When you go to some business meetings, it is easy to get caught up in their flash, noise, and metaphor-filled presentations. (“Walk tall, stick to the high road, and keep one ear to the ground!”) When you return to the office, the ideas that sounded so valid in theory seem a lot more difficult to implement. After a few days, your enthusiasm wanes and you get back to business as usual — for many, that means putting out fires.

The International Service Leadership’s (ISL’s) Planning Retreat, held recently in Las Vegas, had plenty of flash and substance. Best of all, it gave willing participants an action plan.

The meeting’s intent was to help contractor-members close the gaps in their companies’ internal lines of communication to make sure sales don’t slip through the cracks. By addressing potential problems before the cooling season rush kicks in full steam, these contractors were planning for increased sales and record profits — their “best summer ever,” according to ISL.

The contractors developed those profit-growing plans; by having the contractors themselves work out the plans in notebooks, it helped them buy into the ideas. By having mentors help the contractors, the contractors had the benefit of the mentor contractors’ experiences. By teaching, the mentors were able to reinforce their own knowledge.

The real test, of course, occurred when the contractors and their business teams (any key employees chosen to attend the conference) returned from the trip. When they came back to their offices, that’s where they would have to either make the effort to implement the information given so abundantly at the meeting, or slip comfortably back into old habits and routines.

Implementing change into any section of one’s life is nothing less than an act of courage.

What Makes The Muskrat Guard His Musk?

What is courage? Mike Moore, vice president of ISL, described it as knowing the difference between the roar of the lion, and the lion itself. Whenever you face a challenge that is daunting, it is as if you are thinking, “I want to do it, but I hear the roar,” said Moore.

“If I come face to face with the lion,” he continued, “if I face my fears, nine out of 10 times the lion runs away.”

(Coincidentally — or maybe not coincidentally — the ISL Retreat was held at the MGM Grand, site of a lion habitat. The general public can view and take pictures of the animals whose image has graced the opening credits of so many MGM movies. For more information on the habitat, visit www.mgmgrand.com/lv/pages/ent_lionhab.asp.)

Talking about change is easy. Look at how easy it is to make New Year’s resolutions. Not changing is also easy. Putting plans into action — actually rolling up one’s sleeves and making changes — is the hard part, and also the most rewarding.

To put it in the words of the Cowardly Lion (and lyricist Edgar Y. Harburg) in MGM’s The Wizard of Oz:

“What makes a King out of a slave? Courage!

“What makes the flag on the mast to wave? Courage!

“… What makes the Hottentot so hot? What puts the ‘ape’ in apricot? What have they got that I ain’t got?”

(Dorothy, Tin Man, Scarecrow):


Picture This

The retreat offered contractors so much more than catchphrases. It offered deals, contests, and incentives for high sales. It offered sales and staffing tools. It provided enthusiasm and energy in abundance.

It offered contractors, and their staff if they came along, the ability to visualize their companies instituting positive changes. And speakers also made it clear that unless the contractors put a plan into place and acted on it when they got back to the office, the time they spent at the conference would be wasted.

Mentor of the Year Lee Painter, president of Schmid’s Service Now in Wooster, Ohio, described ISL’s Summer Challenges. The purpose is to make reaching goals more fun while improving contractor-members’ bottom lines.

By focusing on a particular area — ESA (Energy Saving Agreement) sales, average ticket price, replacement sales, department key performance indicators for the period — Lee said contractors evoke the power of attraction. “You move toward what you focus on,” he explained. In short, you challenge another company in an area you want to improve in your own company.

One of the tools ISL encourages its members to use is a tracking chart called a leader board. “Within the first month, our staff became excited by the leader board,” Painter said. “The leader board became a very strong point in the company.”

Although some employees were put off at first, once they bought into the idea, “What I saw was, the whole team pulled together,” Painter said.

A great thing about these contests is that when a contractor challenges another company, the whole company becomes accountable for the results. When you think about it, the Cowardly Lion wasn’t courageous when he didn’t need to be. He also didn’t wait until he received a testimonial from the Wizard.

The lion acted decisively when he felt the risk to Dorothy by the witch. He not only displayed courage, he became accountable for the results of his actions.

Barb Checket-Hanks is service/maintenance and troubleshooting editor. She can be reached at 248-244-6467; 248-362-0317 (fax); barbarachecket-hanks@achrnews.com.

Publication date: 05/26/2003