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3 Ways to Fast-Track the Growth of Your Service Business

Fast Track the growth of your business
Service businesses can provide a great lifestyle and don't require much capital to get started, but they can also be tough to scale up into something bigger than a handful of people. If you want to scale a service business, consider these three ideas for bulking up.

1. Train others to deliver your expertise
When Al Gore wanted a keynote presentation to spread the word about global warming, he turned to Mountain View, Calif.-based presentation design company Duarte. How did Nancy Duarte help a celebrity client like Al Gore? She didn't. Her team did.

It wasn't always so easy for Nancy Duarte. Ten years before Mr. Gore hired her firm, Ms. Duarte was spinning all of the plates. Her first step in scaling up was to hire a second-in-command to pull herself out of the weeds. With the extra time, she developed a training program to teach her designers how to create presentations the Duarte way.

The training she developed for her designers inspired what would become her bestselling books "Slide:ology" and "Resonate." These books became the platform on which she launched a training division that offers on-site education and public workshops for people who want to create better presentations. Duarte now employs 82 people, and Ms. Duarte herself hasn't created a slide deck in a while.

Could you offer public workshops or corporate on-sites to give your consulting a little scale?

2. Create a price list
To scale a service business, not only must you have a repeatable process; you also have to package it like a product. A "price list" for your services helps you protect your margins, keeps you out of the RFP rat race and allows you to spend your time doing the work, not begging for it.

Thanks to reader Rob Long, who pointed me to one of my favorite examples of pricing a service. San Francisco-based Eat My Words comes up with new company and product names and has developed a price list for each of its offerings:

Top Sirloin (Full Naming Service) $20K+ Our full- service projects span 4-8 weeks and run from $20K to $50K depending on work requested, number of decision makers, trademark category saturation, and, frankly, our interest in your project. Our founder, Alexandra Watkins, is deeply involved in each of these projects which include multiple rounds of name exploration by our A-team, consensus building exercises with your core decision makers, professional trademark screenings, domain searches, tagline creation, in-person meetings, and a dog and pony and monkey show. If you're in the Bay Area, we may also bring you a basket of freshly- baked mini muffins.
Fast Food (Streamlined Naming Service) $10K+ Our streamlined naming service takes 2-4 weeks and is designed for businesses who don't need all the bells and whistles of our full- service naming but still want to work with our "A-team," and get highly personalized service. It includes two big fat rounds of creative name suggestions, or one round of names and taglines.
Snack (Budget Naming Service) $2.5K + Our "Snack" service is exclusively for entrepreneurs on a shoestring and non-funded start-ups. Run by our team of talented sous chefs, Snack offers a Value Menu of affordable naming services starting with a big fat list of names for $2,500. See the Snack section for more information.
Consulting $1K per hour (1-hour minimum) Our founder, brand- name expert Alexandra Watkins, is available for phone consultations to review names that you have already generated. Please note that consulting is not a brainstorming session with Alexandra.
Do you have a price list for your service?

3. Create a subscription
Service businesses are often only as good as their last project. Owners live month to month, project to project, having to create a revenue stream from scratch each year -- which is exactly the predicament Jim Vagonis was trying to overcome in his business of fixing people's homes. Most plumbers, electricians, and drywallers live a lumpy existence lurching from 16-hour days to stretches of unemployment while they hustle for their next gig.

Vagonis wanted to smooth out his workload, create a recurring revenue stream and build a company of lasting value, so he created Potomac, Md.-based Hassle Free Homes. For a fixed annual fee per year, Hassle Free Homes offers to preemptively maintain your house. As a Hassle Free Homes customer, you don't need to worry when the toilet runs on, a towel rack needs replacing, or the roof starts leaking because Hassle Free Homes maintains all aspects of your house. With most of his customers renewing their contracts each year, Vagonis doesn't worry where his next job is coming from.

Ensuring recurring revenue, creating a price list, and having a repeatable methodology you teach others to deliver are three ways to scale up a service business.

What are your secrets for growing a service business beyond just you?

(photo courtesy of Sxc.hu/marcello99)

More from Built to Sell:

John Warrillow is the author of Built To Sell: Creating a Business That Can Thrive Without You, which will be released by Portfolio/Penguin on April 28, 2011.
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