the country I hear them express their concerns. Consistently I hear that Towing Operators are…
Upset by increased truck and maintenance costs.

  • Fed up with motor clubs squeezing profits out of tow operators’ hands.
  • Frustrated with increased competition stealing valuable work.
  • Disappointed by a flat economy.
  • Angry at local and state regulations that are costing profits and customers.
  • Tired of 2:00 am phone calls in bad weather.

Can you relate?

These real challenges are often compounded by already overwhelming day to day tasks required to keep a successful business operating such as the following:

  • Trucks breaking down / maintenance
  • Employee management
  • Customer challenges / issues
  • Ordinances and regulations
  • Taxes
  • Financial analysis and accounting
  • Marketing and sales

For a business owner to continue to be successful in this changing landscape, he needs a plan to respond to industry pressures while juggling day-to-day responsibilities. This plan needs to include a path to gain valuable margin in the business owner’s life.

Margin is one of the owners greatest assets to helping the business grow. Margin is the space betweenour load and our limits. It is the amount allowed beyond that which is needed. It is something held in reserve for contingencies or unanticipated situations. Margin is the gap between rest and exhaustion, the space between breathing freely and suffocating.

You need this margin in order to strategically navigate the industry pressures that are robbing you ofprofits, opportunities, and energy.

How do you gain this valuable margin?

Those that create this margin approach their business with a fundamental difference than those that don’t. They make their business work for them as opposed to being one who is daily worked by their business.

Those who are “worked by their business” are often characterized by active income streams.

An active income stream is what you get when someone hires you to do a job. You do the work; you get paid. But only once. In other words, the income is non-recurring.

When a business only has active income streams, the owner can easily fall into the “work harder” trap. This business owner can only become more profitable if he works harder. This person will always be limited by their natural limitations of time, talent, and energy.

The business owner that makes his business work for him is often characterized by passive income streams. Passive income is what happens when customers pay you over and over again for the same work—work you only did once. In other words, it is recurring.

When a business owner ads passive income to his business, he is able to grow beyond his limitations. If the owner doesn’t work, he still continues to get paid off of work previously completed. When he doeswork, he is simply adding to the passive income already generated.

There are many ways to add passive income streams to your existing operation. One option in particularis making waves in the towing industry. Snappy Box Moving and Storage has developed a program that allows Towing Operators to add portable storage to their existing operation.

Portable storage is a $3 billion industry that compliments towing by utilizing a tow operator’s existing resources. The portable storage industry is barely 15 years old and growing rapidly. Portable storage was created to provide a more convenient option for customers needing self-storage. The portable container is brought to the customer’s home or business where they pack it up. Once packed, it can bestored at the customer’s property or brought back to a portable storage company’s secure outdoor storage lot or warehouse.

The towing operator benefits by generating active income from the transportation of the storage unit while also generating passive income from the rent of the portable storage unit. On average, the container will rent for $175.00 per month. That works out to be around $1,200 per customer when you factor both rent and delivery fees. That same container rented for a year could produce $2,400! Multiply this by 50, 100, or 200 container and towing operators can generate significant profit.

Portable storage units are extremely durable, typically have a 30 year life cycle, waterproof, secure, can carry up to 10,000 lbs and withstand winds up to 120 mile per hour. They are commonly 8’x16’ and 8’x19’ feet in length. These containers are uniquely designed for the towing industry and have four wheels that allow the container to roll on and off your truck without damaging the bed.

With positive growth yearly for 11 straight years, Snappy Box knows how to help you generate passive income through renting containers. With your towing experience, you know how to tow containers. Working together with your experience, Snappy Box rents the containers while you focus on transportation.

Snappy Box is here to help you use your existing resources to safely and slowly build passive income on top of what you already do well – towing – whether towing a car or a container. Some of the features Snappy Box provides is a sales-focused call center, online lead generation, marketing plan, billing/collections system, dispatching, social media campaigns, website with quote system, landing page, and operational software.

Now is the absolute BEST time to add passive income to your business through Portable Self Storage. Most families try to move when their kids are out of school. Late spring and summer have traditionally been considered “moving season” – the time when most people try to schedule moves from one house to another or schedule major home renovations. It takes 3-4 months to get containers delivered, so now is the best time to order to make sure they arrive before “moving season”.

If you are tired of being worked by your business and ready to make your business work for you by adding passive streams of income to your operation, then Snappy Box Moving and Storage may be a great solution for you. Talk to a Snappy Box representative about how portable storage can be a helpful way to diversify intelligently.

To find out more about their services, check them out at snappybox.com/towing or call 888-363-2720.

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Working Together. Succeeding Together. Teamwork in Action.

When people ask me how an organization the size of Insurance Auto Auctions (IAA) operates so smoothly, I like to tell them our success is a result of teamwork in action. Whether it’s internal or external, our combined achievements depend on a network of talented people with a passion for the automotive auction industry working toward a common goal.

One thing is for certain, I always call out the contributions of one specific group– our incredible network of partners in the towing and recovery industry. With more than 165 facilities across North America, and thousands of vehicles set for auction every week, tow operators are the lifeblood of IAA. Without them, everything would come to a screeching halt.

There’s a trend happening that we don’t think is right. In the course of doing business, it’s common to see abandoned vehicles taking up valuable space on lots and preventing many from operating at full capacity. Until now, these vehicles have typically been disposed of via the scrap yard, a process that greatly diminishes their potential value. It isn’t fair for you to lose out because someone chose to abandon their vehicle on your premises, so we’re doing something to change that.

