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Leadership Power

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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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No Such Thing as Accidental Company Culture

One of the greatest lessons I got came along very early in my consulting career. I was very fortunate to work with the great Steve Lowry of Lowry Services in Pennsylvania.

Steve shared with me one day as we were pretty far along in our scope of work that other companies he competed with could copy everything he does from his truck design, his marketing, and a whole lot more, but they could never copy his company’s culture.

He was not bragging.

Steve told me one day as we were wrapping up work on one of the staffing programs, “Al, the better I treat my employees, the better they treat my customers and the more successful I have become. When they make customers incredibly happy and feel like they are treated well, they are all in with doing business with my company for life.”Company culture has to be cultivated in every transaction and interaction. It’s either getting better or its getting worse. There is no standing still. It takes work and that work is always ongoing.

What can you do to make company culture better at your company?

Here are just five ways to get you started on a better path based upon the great company cultures I’ve seen and helped make better.

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If Nothing Gets Done… You’re Responsible

Don’t look around for someone you can point the finger at because it’s you!

I say this because I used to blame people at my company for what didn’t get done or for what got done poorly. And I was all too happy to point the finger of blame. Yes, I’m a New Yorker, but don’t waste time figuring out which finger.

My flawed approach changed when I was lucky enough to get accepted into a great contractor affinity group. The reason it all changed is I was exposed to very successful contractors who were willing to share the lessons they had learned along the way to becoming successful. All I had to do was ask a question of them and shut up long enough to listen to the wisdom they were sharing.

Again, as a New Yorker, this wasn’t easy, but I wasn’t going to blow this golden opportunity. I bit my lip so I could shut up long enough to listen to the help they were giving me.

And what came back time and again from pretty much all of my whining about my staff and what they either didn’t get done or did poorly was that it was my fault, not theirs.  This was tough medicine but I was ready to take it.

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Chief Executive Communicator

In this world of ever-expanding corporate titles there is the CEO (Chief Executive Officer); CFO (Chief Financial Officer); CTO (Chief Technology Officer); CIO (Chief Information Officer), CPO (Chief People Officer), to name but a few.

I suspect that in many cases a lot of these fancy “CXO” (Chief — fill in the blank — Officer) titles exist so people can feel good about how high they’ve risen in their organization.

I don’t really like fancy “C” titles because titles are not what typically helps you, a contractor, run your business.

That said, I’m in favor of a new title for you.

Chief Executive Communicator.

No, it doesn’t go on your Organizational Chart, and it’s not a paying position.

It’s someone at the very top level of your company in charge of communicating where the company is going and what’s in it for those who are helping you get there.

This probably means you.

So, what do I think a really great Chief Executive Communicator must do? Glad you asked.

Here are the most five most vital things you need to do to be successful.

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What to do if Employees are “Always” on Social Media

Question: Are your employees going to stop checking their social media feeds anytime soon?

Answer: No!

Question: What can you do about it?

Answer: A few things.

Question: Is this a new problem?

Answer: Yes and no.

Employees being distracted at work has been going on since they put in a water cooler in the breakroom. And since going on cigarette breaks were routine. And even when the first access to the internet allowed them to go “surfing” from the comfort of their office chair.

Social Media Distraction isn’t a new problem but rather an old problem expressed in a new way. That problem is time spent not working while at work. The Social Media Distraction issue continues to grow to an even higher and higher level of disruption of productivity in the workplace as more and more social media channels are created that compete increasingly for the attention of your employees while they’re at work and on the clock.

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Police State or Permissive Where Anything Goes?

I was working with a client a number of years ago and he was a fantastic contractor, as were his partners. The majority of my work was with this one partner who was a smart, effective and knowledgeable leader of their fast growing plumbing, heating, cooling and electrical company.

He was the rare owner who not only knew the technical side of the business, but he and his partners knew what it took to grow a company, which meant learning and implanting the business side of things.

My reason for being called in to consult was that they had experienced explosive growth and they were suffering the ill effects that came with it. He and his partners were realizing that the way they answered their phones, to the way they dispatched, to the way they had their Techs run calls, had to be fixed.

They (not me) had said they had the worst group of Customer Service Representatives (aka CSRs) ever. And what made it worse is that they had eight of them. Sad truth is… they were bad. At least, they were when we first started.

