The Formula for World-Class Results

Written by John LaPlant

Owners of businesses are in the people development business. If people cannot grow, there is no scenario where the business can grow. Reliable products and quality repairs are the price of admission to the customer. No consumer in her right mind is going to spend hard-earned dollars on products or repairs that do not work, that fail to get the job done. Successful co-workers do more than get the job done in the technically correct manner.  Growing people requires more than making sure their technical skills are superb.  Growing people is rooted in the building blocks of character, attitude, ethics, discipline, excellence, maturity, values, passion, integrity, open-mindedness, team player mentality, and doing what is right.

On August 10, 2019, a young woman named Simone Biles, five-time Olympic Medalist with lots of GOLD, six-time National All-Around Champion and 14-time World Champion, did the impossible – the never done before. On the high balance beam and the floor exercise, she executed and nailed the double-double and triple double dismount/landing respectively. WOW! How does that happen? Yes, DNA plays a significant part, but rotating, twisting and summersaults? Then “sticking” the landing! Come on, how do you tell which way is up and where the floor is anyway??? Search out the video on Youtube. I get dizzy just watching it. Total amazement and total awesomeness! Congratulations to Ms. Biles.

Gymnastics has been this woman’s chosen profession for some time. She was committed to excellence. She spent countless hours in practice and countless hours visualizing that moment. She had high expectations for herself, but she also had high expectations from her coaches and her teammates.

Top-notch levels of performance take continuous coaching, training, practice, and dedication to excellence. Ms. Biles spends hours in training every day. It requires everyday attention to be top-notch.

Acquiring new skills, attitudes, or behaviors does not happen overnight. It does require repetition, training, and practice…maybe even perfect practice and that is true for business models as well.

A good friend of mine and an extremely successful, consummate businessman Don Johnson, owner of Freedom Heating and Air, said he spends an average of four hours a day training and practicing with team members. This activity can be a scheduled group or department function, or an unscheduled, informal at-the-coffee-pot kind of thing. Everyone participates in the interaction and role-plays. It is the company way of taking the culture and brand to the marketplace. It builds relationships and value-added transactions. It is the company’s common language for educating the market served. It is the currency of connecting with the customer. We should make this choice to continuously train this seriously. Otherwise, we do not get gold medals. In fact, it is more important than gold medals. It is our livelihood and professionalism.

Here is an example of what Don does: He will meet one of his team members in the hallway and say, “Tell me why I should have a surge protector on my home’s HVAC equipment?” He waits for a response.

Via training, Don has armed everyone with details like the number of average lightning strikes per month from weather data and the number of average power surges or brown-outs in the area. Interesting that people think of protecting their computers from power surges, and a computer only costs a few hundred dollars. But what about the HVAC system that costs several thousand dollars? Is it protected with a safety device? This is a type of continuous education that Don personally does in his company.

Power Selling Pros is very good at using phases that carry significant positive impact when engaging a customer on the phone or face-to-face. These are the phrases that translate into feelings like, “I made a good decision calling this company.” Or, “These guys will be thorough and will not take any short cuts so it will be a great value.” Or, “Wow, this is a problem-solving team of professionals…no run around here!” It’s another example of continually using the same language and benefits reinforced through training that creates the complete customer experience.

Companies work on phraseology as a part of the culture. Certain words and phrases become the company language. It pushes the envelope of success. It says “I am better than I was yesterday, but, not as good as I will be tomorrow”. It is accepting the philosophy of continuous improvement. Think about what is acceptable to say and do and what is just plain unacceptable.

Angie Snow, co-owner of Western Heating and Air, posted this starter template of customer service phrases. And Ken Goodrich, owner of Goettl Air Conditioning, added to the list, “I’ll do my best.” And, April Hines, 2nd generation owner of Bay Air Conditioning, made posters and put them up on any wall space available as gentle reminders.  It should get everyone on the team thinking about how to improve their role and ability to connect with the customer.  And practicing everyday gets the company that much closer to gold.

There is nothing easy to becoming world class. It takes fortitude and consistency, but it is the real differentiator. Simone Biles has certainly differentiated her skills in the world of gymnastics. There are no short-cuts to greatness. Have you differentiated your business in the service world? Did you “stick” the customer service landing today?

Service Roundtable is dedicated to growing your bottom line and helping your business maximize its full potential. These group of contractors work together to assist you with marketing, sales, business, and so much more. Twice a month, seminars around the United States and Canada are held to network and further assist your business. Visit Service Roundtable.com to see if there are Success Days in your area!