IAA is proud to bring our Online Exclusive: Impound Auction Series to the Sunshine State. This event represents many firsts for Florida tow operators, including:

  • A new opportunity to get the most out of the abandoned vehicles on your lot.
  • An auction dedicated to impounded and abandoned vehicles, bringing these units to buyers who understand their true value, and are willing to pay top dollar.
  • A format that makes it easy to turn these obstacles into profit at no cost.

We’re excited to show you how the process works. I’d like to personally invite you to learn more as we host an informational seminar at the Florida Tow Show in Orlando (April 9-12) and encourage everyone in attendance to join us. For details, consult the Florida Tow Show program, or visit IAA in Booth 150/151.

Are you interested in joining our towing network? We are just as interested in partnering with motivated tow operators as we have 10 auction facilities in Florida, spanning from Miami to Pensacola. The IAA Transportation team will be at the Florida Tow Show to recruit new partners to the IAA towing network, and if you think you have what it takes, we’d love to talk. Stop by our booth to discover the opportunities in your area.

Events like the Florida Tow Show remind us how lucky we are to work with talented professionals that empower us to offer our customers the highest level of service in the automotive auction industry. We look forward to seeing you in Orlando!

Robert Guerrero
IAA Remarketing

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Increasing Sales

DJ Harrington and Dan Messina

DJ Harrington and Dan Messina

By Dan Messina
The sales position at your company is the most important position in the company. Selling your services brings you the revenue to run your business. The sales position is also the hardest position to fill. It’s a certain kind of skill that not everyone has. In the towing industry, the owner will do most of the selling. A good dispatcher may get involved because they talk to customers all the time. In this article, I will show you some tips for selling your services.

I had a member call me recently, and he asked me if I could help him with his sales staff. The first thing I needed to know was what he wanted to accomplish with his sales staff. I asked him to write down some objectives he wanted to accomplish with his staff. In your business, you have to do the same thing. Once you have established some objectives, you now have something to measure.

I looked at his staff. He had 10 or so sales people, and most of them had good sales experience. They worked with the company for awhile, and they all had major responsibilities, such as families, home to pay for or car payments. I like to hire people who need to come to work. After reviewing the data I received, I determined his staff had become stale. Doing the same thing over and over for a long period of time can put you in a rut. We decided to work on increasing sales and improving customer service. Here are some tips to follow as you work to increase your sales.

There are three areas we will look at:

  1. The staff – These are the people who will be involved the sale.
  2. The service – This is the product or service you are selling.
  3. The customer – This is the person who will buy the product or service.

Since your business may be too small to have a sales staff, let’s make every employee a salesperson. The first thing we want to do is make sure all employees know what we are selling. We have the owner, dispatchers, and drivers. Bring them all together and let them know that we are going to increase our business and that they will be a big part of making that happen. Also let them know that that there will be rewards as we increase our business. We want to improve their appearance as they will be talking to customers. We want to educate them on what we are selling. Our goal is to make all employees feel like they are a part of what we are trying to accomplish.

Now let’s list our products and services:
(These are things my company provided)
1. We provide towing.
2. We have a bi-lingual staff.
3. We have a 24 hour secured lot for storage.
4. We have security.
5. We film all tows.
6. Our staff is professional.
7. Our staff is drug tested.
8. Drivers go through training programs.
9. We do lockouts and jump starts.
10. We can sell you a vehicle or a part from our storage lot.
11. We can move things for people.
12. In some cases, we are connected to MVD and can provide vehicle information.

I sat with my staff and tried to determine if we could offer any of these items as additional services. Once you start looking at what you are doing, you will find things of value you can offer to your customers. Here are 15 good tips to get you started:

1 Upsell – If you look at my list of things I had at my company, I then started to offer storage for my customers, or I provided access to some great cars for my customers and their employees through my auctions. If you look close, you will find things your customers may need that you can sell to them.

2. Cross sell – Take the service you already provide and make it better, or add to it, and then sell it as an upgrade.

3. Attach discounts – Go to an apartment complex and offer towing, jumpstarts, and lockouts and then offer their employees the same service at a big discount.

4. Offer samples – If you go to www.danmessina.com you will find several videos that are free to view. This gives you a sample of what to expect from my company.

5. Offer payment plans – If your customer wants your service but can’t afford it, you, as the owner, must figure out how to make it happen. I have several members that signed up and I put them on a payment plan so they can benefit from my services.

6. Train your sales reps – Training, education, training, education…I can’t say this enough. Make sure all your employees know what your objectives are and what you are offering. My website is a good training tool for all your employees. 7. Explain why the item is important – As you try and sell the customer an additional service, explain why they need this service. Give them some examples of how you are saving them money or time. The customer will buy anything if they think it fixes their problem.

8. Offer the extra item – Offer your existing customer a discount on additional services, such as lockouts, tows for family members, towing cars to and from auctions. Get creative, but don’t give the service away; just let them know you are discounting the service. Create your own coupon, such as 25% off all first time tows, and distribute them to new and existing customers.

9. Finalize one sale before you offer another – If you are providing a poor service, it’s not time to offer your customer something new. You have to make sure the customer knows you are looking out for them and not just trying to make as much money as possible by selling services.

10. Explain free item value – You can sell anything if you convince the customer you are fixing their problem. Show value in what you are offering. If you are a member of www.danmessina.com, you get all the seminars and education at one low price. I then offer to help you create a business plan at no additional charge. I did this for a member in Pennsylvania, and he saved $10,000 a month. He needed a business plan, and we gave it to him. It had an impact on his company immediately. I showed him value in a good business plan.

