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  • 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.

  • Tuesday, October 15, 2019 12:59 PM | Anonymous

    Leadership vs. Management

     Originally published: 01.01.19 by Mike Moore

    It’s the ability to motivate and inspire employees that makes a leader, and not only a manager.

    As a professional in the HVACR industry, you know that we’re facing a talent shortage for vital roles, such as installers and maintenance technicians. You may also have noticed that many organizations (not just in HVACR) are dealing with a leadership gap.

    According to “Global Human Capital Trends 2016”, a Deloitte report, “Millennials now make up more than half the workforce….” In itself, there might not be anything remarkable about that stat. Generations shift, and younger workers take the place of those who are retiring. However, we’re talking about leadership.

    As you look at your company, and where you are in your own career, you might be wondering how to guide up-and-coming partners or employees to help steer the ship in the future.

    A 2016 white paper from the Human Resources Professional Association, indicated that “63 percent of Millennials feel their employers are not fully developing their leadership skills.”

    If more than half of our workers belong to a generation sometimes loosely defined as having been born sometime between 1980 and 2000, and most of those who are working have concerns about developing their leadership potential, today’s managers and employers should take note. Out of necessity, these are the people who will inherit, buy, or move up in your company. Since you probably need to help develop them, it’s helpful to understand what defines a leader.

    What’s the Difference?

    If you’re a manager, you’re in a leadership position, so of course leadership and management go together. They aren’t the same thing, however. The main difference between the two is how you motivate people.

    The main role of management is to make sure the work gets done. A manager:

    ·       Administers, and makes sure the day-to-day tasks are accomplished.

    ·       Plans, organizes and coordinates.

    ·       Holds a position of authority within the company.

    ·       Has subordinates, who are largely expected to do as directed.

    ·       Is paid to get things done and is usually subordinate to someone.

    ·       Often has to work within tight financial and time constraints.

    ·       Generally designates the focus for their subordinates.

    Managers fill a critical role. Strong managers exhibit these important characteristics:

    Executing the Vision. The ability to take a strategic vision and break it down into a roadmap for the team.

    Ability to direct. Managing the day-to-day work and also anticipating needs.

    Process focus. Establishing policies, processes, standards and operating procedures.

    Employee focus. Managing people also means looking after them and their needs, listening, and involving them whenever possible.

    For most HVACR business owners or general managers, filling the role of manager means generating revenue, assigning work and financially managing the company. Growing a business and keeping it profitable requires tremendous time, energy and stamina, and it can seem natural to focus on the work that needs to be done, rather than the people who will be doing the work.

    This is where leadership comes in. A leader:

    ·       Innovates, inspires and motivates.

    ·       Typically does not see others as subordinates when leading, but does have subordinates when managing.

    ·       Has followers. Following is a voluntary activity, and is different from subordinates obeying orders.

    ·       Has the ability to appeal to people, so they will want to stop and pay attention, and may be willing to encounter tasks or situations they’d normally balk at (for example, a large project on a tight deadline).

    ·       Is good with people and shares credit for successes, which creates loyalty.

    ·       Communicates the vision in a way that employees understand and believe in, so they adopt company goals.

    It’s not always easy to motivate a workforce, and sometimes there’s a lack of commitment to quality. Before exclaiming, “Good help is hard to find!” consider the question from an employee’s point of view:

    “As an employee, why should I work hard to create wealth for the business owner?” This brings us back to those stats about Millennials. Whatever your outlook is, the majority of younger workers aren’t sufficiently motivated by simply having a job. They want to feel valued, and also fulfilled by the work they do.

    To make your business successful in the long term, it’s important to nurture leadership traits in yourself and in potential leaders for your company’s future.

    Strong leaders show these key qualities:

    Honesty, integrity and ethical values. Naturally, these are required if you want employees to believe in your goals, and follow you on the journey.

    Level-headedness. Don’t let emotions affect your ability to perform your job.

    Vision. Know where you are and where you want to go, and enlist your team to chart a path to get there. This involves developing a well-thought-out and realistic idea of what can be achieved in the future, and the best way to do it.

