Operating Power

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No Such Thing as Accidental Company Culture

One of the greatest lessons I got came along very early in my consulting career. I was very fortunate to work with the great Steve Lowry of Lowry Services in Pennsylvania.

Steve shared with me one day as we were pretty far along in our scope of work that other companies he competed with could copy everything he does from his truck design, his marketing, and a whole lot more, but they could never copy his company’s culture.

He was not bragging.

Steve told me one day as we were wrapping up work on one of the staffing programs, “Al, the better I treat my employees, the better they treat my customers and the more successful I have become. When they make customers incredibly happy and feel like they are treated well, they are all in with doing business with my company for life.”Company culture has to be cultivated in every transaction and interaction. It’s either getting better or its getting worse. There is no standing still. It takes work and that work is always ongoing.

What can you do to make company culture better at your company?

Here are just five ways to get you started on a better path based upon the great company cultures I’ve seen and helped make better.

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If Nothing Gets Done… You’re Responsible

Don’t look around for someone you can point the finger at because it’s you!

I say this because I used to blame people at my company for what didn’t get done or for what got done poorly. And I was all too happy to point the finger of blame. Yes, I’m a New Yorker, but don’t waste time figuring out which finger.

My flawed approach changed when I was lucky enough to get accepted into a great contractor affinity group. The reason it all changed is I was exposed to very successful contractors who were willing to share the lessons they had learned along the way to becoming successful. All I had to do was ask a question of them and shut up long enough to listen to the wisdom they were sharing.

Again, as a New Yorker, this wasn’t easy, but I wasn’t going to blow this golden opportunity. I bit my lip so I could shut up long enough to listen to the help they were giving me.

And what came back time and again from pretty much all of my whining about my staff and what they either didn’t get done or did poorly was that it was my fault, not theirs.  This was tough medicine but I was ready to take it.

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90% Chance Nothing Bad Will Happen

There’s a 90% chance nothing really bad will happen at your company if you spend at least two hours a week disconnecting from your business to work on it. BUT, there’s a 100% chance that failure is imminent if you’re unwilling to do this.

Pretty dramatic? Nope!

What separates the most successful contractors I’ve worked with from the ones for whom success eludes them, has nothing to do with how smart they are or their being in the right marketplace or anything like that. It was their ability to focus on getting things implemented at their company.

I’ve had clients pay me a lot of money to come and work with them. I can tell you I don’t vary my approach all that much, but I don’t use a cookie-cutter approach. That’s because I do tweak it to fit the type of contracting business I’m working with and where the existing company is on the business spectrum when I first arrive.

The reason I’ve been hired over the years to help contractors is…the business has reached an impasse (otherwise I wouldn’t be there). The impasse is different for different owners. Either they’ve grown to a size where they’ve run out of hours in a day, days in a week, weeks in a month and months in a year to get it all done. They can’t figure out how to clone themselves, so they are stuck. I also work with fast growing companies where they have grown chaotically, and they have tried to hire and throw people at the problems because they too realize they’re stuck. Both types of clients learn quickly that these issues will continue until they commit to work on changing how they run their business.

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The Right Way to Say Goodbye to a Bad Employee

Is firing people tough to do? You bet!

To help, I’m going to share advice that I learned along the way from working at my own plumbing, heating, cooling and now electrical business. It’s also what I’ve been sharing for over 17 years now working with my 1-to-1 clients, in my book, my seminars and in my workshops.

THAT SAID….Disclaimer, I’m not a labor lawyer nor do I play one on TV.

You are well served to have a great Human Resources company to reach out to or a Labor Lawyer to help you navigate these turbulent waters. Things are different in different states and even among local governments so you don’t want to wing it.

So, why pay attention to what I’m going to share? The reason is I’m sharing my real world experience with you so you’re better educated on what to potentially do next.

Years ago, when I first entered the family business as the last brother in to what was then a 3rd generation business (now, it’s a 4th generation 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 the message, but the message was received. What I realized is…

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Chief Executive Communicator

In this world of ever-expanding corporate titles there is the CEO (Chief Executive Officer); CFO (Chief Financial Officer); CTO (Chief Technology Officer); CIO (Chief Information Officer), CPO (Chief People Officer), to name but a few.

I suspect that in many cases a lot of these fancy “CXO” (Chief — fill in the blank — Officer) titles exist so people can feel good about how high they’ve risen in their organization.

