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Do What’s in the Book and You’re Off the Hook

Do What's in the Book, You're Off the Hook | Al Levi The 7-Power Contractor

Growing up a New Yorker, I appreciate straight talking people who say what they mean and do what they say. And I’m pleased to say that has been my experience so far with every one of the business owners I have had the privilege to work with. Midwesterners do this especially well, and without the New York attitude and sarcasm!

But I must admit the New Yorker in me tends to go off unfiltered when an owner in Iowa (or Illinois, or Indiana) tells me, “I don’t know if I can get buy in here for the Operating Manuals.”

“Really?” I reply. “I got these manuals in at my own company, a tough union shop in New York City. It doesn’t get any harder than that. And you don’t think you can get them to buy in here in Iowa…really?”

Despite the quality of my wisecrack, the owner usually remains unconvinced. So after taking a few minutes to compose myself, I share the story of how I got techs to willingly comply at my own shop.

Before we had manuals, one of my many jobs was Installation Manager. In this role, I was overseeing five install crews a day. One of our very best installers had been flipping pizzas when he entered our Apprentice training classes and had risen quickly up through the ranks.

One time I was handing out the assignments for the day and I said to him, “Hey, I can’t be there at the normal 10 a.m. time to go over what I want done here on the new boiler and heating work but I can get there around 2 p.m. Is that going to work?”

He quickly scanned the paperwork I had given him and said, “Not a problem. I got you covered.”

At 2 p.m. I arrived at the customer’s home. As I walked around the basement and saw what had been done, steamed poured from my ears. I pulled the Installer outside and said, “This is nothing like I wanted!”

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By | July 18th, 2017|Leadership Power, Operating Power|Comments Off on Do What’s in the Book and You’re Off the Hook

How Are You Judging Your Staff’s Performance?

What Are You Judging Your Staff On? | Al Levi The 7-Power Contractor

With all new consulting clients, I start by asking the following: “How are you judging your staff’s performance?”

The answers are pretty much the same and they go something like this, “We think.” “We’ve been told.” “Because I’ve been in business for a while I know who is and isn’t performing well.”

To which my reply is, “So, you’re basing your judgment of them either doing a good job or a bad job at the work they’re hired to do based on opinion or other subjective measures. Am I right?”

With a sheepish look on their face, they mutter, “Yes. I guess so.”

I know this sounds embarrassing but it’s not meant to be anything but helpful. I know exactly how they feel and how they got where they are because I too once judged my employees’ performance solely on opinion and subjective feelings! Nothing in my company was based on an objective standard until we made a change.

So, how do you tip the scales in the right direction of objective vs. subjective judgement when it comes to evaluating employees’ performance?

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By | July 5th, 2017|Leadership Power, Operating Power|Comments Off on How Are You Judging Your Staff’s Performance?

Attitude vs. Behavior: What’s the Difference?

Attitude vs. Behavior | Al Levi The 7-Power Contractor

“That Tech has a bad attitude.”

“I don’t like the attitude of our bookkeeper!”

“What’s wrong with the attitude of our dispatcher?”

Bad attitudes are everywhere, it would appear.

Based on…what?

In most cases, nothing, other than your opinion, that is. An opinion, by the way, that that colored by your attitude toward others! In fact, my new favorite saying is, “I see what I believe” not the old (and incorrect) saying, “I’ll believe it when I’ll see it.”

As owners and bosses, we’re quick to judge. It’s what we do. We compare people to some fictional version of how we think we were when we did their work. The part we leave out is that our vision of ourselves, especially as times goes by, is akin to the fish growing larger every time the fish story is told!

No, you couldn’t put a water heater in by yourself in one hour. Nor could you install a new heating system by yourself in two hours. You didn’t carry that giant hot tub up four flights of stairs by yourself and install it in an hour, either. And when you were up to your elbows in grunge on a job, or a customer groused at you, you may have come back to the office a little grumpy, too!

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By | June 20th, 2017|Leadership Power, Staffing Power|Comments Off on Attitude vs. Behavior: What’s the Difference?

What if I Train Them and They Leave?

What if I Train Them and They Leave? | Al Levi The 7-Power Contractor

Resistance—I get a lot as an industry consultant but when it comes to convincing a contractor client of the importance of training, resistance is something I can bank on.

I listen politely as they recount a bad experience or two they have had because they invested in someone who then left the company and went work for someone else—usually a competitor.

After a few minutes of this, I interrupt them and address the elephant in the room: “So, what you’re asking yourself is, ‘What if I train them and they leave?’”

“Yes.”

My reply, the only one that makes any sense, is, “What if you don’t train them and they stay?”

The next thing I typically hear from the owner is, “Darn it. I know you’re right and I hate it.”

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By | June 6th, 2017|Leadership Power, Staffing Power|Comments Off on What if I Train Them and They Leave?

I Can Do Everything… In a Job Interview

I Can Do Everything! The Interview | Al Levi The 7-Power Contractor

Stop me if this sounds familiar:

In the job interview, the candidate told me they could do it. Who knew that they couldn’t? Me!

I got blindsided by this so often in my contracting life. Looking back, it’s easy to know why I didn’t know what they could really do and not do. I hired out of desperation.

Here’s the reality. Sometimes, an employee would give us two weeks’ notice that they were leaving our company. And that was okay. Sometimes, we’d get one week’s notice. And that was tolerable. Sometimes, they’d just leave the keys to the truck in the front door mail slot and leave a note attached to their keys that they were gone. And that was bad.

