In ServiceMax’s recent discussions with customers, we have seen a trend toward creating a blended workforce of in-house and contract field service engineers. In our discussions with field service engineers, we’ve heard that retiring workers are looking for more flexibility which leads them to consider starting their own businesses. Based on these insights we have collected some great first steps to get the ball rolling.
1. Pour a Foundation
From identifying how to incorporate to choosing systems for managing expenses and income, starting a business can be daunting. In addition, business owners must allocate funds and budget for taxes, insurance, and a myriad of other costs that are not apparent on day 1. Lance is a great place to start; it is a purpose-built finance software that not only lets contractors manage expenses but also provides guidance around taxes and insurance. Time tracking is often a requirement and Harvest provides a rich set of features to help with time tracking and invoicing. Lastly, make it easy to collect customer feedback with surveys powered by Survey Monkey.
2. Define a Brand
The joy of starting a company is partly found in defining a brand: choosing colors, a logo, and taglines that will be the first things that customers see and will end up on uniforms, business cards, websites, and decals on trucks—maybe one day on the jersey of a soccer team. Working with designers can be costly and time-consuming. A great place to start is with Fiverr or Behance, where you can connect with a designer for a low introductory cost and get first iterations for your business. For people with a creative streak, take the brand guidelines and head over to Canva.
3. Diversify Demand Opportunities
Building a diversified book of business is critical to long term success. Steps include forming a great relationship with your previous employer and registering on marketplaces like Sitehands, where companies are able to hire vetted professionals for their needs. A key point is that diversifying demand streams among multiple customers reduces the impact of losing an individual customer to budget cuts, changes in business strategy, or other factors.
4. Foster a Community
Running a business can oftentimes be a lonely activity but building a network of like-minded professionals with whom to share ideas, talk through challenges, and decompress is very important. Finding the right groups can be daunting, but there are many places to look, including existing social networks like Facebook and LinkedIn and more specialty, sites such as Meetup. In addition, there are industry-specific networks, like Tradehounds, a community environment specifically built for trade craftsmen.
5. Keep Learning
After delivering a great customer experience, completing administrative tasks, and spending time with family, a new business owner may have little time or energy to stay abreast of technology trends. But staying curious and current is critical to success in anticipating market and customer needs. Here we recommend an incremental approach. First, wherever possible consume content while traveling; use playlists to queue up podcast content to listen to while driving from site to site, or while watching a child’s sports practice or dance rehearsal. Second, set aside a day every month strictly for learning, whether to develop softer skills with content from Ted or Khan Academy or to gather industry-specific information provided by the vendors you service.
These are just a few of the first steps that would-be independent field service engineers should consider when starting their business.