11. Offer new discounts to old customers – The last thing you want is for your existing customer to find out you are offering the same services to someone else at a cheaper price. Make sure you give your existing customers the same discounts or new services that you are offering to new customers. What we want to avoid is losing existing customers.

12. Offer free services – When your service is private property towing, you better be prepared to offer free services. Things like striping properties or free tows for managers were the big items in Texas. It was illegal to offer these free services, so you had to figure out a way to do it and be legal.

13. Create a Facebook account – I watch Shark Tank, a TV show about small businesses. When the sharks ask how they were so successful so quickly, the answer is always social media, Facebook and websites. I am using this method to promote www.danmessina.com so I can reach more people faster at a lower cost for marketing.

14. Link your website – You need a website to present your company. Once you develop a good website, and it doesn’t have to be fancy, but make sure it explains what you do, then start telling people about it. 15. Check price comparison – In our business, we check the price of the competitor and offer the same service at a lower price. This is what is wrong with our industry. We are in a service business, so just offer the best service. I was not the cheapest service in my market, but I offer the best service and my customers wanted good service no matter what the price.

Growing your company can be easy if you do it right. I hope these 15 tips help get you started with growing your business. If you find these tips helpful, there are 50 more tips just like them on the website. Let’s grow your business together.

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Reacting to Problems

DJ Harrington and Dan Messina
Reacting to Problems
By Dan Messina

I’m sure that if you were watching the news for the past month or so, it was nothing but Ray Rice and how he abused his wife and what a problem it created for the NFL. Everyone got involved, and everyone offered their opinion. I watched different talk shows and they had guests on each day talking about what was done, or what should have been done. The bottom line is the people they talked to all agreed on what was finally done. He is out of football, and now they are going after the commissioner of the NFL for his involvement or lack of involvement with the incident.

I’m going to look at this through the eyes of the NFL and how I would have handled it if I was running that business. Let’s first look at what they did.

  1. A two game suspension, and they based it on other incidents with other players.
  2. Then the NFL came out and said they handled it all wrong and they wanted a do-over.
  3. Then came the ugly video from the inside of the elevator and that changed everything.
  4. Ray Rice was suspended indefinitely.
  5. The general public is after the commissioner’s job.

If this were my business, I would not have reacted, but I would have done some investigating before I passed judgment. I feel once these steps took place, the media went crazy, and they probably had a good reason to do what they did. In this scenario, there were no winners. There will be an impact on several people’s lives forever. What Ray Rice did was wrong, and there should be major penalties assessed, but make sure when the punishment comes down, there is some good involved. Here are the results of the actions that took place:

  1. You have a young lady that has been publicly humiliated. She has to live this over and over every time she saw it on TV
  2. The young lady is now Ray Rice’s wife and her life will be impacted financially since her husband lost a $10 million a year job.
  3. There is no guarantee that this action could happen again since there was nothing that says Mr. Rice has to get some type of counseling.
  4. The NFL is taking a public relations hit because of the actions they took.
  5. It’s possible that the NFL will be looking for a new commissioner.

We work in an industry that this type of action could happen to any of us. If you were faced with this type of problem, you, the owner of the business, will have to be prepared to face the consequences of your actions.

I remember having several incidents at work where there was a fight over a child. It was a fight in the office between a driver and his wife, and they each had a hold of the child and were pulling. I separated them had a talk with each employee. There was a long history of fighting between the husband and wife, and I was new to the towing industry, so this was new to me.

They were instructed to get help, and they both eventually left the company because of the rules I put in place. When something like this happens, and these problems are often brought into the workplace, it is a major distraction. Employees take sides, and a bad working environment is created.

The rules I put in place were strict and fair to both sides. As an owner, I wanted to make sure there was no favoritism to the husband or wife, male or female. It must have worked, because for the next seven years, I never had any type of problem like this again.

Getting back to the NFL problems I think I would have handled it in the following manner:

  1. I would have suspended Ray Rice indefinitely while an investigation took place.
  2. I would have made sure that if he ever wanted to play in the NFL again that he would have to get help. This could comfort his wife knowing that with help it may never happen again.
  3. Ray Rice would have to donate $250,000 to some type of shelter for battered woman. This would set a standard for other players that if you are involved in this type of problem it going to cost you.
  4. I would make the owner also donate $250,000 to a shelter. The owner should control his employees. If there is a penalty on the owner, they will take steps to avoid these problems in the future, and take action to correct the problem if they know they have this type of problem.
  5. The shelters benefit because they have a revenue stream that will allow them to make improvements at their shelters.
  6. This would also send a message to any player that if he has a problem he better get it addressed before it becomes serious
  7. The media may not have been so hard if these types of actions were taken; therefore, they would not have been all over the TV
  8. PR for the NFL would not have taken such a big hit.
  9. The commissioner gets to keep his job.

As this problem ends, another problem arises with a child abuse case brought against one of the premier running backs in the NFL. It will be interesting to see how this plays out and if the NFL learned anything from the first experience.

This problem is only going to grow and roll over into the workplace. As a business owner, you might want to start establishing rules on how you will handle this type of problem should it occur. I guarantee you if this happened in my company my competitor would be calling on all my customers telling them how bad I was. Start talking to your employees about these problems and offer help if any of your employees are going through something like this.

If something like this occurs in your company, what you don’t want to do is pass judgment immediately without investigating. Good employees are hard to come by, and you don’t want to fire someone who doesn’t deserve to be fired. Keep an open line of communication with your employees and let them know they can come and talk to you about their problems, before they become your problems.

