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Al Writes

Leading with Humor

Wouldn’t you agree that the work we do as contractors can literally be life and death? It’s serious business!

I definitely feel this is true.

A plumbing or drain company keeps good water from bad water. Just go online and look up the plague. You’ll see what existed in the world before proper  plumbing and sanitation changed it for the better. And plumbing and drain companies keep these systems functioning the way they must so we can stay alive and avoid illness. Without us, many people would be sick and dying.

A heating and cooling company not just keeps us warm in the winter and cool in the summer (which is very nice). In extreme cases for the young, the elderly, or the infirm, it too can be life and death. Remember, we “play with fire” as I told my own techs. Plus, we “play” with gas and fuel oil and even high voltage that in the wrong hands, untrained personnel, or even the inattentive tech can become very dangerous.

And electricians literally wrangle lightning and light our homes, power our communications abilities, and, in many homes, it is the “fuel” that provides the heating and cooling too. We take it for granted, but here too a lack of seriousness and attention to detail can cause real damage to life and property.

All of this is serious business.

BUT we can’t be deadly serious from sunup to sundown. We do need to be focused when we’re doing our work in every phase of our business, but we’re human beings, and without a break from it… it will wear you down if there’s no time to lighten up.

Here are just three ways humor helps:

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Beware Actions Born of Boredom

Many a client throughout the years has told me when I said they were taking actions out of boredom with the status quo, “Bored? I can hardly catch my breath!”

Maybe… maybe not.

You can be crazy busy, but activity can serve to mask the underlying boredom that can creep into our life at work. This is especially so in a maturing company. The goal for leadership must be to make their companies perform consistently better, and this can take its toll.

Boredom usually takes hold because this never ending-process is tough and, frankly, boring. So, they respond to it by starting a bunch of new projects that take away attention from the main objective they said they were pursuing.

Here are just four ways boredom can play out in a bad way:

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Marketing to Pick Up Dollars, Not Dimes

If you’ve been in the service contracting business for any length of time you know what it’s like when business slows down and money gets tight. And if you’re like most service contractors, marketing spend is usually the first thing to go!

My dad, Irving, called that “stepping over dollars to pick up dimes.”

Why? Because without marketing your phones are going to go dead and/or stay dead.

It might seem counter-intuitive but those slow times are actually the best times to be doing testimonial-based marketing, which I’ve seen work well not just for my own service contracting business but also for dozens of other contracting businesses ranging from plumbing, heating, cooling, electrical, roofing, garage door service—to name just a few.

To make sure the marketing of your contracting business hits the mark you’ll want to focus your time, energy and your money on three main drivers such as:

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How to Gain Control of Your Business | The Service Hub Podcast

Are you ready to gain control of your business?

On Episode 10 of The Service Hub podcast, Al Levi shares with hosts Parker Williams and Trevor Hanson powerful ways to gain back control in your business through more efficient planning and goal setting, the creation of roles and manuals, as well as a handful of other tips on how to gain control and grow your business when you feel like you are at capacity.

Listen to Episode 10 on Apple Podcasts here.

Listen to Episode 10 on Spotify here.

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The 7-Power Contractor (Part 2) | The Sharpest Tool Podcast

How can you run your business with Less Stress and More Success? The 7-Powers are key to achieving this.

On Part 2 of The Sharpest Tool podcast, Al Levi and host Josh Smith dive deeper into the 7-Powers that will help any contracting business achieve success… with less stress.

Listen to Part 2 here.

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Actions Speak Louder than Words – Fix Your Own First

“Do as I Say, Not as I Do” is a common refrain from a frustrated boss.

Wouldn’t it be great if you could say this and all your employees would do just this? Sorry, it doesn’t work that way.

If what you’re saying doesn’t match what you are doing, you’re busted.

The reason is all eyes are upon you all the time, and as the owner, you can’t hide. I understand that no one is perfect when it comes to everything they do as a leader, but the fact is your actions speak louder than your words.

Think of it this way: imagine your dad or mom are telling you as a young teenager that you have to quit smoking because it is dangerous to your health. The problem is they’re telling you this as the ashes are dropping off the cigarette dangling from their mouths.

You see it for what it is.

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The 7-Power Contractor (Part 1) | The Sharpest Tool Podcast

How can you run your business with Less Stress and More Success? The 7-Powers are key to achieving this.

On Part 1 of The Sharpest Tool podcast, Al Levi and host Josh Smith discuss The 7-Power Contractor method that will help any contracting business achieve success… with less stress.

Listen to the episode here!

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A Better Way to Say Goodbye to Low Performers

Years ago, when I first entered the family business as the last brother in to what was then a 3rd generation service contracting business—now a 4th generation plumbing, heating, cooling and now electrical contracting business—my dad said to me, “You can no longer hire anyone until you prove you can fire someone the right way. Face it. You like hiring people. And who doesn’t? But you need to do both.”

Well, I didn’t like that message much, but I knew he was right. As an empathetic person I am able to put myself in another person’s shoes and see things from their perspective. And I could only imagine how bad it felt to get fired!

Our service contracting company was and still is a NYC Union Shop. When it came to employee relations that was both good and bad news. The good: there was formal process for disciplining and terminating employment. The bad: we were not consistently following the steps. (In our defense, they were not all that clear!)

The first few times I fired a bad employee they were genuinely surprised. Naturally, they wanted to unload their frustrations but I just wanted to get it over with so usually I cut them off. It went so badly a few times I’m lucky I didn’t get shot!

Something had to change. We had to figure out a “right” way to say goodbye to a bad employee. The answer was to create our own formal process, which we called “The Steps of Discipline.”

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What to Do When Family is Fighting at Work

The first thing to remember is that all companies act like families whether or not the people working together are related.

Someone is playing the role of Dad, Mom, Big Brother, and probably the Big Sister.

And very commonly in the home service business and contracting world, our businesses tend to be multi-generational, so it could be quite literally a family business acting this way.

Here’s the thing… what do you do when people are not getting along? In other words, how do you clear the air, and how do you keep it from escalating or spreading like wildfire throughout the company?

Here are 10 great tips from my own business career working with my dad and two older brothers and from helping clients who are and are not related with these very real issues that can destroy the company if not addressed quickly and in the right way:

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How to Build a Business that Runs without You | The Site Shed Podcast

Ready for a business that can run without you? All businesses, no matter how big or small, need to create systems if they want to grow.

In The Site Shed’s podcast episode TSS210 named “How to Build a Business that Runs without You,” Al Levi joins host Matt Jones to discuss why operating manuals and organizational charts are fundamental to creating a business that runs without you.

You can check out the episode here!

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