On this episode Josh speaks with Corey Phillip from HomeProSuccess.com. They discuss delegation and marketing related to contractors and other service industry companies.
Corey is a founder of Gulf Coast Aluminum, a local exterior contracting company in Southwest Florida, and Author of the Home Pro Success Blog.
Fresh out of college, in 2012, he dove head first into the home service industry and started my company; a patio/screen enclosure construction company, with a long time friend. It was a rocky road, that he was able to gain traction on and since then the company has, and continues to, grow like a weed.
These days, Corey is out of the field and operations, focusing entirely on growing the company. In his experience, what most home service business entrepreneurs crave is the following: Building a thriving home service business that has a daily flood of inbound inquiries for the sales team, and a smooth running operations team to kick ass and complete everything the sales team sells.
In today’s episode you’ll learn:
- The biggest opportunity that contractors are not taking advantage off
- How important are systems and standards in the service business
- Facebook advertising strategy that works
- Tips to make creative ads to get quality leads
- How to grow your business
Narrator: Welcome to The Sustainable Business Radio Show podcast where you’ll learn not only how to create a sustainable business but you’ll also learn the secrets of creating extraordinary value within your business and your life. In The Sustainable Business, we focus on what it’s going to take for you to take your successful business and make it economically and personally successful. Your host, Josh Patrick, is going to help us through finding great thought leaders as well as providing insights he’s learned through his 40 years of owning, running, planning and thinking about what it takes to make a successful business sustainable.
Josh: Hey, how are you today? This is Josh Patrick. You’re at The Sustainable Business. My guest today is Corey Philip. Corey is the founder of Gulf Coast Aluminum. I love having people like Corey on my podcast. The reason why is, one, he actually owns a business so he’s going to be talking about stuff from personal experience – not theory. And, two, I love it when we have contractors or subcontractors on because it’s such an interesting industry that is really stuck in the 1940’s and he has moved it into the 21st century. Instead of me wandering on about why it’s so cool to have him on the show, let’s have him on the show.
Hey, Corey, how are you today?
Corey: Hey, Josh. Thanks for having me on the show here.
Josh: We were talking a little bit before we started. What do you see as the biggest opportunity that contractors and subcontractors have that they’re not taking advantage off?
Corey: Well, there’s two big opportunities. Number one is going to come in the terms of marketing and sales and getting businesses online and delivering content online that’s building trust so the customers know, like and trust you before you actually show up to do the bids because that’s just how the service contractor business model goes – meet with the customer in their home, do a bid. Taking advantage of online marketing so you can really build the trust, build the know, like and trust type of stuff before you get out there.
And then also, also the project management stuff behind the scenes using project management software to really keep your business lean and efficient. And also, having standards and systems and procedures in place to keep operations running smoothly. So many contractors and blue-collar businesses or really lacking in that area, from a management perspective, internally, behind the scenes.
Josh: Well, I’ll tell you what I find is that most small businesses actually have systems. There’s a problem though. Those systems are stuck in the head of the owner and the owner never decides to get those systems out for other people to use. That’s one problem. The second problem I found is that owners like to make it up as a rule and they tend not to like systems themselves, so they believe their employees don’t like systems either. And the truth is, employees love systems because they want to know what excellence is.
Corey: Absolutely. I totally agree with you. I’m guilty of it myself of keeping the systems inside of my head. And even, sometimes, when I create the systems and put them out there on paper or in digital format – whatever the format might be for the system, sticking to it myself is actually a problem. And, I guess, that’s part of why we all became entrepreneurs, isn’t it? Because we all wanted to do our own thing. And now it’s our turn to put the systems in place but we don’t even like what we put into place.
That is a challenge. It’s a challenge for every business owner because everyone knows you’ve got to put systems out there. And, yes, you can create the system but the real challenge is sticking to it with consistency after you put it in place.