Owners in our industry will be facing all kinds of issues they never faced before, so don’t react when a problem occurs. Think first, talk to an outside source if you have to; this will allow you to make the right decision.

If you need help, www.djanddan.com can be of assistance.

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MOBILE VEHICLE OFFICE ORGANIZATIONAL AND STORAGE PRODUCTS

Whether it’s stopping to inspect a job site or recording your business transactions, your vehicle has become a mobile office. Having an organized area with your work tools and your electronic equipment is a must. Let’s take a look at some clever ways you can stay clutter-free.

SEAT STORAGE SYSTEMS

When it comes to creating a smart, easy-to-use mobile office, there are several things to consider, like storage, writing, and communication. Over-the-Seat Organizers fit over most bench or bucket seats on the front or the rear of the seat. Loaded with exterior pockets, this organizer gives you quick access to pens, glasses, cell phones and radios. Some organizers can double as a mobile file or tote bag.

CONSOLE STORAGE SYSTEMS

Consoles feature hinged lids that open to a large storage area and some are equipped for a clipboard. When closed, the Console doubles as an armrest and convenient writing surface. Secure your console to a bench seat with the center seat belt. Exterior openings can include cup, coin, cell phone holders, while the interior has large storage compartments. Also available are Tall Full-Size Consoles for trucks with floor space between seats.

BEHIND-THE-SEAT STORAGE SYSTEMS

Organize that pile of clutter behind your truck seat with a Behind-the-Seat organizer. It mounts easily and has many compartments to store and organize your extras.

REAR UNDERSEAT STORAGE SYSTEMS

If your truck has rear seats, install a Rear Underseat Storage System. With a custom fit by vehicle application, it easily installs in minutes and stores large items or use the included dividers for smaller items. Available in several colors.

LAPTOP – PAD – SMART PHONE MOUNTS

Prevent slid offs and damages by securing your laptop and/or mobile device with one many mount options. Many of the Laptop Mounts fasten to the passenger seat using existing hardware, so no drilling is required.

If your passenger seat is not an option, a universal mount is available for mounting to the floor. Most Laptop Mounts are shock and vibration resistant and feature several movable joints for precise horizontal and vertical adjustments, even rotating.

Laptop organizers include a console that fits between the seats. They are usually equipped with a large storage area, laptop mounting, writing surface, high-amp rated power panel, filing capabilities and install with little or no drilling required.

Laptop trays have adjustable stops or hold down features to accommodate the many different sizes of Laptops and Notepads.

SMART PHONE MOUNTS

Wherever you go, you probably bring your cell or smart phone. Secure with in reach for easy access. There are a variety of Smart Phone Mounts available. Choose one that fits your phone and mounts either on your dash or windshield.

Keeping your vehicle organized and securing your Mobile Office Supplies creates a more safe and professional environment for you to work in and impress your customer.

AW Direct

(800) 243-3194

www.awdirect.com

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Saving $$$$$$

By Dan Messina DJ Harrington and Dan Messina

As a business owner, you are always thinking of ways to add revenue to your business. When I ran my business, there were only so many services we could offer to make money. In business, as in your personal life, there are two parts of the equation for financial survival. You can make more money by adding more services or getting a second job, or you can lower your expenses.

When I ran my towing company, my wife would point out all the expenses we had that did not relate to towing. Things for the office like supplies, cleaning stuff, paper products like toilet paper and paper towels, computer paper and ink and the list goes on. We immediately went out and got a Sam’s card for the business. The advantages with this card were that the store would open early for businesses, you could buy in bulk, and they gave me a line of credit. I can’t tell you how many thousands of dollars I save with this card.

As owners, you don’t have time to look for opportunities that can save you money. You have been buying from your friend down the street for years because that’s what everyone else does. If you want to survive in business today, you have to take advantage of every savings opportunity. That’s what www.djanddan.com provides for you. We research ways for you to save money, and then we show you how to spend it.

Here is what I want you all to do. Write down a monthly expense that you are making payments on. Then I want you to see when that expense will be paid off. What we are going to do is start buying things using a discount program and apply the savings to that expense. We will then determine how early we can pay off that expense using the money we save with our discounts. Once we pay off that expense, we then apply that monthly payment to another monthly expense and get it paid off. Our goal will be to get out of debt earlier than planned.

1. Sam’s Club
Look at what you can buy there that can be used for the business Things like office supplies, food, cleaning products, cloths, cleaning towels, tools. There are hundreds of products that Sam’s carries that you can use at the office. Remember the products you buy can be a tax deduction. I would purchase shirts for my employees and add my log to them; that was a cheap way to look good.

I had a dispatcher that worked a discount coupon program, and she came to work one day with 27 jars of peanut butter. She passed then out to other employees. When I asked her about the 27 jars of peanut butter, she said they were free through her discount program. She told me her discount program offers many other free products. By managing her household budget, she was able to save a lot of money.

2. Allied Business Network
Allied Business Network (ABN) is a collection of 165,481 businesses, entrepreneurs, small business owners and individuals located throughout the United States, Canada, and Europe. ABN has been providing discounts to businesses through group buying since 1997. Allied Business Network negotiates prices with national suppliers to get our members the best discounts available. ABN Members are able to save 5% to 85% on office supplies, car rentals, business forms, promotional products, computers and printers, flowers and gifts, office furniture, shipping, print & copy and more.

Once you become a member, you will receive an email welcome packet with special offers and coupons exclusively for ABN Members. ABN is constantly growing and adding new discounts to help small businesses succeed. As a member, you will receive up-to-date information and notifications about our current and future discount programs.

