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12 Business Trends for Home Services Entrepreneurs in 2019

We asked experts, entrepreneurs, and influencers across industries and disciplines to tell us what’s on their radar going into the new year. Get ready to take notes.

In 2018 we saw the rise of the online marketplace: Facebook, Google, Amazon—the big tech players got into the game, which was predicted by contributors in our 2018 trends report.

This year we’re seeing that no one single issue is dominating the narrative for business owners in the home services. Our contributors in residential cleaning, the green industry, HVAC, pool service, contracting, window cleaning, pressure washing, accounting, consulting, and more, have all identified trends and priorities across a variety of areas.

An important common denominator this year is the need to take a 360 degree view to growing and differentiating your business. Everything ladders up to creating a memorable service experience for customers in a crowded landscape, and it pays to take a holistic approach.

The themes of having a strong online presence, building out a team you can trust, continuously adjusting your digital marketing, and looking for automation and efficiency opportunities aren’t new—they’re table stakes. And maybe that’s the overarching theme: 2019 is the year of getting back to basics, and ensuring your business is ready to crush the year on all fronts.

– Sam Pillar, CEO, Jobber

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1. Take time to plan for 2019—and beyond

One piece of advice that I want to share with you is to not just take a short term approach to the next year, but actually try to figure out where you want your business to be in three, five, maybe even ten years from now.

The reason I say that is because I think a lot of times as lawn care business owners, and I fall into this same trap, we’re very reactionary. Something happens, I had a bad day so I’m gonna make this change. My mower breaks, so I’m going to go buy a new one. Or a customer does this to me, so I take this action. And it’s very short term thinking—very reactionary to what happened today or what happened this week.

Have a vision of where you’re actually trying to take your business. Write it down on a piece of paper, record it on your computer, maybe even put it on your wall to say, “This is what my business will look like when it’s finished.”

What does a finished business look like? There may be different answers for different people. For you, a finished business may be filling up your route and you being a solo operator. But for others, it may be having ten crews working all different aspects of the lawn care industry. Whatever that looks like, you need a clear picture to say, “Now, what steps do I need to take to make that happen?”

– Jason Creel, Lawn Care Life

 

Set specific targets and goals. Targets start with the overall big number and then reverse engineer that target to fit into daily/weekly tasks and actions that are built to achieve the end number.

Take time to work on your business. This is called CEO time. Review your business objectively. How are your initiatives stacking up to what you expected? What adjustments do you need to make? Have a set ‘core’ agenda for this review process each week and stick to it.

– Brad Halliwell, Business Coach, Halliwell Business Coaching

 

Have a business plan and stick to it. I prefer five year plans. Five years gives you enough time to see results, but not too much time in case you need to make some changes. Keep it simple and refer to it regularly to stay on track. It’s too easy to get caught up in just chasing money, and then at the end of the year, you don’t have much left in your pocket.

– Naylor Taliaferro, Lawn Care Rookie

2. Make time for reflection as you grow your business and your team

I’m taking it back to the grass roots of the company, and figuring out what is the best way to do things and the best way to run things. It’s not because we did it wrong, but we think we can do it better.

We’ve been at this for 15 years now, and as you grow, you realize you have to have standardize. We’re asking: What is our purpose? What is our cause? Why do we do this? What does the customer want? How do they want to feel? Through estimation, to execution, to invoicing.

There’s going to be lots of reflection, and I know that will result in a better experience for everyone.

– Graham Audenart, President, Painters Enterprise

 

There’s a real paradigm shift that I believe is felt in any industry in any type of role whether you’re employing more seasonal or long-term employees: People are not willing to stay in places where their personal values don’t align with the company. Everyone is looking to make an impact.

The majority of us aren’t saving lives, but we can still have an impact. You can put a smile on someone’s face, and they’ll tell a friend at a dinner party that they had a great experience with your lawn care business.

The people you want to have as employees, who are going to help build your company, are searching for a way to make impact.

Think through the following questions:
1. Why am I asking people to be here?
2. What is our purpose as an organization?