    Inspiration. Help your team to be all they can be, by making sure they understand their roles in the big picture. Leaders are motivational when interacting with employees, take a proactive approach, and develop a culture of hard work and commitment. They also tend to be extremely energetic.

    Ability to challenge. Be willing to examine the way things are, and have the courage to think creatively in order to achieve goals.

    Communication skills. This one is big. Keep your team informed of where the company is, where it’s headed and any roadblocks it may face along the way to fulfilling your vision. You also need to listen to your followers’ ideas, suggestions and opinions. Be willing to adopt new ways of doing things if it will benefit the company, and create an environment of mutual respect that will allow the team to rise to new challenges.

    Capacity to understand people. You need a clear understanding of human behavior and the ability to develop open and honest relationships with team members. Psychology degrees are not required. Getting to know your team will help you to understand their abilities, concerns, interests and motivations.

    Self-confidence and self-awareness. Remain confident and show that you can handle challenges and pressure. This is easiest if you know your own strengths and weaknesses, and are flexible and willing to continually improve your knowledge and skills.

    Effective team-building. This means seeing the potential in employees and successfully placing them in positions where their skills and talent can best help the team. Of course, no team is perfect, so resolving disputes and encouraging debate and fresh ideas are also important for leaders.

    Direction

    Leaders give the team direction to achieve company goals. For instance, telling service technicians to get more maintenance agreements or to turn over more equipment sales leads won’t make those things happen. To cultivate employee commitment to your company vision and business model, you have to start by winning their loyalty. One of the best ways to do this is to demonstrate that you have your team’s best interests in mind.

    Employees in general and younger generations in particular, need their managers not just to assign tasks, but also to define the purpose and benefits in completing them. This takes leadership.

    As an HVACR company owner or general manager, you need to have both strong management skills and leadership traits. This means:

    ·       Creating an inspiring vision of the future.

    ·       Motivating and inspiring others to participate in that vision.

    ·       Managing communication about the vision.

    ·       Building and coaching teams to achieve the vision.

    Vision, Again?

    It’s almost impossible to talk about leadership, or about building a successful business, without discussing vision. That’s because a compelling vision (or overarching idea of what you want to achieve in the long term) sets the foundation for leadership. It’s the ability to motivate and inspire employees that makes a leader, and not only a manager.

    To build the kind of business that lasts into future generations (or even a few decades), you need to get employees to buy into your vision. Then, you can help to align their perceptions and behaviors. Your team needs to get excited about the direction you’re taking them in, and know what’s in it for them.

    Of course, it’s highly unlikely that you have all the time to spend on inspiring and motivating. You need to manage day-to-day activities, and make sure the work actually gets done. And that’s not all. A good manager not only oversees employee productivity and efficiency; it’s also vital to nurture skills, develop talent and inspire results.

    Leadership is Learned

    Creating an organization where employees want to follow your lead requires having leadership skills. If improving these traits in yourself, or coaching possible up-and-coming leaders seem daunting, it’s okay. Remember this: contrary to what some people may believe, leaders are not just born. Like any skill, leadership must be learned and practiced. Leaders also display different qualities depending on the situation. They use these qualities to gain employees’ trust, respect and commitment, and to motivate them to achieve the company goals and vision.

  • Tuesday, October 08, 2019 11:39 AM | Anonymous

    Texting and Driving

    Originally published: 02.01.16 by Joseph Dreesen & Catherine Cano

    Keep your employees' hands on the wheel and eyes on the road.

    It's common knowledge that texting or using a cell phone while driving is dangerous. In 2013, there were nearly 425,000 injuries and more than 3,100 fatalities due to distracted driving. As a result, texting and driving is a primary offense in 41 states, and a secondary offense in five states. Hand-held cell phone use while driving is also a primary offense in 14 states. 

    Unfortunately, all you have to do is look at the car next to you at a red light to know that texting and cell phone use while driving is an ongoing problem. So, it's no surprise that employee cell phone use spills over into the workplace. 

    This article discusses scenarios in which employers have been found liable for injuries and what you — as employers — can do to limit liability.

