Timbo: Today’s guest is Joshua Nichols. He is the CEO and founder of Platinum Electricians. Now get this. In 2001, at the ripe old age of 22, Josh started the business as a tradie in a van. Out of college, you know, out of sparky school, he starts off being a sparky, him in a van. Within five years, Josh grew the business 1200 percent to over 30 employees. And in 2008, he expanded nationally through franchising. And he’s now got franchises in all major capital cities of Australia, and he is doing all right. In fact, BRW, that’s the business review magazine in Australia, ranked him in 2012, the fourth fastest-growing franchise in Australia.
He sits on the Master Electricians’ Board. He’s become a philanthropist. Mate, he is rocking. It’s such a great story this one, of building an empire through amazing customer service, an what I call those little 1 percenters that surprise and delight clients. He’s got a great story, and there’s so many marketing ideas waiting to be told. I started off by asking Josh one of the big questions, how many electricians does it take to change a light bulb?
Joshua Nichols: Mate, gazillions. It’s a highly complex thing to do these days. So with safety systems and everything else like that. But no, it’s –
Timbo: Yeah, you’ve got to make it hard because that’s where the work comes from.
Joshua Nichols: That’s right. With all the paperwork you need these days. We try to make it electronic, but anyways.
Timbo: Yeah, well, good luck with that. I had a psychologist on a couple of episodes ago, and the answer to that question was one, but the light bulb really needs to want to change. Now let’s talk the serious business of business, Josh. How did Platinum Electricians come about?
Joshua Nichols: Mate, it came about very humbly, to say the least. I was your classic technician. Thought I was a blood good electrician, and thought it would make me a bloody good businessman. And I soon discovered in the first week that that wasn’t the case. And mate, it was really a case of me, as I said, thinking I was a fantastic electrician, stepped out into no-man’s land, totally naïve, and put that van on, put myself in it, and I was away. That’s as simple as it was in the founding days.
Timbo: It’s a classic example of many business owners who are very, very good at the skill that the business demands of you, as in being a sparky or building a house or designing a logo. But the skill of running a business is completely separate.
Joshua Nichols: Well, that’s it. In the trades business that I am, being an electrician, you spend four years to train to be an electrician, but when it comes to business, which is one of the most probably important things, and where you’re putting everything on the line and risking your house and everything else, you have the ability to get into it with zero training. So it’s quite bizarre.
Timbo: So you’ve come out of college. You’re a qualified electrician. You have gone and you started doing what you do best, and then you realized the running of the business is tough. So what did you do?
Joshua Nichols: Yes. Yeah, mate, when I first started, I knew I had to have a computer. I didn’t know how to turn it on. I didn’t know how to put it together. But I knew that it was an essential part. I was operating out of mom and dad’s house, out of my bedroom. So it was very, very humble. And then as I started the business, I quickly worked out that I needed customers. So I had to sort of figure out for myself how to get customers.
Timbo: The old customer conundrum.
Joshua Nichols: Yes, the whole – I didn’t even know what the word was, when it came to marketing at the site of my business, that was like another language. So I did what I did best, and went and spoke to people and said, “Hey, can I do your electrical work?” And they said, “Yes.” So I was like, “Excellent.” So I kept it very simple. But before I realized that within the space of – oh, I would say probably in the first six months, I had more work than I knew what to do with, and then suddenly discovered that this thing called business, I needed to educate myself and learn and surround myself with mentors because my back end was getting messy. I wasn’t giving debt the respect it deserved, and things were like hectic in the background.
I was servicing my customers’ socks off, but my business was as rock as it got.
Timbo: Man, how many tradies and just business owners generally wouldn’t have gone and sought mentors?
Joshua Nichols: Yeah, well, I suppose that was just the position I was in. It was something where I knew I needed help, and it was sort of one of those things, when you’re in that position and you’ve gone out and bought a brand new van, which was a big thing to me at the time, and when I was seeing it all sort of falling apart in the background, I was like, “Man, I need help. Ask, ask, ask,” and just asked anyone. I suppose it was in my nature. Even when I was at school, I used to struggle massively at school. I used to really try, but for me, school just didn’t click, and I learned from a very young age that I had to get school friends and things like that, and I had to learn to delegate and ask how to do things.
And I suppose it just came natural when I stopped over into business, that the same thing applied. I just needed to ask.
Timbo: I put a post on the Small Business, Big Marketing show’s Facebook the other day, and it was the definition of the word ask hole. And the definition of an ask hole is someone who asks for advice, but never implements it. I’m guessing you’re not an ask hole.
Joshua Nichols: No, I love it. I haven’t heard that one before. That’s gold. But no, I’m not an ask hole. I’m an asker, and I’m an implementer. I don’t know. In business, I just always think that there’s people you can learn from. There’s always someone out there doing it better than you, and the idea of the game is just to leverage off of people that have been there and done it, and that can help you in your vision and mission and where you’re going.
Timbo: You said you asked anyone, Josh. I’m guessing you were a little bit more scientific than that. There were people whose opinions you respected, maybe it was financial opinions, marketing opinions –
Joshua Nichols: Yeah.
