The Sharpest Tool™

Dan Dowdy and Tim Flynn | What Your Marketing Should Look Like During an Election Year

Dan Dowdy, Founder of Built for the Trades, and Tim Flynn, Owner of Winters Home Services, are two powerhouses in the home services industry. In this episode, they share how to conquer seasonality during the election year, battle complacency, and make strategic decisions.

Josh Smith (00:00):

Hello everyone. This is Josh Smith, host of the sharpest tool podcast. Today, we're going to be airing an episode that was recorded before the coronavirus pandemic. It's fantastic information to support you home service businesses. So I hope you enjoy it. Hello and welcome back to the sharpest tool. My name is Josh and we're back in the booth here with Timothy Flynn and Dan Dowdy for one of our three way conversations and the booth. So Dan, Tim welcome. Well, thanks for having us. Yeah, you bet. Why don't we do a few introductions just for those who aren't familiar with, who you are. Tim wants to go first.

Tim Flynn (00:36):

Josh. My name is Timothy Flynn. I own winter web services and beautiful Cambridge, Massachusetts. I've been in the plumbing business for 25 years, 25

Josh Smith (00:45):

Years. I love it. When you say Cambridge mass, do you like

Tim Flynn (00:47):

Abbreviate? Well, no one can really say Massachusetts. So I just say mass,

Josh Smith (00:51):

Ah, ma and then his accent gets real thick and he goes down from Cambridge mosque, uh, ma

Tim Flynn (00:57):


Josh Smith (00:57):

Moss. It's awesome. Dan, how about yourself?

Dan Dowdy (01:00):

Yeah, so Dan Dalley, Austin, Texas 20 years in the tray, master plumber and owner of built for the trades

Josh Smith (01:06):

Built for the trades and described, built for the trades is fairly new, correct? Yeah, fairly

Dan Dowdy (01:09):

New. So we do a coaching and mastermind groups. Awesome.

Josh Smith (01:12):

Incredible. Well, there's some kind of cool things going on this year that I think it's worth talking about diving into, and I'd love to get to expert business owners such as yourselves and get your opinions on this or on the process of going into an election year. And this does interesting things for our industry in terms of how business operates. And there's probably some things that we need to be aware of as business owners. So how do you find election years impact business overall in this industry?

Tim Flynn (01:37):

Every time I've seen an election and I've seen a few of them, we always experienced a dip in business and maybe there are some other fortunate companies out there that never experienced the dip, but I know that I have and what the dip is, is lack of phone calls, lack of bed. It doesn't matter what party gets elected to the office. It's not a political statement. It's just more like a fact that we go into a slower season. And so one of the things that I always wanted to introduce to people was always work as if you're in a deficit, always work as if you're in a recession, right. Call by call.

Dan Dowdy (02:09):

Yeah. Yeah. I think it really CHAM brings up a great point because a lot of times as business owners, we're very reactive and not really proactive. And what he's talking about is a great way to start being proactive and start maximizing every call that comes in, like it is your last call and there's also some other ways that you can really start preparing for it. And I think a lot of that has to do with maintenance contracts and things like that, you know, and really, I guess Tim was going to dive in a little more into that.

Tim Flynn (02:35):

So yeah. You know, I wanted to talk a little bit about when's the last time any of our managers spent a long time working on the inside sales, inside staff. How we answer a phone, how well we convert, how well we are asking the right questions and making a list of what those right questions are. And basically working off a checklist, most professionals work off of checklists. Every time I've gone a hospital, we work off a checklist. We the name, the date of birth, social security number, right. All that good stuff. Call by call management, answering the phone as it comes in and making sure that every call that you take in is money.

Josh Smith (03:10):

Yeah. Well, I'm just curious. Why do you think, and why do you see a deficit in election years? Is it consumer confidence? I mean, home problems don't stop. So why does it seem that business slows?

Dan Dowdy (03:22):

Yeah, really. I think it's just the lack of wanting to spend money on frivolous projects. You know, you're right. When things break, they have to call a professional to come out and fix it, but they're not looking at other ways to spend money and invest whether they're doing remodels or new home builds or all these different things. And so really, I think people just get a little tighter with their money because they're unsure of what the economy is going to do. I think we'd have to,

Tim Flynn (03:44):

I agree to that. There's so many demand calls per day, right? So if we're going to use a fictitious number, if there's a thousand demand calls a day, those demand calls get split up over, let's say 30 competitors. It's when you have the calls for the add ons, the nice things, adding air conditioning, adding a mini split, adding something that is not so much a need for now, or need to get fixed today. Cause emergency still do happen. But those are going to get eaten up by all the competition that are also trying to answer their phones in a deficit. Yeah.

