Manasota Air Conditioning Contractors Association

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  • Monday, March 23, 2020 3:02 PM | Anonymous

    Many businesses are already experiencing raw material shortages related to the coronavirus. As the virus and the related quarantines spread, most businesses are likely to experience material and labor shortages that will affect their ability to service their customers. Depending on the relevant contracts and relevant law, those businesses may be excused from performance.

    Under common law, which typically governs the performance of services, a party is typically excused where its performance is prevented by some event outside its control (often called a force majeure event). Under the Uniform Commercial Code, which typically governs the supply of goods, a party is similarly typically excused where its performance has become commercially impractical. However, specific steps should be taken in these circumstances to ensure relevant legal protections are available.

    Below are a number of steps you should take if the coronavirus disrupts, or you anticipate that it will disrupt, your ability to provide goods or services to your customers:

    1. Review Business Continuity Plans: Business continuity plans are adopted in advance of a crisis to help you think through your options during a crisis. Now is the time to review those plans so that you can act quickly when needed. It is possible that your business continuity plans do not contemplate a global pandemic, but they might still be helpful. If you have not yet experienced a disruption, now is a good time to update such plans to address the issues associated with the coronavirus.
    2. Mitigate Negative Impacts: No matter what protections you might have under relevant law or relevant contracts, you need to do whatever you can to mitigate negative impacts. Your customers will expect you to do so, and, in any case, you might not be entitled to force majeure protection if you did not act reasonably to mitigate negative consequences. So, try to find alternate sources of supply and/or labor, consider whether you can shift production to areas not affected by the coronavirus, and be wise with your existing raw materials and inventory.
    3. Review Supplier Contracts: You should be in constant contact with your suppliers right now to understand which suppliers are expecting disruptions related to the coronavirus. If you anticipate that certain suppliers might have trouble performing, review your contracts with such suppliers. First, review such contracts to determine whether they allow you to increase your purchases from such suppliers, or purchase similar goods or services from another supplier, prior to a force majeure event in order to build up inventory. Second, review such contracts to determine whether any such suppliers have business continuity obligations that you should point out to them. Depending on the governing law, you might be entitled to demand that the supplier provide adequate assurance that they will be able to perform, even if such a right is not expressly stated in the contract. If a supplier is claiming force majeure protection or is otherwise not performing in connection with the coronavirus, you should typically have the right, regardless of whether expressly stated in the contract, to buy from another source.
    4. Review Customer Contracts: Review your customer-facing contracts that might be affected. First, you should review to determine whether any customer contracts require that you favor that customer over other customers in a shortage. Some contracts require that you prioritize a certain customer or class of customers (such as all customers with a supply contract) over other customers. Second, you should review to determine whether any contracts require that you notify the customer of a potential force majeure event within a certain amount of time in order to claim force majeure protection. If a contract requires notice within a certain period of time, it is important that you send such notice within the allotted time. Given the gradual build-up in problems associated with the coronavirus (as opposed to a sudden event like an earthquake), it may be unclear exactly when the force majeure event started. Therefore, it is crucial that you send notice to your customer sooner rather than later if you might need to claim force majeure protection. You should be sure to send such notices in accordance with the formal notice requirements set forth in the contract. Note that most force majeure provisions do not expressly contemplate a pandemic, so you may need to claim force majeure protection under another allowable theory, such as (if applicable) a shortage of supply or labor or the declaration of a national emergency. IMPORTANT NOTE: Typically, an increase in the cost of raw materials or labor does not entitle a party to force majeure protection unless the language in the contract clearly states otherwise. Furthermore, some force majeure provisions distinguish between a shortage of raw materials and a shortage of labor, so it is important to read the force majeure provision carefully in light of your specific situation. Finally, you should review your customer contracts for other requirements associated with a force majeure event, such as requirements to follow previously agreed upon business continuity plans.
    5. Deal with “No-Contract” Customers: Your relationship with customers with which you do not have a contract may be governed by a battle of the forms situation or by relevant law. A battle of the forms situation arises when the parties have swapped various documents such as quotes and purchase orders, each including or referencing general terms and conditions. If the parties have not swapped terms and conditions, relevant law would provide the terms and conditions. In any of these cases, you may need legal input to determine what force majeure rules apply. Typically, relevant law will require that you notify affected customers within a reasonable amount of time, and that you allocate capacity in a fair and reasonable manner. However, the specifics may vary widely by governing law so you should seek legal input.
    6. Address No Force Majeure Protection: It is also conceivable that you might not be entitled to force majeure protection in connection with the coronavirus. If you believe that you might have trouble performing on a contract and might not be entitled to force majeure protection, you should immediately advise legal counsel. You will still need to take most of the steps outlined above, but you might need to take additional steps as well, such as notifying insurance carriers of a potential breach of contract claim.