Timbo: – people – staff opinions. Yeah? You kind of sought the right people out?
Joshua Nichols: Yeah. So I should clarify that. I definitely – for me, when I did ask people, I actually was very specific about who I asked. For me, in business, I would say that I look at people in business, as far as mentors, and make sure not that they just have a good business, but they’ve got a good family life, they’ve got a good work-life balance, all the things that are important to me in business. I look up to those sort of guys. So yeah, very much so, Tim. I – my mentors were very balanced people, and they had a very healthy work-life relationship, successful in all areas of their lives, whether it be investments, business and the work-life family balance.
Timbo: Were they people that you already had a connection with? Or did you hit up some randoms?
Joshua Nichols: No, I definitely hit up some randoms. Most of the time, it was me being out and about somewhere, and I would hear someone chat. So I had Peter Irvine that founded Glory Jean’s Coffees. I heard him at a business breakfast once, and after the breakfast, I went straight up to him.
Timbo: You’re one of those blokes who run straight to the front of the stage.
Joshua Nichols: Yeah. So mate, if I can ask somebody, I will. As you said, I’m definitely not an ask hole, always asking. So yeah, he took me under his wing and really helped me.
Joshua Nichols: I had another business coach who’s still with me today and been with me for ten years, and now coaches a lot of my team. Where he just clicked. We clicked. He’s the most common-sense guy I know, and in business, that’s quite rare sometimes. But yeah, I definitely – I suppose you could say bumped into people or recognized people’s gifts when I was out and about, and asked them the question, if they could help me on my journey.
Timbo: So I am guessing, Josh, that you got to a point – I mean the nature of being an electrician means you’re selling your hours, unless you can start to grow your business, put on staff, and somehow leverage. Six months in, you said you had no shortage of clients. Where was the turning point for you – and I know that you franchised seven years in, to starting a business. We’ll talk about that in a minute. But where was the turning point or that bit of advice that took you from selling hours into starting to build – I’ll call it an empire?
Joshua Nichols: Yes, okay. So I love that word. Yes, I got to the point where I got to around the four to five van mark, and in the trade business, four to five vans is at that point where you can’t really be on the tools anymore. You’re struggling to be the technician, and you’re struggling to be the business owner. You’re sort of in no-man’s land. And I was at this business breakfast that I just mentioned, and I was running two phones at the time, so I had one on each hip. I had no time. I was doing my paperwork at night on my bed ‘til like 2:00 or 3:00 in the morning. I didn’t have a life. I was stressed. I had more work than I knew what to do with.
But suddenly, to me, that wasn’t a good thing. That was a stressful thing, and I just had no work-life balance. So I got to this business breakfast, and I heard this guy speak. And it was like he was only speaking to me in the room. I’m like, mate, I need to get this guy, and I need to talk to him. Because I’m at a stage in business where I don’t know what to do. I’m starting to not like it, and things are – I’m letting my customers down, which just wasn’t in me to do. I hated that. And I knew that something had to change for me to enjoy my business.
I didn’t – like for me, if someone said that I would be where I am now, 12 ½ years ago when I started, I would have fallen on the ground and started laughing. Like it was a journey where it’s just been one foot in front of the other, and surrounding myself with good advice. And I think with surrounding yourself with good advice helps you just overcome these hurdles. And I suppose for me, with the person that I surrounded my advice with, he was always drumming into me to leverage out of my business.
Timbo: You know how you’re talking about like that guy, who was it?
Joshua Nichols: His name’s Steven Kaye.
Timbo: Okay, so Steven’s – you’re in this room of many, and he’s on stage and you feel as though he’s talking to you. I’ve got this kind of theory that we can often hear, as business owners or fathers or whatever, we can hear someone talk from stage, and we can hear the same message 10, 20, 30 times. But then there’s that one guy or that one moment in your life where the stars align, and that piece of information that you’re being told, you’re ready for it. But your ground is now fertile for that seed.
Joshua Nichols: Yes, absolutely.
Timbo: I’m going to guess, you probably heard what Steve said previously? Someone had said it from stage?
Joshua Nichols: Oh, definitely. I would have read it, I would have heard it. Like I definitely – but it was just that timing moment where I was at a certain stage and he was speaking a certain topic, and I went, “That’s what I need right now.”
Timbo: So what was the magic thing that Steven said on that day to you?
Joshua Nichols: He was just talking about, again, leveraging out of your business, taking that technician hat off, and putting the business owner hat on.
Timbo: It’s a big one, isn’t it? I remember the first time I heard that, and it’s like, oh, wow. All of a sudden, it’s like okay, so one to many. You mean I could be servicing, hundreds, thousands of clients?
Joshua Nichols: Yeah. For me at the time, it wasn’t so much about growing my business. It was just getting my life back. So to me, that was the biggest thing. And then as I worked more with Steve, then I realized, oh, hang on. This thing can be bigger. It can be better. And once I got the taste of not being on the tools, and being the business owner, then a new lease of life came on me, and a new lease of where I wanted my business to go.
