It’s always interesting to look back at our blog posts at the end of a year and see what our readers were most interested in. In 2018, there was a clear theme:  Using technology to do more and earn more. Here is the top 10 list from 2018:

  1. How to Make Billions Selling Nothing – The Story of Red Hat
  2. Jeff Bezos’s Advice for Service Contractors
  3. What skilled labor shortage?
  4. What’s technology worth? How to value your technology investments.
  5. 254,484 Quotes: Rich, Fast, and Easy
  6. An Easy Differentiator for Service Contractors
  7. A Story of Growth – AAA Fire Protection
  8. Soon: The Smart Service Revolution
  9. Good is Not Good Enough – How Amazon Raised Expectations to Feel Good for Commercial Service Contractors
  10. Fraud Doesn’t Pay, But Consistent Results are Worth Billions

 

Our favorite read from 2018 is the new book Money for Nothing: How Commercial Service Contractors Earn More Pay for Less Work by Billy Marshall and Shawn Mims. Get your copy at Amazon.com.

We hope Money for Nothing, these posts, and those to come in 2019 help you achieve your audacious goals. Happy new year!

Shelley Bainter asked me to write this blog post explaining why I decided I needed to write The Digital Wrap and Money for Nothing in support of ServiceTrade’s marketing strategy.  It’s a great question. Interestingly, the books are mostly an extension/expansion/elaboration on a collection of blog posts and research that I along with Shawn Mims delivered in connection with ServiceTrade marketing activities.  There are two fundamental reasons that I write, and the books are just an outgrowth of those.

The first fundamental reason I write is because it helps me lead. I believe the best way to prove you are sane enough in your thinking to lead an organization is to commit your most important thoughts to coherent prose.  It did not surprise me at all when I read that Jeff Bezos banned Powerpoint in executive meetings at Amazon and instead required all important decision matters be committed to six-page memos with narrative structures.

If you cannot tell the story you want others to believe and commit to action, you are not prepared to lead. So I use writing to organize the ideas I want ServiceTrade to embrace and extend to our customers as our value proposition. It proves to myself that I am coherent in my thinking, and it gives my executive team something to debate, debunk, or improve for their own narrative purposes with their teams.

The second reason that I write is because I am a big admirer of the trick that two other MIT alums pulled with their company, Hubspot.  Long before Hubspot had a product that was worthy of market leadership, the two founders, Brian Halligan and Dharmesh Shah, had a concept that was worthy of market consideration.  They coined the term and wrote the book Inbound Marketing. It gave the new company, Hubspot, standing in the market prior to the product Hubspot having any significant leading features. Customers will invest in leadership ideas and demonstrate patience with the product if they see a bright future. Halligan and Shah demonstrated leadership and bought their company mind share that they were later able to convert into market share as the product matured.

Similar to inbound marketing for Hubspot, the concept of a digital wrap for ServiceTrade is new and novel among service contractors seeking technology solutions to enhance their business.  The digital wrap gives ServiceTrade something cool to share with prospects in order to challenge their notion of what it means to be competitive in a world dominated by digital experiences from Amazon, Uber, Netflix, Apple, and others.  How am I going to compete with an online customer service experience when my customers are comparing me to these mega digital experiences? ServiceTrade has a novel concept called the digital wrap that enables scalable and memorable online customer engagement.  Writing the books gives our small company standing in the market because we are talking about something unique, differentiated, and important.

You don’t have to publish books to benefit from these reasons that I have adopted for writing. Use the concept of narrative memos like Bezos does to force you and your management team to organize your thoughts into ideas that can be acted upon.  Build compelling stories about your unique capabilities to share with customers in the form of blog posts or videos. It is easier for a customer to consider your product when they see or read a story that compels them to change their assumptions because they believe you are predicting the future.  A good story helps them buy into your value.

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We’ll give the first ten readers to respond a copy of Billy’s new book, Money for Nothing. Send your request and mailing address to  shelley.bainter@servicetrade.com

It’s been a tense week of watching Hurricane Florence grow, intensify, and pin a bullseye on North Carolina. There’s a lot to worry about: gasoline for the generator, storing water since I’m on a well, stocking up on healthy, easy-to-prepare food without resorting to Hot Pockets.

