CINCINNATI, OH — The Excellence Alliance, Inc. (EAI) is an organization that provides training and networking opportunities for member hvacr contracting companies. From May 17-19, EAI presented its first Manager’s Meeting.

The organization holds yearly owner meetings, but decided that a yearly meeting for managers would be just as important. The purpose of gathering the managers of EAI’s member companies was to provide information to the employees who make daily decisions for the business.

“The emphasis over the years was to drill down products in the organization,” said Tom Wiley, EAI education manager. “We saw that the info was not getting down to the lower levels.”

To be more specific, owners of member companies were not effectively passing down EAI benefits, philosophies, and training opportunities to the rest of the company, especially managers who are in charge of technicians.

The three-day meeting gave these managers the opportunity to find out what EAI is all about and familiarize them with the group’s products that can make their jobs more efficient. There was also a trade show at the closing of the three days and several training sessions, including dispatching, sales strategies, and Internet planning.

But the most prominent focus at the Manager’s Meeting was evident in a number of sessions devoted to what being a member of EAI is all about, including non-technical seminars on communication, problem solving, and the association’s “Principles of Excellence.”

Principles of Excellence

The meeting provided time for managers to develop their skills on the job. But a primary goal of the event was to inform them of what being a member means.

EAI president Jeff Wilmink spoke to the managers in attendance about the Principles of Excellence. These are the principles the organization wants its members to have and develop through their companies.

According to Wilmink, these principles are:

  • External customer service — The company must focus on constant customer satisfaction and understanding customer requirements to provide excellent service and repeat business.
  • Internal customer excellence — The company must be performance-driven and encourage employees to excel. This also involves perfecting training and keeping the best employees.
  • Operational excellence — The company develops processes that eliminates mistakes, emphasizes performance standards, measures the costs of mistakes, and uses EAI support tools to perfect and improve performance.
  • Implementation Excellence — The company has the agreement of key employees to use the tools and steps needed to perfect the business and carry out excellent service.
  • Although EAI’s Principles of Excellence can be broken down into four core ideas, there is a great deal of commitment in adopting these philosophies into member companies and making them work. A more extensive course on the organization’s principles will be held in September and must be attended by the executive manager and executive owner of the member companies.

    Wilmink says that the Principles of Excellence course is an evolution of an older course called the Quality College, which was held through the Air Conditioning Contractors of America (ACCA). Several EAI members have gone through the Quality College, but the Principles of Excellence, according to Wilmink, is a more advanced course that will follow up with member companies to make sure they are executing the principles in their business.

    Company Perfection

    EAI also presented a number of scaled-down seminars to give managers an idea of courses that will be available through the organization in the near future. These courses act as an extension to the Principles of Excellence.

    For example, seminars were presented by Mike Callahan and Al Roach of Callahan/Roach Associates.

    Callahan’s seminar delved into the idea of excellence. According to Callahan, excellence means quality, and the definition of quality is: 100% conformance to customer requirements.

    This means that a business must do everything in its power to make the customer happy all of the time. This may seem impossible, but Callahan says that it should not stop a business from trying. Although a company cannot be perfect, it should always strive for perfection. This means the elimination of mistakes.

    “More money is to be made from the elimination of mistakes than anything else,” says Callahan.

    To do this effectively, Roach spoke to the managers about problem solving. This course took Callahan’s ideas one step further with a blueprint for making fewer mistakes in the long run and making more profit.

    EAI chairman Jim Norris conducted a seminar called, “Dealing With Difficult Issues: Correcting Behavior Problems, Creating ‘Win-Win’ Outcomes.”

    Norris focused on the role of being a company leader and dealing with employee problems. According to Norris, many problems with employees become worse the longer they are ignored. He also says that employees will sometimes not work up to standards because what is expected of them has not been expressed.

    “Our companies need to focus more and more on where we’re going, and make clear what is expected and make sure they understand,” said Norris about employees.

    Norris also says that corrective action with employees who are not working up to the company goal must be done quickly and almost systematically.

    In fact, Norris cites seven steps for dealing with a problematic employee. A manager must identify the problem, describe it in detail, determine the impact the problem is having, determine the impact the problem will have in the future, determine what part you have had in the problem, describe the ideal outcome of the situation, and then take effective steps to solve the problem.

    Norris says that those steps must all be done with courage, compassion, and skill. More precisely, a boss should have an open dialogue with his or her employees and talk through problems to solve them. Also, after an issue or corrective action has been discussed with an employee, there must be a follow-up. If a manager does not follow up with an employee to make sure that an issue has been resolved, the employee will most likely revert to the same behavior.

    Norris says that this kind of training is as equally important as any technical training to a company. “Most companies fail because of our people skills,” he said.

    For more information on EAI, visit (website).

    Publication date: 06/11/2001