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Harder to Get Great or to Stay Great?

The original location of my family’s plumbing, heating, cooling and electrical company was in Rockaway, Queens. My dad, Irving, and my uncle, Morty, started it out of my grandfather’s gas station.

When my two older brothers and I showed up full-time in the business, it was in the 1970s, and crime in the area was rampant. Why did we stay there so long? Inertia.

Well, the decision to move came down and my brothers and I knew we had one chance to get this right, and so when we finally found a place that would be more centrally located to where our client base had moved from the wreckage of where we had been. We also heeded the great advice from our industry guru and great friend, Dan Holohan, when he suggested we use our building to showcase what we do and make it a destination other companies wanted to visit.

The place was spotless and bright and the envy of the industry. I stood in the doorway with Dan admiring our great work when he said, “Al, remember it’s easy to be great one day. The trick is to continue to stay great, day after day.”

Ouch!

What Dan meant was that I had to make maintaining that high standard a priority or it would deteriorate over time. And if it did, I’d have to have a way to get myself back on track, and that way for me was leveraging my systems and checklists. I’ve always remembered this conversation and have seen it play out over and over with my clients during the past 20 years.

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Mastering the Dispatcher Role from Beginning to End

One of the questions I get asked all the time by clients and customers is, “Why can’t my CSR also be the Dispatcher?”

Answer: They can and often do especially if you’re a small company. But if I ask more questions, usually I discover they’re struggling to be really good with one or the other. Maybe even struggling just to be okay.

The reason for this is that being a customer service rep and being able to do dispatching are two totally different skills sets, and the best people to fill each of those roles have different personalities. In fact, every time I’ve separated the CSR and Dispatcher roles, clients always report there is more money and more profit coming in.

Why is that?

Here’s why…

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Systems Freed Me Up to Help My Daughter

Every winter, my daughter, Pam, her husband and my grand dogs come to visit my wife and me in Phoenix. Now I’d like to think it’s because she misses us… and… she does, but it does help that she lives on the east coast where it gets just a LITTLE colder than here.

While she and her husband are RVing across the great USA (she wasn’t new to the club as she’s been RVing for years now), they still have to work. Her work is at a summer camp in the Poconos in Pennsylvania. For those who don’t live in the northeast, there are summer camps that kids go to for 7 weeks! That’s right 7 weeks!

So, when I say to people when they ask what she does and I tell them she’s a camp director at a summer camp, the next thing they ask is, “What does she do the rest of the year?” I reply, “She works full time, and she has navigated the globe to find staff.”

Hmmm… finding staff… sound familiar to you?

Anyway, when she was here in January 2021, she was working from my home and said that she’s never had so much of a problem recruiting and hiring people like college kids, staff for the kitchen, people for the pool and lake and more.

My wife, Natalie, Pam and her husband were at the dinner table one night, and she looked at us across the table and said solemnly: “If I call you, will you come and help?” To which I said, “You want me to come and be a camp counselor again for the first time in 50 years?” She replied, “Yes… Possibly.”

Two weeks into the start of camp, I hadn’t heard anything from Pam, that is until I got “the” phone call. It was Pam. She said, “I don’t want your advice. I don’t want your opinion. I want you on an airplane to come here to help me and I need you… now.”

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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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I Don’t Like Millennials… I Love Them and So Should You

Tommy, one of the techs at my contracting company, poked his head into my office after his last call of the day. It was after 7 p.m., which is about two hours later than he would have liked to finish. He said, “That last job took forever. These kids today have no work ethic and ask a million questions. I wish they would just put their head down and do the work.”

I smiled a little and replied, “You know, Tommy, when you first started all the experienced Techs that worked here said the same thing about you.” “Haha, very funny,” was his reply. I went on to tell him that if he thought the Technicians he worked with needed additional training to let me know. But otherwise, try to have a little patience. After all, to get as good as he was took years of practice.

Tommy and I had this conversation in the 1990s, but if you replaced the word “kids” with “millennials” or “gen x” it would be just as relevant today.

The truth is that the bad rap younger generations get is based on a myth, which if not overcome will harm your business because you’ll be missing out on some of the best employees you may ever have.

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Does Everyone Get to Stay Your Customer?… NO!

“I’m sorry, Mr. Jones… I think, given the circumstances, another company could serve you better,” I said calmly, even though I was actually pretty ticked off at the way he had spoken to my best CSR, my Dispatcher and my most experienced Tech. I invited him again to go hire (and likely abuse) my competition.

Why not just take his money? Because Mr. Jones was not my customer. He was among the five percent of customers who were causing 90 percent of our problems and we were on a mission to move them out. And he was destroying our company’s culture and I wasn’t going to let that happen.

After all, I had always told my staff, “You’re my #1 customer and I know that how I treat you is how I hope you’ll treat our customers. So, know that my family is committing to treating you with the respect you deserve.”

Well, if I meant it… and I did… there comes a time I had to fire a customer to prove that I’d be willing to put my money where my mouth was and stick up for the team.

Here are four customer behaviors and one situation you shouldn’t tolerate and how you can handle them.

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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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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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