There’s plenty to worry about without fretting about the availability of our app. Even if I’m sitting at my house in the dark, I’ll know that our app will be there. Our customers’ data will be available in their office. Technicians will get their schedules. Customers will be able to login to the portal to check on their upcoming appointments.

Thank goodness for software as a service!! Amazon Web Services (AWS) — where the ServiceTrade application “lives” and customer data is stored — is co-located across the country so there’s no risk of a natural disaster disrupting service. If one location were to be impacted, the others in the AWS network would pick up the slack.

On the human side, it’s a little tougher to predict availability. Everyone at ServiceTrade in North Carolina will be working from home on Thursday and Friday for as long as we have electricity and Internet service. If we end up falling off the grid in NC for a few days, our teams across the country – we have people in Maryland, Kentucky, Illinois, and Arizona – will be there to help you out.

If you need help from support or sales, reach out as you always do and we’ll route your call or email to whoever can respond first.

If you are also impacted by Hurricane Florence, be safe! I’ll pass along what Billy Marshall asked of us, take care of your family first, then do everything you can to take care of your customers and responsibilities.

Earlier this week on Tuesday, September 26, ServiceTrade turned five years old. If you don’t know our origin story, the roots of ServiceTrade go back to a national service company called DunnWell. A couple of smart, entrepreneurial fellas saw that the technology that DunnWell created was strong enough to evolve into a product that could help other commercial service contractors. That technology became a company on September 26, 2012, founded by Billy Marshall and Brian Smithwick.

What Billy said in the first blog post that introduced ServiceTrade nearly 5 years ago remains true today:

  • We were created to help service companies deliver better service, grow faster, and be more profitable.
  • Services still remain an underserved market for integrated SaaS applications – though it is improving.
  • Our application will always be better next week than it is this week.
    (Read 5 years of release notes here.)

Some members of ServiceTrade at one of Billy’s famous Low Country Boils.

  • Today ServiceTrade employs 21 full-time employees in 3 states.
  • We have more than 300 customers in 45 states and 4 Canadian provinces.
  • More than 14 million photos and documents are stored in ServiceTrade.
  • About 23,000 photos and PDF docs are added each day.
  • Around 2,600 invoices are created each day.
  • Over the life of our app, our customers have sent 240,000 quotes representing $483,000,000.

One of the earliest subscription contracts has a $3 per tech per month rate. Being first had its advantages. (Everyone in sales wants me to tell you that this rate is no longer available.)

Our first beta testers are now our oldest customers — these folks shared our vision and saw the opportunity for their businesses early on. They have become good friends and some of our most trusted advisors.

ServiceTrade’s first customer appreciation event and fishing tournament at the Outer Banks in 2014 was attended by 11 people. This year we’ll have 150 at the Digital Wrap Conference.  

2016 Digital Wrap Conference

 

Storytelling has been part of the fabric of ServiceTrade since the earliest days. Our blog has been active since early 2013. The five most popular blog posts for our first five years are:

Now is the most exciting time in our five years. Everyone on our team believes strongly in our mission and that they have a part to play in making our customers’ businesses more successful. Our customer roster has always held the most innovative service companies across the U.S. and Canada who push themselves – and us – to do new and better things. Let’s meet back here in 2022 to see how things have changed for our 10th birthday.

As 2017 kicks 2016 to the curb, take a minute to revisit our most-loved blog posts of the year.

Whether they’re new to you, or you need a review, check out these blog posts for inspiration to start the new year.

