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  • Monday, February 03, 2020 2:58 PM | Anonymous

    Establish and Hold True to Your Core Values

    Originally published: 05.01.19 by James Leichter

    Leadership is one of the most important components of a contracting business, setting the tone and culture of an entire organization from the top down.

    Many of today’s business books talk about the importance of establishing core values in your company. In fact, many business consultants and authors strongly believe that establishing core values is one of the first steps in starting and managing a business.

    I am certainly one of those people. I believe that your company’s purpose statement and core values are the foundation on which everything else is built.

    Core values may be defined as a person’s or company’s fundamental beliefs. They are the foundation on which we conduct ourselves. We use core values to hire, manage, and fire employees. We use core values to guide how we handle people. You can think of them as your non-negotiable, do not cross boundaries of behavior.

    Core Values are Deeply Personal

    It is the job of the founder or president to establish core values. Core values should not be created by consensus. It could take a person an entire month or more to create a short list of core values. Typically, you will want to create four or five values. Core values are generally one to five words but there is no firm rule.

    The important thing about core values is this: they are deeply personal to you. They should reflect your own personal beliefs about what is important regarding personal and corporate behavior. It is never too late to implement core values in your company. Once implemented, core values should rarely, if ever, change.

    Test Your Core Values

    When you build your core values, test them against these points:

    1. A good set of core values is not industry specific. They could be transferred to any business you own.
    2. Your core values should be just as valid in twenty-five years as they are today.
    3. If you woke up tomorrow super wealthy, your core values should still apply.
    4. You would not hire or keep an employee if they did not adhere to each core value.
    5. Your core values should reflect those of your best employees and best friends. They should be dissimilar to those people who you would not be close friends with and have previously fired.

    As an example, here are the core values of one of my companies. They also happen to be my personal core values as well:

    Aptora’s Core Values

    They influence who we hire, who we promote, and who we fire.

    1. Don’t lie, cheat, or steal.
    2. Make commitments and keep them.
    3. Be passionate, determined, and hardworking.
    4. Be polite, forthright, and totally candid.
    5. Seek continuous improvement.

    Different than Guiding Principles

    Guiding principles are sometimes made synonymous with core values. As far as I am concerned, they are different. Guiding principles are more operational than personal. Guiding principles are more related to how you work and how you make decisions.

    Core values are more related to how you conduct yourself and deal with other people. “Recognize and reward employees based on their output” is a guiding principle. “Be polite, forthright and totally candid” is a core value.

    When you do not follow a company’s guiding principles, you don’t get promoted. If you don’t follow the company’s core values, you will be fired.

    Introduce Core Values

    Have a company meeting where you introduce your core values. This meeting should be upbeat and positive. Let everyone know how you came up with your core values. Let them know what they mean to you personally and why they are important to your company.

    Be sure to emphasize the fact that your core values are mandatory and that breaking them can get you fired. I recommend that you post your core values on the wall where everyone will see them throughout the day.

    Using Your Core Values

    If your core values are deeply personal, this part will be easy and intuitive. Be sure to reference them often so that your staff knows they are not just a fad. The idea is to demonstrate how you use your core values to make decisions on a regular basis.

    Reference your core values when you are interviewing people. See if their core values line up with yours.

    Reference your core values when reprimanding people. By contrast, reference your guiding principles when coaching and mentoring people.

    A Double-Edged Sword

    The problem with core values is that you must also abide by them to the very best of your ability. Your employees will be watching you and they will notice when you don’t.

    You cannot value honesty and cheat on your taxes. You cannot value commitment and break a promise. You cannot preach kindness and not be polite to everyone.

    That’s the hard part for core values — you must follow them. You might have a top performing employee who does not adhere to a core value. After a suitable warning, you must fire that employee because it is obviously not a core value.

    You will need to remove that core value from your list and consider adding it to your list of guiding principles.

    I have been in this double-edged sword quandary. I have had to fire long term employees, even friends, over a core value violation. That was difficult, but having great core values and not following them is much worse than having no core values at all.

    Leadership is one of the most important components of a contracting business, setting the tone and culture of an entire organization from the top down.

  • Tuesday, January 21, 2020 12:07 PM | Anonymous

    The Genius of Leadership
    Originally published: 03.01.18 by Gary Elekes

    Change the way you think, set a direction and then build a team of personnel to achieve the end game

    We all crave good leadership. It’s exciting, challenging and rewarding to be involved with

    effective leadership, and it can be frustrating as an employee when leadership is off course.

    One of your main opportunities in contracting is to find, recruit, hire, train and develop people around you to improve your company’s execution. In this era, developing and creating that environment for prosperity is difficult unless you understand the true genius of what leadership can accomplish.

    Simply put, effective leadership is rare in business and in life.

    It is only occasionally that you see the kind of leadership you wish you could be exposed to in your own business lives.

    The individuals in the organization trust this direction and course so well — they buy-in to the direction and course with such passion — that they follow and become less individuals and more of a team defined by the culture set up by this leadership principle.

    It requires constant communication, reinforcement and discussion about the vision,

    values and behaviors — and how it all relates to the purpose of the company. When these attributes are present, most teammembers will do whatever it takes to make certain the direction is fulfilled.

    How it Applies to You

    You’re building a business and improving the performance of the business at the same time.

    This business of yours is, in many cases, like one of your very own children and, in some cases, you may spend more time with it than with your family as a sacrifice to build for them.

    Suffice to say, the amount of energy, time, desire, passion and sheer will required to make the business grow and prosper is enormous.

    Yet rarely do you see the owners working on improving his/her own leadership skills — to grow themselves personally so that, as the business grows, the owner stays ahead of the needs of the business and the people inside of the business.