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Office Politics and Gossip

My dad raised my brothers and sisters and me on the phrase, “If you’ve got nothing good to say, say nothing.”

Well, in corporate America and elsewhere in our society today where face-to-face and cyberbullying is rampant… that ship has sailed.

The question is should you participate in this?

In the old days (think Seinfeld TV show era… no… not the syndicated reruns or what you pull up on your phone from YouTube) there was always the water cooler topics of the day. The show itself was a catalyst for talking about a lot of things that had formally been taboo or just not thought of, or at least never expressed that way was safe or kind of safe to talk about.

The reality is that in our more politically correct era too many topics are off the table for discussion (probably should have always been the case), and we can weigh the pros and cons to that, but the reality is that there is office dynamite – that’s office gossip and office politics (different than the politics of our government but also something highly charged if pushed too far).

The truth is that we must accept that you’re never going to totally stop the Office Gossip and Politics because we, as people, love to talk and hear ourselves talk, and there’s a part of us that likes throwing others under the bus, and that for some is human nature.

What role do we as owners have in all of this?

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Write Your Game Statements

When I begin work with a new client, I seek to understand their company and how it ticks today. I also need to understand how the owner or owners function today.

That’s why I like to get to Leadership Power before I dive into Marketing Power….what?

Yep, the reason for doing Leadership Power before Marketing Power is to clarify the owner’s vision of what the company’s mission, position in the market (or how they go to market that differentiates them) and what they hope it will look like when they’re all done. Otherwise, the Marketing Power is off to work in the wrong direction vs. in synch with the goals and mandates that Leadership Power identifies.

I run them through a series of exercises that help reveal to both of us what they really want from their business and their personal life in the next 3 to 5 years. Yes, your business life is directly tied to your personal life. It’s not meant to be all consuming as it is to many contractors. Your business should be designed to serve your personal life, not the other way around.

To me, the often used phrase that speaks to Leadership Power is, “If you don’t care where you end up, any road will do!”

I don’t know about you, but I know myself and my clients, and we care an awful lot about where we end up; so, that’s why we spend time defining in WRITING the following:

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Goals, Beliefs and Actions: The Foundation of Leadership

When I first moved out to Phoenix, I brought the souvenirs of my career with me – a bad back and bad knees. My wife suggested that I sign up for a Yoga class, which I did with the sole purpose of my getting some physical relief.

Okay, I’ll admit it. I now love Yoga! It has been life-altering both physically and mentally.

One day as I was stretching out in class, the teacher was talking about some different philosophies. One of the things she mentioned is that if you set goals and you have actions attached to them – but you never seem to reach those goals – the step you might be missing is belief.

An illustration would be you’re a heavy person, like I’ve been most of my life, and you have the goal of losing weight. You know all of the actions – eat right, eat smaller portions, and exercise more often. But if you don’t believe that you’re a thin person – if you believe that you’ll always be a heavy person – it’s never going to change. So what we need to tie together are our goals (what we want to achieve) and what we really believe. And make sure that what we believe is in sync with our goals. And then take the appropriate actions that will make those goals a reality.

This applies to running a business every bit as much as it applies to your life.

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Making It Okay for Your Employees to Ask for Help

Is it okay for your Employees to ask for help at your company?

You might say yes. But, I wonder if that’s true.

The reason I wonder if that’s true is because at my shop it wasn’t. We had a typical New York shop full of “know it all” mentalities. That meant it was dangerous to expose what you didn’t know because at the very least it was cause for your boss and co-workers to unleash a ton of ridicule.

The other reason I know that your staff is probably highly unwilling to show you what they don’t really know is because I, myself, the boss’s kid (as someone who had risen to be the 2ndbest Tech at our shop of 25 Techs) would spend time talking Customers out of repairs that I wasn’t fully confident I could do.

Yes, that’s right I, the boss’s kid, would do that.

Also, the reason I believe that your staff won’t show you what they can and can’t do is because they probably oversold what they actually can do when you first hired them. Now they’ve become overly protective at exposing these weaknesses they have to you or any other management team members at your company.

Here’s what I know. All your employees have holes in their knowledge, and until you make it safe for them to share what they do and don’t know you’re going to be at risk. There will be lost productivity, mistakes or worse things like insurance claims or a sting operation that makes the news and makes you look bad.

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