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My Two Cents: Learn From Your Mistakes

August 3, 2009
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Butch Welsch

One of the advantages of being in the business for a number of years is learning from your mistakes. Hopefully, this self-evaluation of a contractor will help encourage others of you to not make the same mistake repeatedly as I seem to have done. There is some wording to the effect that if we do the same things and in the same way and expect to get different results we are only kidding ourselves. Write that down somewhere and look at it frequently.

About 25 years ago we had a service manager who I had hired as a service technician. He had been a service manager at another firm and when the need arose I made him our service manager. In a fairly short period of time, I started getting the feeling that he wasn’t handling things just right.

Instead of making a potential service customer feel that we were happy they called us, he gave them the impression that we were doing them a favor by coming out to service their unit. I remember I used to hate hot weather then because I knew I would get a call or two from a friend saying they needed service and I would have to search for someone to make the call and then beg to get it done. I knew in my gut right then that a change needed to be made. But I tried talking to him and tried to make him into something he wasn’t. And I lived with this bad situation for three or four years.

We were fortunate to need to hire a new replacement salesman. He was actually a former service manager. He worked as our replacement salesman for about two months and said that there was no way he could accomplish the goals we had set with our current service manager.

The service manager was turning off our customers so much that we had no chance to make replacement sales. The new salesman agreed to also take over the role of service manager so I finally let the service manager go. What a relief. Immediately the response of the service techs was that of “thank you.” A positive new attitude was very noticeable and I obviously had made the right decision - just three years later than I should have.

ANOTHER EXAMPLE

Now fast forward 15 years, to about five years ago, and our Service/Replacement Department has grown significantly and we have become very successful in that business. But then I am beginning to get that feeling again that something is not right.

Yes, we are taking care of the customers but we have stopped growing at a time in which we should be achieving significant growth. I start talking to our service manager about the issues and get really in-depth reasons (excuses). When things didn’t improve in a year or two maximum, I should have made what was a very difficult decision. But instead, I put it off and tried to work it out.

Finally, due to all of the things that occurred and also the economy, I finally made the decision that the change needed to be made and the service manager had to be let go. It was one of my most difficult decisions ever, but has been one of the best. In retrospect, it is one I should have made at least a year or two earlier. As I think back, I knew it, but just couldn’t get myself to do it.

Also as I think back, there have been other times when we had an individual who was good - but not performing up to our expectations. Those, too, were times I tried to work the individual through the issues. Although a few times that work was successful, most of the times we ended up wasting a great deal of effort when we should have separated ourselves from the problem much earlier.

My message is to encourage you to not make the mistakes that I have made. When you have an employee who is not performing at the proper level, make an attempt to have that employee correct the problem, and if they don’t, make a change now, sooner, rather than later. You will save yourself a great number of headaches and probably a lot of money in the process.

Publication date: 08/03/2009
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