One of the common traits of those contractors who are annually selected by this publication as “Best Contractors To Work For” is the fact that they treat their employees as if they were part of their family — whether the business is a family business or not. This includes things like having company/family outings, sending employee birthday cards, and sending out a newsletter that keeps employees and their families up to date on company happenings.
This struck home with me as I thought about the upcoming summer season and the conditions that it brings. This is an opportunity for you as a contractor to emulate those “Best Contractors” in the manner in which you handle your employees. It is important to think of your employees as family members as you plan scheduling of overtime calls, calls in excessively difficult conditions like rooftops and attics, and daily schedules in general.
We know that most of our service technicians will likely be running calls from sunup to sundown. That is a must in order to satisfy your customer base. However, developing a schedule that provides some catchup time in between — where each employee has an opportunity to make a call in a conditioned area — is one thing that will show the employees you are really concerned about their health and well-being. Other gestures that will emphasize this as well include having your parts runners carry coolers with ice, water, and perhaps Gatorade to give the technicians a break, and routinely checking in with each technician just to ensure that he/she is staying hydrated and not getting overheated.
The fact that you have instilled in them that you are a customer-focused company will already ensure that they understand the need to provide a 110% productivity when your phone is ringing off the hook. Taking some of their personal needs into consideration as you schedule them on those sweltering days shows them that you are treating them as part of your family.
Similar steps can be taken to ensure the health and safety of your employees on the installation side. We have a variety of systems in place in order to be able to perform attic installations. One is using double crews that switch time in the attic in short enough timeframes to avoid heat exhaustion. Scheduling the installations to begin in the middle of the night is another option, if it is acceptable to the customer.
Any of these options, and others you may incorporate, will increase the cost of the installations, and you must include it in your pricing. You may be surprised, as we have, that customers are willing to pay a considerably higher price to get their cooling in June or July rather than waiting for a lower price in October. Many of our competitors refuse to do attic work in the summer. For me, that is not an acceptable way of doing business.
The important thing to remember, in the case of both service and installations, is that you are juggling the needs and desires of your customers while also doing everything possible to protect the health, safety, and well-being of your extended family — your employees. These often become contradictory things to juggle. That is why I am putting this out now. Now is the time to start preparing for what we will all hope will be scorching hot days ahead. Once those hot days arrive, it is more difficult to put together all of the steps, both large and small, that will allow you continue to serve your customers in the timeliest manner possible.
This pre-planning will also allow you to develop systems that show you respect the fact that your family of employees are the ones who have helped you retain those customers in the first place.
The “Best Contractors to Work For” didn’t get there overnight. They did utilize pre-planning sessions like this for the betterment of their customers and their employees.