One thing that is true about virtually all HVAC contractors — we all think we know what to do and how to do everything that needs to be done in our business better than anyone else.

I don’t remember that as being a requirement to getting a contractor’s license, but I can assure you that through the years I have certainly found it to be true. It’s bad enough that we feel we have the manual skills to do everything better than any of our employees, but we also feel we know what needs to be done more than any of those employees.

Now, in fairness, I should say that this is most true the earlier we are in our career. I believe that part of the entrepreneurial spirit that led us to become a contractor naturally leads to the feeling of knowing more than everyone else. I have seen it to be true in virtually every size business — large or small does not seem to make a difference.

One of the most challenging and yet rewarding times in our business comes about when we can allow ourselves to step back and let our employees do some of the important things we have hired them to do. I can really speak from personal experience. Although I never had, nor thought I had, any of the technical skills to repair a furnace or air conditioning system, I did feel that everything that occurred within the office needed my review and approval. As our company grew, that really became a daunting task and one that was taking a toll on our family. Although I was great at working on plans while watching TV and carrying on a conversation with my wife or kids, in retrospect, I was short changing them.

Don’t Check In

Then, through an unusual occurrence, I served as an officer of a national association and was required to make 67 trips during one year. Needless to say, in order for our business to continue during that time, it was necessary for me to delegate a number of the day-to-day tasks to key employees.

Before my travels started, I met with them and explained to each which of my daily duties I would like for them to handle. By the way, this was at a time before everyone had a cell phone, so I wasn’t always available for them to reach me by a phone call. When meeting with the employees, I shared with them something I had heard from a convention speaker a few years before. I want to share it with you and hope you will take it to heart as I did. He said, “Never call your office when you are out town.”

The reason is this, if your office knows you are going to call, they may hold off making decisions they should make waiting to let you make them. That of course is not good.

The alternative is that they will have made all of the decisions and don’t need you, and of course, you might now worry about the decisions they may have made.

The other option is to always leave a number where you can be reached. Tell them in an extreme situation they can call you. Otherwise ask them to do their jobs and you will see them on your return. These attitudes gave me a whole new perspective when I was back in town full time.

I found that besides being able to perform the tasks that need to be done, often your employees have a better idea of what needs to be done within your company than you do. With all of the difficult times we have all been through over the last several years, I noticed that morale around our company had seemed to be low. I thought and thought about what I could do to improve things, and quite honestly just came up with nothing.

So, I decided to hold a company wide meeting of all office and sales personnel. I explained to them that I felt our morale was slipping and I wanted to turn it around so that, even in tough times, they wouldn’t dread coming to work. I also explained that I couldn’t come up with an answer or answers. Therefore I was seeking their input for ideas that they felt would help make coming to work fun again. You would be amazed at the depth of the ideas I received. Whereas I was having trouble thinking of one or two things, I ended up with a list of dozens. And since they are from them, I know they are things that have a meaning to them.

My message here is really pretty simple. Don’t hesitate to give your employees the authority to do things they know how to do. And in addition, don’t hesitate to ask them what the things are that can be done to make your company better. Do these things and you may find some life changing results.

Publication date: 11/28/2011