Timbo: Is there a particular tip, Josh, that you can share with the listeners that allowed you to do that?
Joshua Nichols: Yup. I think, look, in business, it’s always good to keep yourself accountable to somebody. So whether that’s somebody that’s been in business, I would say, but for me, the No. 1 tip, surround yourself with good wisdom and keep yourself accountable.
Timbo: And keeping yourself accountable means telling someone that you’re going to do something ahead of time.
Joshua Nichols: Correct.
Timbo: And making sure that you do it.
Joshua Nichols: That’s it. Set a goal, set a vision, and then tell that person to give you a call in a month’s time or three months’ time, and keep me accountable to that goal that I just told them.
Timbo: Is that a coach, or it could be anyone? It could be your wife, it could be a mate.
Joshua Nichols: It could be anyone. Yup, it could be anyone. I always say, if you’ve got a big enough why, the how becomes easy. So if you’ve got that big enough goal of what you want to achieve and why you want to achieve it, you’ll hit the goals. Most people know what they need to do. In this day and age, you’ve got the Internet. You’ve got information overload at your fingertips. So most people these days know how to go out and do what they need to do, but they just need to be kept accountable.
Timbo: What’s your why?
Joshua Nichols: Oh, mate, my why is this. I’m a giver. That’s my goal in life. In business, in everything that I do, I like to generate income so I can give and help. We have a thing that we do in our business called one van, one child. We’re sponsoring a community in Zambia in Africa. We just sponsored over 100 kids in that community, and we’re about to do a site visit, our first field trip, I should say, in February 2015. So –
Joshua Nichols: – that’s my mantra.
Timbo: So your why, why you do what you do, why you’re building Platinum Electricians into an empire, is so that you can give back to the world?
Joshua Nichols: Correct.
Timbo: Love it.
Joshua Nichols: Yeah.
Timbo: Love it.
Joshua Nichols: It’s very simple.
Timbo: So in 2001, Josh, you’re the man in the van. Down seven years in, you decided to franchise.
Joshua Nichols: Yes.
Joshua Nichols: Okay, good question. So for me, in the first sort of five years, I built the business to 12 vans and got myself out of all the day-to-day operations. The business would run, hire, fire, do everything without me. So then I got to a point where I got a little bit bored and thought, well, what’s next? We were just based in Sydney, so we weren’t doing any work outside Sydney. And then I decided that, well, I don’t want to go and live in Melbourne or Brisbane and build another Platinum there. There’s got to be a smarter way because I’m very big on work-life balance.
So I went to – I started doing the like conference circuit, and started going to different conferences and trying to learn and educate myself, and I came across a conference in New Zealand, in Auckland, where it was a three-day, super-expensive master class, and they were talking about shares, property and business. And there was one topic there that only went for about two or three hours across those three days, and it was on franchising. And it was like that light bulb moment. It was talking about how franchising is like a marriage in business.
And my two biggest passions that I love in business is building people and building businesses. It’s fun. I love it. And to me, when this guy was talking about it, this was everything about franchising, was coaching and building people, and helping them succeed in business. So it was an absolute light bulb moment where that was it. I just knew straight away that I was to come back and build my business into a franchise model because I just knew that it would be success to my makeup, and a good way to expand nationally, and that everybody share in the brand that I helped create.
Timbo: So you went down that path. Because it’s not an easy – I’ve not done it myself, but I’ve spoken to – I’ve had the owner of Noodle Box on here – that’s a franchise. I’ve had a couple other franchise experts on this show previously. It’s not an easy process. And it’s templating everything. I imagine the paperwork and the documentation is off the charts.
Joshua Nichols: Yeah, yeah. It was huge. It took two years just to build the model.
Joshua Nichols: So when we say we started – I mean at that Year 7 – at Year 5, that’s when I had the dream to franchise an electrical business. So two years to get all the legals and trademarks and everything down tight, systemized and electronic and web-based and all the rest of it. And then we put our first brave franchise on, and from there we haven’t looked back.
Timbo: Wow. Yeah, that’s two years, hey? I suppose that’s – the business is running itself. So that was your little project?
Joshua Nichols: That was my project, right? Look, I’d be lying to say that it was all me. I have a team that is just sensational and helps me achieve my vision and goals. It’s been tough. I won’t lie. But now that we’re sitting 30 franchisees across the country, I must say it’s just a – it’s a fun place to be when you’re sharing and helping people achieve their dreams.
Timbo: You are a very – I can tell you are an upbeat bloke. You’re an optimist. The glass is always half full. What’s the darkest moment been in the development of this business?
Joshua Nichols: The darkest moment, I can tell you quite easily, I was – this was before we were franchising – I think we were in about Year 4 or Year 5, somewhere there. We were going great guns from the outside in. People looking in were looking at our business going, “That’s fantastic.” And on the inside, we had a growth curve that was over 1200 percent, and I was just putting things on, putting vans on and not giving debt the respect it deserves. And I talk about this a lot. I just got myself in too much debt, too much growth, and there was a point there where we almost lost the lot. I got to a point where I had to say to my wife, “Look, I’m not sure if we’ve got to move back in with mom and dad.”