The Frozen Sea within Us

Written by Dave Rothacker

“A book must be the axe for the frozen sea within us.” – Franz Kafka

From the website Faena: “…if reading is in fact a way for us to experience all the things that we cannot experience in real life, then both in our senses and our emotions, we must be brave enough to receive that “blow to the head”, which will awaken us from our frozen lethargy, and could one day save us from something we do not even know is oppressive. Reading, hence, would be freedom.”

Although Faena and Kafka talk about fiction here, science and business non-fiction can also be the axe of awareness that cracks the surface and awakens the frozen lethargy within us.

What frozen lethargy you ask?

Lethargy frozen from the inside out is due to excessive years of running on the hamster wheel. While many need awakened in specific areas like marketing, sales, and financials, the one in most need for business owners is a leadership belief system.

I’m partial to leading with the WHY of why you are in business, often referred to as purpose. Simon Sinek’s Start with WHY is the seminal book in this category. Another excellent resource is John Maxwell. Read one of his books on leadership and you’ll want to read more. If you’re new to Maxwell, I suggest reading some of his older books on leadership first and save his latest book Leadershift, for last.

Sharpening the Axe

Did you ever finish reading a book and then a day later, wonder what you read?

When it comes to reading books, the most effective sharpening stone I’ve found is intent. Intend to learn. Prior to reading, jot a couple of notes down on what you intend to do with what you’re learning. For instance, if it’s the recent Gallup book It’s the Manager, I might write, “work on helping our managers become coaches,” and “look to improve communications with our managers.”

Keep the intent in the back of your mind as you read, and review it before every chapter. Make it an intent to learn!

My Process

I read hardcover books. If the book is not available in hardcover, I cover my own with cardboard. I prefer this style and method because I write in my books.

When cracking a book for the first time, I read the chapter titles, acknowledgements, about the author and the preface. I then write down my learning intent on the first page of the first chapter.

Prior to reading a chapter, I read its titles and headings. Next I read the chapter summation and or review points. This helps me to concentrate on what the author views to be important, as I read.

Tools

I use Field Note pencils to print notes in my books. I choose print over longhand because it slows my mind down and allows me to think about what I am making a note on.

I use Sharpie Highlighters for:

Orange – Questions and introductory sentences

Yellow – Generally important text

Green – One level above generally important

If there is a point or theme I want to remember on a page, I use purple and red Crayola washable markers to name and write it on top of the page.

I use lined Post-it notes to bookmark pages and make other notes. I then write outside of the lines. Why? To me, the lines represent authority.

Reading chair – I have a comfortable chair and use daylight lighting.

Dictionary – While I could easily use my cell phone or tablet, I prefer the tactile feel of the book dictionary, highlighting every word I look up. I also permit myself to wander a bit when I’m there. My dictionary of choice is the American Heritage.

Computer tablet – I keep an Amazon Fire at arm’s length to look up websites and other info that I don’t feel like reading on my cell phone.

Reading Supplements

I read to learn, get ideas, gather material to help guide others, and eventually to write. Whether or not you’re a business owner, manager, or writer, think about trying this out.

Keep blank paper nearby to jot down quick notes, ideas, and to-do’s. For further exploration, write ideas down in composition notebooks. I separate my ideas by theme and keep about five different notebooks by my reading chair.

If I owned a company I would label my notebooks:

  • Leadership
  • Customers
  • Marketing
  • Management and Coworkers
  • Financial
  • Assets (building, trucks, equipment, etc.)

Teach Others

I struggle with this one because I think of myself as more of a guide than a teacher. But according to two of the best, John Maxwell and Stephen Covey, the most effective way to learn, is to teach. And by that they mean read one chapter and then teach it.

Recommend Books

While I could always do a better job of recommending books, David Heimer and his Profiles in Prosperity keeps me on track! (Episode 44 was my last)

Most recommended bookWriting the Natural Way by Gabriele Rico. Ms. Rico, who passed away in 2013, teaches a technique called clustering, which is similar to mind mapping. It’s the greatest thinking tool I’ve yet to discover. And it’s what I do in those composition notebooks I describe above.

