Al Writes

Fleet Management Done Right

Would you drive your personal vehicle 100,000 miles and never do an oil change? Ignore the flashing red engine light on your dashboard hoping it will go away? Continue to drive it after you dropped the front wheel into a deep pothole at 70 mph?

Of course not!

You would take steps to maintain and fix the vehicle as soon as possible. That’s because you are the manager of your personal fleet of one, two, three (or more) vehicles and you know waiting will only end up costing you more in the end.

When it comes to the fleet for your contracting business, however, the consequences of not being proactive has yet another layer of risk and a huge financial impact. That’s because each one of your trucks is a rolling cash register and every time one of your trucks goes out of service, your ability to generate revenue for your business goes with it. To avoid this, you need someone acting as the Fleet Manager. Someone has to have the job to make sure those trucks not only stay on the road but also are utilized properly by the Technicians who are operating them.

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The Goal Writing is on the Wall

By the time you read this, most people’s New Year’s resolutions (aka goals) will be a distant memory and they’ll be back to doing the same things they said they were or weren’t going to do (lose weight, make more money, work fewer hours). Maybe you even have a few. Here’s the thing: Setting goals is easy. It’s the follow through on the plan of action that will create the change you want that’s the tough part. A famous author once said, “A goal without a plan is just a wish.”

That said, there’s a process for energizing goals properly, and the first step is to put the goal (or goals) in writing. This may sound obvious, but you’d be surprised at how much push back I’ve gotten on this one over the years. The reason is because if you never put the goal in writing, you don’t have to be wrong or miss. You can always be perfect in your mind because there’s nothing tangible to remind you of what you said you wanted. You don’t have to confront failure or any of the other negative messages in your head that say you didn’t deserve it anyway.

Here’s the thing: A goal is just a destination. The plan you create to get to your goal is your map or GPS. That’s it. You will inevitably learn new things along the way, and that may cause you to adjust the goal or the plan to get it. Even if you fall short, you’ll almost certainly be better off than if you hadn’t tried. As I told one client who was stressing over this, there’s no “goal police.” The sole purpose of a goal is to give you something tangible to shoot for.

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Checking In vs Snooping

In a bunch of management articles and blogs I’ve read in the last few years, there is more and more discussion about the ever-growing amount of time being wasted in the office (remember when all your office staff worked in the office?). It still happens with personnel there, at home, and also with staff in the field.

The issue I’ve had from the beginning of my first becoming a manager, then an owner, and now an industry-consultant is to find what is the right balance between checking in on staff and what amounts to spying on employees.

I will confess that while at work I’m all about work, and that is pretty much what I expected from my employees, and that’s what I teach my clients to expect from their employees. That doesn’t mean there isn’t a need for time to… just hang out, chat, and share a laugh. Remember, we come to work as much to socialize as well as just to collect a check.

To my mind, that time of coming together whether in the break room for office staff or at the local 7-Eleven ™ or Circle K™ is vital to team building. It’s worse when people are “stealing” productive time to do solo-time wasting activities.

Yes, COVID has changed things for now, but in the long run, I believe more people will be working safely in an office again or at least some hybrid of home and office. Productivity studies and issues of disconnection from the company are still pointing to the need for face-to-face time and not just FaceTime or Zoom Meetings.

A friend of mine who worked his whole life in big corporate America told me that there was an art to always looking busy whether it was pouring over stacks of reports in the old days when stuff got printed that then turned into staring at the computer when the stuff moved to digital. Productivity didn’t change much… People just found new ways to look busy.

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Owner Procrastination Implementing is the Biggest Problem

In my seminars, workshops and webinars, I often ask the audience the following question, “Why do people resist change?”

I get a lot of good answers like:

1) They fear the unknown

2) They are uncertain about what the outcome will be

3) They worry things might actually get worse

4) They admit they want to protect the status quo

But I’ve learned along the way, both in my own business and now as a consultant to so many other businesses for so long, that the number 1 reason people resist changes is… Fear of Failure!

I didn’t understand this phenomenon when I was young so I was baffled as to why my team would resist the change I was proposing when it was clearly getting rid of something they said they hated with something they agreed could possibly be better.

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Does the 12-Hour Workday Work?

The idea of moving the normal 8 hours a day to 10 hours or even 12 hours a day has been around a long time. And the idea of a longer workday comes and goes with the business cycle and, many times, where we are in the economic cycle and unemployment rate.