    Ms. Hilary Atkins - General Counsel & Sr. VP, Finance and Administration, ACCA

  • Wednesday, March 18, 2020 3:43 PM | Anonymous

    Originally published: 03.01.20 by Jodi Peter

    It’s March and the calendar says it’s spring. But if you’re the owner or general manager of an air-conditioning business, summer is likely already on your mind. Air-conditioning companies make up to 70 percent of their profits during the summer months.

    You’re undoubtedly working hard to find employees, review your business systems, and execute your marketing plan in advance of the most important 12 weeks for you this year. You know you need to grow revenue during this short window to make your goals for the year.

    You know you need this summer to build customer relationships and provide the customer service that makes a positive first and lasting impression. You know one misstep or unplanned event can have a tremendous impact on your ability to increase profit.

    You also know the need to prepare for your busiest season doesn’t change from year to year. You’re aware that the time to prepare for summer is now, before customers start calling. Here are the top six areas to focus on ahead of time to ensure you maximize your earnings potential for the entire summer season.

    Pricing

    In order to meet your profit goals, you need to make sure your services are priced correctly. Calculate your

    break-even and desired profit and figure out what you need to charge.

    Your pricing needs to be strategic; it shouldn’t just be what you believe your market can bear, or a random dart on a dart board. Set realistic goals for the company and every revenue producer in your company.

    Lead Generation

    Make sure you have a process in place to get the right technician to aged equipment calls; don’t forget to track the results! Properly trained techs know how to educate customers on all their available options, including replacement. They’re masters when it comes to explaining how customers could be overpaying utility companies by keeping a less efficient system running vs. replacement options. The details matter.

    Installation Processes

    Review your entire installation process with your staff. Revisit the technician training your staff has had or still needs. Include a close look at your transfer process for handing off an installation from your salesperson to your install manager and driving next-day installs.

    If you don’t have a good process, profits will suffer and customers will not be taken care of in a timely manner.

    Hours of Operation

    Before summer arrives, establish whether you’re going to extend your hours of operation and how you’re handling emergency service calls. Then make sure you have staff trained in customer service working the extended hours.

    A good place to start is to skills-practice scenarios from call center training with anyone who may answer the phones during regular or extended hours. Customers should never feel like they are talking to your “B” team, no matter what time they call.

    Fleet & Equipment

    Nothing can stall a good summer season like having a truck break down. Make sure you have your entire fleet serviced ahead of time to prevent or fix any minor problems. Inspect your current equipment and make plans now to bring in any additional inventory or equipment you might need.

    Staffing

    At the end of the day, the biggest key to a good summer is having the right people doing the right jobs. Quality technicians and installers have completely different jobs. Your job is to make sure your employees are in the right jobs so they can be successful.

    If you take the time to focus on these six areas now, you’ll be well prepared for summer when the customers start calling!

  • Monday, March 09, 2020 2:41 PM | Anonymous

    Engage Your Team to WOW More Customers

    Originally published: 01.01.20 by Brigham Dickinson

    Include your employees in your vision and create a cause-driven business.

    It’s easy to have a mission. Some business owners spend a lot of time and effort writing up mission statements, value statements, vision statements. So, why can it be so difficult for some business owners to engage their company mission with their employees or clients?

    The problem is that values and mission statements are just that: statements. They don’t leave the wall you put them on until your team is emotionally engaged in the mission. And if your mission takes a back seat to making money, it’s all too easy for them to be forgotten or ignored. When push comes to shove, your mission gets shoved.

    Your business doesn’t need a mission as much as it needs loyal customers. Customer loyalty is a direct result of an emotionally engaged team. For that to happen, you need an all-encompassing cause that will motivate your team. In a cause-driven business, every step that is taken, from the decisions in the office to actions in the field, serves to support that central cause.