You will win, you will scale, you will achieve revenue growth, if you take time to focus on the impact, the vision, and the culture of your business. Organizations who think those things are fluffy and don’t have a place in business will continue to operate at mediocre growth.

And customers have a higher expectations than they ever have. So why not have employees that meet those changing expectations?

– Danielle Strang, Head of People Operations, Jobber

3. Challenge yourself to develop an engaging social media presence

You’ve got to get ready for the digital age and social media, so my biggest purchase for 2019 is going to be a drone. There are now drones that allow you to do Facebook and Instagram Lives while on the job site.

This will allow me to capture beautiful images and video of the services we provide—we became successful by sharing the before and after aspect of our work—and I no longer have to hold the camera.

– Greg Brooks, CEO, Brooks Landscaping and Gleam Pressure Washing

 

In 2018, Facebook made the change to their algorithm to try and only show you things you want to see. That means even if your Facebook business page has a lot of followers, your reach may not be that great to your own following.

The only way your posts get seen is if the content is engaging—if it gets people liking, sharing, or commenting. Tools like our before and after image maker can help you create engaging ways to show off your work. The trick is to make content that you would also want to engage with.

The alternative is to pay the platform to get your content in front of people. This is a solid approach even when you’re trying to reach your current following. You will likely get the engagement you’re looking for, versus organically trying to reach them.

– Rafael Valdez, PPC Analyst, Jobber

4. Focus on building a memorable service experience for customers

Keep ‘humanizing’ your brand. Even though we deal with machines, they’re owned by people who care to know who is behind the skills. Sell EXPERIENCES; clients already expect a perfect service at an awesome price. You cannot compete by these alone anymore, so sell feelings but do your best to make sure they’re mostly positive.

– Luisa Vesga, Vmech Mechanical

 

Build a fan culture in your company. Every company has customers, but only the best companies have fans. The Forrester Research group recently did a study showing that companies that excel in creating exceptional customer experiences grow 5.1 times faster than those that don’t.

Building a fan culture means rethinking every customer facing decision starting with the question “Will my customer love this?” It may mean making major changes to your business systems, including billing, support and employee training. Is it worth it?

Oh yeah! Your team will be happier as you’ll empower them to create truly rewarding customer experiences. Your fans will become your single most powerful marketing channel, recommending your service to their network of friends. And you’ll be taking the steps to build a truly great company that is more profitable and able to endure market downturns.

– Lars Kristensen, CEO and co-founder, NiceJob

 

Recognizing and being able to communicate with your customers the way they wish to be communicated with is critical. The challenge is the range of age and adoption of the various methods of communications from homeowners, typically aged 30 to 70, is vast. Being able to communicate via phone, email, and text is essential.

And having methods of interacting with your company in a self-service process is a great way to provide increased service at low cost. As the old adage that came with self-service gas stations goes: sometimes the best service is no service.

– Shawn King, Owner, Florida Leak Locators

 

The way people are paying for anything and everything, including service, is changing. People want convenient ways to pay: Most millenials want to pay by credit card and everything is online and very easy. People are looking for a specific experience—and what that experience is may change depending on your customer base so you need to do your homework.

A good rule of thumb is to automate your payment process as much as possible, and make it really, really easy for your customers. Your turnaround time will be faster and your admin time will go down. Chasing payments is a lot of work that’s not adding any value to your business, and it’s probably frustrating both parties.

– Darren Wood, Director of Finance and Operations, Jobber

 

Business owners need to step back and take a look at their responsiveness. Customers expect their questions and problems to be solved immediately. If they want to: know the cost of your service, book an appointment, ask a question or buy something, it has to be instant.

Business owners can accomplish this through live chat on their website, being extremely responsive on social media, and having an automatic email response with FAQs and links so customers can solve their problems in the meantime, while they wait a few mins to hear back.

Service-based businesses need instant quote and appointment booking features and everything has to be easy to do on mobile phones. One tap on their phone to contact you is absolutely necessary.

– Katie Pearse, The Maid Mentor

 

The economy might be slowing down over the next year, which means that demand for home services might be lower and competition will be higher. Small business owners in the home services industry should continue to improve on providing the best customer experience they can.