This was prior to us having kids, but like there was a moment there where I let cash flow just go. I didn’t give debt the respect it deserves. I didn’t give cash flow the respect it deserves, and it got to a point where I’m like, “Holy, dooley, I need to get my act together when it comes to understanding financials and cash flow management and things like that.”
Timbo: So you had a sense of, geez, we’ve got a lot of customers here. We’re not short of business. And just you went off willy nilly, and were buying vans and just spending dough, and in the end, outspent yourself nearly? Nearly.
Joshua Nichols: Absolutely. Yup, just wasn’t educated when it came to financials. And as I said, didn’t give debt the respect it deserve, and just thought, oh, the money will be right – like money’s never been a driver for me. So it’s been my weakest part in business because I’m like, “Oh, we’ll make money because we’re doing the right thing.” But when it’s sitting in everyone else’s bank accounts, then you go, “Oop, maybe we need some systems here.”
Timbo: Yeah, it’s a bit of a consistent thing amongst the successful small business owners I’ve spoken to, Josh. Money isn’t like – you know, it’s an outcome. It’s not something they set out to chase.
Joshua Nichols: That’s right.
Timbo: You know? To varying degrees.
Joshua Nichols: Right.
Timbo: Yeah, interesting. That’s interesting in itself. So you’ve got – just quickly – I want to get stuck into this, you’ve got some raving – you’ve got a 21-step process to getting raving fans, and I really want to go deep into that. But before we do that, just wrap some numbers around where Platinum Electricians is today. Staff, annual turnover, customers, whatever you can give us.
Joshua Nichols: Okay. We turn over around 20 million a year. We’re running around, just shy of 200 employees. We’re sitting at around – I think we just put out 100 – let me look on the board here – 101 vans in the network. We’re sponsoring 100 children. We’re all over Australia, apart from Tazzie. And we’re growing quite rapidly. We’ve entered into – we’ve just been nominated in BRW, in the mid-market momentum awards and the Franchise Council of Australia awards. We’ve got a lot of recognition going.
Timbo: Well done, mate.
Joshua Nichols: [Inaudible] [00:38:42] 32 franchisees running.
Timbo: Goodness, mate. Well done. That deserves a round of applause. If it was a live studio audience, they’d be going nuts now, demand I stand and clap above their heads. Now let’s ease our way into marketing, if we haven’t already. You’ve got a vision, a mission and a set of core values. Your vision’s – which is kind of interesting in itself – because I come across many businesses that at some point have done this, and then it gathers dust. And I’m guessing within your business, it doesn’t. The vision and the mission and the values are lived and breathed each day. So your vision, to be the world’s greatest customer-focused electricians.
Joshua Nichols: Yup.
Timbo: So that’s your big picture. That is what we are here to do.
Joshua Nichols: Yup.
Timbo: Mission, to deliver a wow experience to customers that creates smiles and is unforgettable.
Joshua Nichols: Yup.
Timbo: And then a set of values which I won’t go into in any great detail. I’ll list some examples. You know, create wow through customer service, have fun and smile, be generous and help others in need, a set of guiding principles if you like, as to how you go about doing business. Without going into great detail there, Josh, they are instilled in everyone in the business, how?
Joshua Nichols: Okay. We live and breathe our vision, our mission, our ten core values. It’s how we do business. It’s how we roll. You can recite to any one of my team management, what’s their vision and mission, and they’ll tell you at the top of their heads, straight away. When it comes to marketing, like what this show is about, to me, how you grow a business, how you build an empire – your words, Tim, which I love –
Timbo: Mm-hm, it does.
Joshua Nichols: – it comes down to, if you – if all the listeners today listening to this go, “Well, why do I – what’s a great experience that I’ve had in my life? What’s that memorable moment?” And every single time, it’ll be an experience that makes them smile and that they can’t forget about. So for me – whether it be a restaurant you’ve been to, whatever it is – building a business and growing a business to me all comes down to 1) are people going to stay loyal to your business? And 2) are they going to refer you to their friends, family, colleagues, etc.? If you can hammer on those two points, then you’re going to have a successful, thriving, growing business.
So for me, in everything that we do as electricians, is how does the customer feel when we leave their house or when we leave their business? That is going to be what comes down to if they’re going to refer us and stay loyal and only use us. So everything that we do in our model is all about delivering that wow experience, that customer – like customer service as two words sounds so weak, but how we go about what we do with customer service leaves our customers going, “Holy dooley. Like I’ve never experienced an electrician like this. You need to try these guys.”
Timbo: You haven’t used the word, but you’ve talked around it in its entirety, the word emotional. And I had – the episode – last week’s episode, I had the founder of some online accounting software called SASU, and he – Mark was all about selling the motion. And we’re talking about online account software, for God’s sake. Now we’re talking about installing power points. I don’t mean to dummy it down, but I mean we’re talking about the work of electricians and everything you just – you didn’t even talk about the work. You just talked about the delivery of a highly emotional experience.
