operation manuals

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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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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Do What’s in the Book and You’re Off the Hook

Growing up a New Yorker, I appreciate straight talking people who say what they mean and do what they say. And I’m pleased to say that has been my experience so far with every one of the business owners I have had the privilege to work with. Midwesterners do this especially well, and without the New York attitude and sarcasm!

But I must admit the New Yorker in me tends to go off unfiltered when an owner in Iowa (or Illinois, or Indiana) tells me, “I don’t know if I can get buy in here for the Operating Manuals.”

“Really?” I reply. “I got these manuals in at my own company, a tough union shop in New York City. It doesn’t get any harder than that. And you don’t think you can get them to buy in here in Iowa…really?”

Despite the quality of my wisecrack, the owner usually remains unconvinced. So after taking a few minutes to compose myself, I share the story of how I got techs to willingly comply at my own shop.

Before we had manuals, one of my many jobs was Installation Manager. In this role, I was overseeing five install crews a day. One of our very best installers had been flipping pizzas when he entered our Apprentice training classes and had risen quickly up through the ranks.

One time I was handing out the assignments for the day and I said to him, “Hey, I can’t be there at the normal 10 a.m. time to go over what I want done here on the new boiler and heating work but I can get there around 2 p.m. Is that going to work?”

He quickly scanned the paperwork I had given him and said, “Not a problem. I got you covered.”

At 2 p.m. I arrived at the customer’s home. As I walked around the basement and saw what had been done, steamed poured from my ears. I pulled the Installer outside and said, “This is nothing like I wanted!”

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