Josh Smith (04:16):

Yeah. Good point. So what tactics have you used in the past to kind of alleviate that you have a lot of the demand calls, which are typically the lower ticket items, right. Just getting some service calls in, but then you want the installs for the HVAC side. You want, you know, the sewer digs and the re-pipe projects, which are typically bigger dollar projects. Do you find those typically to be the things that slow down and stop and how do you get around that to make sure you're continuing to grow the business?

Dan Dowdy (04:42):

I think it really starts with training. I mean, not only your technicians, but also your customer service reps and really not being complacent, you know, right now in a good economy, we can all be complacent. We can all just be order-takers. We can be successful despite ourselves, but if we continue doing that and that continues to be a trend when the economy slows down, all of a sudden the order taking becomes actually having to sell something and actually having to earn what you're making. And so I think it starts right now with training your team and it really starts with your frontline. A lot of times we see in companies that, oh yeah, I do training. And then you realize that they do like three technician trainings a week, but they do zero CSR training. And so it's realizing the importance, like Tim said, have a good checklist, a good scripting, and being able to role play with your CSRs and train them on how you want them to interact with the customers is first and foremost, very important because it sets up your technician for success. You know, if a customer feels that confidence coming from the CSR, from, from the star of the phone call to it, when the technician arrives, then they already have a leg up and building value with that customer. But if they're untrained and they're unprofessional, then obviously it does the opposite for the technician.

Tim Flynn (05:51):

I think another thing too is just a little, kind of a free advice. Free tip Danny. If I asked how many phone lines you have going into your office, how many would you guess that you had?

Dan Dowdy (06:02):

Uh, I would say probably 10 to 15

Tim Flynn (06:06):

[inaudible]. And do you ever check your phone number to see if there's any dead numbers like numbers that just don't work?

Dan Dowdy (06:12):

We do. Yeah, but I've definitely done that. And anytime the phone, the slowdown, that's usually the first thing we do is check all of our phones.

Tim Flynn (06:17):

I started calling my own number just to make sure people are answering the phone. Like, are you really picking up the phone on time? You know, the, by the third ring or whatever, but I've found some deadlines, some dead numbers and I'm like, whoa, what happened? Why didn't someone didn't pay the bill, didn't get something to happen. Right. So that can have,

Dan Dowdy (06:33):

Yeah. And a lot of times as business owners, we get that whole trust and not verify thing. And it's interesting how it goes when the times are good. Right. And the money's rolling in it. W what'd I say money hides all sins, right? It really does. You like, man business is going good. I'm not really going to check up on the office. I'm going to go vacation a little more. Next thing, another economy slows down and you really start exposing what you've built, which comes pretty, you know? So I think we've all, we've all made that mistake. So he's right. You know, going through and spending some time with some quality checks, being able to listen to the calls and see what your CSRs and what your technicians are doing out there is important.

Josh Smith (07:12):

Dan offline, we were talking about, actually, we were talking about it in a, in your podcast episode where we were talking a lot about communication, right? Communication from a leadership level down in election year when we have these, you know, seasonal shifts, supposedly with business fluctuation and everything. How do you go about communicating that up and down the channels of the organization? Obviously both of you have pretty healthy org charts, you know, in your respective organizations, how have you, uh, historically kind of gone about that to make sure everybody's aligned and moving in the same direction.

Dan Dowdy (07:43):

I think first and foremost is, is your optimism. And what's taking place, you know, when times do get slow, it isn't important to be optimistic and to be, and to be proactively thinking on what can we do, why it's slow. And typically we can talk about maintenance and equipment, cleaning up, shop doing all these different things, spending time with your family and enjoying it. And knowing that it's going to pick back up, but as far as chain of communication and what you're doing, I think that's really important, especially as your business grows is as a business owner, when things slow down and you start seeing all the flaws in your business, you just don't want to jump back in and start directing your customer service rep or your technician and going around your management team that you've built. You really have to make sure that you stick with your chain of command. You're empowering your leaders and you know, your managers and your company, to be able to push what it is you're wanting to get through to your team and not around them and decentralized

Josh Smith (08:35):

Command. Right? Exactly.

