HVP Editor Joe Dart reports from ‘Built to Last’, a business development training day from The Boiler Business, run by Tommy-Lee Zmuda, founder of Hallamshire Energy Services.

When you train to become a gas engineer, you spend a lot of time on the technical knowledge you need to do the job. Although this is an absolute necessity to carry out the work in a correct and safe manner, the majority of training courses do not offer information about how to run your own business.

Working for someone else is very different to setting up on your own, and it can be difficult to ensure a fledgling business survives and grows, especially without the necessary skills. But, don’t despair, as there are training opportunities out there to help make up for this deficit.

HVP was invited to attend ‘Built to Last’ – a business development training day, held in Sheffield. Tommy-Lee Zmuda, founder of Hallamshire Energy Services, and marketing expert Rob Taylor, ran the session. Under the moniker of The Boiler Business, the two have run a number of one-day courses aimed at helping tradespeople improve the performance of their businesses, with Built to Last being the most recent iteration.

The idea behind the one-day intensive training is to help tradespeople build a business that will last by helping them understand how their business is functioning, and offering advice on what improvements can be made.

Before the training day, Tommy urged all attendees to come armed with knowledge about how many enquiries they had received, the number of quotes given and boiler installations performed, in the last 12 months, as well as an overview of costs associated with installation and overall gross profit for the year.

On arrival at the training day, attendees were met with a weighty 54-page workbook, forming the basis of the content for the day’s programme. The workbook was a constant companion over the course of the day and a useful tool to help attendees evaluate the performance of their business. 

Rob started the day by outlining the importance of building the business that you want: “You’ll see a lot of gurus and business coaches talk about building something massive… but our approach is different, it’s more about what is it that you want. Don’t just chase getting bigger and busier just for the sake of it.”

To help attendees understand the journey towards building a successful, profitable business, Tommy gave an overview of his own story. He, like many others, started his business with not much more than a banged-up, second-hand van. However, over the course of 10 years, his boiler installation business has completely transformed into one of the most successful in the Sheffield area.

The road to success is paved with mistakes, however, and Tommy shared some of the key experiences which shaped the development of his business. Although he freely admits that he had made poor decisions, such as wasting money advertising on things like roadside billboards, the real challenge came when he realised in early 2017 that he was £26,000 in debt.

“How the hell could [that be] when we were so busy in that last quarter?” he said. “Simple; we weren’t charging enough. I was in the ‘expansion trap’ – building too fast and having no systems in place, having too many overheads, trading on price not quality, etc.”

Tommy explained that his business wasn’t robust enough to cope with what it had grown into: “You’ve got to get the foundations in first, and then you’ve got to realise the more marketing you put on the framework is more likely to fall down. I needed to get the business systems in place, I needed to look at my profit first.”

Tommy’s business journey provided an ideal framing tool for the focus of the day’s training and it became clear that, as a business owner, you aren’t necessarily going to get everything right first time, mistakes do happen and lessons can be learnt from them. 

During the session, Rob and Tommy hit upon many common areas that installers find different to prioritise, such as creating an effective marketing strategy, building robust business systems, and even maximising your own personal development.

The session was interactive, with those in attendance consistently urged to turn to their workbooks to answer the questionnaires laid out within, which were designed to help them gain a real understanding of how their business is performing and which aspects need more work. 

The workbook provided was also packed full of useful resources, from must-read SEO guides to apps for tracking and monitoring leads.

However, at the end of the day, all these resources and training mean little if you don’t act on what you’ve learned, according to Tommy. He advised that attendees make a note to revisit their workbooks in three months’ time to evaluate what progress had been made.

Dyfed Roberts, of D.R. Plumbing and Heating in Wrexham, made the journey to attend Built to Last, and was impressed with the day’s session. Although he had attended some of the previous sessions Tommy had run covering similar subject areas, the programme still covered enough new ground to warrant the price of admission.

He explained: “What Built to Last really did for me was that it highlighted my strengths and weaknesses, as a person and in business. I’ve taken notes and I’ve got action points to implement.”

“Implementing it is the hardest part, you can sit on a course all day but, if you don’t take action, you’re never going to get to the next level.”

On top of monthly Built to Last sessions, The Boiler Business is also running a three-part session aimed at improving your business marketing:

  • Dominate Marketing Strategy
  • Dominate Social & Content
  • Dominate Google

For more information, visit: bit.ly/2s1x6rn