Al Levi | Blog - Contractor Process Development & SOPs

Al Writes

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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Your Employees Need to Know the “Why” because It’s More than Just the Money

The purpose, or what I call the “Why” for what your employees do at work, is becoming more important to them than just collecting a paycheck.

I know this to be so because I witnessed this when I was a contractor and now as a consultant to contractors. This long-time trend has become the norm. And I think it’s not just a good thing… I think it’s a great thing.

This may seem scary to you. Or, you may be in disbelief that this could be true. A quick review of articles and blogs online will validate what I’m saying here.

And if you’re an owner or manager who is over 50 years of age, you probably grew up in the trades with being told, “This is what I want done”. There was no discussion. You were just expected to do it because your boss told you to.

But having worked with consulting clients over the last few years, all I see are Millennials and now even some of the Generation Z arriving at work.  This movement is in full swing, so doing things because “I told you so” is long gone. In general, they’re not going to engage their heart and soul into anything at work until they know the “Why” they’re doing something.

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Personality Profiling – Tendencies vs. Absolute Truths

As part of Staffing Power, I advise my clients to make sure that Personality Profiling be a part of the hiring process.

To be clear, I don’t like the term “Personality Profiling” because it feels, to me, manipulative. Profiling is just a very bad word unto itself.  That’s why I prefer the term Motivational Mapping.

Motivational Mapping is seeking to know how the new hire interacts in the world or at least how they view things. That promotes better communication because if you know the words they want to hear they’re more likely to be more motivated.

This switch of terms to Motivational Mapping isn’t meant to be a game of semantics. It’s more about recognizing that the term fits better because it’s about the things that motivate us. That’s different because we’re all wired differently. All of which I think is a really a good thing as we don’t want to live in a world of clones.

That said, we all have tendencies. And recognizing those tendencies early on will help set up the potential new hires to better succeed at your company. It can also reveal if a new hire is a good fit for your company. That’s why you want to pay attention to what the Motivational Mapping is revealing.

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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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