Al Writes

Bad Employee or Bad Fit for Your Company?

Is there such a thing as a bad employee?

Yes, there is.

Is there such a thing as an employee who’s just a bad fit at your company?

Yes, there is.

How do you know if you have a bad employee or just a bad fit for your company?

Ah… that’s a little trickier! Good news is I’ve got some things to share with you that I think will help you make a better decision for yourself.

But I must let you know that until you have a systematic way of doing business at your company, your employees are at risk which puts you and your company at risk.

The only fair way for an employee to be judged good or bad is to have things documented in writing that helps your employees fill the box or boxes on your Org Chart. More than that, you also need to have the associated orientation process that gets them up to speed and provides the metrics they will be judged on. This coupled with never-ending training is the only way to give an employee the ability to step up and be a good-to-great employee at your company.

Tough news here…

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The Right Way To Cut Business Costs (Part 2)

As promised at the end of Part 1 of The Right Way to Cut Business Costs, I’m going to share here in Part 2 the rest of the 5 most common areas to look to cut expenses the right way.

The remaining three are:

3) Inventory is in overload and out of control. The vast majority of shops I visit when I first do my 1-to-1 consulting are way overloaded with dead inventory that is costing them money. To me, it costs money because they could be trading this excess inventory off for credits with a supplier or sold off at a discount to generate money. It’s easy to think, “I should have those items on my shelf because if I buy in bulk it’ll be a good deal,” or “I want a lot of it in my warehouse because I don’t want to run out.” It’s all flawed thinking.

The best thing to do is what I call “Exit the Warehouse” business process, and that means finding a great partner with a great vendor or even two great vendors if need be. They can help take control of what you keep in stock, and they can help you arrive at the correct minimums and maximums for each item. It requires restricting access to the warehouse itself to a very limited amount of…

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The Right Way To Cut Business Costs (Part 1)

Are all the expenses you’re “used to” carrying still pulling their weight?

Probably not!

Getting a better handle on this means you need to dedicate yourself to getting Financial Power in place.

Where should you start when it comes to cutting the right expenses in the right way?

Start by looking at all your expenses from the prior year listed in your Profit and Loss Statement (aka P&L). Take out a yellow legal pad if you want a manual moment or open up a Word document and list them all. Then, sort that list into must expenses and nice-to-have expenses.

It’ll be tough to do this because everything you now spend money on seemed like a good idea at the time. But a sinister thing about some expenses is they may be small expenses, but if they’re occurring every month, for instance, there is a compounding effect, and not in a good way. The reality is all these “small” recurring expenses add up.

Here are two of the five most common areas to look at when it comes to cutting expenses:

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Leading with Humor

Wouldn’t you agree that the work we do as contractors can literally be life and death? It’s serious business!

I definitely feel this is true.

A plumbing or drain company keeps good water from bad water. Just go online and look up the plague. You’ll see what existed in the world before proper  plumbing and sanitation changed it for the better. And plumbing and drain companies keep these systems functioning the way they must so we can stay alive and avoid illness. Without us, many people would be sick and dying.

A heating and cooling company not just keeps us warm in the winter and cool in the summer (which is very nice). In extreme cases for the young, the elderly, or the infirm, it too can be life and death. Remember, we “play with fire” as I told my own techs. Plus, we “play” with gas and fuel oil and even high voltage that in the wrong hands, untrained personnel, or even the inattentive tech can become very dangerous.

And electricians literally wrangle lightning and light our homes, power our communications abilities, and, in many homes, it is the “fuel” that provides the heating and cooling too. We take it for granted, but here too a lack of seriousness and attention to detail can cause real damage to life and property.

All of this is serious business.

BUT we can’t be deadly serious from sunup to sundown. We do need to be focused when we’re doing our work in every phase of our business, but we’re human beings, and without a break from it… it will wear you down if there’s no time to lighten up.

Here are just three ways humor helps:

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Beware Actions Born of Boredom

Many a client throughout the years has told me when I said they were taking actions out of boredom with the status quo, “Bored? I can hardly catch my breath!”

Maybe… maybe not.

You can be crazy busy, but activity can serve to mask the underlying boredom that can creep into our life at work. This is especially so in a maturing company. The goal for leadership must be to make their companies perform consistently better, and this can take its toll.

Boredom usually takes hold because this never ending-process is tough and, frankly, boring. So, they respond to it by starting a bunch of new projects that take away attention from the main objective they said they were pursuing.

