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Posted March 10, 2020

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Saturday was daylight savings (which also happens to be my favorite day of the year) and we got to change the clocks and be rewarded with a little more sunshine in our days going forward. 

What also comes with spring are the gazillions of home repair projects we put off all winter long. In the coming days and weeks, we’ll start to see our neighbors out on ladders, in flower beds with the gardening shears, or meeting with contractors to get the leaky roof repaired or touch up peeling paint on the front porch.

Ride the Spring Customer Rush With Pockets Lined With Green

There are many tasks associated with the beginning of a season and spring tends to be when everyone gets in touch with their landscaper, painter, carpenter, tiler—you name it!—to get on the calendar for work. For those of you who operate a business that responds to these kinds of spring-time requests, this can be both a frenetic and profitable time of year. Here’s how to keep up with these demands while keeping the stress monsters at bay.

Tip #1: Smart Shopping Can Keep More Coin in Your Pocket

Out With the New in With the Used

As a recent NPR article puts it: “We’re actually living in a golden age of used cars… the reliability of used cars is remarkable these days.” Your fleet of vehicles is essential for your business whether you’re a one-man show, or have a fleet of 20 trucks. One vehicle will cost you anywhere from $10,000 to upwards of $50,000. The temptation will be to purchase fancy, new vehicles for your fleet but this isn’t the best use of your hard-earned dollars. You should consider purchasing used vehicles. 

There are many online resources to purchase used items. Most likely there is a “Nextdoor” site in your neighborhood, Craig’s List, eBay, Uncle Henry’s, CarMax, Cars.com, and Autolist are also good resources for used goods.

The Kelley Blue Book is also an essential go-to when you’re researching a vehicle to purchase. As their site states it “The Kelley Blue Book … reports on a fair price when selling the car to an individual instead of doing a dealer trade-in.” and they “reflect local conditions in over 100 different geographic regions and are updated weekly to give consumers the most up-to-date used car pricing information.”

Do the research and reap the rewards

NPR recently had a story called “How to Buy A Car (Without Being Taken For A Ride)” which has some helpful guidelines. 

Get Credit Approved in Advance 

The recommendation is to be pre-approved for your loan before even entering the dealer’s lot. This serves a few important purposes: it takes the anxiety out of whether you’ll be approved for a loan or if there are issues with your credit, and it allows you to shop interest rates or even just negotiate an interest rate with the dealer.

Test Drive That Shiny New Toy Into the Ground

While it’s understood that all of us do the majority of our research online these days, experts encourage a lot of test driving before you purchase. They also recommend you drive just the vehicles you have pre-determined are in your budget so you don’t get seduced by shiny objects and into purchasing something you can’t afford.

One Thing At A Time and You are In Control

Vehicle salespeople have a superpower: doing complicated math in their heads. If you are most people, you can quickly find yourself in a state of confused exhaustion half-way through a vehicle purchase. The way around this is to keep things simple and understand that you are in charge and you don’t have to give up too much information to your salesperson. Stick with “what will this vehicle cost me?” and don’t let trade-ins or other factors be brought into the equation until you have that basic number from them. 

As far as any trade-in vehicles you might have – do your research in advance and come prepared with a number at which you think the vehicle you own is valued. This is where Kelley Blue Book again comes in handy (as well as Edmunds.com) where you can research the value of any vehicles you own that you’re thinking of trading in. NPR also advises that if you get low-balled by the dealer on your trade-in, don’t be afraid to walk away and sell it elsewhere after you have purchased your new vehicle.

The Ugly Truth of Seven-Year Loans

Don’t let any dealer talk you into a longer-term loan. While it will be attractive to imagine paying less per month and give you the false impression that you can afford a more expensive vehicle, these longer-term loans are nefarious: you will end up paying way more in interest! Additionally, as NPR puts it “You’re waging this battle against depreciation because basically you’re paying off a loan while the car drops in value.” So not only are you paying more in interest, but the value of the vehicle will fall precipitously while you are still in the process of paying off your loan.

