You’ve been waiting all year for the phone to ring and the bank account to start its recovery. Now that it’s here, are you prepared? Hopefully, you did some things to prepare for the onslaught.
Over the winter, I pull the financial reigns in and try to keep spending to a minimum. This is nothing major; I just keep an eye on what’s really needed and consider items or tasks we delay or eliminate. One major savings has been not giving in to the temptation to have the techs come in to the shop and do small remodeling or cleaning projects when work is short. If we have trouble keeping everyone on a legitimate job, I just go to the guys and ask, “Anybody OK to take a day off this week? Anyone want to head home a bit early a few days this week?”
I sit down and explain to the guys in the field that the sky isn’t falling, the company isn’t going out of business, and their jobs are secure, but that we need everyone’s help to get through the short-term dilemma. If we all do a little here, no one has to do something major or life-changing. Most of them understand the situation and acknowledge we all need to band together to make the most out of these challenging situations.
Each spring, I hold a meeting with the entire company and explain what’s about to happen. I remind them that, while we’ve had a few months where we were not pushing ourselves and the days have been relatively easy, things are about to change. I say, “remember last year when, all of a sudden, it got hot, and we were suddenly required to work long days in extreme heat for a few weeks straight? There hasn’t been a year yet that it has not gotten hot at some point; I expect that to happen again.”
CONSULT YOUR TEAM
I then include them in a decision that needs to take place. I point out that we have two choices about how to handle the increased work load. Option No. 1: We can hire extra people for the summer, get the work done, and, then, when we get slow, plan to let some people go. Of course, we can’t predict who will be going. If we hire someone who happens to be better than the existing staff; well, that could be a problem for some tenured employees. Or, I suggest option No. 2: We all band together to get the work done as efficiently as possible. This means long days and nights, hard work, sweat, tears, and an enormous amount of overtime. We will all make a lot of money and basically be making an investment in our futures by becoming financially strong, paving a road for a successful offseason. I go around the room and ask each person to answer the question as to which plan they prefer. Without exception, everyone chooses the latter. I’m always glad when we all agree to stay strong and make a lot of money together. This also helps a few weeks later when we are in the thick of things as I can remind them that we all chose this path. Do I have to have this discussion every year? Yes, absolutely.
Last, all departments sit down and have a discussion about how we are going to handle the increased work load. What are we going to do when we have too many calls in a day? What will happen when the on-call tech is overwhelmed on a weekend? How are the salesmen going to sell a job when we are four to six weeks out on the installation schedule? How do we handle getting parts to a tech across town when we are slammed? All these questions, and many more, have to be addressed in advance to make sure that when the time comes, we are ready to succeed.
THE CALMING FORCE
Whether you are prepared or not, stressful days and situations will occur and need to be dealt with. As the company leader, it’s your responsibility to keep the troops calm and make sure everyone stays onboard the ship during the onslaught. Losing your cool is not an option. You must remain the “calming force.”
Rely on proper delegation and job descriptions. Everyone needs to be aware and skilled in their position and able to perform their duties in a calm and efficient manner. You need to be observing the entire process and looking for “kinks in the armor.” Listen to how people are answering the phones, talk to your techs every day or so, and ask them how things are going and how they are holding up. Keep your eyes on the schedule and make sure customers are not waiting too long for service. Most importantly, take notice of what is being promised to customers. If you are telling them you will be there between 2-5 p.m., you’d better be arriving in that timeframe. I believe the biggest mistake we can make is to let the volume of work we are doing start to degrade the timeliness and quality of our service. You spend a ton of money to establish your place in the market by providing excellent service and products. If you fail to perform when your service demand is at its highest, you’re throwing all that ground you gained right down the tubes.
Take the necessary time and effort to guard your reputation by making certain you continue to perform with excellence, no matter how busy you are. It takes years of investment to establish your role in the marketplace. Don’t let success be your demise.
Publication date: 6/29/2015