I don’t really like fancy “C” titles because titles are not what typically helps you, a contractor, run your business.

That said, I’m in favor of a new title for you.

Chief Executive Communicator.

No, it doesn’t go on your Organizational Chart, and it’s not a paying position.

It’s someone at the very top level of your company in charge of communicating where the company is going and what’s in it for those who are helping you get there.

This probably means you.

So, what do I think a really great Chief Executive Communicator must do? Glad you asked.

Here are the most five most vital things you need to do to be successful.

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What to do if Employees are “Always” on Social Media

Question: Are your employees going to stop checking their social media feeds anytime soon?

Answer: No!

Question: What can you do about it?

Answer: A few things.

Question: Is this a new problem?

Answer: Yes and no.

Employees being distracted at work has been going on since they put in a water cooler in the breakroom. And since going on cigarette breaks were routine. And even when the first access to the internet allowed them to go “surfing” from the comfort of their office chair.

Social Media Distraction isn’t a new problem but rather an old problem expressed in a new way. That problem is time spent not working while at work. The Social Media Distraction issue continues to grow to an even higher and higher level of disruption of productivity in the workplace as more and more social media channels are created that compete increasingly for the attention of your employees while they’re at work and on the clock.

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Mitigating Bad PR

The threat of Bad PR (aka Public Relations) used to keep me up at night when I was a contractor. It doesn’t take much Bad PR to make it tough for your company to grow or, if it’s bad enough, to go out of business.

And as you grow your company and more and more people are at work each day, there are more and more people who can slip up or even give the appearance that they’ve slipped up.

What can you do to mitigate – or better yet – avoid Bad PR?

Learn how to play both offense and defense.

Note: As a CYA (aka Cover Your…Anatomy), you’re welcome to get advice from your own professionals who specialize on any and all of this. There’s a lot at stake.

In the meanwhile, I’m going to share my take on some examples of the high stakes game we, as contractors, must play…

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Moving into Next Year

This year I helped the three clients I work with one-to-one either revamp their existing shop, move into a new shop or both.

I love doing that because it’s a great thing to move. It’s also a great thing to just cleanup and organize your existing shop to make it better.

So, what are you going to do right now to make next year better?

One of the very best ways to make your next year better is to organize your workspace or make moving to a new place a priority. Then, it can better serve your business today and over the next 3 years even better than it does today.

Why is this so important? Your workspace and the way you maintain it is either setting the bar to a high level of professionalism or lowering the bar that will just keep getting lower and lower. Trust me I know.

I know because I allowed all of what I’m going to share below to happen at my company years back. And I kept forgiving myself for it all being a cluttered mess with the same tired an untrue excuses. That is until one-day I wanted it to get better so I stopped defending the status quo and got busy.

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It’s Not All About the Work

Your business is supposed to serve your life, not your life serving your business.

It’s easy to forget, but that is probably what you felt your business would be when you first got into business. And I know how easy it is to drift into a never-ending compromise in your personal life to serve your business.

That’s not to say I agree with the speakers who confess that they put hours upon hours into their business to become a success, but they sacrificed their personal lives in the process. You shouldn’t have to do the same.

Well, I feel you shouldn’t sacrifice your personal life forever but that you do have to do the work and invest the time to gain control of your business or it will always control you.

So, I do feel you have to spend your time, your effort and even some of your savings if you’re going to make your company a success.

What I also believe is you need to learn how to work smarter, not harder.

There’s a big difference.

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Police State or Permissive Where Anything Goes?

I was working with a client a number of years ago and he was a fantastic contractor, as were his partners. The majority of my work was with this one partner who was a smart, effective and knowledgeable leader of their fast growing plumbing, heating, cooling and electrical company.

He was the rare owner who not only knew the technical side of the business, but he and his partners knew what it took to grow a company, which meant learning and implanting the business side of things.

My reason for being called in to consult was that they had experienced explosive growth and they were suffering the ill effects that came with it. He and his partners were realizing that the way they answered their phones, to the way they dispatched, to the way they had their Techs run calls, had to be fixed.

They (not me) had said they had the worst group of Customer Service Representatives (aka CSRs) ever. And what made it worse is that they had eight of them. Sad truth is… they were bad. At least, they were when we first started.

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