    Workers' Compensation

    Employers can be held responsible for injuries resulting from an employee's negligent or reckless acts, provided the employee was acting within the scope of his or her employment. Cell phone use or texting while driving likely falls into the category of negligence. 

    Workers' compensation liability may also arise if an employee is injured

    taking a work-related call while driving. For example, in 2009, a hospice nurse was driving home from a mandatory employer training. The employee was also on call at the time. She looked down when her cell phone rang, causing her to lose control of her car and sustain injuries. 

    The employee sued her employer for workers' compensation benefits. The employee claimed that she looked down at her cell phone because she believed her employer was calling. Although the employer did not actually make the call, the employee still won. 

    The employee argued that when she was on call, "her cell phone use effectively was reserved for contact with her employer." Thus, the court found the employee's "attentiveness to the distinct requirements of her job" (i.e., answering work calls while on call) caused her to look down when her cell phone illuminated. 

    The court reasoned that the test for employer liability for the injury was "not whether the actual call was from the employer, but whether an injury can 'fairly be traced to the employment as a contributing proximate cause.'" The court concluded she met this standard, because her employer "required her to monitor her cell phone at all times, including while driving." 

    Liability to Third Parties

    Employers are also routinely faced with lawsuits from individuals who are injured by their employees. Third-parties may allege respondeat superior or vicarious liability, which imposes liability on employers for negligent acts or omissions committed within the scope of an employee's employment. 

    For example, an employer may be held liable for an accident caused by its employee while driving as part of his or her job. Third-parties may also sue the employer on theories such as negligent retention or negligent training. Many of these cases settle, because the stakes are high for employers:

    ·       In 2009, a jury awarded $18 million to a couple who was injured by a truck driver who was using his cell phone while driving. The employer was found to be jointly liable for the damages.

    ·       In December 2013, a jury awarded $2.5 million for damages caused by an employee who was operating a work van during the course of his employment. There were allegations that the employee was using his cell phone at the time of the accident. The employer conceded liability and vicarious liability. 

    ·       In September 2014, a jury awarded nearly $3.4 million to a plaintiff who was injured by an employee who changed lanes while talking on his phone. The employee was traveling on business, and attempting to get directions at the time of the accident.

    ·       In January 2015, a jury awarded $1.5 million to the plaintiff who was injured when an employee looked away from the road to text a customer. The employee ran into another vehicle, causing serious injuries to a child. 

    Although there are many cases in which the employer is not found liable for the accident, the expense of defending a lawsuit is substantial. 

    OSHA Liability

    Employers should also be aware that texting while driving has garnered attention from the federal government. 

    On October 1, 2009, President Obama issued Executive Order 13513 directing the federal government to demonstrate leadership in combating texting while driving. Executive Order 13513 prohibits federal employees from texting while driving government vehicles or while driving for government business. 

    The Executive Order also states federal agencies should encourage federal contractors to adopt policies prohibiting text messaging while driving in the workplace.

    In 2010, OSHA took steps to raise driver safety awareness. OSHA's Distracted Driving Initiative urges employers to prohibit any policy or practice that would require or encourage employees to text while driving. 

    OSHA has indicated an intent to issue citations and penalties to employers who engage in such practices. OSHA's website provides employers with resources on texting while driving, including a model policy.

    Lessons Learned

    Employers should be mindful of their direction to employees as it pertains to cell phone use. One way to limit employer liability is to implement and enforce a cell phone policy. 

    While a cell phone policy will not serve as a complete defense for employee accidents, it shows that the employer took steps to prevent this type of harm. 

    In addition, the existence and enforcement of a cell phone policy may have a deterrent effect.

    Some employers wonder if a cell phone policy will expose them to more liability. It's true that an employer's failure to train employees on the policy or enforce the policy can be characterized by a plaintiff as negligent. An employer, however, cannot just bury its head in the sand. An employer's failure to maintain and convey a cell phone or electronic devices policy can also support a negligence claim. 

    Good intentions are not enough. For example, a court held an employer liable for a cell phone-related accident despite the employer's assertion that it did not permit employee cell phone use while driving. The court acknowledged that the employer "did not expect or intend for its employees to talk on cell phones while driving." The employer, however, did not convey or enforce that expectation. 

