With a Little Help From My Friends
I’ve been working in the HVAC trade for more than 30 years. Throughout that time, I have occasionally had the opportunity to sit back, look at a situation, and realize I actually did something right.
I just recently had that experience.
I was sitting down with my key managers in a monthly team management meeting in the midst of a record-breaking month in terms of volume. Even in the middle of our busiest time of year, everything seemed to be going smoothly. Everyone seemed calm, and we were showing a comfortable profit — the things we dream of.
I summed up the situation this way: “I’m very happy to see that we are busy and all the plans and processes we established are working together well. I believe the reason for our success is that we have the right people in place. From the guys in the warehouse to the staff in the office, the techs in the field, and the managers providing oversight and direction, all this is working due to the right people in the right jobs. We have highly trained and qualified people and an owner/general manager who isn’t afraid to step back and allow people to excel in their areas of influence without micromanaging and controlling every aspect of the operation.”
I started this business in 1992 from nothing. Like most of you, I was doing everything — the accounting, service calls, sales, installs, and everything in-between. I was on call every night and weekends for five straight years. Fortunately, I was able to slowly but surely fill in the gaps with coworkers as time progressed and the work load increased. I remember a day about seven to 10 years in as the best day in my business life. I was attending a weekly church service when a friend of mine pulled me aside and expressed her extreme gratitude for what I had done for her brother that past week. I was a little confused, because I did not know who her brother was and what I could have possibly done for him. She was happy to fill in the blanks. He had an emergency breakdown of his air conditioning system that past Monday morning, and when he called, seeking a recommendation for an HVAC company, she did not answer the call. When she was finally able to call him to recommend us, he told her the problem was already taken care of; he had called a local company that morning. His call was answered by a very friendly and accommodating office person, and a qualified and pleasant technician arrived later that morning and quickly identified that their older system had a bad compressor. In a few hours, a very knowledgeable and helpful person arrived to give them an estimate on a new system and they were all setup to have it installed in just two days. He could not have been more satisfied with the whole experience. My friend was disappointed to hear the story until he told her who he called. As you may have guessed, he called us. She kept thanking me and telling me how great it was that I was able to help her brother and how much it meant to her that a trusted friend was taking care of him. And, the best part, I didn’t even know it happened.
Yes, that entire out-of-the-ballpark experience occurred without my personal attention, which made it even more special. That, in my book, is the definition of a great day.
One of the most important points here is that all this happened without any direct input on my part. I have learned that the best way to lead is to get out of the way. This philosophy was, in part, imposed on me by time limitations. In other words, there may have been things I wanted to micromanage but I simply did not have the time to pay attention to the details. I could only outline the process and my expectations and then move on to the next issue. I just could not physically go back and check to make sure it was done my way.
The second philosophy I push here is that your mother does not work here. This means that no one really has the time and the managers here certainly don’t have the desire to be checking on every single aspect of everyone’s job. Thirdly, I detest the idea that we do anything a certain way just because that’s the way it’s always been done. I am always willing to look at processes and consider changing them for the better. To my first point, I am willing to let my management team build better processes on its own.
When I first started this company, I had complete control over everything that happened. I had the foresight to put my personal mission, vision, and value statements in writing. In the beginning, the statements were followed mainly because I was answering most of the phone calls, running all the service calls, sales calls, etc. Of course, things were done my way because I was the one doing them. Our success has come from finding and training good quality people and then setting them out on a path of personal success. We always leave room for people to own their jobs, take personal responsibility, and find a way to perform the job or task in their own individual way while adhering to our written mission and vision statements. In as few words as possible; my advice is to simply let it go!
Publication date: 8/8/2016