Josh: There’s a bunch of business owners, and I happen to be one of them, who will have an appreciation for systems – know they need to use systems, hate to use systems themselves, and as a result, don’t follow the rules they set up. Unfortunately, when you do that, your employees see you as a liar.
Corey: Of course, yeah. You’re right on the money with that. I’m guilty of it. And I’m currently working around that and have been. I mean, it’s a constant struggle.
Initially, when I first started the company, there were no systems and we realized, “All right. We’re going to be running a three-ring circus for the rest of our lives.” And I say we, I’m talking about my 50% partner, long-time childhood friend that I grew up with. We started the business right out of college together.
What we realized, we’re going to be running a three-ring circus and we didn’t have systems, so for the first year or two, we were just running ourselves ragged, pulling our hair out type of thing. Then, we started getting serious about the systems. And then once we kind of had everything documented, and on paper, and laid out online with explainer videos and stuff, for the company, then it became a matter of following the systems ourselves and redirecting our employees back to the systems and we needed to use them as opposed to making exemptions which is what we basically just kind of mentioned here.
Josh: How many employees do you have?
Corey: We’re a little over 60 right now.
Josh: Okay, so you’ve got a really good size company. How many branch operations do you have?
Corey: Just two locations.
Josh: Okay. When you opened up the second location, did you find out that you had tons of challenges that came along with that?
Corey: To be honest, no I didn’t. That said, our second location is not radically far away. It’s 20 miles up the road. The market was still the same. We were able to pull resources from our other facility, if we needed them. But, by and large, by the time we got around to that second location, we knew what we needed to do and we knew who we needed to have on board to really pull it off. And it was already a market area that we had been tapping into. We had just been travelling further. And it was really just a matter of bringing the same resource closer to that area and getting more space because we were essentially out of space on our first location.
Josh: That’s great.
When I opened my second location, my company almost went out of business because I was such a bad manager and didn’t know how to do it right. You’re obviously better at that than I was so–
Corey: Well, I don’t want to take credit like that for it. You know, maybe there was a little bit of luck involved behind it. You know, a different business, different business model, different market. It worked for us. It wasn’t as difficult as getting the first one off the ground and running. That’s for sure.
Josh: Yeah. Well, I was lucky on my first one. But, at any rate, with 60 people, you have to some supervisors, I assume?
Josh: And you had to learn the art of delegation?
Josh: Can you talk about the road you went down a little bit when you were learning to delegate because, in my experience, that is one of the bottlenecks that keeps businesses from growing?
Corey: Yeah, it’s a tricky road to go down. Naturally, coming into this, I was a bit of a control freak. Maybe I still am a bit of a control freak. But I’ve uncertainly relaxed up a bit. My education was in accounting, so I have a very by-the-book, black-and-white type of perception on things. So, I come in and I basically just want everything done my way and I’m weak at explaining it, weak at delegating it. And then you eventually realize, “Okay, well, you have to delegate it. You have to explain it” and that gets out of your system.
I started getting that stuff out of my system and I’ve got other people in charge. But now, there’s a feedback loop. Sorry, if I’m not explaining this very clearly but I’m getting things out. I’m getting other people do stuff. And then it’s coming back to me where there’s kind of a weakness in delegation or a weakness in people seeing their responsibilities, and I’m getting the feedback loop from the customers. Customers are unhappy at this point.
And that was the real struggle because you’re putting it out there. I’m putting it out there for these managers, supervisors to handle problems. And they’re not handling them the way I feel they should be handled. So, now, I’m getting customer complaints that are coming around. We’re getting bad reviews and the stuff’s all coming back to me and I took these bad reviews personally. I still do take bad reviews personally although I know I shouldn’t, but I’m handling these personally.
And then, at that point, “What do I want to do?” Well, I want to go back to the system and basically kind of overstep it, or make exceptions, or say, “Well, my supervisor or my manager isn’t doing well.” Instead, what I realized I needed to do – and this sounds so clear-cut and obvious, but when you’re kind of in the pool, thrown into this mix, you don’t realize that you need to look at that stuff as critical feedback and take that feedback and implement changes to the system and the processes and the delegated responsibilities rather than just trying to overstep and handle it yourself. Does that make sense?