    In addition to limiting liability and potentially deterring cell phone use while driving, courts have denied unemployment compensation to employees who were fired for violating the employer's cell phone policy. 

    For these reasons, it's important for you to implement and enforce a cell phone policy. A good policy should set forth when an employee can use their cell phone on work time or for work-related matters. 

    Your policy should direct employees to use safe methods in responding to phone calls while driving for work purposes or while responding to work-related phone calls off duty (i.e., pull over or use hands free devices if appropriate). The policy should also contain consequences for violations. Finally, you should conduct training on the policy and diligently enforce it.

    Conclusion 

    While reining in employee texting (and other cell phone usage) while driving is likely not foolproof, a good faith attempt at it will certainly help you defend potential legal consequences down the road.

  • Tuesday, October 01, 2019 10:40 AM | Anonymous

    Legal Does Not Mean Safe

    Originally published: 04.01.15 by Jo McGuire

    As more states legalize marijuana, employers should know they still have the right to a drug-free workplace policy. 

    It happened again recently. I was at a social event in my hometown of Colorado Springs meeting new people, and the topic of legalized marijuana came up quickly. A woman who works with a local contractor said, "We had our first marijuana-positive employee drug test just last week."

    "How did you handle that?" I asked.

    "What could we do? It's legal!" she said, exasperated.

    Upon further discovery, I learned that she works for a national service agent, headquartered in a Midwest state that is unfamiliar with Colorado's recreational marijuana laws.

    When I asked if the contractor has a drug-free workplace policy, she was confident that indeed they have a strong policy and employees are well aware of it, "But no one knew how to handle this situation because the employee said he smoked two weeks ago."

    This happened to be a post-accident drug screen in which the company gave the employee two weeks off with pay, after which time they allowed him to return with a warning that he should test clean should this happen again.

    The problems with the above scenario are numerous. We can learn from several of the components to help ensure that managers, supervisors, HR personnel, general contractors and corporate decision-makers are better aware of more productive alternatives that will ensure work places are kept safe and drug-free.

    Know the Law

    First of all, what this company did exactly right was to perform the post-accident drug screen according to their company policy. That was a smart choice that could help decrease their liability, had a dangerous accident taken place. It's every employee's responsibility to report for work sober and capable of performing his or her work duties. Impairment of any kind is not safe or productive to the company mission.

    Our scenario above takes a turn when management proceeded in a fashion that shows a lack of understanding for the law. If you do any type of business in Colorado, please know that Amendment 64 (which allows the recreational use of marijuana in Colorado) clearly states, "Nothing in this section is intended to require an employer to permit or accommodate the use, consumption, possession, transfer, display, transportation, sale or growing of marijuana in the workplace or to affect the ability of employer to have policies restricting the use of marijuana by employees." 

    Colorado has a solid history of supporting the employer. The writers of Amendment 64 understood that a necessary component of their proposal to the voters had to contain a strong workplace statement. Although the recreational marijuana user has protections from prosecution under Colorado law, they do not have the right to come to work impaired, nor must the employer tolerate it.

    Drug-free Policy

    The first step to ensure a well-defined message pertaining to employee drug use is a strong drug policy that is clearly stated and well communicated. Zero-tolerance policies are still perfectly enforceable in Colorado. If you have not yet notified your Colorado contract workers that marijuana use will not be allowed in light of safety priorities, this should be on your immediate "to do" list. You can request proof of compliance and require a contractor perform random drug screening to protect your own liability.

    Secondly, it's imperative that any and all staff members responsible for responding to a positive drug test result are prepared for next steps well in advance of an incident. 

    Knee-jerk reactions that stem from confusion and doubt are prone to land a company in hot water. The words, "we didn't know how to handle the situation" were an alarming response. 

    If your company has not yet had specific training on this issue or created a response protocol, do not wait until you are dealing with a situation before you decide how to handle it. And by all means, please do not be the person who says, "We will not deal with this issue." This is an unrealistic expectation that can catch you unprepared.