Tip #2: Need to Finance Supplies for the Spring Before the Big Bucks Start Flowing In? A Gas Card Will Help!

Get the WEX FlexCard Gas Card and Carry a Balance While You Get Your Business Rolling

Lots of new business flowing in the door is good news and exciting, and can also sometimes create a pinch between needing to purchase all your project supplies before you start seeing those first payments roll in. One way to solve for this front-loading is to use a gas card to pay for your fuel expenses. 

With a 3¢ per gallon* rebate and no setup, annual, or card fees, the FlexCard is the easiest way for your business to get through busy times. Having the flexibility to carry a monthly balance whenever cash flow is tight is the perfect remedy for those times of the year when you have a higher cash output. Then when the payments start flowing in as you finish each job, you can pay down your balance. And when it’s all said and done, you’ll have the card for future use.

Find Cheap Gas and Fill Up Anywhere With this Gas Credit Card

WEX gas cards are accepted at every major U.S. gas station, and over 45,000 service locations. It’s easy to find accepting locations near you—just download the WEX Connect app and search by lowest price, brand, distance, or location. What’s beautiful about this is it allows you and your fleet the flexibility to find cheap gas near your job location which will end up saving your company money and increasing your bottom line.

Keep track of spending with this gas credit card

With WEX’s gas card, everything is visible to you and you can control how the card is used. You’ll be able to set purchase controls that work best for your business and put some controls around employee spending. There are all kinds of ways to set controls such as what hours of the day or days of the week the card can be used, or how many dollars per day, to name a few. 

Tip #3: A New Rulebook and What To Expect When Hiring

There are a lot of ways you can build up a workforce for high need times, and if you’ve been in business for longer than a year you probably have some tricks up your sleeve. But we’re in a new world when it comes to hiring: low unemployment is making filling jobs hard for business owners.

Low Unemployment Makes Hiring Trickier

It’s exciting to be in a busy period with your business and be in a place where you need to hire help. One thing to note is because of the current low unemployment rate in the U.S., hiring seasonal crews has become more difficult. There are some easy changes you can make to your hiring process to help mitigate this. 

Expand the Cycle

Expand your hiring cycle to give yourself more time to fill those seasonal slots. Start the process earlier to scoop up those seasonal workers before they find other jobs. In the same vein, tighten up your hiring timeline so you can get employees in the door quickly and avoid the risk of another company grabbing them while you’re dragging your feet. 

Update your Messaging

You might also do some work to update your collateral materials to refresh your messaging and really sell seasonal workers on how great joining your team will be for them. Come up with a list of benefits to the work and incorporate that into your copy.

Provide a Marketing Internship Opportunity and Reap the Rewards

First things first: get on the horn and get a marketing intern from a local college to tackle social media for you. Tell them: “I need an active social presence for hiring and for bringing in new business. Follow me around, take my picture and photos of my crew, listen to my conversations with clients and employees and get us on Social!” And then let them work their magic. 

A tactic to consider (which your marketing intern can implement for you) is contacting your best workers from last year’s crew and locking them in for spring and summer work now. 

Another idea for your intern to implement would be to put a referral bonus plan in place for current employees. Current employees who refer a seasonal worker get a sum of money if the person they recommend stays on through the season.

Have your intern reach out to local high schools, community colleges, and universities. Talk to their career services department and get on those job boards. Post on local job boards, both electronic and the old-fashioned kind with pushpins and a corkboard! You might pick a job fair to attend, or send your marketing intern for a day to get the word out that you’ll need seasonal help.

Tip #4: Stay Zen for a Happier You

We’ve all been there. Work can get busy and stressful sometimes and with that stress, we have a choice to make. We can either grind through the busy times and be edgy the whole way through or we can find ways to mitigate the stress and handle the whole experience with grace. Your choice, but I think your friends, family, and co-workers would prefer it if you chose the latter. Alice Boyes of Harvard Business Review outlines some smart ways to manage stress during work’s busy times. 