Josh: Oh, that makes a lot of sense. By the way, you did something that was really extraordinary and I want to recognize you for this. That is you didn’t quit. The biggest challenge that many businesses get to, at 10 or 15 employees, it’s time to start delegating at that time. You can’t do it all. And what happens is the delegation never works the first time you do it, the second time–
Josh: –the third time, or the fourth time. And what happens is most business owners say to themselves, “Delegation doesn’t work. I can’t do it.” What you did was you said, “Delegation doesn’t work. I’m making a mistake. We’re handling it differently so we have to look at how we go about delegating in a different manner.” There’s three places delegation fall down, I find a lot, one is, the person doesn’t trust the person they’re delegating to.
Josh: Two, they don’t tolerate mistakes when the person they’re delegating to makes a mistake and it’s inevitable that people make mistakes. And, three, which is really the key there is that many people who delegate don’t really delegate. They abdicate. Meaning, they delegate a project but they never inspect to make sure the project has been done properly.
Josh: When they go back and they expect it to be done properly, it’s not, and they blow a gasket.
Corey: You’re absolutely right on that stuff. And I will say that– well, I say this, it sounds like, you know, I was in it. I realized this didn’t happen and I changed but this went on for several months before I realized the problem in this whole delegation thing is myself.
Corey: It’s not like you know, “Okay. I see this happening. Poof, here we go.” This went on for several months before it finally hit me like, “Hey, I’m the problem in this whole thing. I need to take step back. Let things work and take the approach of a CEO or a manager and say, “Okay. How do I fix this by changing the system and not stepping in myself?”
Josh: Yes. Have you ever heard of a guy named W. Edward Deming?
Corey: I’ve heard of a Deming Cycle but I don’t believe that they’re affiliated.
Josh: They are, actually.
Josh: Deming was the guy who invented quality control. In World War II, he actually was the guy behind how we got our war machine running in the United States. After World War II, industry ignored him. He went to Japan, Toyota loved him. The Toyota production system actually is an outcry of Deming’s 14 points. And one of Deming’s 14 points was, you just said, was “Don’t blame the person. Look at the system.
Josh: When someone makes a mistake, it’s usually your system doesn’t support them properly to being good at fixing that issue.
Corey: Yup, that is what I found. That’s been my experience.”
And, you know, unfortunately, to all the business owners out there listening, no matter how many time you cure this and you think about you need to step out of the picture, it’s just never that easy. Admittedly, it is are really, really hard to say, “I need to take a step back and fix the system because I’m the problem.” It’s not that easy.
And I know that it comes off on so many business shows and podcasts and books and stuff that it’s like this obvious solution. But I know, in practicality, that just isn’t the way. So, if you’re struggling with it, don’t feel bad. Don’t get disheartened but do keep that in mind.
Josh: It’s one of the things I call “looking in the mirror.” When something goes wrong in your business, it’s a good idea to start looking in the mirror and see what you had done to cost that. One of my core values happens to be personal responsibility which sort of fits. I have lots of little sayings that go along that support personal responsibility but look in the mirror is one of my favorites.
I want to switch gears because, firs of all, you and your partner are extraordinary. At a very young age, you’ve figured this stuff out. You need to be congratulated for that. Building a business with 60 employees puts you in very, very rare air.
Corey: Thank you.
Josh: There’s like 2% or 3% of the businesses in the United States ever reach 60 employees.
Corey: Thank you.
Josh: It’s a really small group that you’re a member of. First of all, you need to be congratulated for that.
But you’re also doing some interesting stuff around marketing. So, can you talk about that a bit?