    A cause-driven business is outwardly motivated. The goals it sets for itself are designed to help other people, to meaningfully improve the lives of others. Taking this stance requires a servant leadership mentality, an approach that supports others to do their best work rather than trying to control the business by solely focusing on the numbers.

    It may even mean putting money aside at times, focusing exclusively on the customer experience instead. This isn’t an easy task, but it’s one that provides many rewards with real benefits for you and your employees.

    Building a Cause-Driven Business

    In 2016, we changed the way our company did business. Our clients, some of them generations-old, were struggling to compete against Amazon and Google. They were threatened, and some were nearing a collapse. It simply wasn’t possible for them to match the low price and convenience these juggernauts were offering.

    We understood the only way these companies would survive was to help them provide a better selling experience — not to go lower in price, but to go higher and provide better customer experiences that the rest could only dream about. We incorporated some of the great advice we were giving businesses into our personal lives as well, and the result is well articulated in my second book, “Patterned After Excellence.”

    That was our cause: to help business owners shift their mindset from competing on price, where they didn’t stand a chance, to competing on the quality of their interactions with each and every customer they serve. We gave them the tools and training they need to deliver something truly special, and the mindset to tackle personal challenges with the same ideas and strategies.

    Once we found that cause and really focused on achieving it, we experienced greater success than we ever had before. My business partners and I agreed that becoming a cause-driven business was the only way forward for us and our clients, and we never looked back.

    There are three steps to becoming a cause-driven business. The process requires investment in your company beyond just financial incentives, and a buy-in from everyone on the ladder. It will take time and long-term engagement, but will pay in motivated employees, cheerleading customers and a true vision that will provide a clear roadmap for the future of your company.

    Find a Cause

    Of course, the first step in becoming a cause-driven company is finding that cause to rally around. The best thing you can do is take a step back from everything and look at the company as a whole.

    Talk to your employees and find out what motivates them to do what they do every day. Understand what’s important for you as well and think about why you started the business originally. Don’t discount a simple answer, sometimes even just dedicating yourself to helping others is enough.

    Find the cause, articulate it on paper and refer to it as often as you can with everyone on your team. Encourage them to do the same.

    Understand Your Values

    There is nothing wrong with values statements. But instead of just a bunch of words on paper, your business should have lived values, adhered to by everyone who works with you.

    The values should be evident in everything you do, from the way people act in the office to every interaction with a customer on the phone or on a job.

    Employees will value what you value. If your sole concern is money, your employees will value that, too — above all else. They’ll be more inclined to drop what they’re doing and leave if they don’t feel like they’re getting enough of it, because it’s the only reason they come to work.

    Why? Perhaps because they feel you value you most. They will value what you value because you are their leader.

    Your company’s values should be things you value, and they should be real enough to make an impact. They should include your customers, rather than your profits. They should include the way you work with your employees, to ensure they are provided for and have pathways to grow in the business.

    Overall, values should be something that can drive your company forward, not just financially, but in a way that provides happiness and fulfillment for others, too.

    Commit Yourself, Encourage Others

    Finally, your cause has to be something you teach by example. It has to be something you can do even when you’re not on the clock. It needs to be something you’re confident in, and capable of upholding above all else.

    Over time, others in your circle will come to share this goal. Motivating your employees to deliver on your cause is crucial to developing a business that’s truly cause-driven. A strong enough cause, and a strong leader behind it, will attract high-quality employees and develop real, meaningful interactions with customers.

    Soon, you’ll see how your team has become powerfully engaged in their work that will WOW more customers!

    Causes Don’t Come Easy

    The most important part of developing a cause-driven business is on your shoulders. Ultimately, this process starts and ends with you. If you don’t set out to consciously embody your cause every day, you won’t receive the benefit.

    Human tendency can prevent us from living our cause every day. We can shrink from challenges that we face and moments we encounter. We can be tempted by old habits, weaknesses and vices that prevent us from becoming stronger leaders.

    Shedding these, and moving toward a life driven by your cause, is a process that will take time and effort to achieve, but the results will only reinforce your determination.

    Ultimately, a cause-driven business, or a cause-driven life for that matter, cannot be faked. There are no shortcuts, only an unwavering commitment to the things and people you value most. Only when you start honing in on your purpose and principles can you truly start winning moments and pushing your business toward a greater cause.


