HOUSTON — Synergy Solution Group welcomed 60 members to its Service Operations Forum Jan. 26-28 at the Hotel Derek in Houston. The three-and-a-half-day session focused on the people, processes, and technologies Synergy members utilize within their organizations.

Guest speaker Michael Brandwein kicked off the meeting with his presentation on fast and effective skills for outstanding communication, collaboration, and management. “To be a successful leader who continually develops new and stronger skills in ourselves and others, we need to become experts at one thing,” said Brandwein. “We need to focus on skills instead of qualities.”

Throughout the morning, the group broke into pairs for different exercises that reinforced different leadership skills. During a listening exercise, participants were required to listen to what their partners said and repeat it back to them before adding their own comments to the conversation. “The most critical skill in leadership communication is not talking, it’s listening,” said Brandwein.

“This was such a great session about communication,” said Jeremy Ettesvold, service sales manager, Interstate Mechanical Contractors Inc., Knoxville, Tennessee. “I can’t wait to do some of these exercises with our team.”

Rob Lehman, vice president of service, Maxair Mechanical Inc., Oshkosh, Wisconsin, and Jeff Smith, vice president of service operations, Brady Services, Greensboro, North Carolina, continued the morning’s leadership theme and facilitated an afternoon discussion on transitioning and developing leaders. This topic hit home for many in the group as almost 60 percent of attendees had worked in the field at some point in their careers. Lehman and Smith stressed the importance of creating a leadership development climate where a company’s culture and core values help leaders lead. Many in the room talked about the role of failure and how it should be OK to make mistakes. Others shared stories about not knowing what to do on their first days in the office and how different it was from being in the field, where they knew exactly what to do.

“I gained a lot from this due to my current position of leaving the field as a technician and transitioning into the office,” said Pete Klos, representative at MSC Industrial Direct Co. Inc., Melville, New York.

The first day ended with a Synergy showdown, a close-up look at how members are tackling the same processes using different approaches on reviews, evaluations, and career planning. Jim Bartolotta, executive vice president, Atomatic Mechanical Services Inc., Arlington Heights, Illinois, shared the 360-degree review they are doing with their team members; Lori Cline, director of operations, Vital Mechanical Service, Renton, Washington, shared her one-on-one process she uses instead of a typical review to help with career development; and Bart Gedeon, office and IT manager, ISS Mechanical, Orlando, Florida, shared his technician review process.

Friday started with two Synergy showdowns. During the onboarding showdown, Bartolotta shared what happens on the first day for a new hire. Brent Little of Brady Services shared the onboarding process for days two through 90, and Andy Foster, service manager, Pacific Rim Mechanical, San Diego, explained the different departments new team members visit during their onboarding process to ensure new hires understand how everyone works together.

The second day closed with a presentation from Synergy partner XOEye Technologies and a panel discussion of members who are using the wearable technology.

The final day of the Service Operations Forum started with an invoicing showdown with Rob Lehman, vice president of service, Maxair; Ted Christiansen, president, Control Services & Engineering Co. Inc., New Cumberland, Pennsylvania; and Eric Fleming, service manager, Colorado Climate Maintenance Inc., Englewood, Colorado.

Bartolotta led a large group discussion on key performance indicators (KPIs) and members and then broke out into small groups to discuss the KPIs they’re using in their companies. For some of the attendees, this topic was brand new to them, so Bartolotta encouraged them to think about their ideal service techs, skill sets, traits, what they do exceptionally well, and turn those things into KPIs or things that could be measured. “Start small and don’t go back and try to measure everything,” said Bartolotta. “Pick one thing — one area that’s been an issue for your clients or your team.”

The session ended with attendees writing down their action plans of what they want to implement and the goals they will aim to accomplish when they return home. “I love coming to these forums,” said Keith Reissfelder, service manager, Cox Engineering Co., Canton, Massachusetts. “It is always good to be surrounded by good people who strive to be better. It seems we all know we’re not perfect but strive for progress. I honestly feel at home while attending.”

Publication date: 2/13/2017

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