"Do you have the money you need to pay your bills when you need to pay them?" asked Oetker, point blank. "It comes down to cash flow."
Over a day of intense talks, Oetker was "Taking Care Of Business," the title of his presentation at the Masters of the Game Conference.
While some of these are conventional direct costs - such as parts/material, equipment, and labor - Oetker wanted to make sure that contractors factor in
everything under these respective headings. For instance, he said a contractor should factor the cost of a warranty into every job - generally as a percentage of sales -
since a contractor may have to attend to a warranty issue.
He noted that overhead is also generally associated with labor. When it comes to sales expenses, sales commission and sales salary should enter into the equation.
"Your gross margins should be 60 percent," he said. "Champions are built on a good defense, so we have to have a good base."
Having determined the gross profit of a business, it is possible to determine the operating profit, or earnings before interest (EBIT). In order to calculate EBIT, subtract the overhead (operating expenses) from the gross profit. When it comes to overhead, contractors need to examine marketing, employee-related expenses, plant and equipment expenses, vehicle-related expenses, and administrative costs.
Oetker encouraged each of the 50-plus Lennox dealers to departmentalize their respective businesses. In his estimation, separate evaluations keep each department accountable.
"This allows owners and general managers to evaluate department heads," he explained. "This also allows the owner or general manager to compensate for performances."
Departmentalization allows an owner or general manager to be aware of the company's business mix, as well as aids budgeting and forecasting practices.
"It's a tremendous aid in setting prices," said Oetker.
According to Oetker, current asset accounts include cash, accounts receivable, notes receivable, inventory, work in process, prepaid expenses, and fixed assets. Fixed assets include property, plants, equipment, vehicles, and building leases. Place accounts payable information, notes payable, current portion of long-term debt, accrued expenditures, and reserve accounts, such as warranty and service agreements, under the current liabilities heading.
To determine working capital, subtract current assets from current liabilities. In Oetker's estimation, working capital should equal 10 percent to 15 percent of annual sales. In the end, he said that profits retained in a company provide the working capital needed for growth.
"A lack of working capital can create a cash flow problem," he said. "Proper pricing is the key to increasing working capital."
"It helps create validity to goals," explained Oetker.
By benchmarking, contractors can focus priorities on what they want changed, determine what they need to review, set goals, and create action plans for attaining these goals.
"Always look at KPIs in groups," he warned. "Never get too focused on a single number."
Oetker provided his top 10 business tips, which are:
1. Culture is based on ethics, excellence, and integrity.
2. All managers and employees should know and understand the business model used by the company.
3. All managers and employees should know and understand the numbers and KPIs.
4. A business should have a gross margin that is equal to or greater than 42 percent (specifically for a residential service, maintenance, and replacement company).
5. In regard to overhead, this should be equal to or less than 28 percent (again, for a residential service, maintenance, and replacement company).
6. All replacement jobs must be completed in one day.
7. Equipment costs should be less than 25 percent of the replacement sales.
8. Service and maintenance revenue should be equal to or greater than 25 percent of the total residential service, maintenance, and replacement revenue.
9. Revenue per employee should be equal to or greater than $120,000 (excluding all comfort advisors or salespeople) to the office ratio of 2.5 to 1 (again, specifically for a residential service, maintenance, and replacement company).
10. Maintenance agreements should be equal to or greater than $1,000 per $1 million of revenue (again, for a residential service, maintenance, and replacement company).
The ideal breakdown for residential service firms is: parts/material, 13 percent; labor, 22 percent; equipment, 0 percent; subcontracts, 0 percent; permits, 0 percent; extended warranty, 0 percent; buydown, 0 percent; equipment rental, 0 percent; allocated fringe benefits, 7 percent; and sales salaries and commissions, 1 percent. The total cost of sales should be 43 percent, while the gross margin should be 57 percent.
And, the ideal breakdown for residential maintenance companies is: parts/materials, 6 percent; labor, 34 percent; equipment, 0 percent; subcontracts, 0 percent; permits, 0 percent; extended warranty, 0 percent; buyouts, 0 percent; equipment rental, 0 percent; warranty, 0 percent; allocated fringe benefits, 9 percent; sales commissions, 4 percent, and sales salaries, 0 percent. The total cost of sales should be 53 percent, while the gross margin should be 47 percent.
In addition to ideal business formulas to strive for, Oetker provided some KPIs, including:
"The art comes into determining how to communicate value and establishing a price point for the value you offer," he explained. "The science is the mathematical aspect in setting prices."
He said value is created when "the perceived benefits exceed the belief in what those benefits should cost." In other words, perceived value ultimately determines price.
"Value is part of the customer's belief system," said Oetker. "Value perception is highly personal. Value, in this case, is what the customer believes the benefits will do for them. In the end, value shifts with trust."
To boost pricing, Oetker recommended boosting trust, which can be accomplished through company branding. A company demonstrates branding with business and marketing philosophies; warranties and guarantees; referrals; and how it portrays value.
Contractors can demonstrate value through a company's image using customer communications and education, by way of the service/maintenance processes, and with internal marketing.
Oetker provided his audience with several pricing methodologies, including:
He zeroed in on residential replacement pricing, whereby a contractor could turn to an engineered-job or bid-and-spec approach versus cookbook or flat-rate pricing. He also talked about positioning pricing or the good-better-best sales approach.
This is used to reflect more than just the price of equipment. It factors in equipment efficiency, comfort, indoor air quality, service agreements, warranties, and guarantees.
Publication date: 01/16/2006