Time Management

[Editor’s Note: This is in response to John R. Hall’s March 12 editorial.]

I have found that over the years management hasn’t taken the time to train employees how to manage their time. This can be formal training or just the act of going out with them and showing how it could be done better.

The easiest approach is to ask for their comment on the workday, keep a journal of activities, and report back what they have found. Then take the time to evaluate their notes and ride with them to understand the areas that are giving them problems. A different viewpoint from one that has been there weighs heavier than desk-side comments.

Something as simple as redesigning the daily time sheet or work log can show discrepancies. Make it give you the information you need to work with without spying. They can even assist in the design. If you treat an employee like they are of value, you will be amazed how productive they can be!

Ken Clark

STH, Inc.

Gaithersburg, MD

Time Is Money

I am writing in regards to John R. Hall’s March 12 column on workplace productivity. To determine your productivity, the biggest problem we see as consultants is getting your techs to record what exactly they are doing on their time tickets. The following text is from a consulting report for a dealer. It lists three ways to get the techs to start filling out time tickets.

Teaching your men (both service and contracting) why they are using detailed time tickets will be the hardest part.

You can try the reverse review method. This is where you explain to your men that it’s your responsibility to correct for unapplied time. You need to know what is causing it so you can reduce it. Once you find out, don’t use it to punish them, you must correct the problem, even if it is you who are causing it (as in the example where the techs come in every morning for job reviews and to drop off paperwork).

You can try using the $0.05, $0.50, and $5.00 approach. This is where you ask the people what they think the average contractor makes on every dollar he brings in. They usually answer $0.25 to $0.30. The correct answer is $0.05. This answer is the best when using this demonstration. You could use others, but the effect is not the same.

Take out a nickel and ask how much would this contractor need to sell to make this nickel. The answer is $1.00. Then ask them what costs a nickel in their day-to-day service work. Answers like wire nuts, nuts, bolts, envelopes, etc. are common. Tell them for every nut and bolt thrown out, you have to sell $1.00 more just to make up for that lost item. Hold up a dollar bill just to make the point.

Then do the same with $0.50. The business would have to sell $10 just to make back the net profit lost every time they throw out a $0.50 item. Ask them to identify a $0.50 part or item used in their day-to-day operations. Don’t forget to ask the office people what they use that costs $0.50. Take out a $10 bill and hold it up just to make the point.

Finally ask them how much would a contractor have to make up if it lost $5.00. The answer is another $100. Take out a $100 bill for effect. Then ask them what is worth $5.00. The answer you are looking for is about 15 minutes worth of a field person’s time (assuming the field person makes $20/hour with benefits).

Ask them how many times in a day they waste 15 minutes. Usually the answer is several times a day that amount is wasted. They then would have to make one more service call just to make up for that 15 minutes of lost time. This method is usually very dramatic and shows the value of their time.

Finally, you could make a game out of it. Form a team of two techs or installers. Have them compete against the other teams to see who can better their amount of unapplied time. Each group will know when the other is “fudging” on their time sheets. This method works when you do it for a few months to make a habit of recording unapplied time.

David S. Taylor CMC

Certified Management Consultant

Dealer Development Group

Carrier Corporation

A Show of Respect and Appreciation

I’ve been somewhat critical of the hvac world that I myself am personally involved with. Usually my thoughts are disguised and intertwined in clever metaphorically based little tales — can’t put that big of a bullseye on my back.

However, John Hall initiated a discussion [in the Hvacr Forum] based upon a topic that my team at the day job excels at; and one of which I am extremely proud of — servicing mission-critical accounts.

Actually his topic was on respect for our trade, but I’ll take this opportunity anyhow.

These days most of our customers are telecom companies like AT&T, as opposed to years ago of big data centers with mammoth computers. Usually the telecom’s a/c is isolated from the buildings and their a/c equipment and controls do have provisions for emergency situations.

For instance, redundancy in equipment — meaning a system on standby if one goes down. Controls monitor operation of equipment and in case of an error alerts computer technicians or initiates a phone call to a central data center. They in turn call us.

Our policy is to have techs on site in less than four hours, but the average response is less than one hour for us. Our record response time was three minutes — our tech was standing in this customer’s office before he got back to it from down the hall. You think we sold him a service contract? You betcha! Being part of a team that delivers this level of service gives one a massive adrenaline rush.

Respect? A good starting point for our industry would be showing respect for the truly dedicated professionals in our trade. Separate them from the pack. Do this through recognition, increased learning opportunities (yes, even if they are the smartest in the company), increased pay and benefits, and a show of appreciation for their contributions and ideas — even sometimes using them.

Perhaps standards like this will give “potentials” hope and encouragement — for an army of engaged employees will be the most powerful marketing force this here industry ever done seen.

David E.Rothacker


Ask Real-World Questions

This is regarding the NATE test. I have been in the hvac field for over 30 years, 25 of those years as a service manager. I have been reading and listening to the debates over it for years now and just want to voice my opinion. NATE is missing the boat.

It seems like instead of focusing on whether the tech being tested is competent, they are testing to see if they are capable of taking tests based on the theory they learned in trade school. If you have to study for the test, then it’s not covering things you need to do your job every day. Customer relations is something the employers have to deal with, not a testing authority.

Wake up! This test should be based on real-life questions and situations that a serviceman might experience. I firmly believe until they do, this test will not be accepted by the trade enough to make it an industry standard. Sorry guys.

Lou Torsello

Gilson & Sons

Upper Saddle River, NJ

Publication date:04/16/2001