You know, how will the customer feel when we leave? This is rare. It’s rare and it’s powerful because far too many business owners focus on the product or the service, and not on the delivery and the feeling that that product or service delivers. How – you get it. How do you then find another 199 people who get that?
Joshua Nichols: Yeah, I tell this – I tell all my franchisees that you can take my whole business off me tomorrow, and I can go and start any business in any category, whether it be a hairdressing salon, whatever it might be, and have the same success because people get lost in what they do is going to grow a business, which couldn’t be further from the truth. I tell all my franchisees, electrical is just a byproduct of what we do. Yes, you’ve still got to do a good job, but that’s not going to make your business grow, is being a great electrician, or I mean putting a [inaudible] [00:43:12] light in faster than the next guy. That’s got nothing to do with it.
So you caught most businesses, the core product of what you’ve got to do is, yes, you’ve got to do a good job, but that’s not what grows a business. What grows a business is how you deliver that core product.
Timbo: Goodness me. Well, we’re going to talk about that. Do you think one day, Josh, you will actually test what you just said, and go and start a business completely unrelated to electricians, just to test it?
Joshua Nichols: Look, I’m a passionate cyclist. I will admit this. And I’ve never said this publicly anywhere. There will be a day where I’ll be starting a cycling shop so you can see, but it will have a massive twist, and it will be everything about what I’m doing. And it won’t be to make money, I can tell you that. It will be done out of pure passion because I’m passionate about a cycling. But when, where, you’ll have to wait and see.
Timbo: Well, I’ll look forward to that. Because I became a middle-aged man in lycra one Sunday ago. I’m doing the Great Victoria Bike Ride with my daughter. In November, we’re riding 700 kilometers. I haven’t ridden a bike for 30 years. The last bike I rode was a Molven Star Dragster with 3 on the floor, and it was purple. I literally bought a bike two weekends ago, hopped on it, rode 30 K and loved it.
Joshua Nichols: Excellent.
Timbo: Not a big fan of the lycra, but have been through the process of buying a bike. And these guys are under the pump. Online retailers, killing a lot of bike stores. But I came across one that offered a wonderful experience and amazing customer service. Like as a Dumbo going into a bike store, not knowing what bike I need, these guys made me feel highly cared for, and walked out feeling pretty smart afterwards.
Joshua Nichols: That’s right.
Timbo: So I look forward to seeing what you come up with. Hey, let’s get stuck in, Josh, your 21-step manifesto, I’m going to call it, to creating raving fans. Can you give us some insight? You call it something different. What is it? And let’s pull out some key components of it.
Joshua Nichols: Yeah, not a problem. Okay, so what we do, which then relate to giving our customers that wow experience, that we could have the best marketing in the world as far as online, and we can have the best girls answer the phone, and we can do everything from a head office point of view. But there’s a stage where we’ve got to hand over to our field technicians. Now our field technicians are really our face of our company. We can have the best marketing, but if they drop the ball out on the field, then we’ve got an issue. We don’t – we’re not creating that experience. We’re not following through with what we’ve promised online.
So we have what we call a start to finish process. It’s a 21-step process. And it’s what we train all our field technicians in, to deliver that experience to the customer, that when we leave, they’re just like, “Oh my goodness. I’ve never experienced somebody like that before.” So in that process, we go down to – obviously, we have 21 steps on what we do on site. None of those 21 steps are about anything to do with their work. The electrical work or how they put in something or whatever they do. It’s nothing to do with that.
It’s 21 steps on delivering an experience to the client, from what we do when we first arrive, or even before we arrive, I should say, to when we’re off to it, to when we leave the job and then follow up. So we’ve got some things in there as far as – and look, before I start on it, there’s a lot of things there that – I call it sort of the old chivalry service, where it’s like opening the car door for the wife. Like there’s some things that get lost in time there, but customers really appreciate. So we’re very specific with our guys on how this process works because it’s all these little things that create an impression.
Timbo: These are the 1 percenters that we forget about.
Joshua Nichols: 100 percent, these are the 1 percenters. And there’s a lot of 1 percenters, and if you do all the 1 percenters –
Timbo: You’ve got 21 percent. You’ve got 121 percent.
Joshua Nichols: Yeah, you create an experience. So for us, it’s the little things, but they’re very specific, and there’s obviously a lot of little things.
Timbo: So going from 1 to 21, you’re literally, prior to arriving at the job, and I’m guessing 21 is after you’ve left the job and then there’s everything in between. It’s a time sequential order?
Joshua Nichols: Yes, correct. So the 21 steps are all in order, but to give you a bit of an idea, it comes down to like before we arrive on site, what time do – we’re very specific about when we arrive on site. So if it’s 7:30 that the appointment’s made for, we don’t turn up at 7:20, and we don’t turn up at 7:30. We turn up at 7:25. Now that seems quite simple or quite little, but literally, we’re very on purpose on how we go about our whole process, from where we park the van to how we walk from the van to the customer’s house, to what we do when we get to the customer’s house.