CorpMatch is an online business-to-business networking group created for the purpose of saving small businesses money. CorpMatch leverages the buying power of its 3,000 plus members (all businesses) and its expertise in negotiation to command discounts not normally available to small businesses. Because CorpMatch executives come from a small business background, CorpMatch understands the needs of and problems that challenge small business owners in today’s world.

With CorpMatch you will save both time and money in securing the goods and services that are essential to ensuring that your business runs smoothly and efficiently. CorpMatch is unique because through membership in CorpMatch you will not only be able to save money on your daily needs, but also have the opportunity to introduce your company’s products and services for sale to other CorpMatch members.

CorpMatch locates products from around the world, new and interesting products and innovative ideas that many companies may never be exposed to unless they happen to be walking down the right aisle at the right trade show. They also give you an opportunity to offer your products or services to other businesses. This can be a great way to market your business Associations are starting to offer these types of programs to its members. It’s a great way to get new members for your association while allowing them to save thousands of dollars each year.

Southwest Tow Operators, one of the largest towing associations in the country, worked out an agreement with CorpMatch that allows Southwest Tow Operators members the opportunity to take advantage of some great savings.

As an owner, you are usually too busy to look for opportunities like this, but, as a business owner, you can’t afford not to. Take a few minutes out of your week and Google business discounts. You will be amazed at all the discount programs available from companies such as:

  1. Staples
  2. Shell
  3. Liberty Mutual
  4. U.P.S.
  5. AT&T
  6. Aramart
  7. H. & R. Block
  8. Orlando Vacations
  9. Hotels.com
  10. PayChex
  11. T. Mobile
  12. Lenove
  13. Quicken
  14. Hertz
  15. Quick Books
  16. Stamps.com

There are hundreds more ready to offer you tremendous savings on their products. Try our exercise and select a monthly expense and then apply your savings through these programs and see how soon you can become get debt-free.

If you need help, www.djanddan.com can be of assistance.

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Surviving the Slow Periods

By Dan Messina DJ Harrington and Dan Messina

I was golfing with a friend of mine, and I asked the big question, “How is your business?” There was a pause and a change of tone in his voice, and he said it was his slow period and business was slow. I hear this a lot when I talk to towers. If things aren’t going well, they decide it’s their
slow period.

As the owner of a tow company, you should know when tows will slow down and adjust your business to make this time more productive. When I owned my company, I knew from Thanksgiving to Christmas would be slow. My customers did not want to tow doing this period. I had a contract near a university. I lost this business during the summer when school was out.

I knew what my bills were every month, and they did not change doing slow periods. I knew at the 1st of every month, the tow calculator went to zero and I needed x number of tows to pay my bills.

Here are a few ideas that can turn your slow times into your most productive times:

  • Review or Create a Business Plan – The most important thing you can do for your business is to have a business plan. If you have one, let’s modify it; if you don’t have one, let’s create one. This is simply just identifying what you want your business to look like. It’s important to write this down on paper. What type of services do you want to offer and what type of services do you offer today? This would be a good time for improving on the services you offer today.
  • Expand Your Business – Talk to your customers and see if there is anything new they are doing that you can help them with. Review your market and create new services that meet today’s needs.
  • Improve Customer Service – Remember, we are a service business. Let’s look for ways that we can improve our service. Look at your staff and see how they communicate with the customer, and find out if there is anything you can do to help them be a better company.
  • Market – This is something towers are not good at. If you read my article in last month’s magazine, you’ll see times are changing and we have to learn how to market better.
  • Cross Train – Use this time to teach your dispatchers what the driver is faced with when they go for a tow, and teach the drivers what the dispatchers are faced with when the drivers don’t have a good tow ticket.
  • Improve Your Skills – The business is changing and you have to do the same. Go buy a
    suit and go out and network and meet your customers. Djanddan.com offers great
    training for the business owner. It’s time to join.
  • Take a Vacation – A simple vacation gives you a chance to clear out the cobwebs and
    start fresh when you get back. You don’t have to spend a lot of money, just get away.
    (Go Fishing)
  • Get Organized – Clean up your shop or storage yard, clean up your staff and clean up the way you do things that create problems. Define a way to run your business and each job relating to the business.
  • Meet Your Customers – Go visit your best customers and sit down and have a coffee with them. Talk about things in the neighborhood or hobbies they are working on. Just go meet them.
  • Meet Past Customers – Visit the business you lost and see if there is anything you can do to get them back. If they left you for a specific reason and you fixed it, let them know. Ask them what it takes to get your business back.
  • Begin a Referral Program – Go out and thank the people that referred your business and try and have additional people start referring business to you. Come up with some type incentive for them.
  • Learn More About Your Competition – Find out if there are any new players you are competing with or look at your current competition and see what they are doing. Identify their best customers and find out why that customer uses them.
  • Learn More About Your Market – The market is changing; find out why. Identify what you will have to do in the future to compete and what changes will be necessary.
  • Thank Good Customers – When was the last time you talked to your best customers? If your competitor is talking to them more than you are, you will eventually lose them. Send them gifts or some way to say thank you for their business.
  • Modify Website – If you don’t have a website, get one. If you have one, make improvements to let your customers know you are changing with the times.
  • Network – Join organizations or associations in your market. Show them you are interested in the same things they are, such as the local chamber of commerce or other local businesses. Sponsor a little league team or some other school event.
  • Social Media – Start using social media, such as Facebook. This is the fastest way to tell people about your business.
  • Get Involved – Get involved in the community. These are the people you service.