Corey: Yeah, marketing has been my forte. Of course, when you dive into business, you quickly realize that without any cash flow you have no business so you need to market and sell. I mean, just going back to kind of the academics, there’s always this, “What’s more important? The accounting and finance side of business or the sales and marketing?” Sales and marketing, by far, are more important because without that you have no cashflow to manage.
So, you dive into business, you obviously need to learn to market. We knew at the time, people were going to Google. At that point, I got into the whole website thing. Got a website up online for the company. Day one, essentially. I started trying to figure out how to get ourselves at the top of Google. Started running pay-per-click. And from there, it became a borderline obsession for a few years, figuring out how to drive and drive more business.
Lately, what I’ve been doing for the last couple of years and, do mind you, this is not the only thing we’re doing, but Facebook ads. Facebook ads have been a little bit of a goldmine for us. Very few contractors are on them. Very few contractors know how to use them effectively. A lot of people get on there. They’ll try running some ads and they’ll take something that’s like a print ad, put that on Facebook and quickly find out that it doesn’t work. And then, say, “Oh, Facebook ads don’t work. Nobody goes on Facebook to look for a contractor” and then give up.
So, Facebook in the trades is a wide open field at this point. That’s something we’re really exploiting.
Josh: I don’t know if you want to talk about this because you might be giving away your trade secrets. In Facebook, there’s a thing called targeting.
Josh: Targeting means, “who are your ads being shown to?” My bet is you’ve gotten very good at targeting for what you’re doing and where you are.
Corey: Absolutely, yeah. It has a lot to do with targeting. And then, also, creating ads that speak to the people you want to target. I’ll kind of go into it because you can actually go on to Facebook and now Facebooks Ads public so there’s not much very private about Facebook ads anymore so you could go on there and look at them.
But coming from the audience perspective, you used to be able to target homeowners by home value, household income and all that stuff. And in the last few months, I think it was in July, Facebook removed all those targeting options. So now, as a service business owner, there’s really only two ways that you can reach a good audience on Facebook. Number one is by zip code or geographic radius, so going right down to a neighborhood.
Let’s say you want to reach a community of 2000 homes, a gated community, which we have tons of in Southwest Florida. You can literally drop a pin, target that whole radius and flood them with your ads. That’s one way of doing it.
The other thing, if you want to cover a much bigger area is to take your actual customer list, if you’ve got more than 500 people. I say you need 500 because that would give Facebook a good enough data sample to work with. You can take that, make a look-alike audience from that. So, Facebook’s going to take your customer list. Match it to the closest 1% or 2% or higher, whatever percentile you set in Facebook ads, find the closest match relative to the US of that look-alike audience. Then, you can advertise to that look-alike audience that’s in your area. Facebook’s going to get in there and identify all their characteristics and traits that are similar, and then find other people like them. And they’re going to use demographics that you don’t have access to, selecting inside the ads management platform.
So, going those two routes. We do both of them. If there’s one small community that we really want to push a certain service – and we do have certain services that work well in very select communities. They tend to be popular within these little gated communities. It’s kind of odd how that happens. They’re like their own demographic region but we have certain services we’ll push to one community with a radius and just hit everybody in there. And then other services go out to a much bigger audience of 100,000 to 200,000 people that match the look-alike audience. So, we’ll go both directions with that.
Josh: What do you actually put in your ads that work?
Corey: That’s a good question. Everybody wants to know that.
Here’s the thing, a lot of people go out there and they want to take the concepts from pay-per-click ads or print ads and put them out there and say, “Hey, we’re a contractor. We do this, this, and this. Call today to get your quote.” Or will say, “Sign up to get your plumbing tune up or AC tune up for $50.” Something like that.
The thing is you’ve got to consider those type of ads work for people that are already in need of your service. What you need to start out with, on Facebook, is start out with content-based ads. If you look at our ads on Facebook, mind you, this is a multilevel funnel but what we’re doing is coming out first with content – value-added content.
