Back in its Jan. 17 edition, The News announced the winner of the Excellence Alliance Inc. (EAI) "Business Makeover Contest," which was co-sponsored by York Heating & Air Conditioning and The News.

The winner, Aladdin Air Conditioning of Newbury Park, Calif., was visited by Al Levi of Appleseed Business Inc., industry consultant, who provided a two-day assessment of the business and follow-up remote support after 90 days.

The following is a summary of what Aladdin owner Wayne Beck and his staff accomplished in those 90 days.

Aladdin owner Wayne Beck looks over the reorganized parts inventory in the company warehouse.

The 90-Day Barometer

All Aladdin office staff members are now required to use headsets when answering the phones. And, they're doing it faithfully. This has resulted in a dramatic improvement in their ability to both hear and be heard by customers. This process leaves their hands free to enter calls live rather than writing down information and entering it at a later time.

There are separate weekly training sessions for installers, service techs, and salespeople that are making a noticeable improvement in gross sales and profitability. The techs and installers have been coached on how to do the work the right way and comply with codes. Now, the jobs are getting completed correctly the first time, which has reduced callbacks and caused productivity and profitability to rise.

Beck and his employees at Aladdin have learned how to create a real annual budget, set individual sales goals, determine breakeven pricing, and establish what the selling price must be to ensure that the company reaches its goals for annual sales and profitability.

Salespeople are being held accountable for the delivery of jobs on time and with preset profitability limits. This has been done by diligently tracking and comparing the projected job cost (the selling price) versus the real cost of the job (what it cost to actually do the work).

This procedure has boosted both sales and profitability. A big first step was linking purchase orders in the computer to jobs in progress so that projected costs could be compared to actual job costs.

Al Levi (left) gets a firsthand look at the business programs developed by Aladdin owner Wayne Beck.
Ride-along training is under way with techs, installers, and salespeople, which is helping uphold company sales, operational, and technical standards.

The trucks are now uniformly stocked by bin, column, and shelf. The digital photos taken during Levi's visit have made it easy to find stock and keep the trucks in great shape. Also, uniforms have been upgraded to present a more professional image.

Aladdin is well on the way to fully exiting the "warehouse business." The amount of in-house stock has been greatly reduced, and the stock that remains is better organized. Both the warehouse and the trucks now have a minimum and maximum stocking level for each item.

Excess materials are swiftly returned to suppliers for credit so the warehouse shelves don't swell with overflow. A primary supplier has been selected, and this allows Aladdin to fax over orders during the day and pick up presorted bins by truck number. This helps workers restock the trucks in the field so they're ready for work the next day.

All company projects now are placed on the "Priority Project Planner." This means projects get done at the right time in the right order, which has created the best use of time, money, and energy. The office staff meets once a week to work on the project list.

Aladdin customer service representatives use headsets when answering the phones and enter information during the call.

New Policies, New Manual

There is full compliance to the new policy of being paid at the time of service. Also, the new office layout has allowed private meeting space for one-on-one coaching as well as weekly sales, operational, and technical training.

Aladdin is midway through the process of creating the "Aladdin Customized Operations Manual." Unlike a typical employer-employee handbook, this provides the procedures for each task for each position at the company, defining for the first time "how to do it the Aladdin Way."

The heating and cooling units, the backbone of the "live" training center being built, are on the way. This will allow Aladdin to provide real-world training far beyond any training they've done in the past.

Software has been updated to allow smooth synchronization of departmental functions. And, they have organized their to-do list so that the software provider is knocking out the most important items first. The software provider is so enthusiastic about their requests that they are given top priority because Aladdin people said "this focused work will only strengthen our software and give us a competitive advantage in the marketplace."

Wayne Beck checks the inventory in one of the company vans. Parts are uniformly stocked by bin, column, and shelf.
When the manuals are in place and the training center is finished, Aladdin is intent on having Levi create "Apprentice to Junior Tech," "Junior Tech to Senior Tech," and "Senior Tech to Field Supervisor" training programs to improve the skill levels of existing employees, improve the ability of the existing techs they hire, and to hire apprentices and train them the Aladdin way from the start.

Sales training will be formalized in a comprehensive sales coaching manual and weekly training session so staff members can be confident that each customer's needs are served in a comprehensive and consistent way. "They've already learned from me to ask the right questions and listen effectively and that has increased sales, greatly reduced callbacks, and raised customer satisfaction," said Beck.

"The future looks very bright for Aladdin," said Beck. "I once again want to express my heartfelt thanks to EAI, York, and The News for sponsoring business education for the contractor. Working with Al has allowed me to take control of my company in just 90 days!"

Beck added that he is looking forward to sharing more of this exciting process when The News runs a follow-up story a year from now.

Publication date: 05/23/2005