We are counting down the days to the Digital Wrap Conference in Isle of Palms, SC, and I am happy to announce that the fishing tournament format is all set. As many of you know, we have quite a reputation to uphold based upon previous success with our tournaments on the Outer Banks of NC. Last year, the participants laid 1,600 pounds of bigeye and yellowfin tuna on the deck. The year before, three boats brought in a haul of 700 pounds of dolphin along with a 400-pound blue marlin release.  Well, in Charleston in October, it is all about the redfish and the trout. Good news for those folks that don’t care for an hour plus ride on the ocean.  These fish are inshore sport, and Charleston serves them up in record numbers.

obx2015-mary

Tournament Details:

Wednesday, October 19
~ 6 hours beginning in the morning
$200 per fisher
2-3 person teams

We will have nearshore bay boats and flats boats with 2 to 3 anglers per team competing for largest redfish, largest trout, and most meat at the dock.  Pick your strategy.  Lunkers at the jetty (but you have to release the big fish over 23”) or volume in the marshes, or maybe a little of both.  In the meat category, the flounder counts at the dock as well as any other species that might be great table fare such as sheepshead.  That evening, all of the tournament participants are welcome to a fish extravaganza at our beach house, Ocean Dream in Isle of Palms.

obx2014-fishing-picture-3
If you have not registered for the tournament yet and you plan to fish, sign up today.  If you have not registered for the conference yet, what are you waiting for?  It doesn’t get any better than great strategies to grow your business plus world-class golf and fishing. Register for the conference at digitalwrapconference.com.

obx2014-fishing-picture-2

 

Read about past fishing tournaments:

Have you seen “The Hunger Games” movies or read the books? To give you a very watered down version, the premise surrounds a collection of children that are elected as Tributes to have an annual battle amongst each other until there is a single winner.

Entering into the job fair felt similar to what I imagine that arena would feel like. Minus the weapons.

career-fair

The irony of coming back to my alma mater as a recruiter for my current company did not escape me and I hurriedly tucked my shirt into the waist of my dress pants as I followed my boss in the gym. Eight months ago I was at the same job fair as a senior about to graduate with (hopefully not too) sweaty hands and a shaky voice that stated my prior accomplishments with a lifted chin and an often rehearsed pitch as to why I was the best candidate for a job, any job.

It was nice to be on the other side for the first time. It was nice to straddle the two realms and speak on both levels, one as a semi-professional, and the other as a student who just recently stood in their shaky shoes.

Students who dressed sharp and talked smooth received points for presentation, but lost points for content if they wouldn’t make proper eye contact and had eyes that seemed to wander to every other booth. The most impressive candidates were the energetic ones. The ones who seemed excited for their future, wired on some sort of post-graduate caffeine were the ones I wanted to talk to. I enjoyed the students who walked up with prior knowledge (thank you quick Google search) of ServiceTrade. Even if they didn’t quite get it right, I respected the prior steps they took. Even the students who had no knowledge but were willing to ask and willing to learn with open minds gained our approval.

While my boss and I tag-teamed speaking about the company and my experience as a recent college graduate,  I realized that there were so many things beyond ServiceTrade that I wanted to tell these students.

I wanted to tell them:

  • Know your worth – besides all the internships and jobs. All of the hours you logged between sports and classes and clubs will not mean anything unless you know how to transform them into some palate of confidence to present to the employer. Know how to say “This is what I’ve learned, this is what I can do.”
  • Know the company’s worth. Research the company beforehand. Appreciate their product, their consumer, their market. Show respect to what they’ve built.
  • Stay humble. This should be self-explanatory.
  • Stay hungry.  Eye the ladder, scale the ladder, kick the ladder over and continue climbing.
  • Keep learning. If you’re the smartest person in the room, leave.

As I listened to very similar candidates preach to me why they’re willing to volunteer as Tribute, I marveled at the gap that stands between graduation and your first job. I’m not sure there is anything that can truly prepare you for the real world, but striding forward when the cannon goes off with the best of intentions is a pretty good place to start.

We can market our message about the effectiveness of ServiceTrade all we want, but there is no substitute for a customer doing it for you.  Thanks to Karim Nice and BlueHat Mechanical for this review of ServiceTrade capability.  Here is the key message:

By using software wisely, we can work together with our customers to set up a preventive maintenance plan that reduces their costs, and allows better visibility into the service we provide.

Keep the hits coming.  We will do our best to enable them.