Jay Turner shares his simple yet highly effective business strategy, one that has helped ground his business in firm foundations.
By far one of our most successful business strategies has been keeping it local. When I first started out on my own, one of the first things I promised myself was that I was not going to spend half my day driving between jobs!
Having worked previously for several companies where it was nothing to drive a few hundred kilometres each and every day, I was well and truly sick of travelling and to me it seemed inefficient. When I started out in business for myself, my goal proved to be a lot tougher than I anticipated but also proved to have a lot of unexpected advantages.
I guess to understand our version of keeping it local, one must have an understanding of the area we service. Noosa is a popular tourist town at the northern end of the Sunshine Coast, bordered to the east by the ocean (of course) but essentially cut off from the north by the Noosa river and Cooloola National Park. With the exception of a couple of suburbs out to the west, the bulk of urbanisation extends to the south. The 2016 census revealed the Noosa shire had a population of just over 52,000. One important factor is that there seems to be a slight degree of animosity between Noosa and the remainder of the Sunshine Coast, so much so that the community de-amalgamated from the Sunshine Council to form its own Noosa Council several years ago. The simple fact is Noosa people prefer to use Noosa people!
Skip forward eight years later and my business still operates within a 15-kilometre radius (or essentially a 20-minute drive) of the office, with more than 80% of our work being within a 15-kilometre radius. But at the start, it was not without its struggles.
As with any new business, it was extremely difficult to say no to any potential jobs straight up, let alone simply because they were a 30-minute drive from the office. But I knew I was on the right track when multiple customers would ask me in my second and third years of trading, “How many vehicles do you have on the road now?” They would always be blown away when I informed them that it was still just me. “But I see your car nearly everyday!” they would say. The fact is, it is not unusual for me to drive through the same roundabout 4-5 times a day! Your vehicle is often your greatest marketing tool.
As well as the constant presence of our branding, there have been many other advantages. Scheduling appointments is made so much easier when you operate within a small area – it certainly cuts out that frustration for the techs when the admin staff whack in a job simply because there is a gap, yet there is 45-minute travel time between jobs that the admin didn’t really allow for!
As much as we try and group our jobs into areas, there is always one customer that says a particular day or time doesn’t suit, or cancels at short notice and stuffs up your whole schedule. But now that I have four techs on the road, we literally always have somebody within 10 minutes’ drive, which also comes in handy for tacking on those emergency jobs or service calls at the end of day. Clients are constantly impressed by our promptness. And of course, there is the reduced wear and tear on the vehicles – and that certainly adds up at the end of the year, especially if you are running a few vehicles.
I’m a massive fan of locality business names. They are easy to remember and straight away typify exactly where you work. Everybody prefers to use a local, as subconsciously we assume we are getting a good deal because they don’t have to travel far, and they will look after us because that’s what locals do! The other big reason is that it definitely helps with our website SEO (search engine optimisation) as typically, most potential clients will type ‘pest control (location)’ into Google. So it certainly helps with your ranking if those three words form your business name. For us, the main suburb names were already taken but ‘Laguna’ was a name that locals could automatically associate with, as Laguna Bay is the name of the main beach here. Also, multiple businesses in the area had already adopted the name Laguna.
Keeping it local is also not without its downfalls. One of the first things my techs notice when they start working for me is how flat out it is. There is literally no downtime between jobs or time to recharge the batteries (so to speak) while traveling to the next job. Initially for me, ‘keeping it local’ was more about wanting to remain as a small owner-operator business. But circumstances change, as did our business plan. Now, trying to expand and continually grow is obviously a lot harder within a restricted area.
Working in this way is certainly not something that will work for every business, as geographic location and population simply may not allow for it. But it has certainly worked for us and you don’t have to be an accountant to know that performing another $250 job in your eight-hour day rather than travelling is going to help massively with your turnover and profit.
Jay Turner, Laguna Pest Control, Pest Manager of the Year 2017