If they’re not regularly getting feedback or reviews from their customers, they should take this opportunity to implement a feedback process, whether it’s a simple survey, phone call, or Google review. Also, take note of what their competitors are doing to see how they compare.

– Quan Ly, Partner, CPA, McRally LLP Chartered Accountants

5. Drop the hard-line sales tactics if you want to win people over

Stop taking orders for tree work, or stop the hard sell tactics and starting selling your service by educating your client on proper tree care. People are smart, and have greater awareness of the issues impacting them than ever before. If they own a property with trees, they know the value.

Most people go to their doctors office having Googled their symptoms and wanting precise answers for their ailment. The same can be said of tree care. Have a smart website, know your client needs, educate them about what you are offering, and don’t be an order-taker or a used car salesman.

Yes, you may be in the tree business, but you’re really in the customer satisfaction business. Under-promise and over-deliver. Leaving that pile of mulch, stack of firewood, or lawn that looks better than when you arrive always helps and costs little or nothing.

– Sachin Mohan, Vice President Corporate Relations & Marketing, Tree Care Industry Association

 

We find that most service companies give their prospects an ‘ultimatum’ when they give a quote. They don’t mean to, but what often happens is that a company will give out a single price for services that the potential customer views as a ‘take it or leave it price.’ The only way for them to get context on that pricing is to call a competitor in order to see how their pricing compares. In today’s research buying style that is typically done through email or a few text messages and ultimately the potential customer makes their decision once they have enough information that surely won’t be determined in an ‘ultimatum’ style quote.

The other type of quote that is very common in the service world is the ‘line item’ style pricing. This give the customer more information, but comes with a lot of other baggage. Often when a customer looks at a bunch of lines adding up to a single price, they feel in internal obligation to scrutinize each line and often will ask to cut a few lines off the estimate or in the end, maybe ask for a few of the line items to be “thrown in for free” so that the business can close the deal.

If you look at how customers are used to buying in today’s market, they like to choose from packages. Often this gives them all of the context they need to make a decision right away with enough options, but it also puts the emphasis on value being connected to price, rather than features to be haggled over. By laying out a ‘good, better, best’ option for customers to choose from, you’ll find that you’ll close more jobs at higher prices and your customers will thank you!

– Curt Kempton, Founder, Responsibid and Symphosize

 

Sales is pretty much 90 per cent building trust and removing as much risk as possible for buyers. A big part of that is transparency. So offering combustion analysis before and after your install proves to homeowners that their new equipment is hitting the targets that they’re buying into with higher efficiency.

If I’m telling a homeowner they should replace their furnace because it’s old and inefficient, I can produce a record proving what their old model is running at, and then when I install a new one I can do it again and show them how much it’s improved. Then they can calculate that against their utility bills.

– Don Snow, Halcyon Consulting

6. Never stop looking for automation and efficiency opportunities

For most service companies your single largest monthly expense is payroll. Automating business processes with software can provide huge employee savings, improve the quality of your service, automate your marketing, and greatly reduce your management time. And if someone asks you “Why don’t you just make a spreadsheet for that” feel free to quietly smirk on the inside.

– Lars Kristensen, CEO and co-founder, NiceJob

 

Automate your business as much as possible, and keep an eye on emerging technologies that help you do this. For a long time, powerful automation tools didn’t exist for small business owners—they were targeted at large businesses with big budgets.

Small businesses are now getting access to this tech for a fraction of the price, and in some ways it’s better than enterprise level tools. Look at accounting software: at the enterprise level it’s very expensive, always needs to be updated, and it’s hard to use, with a clunky user interface. QuickBooks Online is easy to use, always up to date—and available for a fraction of the price. Software companies are now developing new tools for small businesses first, then sending them up-market, so there is more software innovation than ever in the small business space.

These automation tools are not only going to help you reduce costs, maybe you can delay hiring an administrator or a bookkeeper, they should give you better visibility into your business so you can operate more strategically.

– Darren Wood, Director of Finance and Operations, Jobber

 

Spend the time to ensure that all your systems work well together. Are you doing a lot of manual busywork moving data back and forth? Instead, invest in tools such as Zapier or IFTTT to automate common tasks.

