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 implementing 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.

We had talked about taking care of the supposedly little things like dressing right and grooming and how it has a positive spillover affect in getting other things done and counted on.

The owner who appeared to me a very buttoned up and straight laced guy told me early on as we were editing his Tech Manual that we needed to make sure we addressed covering up tattoos. He kept asking me to make sure I covered this topic.

Finally, I said, “I get why it might be important. But, why is it so important to you?”

He smiled and slowly rolled up both sleeves to reveal a full sleeve of tattoos on both arms. Now mind you this was a while back before this many tattoos were as prevalent as they are today.

Then he said, “You see these tattoos. They’re always covered when I’m at work and they stay covered even if its 150°F out there. If an employee works here, they must not have hand, face or neck tattoos. The rule I want in place is they must be covered.”

Here’s some of the other things that plagued the company:

  1. The CSRs winged it on the calls and didn’t capture all the information they should have, so it handicapped the Dispatchers and sabotaged the Techs
  2. The Dispatchers had no set of priorities to assign to calls and therefore they were trying to dispatch without a plan and hoping it would all turn out okay
  3. The Techs could dress the way they wanted (and they did)
  4. The Techs’ trucks were a mess

In short, the staff was running the company and not the owners. So, something had to give.

The answer was to put in the 3 key manuals immediately:

  1. The CSR Manual
  2. The Dispatcher Manual
  3. The Tech Manual

Know that we also put in many more manuals like:

  1. Accounts Receivable
  2. Accounts Payable
  3. Apprentice
  4. Plumbing
  5. Heating
  6. Cooling
  7. Electrical

BUT, the real change of direction came in a great way with the implementation of those 3 key manuals.

Here’s what changed for the better:

  1. The team had grown accustomed to being out on smoke breaks any time they felt like it to the point that the CSRs and Dispatchers who didn’t smoke were burdened by it. So, we took control of smoking. It became before their shift, 90 minutes into their shift, on their meal break, 90 minutes after their meal break and after their shift was over.
  2. The Techs dressing and grooming the way they felt ended when we defined in writing exactly how to dress, how to wear the uniform and what the official grooming policy was right down to tattoos showing, jewelry being worn and facial hair.
  3. The CSRs no longer could wing it when it came to answering the phone. They had the detailed CSR manual that spelled out what to do and how to proceed through their most common scenarios expertly.
  4. The Dispatchers finally knew that they were not the boss of the Techs, and the Techs finally knew that they were not the boss of the Dispatchers because it was spelled out in the Org Chart and in the manuals that they both report directly to the Service Manager and any dispute had to resolve itself through the Service Manager.
  5. The Dispatchers had a written priority that both the CSRs knew when booking a call and the Techs knew when they were on On-Call. It became objective so all of them pretty much applied the same priority to the calls.
  6. The Dispatchers became more efficient by maximizing billable hours.
  7. Techs learned how to keep the Dispatcher in the loop so they didn’t have as much wasted time waiting for the next call to be setup and confirmed.
  8. The ball wasn’t dropped so often between the CSRs getting the call entered correctly to passing it to the Dispatchers who kept the customers in the loop and stayed in contact with the Techs to better adjust the schedule throughout the day. And the process for closing out a call properly was finally mastered to everyone’s best interest.

One of the things that had also made being consistent at their company at the key positions of CSR, Dispatcher and Tech was that very little was in writing, and what was in writing was overly convoluted. The reason is, it wasn’t their policies and procedures but rather the trade group they belonged to, and it wasn’t integrated the way it needed to be.

It got to be so good, that the owner said to me one day, “I finally get it.”

I asked, “What do you get?”

He responded, “Less done right all the time beats spectacular done once in a while.”

And he was right.

So are all these things creating a police state at your company?


The fact that you define things help the people at your company step up and reach a new higher level of professionalism. It serves your customers better and the structure makes a difference. And remember… the way the Operating Manuals get rolled out affect the outcome. They shouldn’t be shoved out; they should be rolled out. This way you can share the WHY behind what’s in writing, and you would be well served to let them speak to what they hate and what they think is wrong. If the feedback isn’t wrong, dangerous, or hurtful to the customer and the company, I strongly recommend you consider editing it in so you get the buy-in you want and need.

Al Levi teaches contractors how to run their businesses with less stress and more success with operating manuals. To get control of your business and grow the right way, get his Build Your Operating Manuals Online Program at 7powercontractor.com/byom today.

Also, check out Al’s latest business adventure, Zoom Franchise Company, at www.zoomdrain.com/franchise-opportunityIt’s a living example of the power of manuals and more in action.

More Ways to Become a 7-Power Contractor

The 7-Power Contractor book lays out 7 simple business powers to help you run your business with Less Stress and More Success. And now, it's available in paperback, ebook, and audiobook.

The Build Your Operating Manuals (BYOM) Program provides you with 90% completed manual templates plus step-by-step instructions on how to edit them, roll them out, and train with them.

Get Your Life Back: 7 Secrets of Super Effective Time Management will show you where you time is really going throughout the day so you can begin to get some of it back immediately.

The 7-Power Contractor Radio is a podcast series hosted by Al Levi in which he shares insights on how to better run your business. Listen wherever you are, even if you're stuck in the truck or office.

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