It’s often said that experience is the best teacher, and there is much to learn from the experiences of others who have walked the same path. That’s why The NEWS asked seven of its Best Contractors to Work For contest winners to share the best business advice they’ve ever received. Each individual offered unique advice, ranging from clearly defining a company’s purpose to fully trusting in God’s omnipotence. Here for your perusal are the insights, advice, and opinions as provided by the Magnificent Seven.
KNOW YOUR WHY
Chris Hunter, president and co-owner, Hunter Supertechs, Ardmore, Oklahoma
What is your purpose in this life? What is your purpose for being in business? Sadly, most people never seek answers to these questions. I believe that knowing your purpose is the most important step in creating a successful business. Know your “why,” and make sure everyone on your team knows it too. Ask them to describe the purpose or mission of the team, department, or organization. If you get a variety of answers, you need to work on communicating a single vision clearly, creatively, and continually until everyone is on the same page. You should also work with each team member to show how personal goals can align with the team’s overall goals.
It’s not enough to know what to do and how to do it. We are most motivated by knowing why we do things. That’s how we can connect with others and live with true purpose and passion. In our workplace, the leader’s most important job is to discover his or her purpose in life and the company’s purpose for being in business.
I suggest you first write your personal mission statement. Ask yourself, “What is your purpose in this life?” Then, write your purpose for being in business. Your business should be an extension of your personal mission statement and a catalyst to help you accomplish it. These steps will not only help you run a successful business, they’ll help you live a life of true significance.
GET YOUR MESSAGE OUT
Dan Jape, owner and CEO, Reliable Heating & Air, Kennesaw, Georgia
Advertise. Pick an advertising program and stick with it. Be consistent with your advertising and don’t stop and start when you are slow or busy. I focus on getting into homeowners’ mailboxes via direct mail with competitive coupon offers, branding the company via television and radio ads, and having a strong digital campaign to match. Be authentic. Since 1978, I have been doing my own radio spots and commercials. My customers know my face, my family, and what I stand for. That speaks volumes to consumers and helps earn their trust.
In addition, always look for ways to pioneer and lead the industry. For example, thanks to our recent partnership with the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), Reliable Heating & Air became one of the first HVAC contractors in the nation to provide Energy Star Verified HVAC Installation (ESVI) certification. Any time you differentiate yourself, you are setting your company apart from the competition.
THINK AT A HIGHER LEVEL
Mike Agugliaro, co-owner, Gold Medal Service, East Brunswick, New Jersey
The early years of running my service business were years of struggle. Then, when my business was doing well, I constantly ran into plateaus that kept me from growing. Through the struggles and plateaus, the one piece of game-changing advice my mentors gave me — which I now pass on to the business owners I mentor — is: “The thinking that got you here won’t get you where you want to go.”
Consider a business that grows from zero to $1 million a year. Running this level of business requires a specific way of thinking and acting. But once you reach $1 million, you can’t move on to $3 million a year (or $5 million or $50 million) with the thinking that got you to $1 million.
Your level of thinking sets the limit for how big you want to grow. If you want to grow from where you are now, start thinking at a higher level. Destroy your limiting beliefs; open your mind to possibilities you didn’t realize existed; and push yourself in your leadership, marketing, recruiting, service, operations, and every other aspect of your business and life.
Stop running your business at the level of thinking you’ve been working at. Otherwise, you’ll never grow beyond where you are today. Find mentors, resources, and education that will show you how to think at a whole new level.
RESPECT YOUR PEOPLE
Rich Imfeld, president and co-owner, IC Refrigeration, Ceres, California
First of all, never stop learning. Next, understand that your employees are your most important customers. If you treat employees respectfully and listen to them, they will project positively to your paying customers. They also will project positively to future employees as they will talk up your business to others. That’s how the word gets out.
Yes, it’s really that simple. Respect what your people do and treat them the same way you expect to be treated.
LEAD BY EXAMPLE
Steve Quinn, owner, JD Swallow Heating & Cooling, Ottawa, Ontario, Canada
Our biggest success is attributed to introducing Christianity into our workplace. There are multiple successes I can share because of this — the biggest being to care and invest in your staff and treat them as you would expect to be treated. Lead them by example, and put them before yourself when opportunities allow.
Doing this has created a culture of leaders at our company. I empower them. I am their CEO but not in the conventional terms. In my case, the “E” is for encouragement. I am their leader, not “the boss,” and we have built a “TEAM” where Together Everyone Achieves More. We look for and create solutions to problems consumers didn’t know existed and then offer them multiple choices.
HOLD YOURSELF TO YOUR PLAN
Todd Kletz, owner, general manager, Classic Air’s One Hour Heating & Air Conditioning, Virginia Beach, Virginia
I’ve been in business for 38 years, and the most valuable advice I would share is to have a plan and to hold yourself and your team accountable to that plan. Many businesses have a plan, but they put it in a drawer and only look at it at the end of the year. They don’t realize when they’re straying off course.
A number of years ago, we started really holding ourselves accountable to our plan on a day-to-day basis. It became non-negotiable. It forced all of us to internalize the plan, and it made all the difference in the world.
Today, we track things on a daily basis. We record how many repair calls we ran, how many tuneups we performed, and how many leads we followed up on. We have a plan that supports all these goals.
The numbers change over the years, but the way we run our business doesn’t. Focusing on our plan helps us meet our needs, whether that means conducting training, increasing our marketing spend to increase call counts, or working to improve the performance of our teams out in the field. It all comes from the same foundation.
Many years ago, Jim Abrams, one of the founders of Contractor Success Group, Air Time 500, and One Hour Heating & Air Conditioning, said something that really resonated with me: You either plan or you get planned for. I’d much rather control my own destiny than let someone else control it.
PROVIDE THE BEST
Tom Krygsheld, president and founder, Illiana Heating & Air Conditioning, Cedar Lake, Indiana
When I started Illiana Heating & Air Conditioning back in 1987, my father gave me some great advice that I have kept with me throughout the journey. He said first and foremost to remember that I am a follower of God and base my business practices on that knowledge. Then, always use the best products and the best technicians. If I did all that, there was no way to lose. He said, “Why would you provide anything less than the best equipment and best-trained professionals? Be honest, fair, and always do your very best in craftsmanship and dealings with others. Treat your coworkers like family; care for them and their families and they will, in turn, care and work hard for you.”
My dad was not from our industry, but he was wise enough to understand that some things are just fundamental. After all these years, it turns out that father still knows best.
Interested in learning more about The NEWS’ Best Contractors to Work For contest or reading the full articles on each of last year’s winners? Visit http://bit.ly/THENEWSBESTCONTRACTORS.
Publication date: 6/12/2017