courtesy of Ryan Hampton and the The Hail Company (USA)
As a PDR company that focuses on a local market all year long, you already understand the daily struggles of running a business. When a hail storm occurs, these struggles are increased. Below is a checklist that can help you not only be prepared but also become a regional hail expert and capitalize on a hail storm that could occur in your area. This list is designed for PDR companies that have wholesale and body shop accounts. If you are looking for help with retail business at a brick and mortar building, there is a separate checklist for that.
(1) Family First: When hail hits your area, your day to day schedule that you and your family are accustomed to will change. There is a fine balance between family and work and a hail storm will test that balance. Nothing can make things harder on you than tension at home. Set daily time limits on yourself for fielding calls, returning texts, appointments with customers and writing estimates. There will always be exceptions but you can limit them. Having a good family conversation about what changes will occur in the upcoming months will go a long way in staying sane during the storm.
(2) Have a plan: If you are serious about hail then be serious in your planning. Do you want to do it yourself or will you need help? Staffing technicians, managing accounts, estimating needs, and accounting needs are some of the biggest issues you should look at. The more accounts you have, the magnitude of the storm and the size of your area are all factors you should consider in how you want to move forward. With so many variables in play here I suggest having a plan in place to do both.
(3) Running a storm yourself: If you have a storm that you can manage yourself, there are several steps you can do to be prepared. Have a list of techs ready to bring in that you trust. That list should be 2-3 times bigger than what you will need. Sometimes the techs you want to use won’t be available, have backups in place. The more you have on a call list the less likely you will be shorthanded. Depending on how you plan on handling estimates and billing, be ready. If you are going to use paper, stock up. If you are using an electronic system, reach out to that company and discuss what systems they may or may not have in place for hail and how they can help you during the time you will have the added technicians and workflow. Discuss billing procedures with your accounts. Many accounts are used to 30 day or longer pay structures with you. In a big storm, this can cause issues with pay. A good conversation with them can help you both understand each other’s position and needs.
(4) Working with an outside company: If you have a storm that you feel is more than you can handle, you have options. There are several companies out there who specialize in partnering with local PDR companies for a hail storm. Do your homework. Ask around. Call some other companies that may have had experience with hail recently, pick their brain. Pick up the phone and call the hail companies. Ask for references, discuss a plan specific for your area, how are payments handled, who collects and who pays who, what is the breakdown on profit sharing, do they have the correct insurance for your area, what services do they offer, what are the benefits of working with them and then discuss an exit strategy. These are some key points to touch on and you will have your own questions to add based on your situation. Talk about them now and be ready when the time counts.
(5) Educate your accounts: The first thing you should already be doing is letting all of your current accounts know you are capable of handling a storm. One strong selling point from national hail companies (your competition) is to tell your accounts that you are just a one-man band and cannot handle the upcoming volume. Waiting until hail hits to counter this may already be too late. Be proactive to prevent any accounts, who may not realize you have a plan in effect, from agreeing to work with someone else before you have a chance to reach out to them.
(6) Market yourself to accounts you don’t service: This is a big one and only applies to those who want to use a storm to expand. Reach out to body shops and dealerships in your area and let them know that while you don’t service them regularly, you can provide organized and efficient hail services if the company that services them daily cannot. How you relay this information is up to you. I have always steered clear of using that meeting to try and drum up business in the moment, but instead use it to do exactly as I described, a back-up plan with a local company.
(7) Expand your hail reach: One way to increase your opportunities to create revenue from a hail storm is to expand your marketing as a regional hail expert into areas within a distance you decide on. Maybe you live 1 to 2 hours away from a major city or you live in a major city with numerous rural towns around you. Regardless of your location, take the time to sit down and develop a game plan. Decide which areas you feel, if any, are a good fit for your business. Use the same tactics mentioned earlier to market yourself as their go to guy when hail hits these areas.
(8) Collaborate: If you have a friendly business relationship with your competitors reach out to them. There is always the possibility of an agreement that could benefit everyone. Maybe they get hail on an account and you don’t, or vice versa. Working together could be good for all parties involved. There is always a way to keep businesses separate while also leaning on each other for assistance during a storm. This may not be a viable option for everyone but it is a possibility for others.
(9) Build your business: What a better way to build your customer base than when the demand for PDR services in your area is at an all- time high. If you took the time to be prepared for a storm, then you will find yourself in a unique situation. Everything will be running smooth and you will have time to solicit your services to accounts who were not as prepared as you. Preparation runs both ways, if you put the effort in ahead of time, your business will grow, if you don’t, your business could suffer.
This list contains some of the biggest items you should cover. There will always be variables based on you and your business. Take from it what you need and then add to it. Develop your own list and most importantly take action. Pace yourself, space out phone calls, visits and meeting so they don’t disrupt your current daily activities. Following these steps only stand to help you and your business. By prepared and become a regional hail expert.
about the author: Ryan Hampton is the owner operator of The Hail Company. His company specializing in teaming up with local independent paintless dent repair companies when they get hit with hail storms. Ryan along with his team bring decades of experience from running major hail catastrophes. The goal is to help local dent companies staff, manage, capitalize, and profit during these fast paced and stressful events. To contact Ryan visit his website or connect with him on Facebook.
For more info on this topic please read the members only article “Are you Ready for Hail?” written by Dan Ontrop.