  • Tuesday, February 18, 2020 10:36 AM | Anonymous

    Your Call Center Should be a Revenue Generating Machine
    Originally published: 10.01.18 by Tom Merriott

    Have your customer service team become brand ambassadors for your company.

    This many not come as a surprise. After all, your call center is the source of your business, but if you really want your call center to increase revenue, start with a list of potential ways it can do so.

    Here are a few examples to get you started.

    Increase conversion percentage. This is nothing more than turning the calls you receive into appointments for your technicians, and this is the place where everyone should begin.

    If you can get this percentage high enough you can increase call volume without any additional marketing spend, which will increase revenue.

    Fill the board when the calls aren’t coming in organically. An outbound calling program is an essential part of any successful service business. If the phones aren’t ringing, then your team should be calling out. Creating work where there wasn’t going to be any is an incredible revenue boost.

    Seek out referrals from current customers. A “happy call program” will let you know how your technicians are performing in your customers’ homes. Sometimes on those calls you’ll find raving fans of your work.

    Ask those people if they know anyone else who might benefit from a great service experience. Don’t be afraid to reward the employees who refer new customers for their efforts.

    Reduce the number of customer complaints and negative reviews. The happy calls I mentioned earlier are part of this puzzle but empowering your front-line customer service team to make your customers happy is another.

    Look at each upset customer as a chance to create a raving fan.

    Don’t be afraid to get a little crazy with this list. Some of the best ideas start as seemingly ridiculous ones.

    I was working with a member company who asked how to get more referral yard signs up in their community. One of the first things I asked was if their employees had them in their yards.

    After some discussion, they created a program where the managers would spot-check for yard signs and give random monthly prizes to employees who had them prominently displayed.

    Brand Ambassadors

    Having your customer service team become brand ambassadors for your company will build your business. I personally feel more comfortable spending my money on employees who love their company.

    It makes me feel like I’m part of something special, and you should want all your team to feel this way so that feeling is transmitted through the phone to your customers.

    One great way to get them to love your company is to have them research all the ways you are better than your competition.

    You want your team to be able to brag about your business on a moment’s notice.

    Prioritize

    Now that you have your list, it’s time to prioritize. Look at the things you wrote down and decide what will have the most immediate impact on profits. For most, it will be increased conversion rates. If that’s the case, then the first thing you need to do is concentrate your efforts on booking more calls. Training should center around that goal. Each meeting or business-related conversation should tie in to making the most out of every call.

    You should also have a plan built around measuring and increasing those numbers. It can be as simple as running a report from your telephone software of daily calls answered by extension or operator. Once you have the number of calls answered by each team member, you can then run a report in your dispatch software to find the number of calls booked.

    If they answered 100 calls and booked 70, then their booking percentage is 70 percent. Following that, your training and coaching will be focused on incremental improvements to that number toward your final goal.

    Once the immediate steps are underway, you should take the rest of the list and put it on a timeline. Pick the things you want to get done in the next quarter, the next six months, the next year, and then write down some preliminary implementation dates.

    As you’re writing these down, make sure they are all aimed at your original goal of making customer service part of your goal of increased revenue.

    Team Buy In

    Now that you have a plan in place, you need to get the team to buy in. Most plans like this fail because the excitement primarily comes from the architects and not the people who have to do the work.

    Let them know how important hitting these goals is and how much you appreciate all that they do. Keep in mind that most people need to know the why behind the things they are doing each day.

    Also, don’t be afraid to gather input from the team. If they offer suggestions or improvements, you should do everything possible to incorporate those into the plan. People are much happier executing something that they helped build. Plus, their contributions show that they care about their department’s success, which is a great thing. I want you to be able to turn to your team and say, “Look what we did!”

    Goals

    Once you have everyone on board you should also consider some numeric goals. Think about that conversion rate example we talked about earlier. If you find that your current percentage is 70 percent, then post a team goal of 85 percent.

    Build out a calendar of small, incremental improvements that get you to that goal over time, so this doesn’t seem impossible or overwhelming. In the earlier example, a two to three percent improvement is booking just two to three more calls per day, and everyone should be okay with that as a goal.

    Once you reach a new level of performance, the bar gets raised. Repeat this until you’re where you want to be or beyond.

