Is Bigger Really Better in the HVAC Service and Replacement Industry?

“Your business performs as your people behave.” This is a favorite line of mine because it represents the perception of your business in the eyes of your customers, vendors, and employees. And it’s true, because your business is ultimately defined by your employees’ behavior.

Making a concentrated effort to ensure your people are behaving correctly, or doing the right things at the right time, is a surefire recipe for business success and happy customers. Running a successful business is just that simple. The word “simple” in this context might have you feeling somewhat excited to make some “easy” changes at your business, but don’t mistake the word “simple” with “easy.”

The reality is that it’s hard to manage the behaviors of your team day in and day out. After all, this responsibility spans the entirety of your business and includes every employee.

If this were an easy thing to do in the service business, then our industry would already be dominated by large, national companies. The winners would just be the best marketers or those whose size gives them significant economies of scale. We have seen those types of companies in our industry come and go. National retailers, local utilities, national consolidators, and franchises. They seemed scary at first. Then the world figured out that they just aren’t effective at getting their employees to do the right things at the right time, and eventually … down they go. This has been a repeatable and predictable pattern in our industry.

Success in this business isn’t about edgy marketing campaigns or buying products at the lowest cost. And it’s certainly not about having a large piggy bank of cash behind you, ready to supply you with money to throw at any problems that might come your way.

In this business, success is all about inspiring your workforce to give discretionary effort.

Discretionary means optional, elective, and voluntary. Your employees, for the most part, work out of your line of sight, unlike a factory or retail store whose employees are almost always under the watchful eye of management. They book calls, dispatch calls, pull parts, run calls and install jobs, and in almost all cases are away from management’s eyes and ears. They are left to decide for themselves if they give discretionary effort or just the bare minimum. They decide whether to provide superior service or simply go through the motions to survive any given day.

The key to success is to create a business where employees are choosing in those private, mini-moments throughout the day to give their best effort. When that occurs, you’ll finally have a service business set up for success. This is exactly why large companies with remote, disconnected ownership tend to underperform in our business. Their employees feel disconnected from the ownership. They are, essentially, employee #1283. Because of that, discretionary effort is uncommon at best.

Your key competitive differentiator is your team of committed people who care. Focus your energy on fostering that commitment. I know what you’re thinking: How in the heck am I supposed to do that? Here are a few tips to get you moving in the right direction:

  1. Realize that when it comes to your job as a leader, developing people is your No. 1 responsibility. It will never be over. Get good at it. Don’t ever think that it’s just a simple strategy for staying on top of the numbers. The betterment of your workforce always comes first.
  2. Provide amazing training in proven business systems. Great training and proven business systems are out there, and you don’t have to develop these training programs yourself. Companies like Nexstar Network have them, and they are continually improving them. Trust me when I say that employees will always crave training and look for ways to improve themselves. Give them what they are asking for, which also happens to be an investment in their success.
  3. Grow your management team. Realize that business growth will only occur when you are growing the quantity and quality of your management team. Invest in them (and yourself as a manager) continuously.
  4. Make your work environment a place people want to work. How you treat people and the environment you create for them matters when it comes to your business’ success. Make the 40 hours a week at your company a great 40 hours — full of healthy communication and appreciation in a neat, orderly workplace. Your business should be the strongest magnet in your area for good people.
  5. Grow your business as a priority. Growth creates opportunities for career advancement. Opportunities for career growth create optimism for your employees. Without the hope that tomorrow will be better than today, you will have a very hard time getting any amount of discretionary effort from your team.

Your ability to learn and master these essential tips for fostering positive employee behavior will determine whether your company thrives or struggles. It’s as simple as that. Adopting these behaviors in yourself is the only way to ensure that you can take on the largest and most frightening competitors in your market.

There will always be new, big, and terrifying competitors that will enter our industry. They will seem unbeatable at first. They will be big, hyper-intelligent, tech-savvy, and ready to dominate the market. You know this because this is what they will always say about themselves. But remember, unless they can somehow motivate their employees to give a higher level of discretionary effort than you can (and because they are big, they just can’t), think of them as a fearsome samurai wielding a Nerf knife. They look scary but can inflict no harm on you so long as you’re investing in the behaviors of your valued team members.

Publication date: 10/29/2018

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