23 Amazing insights, Tools, and Strategies from the 2017 Service Autopilot Conference | Best of SA4: NEXT

Published on November 30, 2017

If you’ve ever said…

“It’s too hard to find good employees these days!”

...then count yourself lucky.

Hiring,  which is the #1 problem for every owner in the Service Industry, may actually be a good thing for your business.

Let me say that again: It's good that you can't find employees.

Jonathan Potoschnik’s opening Keynote had one of the biggest takeaways from the 2017 Service Autopilot Conference, SA4::NEXT.

Read on to see Jonathan explain the BIGGEST REASON you don’t want it to be easy to hire employees.

SA4 Conference, Day 1

If you only heard the first 30 minutes of Jonathan’s opening Keynote … you probably wanted to run for the hills with a tinfoil hat pulled down to your ears. Is the whole world burning down?

Future Threats Coming to Your Industry (and How to Fight Back)

“Our industries are multi-$100 billion dollar industries. Outsiders are looking at what we do saying, ‘if I can syphon off 1% of that market… our company would be worth billions.’”

Jonathan's SA4 Opening Keynote

Jonathan said, “And one day… they will figure it out.”

  • National brands want to steal your clients
  • Robots will replace the need for employee labor
  • Companies like Amazon and Home Depot will try to reinvent this industry

The only reason National Brands and Big Name Corporations haven't taken over the Service Industry... is because they can't find the labor. It's too hard, it takes too much time to train, and the almost nobody wants to do it.

Jonathan's theory: "The only reason any of us own a business is because it's so damn hard to find good employees."

But - there will be massive changes to your industry in the next 5-10 years. One day soon, National Brands will figure out a way to replace employees... with robots.

Jonathan's talk on Robots Future of Lawn Care

What will we do then?

Jonathan explained how important it is that you find a way to make your business “Antifragile. Antifragile is the concept that you are strong enough to withstand stress and outward attacks on your business.

Antifragile: when the going gets tough, you don’t crumble. You thrive.

You can’t predict the future. But you can look at the trends, the technology, the “forward thinking” businesses, and you can make your business stronger.

Here’s the big takeaway:

There are cracks in your competitor’s businesses. When the big changes hit, they’re going to fail.

That’s where you step up.

Jonathan's Opening Keynote SA4 from the Crowd

If you’ve done everything you can to make your business Antifragile...

  • Hired the smartest people
  • Put the best processes in place
  • Experimented with the new, game-changing technology (are you playing with robots yet?)

...then all of your competitors will wilt and die off, until all that is left is the single champion - YOU.

What’s Next… in Service Autopilot?

"The Future."
That’s all we cared about at SA4.

So, of course, when John Caldwell, our brave CTO, took to the stage he told us about the future of Service Autopilot.

John's Talk - What's Next in Service Autopilot?

As is tradition, he promised a ton of new features. But this year, something was different. You could feel the energy as he got ready - raised his hands - and finally announced:

“Automations is out of Beta!”

Service Autopilot’s Automations, the single driving vision that has preceded our software for years… is finally going to be released. Details will follow SOON.

For those of you itching to get your hands on Automations, we highly suggest you contact Mike Callahan (one of our Certified Advisors). His consulting company, SimpleGrowth, is already knocking the automations game out of the park… and he might be able to help you get in on it early.

crowd at SA4

What else was announced at SA4?

The biggest cheer might have come from the announcement that Payroll is also almost ready. Here’s a big list of what we’re cooking up for 2018:

SA4 Planned 2018 Releases

There are also a few other major features not on that list will make a 2018 appearance… =)

Speaking of Automations...

Next up, Mike Callahan of SimpleGrowth took to the stage…

...and proceeded to blow our minds with the Automations he had set up. Hiring processes, sales funnels, employee management automations - you name it, this guy can do it.

Mike Callahan’s talk, Back to the Future: A Look at Automations, was an exploration into the technical wizardry that is going to revolutionize how you run your business.

He ran us through the 4 parts of a Successful Automation:

Mike Callahan at SA4

Key Takeaway: Focus on the repeatable tasks in your business. Is there a way you could use technology to automate this process?

Look for ways to clone yourself in your business. This is going to maximize your time, your productivity, and your money.

We can’t recommend Mike and his company, SimpleGrowth, enough for those of you looking to get you Automations set up in your business.

Mike Callahan helping out a Member at the SimpleGrowth Booth.
Mike Callahan helping out a Member at the SimpleGrowth Booth.