Timbo: Hang on, hang on. How does one walk to the customer’s house? Is it a swagger?
Joshua Nichols: I should say it’s the route we take to the house. So we don’t just walk across the front lawn, or if we’re at a business – you know what I mean? We don’t just – we walk at designated pathways.
Timbo: No moon walks.
Joshua Nichols: Yeah, no moon walks, no swaggers.
Timbo: I’ve heard you actually arrive, a little birdie tells me, 15 minutes early, park around the corner, roll up 5 – because 15 minutes early is an inconvenience, 15 minutes late you’re incompetent –
Joshua Nichols: Yup.
Timbo: You are there 15 minutes early. That customer doesn’t know. You walk in 5 minutes early, you’re a super star.
Joshua Nichols: That’s right. So even if our guys – if it works out where, whatever reason, the last job finishes early or whatever like that, you know, I mean we won’t sit out in front of the house in our van, but we will go and park wherever it is so the customer doesn’t realize, but we’ll make sure that that van rolls up there five minutes before the job is meant to – before we’re meant to be there.
Timbo: The anal retentiveness in me, Josh, needs to know this. But I get how you can do that as your first job, but you’re half a day in, you’re three jobs in, how do you stay on time?
Joshua Nichols: Well we have a $50 cash-back on-time guarantee. So we have to be on time. We don’t have an option. If we’re not on time, we’re paying money. And I think that’s what our customers love as well. They know that when they call us, they’re going to get us. Now there are extreme –
Timbo: Yeah, go on.
Joshua Nichols: – yeah, there are extreme examples, I won’t lie, where we will get stuck on a job or we will get hung up. But we will over-communicate that to the customer. They will know well in advance, and then we’ll be looking at compensating them, not just with money, but we like to laugh with our customers. I mean we’ll shoot them a couple of free gold class movie tickets or we’ll really go above and beyond. So if that customer’s left an extra 5 minutes or 15 minutes than when we said we were going to be there, I mean they will be very happy that we’re late because they’re going to get compensated massively for it.
Not just in monetary, but just how we go about it. Customers know that we value them and that it’s not something – they know that we definitely couldn’t have got out of being 10 minutes late if that was the case. But it’s very rare, and we schedule our guys with all those sort of capabilities in place, that if something gets held up, we’re still going to make our next customer on time.
Timbo: Does that part of the manifesto mean that – does it not force you to rush jobs or leave jobs unfinished that you have to come back to?
Joshua Nichols: No, absolutely not. So it comes down to smart schedulers. So we have somebody in our office, his fulltime job is just scheduling our guys. And he’s a wizard when it comes to – obviously he’s an electrician by trade as well, so he knows how long things are going to take. And we say to our guys, “Nothing is about” – you know what I mean? There’s no points for getting in and out of that premise super, super fast. Now there’s a line there. We don’t take our time and charge our customers extra for nothing. But our whole goal in what we do is delivering customer service. So you’ve got to take the time out to talk to the customer, to make sure the customer needs are met.
But it comes around having that key person that knows how your customers click, knows how long things take, know your tradesmen intimately so they know how they work and how long they take. So it is an art. It’s not something that you can just whack anybody in and say, “Run the guys.” Like it’s quite an art in itself to schedule in a way where you can deliver a service 100 percent of the time.
Timbo: Totally. Give us some more of those little 21 steps, Josh. I’m fascinated.
Joshua Nichols: Look, before we even walk into the house, we put down a floor mat before we walk in, and on that floor mat, there’s a shaky little line on it that says, “Notice the difference.” Before we walk in, say, for a customer’s house, we’ve got things that go over our boots. We’ve got dust busters in the van. We’ve got things that, when we’re on site, I say to the guys that if there’s something there that’s small to do that you can see that’s an issue, we call it the freebie. Everyone loves a freebie. So if there’s a light flickering or there’s a switch that’s a little bit broken, I say, “Just fix it for nothing.”
I mean don’t make a big hoo-ha in front of the customer. Just say, “Look, I noticed something that was broken there, and look, I just fixed it up because I’m fussy with that sort of stuff, and I’ve got authorization from the boss. Don’t worry, it hasn’t cost you a cent, but we just want to make sure that things are right in your house.” Like just little things. It’s giving back, not just taking all the time.
Timbo: Listen, just in case you’re wondering what you have just tuned into – because there’s marketing gold dripping from the ceiling, that is Josh Nichols, founder of platinumelectricians.com.au. This is a brilliant, brilliant discussion, Josh. Thank you so much for sharing so far. We’re nearly there. I don’t really want to stop the interview, but you’ve got to stop at some point. Any chance that 21-step manifesto, can I get a copy of that to share with listeners?
Joshua Nichols: Look, it is our IP. I’ll [inaudible] [00:53:13] with you, Tim. So I won’t give it out, but I’m happy that if a listener wants to get in contact me or something like that and have a chat, whether they contact you, however you want to work it, I’m happy to have a chat with people, but I’m not sure I want my absolute intellectual property –
Timbo: Yeah. No, I’ve got to respect that. Give us one more then before we leave it.
