LAS VEGAS - The name of the seminar, "Making Millions in the Service Business," was very enticing. By the look of the big crowd in attendance, a lot of contractors were looking for some tips to help them make more money, though not necessarily to make them millionaires.

At the recent ISH North America trade show, seminar speaker Maurice Maio, founder of Maio Success Systems Inc., San Diego, presented an energized session on tips to increase profits. But he started by emphasizing that contractors have to love making money.

"I don't like hearing the stories of people who work all night and on weekends; they can't love the job that much," he said. "But if the money is great, the work is all that much better."

Maio stated that if you like what you do but want to make more money, you have to make changes. "If you keep doing what you are doing, you will continue to get what you are getting," he joked.

The first thing owners have to do is to stop working "in" the business and start working "on" the business. "You can't work on the business if you are driving a truck," Maio said. "You have to get out of the truck and run the business. The office is where the action is, where the decisions are made."

He said that the next thing business owners need to do is to buy a building. "Why would you want to keep paying rent to someone else?" he asked.

Before showing ways to start making more money, Maio reminded attendees of how businesses fail. "Businesses fail because they are undercapitalized - starting out with too little money. There is a lack of business knowledge. Mechanics are lousy at running a business; not a good balance between productive time and nonproductive time."

"Get yourself motivated," Maio said. "You can't do anything without motivation. Get rid of the spider webs in your mind."

Here are some of the ideas that Maio listed:

  • Create short-, mid-, and long-range business plans.

  • Improve your education. For example, attend trade seminars and read trade magazines.

  • Get proper financing in place. "You have to have access to money because you never know when you are going to need it," he said.

  • Get to know your competition and their strengths and weaknesses.

  • Consider joining a group. "I'm a firm believer in being in a congregation, being together," Maio said.

  • Protect yourself by making your business a "S" or "C" corporation, or an LLC.

  • Document everything.

  • Get organized by using PDAs and proper filing methods. "Clutter and wealth do not go hand in hand," he said.

  • Find a business location that is near a freeway entrance.

  • Have a "correct office layout." The layout should have a good traffic flow pattern.

  • Install walls that can be written on with eraseable markers.

  • Place photos of service techs in the dispatch area.

  • Create an area where job applicants feel comfortable. For example, install a soda pop machine.

  • Install glass partitions, Web cams, and ergonomic chairs.

    Maio had many other recommendations, including allowing techs to drive the trucks home at night. "Should your trucks go home?" he asked. "Yes, it is called a moving billboard. But if the truck goes home, the technician needs to be on call. If he doesn't want to be on call but wants to take the truck home, it becomes a benefit of the job and a 1099 form will be pulled."


    Maio also discussed some tips on how to get more bang for the buck from advertisements. If contractors choose to advertise in the Yellow Pages, the ad should be near the front of the advertising section, designed to read from left to right, Maio suggested. He said the ad should include a picture of the owner.

    "Nine out of 10 people look at ads with photos in them," Maio said.

    He said that all ads should have a tracking number so business owners know how customers found out about their company. The ads should also include the name of the company in big letters and a phone number at the bottom. Maio does not recommend using color ads because of the expense.

    "I wouldn't waste money on color," he said. "I'd use that money to buy more ad space."

    Maio said that contractors in the service business should spend a minimum of 5 percent of revenues on advertising. If they want to be competitive, they should bump the percentages up to 7 to 8 percent.

    Maio continued to stress the importance of keeping a hand on the pulse of the business, which includes watching the advertising budget. But he cautioned attendees about letting the business become too consuming.

    "What the average owner makes per hour is ridiculous," he commented. "If you let the business run you, it will run you. It will drive you into the ground if you let it."

    For more information on Maio's success stories and marketing tips, visit

    Publication date: 12/08/2003