    In Colorado, we have seen employees who "know better" and have been long-term, loyal, trusted members of a safety-sensitive crew come up positive for marijuana, much to the chagrin of an employee who took for granted their team would never push the boundaries.

    This leads to another problem with the response from our example company in that the person responsible for oversight of the drug-testing program was confused how to respond because "the employee said he smoked two weeks ago."

    This is where some education is needed and why employers are finding themselves backed into needless corners of confusion. Although popular belief holds that impairment only lasts a few hours, the truth may surprise you. 

    It has been proven repeatedly in scientific studies that marijuana impairment has a clear 24-hour window. And previous studies were performed when THC content was much less than today's cannabis product. THC (the psychoactive property in marijuana) is the impairing factor and why that metabolite is used in a drug screen panel. 

    Know the Facts

    Not only are current marijuana products easily 10 times stronger than previous decades, but thanks to Colorado's unlimited THC allowance, we are seeing products that far exceed anything previously known where marijuana is concerned. Reports of impairment from edibles laced with hash oil have the users stating they felt the effects for 3-4 days. Additionally, sub-acute impairment from marijuana can affect the subject for a week or more. 

    THC content in the 1960s and 1970s was 1-3 percent in a typical marijuana cigarette. Today's products are commonly in excess of 20 percent. Colorado is producing oils and waxes that are upwards of 80 percent THC. 

    It should be noted that in Amsterdam, products containing over 15 percent THC are considered to be hard drugs, on par with heroin. Why is this pertinent for employers to know? Because we are dealing with an entirely different substance than the Baby Boomers used in college and that makes a difference where a focus on public health and safety are concerned.

    While the issue of impairment testing has become a hotly contested debate, those invested in workplace safety must understand that marijuana-impaired subjects do not "feel" impaired. This does NOT mean they are free from impairment. It simply means they're not recognizing the symptoms of impairment that affect their work, attention, response times and ability to multi-task.

    The decision-making should be based upon a clear understanding of marijuana impairment, and not cater to employees who can easily claim to have smoked two weeks prior. 

    Impairment is Not Acceptable

    Handling these situations consistently will strengthen an employer's position rather than weakening it, due to indecision and the appearances of special treatment. Taking an employee's word that the marijuana use occurred some weeks prior is not a solid policy practice for ensuring safety, nor is it a smart precedent to set for future cases. 

    Employees will often claim all manner of excuses and those with potential substance abuse problems will be highly manipulative and convincing. The issue should NOT be "when" did an employee use drugs, but that drug use occurred which impacted the safety of the workplace.

    Presence-in-system testing continues to be the gold standard available and best practice for determining outcomes based upon a drug screen result. 

    While an employee who chooses to use drugs may claim drug testing is unfair and threaten to sue, bear in mind that every case presented to a Supreme Court has ruled in favor of the employer's right to make decisions based on the drug test results, those decisions being in accord with that company's drug policy.

    Giving consideration to allowing employees to maintain even small amounts of THC in their system while in the work environment is not conducive to promoting workplace safety and should not be an area in which employers are tempted to compromise safety standards.

    Think for a moment about the tasks your employees are involved in daily: climbing ladders, using power tools, driving vehicles, entering homes and job sites, working with machinery, etc. Most job descriptions in any industry-related type of work requires a level of multi-tasking and clear-headed decision making that should not be clouded by any impairing substance. 

    Be sure to take stock of the risks and liability involved in allowing or tolerating an amount of "acceptable" impairment. 

    Employers seem pressured to treat marijuana like tobacco — or to some degree alcohol — both of which can have some similarities (adverse health effects and steep social costs) thereby feeling the need to relent on policies, lessen penalties and reduce standards to make allowances. 

    Take a moment, however, to ask yourself, "Where do we draw the line? Is a little bit OK?"

    How do you measure a little bit versus a lot? If a little is fine, but a lot is not, how much is too much and how do you define the limitations? This is a serious conundrum. 

    In light of the fact that marijuana impaired employees have 55 percent more accidents and 82 percent more injuries — costing employers dearly in financial losses — it would seem that popular drug use trends are not an area for compromise, allowances or case-by-case "wait and see" approaches. 