Here are just four ways boredom can play out in a bad way:

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Marketing to Pick Up Dollars, Not Dimes

If you’ve been in the service contracting business for any length of time you know what it’s like when business slows down and money gets tight. And if you’re like most service contractors, marketing spend is usually the first thing to go!

My dad, Irving, called that “stepping over dollars to pick up dimes.”

Why? Because without marketing your phones are going to go dead and/or stay dead.

It might seem counter-intuitive but those slow times are actually the best times to be doing testimonial-based marketing, which I’ve seen work well not just for my own service contracting business but also for dozens of other contracting businesses ranging from plumbing, heating, cooling, electrical, roofing, garage door service—to name just a few.

To make sure the marketing of your contracting business hits the mark you’ll want to focus your time, energy and your money on three main drivers such as:

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Actions Speak Louder than Words – Fix Your Own First

“Do as I Say, Not as I Do” is a common refrain from a frustrated boss.

Wouldn’t it be great if you could say this and all your employees would do just this? Sorry, it doesn’t work that way.

If what you’re saying doesn’t match what you are doing, you’re busted.

The reason is all eyes are upon you all the time, and as the owner, you can’t hide. I understand that no one is perfect when it comes to everything they do as a leader, but the fact is your actions speak louder than your words.

Think of it this way: imagine your dad or mom are telling you as a young teenager that you have to quit smoking because it is dangerous to your health. The problem is they’re telling you this as the ashes are dropping off the cigarette dangling from their mouths.

You see it for what it is.

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A Better Way to Say Goodbye to Low Performers

Years ago, when I first entered the family business as the last brother in to what was then a 3rd generation service contracting business—now a 4th generation plumbing, heating, cooling and now electrical contracting business—my dad said to me, “You can no longer hire anyone until you prove you can fire someone the right way. Face it. You like hiring people. And who doesn’t? But you need to do both.”

Well, I didn’t like that message much, but I knew he was right. As an empathetic person I am able to put myself in another person’s shoes and see things from their perspective. And I could only imagine how bad it felt to get fired!

Our service contracting company was and still is a NYC Union Shop. When it came to employee relations that was both good and bad news. The good: there was formal process for disciplining and terminating employment. The bad: we were not consistently following the steps. (In our defense, they were not all that clear!)

The first few times I fired a bad employee they were genuinely surprised. Naturally, they wanted to unload their frustrations but I just wanted to get it over with so usually I cut them off. It went so badly a few times I’m lucky I didn’t get shot!

Something had to change. We had to figure out a “right” way to say goodbye to a bad employee. The answer was to create our own formal process, which we called “The Steps of Discipline.”

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What to Do When Family is Fighting at Work

The first thing to remember is that all companies act like families whether or not the people working together are related.

Someone is playing the role of Dad, Mom, Big Brother, and probably the Big Sister.

And very commonly in the home service business and contracting world, our businesses tend to be multi-generational, so it could be quite literally a family business acting this way.

Here’s the thing… what do you do when people are not getting along? In other words, how do you clear the air, and how do you keep it from escalating or spreading like wildfire throughout the company?

Here are 10 great tips from my own business career working with my dad and two older brothers and from helping clients who are and are not related with these very real issues that can destroy the company if not addressed quickly and in the right way:

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Who Goes to Training and Seminars? Probably Just You…

In the beginning of my work career, just my brother, Richie, and I attended advanced training at my company. After all, we were never going to leave the company, unlike the possibility that one of our employees might get this costly training and then leave us.

Did I say we were smart or thinking ahead at this point in our lives?… No!

What happened is when Richie and I went to Fireye® controls training in the Boston area, as an example, we were the only ones who would then be capable of handling the big commercial boilers when the client would call. Lucky us!

Nope, not really.

That’s because we had commercial and industrial accounts that operated 24/7/365, and despite our having four rotating crews of 4 Techs on until 2 AM, they would get to a job like this and have to call… you guessed it… Al or Richie.

Well, we hated that. Especially when they called us in the middle of the night or over the weekend. They were on a paid shift, mind you, and not On-Call. But they were stuck, and we blamed them for not knowing what to do.

Remember, it was our decision to not send them to the same training we had gone to.

Well, Richie and I may not have been forward thinking about this policy, but we were not dumb, and we quickly woke up to the reality that only by sending our Techs to the same training and seminars we attended could they ever be as effective as they needed to be.

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