Tim Flynn (08:37):

You really gotta trust your managers. You gotta be effective through your managers and, you know, create some games that are fun. So it's not so daunting of a task to say that, oh, we're slow. We need to make every call counts or whatever, make a game out of it, man. Just have some fun with it and relax. And you're going to be fine, right. The end of the day. Yeah. Maybe a little bit slow, but you're going to be fine. Yeah.

Josh Smith (08:58):

Okay. Yeah. How does marketing play into this? Obviously we deal with seasonality annually and it's a little bit compounded in an election year where we see as necessary, slow in business. And I know a first instinct for a lot of business owners could be to reach for the pocket book and dial up some sort of marketing. Is that the solution that business owner

Tim Flynn (09:14):

Can I call Kate? That's it just call Kate? Kate does all the things, everything,

Dan Dowdy (09:21):

You know, it really goes back to not being complacent. It goes back to trusting, but verifying, you know, if you're working with a marketing company out there and you're not talking to them, at least sometimes a weekly, but at least monthly and staying up the day. A lot of times you can get burned. You know, you can feel like you're getting burned because you're trusting so much when the times are good. And then you start diving in and realizing that your websites and accurate and that your search words, you're going for inaccurate accurate. And like, I don't even do septic pumping, but I keep getting these stuff that calls, right. So it's continually having a relationship with somebody that you do trust in the marketing world. And you're not only just trusting them, you're looking at the metrics and you're diving in, and that can be very daunting for a master plumber or somebody who's a master HVC person who just started a company has no idea when they started it. The phone book was the thing, right. It was a lot easier. It's being able to be open-minded with diving into those metrics and knowing what you're looking at and that takes time. And that takes working with the right company that you trust. Yeah.

Tim Flynn (10:18):

Well, I think you need more, more and more communication. More top. Yeah. You know, we were offered dinner last night and I was talking with Kate and uh, I think I talked to her maybe once a day text message probably right. Went back through the text messages we wrote as hundreds. Yeah. And we talk every day, every other day. Yep. I've had more conversations with Kate about spending less because we have too many calls lately. There are times that I call Kate and I said, I need to spend more so bid up. So I need to be busier. Right. And that's not an instant thing. Right. So you got, gotta be looking at your three-day forecast. You gotta be looking at your marketing. You have to be talking to everybody constantly. Right. Your managers, your people, and put a smile on your face, especially in the downtime. Yeah. Because if you walk around with a big poster on your face, that's exactly what you're going to get. Right. One of the CEOs say, if you're the reflection of your people, right. So if you're walking around all off at the world, that people are going to follow suit

Josh Smith (11:09):

And Kate's our marketing manager, correct. Just for our

Tim Flynn (11:11):

Lists, this Kate Fitzgerald. And she doesn't accept any new customers. So for anybody listening, you guys are out.

Dan Dowdy (11:19):

Yeah. And I really think it comes down to your focus, to, you know, having a good marketing strategy and knowing who you're going after, what your demographic, what your geographic. Yeah. All the way really down to what your psychographics, like, what do you offer the other people don't offer only and what makes you different? I think sharing that with your marketing companies important and dialing in that focus, but also realizing that with the, the world of internet marketing, there's other ways that you still have to balance yourself to be, not have all your eggs in one basket. So to say to where every door direct mail may still be a thing and it's still works pretty well. Door hangers, maybe there'll be, things still works pretty well.

Tim Flynn (11:54):

I used to use, do you ever see those post-it notes that the FedEx would leave? I used to have pull off post-it notes and I had the guy just stick them to the windows, the doors. It would have like a Texas tankless water heater offer $30 or $40 off any call and then like a drain offer. Something like those. So a three offers on a post-it note, I stole that idea from somebody, but it looks like you received a package and then it's like my, my post. It

Dan Dowdy (12:20):

That's awesome. And you know, even if the customer just tosses it out, you're still branding yourself. You still have your logo there. You still have your colors. It's all about that. And then you started diving in the social media. It's all about that too. It's all about, you know, what are we doing to serve? What are we doing to educate what are we doing to brand ourselves more so than it is? What are we doing to sell, especially when it talks about social media. So if you're out there listening, you're thinking, what do I do in the downtimes? Well, you have to diversify your marketing a little bit and you can do that very inexpensively. Totally.