We’ll run either a well-written blogpost that’s designed to hit pain points. So, it be a blogpost that looks like content that is shared. So, it just looks like a blogpost running through your feed. You don’t see anything that’s a direct call to action in the ad. You don’t see anything that is saying “buy from me, buy from me, buy from me.” You don’t see anything about get quote. It just looks like a general informative blogpost. We usually run these about the types of materials that we can use on these projects and use that to identify who is in the awareness phase. And we’ll also run videos. Videos are really good. They’re very low cost. It’s cheaper to get somebody to watch 10 seconds of your video than it is to get them to click your link to your blogpost.
Or, we’ll do what is called a lead magnet. We’ll take what is essentially blogpost content, pull this together into some type of e-book or pdf guide and capture their name and email. Based on how they react to these first lines of advertisement, whether they watch half the video, whether they click on the link, whether they opt-in for the lead magnet, then we come back to them with something that’s intended to capture an actual lead but saying, “Get a quote.” So, we’re not coming out to a cold audience with these estimate request dialogues. The first ad that you see from us has nothing to do with getting an estimate. It just looks like pure value and it is pure value. It does provide a lot of informational content that nobody else is sharing.
Josh: That makes a lot of sense because that’s exactly what best practices are when it comes to rolling somebody to go from “I don’t know you” to “I trust you and I want to learn more.”
Josh: Or, at least, “I trust you little bit and I want to learn more” which is when they show up to your website.
Josh: Then, when they finally do call for a quote, they’ve probably spent an hour or two looking at what you do already so you don’t have to really introduce who you are. You just have to help them find out what their pain point is and how you have a solution that fixes that which is really, really good marketing. And really good marketing moves into really easily done sales.
Corey: Exactly. Our whole objective behind a lot of this content is to make the customer know, like and trust us before we show up out there. By the time we actually show up to do our estimate, our goal is to get them to say, “Hey, Corey, I feel like I already know you. I’ve been reading your blogpost. I’ve read the content you’re emailing me. I’ve read your bio on the website. Let’s get this project done.”
And if they don’t know us by name, if they refer to us as “that guy”. I say this a lot. I’m very passionate about this. If they refer to us as “that guy” and that kind of comes up a lot on the trades, “the screen guy”, “the window guy”, “the AC guy”. If they’re referring to us by that, we have not done our job well as marketers and salespeople.
Mind you, all my salespeople do have the resources to publish and create their own content, their own branded content. So, it works two-fold, they’re on the sales and marketing side. But if you get up to the door and they say– you know, if Jane answers the door and says, “John, the screen guy is here.” We’ve totally failed at that. My salespeople know that they’re fighting an uphill battle at that point and they should not be in that situation.
Josh: That’s great. Corey, we have time for one more question. This is actually a relatively big question which is, my experience with Facebook is it takes a long time before we figure out how to make it work. Was that true for you? And, if so, talk about the process that got you from the first time you used Facebook to where it’s working for you right now.
Corey: That was a long, long process. It started about three years ago. I knew everyone was going to Facebook. Everyone is on Facebook, by and large. The vast majority of the US population is on there, so we know everyone’s hanging around and there. We know that the costs are low.
I wanted to get my hands on this and I did what everybody else does. What so many other contractors do, just running these ads that say, “Here’s what we offer, free estimate, call now, or go to our landing page and fill out your information. We’ll give you an estimate.” We’ve run that stuff. It doesn’t work. It doesn’t work.
So, I just started thinking about what was working. And I know that our blogpost that we have out there worked. When people read those, they would call in and they would tell us they read them and they wanted to get an estimate for such and such. Or, they would say, “Well, I want an estimate for such and such but I’ve read your blog post and maybe that isn’t the right thing, can you clarify?”
I knew that people were reading these blogposts. So, rather than trying to get people just to us to contact us, I was like, “Well, it’s not a ton of money, we’ll just start running these blogposts as ads because it’s already proven from people to find us on Google that they will come back to us by reading these. We started running those as ads. And then, I kind of got into optimizing the blogpost and promoting more of a direct call to action at the end, so after they read and absorbed the content, it was a little bit more of a directive.