You should never have a slow period in your business ever again. There will just be times when you are doing things other than towing a vehicle. Start implementing or doing things mentioned above and you will be surprised how your business will change. You are going to find that you will have to do things you are not used to doing, but you will be required to do these things if you want to stay in business.

If you want to stay in business, use your slow periods as grow periods. These times can be the most productive times for your business.

I know this sounds like a lot, but there are many resources at your fingertips to make it easy. Get all your employees involved to and let them offer suggestions on how to improve the company. They are in the trenches every day, so you will be surprised with the results. Remember, it all
starts with you. If you lead, they will follow.

If you need help, call us or go to www.dananddj.com.

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Towing: The Future

By Dan Messina DJ Harrington and Dan Messina For the past two years, I’ve been telling towers how the industry is changing. Social media now plays a big part of our everyday life, our customers have gotten smarter, and they expect a better service, but the biggest change taking place is companies bidding for city contracts. In the past, if you were bidding on contracts:

  1. Cities
  2. Counties
  3. Sheriff departments
  4. Toll ways
  5. Other municipal contracts

The tower would try and build a relationship with city officials, which were usually someone in law enforcement. It’s not in a tower’s DNA to build relationships with mayors or city council members. A tower would follow a simple procedure, and, if they met the qualifications, they would get in the rotation. Then things started to change. Single tow companies would try and get the entire contract, leaving many towers on the sidelines.

Here are a few examples of things I’ve seen in Texas. In one city, a company did not even have a tow truck and bid. They told the city that if they got the contract they would buy all new trucks. They won the contract and purchased the trucks necessary to provide the towing. There was a sales pitch made along the way that left many towers out of the rotation.

In another city, a group of towers formed a separate company, won the contract and would not leave other towers in because it was a private company…and yet in another city, they would pay the city for the right to tow. They set up requirements so that other towers could not meet them and be left out. Some tow companies were very successful and held these contracts for over 10 years, while many suffered because they did not know how to negotiate with higher city officials. Take a look at what is being done in your city. Do you think it’s fair? Now the bidding process is about to change again.

Outside business people are looking at the towing industry and seeing tremendous opportunities with city contracts. They look at where the expenses are in the towing business. It is usually the tow company that incurs most of the expense:  

  1. Buying trucks
  2. Providing insurance
  3. Paying damages
  4. Paying the drivers
  5. Paying for the fuel
  6. Other equipment as needed

While the revenue in towing comes with:

  1. Vehicle storage
  2. Preservation
  3. Letter writing
  4. Vehicle disposal
  5. Vehicle parts
  6. Other

Companies are coming into the industry that only want to provide storage and vehicle disposal while contracting local towers to provide the towing. They come in in three-piece suits and a suitcase full of money and start building relationships with city officials. This method is working and they have won contracts in some major cities. As their success grows, other companies will start taking the same approach.

As time goes on, tow companies will have one of three options going forward:

  1. They can buy a three-piece suit and learn how to build relationships with city officials. This approach will be hard for the average tower because, as I mentioned, it’s just not in their DNA.
  2. Get together with a group of other towers and bid contracts together. Once again, this will be hard for the average tower who hates his competitor.
  3. Build a relationship with the company that only wants the storage and vehicle disposal. They will need towers and that’s what you are good at. In many cases, you will be getting city rotation calls you never had before. This will be a new line of revenue you have never had.

For the past few months, I have listened to towers complain about these new companies and how
they will hurt the industry. These new companies are just trying to get into business just like any
other company. They attend tow shows to meet towers who someday might be working for them.
No one ever protested when a big tow company won a contract and eliminated the other towers.

I recently attended a tow show where a new company with a new approach put on a seminar and
tried to explain their approach. They did a terrible job explaining and the attendees showed no
mercy. They talked about what the consumer was being charged and how much the tower was
being paid. The tow ticket exceeded $550 and the tower made $78. The attendees were upset that
the storage company was making over $475 for the call. Here are a few points I would like to
make about that presentation:
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  1. The tower who did the tow was there and he was happy with his fee. He explained
    that since he partnered up with this new company, he has gone from 4 trucks to 12
    trucks. The people that were not happy were the tow companies that had 12 trucks
    and now have 4.
  2. This was a California tow. Everything in California is expensive and I’m sure the
    expenses could be justified.
  3. These new companies will not win every contract they bid on.
  4. No tow company reveals their bid information to other competitors, yet questions
    were asked on their business philosophy.
  5. I talked to some towers after the seminar and they want this company in their city.
    They wanted on the city rotation for years and could not get on.
  6. As for consumer protection, they try and get laws passed every session in Texas
    because towers are constantly gouging the consumer. Apparently, this is not
    something new.

About 3 years ago, I was bidding on a city contract with 10 other companies, and this new
company was one of the 10 bidding against me. Yes, they were the only one in suits at the
meeting. They submitted their bid just like I submitted mine. I just looked at them as another tow
company submitting a bid on a contract. The only difference was that, after the meeting, their
first stop was by my location to see if I would be interested in joining them if they won the
contract. No other bidder offered me a partnership. I now increased my chances to be a part of
the contract if I lost the bid. I’m sure they visited several other bidders, as well.

I know this article will not sit well with some towers because you may think I’m defending these
new companies. I’m simple letting towers know that the skyline of our industry is changing.
Protest tow shows if you think that’s the right thing to do, but I assure you that by the end of
2014, there will be at least three other companies with the same approach. If you need help,
www.danmessina.com can be of assistance.

As I was leaving the show, a good friend summed it up when he told me, “Don’t hate the
player, hate the game.”