    You need to frame your leadership practices to be responsible to your people, not for your people.

    As a leader, you have to be able to hold them accountable for the work they perform at the standards you’ve established, and that means you have to create an environment of accountability and standards in the first place.

    In an issue of Harvard Business Review, there was an article in which Jeffrey Immelt, who replaced Jack Welch as CEO of General Electric, discussed how much time he actually spent in the development of people in GE, not just his direct reports.

    These are the key leaders inside GE. He stated that more than 40 percent of his time was dedicated to the development of these people, because they were so crucial to completing the work of GE.

    That choice of priority is certainly a large time dedication, especially for a small business owner.

    The truth is, the smaller the business, the more critical it is for this behavior to occur, which is opposed to your technical nature in the trades of doing the key work yourself.

    The time spent developing your people is critical, and in many cases probably should exceed 40 percent of your time.

    The real issue is when you spend time with them, what are you doing?

    If effective leadership is about setting direction, and then building a team of personnel to be able to achieve the end game towards this direction, there are a number of things that MUST happen every day:

    • Have a clear, well-articulated vision for the company

    • Define core values and the behaviors that a company wants from each value

    • Set concise expectations and standards for each role — tie these to individual goals

    • Develop this talent by making the tools, training and resources available to execute

    • Be willing to always change — change is part of the fabric of the company

    • Foster ongoing communication — a positive environment to work and learn

    • Operational excellence/execution — Measure the metrics (KPI’s) and communicate them

    • Reward excellence — share the wealth but also appreciate, show respect, give recognition

    These ideas may seem like common sense, but while they are in practice within your industry, proper and complete execution is a rare occurrence.

    Far too often you see only some of these areas being practiced, which lead to more bumps in the road than needed to happen.

    It all comes down to one issue: Leadership must be aware and understand the need.

    Time and Commitment

    Everything defined here is grounded in the concept of developing other leaders, and the accountability for these ideas being effectively implemented is the responsibility of the primary leader or owner of the company.

    You have to set the structure and raise others around you, and that takes time and commitment.

    The good news is, because leaders are developed and not born, you can adapt your leadership skills and improve, thus becoming more effective at leadership. If you want to change, you can. The human mind can focus and achieve anything if you desire it.

    One of the human mind’s greatest attributes is its ability to adapt and change. Sometimes you simply ignore that potential or allow yourself to be distracted by the “static” around you, the daily crises in contracting.

    When that happens, you have no method to reinforce your goals, your leadership work requirements to help others become more effective.

    You have to learn to become an effective business leader first, before you learn to become effective at the business.

    Most of this industry started by getting into the business first and becoming immersed in the work of the business, never really committing to the idea of changing themselves along the way as they grew the company.

    Even leaders with natural skills who focus on doing so many things correctly can get trapped in a comfort zone.

    They may not continue to challenge themselves to change and become even more effective leaders.

    No matter how successful you are, if you’re not committed to constant change and continuous self-improvement, the business eventually will grow to your level of incompetence.

    Continuous Self-Improvement

    Leaders who want to continue to grow learn this lesson early, as noted by leadership expert and author John Maxwell:

    Change is personal — I can identify what I want changed

    Change is possible — I can do it

    Change is profitable — I am rewarded

    Maxwell calls these the three Ps of change.

    Becoming a better leader of your company and for your people requires a personal change. Of course, it is possible, and if you’re focusing in on changing the right kinds of leadership attributes in your personality, it will no doubt be profitable as well.

    The whole point of learning to become an effective leader of a contracting company is to reach your chosen goals, whatever they are.

    Are you at your stated goals? If not, you’ll likely have to change, and this will likely require you to improve your leadership skills to reach said goals.

    Clear and Inspired Thinking

    As an owner or key leader in your company, you need to have a place and time to create clear and inspired thinking, so you have the ability to sort through the challenges.

    Planning time is usually robbed and forsaken for crisis time, but these are choices made by people who do not understand how to get out of the time trap.

    To be effective at leading your people and setting your direction, and even defining the goals of your company, you need time for yourself that allows you to think clearly and with enthusiasm.

    Willingness to Change

    You must understand that changing your performance changes your life, and you must embrace the need to adapt.

    Don’t change for the sake of change, but under real, necessary change, such as adding specific processes to your business so you can train personnel to the right standard and do it correctly each time.

    That requires change if you are in control and feel the need to have it done “your way” — you may have to change. A willingness to adapt is required, or you will not reach the next level.

    Your People

    Surround yourself with people that are at another level than you. A great lesson in sports is to always go up against people who are better than you, so you will always have a focused effort on improving.

    Competing against those who are already better than you make you figure out how to compete differently to improve. To improve, one must stretch themselves to the limit.

    Surrounding yourself in business with people who challenge you to think differently is the same concept and will only lead to you learning a great deal from them.

    This requires a certain humility and courage as well as trust and is a good reason to have a mentor or coach, or people around that will be honest with you about you.

    How to Improve Your Leadership

    1.     Commit to changing the way you think.

    2.     Find people who are smarter and better at what they do than you are and develop a personal inner circle.

    3.     Seek a mentor, someone who can give you a non-biased opinion that is candid and fair to help you grow and learn new skills.

    4.     Self-evaluate what kind of a leader you really are and look at a

    5.     self-improvement plan. Develop the plan and take action.

    6.     Define a personal vision and mission in your life. What is your purpose and why are you doing what you do? This will not only add clarity, but incredible focus.

