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Will they all quit if you put in operating manuals? The short answer is, “No!” I say that because I did it decades ago at my plumbing, heating, cooling and electrical company. We were a New York City union shop, and we didn’t lose anyone.
And I know this is a fear of some contractors as many prospective clients shared this fear with me. To help them, I’d share the following story:
One of my many different jobs at my very busy shop was the install manager, where I ran five install crews a day. Each morning, I’d set up the job files, brief each lead installer on what to expect — and let them know I’d make the rounds to check in on how things were going.
One day, I was talking to Bobby, who had risen through the ranks to be one of our best installers (he was flipping pizzas when he first arrived as a willing but unskilled apprentice). I handed a file to Bobby and said, “Hey, I can’t get to the jobsite at 10 a.m. today like I usually do, but I’ll stop by around 2 p.m. Look over the job folder and let me know if you’re good to go.”
He looked it over and gave me a thumbs up.
As 2 p.m. rolled around, I went to the jobsite where Bobby was supposed to be installing a new heating system. As I walked around the basement, I was horrified at what I saw, and I was muttering all the four-letter words a nice NYC boy could muster. I told Bobby to meet me outside by his truck.
When he and I were standing by his truck away from the customer, I said, “This is nothing like what I wanted.”
Bobby replied, “Your brother, Richie, showed up and said do it this way.”
I realized we had no standard way of doing anything at our company.
Well, sometimes the worst thing becomes the best thing. I say that because Bobby and I had a very important conversation that not only helped the two of us but the whole company.
We came to understand that Bobby thought I would lay awake at night trying to figure out how to ruin his day. I, in turn, told Bobby that I thought he would lay awake at night trying to figure out how to ruin my day. And so, we learned that we could easily ruin each other’s day if we didn’t have a set of known standards and a way to do all the work we did at the company — which went far beyond the install work.
It was one of the big motivators that convinced me that we needed operating manuals.
Objective vs. subjective
Move ahead in this story and we hired a professional industry writer to help us. We had the key staff from the most impacted departments in meetings, helping us create our standard operating procedures for just about everything that we called the 80 percent standard and not the 20 percent oddball.
When it came time to meet with the union representative for contract negotiations, I shared that the operating manuals needed to be a part of these discussions. The union rep balked, but my shop’s union delegates (my employees) said, “This is going into our contract as it protects us, and it’s tied to how we move ahead at this company.”
It was amazing.
What I didn’t know was that the employees had been talking amongst themselves; they loved being involved in having a say in how they do their work. They loved that decisions about work and pay would be objective (fact-based) and no longer subjective (opinion-based).
Bobby coined the famous line that everyone came to know: “Do what’s in the book and you’re off the hook.”
For 19 years, I’ve worked with thousands of contractors in seminars, workshops, webinars, one-to-one consulting and now in my 7 Power Signature Operating Manuals System Program.
Here’s what I know beyond a doubt: The right employees will love your operating manuals, especially when you follow my lead on how to get buy-in the right way, which is what I teach. This is because manuals are much more than just words on a page or a digital device.
I’ve been up this trail of getting operating manuals into company culture a thousand times. Think of me as your virtual trail guide because I know what it takes to do it right so the customer wins, the company wins, the employees win — so owners and management can win.
Is it possible some people may leave your company? Yes. But they were on their way out already; you just didn’t know it. Rejecting the idea of operating manuals indicates they were never really on board.
The great news is there are new people who will be attracted to your company because of operating manuals; they will be the best employees you’ve ever had.