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Burnout

DJ Harrington and Dan Messina
By Dan Messina

I was giving a seminar in Baltimore to about 70 business owners on the value of the employees that work for you. After the seminar, an owner approached me with a question. He stated that he hates to go to work and that he hates most of the employees that work for him and that the feeling was mutual. He asked what he should do. When you are a small business owner, the company starts and ends with you. However you act or feel, your employees will feel the same.  It was up to him to change how he felt, and the rest would take care of its self.

When I owned my business, I had many days when it was just not fun to go to work. I use to tell my managers that the stress from our business would kill me if I let it. I was fortunate enough to have a good wife and partner who I could count on to pick me up when I was down. Now I’m not telling you to go and get married, but I am telling you to find someone you can go to when you are down.  Not too long ago, I was consulting with a tow company near Houston. The owner was a female, and she was stressed because her competition was ganging up on her. She was at the point of tears and had no one to turn to who could help. Her husband was a driver, and it was hard for him to help her.

I could see that she was getting burned out and needed help, so the first thing I did was let her break down and cry. That relieved some of the stress and emotions creating the stress. The next thing we did was identify what she wanted her business to look like and created a plan to get her there. Once we had it on paper, it was easy to execute and measure what we were doing. In just three short months, her business was turned around, and her company was moving in the right direction. As you read this article, she continues to grow her company and become successful. I would like to say I made her successful, but all I offered was an ear to listen to her problems, and once she identified them, her and her husband corrected them and moved forward. She has a testimonial on our web site explaining how outside sources can be helpful because they are not close to the problems you encounter.

As an owner of a business, you will always feel stress. The problem is that stress causes burnout. When you let your work get to you, it will create relationship problems at home and at work. Your job will suffer, and therefore your company will not be successful. All of a sudden you create health problems for yourself, and all of this leads to being unhappy. What are the signs you are suffering from burnout?

Fire

  1. 1. As an owner of a company, when you hate to go to work
  2. When you start making wrong decisions that hurt the performance of the company
  3. When you start having problems with employees that you never had before
  4. When you start having problems at home with family members or friends
  5. When you get frustrated easily with the way things are going at work or at home
  6. When your job performance falls off, which becomes noticeable by the employees. This will affect the performance of the company.
  7. When you are not motivated anymore. The ideas to grow and compete aren’t there anymore.
  8. Look in the mirror. You stop taking care of yourself and it shows.

I do about 60 seminars a year, and I tell everyone the most important thing as a business owner is to “surround yourself with people smarter than you, and have fun.”  That’s what the young lady in Houston did. It’s not that I was smarter than her; she was just smart enough to bring in a third set of eyes and ears.

Burnout Fatigue

We recently held a two-day class in Dallas on running your business.  We advertised locally to get a few people to attend the class. I received a call from a company in Fort Worth. The owner said he and his wife were talking about how or what they could do to improve or change the way they were doing business. He saw my ad and signed up for the class. Once again, I point out you don’t have to do it alone; there are outside sources like www.djanddan.com who can help.

The last five years we owned the company, I enjoyed going to work. It was fun and a challenge, but it was encouraging to see my staff develop right before my very eyes. I sometimes would think that 35 people counted on me daily to support their families and pay their bills. Some people would let that stress them out, but I looked forward to it. If you follow those two things, you will avoid stress causing you to avoid burnout. Here are a few steps you can take to avoid burnout:

1. Identify what your responsibilities are daily.

Is there any one thing that could relate to your burnout? If so, give that responsibility to another employee or hire someone to perform that function. Believe me, there were things that I hated to do, but, fortunately for me, those were things my wife enjoyed doing. If there was something she did not like, we would turn it over to a manager.

2. Since you are the boss, go to another employee and discuss stress-related issues with them.

By rearranging a work schedule or reassigning certain responsibilities, I could fix the problem. I informed my employees on everything we were doing. Many times, they would come up with the answerers we needed to fix the problems.

3.  Change your work routine.

Do certain functions at different times of the day when you are more motivated to perform these functions. I was a morning person, so I would address any problems when my energy level was high. This produced the best results. Figure out the time of day you are at a high and make that time for addressing company issues.

4. Take breaks through the day. 

Take a walk or a ride.  If you have time, take a power nap for 20 minutes. Close your door and close your eyes. This could give you a fresh start. I worked for a major computer company, and my boss had a cot in his office. He napped every day. Not only was he a good boss, but we were very productive.

5. Monitor your sleeping hours.

To stay healthy, you need your rest. If you change your sleeping habits, change your eating habits, too. A proper diet and plenty of rest will keep you physically and mentally fit. I enjoy eating too much to help you here. I sleep good, but I love to eat. You are on your own on this one.

Vacation for Burnout

6. Take a vacation, even if it’s just a long weekend.

I can’t begin to tell you how good you will feel and you will learn a lot about your employees.  The owner always thinks the company will fall apart if they leave. Not true; in some cases, it could get better.  You will be surprised what your employees can do when you let them.

7. When you are not working, find a new interest. 

Play a sport or join a community group. Any outside activity not related to work will get your mind off of work. I took up golf.  I was not good, but it got me away from the office twice a week, and it allowed my employees to develop their skills. In the five years of doing this, I never had any major problems that my employees could not handle.

As an owner, you feel guilty when you take time off, but, believe me, it’s needed. Your company will benefit in your absence. You will feel better, your employees will become better employees, and you will avoid burnout.

Visit www.danmessina.com for more information.