    7.     Refine your personal and professional goals.

    8.     Start mapping out how you have to change to become more effective at leading your company and your employees.

    9.     Map out how the business has to change. Set your priorities and begin changing — based on your priorities. Ask questions in your business practices — Why do we do it this way?

    10. Make time in your schedule for clear, inspirational thinking time.

    11. 1Maintain a planning period that allows you to reevaluate your position, skills and goals regularly. Once a month is a minimum.

    Becoming a more effective leader is hard work and requires you to self-reflect on who you are now and what you aspire to in business and in life.

    It is heady stuff, yet if you take the journey’s first step, which is to realize your company depends on you to adapt first and help raise others, you are well on your way to time and money freedom.

    The challenge requires dedication, discipline and a desire to adapt, but the journey to becoming the best leader you can be is well worth it.

  • Monday, January 20, 2020 11:38 AM | Anonymous

    GETTING THEM TO STAY

    People may come to a job for its money, but they will stay for its culture, Schuh and Wiseman said.

    “How are they treated?” Schuh asked. “Does leadership and ownership really care about them? Are they really trying to help them advance their careers and take care of their employees? That’s why they stay.”

    Owners and leaders of the company can ensure this culture is created by training those in management on proper leadership skills, Wiseman said. Employees will also want to feel that their work is meaningful.

    “What is the mission of the company, and do the team members feel they’re engaged in a higher purpose, and that their work and contribution are valued?” he said. “And is the company living up to its value statement? There should be clear goals and initiatives and scorecards for each position.”

    Such a perspective ties into using career advancement opportunities to attract younger talent. Wiseman recommended laying out a career path for an installer or technician with clear criteria for what it takes to achieve each advancement (such as certifications), allowing for incremental advancement opportunities.

    In the end, he said, a company must grow to give its employees the managerial opportunities they desire.

    “It’s pretty tough to get excited about opportunities in your future if you’re waiting for a lead technician or installer to retire,” he said. “A growing company provides opportunity. There’s enough opportunity where you can promote from within, but you also have to recruit from the outside so there’s some new blood coming through.”

  • Monday, December 30, 2019 10:17 AM | Anonymous

    Increase Customer Lifespan

    Originally published: 02.01.19 by Joel Frederick

    Through responsive and intuitive outreach, you can grow your customer base and increase retention.

    In operating, leading and managing a HVACR and essential services company, the majority of our focus is usually centered around making sure customer service is up to standard, internal processes are operating smoothly and that the “big-picture” view of the company looks healthy.

    With so many things taking priority during the day-to-day, one process that sometimes doesn’t get the attention it usually deserves is how we conduct our public outreach efforts.

    Beyond just traditional advertising and marketing tactics, outreach through customer relationships and how we communicate in the community can prove worthwhile in growing your customer base and increasing customer retention in the HVACR industry.

    Here are a few things your business can do to increase customer lifespan through responsive and intuitive outreach.

    Community Outreach

    No matter the business, there should always be a responsibility to the community to give back what it has given you. Community outreach can take many different forms, from hosting an educational learning event for a local HOA, providing sponsorship for a local little league team or even taking the time to visit high schools or trade schools to talk to folks that are interested in
    learning more about the heating, refrigerating and air conditioning world.

    In addition to providing to the community through your business and spreading goodwill, community outreach provides three very important benefits to your business: 1) being involved in the community will put your business’s name out there and, in turn, create brand recognition 2) lets your community and potential customer base know that your business is contributing to the greater community and 3) provides members of your business the opportunity to network and get involved with different groups and individuals that may be in need of services later down the line.

    Another outreach tactic that helps your business connect with new customers is showing your business’s skill or expertise by getting involved in speaking engagements, home shows, career fairs, etc.

    Getting personal with your potential client base gives you the opportunity to speak with them first-hand and get a feel for their needs and what they’re looking for in a HVACR service. You’ll often find that in conversations with these folks about services they’ve received in the past that they are eager to share the things they’ve liked and the aspects they disliked of their experience.

    Take these opportunities to soak in the feedback and form your sales pitch or tailor your services to better fit what the community is looking for.

    In regard to customer lifespan, community outreach really hone in on the forward-facing goodwill aspect of your business. Responsible customers usually look out for and choose to work with business that are willing to listen to feedback as well as give back to their communities.

    New Customer Outreach

    Of course, one of the biggest priorities for any business is always making sure you are actively calling and searching for new customers. Though there are many ways businesses keep their lead pools fresh and full, from putting dollars into advertising and marketing efforts, to other innovative (and often more budget friendly) options that involves simple outreach initiatives, this is an outreach tactic you don’t want to skip out on.

    One thing that is easy for businesses to coordinate internally that goes towards outreach efforts is new customer incentives — often in the form of discounts or specials. Whether that means posting specials or discounts on your business’s social media geared towards new customers or finding groups in your community that may be in need of your services, keying in on those that may not have heard of your business and are within arm’s reach at any given time is valuable.

    As new customers are not often not familiar with your brand, quality of service or price point, it usually takes a bit more effort to drive this particular audience to action. Offering discounts to these folks takes a bit of the “buyer risk” out of their situation while allowing your business to establish the beginnings of a trusted relationship.

    Existing Customer Outreach

    It is without a doubt that the addition of new clients through continued outreach and advertising will generate growth in the business but being responsive and capitalizing on the needs of existing clients can prove to reap benefits for the business as well.

    Existing clients are valuable in many ways—for example, the relationship that exists between the business and returning customers is valuable in that they are most likely the group to use your business for repeated service. These folks are the heartbeat of your business and have established loyalty with your brand.

    More often than not these customers are the ones that advocate for your business and want to see you thrive, so why not use the opportunity to present other places of service you can provide them?