Work Fit For a Monkey As Stress Reliever

We all have parts of our job even a monkey could do. Those simpler tasks can be a nice respite during busy times. They are necessary tasks and don’t require a lot of energy or thought, and can be fun. Train yourself to see them as a reward after a period of hard work. An example might be organizing your paperwork, sending out bills, or making those phone calls that have been hanging over your head. This kind of work is satisfying and good to save for a time when you’re tired and need some quiet, put-your-head-down-and-plow-through-it kind of work.

Multitasking is a Made-Up Thing

Boyes recommends taking all of your tasks and placing them each in their own separate mental boxes. When you’re working on one of them, she suggests putting all the other distractions out of your mind and focusing just on the task at hand. In other words, stop multitasking! This allows you to enjoy what you’re doing and not be bogged down by outside noise, both physical and metaphorical. 

Although for the longest time the ability to multitask was seen as the gold standard, thinking has changed and multitasking has become frowned upon. An article in Time Magazine observes, “In essence, the more we multitask the less we are able to accomplish because we slowly lose our ability to focus enough to learn. Attention is essential to learning. If we attempt from an early age to multitask constantly, we do not practice how to tune out the rest of the world, to engage in deeper processing and learning. Empirical research has demonstrated that multitasking with technology (such as texting, listening to music, checking emails) negatively impacts {getting work done}.” The bottom line is that our society got it all wrong with the juggling act we have been expected to do – it doesn’t work! So focus on one task at a time and you will soon experience the benefits that result. 

Use Mindfulness to Truly Enjoy this Abundance of Customers (and Cash!)

According to the American Institute of Stress, nearly half of workers (40%) say that their job is very or extremely stressful. It’s how we handle the stress that can make a difference in our overall well-being. 

When work is busy it can feel like you need to be productive every second of the day. This thinking works against you in the long run. Your brain needs quiet time. Take those moments when you’re standing in line at the hardware store or waiting for a client to show up to sit quietly and empty your mind of thoughts, even when the temptation is to pull out your smartphone and respond to emails or texts.

This practice is often referred to as mindfulness, and studies, like one conducted for the American Psychological Association in 2010 by SG Hoffman, show a correlation between practicing mindfulness and reduced feelings of stress and anxiety. 

Tip #5: Colleagues Can be a Treasure Trove of Support and Information

Networking groups and Local Chambers can provide support in surprising and unexpected ways. A chamber or networking event can provide you with ideas and inspiration while at the same time giving you the added benefit of continuing to build your business. Share stories, questions, and concerns about your work with others in your field or in a complementary field. You’re all probably experiencing similar excitement and activity that occur during a busy time of year and studies show that sharing your experiences with others helps alleviate any stress you might be experiencing.

And being part of a chamber of commerce will boost your credibility when potential customers are looking for a business with whom to work. According to a research study by The Shapiro Group, Inc. and Market Street Services, when consumers know that a small business is a member of their local chamber of commerce, they are 44 percent more likely to think favorably of it and 63 percent more likely to purchase goods or services from the company in the future.

How to Thrive During a Seasonal Work Increase

This is an exciting time of year for your business with a lot of opportunity to squirrel away a bunch of cash. Because you’ll be inundated with work, times like these are fun and great but can also be stressful. Not to worry! Incorporate some of the stress relief tactics we’ve just taught you, consider the suggestions we’ve made about how to ramp up with a clear head, and you can ride through this awesome time of abundance ending with more money in your pocket and a smile on your face.

To learn more about WEX, a growing and global organization, please visit wexinc.com.

 

Resources: Harvard Business Review, Psychology Today, Entrepreneur Magazine, Fast Company, Forbes, Modern Hire, Health Magazine, NPR, Journal of Behavioral Medicine, American Psychological Association.

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