– Dana DiTomaso, President and Partner, Kick Point

 

Improve your time management. Use your calendars effectively. Block tasks and have specific time allocations to them. This way you don’t spend too much time with one item. Also, keeps you on pace to complete important tasks without missing anything. This is an important process that helps to control your workflow and keeps you organized. Here’s an example:

Monday
8:30am to 9:15am: CEO time
9:30am to 10:30am: prospecting calls
10:30am to 12:00pm: onsite
12:00pm to 1:00pm: lunch/flex time
1:00pm to 1:25pm: follow up with X project
1:25pm to 2:00pm: flex time
2:00pm to 2:30pm: marketing review
3:00pm to 4:00pm: sales meeting

– Brad Halliwell, Business Coach, Halliwell Business Coaching

 

If small home service business owners are still doing things manually or using a lot of paper, seriously consider going digital and use software built for their type of business. Their competitors are leveraging modern software to maximize performance and win customers, don’t get left behind.

Good software should be accessible from anywhere on any device, be simple to use, save you time, reduce risk, and is customer friendly (if there’s a customer touchpoint). Software like Jobber checks all of those boxes.

– Quan Ly, Partner, CPA, McRally LLP Chartered Accountants

 

Test everything. Test all of your marketing, test your advertisements, test the way you word their sales, test pricing—test everything to see what works. Split testing is hugely valuable, and I think a lot of people feel like they don’t have the time to do that. If you don’t split test, you’re not going to really understand what your market is dictating.

– Jersey, WCR Nation, Window Cleaning Resource

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7. Make it easy for potential customers to get in touch via Google

Look at your website analytics but always remember that they don’t tell the whole picture. Google continues to send less and less traffic to websites in favour of keeping people on Google as long as possible. Make sure your presence on Google (and other local directories such as Yelp!) looks great and is up-to-date.

You need to make it very easy for a searcher to understand what you do and how to contact you even if they never come to your website. Use Google Posts—not only do they show that your business is alive and well, but Posts also help improve your Google rankings. Make sure that all your social presences and your blog (if you have one) are updated regularly, or put a note on a platform you don’t have time to manage directing people to where you are active. It’s a turn-off to see neglected platforms or misinformation anywhere, and those points of friction are why people choose your competitors over you.

– Dana DiTomaso, President and Partner, Kick Point

 

Google is coming out with a tool that will become more widespread in 2019: local service ads.

At the very top of a results page it will show three or four plumbers in your area that you can book directly from Google without ever visiting the plumber’s website. Right now, you still have to click an ad, visit the website, and then find out how to book your service.

This feature is becoming available throughout the US and is likely on its way to Canada. Early adopters are paying $20 to $30 per lead, but this will go up and likely double as others adopt the service—so get on there before everyone else figures this out!

You also don’t need to worry about finding an agency to help with your Google Ads spend: it’s set it and forget it. It’s built with the entrepreneur in mind, eliminating Google Ads management time.

– Rafael Valdez, PPC Analyst, Jobber

8. Level up your hiring practices to attract the employees you want

As someone who was raised by entrepreneurs and is surrounded by small business owners, I can say that the biggest challenge business owners go through as they go from solopreneur to hiring their first employee is not spending enough time exploring trust.

If you don’t trust a person with your business why would you hire them? You won’t be able to delegate, so it’s a waste of time and money: You’re training them, but setting yourself up for failure.

You need to find someone who will run your business with the principles you’ve built, and you need to ensure they can deliver on the small things you currently do day-to-day. If it’s not clear what tasks you’ll be able to offload onto them in the next six months, then you shouldn’t be making that hire.

Think about the creative ways to break outside of a traditional recruiting process. We know how important our customers’ customers are for growing their business through word of mouth referrals, especially as online marketplaces create an even more competitive environment, so how can you test that you’ll be able to trust a candidate will deliver the level of service you’ve set? Get them to do a mock phone call with someone, to show you how they would approach a difficult scenario. Have them shadow you on a job, and invest time learning how they do things.

Ask yourself: can I trust this person with my business?