    When it comes to existing customers, it is imperative to leverage that good relationship to continue to grow. A good strategy that is often used to expand on this is a refer-a-friend incentive. If customers are pleased enough with your work to tell a friend about it, that is a big win for your business.

    Similar to the new customers barrier, people are more likely to be driven to action when there is an incentive for them as well. Refer-a-friend programs include new customer benefits, as discussed before, while also including incentives for your existing customer doing the referring. This can look something like “Refer-a-friend and get 25% off your service, while your friend earns $50 towards their next service.”

    Military and Veteran Outreach

    Lastly, in the essential services industry (or any industry, at that) it is always in your best interest to do your due diligence in outreach to the military and veterans in the community. These men and women are the core of our nation and it is our responsibility to make sure we return the favor whenever we can.

    In military outreach efforts, there are two primary approaches. The first being extending services to military and veteran groups at discounted rates or, if possible, even gratis.

    For example, your business can find and partner with a local or regional military support group to provide home services to those veterans that may not be employed or have the means to pay for maintenance or repairs on their HVACR systems.

    The second is getting veterans involved in your business through training and employment opportunities. Veterans are an honorable and hard-working group of people that are often left in situations that make finding employment difficult.

    By reaching out to military staffing agencies and opening your business to on-boarding or training these folks, you establish a goodwill relationship with a tightly knit, highly organized and most importantly deserving community.

    Take note that outreach initiatives are best utilized to supplement the times between your business’s marketing and advertising efforts. While advertising will give your business a chance to get in front of someone’s eyes at a higher frequency, outreach provides the opportunity to meet with your customers personally and get to know them on a personal basis.

    Nothing is more valuable than getting to hear their input and give your expertise face-to-face in return. In fact, face-to-face correspondence will always stand a higher chance of being remembered and be more likely to leave a lasting impression about your business. Give these responsive and intuitive outreach efforts a try next time you are looking for ways to get involved with your own community!

  • Tuesday, December 17, 2019 10:49 AM | Anonymous

    Be a Leader for Your Millennial Team Members
    Originally published: 02.01.18 by Bob McEwan

    So much is written these days about the Millennial generation — those children born in the 80s and 90s. As a father of three of them, I have my own opinion on how they think and in what kind of workplace they thrive.

    Rather than explain who or what Millennials are — there’s plenty of information out there on that subject — here’s an outline for how we, collectively, should lead and support this amazing group of future leaders.

    Pew research says Millennials are team-oriented, confident, knowledgeable, achieving, feel special, sheltered, conventional, pressured and the list goes on. Most of their parents are Baby Boomers, and they number around 75 million.

    In my book, “5 Fundamentals to Unleash Millennial Talent,” I share my leadership journey across three generations — as a Baby Boomer leading my organizations or supporting Gen Xers stepping into a leadership role or a Millennial finding and establishing his or her career path. I tried to help guide and provide insight for both managing and climbing the corporate ladder.

    We need this generation to be the best they can be. We need to support, encourage and unleash this group.

    This generation wants and expects to work in a great place, be challenged and feel like they’re making a difference. They want to use their knowledge and work in a team-oriented environment that delivers results which leads to success.

    Doesn’t that sound like a wonderful place to work? Of course, it does — Millennials are demanding that our companies change both in the private and public sector.

    And this is a good thing. Here are a few ideas you can use to help unleash this generation’s talent as leaders.

    Culture of Trust

    Integrity and compliance start at the top. Companies that have this culture will win customers, suppliers and attract great employees. Sadly, distrust is fairly common in today’s workplace — VW emissions scandal, the 2008 financial crisis, GM ignition switch and Flint City water system are a few examples.

    You must build an environment of trust and transparency. Your actions speak so much louder than words. It is time we changed.

    Identify and Grow Talent

    Employees today are knowledgeable within their skill discipline. The digital tools for learning have made this possible.

    Millennials want to contribute and feel like they are making a difference. Their job responsibility needs to mean something — it must have impact. Get to know your folks, give them big assignments; don’t be afraid of stretching them. Stay close and support them so they will success.

    Build Your Team

    Engaging your team is critical to success of the organization. Be the coach who is aware of how each person on your team is doing. Tell them they are valued, and you want to know their ideas.

    Having a personal presence with your team is extremely powerful. Remember, you’re one of the members. All generations want to feel a part of success, great leaders know how to inspire and empower. It’s time for leaders to share the leading with the team.

    Value Diversity

    Diversity is not just checking a box to meet some regulatory criteria. It goes way beyond race and gender; it includes diversity of thought.

    I was fortunate to manage thousands of people around the world. People from different backgrounds see the world differently. They bring new innovative ideas.

    As a leader you must create a workplace that promotes inclusion and diversity. Millennials are the most diverse group of any generation; thus, diversity must be part of your company’s DNA.

    Listen and Share

    Leaders must be transparent and create an open collaborative environment. Have regular updates and give your team as much information as possible, communicate the business objectives and metrics often using all the digital tools.

    Keep your door open and make sure it is known up and down the organization. People must feel comfortable approaching you with issues. When people stop coming to you and stop telling you about issues and concerns you have lost their trust.

    Positive Energy

    Bring positive energy every day. Enjoy and celebrate the small things, while having fun doing it. Recognize and reward people frequently. If you can do it publicly in these settings, it makes it even more impactful. Great leaders know how to energize an organization.

    Here are a few takeaways from my book regarding engagement of people no matter what the generation, it’s important to engage with your team. Know them. Grow them. Inspire them. Involve them. And reward them.

