Putting Yourself Out of Business

Learn about how your business can adapt through measuring, differentiating, and streamlining operations.

Joe Kowalski
October 5, 2022
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Dear Service Business Owners: Put Yourself Out Of Business Before The Market Does

The world is changing fast, and your business must adapt to meet your goals. Expectations from vendors have changed as costs continue to rise, expectations of employees have changed as their ambitions have shifted, and expectations of clients continue to change as older service businesses shut down and new ones replace them.

From 2021 until the 2nd quarter of 2022, the amount of cleaning businesses closing their doors increased by a factor of 4 and those numbers haven’t shown any signs of slowing.

Adapt to Meet Your Goals

Wooden Scrabble tiles that read 'adapt or fail'

In 1990, if you had the right equipment, a yellow-page ad, and an employee manual, you could operate a successful service business with little else.

In 2010, you needed the right equipment, a good number of referrals, a decent website, pay-per-click ads on google, and a good relationship with your employees.

In 2018, you needed the right equipment, a good number of referrals, a decent website, pay-per-click ads on google, a good relationship with your employees, software experience, content creation, digital ads, and social media presence.

The number of skills required to run a successful service business have radically changed since 1990. It’s not enough that you do good work and have deep knowledge and dedication to the craft. Now in 2022, you need all that and more hoping to break even. If your business is thriving, congratulations. You’ve either adapted or you have benefited from other service providers closing shop.

New businesses are always better equipped to leverage the current environment. In a very real sense of the word, at some point you must be prepared to build the business that will replace you. You need to put yourself out of business before the market does. But how do you do that? How do you hack differences in your current business that will allow for these changes?


Every business generates the data needed for Key Performance Indicators (KPIs). You must know what changes will affect you bottom line. Tracking Cost of Goods Sold (COGs), margins, repeat rate (for residential), average invoice, services income breakdown, sales pipeline, lead source acquisition, schedule capacity, recurring revenue, and ad attributions.

Once you have visibility, you can attack low hanging fruit and watch how changes in your business influence your KPIs.


Set yourself apart from the sea of options on the market. There are two ways you can do this. You should do both. First is to identify yourself as an All-Star service provider. This is super easy because the bar is so low.

I will:

answer my phone

show up on time

be smart like a guru

educate my client

manage expectations

be fresh and clean

develop an intentional retention strategy

smile more and be sure

clean my equipment.

And if there is a problem, do my best to fix it

The second way to differentiate yourself is to BE DIFFERENT! Shocking, I know. Opportunities here should be tracked. Consider using index cards for your ideas. Leave nothing out, no matter how crazy or expensive. Take each card and rank them on two values. 1- Difficulty (time, cost, knowledge, etc.), and target impact on your business. Rank each of these as either LITTLE or BIG.

Impact card example

The number of ideas you can come up with is nearly unlimited but here are a few creative options we have seen. Automated recurring services, community outreach, trucks and vans with bubbles, a caricature of the owner or animal as a mascot, hi-tech posturing, costumes, online services for clients, using local lore/teams/attractions as inspiration, a list of services presented like a restaurant menu, and on and on it goes.


Never make your client work harder than they have to. I’m ashamed to admit it, but I once went 3 months before paying a service provider. It wasn’t intentional but I was shocked that in 2019 they didn’t take credit cards! He sent one invoice via snail mail, and I had to make a special trip to the bank to get a check printed. When I remembered on my own, I had yet to pay it. I don’t know if they take cards now because I never used them again. If they would have sent me a text or email with a link to a payment portal he would have been paid before he left the driveway and I would have used his services again.

Similarly, when we moved ServiceMonster to Bellingham in 2007, I wanted to get my carpet cleaned before I moved into our new home. I called three service providers and left three messages (read: answer your phone). I didn’t receive a single return call. I remembered that when I opened the truck roll-up door in front of my new house. If any of them would have followed-up, it would have been an easy job.

You should streamline your internal processes (like follow-ups, call-backs, and reminders) to make it easy and traceable for your team. This also includes access to their schedule and reports on their own individual KPIs. Streamlining your business can help reduce employee turnover and costs while giving you every opportunity to win new business and keep existing clients.

In order to thrive in our current business environment, we must learn to adapt. By putting the right systems in place, like ServiceMonster, you can make measuring, differentiation, and streamlining much easier.

Joe Kowalski
October 5, 2022
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