It was really bad because we were always busy and needed everyone to be onboard. We were in the lucky position of having more work at our company than bodies to get the work done. I say “lucky” because we were able to charge the right price and be more selective about whom we did and didn’t work for and the type of work we would and wouldn’t do.

Yet again, it was a problem because we were always in reactive mode when it came to staffing.

How bad was this approach to staffing? My brother, Marty, called our hiring test “The Mirror Test,” which sarcastically meant that in our desperation, all you needed to do was fog the mirror and there was a good chance you could be hired. We were of course kidding….sort of, anyway.

Well, something had to give, and finally it did.

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By | May 24th, 2017|Leadership Power, Staffing Power|Comments Off on I Can Do Everything… In a Job Interview

What’s Finally Going to Fix Things at Your Company?

What's Finally Going to Fix Things at My Company? | Al Levi The 7-Power Contractor

What’s Finally Going to Fix Things at Your Company?

Well, let’s start with what won’t fix things at your company.

Putting out a daily fire without focusing on fire prevention is just wrong. Because that fire is bound to break out again tomorrow, and the day after tomorrow until the day you finally lock the front door of your company and say “Goodbye!”

What is going to fix things?

Becoming proactive about running your company instead of letting the company run you. That starts with putting the right tools in place to make running your company day-to-day way saner and way more sustainable.

The biggest and best tool is to document what it takes to run your company, without you having to ride your white stallion to the rescue from sun up to sundown.

That’s why I’m advocating you dedicate a portion of your week—no matter how crazy that week is—to creating a series of documents designed to keep fires from starting in the first place.

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By | April 18th, 2017|Leadership Power, Operating Power|Comments Off on What’s Finally Going to Fix Things at Your Company?

Urgent vs. Important But Not Urgent

The 7-Power Contractor

Everything in business is Important!

Not everything in business is Urgent. Thank heavens!

The trouble starts when all your focus is on fighting fires—dealing only with Urgent items—leaving no time to focus on any Important-But-Not-Urgent items.

When you’re firefighting day after day, how will you ever work on the importance of Fire Prevention?

Answer: You won’t!

This is the daily struggle we face as business owners, and even moreso as Contractors.

All of it feels like it’s urgent. This is especially true when there’s an unhappy customer yelling at you and threatening to post their unhappiness online to everyone on planet Earth.

Breathe.

Now, you and I both know that if everything is urgent, there’s no way to prioritize and maximize your and your staff’s day. You must develop the ability to separate the Important-But-Not-Urgent things that are going on at your company today, just like they did yesterday, that are likely to continue that way until the final moment you put the key in your office door.

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By | April 4th, 2017|Leadership Power, Operating Power|Comments Off on Urgent vs. Important But Not Urgent

The Secret Bonus Of Operating Manuals

The Secret Bonus of Operating Manuals | Al Levi The 7-Power Contractor

Working with consulting clients, I create the Operating Manuals early on to help them immediately minimize the daily chaos in their businesses. For fast-growing shops, it allows them to keep growing in a smarter way.

All good stuff.

But, I let them discover “The Secret Bonus” of these operating manuals, which is that they boost sales. Most owners realize this right away, because the best shops closely track sales data.

Here are the top 7 reasons why having operating manuals in place boosts sales:

The CSR Manual trains the CSRs to put Techs in front of the right customer. This frees the Tech up from wasting valuable productivity time explaining pricing and payment policies. This is learned in weekly meetings using the CSR Manual for phone role-playing.

By | March 21st, 2017|Leadership Power, Operating Power|Comments Off on The Secret Bonus Of Operating Manuals

Callbacks—They’re Déjà Vu All Over Again

Déjà Vu All Over Again (Or, How to Minimize Callbacks Once and For All) | Al Levi

“Déjà vu All Over Again” is a famous quote by the late, great Yogi Berra. I’ve lived this scenario, and I’m betting you have, too. I’m talking about callbacks--the bane of the contracting industry.

I worked in my family plumbing, heating and cooling business (today they also do electrical), so I know first-hand how demoralizing and damaging callbacks can be.

Here’s why:

1. Your customers have to needlessly take off extra time from their paying jobs to be there for your Techs again and again.

2. Callbacks rob your ability to do new service and install work because you have to redo a repair for no money.

3. They ruin your good reputation, especially today, when unhappy customers go online and tell the world.

Yikes!

By | March 7th, 2017|Leadership Power, Operating Power|Comments Off on Callbacks—They’re Déjà Vu All Over Again

How Great Techs Become Successful Owners

How Great Techs Become Successful Owners | Al Levi The 7-Power Contractor

You quit that tech job at an established plumbing, heating, cooling, and/or electrical company because you figured you could be your own boss, make your own hours and charge a little less, and the money would come flowing in.

Maybe yes. Maybe no.

If you’re reading this I’m betting you also discovered there’s so much more to running a successful business than just being a good tech. And if you’re like most, you’re probably not completely sure what all of that “more” is!

Don’t get me wrong, actually knowing technical stuff for the work you do is helpful. But, it can be a double-edged sword if you’re the only one who can run a call the right way (at least, in your mind, anyway). It automatically limits your growth.

By | February 21st, 2017|Leadership Power, Operating Power|Comments Off on How Great Techs Become Successful Owners