    It’s all about setting up a great workplace. This generation wants to be challenged, feel like they impact the bottom line. Constantly using their skills in a team-oriented environment. Reward, recognize and have fun. They will lead the world to new levels of success.

  • Monday, December 09, 2019 12:12 PM | Anonymous

    General Business Liability Insurance

    Originally published: 08.01.13 by Caron Beesley

    How it Works and What Coverage is Right for You

    If you’ve heard it once, you’ve heard it a thousand times: if you own, operate or are starting a business, you need general liability insurance. But what does that mean? What protection does it afford? How do you determine your coverage needs? How does it work?

    What is General Liability Insurance?

    Liability insurance (also known as Commercial General Business Liability) protects a company’s assets and pays for obligations – medical costs, for example –incurred if someone gets hurt on your property or when there are property damages or injuries caused by you or your employees. Liability insurance also covers the cost of your legal defense and any settlement or award should you be successfully sued. Typically these include compensatory damages, nonmonetary losses suffered by the injured party, and punitive damages. 

    General liability insurance can also protect you against any liability as a tenant if you cause damage to a property that you rent, such as by fire or other covered loss.

    Finally, it can also cover claims of false or misleading advertising, including libel, slander and copyright infringement.  

    Does Your Business Need Liability Insurance?

    We live in a litigious society and, even if you think you’re unlikely to face a claim, getting insurance is a wise investment that doesn’t cost much – annual premiums range from $750 to $2,000 depending on your line of business and coverage needs. That’s certainly a lot less than the thousands, if not millions, of dollars you may need to spend fighting your case in court.
    General liability insurance can be purchased on its own, but it can also be included as part of a Business Owner’s Policy (BOP) which bundles liability and property insurance into one policy. If you have a BOP, check it to see what your liability coverage limit is. You may find it is quite low, in which case you may need additional coverage through a separate policy.

    How to Determine Your Coverage Needs

    The coverage you need depends on the type of business you are in and the perceived risk associated with it. For example, a building contractor will need more coverage than a web designer or consultant. Your business location is also another factor that comes into play. For example, some states tend to award more in damages to plaintiffs claiming personal injury than others. Talk to a licensed insurance broker for advice on this before you rush out and buy a policy.

    As mentioned above, if you fall into the lower risk category you may want to consider a Business Owner’s Policy (BOP), which combines general liability and property insurance at a cost-effective rate.

    How General Liability Insurance Works

    As with many insurance plans, your general liability policy will outline the maximum amount the insurance company will pay against a liability claim. So, if your small business gets sued for $250,000 for medical costs associated with an injury caused by a worksite hazard, plus an additional $100,000 in legal fees, but your coverage maxes out at $300,000, then you are responsible for paying the difference of $50,000 – should you lose the case.

    If you are on the higher end of the risk scale and already have general liability insurance, you can also opt for excess insurance or umbrella insurance that increases your coverage limits. This will cover you in situations in which you’re worried that your existing coverage won’t cover all your costs should someone file and win a claim against you.

    Be sure to do your industry research before you invest in any policy. Sometimes a client contract will require your business to have the appropriate coverage or umbrella insurance to perform work on their behalf. Likewise, some construction contractors may add you to their general liability policy as an additional name to be insured for the duration of the project.

    Filing a Claim

    If an incident occurs that may lead to a claim, you should notify your insurance company or agent immediately. Be prepared to explain what has happened in detail, including the time, date, the names of any witnesses, and any other pertinent information.

    What Other Insurance Do I Need?

    Besides general liability insurance, most states also require that businesses with employees pay workers’ compensation insurance and state disability insurance. Depending on the nature of your business, you may also need auto insurance, home business insurance, product liability insurance, environmental and pollution insurance, and more.

  • Monday, December 02, 2019 2:59 PM | Anonymous

    The Art of Failure
    Originally published: 08.01.19 by Megan Jackson
    Life is full of lessons learned through trial and error. 

    You don’t know how far you can go until you’ve gone too far. This was something my father said often when I was younger, most likely linked to some action I committed that was based on a poor decision.

    As children growing up, you learn to test boundaries; you learn quickly failure can teach the most memorable and tactile lessons. We learn to walk by trying and falling; we learn to ride a bike by trying and typically falling. Learning to listen may result in a burnt hand or bump on the head because you didn’t stop jumping on the bed or you didn’t listen when your mother told you the stove was hot.

    Life is full of lessons learned through trial and error. And yet as we get older, parents, teachers, professors and business owners less and less encourage the actual art of failure. As an adult, the stakes of failure are higher. Suddenly, failure goes from a bump on the head to life and death consequences whether physically, mentally or financially. And yet history is filled with those who dared to fail, especially within this Industry.

    Learn from History

    Civilizations and societies since ancient time have played one way or another in the arena of heating and cooling spaces, either due to necessity or due to the pursuit of comfort. Doctor John Gorrie, a Florida physician in the 1840s, was one of the first reported to experiment with the concept of cooling spaces. His goal was to temper the severe Florida heat for his patients by using ice created by a compressor powered by a Horse, water and wind-driven sails.

    While Dr. Gorrie’s invention was a success, it wasn’t completely practical. It was not until 1902 that engineer Willis Carrier took up the mantel in the evolution of the HVACR industry, not for the purpose of conditioning a house or business, but in the pursuit of solving the humidity problem that was causing magazine pages to wrinkle at Sackett-Wilhelms Lithograghing and Publishing Company in Brooklyn, New York.

    Through a series of experimentations and failures, Mr. Carrier was able to develop the first system to control humidity in a space using cooling coils. It wasn’t long after that Mr. Carrier discovered the correlation between humidity removal and cooling the air (air conditioning) and surmised that this process could benefit more industries.