And that started working. And then I got into the habit of re-marketing. Well, they read it, they spent some time on the page, they’re probably interested. What can we do to get them to take action? And from there, the next logical sequence was, “Let’s just try serving them some direct lead capture ads to see if they’ll come through to us.” And that didn’t work. And that ultimately lead to where we are now.
Josh: By the way, your journey on Facebook is probably a very typical journey. I just want to say to people who are listening that if we’re going to use Facebook as a way to create business, and if you happen to be in the trades, there is not a better way to do it because all your customers are on Facebook.
It’s going to take you some time. It’s going to cost you some money. You’re going to have to do some trial and error along the way, it’s what I call fail fast, fail cheap sort of activity.
Getting started in Facebook, if you do it properly, is not very expensive. The first thing you should be doing is putting what’s called a Facebook pixel so talk to your web designer on your website. And you need to be driving people to that website because when you use that look-like audience, it’s cheap.
Corey: Absolutely. You’re right on the money with all that stuff.
And I’ll further as something that people can do to quickly get started or to take their Facebook ads in the right direction. You want to make your ads organic. A lot of people try to outsource their advertisement and– well, I know that outsourcing is quite popular. It can be effective. With Facebook ads, an outsourced agency cannot create the types of content that you need to create that’s going to work. The types of content that you need to create and publish on Facebook is stuff that you know about – your trade knowledge. Show the inner workings of your business. Show the people behind the business. You just can’t outsource that stuff.
Unfortunately, if you want to outsource and I don’t have a good solution, you really need to get your hands in there, get your hands dirty and learn the Facebook ad type of stuff because your best content, the best marketing material is just going to be the simple stuff that you create yourself. One of my best videos is one of the very first ones we’ve done. I’m out on a jobsite holding my iPhone5 in front of me, like this. There’s machinery and equipment going off behind me. All kinds of noise. There’s no microphone hooked up but I’m just saying, “Hey, I’m Corey with Gulf Coast Aluminum. We’re out here on a project site today. Let’s check this out. Over here, we’ve got this going on. This is what we’re doing. We’d estimate this generally costs about $5000 blah, blah, blah.” And the camera phone is shaky. There’s noise in the background. This is not a professional video, by any means, and that worked.
Josh: Corey, we are unfortunately out of time. In fact, we’re over time. I’m going to bet people are going to want to figure out how to find you. How do they do that?
Corey: Absolutely, go to my blog which is homeprosuccess.com. From there, there’s two easy ways you can contact me. If you own a trades service business or manage one, you can join our Facebook group. If not, you can go on to the resource page and there’s a little form on there where you can basically just send me an email and I’m happy to answer those emails and respond to any questions or inquiries you guys might have.
I also have an offer for you. I wrote my first book this year. It’s a fictional piece but it’s about a business family that needs some help. The name of the book is Sustainable: A Fable About Creating a Personally and Economically Sustainable Business. You can get It on Amazon, in either print or Kindle version. But if you go to my website, www.sustainablethebook.com, you’ll also get a free 20-minute strategy session with me and we also have a 37-page e-book I wrote which is how to implement all the stuff I talk about in Sustainable. By the way, much of what this podcast episode was today is covered in the book so pick up your copy. Read it. Leave a review at Amazon because we always appreciate it.
This is Josh Patrick. You’re with Corey Philip. We’re at the Sustainable Business. I hope to see you back here really soon.
Narrator: You’ve been listening to The Sustainable Business podcast where we ask the question, “What would it take for your business to still be around a hundred years from now?” If you like what you’ve heard and want more information, please contact Josh Patrick at 802-846-1264 ext 2, or visit us on our website at www.askjoshpatrick.com, or you can send Josh an email at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Thanks for listening. We hope to see you at The Sustainable Business in the near future.