    The answer is: safety is paramount and "legal" does NOT mean SAFE.

  • Monday, September 23, 2019 11:38 AM | Anonymous

    Commit Yourself to Becoming a Great Leader

    Originally published: 08.01.17 by Mike Abrashoff

    It doesn’t matter if you’re a Naval Commander in charge of one of the most technically advanced warships that’s ever been built, or an entrepreneur with the task of making sure your company, your customers and your employees are meeting the requirements required of a successful enterprise. Leadership starts with a personal commitment to excellence.

    When I was given command of the USS Benfold, it ranked near the bottom in performance for ships in the Pacific Fleet. If the USS Benfold had been a business, consultants would have been called in months earlier to try to salvage it.

    When I left the USS Benfold two years later, it was recognized as one of the top performing ships in the fleet. The leadership lessons I learned during those two years are no different than those required to run a successful business.

    Make a Commitment

    The first step in your leadership journey is not exactly a step. It’s a commitment.

    When I was preparing to take command of USS Benfold, I thought I was ready. I was the typical command and control leader. I was good at managing people. My results were good, but outstanding results were always beyond my reach, and I lost alot of good people along the way.

    Taking command of USS Benfold, I knew I could be a better leader. Up until that time, I had created “order takers,” not “owners.” Owners are crucial to the success of an organization. They’re passionate and engaged in their work.

    Outstanding performance is achieved by people who feel they have some ownership in the enterprise. They are not simply doers. They are owners.

    I had experience and preparation aboard other ships. Perhaps like you, I wasn’t totally new to managing and leading. But, I didn’t realize the commitment to change I needed to make until I watched the change of command ceremony as I prepared to board.

    The crew was cheering the departure of their commander, not because they were sad to see him go, but because they were glad to see him go — A sad commentary on his leadership.

    In that moment, I realized I needed to commit myself to being the kind of leader who would empower and engage people to achieve extraordinary results, and do everything necessary to make sure my team stayed on top.

    Set Your Course

    My crew was skeptical when I took command of USS Benfold. Many were unsure about the type of a leader that was taking over. I had a lot of ideas and wanted to change how things were done.

    Let’s face it, they were not sure if what they heard from me would be consistent with my actions. I had to move steadily, but with patience, to earn their trust and respect. It started becoming real when my actions really indicated to the crew that I was not doing things to line up my next promotion or to advance my career, but truly to make USS Benfold the best damn ship in the Navy.

    When you become number one, complacency can set in and the urgency to change dissipates. It takes a leader to prevent this from happening.

    My initial thoughts were that turning the ship around would be my most difficult assignment. I learned later that staying on top was an even bigger challenge. I was fortunate that the motivation to change was already present on USS Benfold. I just had to tap into it.

    With competition always increasing, your challenge is to take your organization’s brand loyalty and translate it into long-term customer loyalty.

    “Engage your people who will engage your customers.”

    People make the biggest difference in the customer experience. And the customer experience drives loyalty. Transformation doesn’t occur overnight.

    I learned through my experience on USS Benfold that change is hard and takes time.

    Imagine your team’s performance if you were to set a course for change. It’s not as hard as you think. It will take making a commitment to leadership.

    All you need to do to get started is to set aside just 15 to 30 minutes a week to focus on elevating your leadership style and relationships with your employees and customers. You’ll be surprised at the impact of this exercise.

    Make it Count

    How we see ourselves may differ from how we are perceived by others. Understanding your own leadership style is an important first step. Think about your leadership style.

    Are you happy with the results you are getting? What legacy will you leave?

    Take a few minutes to review your leadership journey thus far and make a list of what you think is important to the following groups:

    ·       What is important to your customer?

    ·       What is important to your team?

    ·       What is important to yourself?

    Take Action

    Observe, listen and interact with your team.?At the end of each day, compare your list of what was important to what you actually saw. These experiences shape your vision for what’s needed to create an experience for your team and customers.

    Take a genuine interest in your people. Look for new ways to show them you care about their success. Keep track of the ways that have the greatest impact.