    With a new passion in sight, Mr. Carrier along with six other engineers formed the Carrier Engineering Corporation. At the St. Louis’ World Fair in 1904, the general public got their first taste of comfort cooling at the Missouri State Building, where the AC system used 35,000 cubic feet of air per minute to cool the 1,000-seat auditorium.

    By the 1920s Americans were flocking to the movie theaters to escape the heat in the first comfort-cooled theaters while watching their favorite stars on the big screen. Thus the creation of the “Summer Blockbusters” was born.

    Learn from Roadblocks

    But as you may have guessed the story doesn’t stop there. Over the next 90-plus years, the science behind HVACR experienced many ups and downs. Size restrictions, refrigerant and environmental changes and hazards, and the sheer expense of the products made it difficult to bring the technology of heating and cooling to your average home.

    So where would we be as an industry if we allowed the failures and pitfalls of the past to keep us from trying and succeeding? Our entire industry is built on the successful failure of our products, as the engineers had to learn to embrace the art of failure.

    Testing, researching, developing and experimenting are the backbones for progress, and with each new test engineers and designers learned what a unit was capable of; they literally pushed the unit to its limits until it failed.

    Embrace Failure

    So how does one truly accept and embrace the art of failure?

    First, we must accept that failing at a task does not make us a failure. As we grow, the act of failing becomes less an act and more a personality description. Generations of children who have matured into adulthood grew up under the mandate that failure was not an option.

    When you failed, because we all know failure is inevitable in life, our failure could and would easily become part of our personality definition, causing less and less people being willing to take chances in fear of being labeled a failure just for trying.

    Be prepared to fail again and again and again. In the process of growth, exploration and research it is important to realize that failure is bound to happen again and again. Yet with each failure it is our responsibility to determine why we failed or what caused the failure.

    Once the cause is determined, we need to take the time to learn from the failure and devise another plan of attack or another way of doing the task. As frustrating as it can be, this is all part of the process. Each time you fail, you are essentially learning how NOT to do the task your trying to do.

    Thomas Edison said it best when commenting about his early failures at making a light bulb: “I didn’t fail. I just found 2,000 ways not to make a light bulb; I only needed to find one way to make it work.”

    Never be afraid to ask for advice or help. When it comes to success, I believe that most of the greatest victories are not achieved alone. Mentors, counselors, teachers, and even Religious advisors have served as sounding boards for ideas and concepts.

    But asking for help or seeking advice doesn’t stop there, the simple act of admitting that you failed and allowing those around you to help you move through the grieving process back to the light is paramount for success as well; because in the end no one wants to suffer defeat alone, but neither do we want to celebrate our accomplishments alone.

    Whatever you do, never stop trying. In the end, it is always important to celebrate each small victory and milestone. Without these celebrations we are bound to get discouraged and stop trying.

    It’s important in embracing the art of failure, to never give up and to always keep striving to better yourself, your products, your ideas, or your business. For in the end, the only TRUE failure comes from either quitting or not trying at all.

    As human beings, whether its mentally, physically, personally or professionally, we need to strive, to move forward and be prepared for failure because it is only through failure, do we discover what we are made of and what we can accomplish. No great invention or work of art was created without a string of mistakes and failures in its wake.

    Even the most world-renowned writers, poets, musicians, scientists and engineers spent their time being told no, or being told they weren’t good enough, or watched as their work went up in smoke.

    Success is not always about what we can accomplish, sometimes it’s from that fact that we tried and we didn’t give up. Our industry is constantly evolving which requires us as business owners, managers, technicians, and engineers to follow suit.

    We cannot allow the fear of failure to limit us from the possibilities of the future. Yes, taking risks and failure in a business can mean the loss of jobs and financial ruin, but without those risks, without the possibility of failure you also remove the possibility for true greatness and success.

    Always remember that failure doesn’t have to be the end for those who are brave enough to crawl out of the ashes and try again. The failure they experienced the first time gives them strength, knowledge and motivation to succeed that much more the next time around. And that is the beauty of the art of failure.

  • Tuesday, November 05, 2019 11:28 AM | Anonymous

    DO I NEED A BLOG FOR MY HVAC BUSINESS? 
    March 7, 2017
    By Katie Birkbeck

    At the end of the day, your goal as a business owner is to generate more revenue from your heating and cooling business. So, if you’ve been wondering how to grow your HVAC company, we have a suggestion for you. It’s simple. It’s easy. And it’s something you should be doing—blogging!

    According to Contracting Business, “Blogging is a simple way to strategically add practical content in your own voice strategically to resonate with your target clients/prospects.” And we couldn’t agree more. By regularly posting relevant content on your blog, you will be providing your customers the answers they’ve been looking for—making it evident that you are the authority.

    3 Ways Blogging Can Grow Your HVAC Business

    We’re often asked by new clients if they need a blog on their website. So let me ask you this, do you want your HVAC company to show up in the organic search results on page one of Google? If you answered yes, then we highly recommend creating a blog. Here are three ways that blogging can grow your HVAC company:

    AN HVAC BLOG WILL IMPROVE YOUR AUTHORITY

    It’s important to know that blog posts aren’t always going to generate qualified traffic, but that’s fine (and is to be expected). One of our client’s organic visits jumped from 2,582 in July 2015 to 13,301 in July 2016. Crazy, right? That insane increase is the result of a nationally ranking blog post! What’s so great about that, you may ask? Authority, authority, authority. The higher a page ranks and the more people click the listing—and other websites start linking to it—the more authoritative it is in Google’s eyes. And the more consumers see the company as a trustworthy, reputable authority online (and in their market—if they’re local).

