Bob Barnes, the owner of Western Heating in Boise, Idaho, has been my client for six years.

One of Western Heating’s service technicians fatally shot himself. He was an only child and Western Heating was a big part of his life. Once everyone got over the shock, they looked for something they could do for his mother. This was not a management activity. The technicians took it upon themselves. It turned out that his mother needed help cleaning out his apartment. When they discovered this, more than 15 service technicians volunteered to do the task. Imagine vans, cars and people showing up at his apartment. They did it one evening after work in about an hour. All through volunteers.

The picture that ran with the death notice showed the service technician in a Western Heating uniform. His mother wrote how much her son loved working at the company.

When tragedy strikes, you find out quickly whether you have a great company to work for.

So how did Barnes build — and continue to nurture — a great company to work for? With communication, focus and sharing profits.

Everyone knows what their job is, how their jobs impacts customers and how it affects profitability. Everything is communicated quickly.

The company has a fanatical focus on customers and numbers. Everyone knows that customers write their paychecks and they operate by that rule. Everyone knows how they will be measured. Every month, their performance is reviewed. I go over the financial statements with Barnes.

Everyone gets a piece of the profits. He distributes half the bonus right before the busy season. Everyone works hard without complaint during the crazy times to get an even bigger share of the profits at the end of the year.

Do you think you have a great company to work for? How do you know?

Nobody’s perfect

Even if employees think your company is great, you probably have a few former customers who disagree. A client called recently asking how to get a negative review removed on, the free online review website. She has hundreds of letters praising the company but only one online review. And it’s bad. 

 All companies have unhappy clients. Some choose to publicly complain. It doesn’t matter if you have hundreds of letters praising your company. Your employees and you are the only one who sees them. Potential clients never see those when they are searching online for an HVAC contractor. 

You can’t get rid of negative reviews. Most sites will let you write an explanation about what happened from your perspective.

Ask your happy customers to review their experience with your company on internet sites such as Google, Yelp and Angie’s List. Positive reviews will far outweigh a small number of complaints.

 It’s actually good to have a negative review or two as long as they’re not too damaging. If potential customers see 50 reviews and they’re all positive, it can make them suspicious.

Being featured on review websites can boost your visibility on search engines. Asking for feedback and requesting online reviews is a powerful tool. Your customers’ experiences provide great insight into how your business is performing. Customer feedback gives you the ability to address issues and the opportunity to win back unhappy customers. Taking control will strengthen your brand, customer loyalty and company image.

Copyright Ruth King. All rights reserved. Write to Ruth King at Profitability Revolution LLC, 1650 Oakbrook Drive, Suite 405, Norcross, GA 30093; email; call (770) 729-8000.