    The time you invest on this first step of your leadership journey will greatly return on the back end as the team and management takes on more responsibility and become accountable.

    Set High Standards, Build Confidence

    Even if you’re satisfied with your current results, continue to look for places where you can raise the bar even more. Look at how you interact with your people.

    Are you building confidence in them that they can do the job? How do they feel after your interactions? People need to know that you believe in them.

  • Thursday, September 12, 2019 1:26 PM | Anonymous

    Energize Your Workforce

    Originally published: 12.01.15 by Brady Wilson

    10 Ways to Take Your Employees Beyond Engagement

    Today's employees — even those who may be engaged — are exhausted. Depleted of passion, resilience, verve and excitement, they are devoid of the personal energy that compels them to consistently go above and beyond the call of duty.

    To create a sustainable, innovative and high-performing organizational culture, businesses need to focus on both engagement and energy — essentially, moving "beyond engagement" as we know it today.

    Brain science provides us with an understanding of how to get there. Here are 10 ways you can change the way you approach engagement — and put energy first.

    Manage Energy, Not Engagement

    When we're low on energy, we lose our ability to focus, regulate emotions, make decisions and take action. By managing energy instead of engagement, leaders protect employees' executive function. 

    This can unlock energy that fuels enthusiasm and innovation — generating sustainable engagement.

    Deliver Experiences, Not Promises

    When elaborate recognition/reward programs and intricate performance management systems don't deliver on leaders' promises, this creates workplace cynicism — leading employees to see employee engagement as a con game. 

    But by delivering on experiences, leaders can create a happy, productive, frequently energized employee base.

    Target Emotion, Not Logic

    We live and work in a "Feelings Economy," where feelings — not intellect — drive employee behavior. In fact, research shows that emotional engagement trumps rational engagement by a multiple of four. 

    Understanding what matters most to employees — and then acting upon that information — is an effective way to show compassion and support.

    Trust Conversations, Not Surveys

    Annual engagement survey results only provide a small glimpse of a very large picture. 

    To really understand and energize employees, leaders must shift to frequent, face-to-face, meaningful conversations with employees. Why? Quality conversation releases all kinds of high-performance hormones in our brains.

    Seek Tension, Not Harmony

    The brain's natural response to tension is to interpret it as a threat. However, we are actually energized by tension. Many opportunities for innovative breakthroughs exist between the current and desired way of doing things. 

    The trick is for leaders to learn to stand amid that tension — not to avoid it — and effectively manage competing priorities.

    Practice Partnering, Not Parenting

    The brain perceives "shared responsibility" as a risk. Therefore, leaders may resort to parental-like behaviors — which, consequently, introduces negativity into the workplace. 

    By shifting to a "partnering" managerial style, leaders and employees can work together to create powerful solutions that both parties are willing to adopt and implement.

    Backstory, Not Action Plan

    Too often, organizations take engagement survey results at face value and create "one-size-only" action plans. This practically guarantees employee resistance to any engagement initiative. 

    Leaders who converse frequently with their employees can draw out the backstory behind engagement scores — and co-create conditions that generate meaningful, sustainable energy.

    Think Sticks, Not Carrots

    Leaders often gravitate to offering "carrots" such as recognition programs, cheerleading and inspiration. They should be "thinking sticks," however — that is, identifying and addressing psychological forms of workplace interference like bullying and conflict. 

    In doing so, managers can produce environments where employees can be their best selves — able to access their knowledge, experience, skills and strengths at a moment's notice.

    Meet Needs, Not Scores

    When employees' individual needs go unmet, they may act out in unskillful ways such as forming cliques and gossiping — permeating the organization with interference, which affects people's ability to leverage their executive function. 

    By focusing on individual needs instead of annual survey scores, leaders can inspire employees and sustain workplace energy.

    Challenge Beliefs, Not Emotions

    According to brain science, it is not our capability but our belief in our capability that affects how effective we are. 

    Leaders who engage in meaningful conversation with employees to identify and address negative beliefs (such as self-doubt) can create a much greater sense of urgency in their people.

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