– Danielle Strang, Head of People Operations, Jobber

 

Employee issues are always the number one pain point for small business owners and it is only going to get worse for those unwilling to change. No longer is it enough to post a help wanted ad and hope for the best. Smart owners are shifting to head-hunting for top talent and focusing on building recruiting systems.

With unemployment at an all time low coupled with the fact that millennials are moving away from the trades, it is a perfect storm.

The owners who get ahead of this issue have a massive opportunity to build incredible teams of A-players but it will only happen by them taking serious the idea of head-hunting. Most great job candidates are already working somewhere else and it is the small business owners responsibility to lure them away with a better offer and a compelling company culture.

– Josh Latimer, Founder, SendJim and Automate Grow Sell

 

2019 will be the Year of the Employee. With unemployment rates at record lows, coupled with low inflation rates holding prices steady, companies are going to have to get creative in order to hire and retain the best employees.

First, companies need to review their job application process. Are you putting the recruit through unnecessary hoops just to schedule an interview? Is your application process completely online and mobile friendly? Are your interview appointments flexible to fit the needs of the applicant?

– Royce and Tamara Ard, Owners, My Amazing Maid

 

The skilled labor gap isn’t going to fix itself quickly, it will take years and years to resolve, if it ever does. It is important to look within your company at what methods of recruitment and retention you are currently using.

At the very least, come up with a mission and action plan for developing your workforce. This can include reaching out to schools, setting up your own training program, and incentives to work in your company. It is a daunting task, but once you get started much of the work falls in place.

– Greg Pilotti, Principal and Founder, Greg Pilotti Furniture Makers

9. Make sure you can be found where people are looking for you

The most important thing for small businesses when it comes to marketing is being found where people want to find you. You need to make sure you have your basics covered with: a Facebook page with the location info filled in, a Google My Business account with local information and service areas filled in, etc.

It’s getting harder and harder to be found and those are the basics. If you don’t have the basics covered, you don’t need to do anything else. Don’t hire anyone to do SEO on your site. Don’t hire anyone to paid ads. Start with the basics.

– Nick Keyko, Director of Marketing, Jobber

 

Social media marketing is going to be the biggest aspect to drive business growth as business owners get ready for 2019. It allows you to find isolated groups of customers to market to: Our customers are gathering themselves within Facebook groups, in online garage sale groups, on the Nextdoor app, on Instagram.

It’s now a lot easier and a lot less expensive than it used to be to get in front of and acquire new customers. Meet your customer where they’re already familiar with buying. Look for a group, look for a page to join. Maybe create your own group, so that you can isolate your customers, so that you can allow them to experience the major benefits of your business as you constantly, continually, upgrade your page with new photos and new digital content.

– Greg Brooks, CEO, Brooks Landscaping and Gleam Pressure Washing

 

In 2019, if you want your business to get noticed online, you’re going to have to work for it.

From an SEO perspective, competition for online real estate on search engines is going to increase. More of your competitors are moving online and they are getting savvier with digital marketing and their SEO efforts.

Additionally, ads take up a lot of space on the search engine results page and that won’t change. Do a quick Google Search for “[your industry] services in [your city]”—whether the search is on mobile or a computer you’ll immediately see how many search ads you’re competing against. With Google rolling out Local Service Ads to more markets in 2019 it may become harder for you to compete against paid ads.

So how do build an SEO strategy to make sure your business stands out? Focus on the fundamentals that have become so important in the last few years. If you haven’t already, claim your Google Business Listing! And once you’ve claimed your listing ensure you have a solid review strategy in place to help your listing stand out from the competition.

– Barret Hall, Senior Manager, Inbound Marketing, Jobber

10. Look into Facebook advertising and communication tools

Facebook continues to outpace any other ads platform in terms of revenue growth. For a long time, Google AdWords was the biggest digital advertising platform for every type of business, but when Facebook unleashed its new advertising platform it specifically started outpacing Google on mobile.

In particular, people are spending more on Facebook mobile ads than they are on Google mobile ads. Facebook will continue to dominate the mobile advertising space, and increasingly become an important channel for small businesses.