He’s one of our Certified Advisers, which means he’s gone through extensive training and preparation to handle both Automations, and consulting new (and old!) Members to get more use out of Service Autopilot.

Why Drop Thousands of Dollars Worth of Work?

While the sessions were going on, a few successful Service Autopilot Members took a minute of their time to join us on “The Profit Roadmap” - the newly launched SA podcast.

One of our guests, Ted Glaser explains to Cody and Bear why he’d be willing to part with decent, profitable work to laser-focus his business.

Ted Glaser on the Profit Roadmap Podcast

Ted told us what’s best for your business is about more than the bottom line. You have to find where you can perform with excellence consistently and without burning out.

We recorded many episodes of The Profit Roadmap at the conference:

  • Martha Woodward, cleaning and performance pay guru
  • Jason Cupp, business consultant and team-building coach
  • Chad Cranston and Garrett Matthews, business owners committed to optimization

You can keep an eye out for these episodes (and more!) by subscribing to The Profit Roadmap on iTunes or Google Play today.

Is Your Brand Enough?

Re Perez Branding Talk at SA4

What is a brand?

  • Your logo?
  • Your font?
  • Your color scheme?

The answer:

All of these. None of these. And so much more.

Re Perez from Branding for the People brought us the Branding Secrets of the Fortune 500… and made it possible for even the smallest company to take advantage of strategies used by billion-dollar companies.

Finding your brand will make everything you do in your business easier and more successful. Why?

Because... “95% of all purchasing decisions are made in the subconscious.”

Re Perez at the Service Autopilot Conference

When you know your brand, when you get that “desired perception” in your client’s minds (and they don’t even have to think to recognize you), it builds trust and familiarity.

One big takeaway: One of the seven big elements of your brand is how you position your company.

Think about these earrings:

How much would you pay for them if you found them at an upscale jewelry store, like Tiffany’s?

What about if you found them at Walmart?

When you control your brand - when you work hard to get it to a certain position - nobody can touch you. Lowballers will look at you and say “how can they charge so much?”

Already Bursting with Excitement on Day 1

Of course, people got to the Conference early…

Flying in to SA4

And some others were already making friends…

having fun at SA4

But it was after that first day, when BluePay held the big reception that people truly started to loosen up.

SA4 BluePay Reception 1

Free drinks make for a great time. Like this... 

SA4 Ty

SA4 Conference, Day 2

Day two was a whole lot of the same…

...which is to say, it was amazing.

Stuck? Crush Your Growth Plateau

Jonathan came up on stage, and Jason Cupp made his reprise by joining him.

Excited for Jason Cupp's Talk

And together, they crushed one of the greatest problems every single business owner faces:

Getting unstuck when your growth grinds to a halt.

“A lot of companies have no clue how profitable they are…”

...or how unprofitable they are.

Big Takeaway: Know how much you are worth in your business. Are you the owner? The operations manager?

You need to be paying yourself a salary - don’t simply take “whatever profits are left over” as your take-home paycheck.

When you pay yourself a set salary, you force yourself to think strategically about your role in the company, and the future of your business.

This allows you to reinvest in the business, and focus on working on the business, instead of in it.


  • the right clients,
  • the right services,
  • be strategic about where your money goes.

That’s how you break through any growth plateau.

Lifting the Curtains on One of SA’s Newest Features

Here’s something people are always asking us about:

Custom Reports.

  • I need a report that does ABC...
  • Can I get XYZ report on my dashboard?
  • How can I tell where these numbers come from?
  • My business really needs to see these two reports compared to each other, is there a way to do that?

John and Ryan took to the stage to give a big “YES!” to all of these in their joint talk, Predict the Future? Building Business Intelligence in Your Organization.

Ryan Chipman at SA4 Reports Center

Most importantly, they announced the Report Center, a new way to get your Reports out of Service Autopilot.

What will the Report Center do?

  1. Help you finally see your numbers… All of them, any of them.
  2. Take your custom fields and turn them into reports.
  3. Download canned reports and modify them to fit your business model.

The amount of variation, specialization, granularity, and specificity in the Report Center is unprecedented.

You’ll have powerful transparency within your business, and increased visibility on employees, on your services, and for every other aspect of your company.

Why You Should Pay for Performance, Not Longevity

Martha Woodward at SA4

“I live 90 miles away from my office. I rarely go in anymore.”

This was one of Martha Woodward’s (of Dusting Divas and Quality Driven Software) opening remarks during her talk: Empower Your Employees.

