Al Levi
Editor's note:Consultant Al Levi helps HVAC and plumbing contractors run their businesses with "less stress and more success." He has agreed to let us share with readers ofThe NEWSsome of the questions he gets and the answers he provides. The focus is strictly on problem solving and handling the day-to-day operations of a successful contracting business.

To send Levi your own questions, which if selected will run anonymously, send him an e-mail at or fax him at 212-202-6275.

This column is meant to be a resource only. Please check with your own trusted business advisers, including your own attorney, to make certain that the advice here complies with all relevant laws, customs, and regulations in your area.


Dear Al,

Our company has been blessed with rapid growth but we're straining to keep things under control. We keep adding managers and more staff but that just seems to get things crazier.

Two people do something or nobody does it.

I find people get confused about whom they answer to and everyone thinks they're the boss or they've got too many bosses.

What can help alleviate the strain?


Dear Disorganized,

Congratulations on your rapid growth!

But it seems not much planning or organization has been put in place to manage that growth. You're trying to throw people at the problem and without a chain of command everyone will either think it's their job or they'll think it's someone else's job. Either way it's a mess.

The best thing you can do now is to create your organizational chart. This isn't the kind of chart that has fancy titles but rather all the boxes it takes to run your company.

The key thing about an organizational chart is that it clearly let's people know who they directly report to, who they can go to for help, who's responsible, and what long-term positions on the organizational chart they can aspire to fill someday.

The challenge is, when you create the organizational chart, you must respect the chain of command. An example would be: You're the owner and you see one of the techs doing something wrong, so you're tempted to say something to him. If you have field supervisors or a service manager, you must respect the chain of command and speak to them about what you've observed and let them handle it.

Create your own organizational chart, respect the chain of command, and you'll soon find the disorganized have become organized and that's a good thing for everybody.

Al Levi


Dear Al,

I followed your advice about creating an organizational chart. But I still find that the techs complain about mistakes in pay to the service manager instead of the accounts payable person. They come to me, the owner, to complain about the uniforms when they should go to the operations manager. The list goes on. It seems like they talk to whomever they feel like talking to.

Talk Too Much

Dear Talk Too Much,

People take the course of least resistance. Not because they're bad, it's just the way we're all wired.

So, we talk to those we're comfortable with instead of those we're not comfortable with, even if they're the person we need to speak with to resolve the problem at hand.

Since you've created the organizational chart already, you need to create one more chart. This chart is called the flow of communication chart. It's created after the organizational chart and it briefly outlines who speaks to whom about what.

It works like this: Draw a circle in the middle of the page and surround it with a series of other circles so it kind of looks like a daisy.

The circle in the middle contains one specific job position on your organizational chart. The circles that are around it are the other key positions in the company that this person would interact with.

Except for the circle in the middle, each other circle has a very brief description of when the person in the middle would need to contact them and for what reason.

Example: Technician is in the middle. The A/P (accounts payable person) circle would say: Payroll, Vacation, Benefits.

Each page has another position from the organizational chart in the middle and the circles around change to whomever the position in the middle would need to interact with.

Create this flow of communication chart and get them all talking less by talking to the right people about the right things.

Al Levi

Al Levi of Appleseed Business specializes, as his Web site says, in "Making Contractors' Lives Less Stressful and More Successful." Through private workshops, on-site assessments, customized operating manuals, and staff training programs, Levi delivers the benefit of the experience he gained from years of operating a large family-run HVAC and plumbing business. Learn more by visiting You may also contact Levi by e-mail at or by fax at 212-202-6275.

Publication date: 06/12/2006