Joshua Nichols: I would say, look, a very simple one is this. When the job’s finished, a day later, we call our customer back just to say thank you.
Joshua Nichols: So that would be –
Timbo: None of those things are magical, hard, expensive to you. It’s just like – it’s such common sense.
Joshua Nichols: That’s right.
Timbo: And you’ve gone and put them together. Well done. I mean it’s fascinating, isn’t it, this marketing thing, where I often find myself saying from stage, “It’s not brain surgery this stuff.”
Joshua Nichols: No, listen. When I train our franchisees, there’s a whole day with just me and them in a room where I train them in the sales and marketing side of the business. And when I finish he day with them, they’re like, “Man, everything you’re teaching us is so simple, it’s so clear, but how come no one’s doing it?” And I say, “That’s right. Nothing I teach you is rocket science. But everything that I teach you is how to get referrals and have customers stay loyal.” And it’s simple stuff, but it gets forgotten over time.
Timbo: What impact does all of what you just share have on how much you charge? Are you really expensive?
Joshua Nichols: When it comes to charging the customer?
Joshua Nichols: No, look, we’re midrange. I’m not going to say that we’re bottom of the range or that we’re at the very top. But we’re very competitive.
Timbo: The underlying question there is like, because you’re adding such extreme value and creating such an experience and creating so much wow, that surely price becomes less of an issue.
Joshua Nichols: Yeah.
Timbo: Whereas so often, the first question is, “How much is it going to be?”
Joshua Nichols: Yeah. Well the thing that I’m telling you – with this 21-step process, you think, man, that must take a lot of time and the customer’s paying for this. But all the things that I teach, like putting a floor mat out takes 3 seconds. Putting boot covers on takes 5 seconds. Like everything that I teach in how we deliver our customer service model doesn’t take any extra time. It’s just how we go about what we do. As far as price point goes, look, we’re middle of the range. We do make a profit. That’s what we’re in business for. But our biggest thing is that we have loyal customers. We get referrals. We don’t have to advertise, to a degree. Obviously we do do some advertising.
Joshua Nichols: Predominantly all online. That’s why –
Timbo: Yeah, like Google Ad Words, Facebook ads, stuff like that?
Joshua Nichols: That’s it. Google is our, I suppose if you could sum it up in a word, Google would be a big part of our strategy. So yeah, I don’t have to spend bucket loads on advertising because I know how to market my business, and I teach my franchisees the same thing, and that way we can keep our price point that’s competitive, profitable. Everyone’s making a dollar, and we can deliver a service that people don’t forget.
Timbo: How much –marketing’s such a broad term, Josh, but like how much do you think you would spend on marketing a year, in the last 12 months?
Joshua Nichols: Oh, for a business that turns over 20 million, you’re probably talking maximum 100 grand.
Joshua Nichols: Max.
Timbo: Wow. And that’s –
Joshua Nichols: And that’s with advertising as well, by the way.
Timbo: That’s advertising, that’s website design, development, that’s stationery, business cards, van wraps, the lot.
Joshua Nichols: Yup. We don’t –
Timbo: Yes, that’s –
Joshua Nichols: Advertising doesn’t grow a business, let me tell you that.
Timbo: Well, advertising is just part of the marketing, so that’s why I said marketing is such a broad term. But still, I mean that’s nothing.
Joshua Nichols: Yes. There’s so much work out there for everyone. The trick is just knowing how to get it. I mean being that marketer, knowing what your customers want.
Timbo: You offered amazing experience. You offer a wow experience to your customers. Do you – there is the voluntary them telling others about it. Is there some way you actively ask them to tell others about it?
Joshua Nichols: Yes. Like that’s part of our 21-step process, where we don’t sit there and ask for names and numbers, but we definitely say to the customer, part of our process at the end of our job, is I mean we make a joke of it and say, “Hey, make sure you tell your friends, or if you know anybody that can use our services or want to be wowed, make sure you pass on our data, as we’d love to hear from them. We’re growing our business and we’d love to help anybody that you know as well.” So we sort of – we end sowing that seed to tell their friends. And look, the biggest part of our business is referral, so we’re constantly sending our customers gifts and movie tickets and lots of different things that we do to say thank you.
But that’s a big part of our business. Every week, there’s stuff going out to customers to say thank you for the referral.
Timbo: Have you got some kind of structure or levels of like – I mean there’s customers and then there’s customers. I mean if you come to my place and fix a power point, I’m now a customer. I wouldn’t be expecting to get a couple of gold class tickets, probably write off all the profit on the job.
Joshua Nichols: Look, it depends – we look at customers as a lifetime customer. We don’t look at them as a one-off transaction. So we know you’ll always need an electrician, in a residential situation, I mean once or twice a year, you’ll need us. So we know that we’re going to come back to you constantly because of the service that we give you. We just know that you’re going to be loyal to us, and you are going to give us referrals. So when it comes to what we give, sometimes with the first job, what we give back is a lot of the profit in the first job. But we don’t look at the one-off transaction. We look at the repeat side.
