One of the advantages of being in the business for a number of years is learning from your mistakes. Hopefully, this self-evaluation of a contractor will help encourage others of you to not make the same mistake repeatedly as I seem to have done. There is some wording to the effect that if we do the same things and in the same way and expect to get different results we are only kidding ourselves. Write that down somewhere and look at it frequently.
About 25 years ago we had a service manager who I had hired
as a service technician. He had been a service manager at another firm and when
the need arose I made him our service manager. In a fairly short period of
time, I started getting the feeling that he wasn’t handling things just right.
Instead of making a potential service customer feel that we were happy they
called us, he gave them the impression that we were doing them a favor by
coming out to service their unit. I remember I used to hate hot weather then
because I knew I would get a call or two from a friend saying they needed
service and I would have to search for someone to make the call and then beg to
get it done. I knew in my gut right then that a change needed to be made. But I
tried talking to him and tried to make him into something he wasn’t. And I
lived with this bad situation for 3 or 4 years.
We were fortunate to need to hire a new replacement
salesman. He was actually a former service manager. He worked as our
replacement salesman for about two months and said that there was no way he
could accomplish the goals we had set with our current service manager. The
service manager was turning off our customers so much that we had no chance to
make replacement sales. The new salesman agreed to also take over the role of
service manager so I finally let the service manager go. What a relief,
immediately the response of the service techs was that of “thank you.” A
positive new attitude was very noticeable and I obviously had made the right decision
- just 3 years later than I should have.
Now fast forward 15 years, to about 5 years ago, and our
Service/Replacement Department has grown significantly and we have become very
successful in that business. But then I am beginning to get that feeling again
that something is not right. Yes, we are taking care of the customers but we
have stopped growing at a time in which we should be achieving significant
growth. I start talking to our service manager about the issues and get really
in-depth reasons (excuses). When things didn’t improve in a year or two
maximum, I should have made what was a very difficult decision. But instead, I
put it off and tried to work it out. Finally, due to all of the things that
occurred and also the economy, I finally made the decision that the change
needed to be made and the service manager had to be let go. It was one of my
most difficult decisions ever, but has been one of the best. In retrospect it
is one I should have made at least a year or two earlier. As I think back, I
knew it, but just couldn’t get myself to do it.
Also as I think back, there have been other times when we
had an individual who was good - but not performing up to our expectations.
Those, too, were times I tried to work the individual through the issues.
Although a few times that work was successful, most of the times we ended up
wasting a great deal of effort when we should have separated ourselves from the
problem much earlier.
My message is to encourage you to not make the mistakes that I
have made. When you have an employee that is not performing at the proper
level, make an attempt to have that employee correct the problem and if they
don’t, make a change now, sooner, rather than later. You will save yourself a
great number of headaches and probably a lot of money in the process.
Learn From Your Mistakes
By Butch Welsch
Butch Welsch is owner of Welsch Heating & Cooling in St. Louis. You can reach him at email@example.com.