She is a strong advocate of rewarding high-performing employees. Martha has built extensive processes and systems in her business to motivate her best employees (and even encourage her “worst employees” to become rockstars).

She was kind enough to show us her philosophy behind this incredibly successful system:

“I present things as Choices. You’re going to make the choice to earn more, or you’re going to make the choice to weed yourself out of our company.”

Key takeaway:

Paying performance won’t work… unless your entire company buys in. You need to buy in, your employees need to see the benefits, and even your clients should buy in.

“Wait! My clients have to buy in?”

It’s actually really easy. Martha Woodward and Maria Dorian developed Quality Driven, a software that makes it really easy for you to get data on your employees from your clients.

Employee Buy in at SA4 Martha Woodward Quality Driven

This is one of the easiest ways to move your company over to “performance-based pay” AND hugely improve your client satisfaction. Martha and Maria have interwoven their years of Cleaning Industry expertise to help all service business owners increase their client AND employee retention with this one single piece of software.

Bonus: Service Autopilot is building out an integration with Quality Driven, coming soon!

Conley Ipson on the Challenges of Scale and "Solopreneurship"

Another day, another set of guests on the podcast.

On Day 2, we talked with Conley Ipson about his personal story in his solo operation. Conley gave us a glimpse into the problems that come with tying your identity to your business and the hope that you can find on the other side of separating who you are from who your business is.

Bear Getting His Daily Dose before the Podcast
Bear Getting His Daily Dose before the Podcast

The full episode is coming soon to iTunes and wherever you listen to podcasts, but I wanted to give you Conley’s biggest piece of advice now:

  • Remember why you got into this business. That’s the kind of motivation that gets you through intense struggles.

This is the kind of story The Profit Roadmap was created to tell, one that:

  • Captures a unique journey with applications for any business owner.
  • Is told “straight from the trenches,” by the owner/operator who experienced it.
  • Engages with business owners of all sizes who have great stories and advice to share.

Be on the lookout for Conley’s episode by subscribing to The Profit Roadmap on iTunes or Google Play today.

Profit + Purpose = Impact

Greg Crabtree, an accountant and consulting expert, opened his talk, Simple Numbers, with this line:

You guys need to get a life if you’re getting excited about listening to an accountant on a Friday Afternoon.”

He’s not just any accountant. He’s a fire-breathing numbers expert:

Greg Crabtree breathing Fire at SA4

Greg showed us a strategic view of:

  • Best reporting practices
  • The smarter way to look at Cash Flow
  • Balancing your profit and making it work for you

It’s simply impossible to sum up Greg’s three-hour talk here. Instead, I’ll leave you a few golden nuggets he gave us:

Greg Crabtree at SA4

Greg’s “5 Competing Forces of Cash Flow”

  1. R and D or reinvestment for growth
  2. Taxes
  3. Debt service
  4. Core capitalization
  5. Profit distributions

This is why you need to watch your numbers. You don’t have unlimited funds, so you need to strike a balance.

One last thing from Greg:

“Because profits are never assured. One in every 5 years, you’re gonna have a bad year. Do not commit profit distributions from the business to some ongoing consumption need.”

Being a business owner is easy. Being a successful business owner… that’s another story.

Check out Greg Crabtree here and get his books, or enlist his number-crunching services in your business.

Get Your Team (and Clients) to Rapidly Trust You

Speaking of success: trust is key to the health of your company.

Brandon Brown demonstrated (dramatically) in his talk The Speed of Trust that trust is more than “honesty.”

Brandon Brown at SA4

It’s about clarity. It’s about sharing your vision with your team. Brandon, who is the president of Schneider Shrub and Tree Care, dove into the seven myths of trust, and explained to us the difference between trusting your loved ones… and trusting high-authority individuals.

For example:

Who do you trust more? Your spouse, or your eye doctor?

Now, who do you trust to perform eye surgery on you?

Brandon’s 13 Ways to Be More Likeable:

When people like you, when they feel comfortable around you - this breeds trust FAST. A few tips from Brandon’s talk:

  1. Greet people by name.
  2. Don’t have your mobile device out when you’re talking to people.
  3. Understand how important it is to make a first impression on people.

And, if I learned anything from Brandon, there’s one more great tip: tell your worst puns, every Monday.

Who is the Biggest Badass of 2017?

Numerous video entries.

Three of them nominated.

But only one could win…

Service Autopilot Academy’s yearly “The Biggest Badass Competition” is a test for the highest-achieving owners:

  • Who could make the most progress in their business?
  • Who could get the closest to achieving their personal life dreams?
  • And who could make an awesome video about it?