Timbo: Wow, then you create an expectation. It’s like, geez, I just had these blokes come and put a power point in, and I got two gold class movie tickets. I’m going to get them to come and put three power points in and see what I get.
Joshua Nichols: You know, that’s the experience though. I’ve just sold you without you knowing, where you’re there going, holy doodle, these guys are just – 1) they just rocked my socks –
Timbo: Rocked your socks.
Joshua Nichols: – and 2) they’ve just sent me this. How are these guys even making money? I mean I’m going to tell someone. I’ve never experienced this before.
Timbo: I love it.
Joshua Nichols: Suddenly, you’ve told three customers, you’re happy, you’re out with the wife at the gold class movies going, “How good is this? We’re here because of our electricians. Can you believe it?”
Timbo: Joshua, I’ve got some small business owners in my forum that, again, will just wet themselves when they hear this interview. I do not put too fine a point on it. Last question, mate, a little birdie, our mutual friend, Keith Abraham, tells me that you actually have a book club for electricians.
Joshua Nichols: Yes. Listen, I’m big on education. I love – I’m a firm believer that you build the business owner, and the business will just automatically grow. It’s as simple as that. So for me, in what I said earlier in the interview, is my passion is building people and building businesses. But the first step is building people. So with all of our franchisees, they receive a weekly thought off me every week, of what I’m thinking. It’s raw and it’s exactly where my head’s at. But I also have the book club, where all of our franchisees are on a book club, whether they want to do it [inaudible] [01:00:32] read a physical book, but yeah, the books that we give them, we try and get through a book a month, so 12 a year.
And look, some of our franchisees have never read a book since primary school, but they get into it because they see the benefits it has to their business. So all the books that we give are on the customer experience. It’s about marketing, very specific to the journey that we’re on. Because with our franchisees, it’s all about growing their businesses, them not being technicians. I suppose I should say this now. The two biggest things for our franchisees is this. 1) Get them off the tools, 2) get the business to work without them.
Timbo: Yup, yeah, right. Therein lies the need for ongoing education. So I imagined a whole lot of just bodies sitting around a circle, maybe some are missing, others are just, sitting legs crossed saying how much they enjoyed the book.
Joshua Nichols: Yes. Yeah, look, it’s – I always call it the nerdy book club, but in all seriousness, there’s – like guys are getting massive revelations out of it. They’re changing their businesses. They’re achieving their dreams just by the motivation in coaching and helping them, just absolutely grasp the marketing model. Because we give them all the systems. We give them all the templates. We give them all the branding. The biggest thing is, well how do – the one thing that I say to the franchisees that I can’t do is hop inside you and move your mouth for you. That’s your job. So one of the biggest things we train in our network is on how to market yourself, self-marketing.
Timbo: Mate, I’m going to leave it there, Josh. I am humbled by some of the things people share on this show, and you have been no exception to that. I’m excited by the kind of marketing you’ve talked about. There have been light bulb moments for me, there have been sparks flying, not to put too fine a power point on it.
Joshua Nichols: It’s all good, mate. I appreciate your time, Tim, and it’s been good chatting with you.
Timbo: Good on you, Josh. Thanks, mate.
Joshua Nichols: All right, buddy, take it easy.
Timbo: Oh yeah. Right there is marketing G-O-L-D. I hung out from that interview, and I was pumping the air, I was so excited. I love talking to guys like that, who have just got such a beautifully simple, elegant, smart approach to marketing, to growing their people, to – oh gee, all sorts of stuff. Loved it. [Inaudible] [01:03:03] gave a Top 3 set of learnings, thanks to Net Registry and 99 Designs. I’m going to give you a Top 7 because there was just so much gold in there. No. 1, work-life balance. Get it right, team. Hey? All work and no play makes Jack a dull boy. So have some fun. No. 2, seek mentors and get into personal development. Okay? That’s why you listen to this show, and I reckon that’s been a top tip for many episodes, for many successful marketers that I’ve spoken to.
No. 3, will people stay loyal and refer us, is a great question that Josh asks, and has his sparkies ask themselves. How does the customer feel when we leave? What a great set of questions. Good questions elicit great answers. No. 4, have a start to finish process of 1 percenters. Go away and write your list of 1 percenters, and post it on the show notes of this episode. I dare you. It doesn’t have to be 21 steps. Even if you’ve just got one 1 percenter in your business, I’d love to hear about it. Go to the show notes. It’s smallbusinessbigmarketing.com. This is Episode 205.
No. 5, build your people. I love how he’s got a book club for all the electricians, sitting around there, doing their knitting, legs crossed and just talking about books. I love it. Great. No. 6, weekly thought to all staff. I love how he does that. Staff retention, major problem in all businesses. I reckon Josh would have a very low, a very high, I should say, staff retention rate. And No. 7, remember that great marketing isn’t complicated. It’s not brain surgery. Do the little things well, do the big things well. I don’t know. It’s just not complicated. Have fun doing it. Make marketing a hobby.
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