Josh Smith (12:48):

Yeah. You know, one of the things that I find really fascinating, actually, obviously as a business owner, you have to toe the line with a lot of different areas of your company. Different aspects of your marketing of business ownership is this leadership, financial, there's so many things that are vying for your time. And often what I find is a decision gets made. I was actually having a conversation with a business owner yesterday, plumbing and HVAC company, and a decision gets made because of the current problem. But then it's not made in the context of the whole of the business. So just to put it as an example, this company hired four new plumbers, but didn't do anything about the lead volume they hired for the current problem, which was they had too much work. So they needed to deal with the work. But two months later after they hire these new plumbers, they don't have enough work to associate all the plumbers and everything. What are some ways that you found to kind of discipline yourself to think with all of those things in mind? Is it a matter of having somebody like Kate? You know, who's a mastermind of that to kind of throw those ideas in there. Is it a mastermind group? Is it a leadership group within the organization? What are some ways that you've found success with that?

Dan Dowdy (13:52):

It's kind of a little bit of everything. Well, first of all, it's communicating well with your marketing company and being able to share that vision of what you're doing is important. The cool thing is, is that you took action and you hire the technicians, but in return you need to be planning on what does a new marketing budget look like and being proactive in that realm, mastermind groups are great because you can be around other home service business owners who can share their experiences with you and helping encourage you. And a lot of times that goes a long ways, especially in the planning phase. Yeah.

Tim Flynn (14:21):

I was talking with PMG, Paul, Michael Gordon today. And you know, I spend about five to 10 minutes every morning, just meditating. Right. So I know that I've just hired a new drain tech in my company. And so I relay information to Kate about that. I need to create a new budget for the drain department. I need to create more calls for the drain department. If you're not asking yourself in the morning, if I do this, what happens next? And if you're working inside of a vacuum, right, you're never going to get the answer cause you just talking to yourself. Yeah. But if I rolled a question off of you appear, you know, all the meetings that you could have with a mastermind groups, if you're an owner that isn't in a mastermind group asking questions, Hey, guess what? I just hired four new technicians and somebody in the group goes, Hey, dummy, did you, uh, advertise a little bit heavier because you're going to feel the depth set and a couple of months. Yeah. You know, there's one of those aha moments. Yeah.

Dan Dowdy (15:14):

I would like to kind of dive in what Tim said a minute ago about, uh, meditation. Can you explain more what your routine is to him? Because I think a lot of people listening out there don't realize that this is really a great thing. That

Tim Flynn (15:27):

One of my good friends during the last downstroke of business, 2008, 2009, I said, what do you do to keep your mind straight? He says, looked me right in the eye. He goes, I meditate every single day. And I've talked to this about it with a bunch of my other friends and it's guided, right? What you want to bring into your life. What you thinking about is what you're going to bring into your life. So I started to get very, very focused on taking my time for 15 minutes just to make sure my day was going to work out well so that other people's Dick could work out well. And so for anyone that's feeling like, you know, meditation is weird or whatever makes you feel uncomfortable or that's when you're going to grow. So I'd do it.

Josh Smith (16:06):

Awesome. Well, guys, this has been really, really helpful. I think for a lot of business owners, especially moving into this election year, where can people find out more about your respective businesses? Dan? I know you have your new thing and Tim for winters, where can people find out more about?

Tim Flynn (16:19):

Yeah, mine's very simple. I mean, on at Tim dot Flint at winter's, if you want to drop me an email, ask a question. My website is winters home Yeah.

Dan Dowdy (16:27):

Yeah. Mine, simple to is my coaching and mastermind website.

Tim Flynn (16:37):


Josh Smith (16:37):

Thank you. You guys are making it too easy to contact you. So lots of emails coming your way. Tweet me anyways. Thank you guys so much for jumping in the booth. Really appreciate your time. All right. Thank you. Awesome. And for everybody listening here definitely hit that subscribe button wherever you might be listening at. So you can get more of this awesome content. And from all of us here at the sharps tool, we'll catch you next time. Thanks.

Related Videos You May Be Interested In