This year, they were fighting to win a $15,000 check for an overseas paid vacation…

And the winner was….

Winner of the Biggest Badass Competition 2017

Marvin Salcido from Salcido Lawns!

Watch his award-winning video here:

It’s All Who You Know (and What They Know): Networking Benefits

One of the biggest draws of any trade show or industry conference is the many opportunities to network with like-minded business owners.

This is a great place to make friends who get it. It can be hard to find this sort of camaraderie locally because anyone who gets what you do in your market is probably your direct competition.

Things like SA4 bring business owners from around the country together, where they meet, make friends, and talk shop in a place that won’t help their competition back home.

This year we used an app to allow members to capture a lot of these awesome moments of networking and share them with us:

SA4 App from Our Members

Huge groups of business owners spent their evenings checking out Dallas together, grabbing dinner, and, perhaps most importantly, forging bonds that can continue to grow once they return home.

The app helped people find each other but also allowed them to give a moment-to-moment account of what they were doing. We knew these connections were made at the last three conferences, but getting to see it happen in real time was special. It meant that not only could people who didn’t know each other find new friends, they didn’t have to use a tool that everybody else is on (Facebook, Twitter, etc.)

Eating Barbecue at SA4

One app with only people at the conference meant that people could easily organize events and anyone at the conference could see and come.

Networking at the speed of light was our goal and from the pictures we saw, you guys helped us succeed.

SA4 Conference, Day 3

It just kept going...

Your Next [365 Days] in Marketing

“In our industry… a lot of people are hiding from their customers.”

We’re scared. We’re scared of our own clients:

  • Fear of bad online reviews
  • Afraid of the “expense” of marketing
  • Scared we’re going to do it all wrong and waste our time

Even though it was still early in the morning, we didn’t need Coffee to get excited when Andrew Pototschnik gave away his “full year marketing plan...”

The Lawn Care Marketing Expert and Co-founder of Service Autopilot Academy gave away twelve of his best strategies…

...that you could implement right away.

But it wasn’t just about “lawn care marketing strategies.” Andrew talked about what you should be focusing on for each month of the year.

Lawn Care Marketing Expert at the Service Autopilot Conference 2017

Key Takeaways:

January: focus on owning your most profitable neighborhoods.

February: boost your route density.

March: get the most leads possible during this “peak time.”

Even in October, where he gave us a few strategies to increase customer satisfaction and retention.

Want the full versions of these strategies? Want more clients to automatically generate themselves for you?

Go check out the Lawn Care Marketing Expert’s website. He’s one of the most specialized consultants for the Green Industry.

Are You Leaving Money on the Table?

We all know what Key Accounts are:

  • High-paying (not always your highest paying).
  • Long-lasting.
  • Healthy relationship.

But Jay Ablian of BluePay forced us to answer this question: “Are you paying enough attention to your Key Accounts?”

Jay showed us the four reasons to better manage our key accounts (and how to do it right)!

Jay Ablian of BluePay at SA4

Here’s an in-depth look at one of them:

Increase your Customer Loyalty.

Identify your key accounts. Persevere with them:

“It’s not whether you get knocked down; it’s whether you get back up.” - Vince Lombardi

You need to understand what your customers value. What is the first thing they do in the morning? Why do they do it?

You should never stop asking, “Why do people hire me?”

Don’t be afraid of feedback. This is how you start grabbing the money other people are leaving on the table.

Why Would You Ever Want to Fire a Client?

Why would you ever want to fire a client?

Well, to put it simply…


Jim Evans, our Head of Sales, knows a lot about dealing with clients. Especially bad ones.

He shared most of his knowledge with us during his talk, Firing Your Worst Clients.

There’s a right way to do it all:

  • Who?
  • How?
  • And When?

The big takeaway from Jim’s talk:

It’s about the health of your business.

Jim Evans at SA4

If your clients are toxic, your workplace is going to suffer. Your employees will suffer. Morale and profits are going to dip if you hang onto your dead weight.

One last thing:

When you decide it’s finally time to fire a particular client…

Do so with integrity. Do so with confidence, with grace, and do so with the idea that you must protect your company.

Chat, Chew, Community with Mike Callahan

Cody and Bear recorded a quick episode of The Profit Roadmap with Mike Callahan, lawn care business owner and business consultant at SimpleGrowth.

