The Biggest Job You Ever Sold
Congratulations, your salesman just turned in the biggest job you have ever sold! The new client wanted top-of-the-line gear and went with all of your high-end options. It has taken your company years to break through to this higher price level, and your exuberant salesman is celebrating his big bonus. This job is five times larger than any your company has ever landed before, and it makes your sales numbers a huge success. The deposit check will be enough to pay off your business credit cards, hire two more techs, and even buy some long-awaited new trucks.
What a great day it is.
After you finish celebrating, soberly consider that this huge new job will almost certainly be the most challenging you have ever undertaken. Wiser men might tell you that managing a job that is too big might turn into a beast that can even put you out of business if not handled correctly.
Let’s talk about some of the challenges this big job may present on the road ahead.
Cashflow. Repeat, cashflow. The first thing you must do is set up a plan to manage your cashflow. Your checking account is full today, but if you start spending this check on new hires, trucks and other purchases you could easily cause a financial crisis.
You need to pay for the gear you sold this customer. You and your client both signed the proposal; this obligated you, putting your company on the line over an extended period of time to purchase all of the gear and fulfill the burden of labor needed to complete the job to the customer’s satisfaction. You have money in your account today, but it will require discipline and foresight to carefully measure how and when this money will be spent.
When you enter this huge invoice in your accounting software, the numbers on your profit and loss statement will light up your smile. Don’t be fooled by this P&L statement. It is lying to you! It only shows you the dollars that came in today. The P&L statement has no way to chart the cost of the equipment you must purchase over time and chart your costs of labor and overhead. Even experienced bookkeepers can be very ineffective at handling job costing for projects that occur over time. Because of this, many company owners often look at their numbers in confusion and just go with their gut feeling about their company’s financial health or lack of it.
Managing a job that is significantly larger than normal. How do you deliver the additional labor that is needed for this job? Do your need to expand your fulltime workforce? How can you find additional qualified workers that will be available for this job just when you need them? If you don’t expand, will this big job overwhelm your current staff? What about all of your other jobs? Will your smaller jobs all have to suffer, ticking off your other clients while you go all out working on this one big job?
So, what else could go wrong? While many wealthy clients are a joy to work with, be warned … they can also be the most impossible people to deal with. They are used to the special treatment that comes with spending lots of money for the very best. This entitles them and their representative to be very demanding. You may have to devote lots of time to pleasing them, their interior decorators, cabinet makers, builders and personal assistants. Every one of these meetings costs you additional time and money that were probably not included in your proposal. Did your proposal include your project management fee, or will you just smile and absorb the extra costs? When your biggest customer starts requesting changes, you might not have the backbone to enforce strict change order rules.
Does this job include new technology challenges for your company? Did you step up to more complexity with new systems that you have not installed until this big job? Graduating to new control systems and programming challenges can be very time-consuming and expensive. Larger, more complex systems are not for the faint of heart. The last thing you want to do is experiment on your most important customer.
This leaves us with the final challenge: Getting paid in full at the end of the job. Even if you performed your work flawlessly, delivering your best system ever, your customer might be very hard to please.
What if the completion date comes and goes and your system is still buggy? Maybe the lights or security system is acting up and you are “learning on the job?” If you are holding your breath for the customer to sign off and hand you the final check, you could have put yourself in a world of hurt. Have you ever been stiffed on your closing check or had to post a lien on a client’s house?
Never, ever deliver the final equipment to the job until you have 90 percent of your payment in hand.
The last thing I want to do is to put a damper on your big sale. I hope these words of experience will help you celebrate again on the day you complete the job and shake the hand of your smiling, happy customer.
When all is said and done, that check you receive on that final day, when you have successfully pulled off your biggest job? That is the real time to party on! •