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Resistance – I get a lot of this as an industry consultant but when it comes to convincing a contractor client of the importance of training, resistance is something I can bank on.
I listen politely as they recount a bad experience or two they have had because they invested in someone who then left the company and went work for someone else – usually a competitor. After a few minutes of this, I interrupt them and address the elephant in the room: “So, what you’re asking yourself is, ‘What if I train them and they leave?’”
My reply, the only one that makes any sense, is, “What if you don’t train them and they stay?”
The next thing I typically hear from the owner is, “Darn it. I know you’re right and I hate it.”
With it being out there, we can get down to the not-optional business of becoming great trainers. This results in building a culture at your company where everyone is getting better and because everyone is always in some form of training for as long as they’re on your team. The mantra at your company should be “Our obligation is to get them good, or get them gone. Either way, the company and our customers are better served.”
So, what kind of training do you get?
Ready for more consultant-speak?
The reason it depends is based on the following:Do you have a well-structured Organizational Chart?
Do you have well-written policies and procedures for each box on that Org. Chart so the person being trained knows objectively what they need to master to own their box today?
Do you have the necessary training in place required for them to move from the box they’re successfully occupying today to the next box higher on your Org. Chart?
“Hire willing people and provide them the needed skills instead of hiring spoiled experienced employees with skills and behavior problems.” This has been my mantra since I was a contractor at my family’s own cabinetry manufacturing plant.
When did I latch on to this core business philosophy?
Well, it was at 2 a.m. while standing in my office one night talking to my Dad. As usual, in a company full of 25 plus Techs, if the job had to get done, we were still out there on the floor helping late into the night (I mean morning).
Disclaimer: I’ve changed the name to protect the not-so-innocent and I cleaned up the language, but I bet you can only imagine what we would really be saying to one another in this situation.
The conversation with my Dad went something like this. “Don was the best Tech at their shop? I mean for heaven’s sake he’s barely mediocre compared to our guys. And can you believe how much money we had to pay him to come work here?”
To which I replied, in an exhausted and muffled tone, “I’m sick of it. I’m sick of Techs telling us how great they are in interviews when we hire them or taking the word of others about how great this Tech is.”
Dad said, “What do you think we should do?”
I yawned and said, “Well, this isn’t working. I’m not only disappointed by the work of these so-called veterans, I’m sick of their behavior issues, too. Why don’t we try hiring willing people and providing them with the skills they’ll need and see how that turns out?”
Dad nodded in agreement, and on that we both headed home to get a solid four hours of sleep before we had to be up and at it again.
Driving home I was pleased that Dad could see that this was the right way to go. I mean how many times can you bang your head against the wall before you say, “Ouch. That hurts. Let’s not do that again.”
By the time my head hit the pillow, however, the fear was mounting on how exactly was I going to make that noble recommendation a reality. I didn’t know, but I was in pain and what I did know is that if there’s enough pain, you’ll take the medicine if you have any sense at all.
Waking up refreshed from my nap, a plan of attack was already beginning to form in my mind. Here is what I came up with.
Garold’s Plan for Hiring and Training Great Techs
Document the procedures at all positions at the company, but start first and foremost with what the Techs do, since that was our most urgent need.
Create a fully functioning in-house Training Center for the cabinetry jobs we did, so we could teach willing people the technical skills they needed, and also fill in the knowledge holes for our existing Techs in a safer and more effective way than trying to do “on-the- job training.”
Create an Organizational Chart that was based on the roles or “boxes” it took to run the company, and not on fancy titles. This accomplished the following:
Told new hires where they would be starting at the company
Told them where they could go tomorrow with our training
Told them who really was their boss
Told them who they could go to for help
Create a career path that also tied to salary levels, so they’d know from the time they were hired the following:
Their starting pay rate
What the leap to the next higher box on the Org Chart would mean in terms of salary and possible earned bonuses
What did all of this get us?
We got so good at building Techs from scratch by hiring willing people and providing the skills, it became a rarity when we’d hire someone who was a skilled veteran. And when we did, we tested them and held them accountable to our standards, because we had a pipeline from our own “Minor League” of young willing people dying to achieve more and move up.
Here’s what I didn’t count on. Once I stopped trying to find “Lightning in a Bottle” with a magical hire of an experienced veteran, I really liked the people on board. They all wanted to be there and they were excited about the company and their own futures because we delivered on what we promised—a career not just a job!
What’s Finally Going to Fix Things at Your Company?
Well, let’s start with what won’t fix things at your company.
Putting out a daily fire without focusing on fire prevention is just wrong. Because that fire is bound to break out again tomorrow, and the day after tomorrow until the day you finally lock the front door of your company and say “Goodbye!”
What is going to fix things?
Becoming proactive about running your company instead of letting the company run you. That starts with putting the right tools in place to make running your company day-to-day way saner and way more sustainable.
The biggest and best tool is to document what it takes to run your company, without you having to ride your white stallion to the rescue from sun up to sundown.
That’s why I’m advocating you dedicate a portion of your week—no matter how crazy that week is—to creating a series of documents designed to keep fires from starting in the first place.
Any of these fires sound familiar?
Your Receptionist/Customer Service Reps (aka CSRs) don’t capture the right information from the caller.
Then, they don’t enter the call correctly.
They don’t explain in a friendly way, like a happy hostess in a restaurant, how you do business, and they don’t build the sales momentum.
It gets even worse if they’re quoting prices over the phone! They don’t see the job, so they cannot possibly know what’s involved. These are just a few of the ways CSRs who “just wing it” blow up call conversions and the way calls get run.
At many shops, the CSR is then required to get the necessary information to the Designers. The problem is that once they hang up the phone, they have to switch gears and build on the momentum that a CSR creates when they do their job correctly. And that is to prioritize the designers schedule to make sure the following three things happen by 2:00 p.m. each day:
Which customers are going to love us?
Which customers are going to like us?
Which customers are not going to like us so much and what can they do about that right now?
The CSR role can also set fires if they don’t get all the necessary information required to run the call the right way to the Designers.
Designers then need to run those calls in a way that maximizes sales, which is the result of good communication between the CSR and Designer).
Then they need to run those calls well both operationally, meaning at least not leaving a mess for the customer to cleanup, and technically, meaning fixing the reason they called in a consistent way that minimizes callbacks.
Finally, the Designer needs to get all the right information captured and back to the Production Manager to execute the many things needed to build a successful project to properly close the loop on what I call the Triangle of Communication between CSR-Designer-Tech. This loop then starts again if you’re an install company as well, making it all that more important to have a proper process!
So, what are some of the things you get for creating these guiding documents a.k.a., Operating Manuals?
A way to finally fix the holes in your staff’s knowledge at all the key positions.
A way to find and fix the holes in the newly hired staff’s knowledge. You know, the people in the interview said they could do everything. That is, until you hired them and found out the truth!
A way to hire willing people and provide them the skills they need to be successful instead of always trying to rewire skilled people with behavioral issues.
Here are three more things I got at my company (as have my contracting clients) by creating Operating Manuals:
I was able to reduce callbacks that were robbing us of profits, angering our
customers, and keeping us from more sales.
I was able to go on vacation, because my company staff was finally
trained, empowered, and capable of handling the day-to-day work required.
I was able to create new Techs instead of just hiring tired retreads from the
industry who would tell me what they would and wouldn’t do. All of this led to doing more work for more money.
So quit procrastinating! Make time to work on your operating manuals and get your life back!