    AN HVAC BLOG WILL IMPROVE ORGANIC TRAFFIC

    We’ve said it before, but we’ll say it again: Google ranks web pages, not websites. So to improve rankings for as many keywords as possible, you need to build out your website content. Blogging is a smart, simple way to do this. The more pages you have on your website (each blog post is an individual page), the more chances you have to show up on the search engine result pages. This means there is more of a chance for users to click through to your page, come to your site, and convert into a lead.

    Blogs make it really easy for you to connect with your audience because majority of people search long tail keywords. You can expect your blog’s organic traffic to grow as you answer the questions people are asking or provide the information they’re looking for. How often do customers call in or submit a contact form with a question about their air conditioner? Imagine how many other homeowners in the area are looking for the answer to this same question. It’s likely that they all googled their question before giving you a call, and by having a blog post with the answer, you’ll show the homeowner that you are the authority in the HVAC industry.

    AN HVAC BLOG COMPLEMENTS YOUR SOCIAL MEDIA EFFORTS

    As you probably already know, social media is a great way for HVAC companies to stay top of mind with customers. But you don’t want all your social posts to be promoting your heating and cooling services. Now, you might be thinking that’s crazy. I know, I know, you want leads from social. But if you share too many promotional posts, users might get frustrated. That’s where blog posts are a great tool.

    Instead of trying to convince someone to schedule air conditioner maintenance, you can share a blog post that discusses the benefits of HVAC maintenance or signs your AC system might need a repair. These helpful blogs will resonate with your audience and provide them with answers they might have been looking for. Another plus—you’re leading them to your website! So, if they click your social post, read the benefits of AC maintenance, and then realize that they want the service, they can easily contact you.

    Blog Post Ideas for the HVAC Industry

    Regularly updating your HVAC blog can seem daunting. But we promise it’s not as time consuming as you may think—and the benefits are great. So, how often do you need to be blogging for your HVAC company? It all depends on your goals! If you’re trying to dominate the search results, you might want to start with a lot of high quality blogs in the beginning, and eventually lighten the load to one a week. You might only be focused on improving your website’s “freshness” score and post one blog weekly. The options are endless, and the choice is yours. Now that you know how often you want to blog, you need to come up with ideas to blog about.

    When brainstorming ideas, think of Google as your best friend. Some of the most common Google inquires ask who, what, when, where, why, or how. So, if you’re having trouble coming up with a good blog topic, Google is happy to make some suggestions:

    blogging for your hvac business blogging for hvac business
    See? There’s eight blog topics for questions that people are regularly searching.

  • Tuesday, October 29, 2019 2:05 PM | Anonymous

    Assemble a Winning Team

    Originally published: 09.01.18 by Bob McEwan

    Great teams in any organization functions in many ways like a family; both are comprised of people who are connected to a common relationship, goal and vision. A team that truly respects each other and wants to succeed together will operate similar to a family in the sense that both share a deep trust with each other-even if they don’t always agree.

    Do you remember being on a winning team? What it felt like to have success with others. What role did you play?

    Attributes of winning teams:

    ·       Everyone is focused on the goal.

    ·       Strong sense of ownership by each team member.

    ·       Know your role and help others.

    ·       Know your marketplace and your competition.

    ·       Will to win … success breeds success.

    ·       Be prepared as a individual and a group.

    ·       Positive atmosphere … can do.

    ·       Open and transparent culture.

    Show me a winning team and I’ll bet they have a dynamic leader. Leadership makes the difference. They know how to inspire, engage and rally the troops. We have all watched and observed companies, sport teams, organizations change the leader or coach and things start to happen. Performance improves; morale is high and there is positive energy in the air with the same team members as before.

    Engage

    I believe engaging your workforce is the single biggest factor in building a winning team. Gallup released a report a few years ago on “The State of the American Workplace” the survey was based on millions of employees responses across the United States.

    It was discovered that 30 percent of American workers were engaged and inspired by a great boss. 20 percent had awful experiences and 50 percent were somewhat engaged and not inspired and kind of present, going through the motions.

    Over my 34-year career in GE Aviation manufacturing I worked with many union shops especially the United Auto Workers (UAW), International Association of Aerospace Machinists (IAM) and International Union of Electrical Workers (IUE) at the local and national level. As a front line supervisor I resolved step one grievances and as a senior executive helped negotiate new contracts including wages, job classifications, work practices and many more items.

    I had developed a good working relationship with the unions, I was always visible, available, willing to listen and usually could negotiate a win-win solution. There were many times, however, I still had to support local grievance proceedings.

    After a few years it occurred to me that we spent over 80 percent of our time talking about people in the bottom 10 percent and hardly any time about the people that come to work, do their job and help the business be successful. This was frustrating knowing that we had so much more to discuss, the manufacturing sector was seeing new types of competition, at first from globalization (low cost wages) and later automation, digitization and robotics.

    I was determined to spend more time working issues that helped us win in this new environment. Over the next several years I spent time working issues such as offering multi-skills training, improved Environmental, Health and Safety practices, more employee engagement teams and enhanced work practices.

    I was not afraid to share and explain my strategy and listen to their concerns; while keeping the goal insight. The results proved it; many of our traditional US plants became model shops for our company. Productivity, product cost and innovation soared, the teams rose to the challenge.

    Our CEO Jack Welch had strong views on people and teams. He had the 20-70-10 principles. Top 20 percent were your high performers; 70 percent are the steady performers, consistently meet expectations and 10 percent are under-achievers, negative attitudes constantly pulling the team down.