Mike talked about the importance of being in a community with other business owners. He’s in a “Mastermind” group with Chad Cranston and Garrett Matthews, who will also be on an upcoming episode of The Profit Roadmap.

Mike Callahan on the Profit Roadmap Podcast

The group puts a premium on:

  • "Outside-looking-in advice" to fix blindspots.
  • Accountability among like-minded friends.
  • Building better-optimized businesses together.

These guys are in communication with one another via text and phone calls almost every day. When a problem arises in one’s business, the others are the first to know.


Because “naked” transparency is what will save your business when blind spots starting leaking profits.

Subscribe to The Profit Roadmap on iTunes or Google Play today to avoid missing a single episode!

Building Your Best Employee Handbook Ever

“How many of you have reviewed your handbook since Donald Trump went into office?”

It sounded like a joke - but Jason Cupp wasn’t kidding.

“You need to review your handbook every twelve months!”

In his three-hour workshop, Jason Cupp promised to get everybody in the room “80% of the way there” on their handbooks.

He gave us the horror stories of handbooks gone wrong:

Jason Cupp Employee Handbook at SA4

And showed us how important it was to have an up-to-date employee handbook, because nobody wants to be on the wrong side of the law…

Biggest takeaway: 

Get all of your employees to sign the employee handbook… and then put those signatures under lock and key!

This protects you from employees who say “I never saw it.”

Get a trusted employee to regularly audit the handbooks to make sure everyone has signed… because, as Jason said, “There are employees out there who are looking for holes and will take advantage of this.”

Jason Cupp is an old friend of ours, and we can’t recommend his Growth-consulting services enough. He specializes in employee management, and building businesses bigger… and faster.

Jason Cupp Employee Handbook at SA4 talking

If you need a customized employee handbook, Jason Cupp is your guy.

What is Your Ultimate Goal for Your Future?

The last prepared session of the Conference, before our traditional “Open Q&A with John and Jonathan” was probably my favorite talk at SA4.

Up on stage, Jonathan asked us all a question:

“What do you want? What do you truly want?

Jonathan's Closing Keynote at SA4

If you are dissatisfied with your life right now, Jonathan said, that is a good thing. When you are comfortable, you stop improving. You have no reason to.

In the final Keynote, How to Work Yourself Out of a Job, Jonathan showed us the right mindset we need to create a company that could run without you.

  • What is your vision?
  • What behavior do you want your team to emulate?
  • How can you give your “hats” to other members on your team?

Jonathan said that, “It’s your job to hire people to grow.” You are not the main “builder” in your business. You are the architect. The planner.

Remember, if you’re not “the planner” then you are just another employee in your business.

At the end, Jonathan gave us four questions to ask ourselves. We wrote down our answers with what we wanted for ourselves, for the future. Jonathan promised to mail us back these answers in a few months, as a reminder of what we want.

Jonathan at SA4 getting his microphone fixed before the final talk
Jonathan at the SA4 Conference getting his microphone fixed before his final Keynote Talk

Biggest Takeaway

There are bottlenecks in your company. Chances are, YOU are the bottleneck in your company.

Why? Because you’re taking on too much. You wear too many “hats.”

Jonathan wanted you to focus on this immediate goal:

“Who is the next person I need to hire in my company? What task do I need off my plate, so I can unleash my growth and focus my talents on the greater vision?”

Hypnosis, followed by “Questions As Usual…”

Ever want to see a group of Business Owners get hypnotized?

Eric Kand Comedy Hypnosis at SA4

The comedy hypnosis show with Eric Kand was an easy way to unload and blow off some steam at the end of the Conference. It was also a prelude to...

John at the SA4 Q&A

The traditional barrage of questions at the final “Open Q&A” session with John and Jonathan.

Jonathan at the SA4 Q&A

And for many of us, that was a WRAP.

Reunion Ball at the SA4 Conference
Looking up from the Conference Venue

This Year’s Service Autopilot Conference was a blast. It was our biggest conference to date, and we’re going to have a hard time beating it…

....oh, but you bet we’re already working on that ; )

We can't thank our Members enough for making this a huge success! THANK YOU!

See you guys in 2018!

Countdown to SA5

Until then, keep growing, and keep winning.

Lisa Marino

Lisa Marino is the Sr. Marketing Director for Service Autopilot. She uses her 17+ years in direct marketing, sales, and product development to push entrepreneurs beyond their limits. She's passionate about helping others grow their businesses through time-tested marketing techniques. When not writing, you can find her belting out a mean Stevie Nicks at a local karaoke night.


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