Over the last year, the techs I know have taught me a few things worth sharing. These are small changes that could make a huge difference to your culture and profitability. Enjoy!
1.“We could have better uniforms.”
Chris is a Drain Pro. He was fed up with the uniform service the company was using. The uniforms were scratchy, ill-fitting and didn’t hold up to repeated washings. He raised his hand to find a better company. He suggested that they adopt a Boy Scouts approach to what constituted “in uniform.” He suggested that they assemble a catalog of uniform components. Then, each Tech could decide which pieces they would wear.
Chris interviewed each of the other techs. The tall guys wanted tall sizes. Some guys wanted vests, while others wanted windbreakers. They discussed coveralls and t-shirts and cotton versus blend fabrics. He had meetings with a few uniform companies. Chris knew the approved budget, and negotiated prices and cleaning options.
Then, he held a “fashion show” and demo’ed the finalists from two companies. Chris made his recommendations, and the owners said, “Yes, and thank you.”
Lesson: Establish the parameters. Then, let your techs choose their uniforms.
2. “Everybody needs a tablet.”
Jeremy was miffed when the salespeople got tablets and the techs didn’t. He made his case at the company meeting.
“We all need tablets. We can use them to invoice customers, and get signatures and payment. We can look up procedures in the manuals. We can access the pricebook, testimonials and before and after pics. We can see customer history and add notes. I vote that everybody needs a tablet.”
The owner called me up and said, “I’m cool with this, but I have some concerns. What about Facebook and Instagram and unlimited access to the internet? Are they going to get me into trouble? Are they going to waste time?”
I replied, “Maybe they will cause trouble, and maybe they will waste time. But, I have news for you. They are already on Facebook and Instagram, and they are texting their friends throughout the day. You could fuss about it. But, Jeremy is right. The tablets will help them do their jobs. Your job is to help them stay busy and productive. Then, if they find time to connect with their friends, so be it.”
The owner expressed his reservations with the team. Together, they came up with some do’s and don’ts as far as posting, and basic e-manners. They discussed texting and driving. Jeremy offered to download all the most-needed manufacturers’ manuals, as well as the company operations manual, so they could all share and access the information. And, they all got tablets.
Lesson: Go paperless. The benefits outweigh the risks.
3. “Our spouses/partners need to be in on the game.”
I was riding along with Stuart and asked about another tech.
“What happened to Henry? He is a great guy and I am sad to hear he doesn’t work here anymore.”
Stuart told me, “His wife put a lot of pressure on him. She didn’t like that he worked so much overtime, and she didn’t like the bonus system.”
I pressed, “What didn’t she like?”
He replied, “She didn’t understand it. My wife doesn’t either. It’s complicated. We get money deducted when we have a callback, or are late to a meeting. Sometimes, I am paid one rate, and other times another rate. She grinds me about it and it’s stressful.”
This reinforced something I have long suspected, Whoever is at home needs to understand and support the game at work.
Lesson: Create a simple, easy-to-explain, transparent compensation and bonus system. And, make sure the techs and their partners get it.
4. “Cleaning requires cleaning tools.”
Bobby and I were on a ride along together. He was replacing a disposer when he tipped over a container of cooking oil, which was under the sink. The cap wasn’t on the bottle and we were instantly in the middle of a big, sticky mess. He had one clean up rag on his truck, so we had to involve the homeowner for cleaning supplies. She was not pleased and it was embarrassing.
Afterwards, Bobby said, “We are allotted a few towels once a week. Most of the time, I buy my own cleaning supplies and keep them on the truck, but it gets expensive. It’s frustrating because we are told to clean up after every job. That’s not always possible.”
So, I suggested we address this problem with the owner. He hadn’t really considered what it would take to make good on his expectation of job cleanliness. The tech suggested that they install a laundry sink and a washer and dryer in the shop. That way, every tech could throw their rags into the wash on an as-needed basis. The owner also agreed to provide cleaning solution, and paper towels as standard truck stock. Great win-win solution.
Lesson: If you want it clean, don’t scrimp on the cleaning products.
5. “It’s OK if it’s tough, as long as it’s fair.”
Steve is a field supervisor, which means he oversees a team of techs, as well as being a service tech himself. He told me he was going to write up one of his techs for not using a new procedure. I pushed back a bit.
“Are you sure that you have instructed him properly on it? Are you being too tough?” I asked.
Steve wouldn’t take it.
“Yes, I have verified that he knows the procedure. He isn’t using it. When he doesn’t, it creates problems for the dispatcher and the other techs. So, yes, I am being tough. But, I am being fair,” Steve explained.
What I have discovered is that when you engage team members to be leaders, they are often better leaders than you are. Steve understands the position of tech better than I do, too. Steve takes his position to heart. He knows that if he holds to high standards, his team will rise to them. My softening the situation would just be undermining Steve’s authority. Writing someone up is a good way to help them get back on track. And, it shows the team where the line is, and what the consequences are.
Lesson: Don’t lower your standards. It’s OK to be tough.
This is just my latest "Top five." Throughout my career, I have done one thing right. One thing that has paid the biggest dividends. I ask the front line team members what they would do, or change, or stop doing, if they were in charge.
Your team will fix everything. They will grow your company. They will make your dreams come true. Ask for their opinions. Give them the projects. Offer a great place to work with honor and respect, and a good wage and benefits program.
Special thanks to all the people with whom I have ridden along and sat side by side. You are the reason I have something to write about in Phc News every month.
Comments? Questions? A different view? Reach me at (417) 753-1111 or firstname.lastname@example.org You can also join the Bare Bones Biz community at www.ellenrohr.com Free tips, problem-solving webinars, money-making tools, and lots of love.