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The Customer / The Service

DJ Harrington and Dan Messina

By Dan Messina

Over the years, the customer has gotten smarter and smarter. They are better educated at all things in life, including service. Today’s customer has experienced it and they like it. You can no longer ask them to choose between lower price or better service; they want both. Offering a good service can present several problems, but it also creates opportunities.

As an owner, we have a tendency to promise too much and then we don’t deliver. By underachieving, we make the customer mad, and rightfully so. It’s our fault because we raised their expectations too high and then they become unhappy when we don’t deliver. We want to learn to set expectations high, but make them realistic so we can deliver.

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Not only does the customer want good service, they also want it faster and easier. Most of our competition has the working capital to run their business, they offer the same types of service as you, and they buy technical products right off the shelf to support their business. Our only competitive source we have that’s different is our people and the service they provide. It’s no longer good enough to hire good smart people; you must now look for people with great attitudes, personalities, and have the “I love to work here” frame of mind. These people are out there or you can create them, and, when you do, work becomes a whole lot more fun.

When I sold my company, I had 36 employees and no one ever quit. I created a working environment that was fun for my employees and me. When you have this environment:

  1. Your employees are happy.
  2. Your employees are more productive.
  3. They have fewer damages that cost you money.
  4. Your customer is happy.
  5. Every employee becomes a sales person that grows your business.
  6. It made me happy and increased profits.

How can you create this environment? Several years ago, a study was done in Texas where they took 100 successful businesses and compared them to see what they had in common. Some were well educated, where others barely made it through high school. Some had a lot of money to start and others had to borrow, but they all had one thing in common; they had spent a lot of time with someone that was very successful. They had a mentor they could learn from. When you are in business, you cannot afford to stop learning. To be competitive, you must continue your education and stay on top of changes in your industry.

Here are a few things I learned that help make me successful:

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Ask the customer what they want and give it to them again and again.

When you create rules like answering the phone by the second ring or giving response time of less than 30 minutes, you assume you know what the customer wants.  The only way to find out what the customer wants is to ask them. Create a questionnaire that allows the customer to give you information like, was my price too high, too low, or am I competitive with others?  Was my response to your call acceptable? If you provide what the customer wants, you get fewer complaints.

Customers expect you to keep your word.

When you are a small business, your word is your company. Once you establish trust with your customers, you will have them forever.  I did not offer the cheapest service, but my customers loved me because they could believe whatever I told them.  I always underestimated and overachieved when the customer made a request. This made me look good to my customer. No matter what business you are in, it doesn’t matter what your price structure is; it’s all about service. Can you deliver what you are selling faster, easier, and more convenient than your competitor?

When the customer asks, the answer is always yes.

In order to be successful, it’s not always about money. After all, your price might be higher, so it becomes a service issue. Offer convenience. If the customer asks if you can do something, the answer is always yes. I would tell my sales staff if the customer wants a green suit, sell him a green suit, even though we only had blue suits. You will figure out how to make it work. When a customer asks you to do something not totally related to the business, your competition will say no because it’s a distraction to his business, but remember your business is taking care of a customer. Do the extra and don’t charge if you can help it. That’s how to keep customers.

Every employee that deals with the customer must have the authority to address complaints.

Customer service should be a function of every employee in your company. Every employee that talks to a customer should have the authority to handle a complaint. If a customer calls with a complaint, they don’t want to hear the answer that you have to talk to a manager. The customer calls and talks to that person every day, and the customer would love for that person to handle the complaint right away. Remember that the only competitive source you have over your competitor is your people, so let them work. The businesses that can save time for the customer will be the ones to succeed.

Treat your employees like your partners.

In order to get good people and keep them, you must pay them. You should want to pay them more than they could make somewhere else. You want people to take pride in their work, and a bigger pay check helps. Get in the habit of asking them how you can help them make more money. Good people make fewer mistakes and tend to be more productive and resourceful.  Your staff is your customer service.

Knowledge is power so measure everything.

It always amazes me how many people run their business day to day without knowing the details of their business. I knew who my best employees were because I measured everything they did.  I also knew who my worst employees were. This allowed me to set up training programs for them. I knew who my best customers were so I could take of them better. I also knew who my worst customers were so I did not spend as much money on them. I also knew the cost for every function and service I provided. This allowed me to change services when necessary. Let your employees do the work so you can monitor the results. When you know what your company is doing, you will be more successful.

Show people respect and be polite; it works.

This starts with you showing respect and being nice to your employees. When you do this to your employees, they pass it on to the customers. When a driver picks up a car, have them thank the customer for their business. When a person comes pay the bill, have your employee hand them a piece of chocolate candy. Candy creates a pleasant feeling just like when a hotel leaves a piece of chocolate on your pillow. When people notice the little things you do, they will be repeat customers. Remember, good employees give you a competitive advantage.

Find a good mentor, follow what they did, and improve on it when possible.

As I pointed out earlier, most successful people have a mentor that they could learn from. I did not have a mentor, but I joined a group of small business owners that met once a month and shared ideas and listened to each other’s problems. I paid $500 a month for this service, but, at the time, I felt it was worth it. This is why “djanddan.com” was created. This allows you to learn and share ideas, but, more importantly, have someone you can share your problems with, someone who has gone through the same things you face today. If we don’t have the answer, we can call on other members for help. It’s all about helping each other. Our objective as a company is to make everyone that is a member of “djanddan.com” successful.

Owning your own business can bring many problems and a lot of stress, but if you do it right, it can also be fun and rewarding. Keep in mind that your success depends on happy customers, and that begins with good customer service.

Visit www.danmessina.com for more information.

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