Operating Power Archives - The 7-Power Contractor

Operating Power

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Will They All Quit if You Put in Operating Manuals?

Will they all quit if you put in Operating Manuals?

The short answer is, “No!”

The reason I say that is I did it at my own plumbing, heating, cooling and electrical company decades ago. We were a NYC Union shop and, we didn’t lose anyone.

And I know this is a fear of some contractors as I have done so many free 30-minute calls with prospective clients who would share this fear with me. To help, I’d share this following story.

One of my many different jobs at my very busy shop was being the Install Manager where I was running five Install Crews a day. Each morning, I’d setup the job files and debrief each Lead Installer on what to expect and let them know I’d make the rounds to check in on how things were going.

One day…

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5 Signs Your Business is Growing Too Fast

Can a contracting business really grow too fast? You bet it can.

I remember waking up at 6 a.m. for the second day in a row after working until 2 a.m. the night before at my family’s 70-person plumbing, heating, cooling and now electrical company only to face another day of massive stress and thinking, “At this growth pace, something’s got to change, or I’ll be a rich dead guy.”

That was not my goal and I bet it’s not yours either!

You were handling it—somehow—until you one day you just couldn’t and that’s when the wheels started to fall off or at the very least began to wobble. It’s like you’re in a batting cage and the pitches you used to be able to hit are now coming so fast you can’t even get the bat off your shoulder. That’s how it feels when you’re growing out of control and can’t keep up anymore. Sound familiar?

Here are five clear signs your business is growing too fast and you need to act—now.

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Two Roles You Can Never Leave as an Owner

“I fired all of them,” said the Canada-based condominium developer I was helping to optimize his business. “Wow,” I said. “What happened?”

The developer continued. “You said you wouldn’t work through a bunch of layers, and so I fired all my vice presidents. And you know what I found out? They were keeping things from me. If I hadn’t done that, my business would have been out of working capital within six months. Now you just have to help me navigate out of this.”

I told him in a nice but direct way, “I blame you… not them. It was your job to know for yourself what was and wasn’t happening at your company, and we’re going to fix that starting with getting you to a much better designed Box Org Chart.”

And we went on to do just that.

Unfortunately, this is a story I’ve heard all too many times over nearly 20 years of 1-to-1 consulting with contracting clients. The owner would delegate responsibility for their financial position to someone only to discover all kinds of impropriety once that person went on vacation, departed — or the bank or creditors started calling!

The Financial Manager role is one of two roles you can never give up. The other is Marketing Manager.

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How to Get Your Life Back and Have the Business You Want

“I just wish my Dad was around more,” said my daughter Pam to her 7th grade teacher. When my wife, Natalie, heard this during a parent conference she said, “My husband is the only dad in the back of the room doing things like videoing her shows and recitals.”

But when Natalie told me what Pam had said, I thought to myself, “Ouch.” The reason is, I had thought by being at every dance recital with my big camcorder was enough. My daughter saw through me though. The problem was I was there in body, but my mind was on work, specifically my family’s plumbing, heating, cooling and now electrical contracting business. The video camera caught what was going on, but if you’d have asked me the details after the show, I couldn’t have told you. I was too busy thinking about the disgruntled customer I had just come from and that I needed to call back or go see after the show was over.

Vacations? Forget it. My wife and I would go someplace nice and my cell phone would ring again and again. It was not relaxing. And then there was the big backlog of work that would take me a week to get through once we got back.

One day, the stuff hit the fan. The chaos I was accepting day after day was hurting me and everyone around me. I had to get my life back. I needed to put systems and processes into place at my company that would allow my staff to handle more on their own (the way I would do it). Also, I wanted to be able to delegate responsibilities to others in a way where stuff actually gets done and doesn’t boomerang and land back on my plate.

So I went home and made my wife, Natalie, a promise. I said, “For the next two years, I will be around even less than I am now and you deserve to know why…”

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Finally, All the Great Techs You Ever Wanted

It was 2 a.m. and I was standing in my office at our family’s plumbing, heating, cooling and now electrical business on Long Island talking to my brother, Richie. In a company of more than 25 Techs, we—the owners—were the ones still there, working late into the night—I mean morning—to fix some issues other people had created.

Richie said, “That guy was the best Tech at their shop? Really? He’s barely mediocre compared to our guys. And can you believe how much money we had to overpay him to come work here?”

To which I replied, in an exhausted and aggravated tone, “I’m sick of it. I’m sick of Techs telling us how great they are in interviews when we hire them or taking the word of others about how great this Tech is.”

It was very frustrating and it went on for years! The good news is we were eventually able to solve it and I’m about to tell you how you can, too.

To fix this problem once and for all you’ll need to learn and implement the five main components of Staffing Power:

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Employee Feedback Done Right

I call them “staffing surprises” and they’re rarely pleasant surprises. You know what I’m talking about. I call it the, “5 o’clock knock.”

Sometimes, it’s where an employee shows up at your doorstep, usually during your busiest time, and asks for more money or special exceptions for them on company policies. And sometimes, it’s actually to dish the dirt about other employees by sharing the whispering that’s going on at the water cooler, the breakroom or parking lot (or more likely these days over text or social media).

This is usually about who is upset about what, how, or who. None of it is good for your business and frankly, it’s not good for your employees, either.

The good news is there are steps you can take to avoid being blindsided by employee dissatisfaction. To keep staff engaged and ultimately from leaving our company, I learned late (unfortunately late) in the game to make the time to walk around and ask them proactively at least once a week the following three questions…

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New Practices for Covid-19

There’s an ancient proverb that says, “The best time to plant a tree was 20 years ago. The second best time is today.”

I know many of you have taken steps to put additional systems and processes in place to keep customers and employees safe in the midst of this pandemic. Kudos to you.

Haven’t done much of anything or still scrambling?

What you need to know is it is not too late! The need for additional systems and processes around this virus (or heaven forbid, future virus pandemics) is not going away anytime soon. It’s going to be some time before everyone is vaccinated and even then, there will be some people that may not be able to receive those vaccinations—and those people will need your services, too.

Here are some helpful protocols you could put into place fairly quickly to make customers and staff alike safer.

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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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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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