    He said deal with the bottom folks swiftly and help lift the 70 percent up to high performers. This is how you build a winning team.

    Share Your Vision

    In 2010 I put this theory into practice, I was asked to lead the manufacturing engineering department who was underperforming and lacking execution. I certainly was up for the challenge but knew that timing was critical.

    We were developing new engine products and introducing new complex materials and new manufacturing technologies. We needed this group to support the industrialization of these components into our supply chain.

    I spent the next 90 days meeting everyone approximately 450 folks across the globe in small groups. I spent time understanding their skills and talents. Talked to them about their careers and what kind of role did they want to play. Supported their movement around the organization.

    At the same time I was sharing my strategy and vision for the team. Told them the kind of people I needed to be on our team and were they willing to become a member. I looked for folks that had a strong sense of ownership. I wanted everyone to understand his or her role and execute accordingly.

    I worked even closer with the leadership team, spent numerous hours with them doing the same thing. I told everyone at the end of 90 days I would make some changes to leaders, positions and how we worked. I told everyone they were valued and important but the business needed us to act.

    Fast forward I made some changes at the end of those 90 days. I removed a few leaders, promoted others and kept the goal in site. I over communicated our metrics and measured them weekly. I supported my new team up and down the organization. I expected us to win and be successful. Morale improved, it was fun to come to work again, and we were making a major impact to the business. A year later we were recognized as one of the best departments in the company. I didn’t make it happen the people did.

    Work as one to win: team trumps individual every time. Know and grow your people for real engagement. Let the team make the cake & tweak the recipe. Your people make the difference.

  • Tuesday, October 22, 2019 11:58 AM | Anonymous

    The Top Four Mistakes Managers Make with Customer Service Teams

    Avoid these common pitfalls
    September 25, 2019
    Tracy Robinson

    As a manager, you devote a lot of time to perfecting the customer service experience. However, you could be sabotaging your own efforts by failing to avoid common mistakes when working with your customer service team. Take a quick look: are any of these mistakes occurring at your company?

    Mistake #1: Understaffing your call center

    You expect your call center team to deliver the highest level of service on the phone. Your representatives need to develop rapport with customers, gather the correct information to set your field employees up for success, and share with the customer why your company is the best choice for their home service needs. All of that takes time. If your call center is understaffed, your team will shorten their talk times with each customer because of the ringing phones in the background and the pressure they feel to get through calls. Short, hurried calls often lead to a less-than-stellar first impression of your company. This, in turn, costs you heavily in the end.

    Good customer service representatives will pay for themselves in a matter of days. The costs associated with having enough people will be far less than losing customers and your marketing spend to further attract new customers. If you’re understaffed, try tracking high call-volume times and then reevaluating your existing schedule. Consider adding a seasonal or part-time position to your company. To ensure your call center team gives customers the best possible experience, give them the support and time they need to achieve this goal.

    Mistake #2: Throwing your representatives straight into their jobs, without proper onboarding

    A coach wouldn’t send an athlete to the big game without training and practice; why would you expect the voice of your company to dive in without proper training? Even the most seasoned customer service representatives need to be onboarded and trained to do their jobs your company’s way. Having a solid onboarding and training plan in place will set you, your team, your customers, and your bottom line up for success. Take the necessary time to show new employees the proper way to perform their duties; this will save you time and money on performance-related issues later, such as corrective action and performance improvement plans.

    Mistake #3: Failing to see the value in the customer service position

    Your customer service representatives are often viewed by consumers and other company employees as the least-paid, least-trained, and least-respected people in your business. This mentality, and a company culture that cosigns it, will not work long-term. Managers need to make it clear to all employees through words, actions, and behaviors that the role of a customer service representative is vital to your company. It’s crucial for your customer service team to know their own importance and understand how their performance affects the company’s big picture. 

    Engage with your front-line employees. Show them how the duties they perform each day factor into the company’s overall success. Make every effort to get to know them; let them know they have a career, not just a job. The typical customer service representative personality is one that is eager to please and often enjoys supporting the team and others in a positive manner. Show your team your appreciation by including them in bonus and incentive programs, as well as in brainstorming sessions for new company initiatives. This will also reduce your employee turnover, which results in happier customers, a more cohesive team, and increased profits.

    Mistake #4: Not empowering your customer service team to handle customer challenges and complaints

    Customers today know to ask for a manager when they have a less-than-great experience with a company. But asking for a manager is a direct result of companies failing to teach and empower their front-line employees to de-escalate situations and become problem solvers. This complaint hierarchy is extremely frustrating to your customers, your representatives, and your leadership team.

    Think of how gratifying it would be for your front-line employees to be able to serve and help your customers! Think of the gained efficiency — if your customer service team was empowered to solve problems, your leadership team could work on training or other initiatives, instead of getting bogged down with phone tag and customer concerns. Imagine how many small issues could remain just that: small. The customers helped by your customer service team could become your biggest fans, instead of becoming more upset when they have to wait longer for a manager to resolve issues.

    Empowering your customer service team sends a clear signal to customers that these employees are smart, and so is your company. When customers feel like they are talking with someone who has the power to help, they push back less against suggested resolutions. The ability for representatives to handle concerns and follow up once they’re resolved is worth so much!

    Finally, empowering your customer service team helps reduce the number of negative online reviews for your company. If your team can address concerns as they come in, customers are less likely to take their negative experiences to the internet, where the damage to your reputation could have ripple effects.

    We have all probably encountered these common mistakes in our interactions with companies as consumers. Correcting these issues in your own business helps you deliver a five-star experience, making your customers and employees fans of your company for life.

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