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A system a day keeps the Doctors okay

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In business, the path to consistency is through systems – and in regional business, where population and target markets can be static, this is pertinent to success. Word-of-mouth travels – and it travels fast! 

Peter Arnold, owner of termite extermination business Termite Doctors on the Sunshine Coast, believes systems are the key to delivering a product or service which creates customer satisfaction all the time, every time.

“You have to build your workload up in a small regional area to a point where you can keep working all-year round,” he says. “When clients understand and appreciate what you do, how you do it and you meet their expectations, it’s beautiful – then you’ve got a client that keeps coming back to you.”

Starting points

In 2002, funded by the entirety of their $5000 in savings, Arnold and his wife, Elaine, opened Termite Doctors. Before opening shop, Arnold enrolled in the New Enterprise Initiative Scheme, a government-run course. The program is easily accessible with providers across the country – proving a real lifeline for those in all reaches of Australia, metropolitan and regional alike.

After six months in operation, Arnold sought help from a business coach to further hone the strategies and initial procedures for operations.

“That taught us to come outside the business at least one day every month and review exactly where we are … we look at our systems and we look at our key performance indicators,” he says. “Then, we started writing out strategies for how we can improve things and we still carry that on.”

Use the best tools to service the population

Maintaining consistency can be difficult when your two best employees feel more inclined to chase their tail than work – this is the challenge for Arnold and his termite detection beagles, Sherlock and Bailey.

“The sniffer dogs are a tool we use to find termite infestations,” says Arnold. These beagles are the most effective and non-intrusive way to detect termites.

“Humans are only 46 per cent accurate in finding termite infestation, but a dog is up to 98 per cent,” he says.

Despite their high success rate, using sniffer dogs is not standard practice for the industry, with only 12 to 15 currently in Australia (Sherlock and Bailey included). Arnold has had to develop his own systems for managing his canine employees and ensuring day-to-day operations are highly standardised and uniform.

The training process is approximately 18 months, starting with scent recognition.

“Then we took it on to where we actually did the searches inside people’s houses and we overcome the distractions and human odours that are around … now Sherlock will go in and ignore all those smells and look to pinpoint just the termite smell itself.”

However, Arnold says it’s more than just training the dog – the employee has to be trained as well – and they have to approach the process doggedly!

Strategies for sure-fire success in business

Implementing system-friendly practices into your business will streamline operations and make sure you’re a standout in your region. For instance, when technicians inspect a customer’s house, Arnold ensures the procedure follows a check sheet covering all the basics.

“You’ve got to give clients a consistent product. It’s no good if it goes up and down,” he says. “When [technicians] arrive at their house, they expect us to wear shoe covers, to use all the right equipment, look in all the areas we should and in a reasonable amount of time.

“You need to have aims and you need to cover those aims. Systems actually get you to that point.”

To ensure all processes are written, Arnold has implemented a training log for employees to fill out when introduced to a new or existing task.

“We can keep a check on it and systemise things so you can go back and follow that approach again.”

“It pulls everything in line so we’ve got a consistent product … The biggest incentive is the expectations don’t change – this is the point and this is the quality of work and the way we do things. If we keep to that standard, we don’t have an issue,” he says.

Overall, systems allow for the business basics to be streamlined and for employees and customers alike to have the same vision.

“You’ve got to be systemised, it doesn’t matter how big your business is. If you haven’t got systems, then everything is going to fall apart,” he adds.  

At a glance – five tips for smooth operations
  1. For success, aim for consistency at every stage of business and in all interactions with the customer.
  2. Seek help in developing systems – an objective opinion will assist you in figuring out the best and most efficient way to complete a task.
  3. Factors may be beyond your control – from market trends to unpredictable employees. To manage these, determine systems that work for your business and train yourself to deal with them in the best way possible.
  4. Implement a system for every aspect of your business.
  5. Keep a log of all new and existing procedures. If there are any changes within the business, update your systems to reflect it.

So, if you’re looking to work on your business rather than being stuck in it, book in for a complimentary business assessment today with Switzer Business Coaching

Important information: This content has been prepared without taking account of the objectives, financial situation or needs of any particular individual. It does not constitute formal advice. For this reason, any individual should, before acting, consider the appropriateness of the information, having regard to the individual’s objectives, financial situation and needs and, if necessary, seek appropriate professional advice.

Published on: Thursday, August 12, 2010

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