    Plan to reward the team for meeting those goals. If they can do 15 percent better with the calls that are already coming in, then you’re ahead of the game. It means less marketing dollars to make the phone ring more to increase daily calls.

    If they can raise the daily booked call count without any extra cash, consider providing a bonus or celebration to reward the team for their performance.

    It might help you to visually track their progress in the office. A chart or graph that is updated weekly or a whiteboard will suffice. Make it someone’s responsibility to track and report results for all to see. A scoreboard keeps your team pointed toward the goal. This will also keep everyone focused once the newness wears off.

    One Final Note

    The overall success of any effort like this will be dependent on your attitude and the attitude of your team. If you really want something in your business to improve, then this needs to be an area of focus. If you want to increase your booking percentage, every manager who interacts with your customer service team should be checking in and asking questions.

    Signs should go up with your stretch goal on them. If you’re giving out bonuses, you’ll need to advertise that internally as well. Your attention and attitude will make or break any major plans for improvement.

  • Monday, February 17, 2020 12:33 PM | Anonymous

    Design a Disruptive, Eye-catching Truck Wrap
    Originally published: 10.01.18 by Alyssa Young

    Wrapping your vehicles is a costly investment, so it’s important to get it right.

    For service businesses, truck wraps represent a perfect opportunity to gain brand recognition in the communities they serve. The best one’s function as mobile billboards, communicating who you are and your company’s brand promise.

    Unfortunately, most fail to deliver on their potential, however, even with the ability to print full color images and other special effects. Instead, they’re often difficult to read and don’t work well at promoting a service business’ brand.

    Colorful images may attract attention, but if you don’t know the business being represented by them, they’re not delivering their maximum ROI.

    Wrapping your vehicles is a costly investment, so it’s important to get it right. What you really want is a wrap design that is disruptive in its mark. Disruptive means a wrap that stands out and doesn’t look like any others in the market while still delivering positive brand promises.

    Here are a few tips to help maximize your vehicle advertising

    Research Competition

    The first step in the creative process always revolves around a careful review of the competitive landscape and what the brand colors and truck wraps look like for your competitors. Make sure the proposed branding solution has no chance of being confused with another brand that already exists.

    Start with Your Brand

    One reason why so many wraps fail stems from a poor brand identity. What does your brand say about your company to those who know nothing about it? Does it give them a compelling reason to feel your company is honest? Trustworthy? Professional?

    These are parts of what a good brand promise should deliver — and your trucks are the most visible representations of that brand promise. While rebrands should never be entered into lightly, consider them if your current brand doesn’t personify who you are as a company and what your brand promise truly is. If your brand doesn’t communicate who you are and what you do, then no wrap is ever going to succeed.

    Limit Advertising Copy

    One common mistake often repeated on truck wraps is information overload. A truck isn’t a brochure or a print ad. It’s a medium that works best when the messaging is delivered in less than a few seconds.

    Avoid bullet lists, Facebook logos, QR codes and meaningless copy (i.e. “Free Estimates”). Keep the wrap all about your brand and how to contact you.

    Keep it Simple

    Logos often fail on truck wraps because they were never meant for that medium. Poor typefaces or confusing imaging won’t work well at 50mph, let alone standing still parked in a driveway.

    Avoid lettering that appears over different backgrounds or requires special effects, like glows and outlines. Viewers want to see your brand and how to best contact you.

    In terms of priority, it’s best to simply include your brand, web address and phone number. With today’s smartphones, web sites are more important than phone numbers. So, in some instances, it’s okay to completely omit the phone number.

    Something to Remember

    A great brand will give viewers something that helps them remember who you are. It will make your truck more disruptive than your competitors’ truck.

    This is when red and blue arrows typically don’t work, because they’re common — much less distinguishable and memorable. A large, friendly penguin on the side of your truck is more likely to be remembered than generic clip art of red and blue arrows.

    Many great truck wrap designs deploy large components of the brand — whether it’s a friendly mascot or a memorable icon — to function as the most dominant part of the wrap. After even just a limited introduction in the community, it becomes something people remember much more than generic art or lettering alone.

    Make the most of your available canvas to deliver a unique message in your market.

    Keep in mind that most of your competitors are not using this medium correctly. So, when you build a disruptive brand and integrate it on your truck wrap, you’re already well ahead of the competition.

  • 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.

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