In the contracting business, we’re typically all expected to work more than the traditional 40 hours a week and, therefore, more than an 8-hour day.

The nature of most of our businesses that are deemed essential is that we’re necessary and time-critical.

Drains overflowing, water cascading from your second floor bathroom into your dining room, no heat on a zero-degree day with howling winds in winter, or no cooling on a 90-plus-degree day in summer… all are time sensitive for sure. It is going to test you and your staff needing to put in a very long day and, many times, day after day too.

Working hard is one thing, but there is a point of diminishing returns.

Here are just 5 signs to tell you when you’re getting to the downside…

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Making All the Pieces Fit

Commitment to getting better is great, but soliciting advice from too many different consultants or sources of information hurts more than it helps.

Here’s the analogy I like to use to explain this:

Would you build your dream car with a Ford chassis, a Toyota engine, seats and interior by Volkswagen? No!

The car would probably blow itself apart or be some kind of a death trap. It makes no sense.

But, for some reason, too many owners seem to think it’s okay to take consulting advice for their business from articles online, business books they’ve read, and/or multiple consultants.

This works on the idea that all the pieces will somehow fit, but the reality is that’s not likely going to be the case.

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Too Many Cooks Spoil the Broth

What happens when your company has too many leaders all going in too many different directions?

Chaos!

Yes, like the old adage says, “Too many cooks spoil the broth.”

To expand on this, in a kitchen, there can only be one head chef. They run things and the others on the team help produce the outcome desired. You can’t expect good results if everyone is free to jump into the process.

Pardon the pun: That would be a recipe for disaster.

Here’s how and why this dynamic of “Too Many Chefs” reveals itself to me as I go about my work as a consultant at a new company…

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Buying Your Way to Growth

When I talk to contractors, many ask the same question, and that is, “How do I grow my company the right way?”

To me, there are only two answers:

1) Master Organic Marketing

2) Master Acquisition

Mastering Organic Marketing means you are so good at the right messaging delivered using the right marketing vehicles that you create more demand for the work you can do in a given day which means you need to grow your team to support this ability.

Great Organic Marketers have figured out on their own or with good marketing outsources how to make their phone ring “off the hook” which has allowed the owner to hang up their tool belt and begin to focus on what it takes to run a successful business.

Mastering Acquisition means you’ve learned how to buy someone else’s company and acquire their customers and good will and sometimes their assets like trucks and inventory or even their building.

Great Acquisition Players know that Acquisition can and often does happen in many ways and in many forms.

My focus here is on Acquisition as the best way to… Buying Your Way to Growth.

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Gratitude: Your Most Powerful Tool

At my company, we used to show people our gratitude by keeping them employed. You know, giving them a paycheck. Heck, what else were we expected to do… am I right?

The answer of course was, no… I was dead wrong!

There are plenty of surveys that ask employees to rank what’s most important to them when it comes to their job. And if you’re like I was, you might say it’s all about the money. But, time and again, the surveys show that employees don’t value their paycheck as number or 1 or even in the top 5.

Always in the top 5 is being appreciated by those who they work with and to whom they report.

My belief is people don’t go to work for a paycheck. They go to work so the paychecks doesn’t stop. And although they can’t spend “appreciation” at the grocery store, there’s a lot more at play with your team than just getting paid.

I came to learn that employees want and crave appreciation and gratitude for what they do. Good to know. The bad news is, it wasn’t something I was comfortable with doing and neither were my brothers, who were my partners, along with my dad.

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5 Reasons You Can’t Run Your Business from the Beach Forever

A few years back I worked with a phenomenal contractor, Mark Paup of Golden Rule Plumbing, Heating & Cooling, in Des Moines Iowa.

Mark had grown his business into a systematic and money making company. And as I like to do with former clients, I called him up just to see how things were going.

He asked me a question, “Al, do you ever just get to sit on the beach, and it all runs without you forever?”

I replied with the answer he knew I would, and that was, “No…”

And after the briefest of pauses, I continued with, “You absolutely don’t have to be so heavily involved in the day-to-day running of the business like you were when we first started. And you are actually encouraged to take time away from the business because you deserve it based on all the hard work you’ve done with me. It’s actually good for your team for you to let them run things without you.

“That said, you’re the face of this business, and you must keep a finger on the pulse of it to keep it headed in the leadership direction we created during Leadership Power! if you’re to reach the near-term goals set and the long-term goals still ahead.”

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