Looking at trends, I think more and more, people will be going to Facebook on their phones to find their next service provider making it a strong lead source for small businesses. That will bleed into you needing to be able to accept new work from Facebook.

– Nick Keyko, Director of Marketing, Jobber

 

Facebook Messenger is a relatively new platform to communicate with your customers and it’s just starting to really take off right now. Right now with Facebook and Instagram, the organic reach you can get from posting is slowing down. We’re even seeing that with paid advertising on Facebook because every business has jumped into digital advertising.

What’s super exciting about Facebook Messenger is that it’s a brand new platform. There is not a whole lot of competition on it right now and the return on the investment that we are receiving from it is incredible.

Email is still good, but what do the numbers look like on email? The open rate may be 20 to 30 per cent, then the click through rates may be one to eight per cent. We sent out a message on Facebook Messenger to our community for Black Friday. Almost 100 per cent of those people received and opened that message. The open rate on Facebook messenger messages for us is between 86 and 100 per cent.

Every time your email beeps, you usually don’t look at it. You know, there is so much junk in there and everything. But when that little bing goes off and that little red flag comes on in your Messenger—I always check it right away.

– Kevin Reynolds, Owner, Handmaid Cleaning

11. Keep in touch with old customers before spending on new ones

Email will continue to be a very important channel to stay in touch with past customers. If you’ve done work for someone in the past, don’t forget that re-engaging these customers is probably one of your cheapest channels for business. So don’t forget to reach out, especially if you’re a seasonal business, and email is a great way to do just that.

– Nick Keyko, Director of Marketing, Jobber

12. Be in tune with the homeowner’s appreciation for the environment

Today’s homeowner is a more discerning consumer of tree care and landscape services. They may not realize right away that one of the most expensive aspects of home maintenance is tree maintenance.

Today’s homeowner has a greater appreciation for their trees, in light of the shrinking urban forest canopy as well as headline social and environmental issues such as global warming, the California forest fires, water shortages and even the Emerald Ash borer epidemic. The GenX/GenY consumer tends to be more concerned with preserving the environment and their surroundings. Make sure you are a part of the Tree Care Industry Association, and always aware of the most current events.

– Sachin Mohan, Vice President Corporate Relations & Marketing, Tree Care Industry Association

 

There’s a growing recognition of the importance of outdoor space and connecting to the living landscape to our health and well-being—and a need to get kids off their devices and joysticks and reconnect to the outdoors.

A key trend that landscapers should keep in mind is their role in creating and managing these spaces for children, families, and pets. Nature starts at your back door.

– Kris Kiser, President, Outdoor Power Equipment Institute

 

This is not a sure thing, but we are very interested in Reverse Osmosis Technology. You would need to purchase an entire trailer equipped with Reverse Osmosis Filtration System. Instead of draining swimming pools completely you can run the entire body of water through the Reverse Osmosis system and then back to the swimming pool. This is a great way to conserve water, make safe, and you can do this any time of year. This is also another way to help your customers and business if your city or State goes through a drought.

– Greg Villafana and Tyler Rasmussen, Pool Chasers podcast

 

We’re partnering with The Compost Company to implement an all organic soil and mulch option for our clients. By utilizing products from The Compost Company, we’re helping to remove organic waste from landfills and eventually return it to the soil. We’re also going to explore implementing an accountability metric like the Green Business Bureau that will help us track the green changes we’re making. In our industry, we use a lot of different equipment and some of that equipment is not the friendliest for the environment. In lieu of sticking our head in the sand, we’re going to take a proactive realistic approach to what we can accomplish while still providing the excellent service our clients deserve.

– Brian and Kristy Boase, Owners, MIL-SPEC Landscaping

 

The market for green lawn care is becoming bigger and bigger in big city markets. I am looking to offer a greener service, meaning more battery equipment and smaller mowers. I would even say we will be looking at full organic lawn treatment programs. This is going to become a huge selling point with people becoming more environmentally conscious. I have also recently learned that a local town will be requiring residents to have an noise and emissions test done on their power equipment each year and issued a compliance sticker for the year. With cities and towns doing things like this battery is going to become more and more popular.

– Brad Lloyd, Owner, Your Way Lawn Care

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