Interesting Discovery

If I really like a book, I reread it a few times. The initial highlighting speeds up the process for second and third reads. Up until a few years ago, I’d put the book on the shelf and quietly think, “How many more books can I get away with before my bookshelves start creeping out of my office into the rest of the house?”

Although I have a system now where certain books march out to the garage, I began to reread shelved books. I soon discovered that this isn’t the same book I read before and I’m not the same person who read it. It’s fascinating how much we change, grow, and develop (or not) since last reading it. Reread favorite books.

Wield your axe in confidence. Crack through that frozen sea and develop your leadership belief system.

Service Roundtable is dedicated to growing your bottom line and helping your business maximize its full potential. These group of contractors work together to assist you with marketing, sales, business, and so much more. Twice a month, seminars around the United States and Canada are held to network and further assist your business. Visit Service Roundtable.com to see if there are Success Days in your area!

Keep Your Employees in the Productive Happy Zone!

Written by Steve Mores

I’d like to start out with a disclaimer here that I am not a licensed psychiatrist or therapist. So, when it comes to clinical or medical challenges regarding mental health, please seek professional help. What I would like to discuss are some of my thoughts based on observations from the field, as well as books and articles related to positive thinking and happiness. I believe we can all agree for the most part, happy people are more productive and do things for a belief or cause rather than for a need. They tend to do positive things for their customers and company because they want to, not because they have to. The cool thing is, notwithstanding an event that causes you stress or sadness, you can choose to be happy or not. Let’s discuss some simple exercises you can do with your team to keep them in the Happy Zone!

Many positive thinking gurus tell us over and over again that there is power in positive thinking. I don’t devalue what they say or written, since it’s all good advice to live by. Yet when I have attended seminars or read books and articles on the subject, I have noticed that many of the people in attendance or reading these are usually already positive and motivated. We just like to hear and read more about it. What about those that are stuck in a rut and don’t want to hear it?

From Mahatma Gandhi, Wayne Dyer, Deepak Chopra, Zig Ziglar, and others, we hear a similar message: We are likely to experience positive results with positive thinking and unwanted outcomes from negative thinking. Positive and negative thoughts can become self-fulfilling prophecies and what we expect can often come true.

Accordingly, what they say is that if you believe you’re going to make a mistake, the chances are that you probably will. This is because you already have a preconceived notion that you will fail and won’t put the proper effort or seek support from others.

Positive thinking, on the other hand, is often associated with positive actions and outcomes. You’re drawn to and focus on the positive aspects of a situation. You have hope and faith in yourself and others, and you work and invest hard to prove that your optimism is justified. You’ll motivate and enthuse others, and they will want to help you succeed in your efforts. This will instigate positive productive outcomes.

What it comes down to is this: Positive, optimistic people are happier and healthier and enjoy more success than those who think negatively. The key difference between them is how they think and interpret the events in their life.

So, if you have naysayers and negative employees that have constant contact with your customers, they will have a negative impact on your business. Plus they are unhappy, which makes you unhappy, and gives your customers a bad customer experience.

The solution is to have a meeting and just tell your employees to be happy and positive. It’s that easy!

We wish it was! The first step to changing negative thinking into positive thinking is to become aware that you’re being negative in the first place. And this is not so much for someone that is “having a bad day”, as much as it is for the chronic negative thinker. Allow me to illustrate:

Keep my disclaimer in mind. For the purposes of this discussion and not for clinical evaluation or diagnosis, this illustration graphically represents different positive and negative thought processes. The left part of the curve represents the past. We can’t change it, but we have two ways of dealing with it:  We can dwell on the negative things that have happened to us, which drives us to unhappiness, or we can learn from the past, which gives us the wisdom to make positive changes in the present. We can stay on the depressive negative low end of the curve or move up to wisdom which creates happiness in the present.

The right side of the curve represents the future. There are two ways of dealing with the future as well: We can constantly worry about negative things that might happen, or doing everything you can in the present to have a positive impact on the future. You can hang out on the anxiety-stricken low end of the curve or move up the curve with hope for the future, which creates happiness in the present as well.

Suffice it to say, the way we think of the past will result in the way we act today, which determines our outlook on the future. We can effectively start changing our outlook from negative to positive with a few simple exercises. These even help the person with an already positive outlook to move higher up on this curve.

“If you change the way you look at things, the things you look at change.”  Wayne Dyer

“What we achieve inwardly will change outer reality.” Plutarch

We can hand our team books or podcasts on positive thinking, yet many won’t take the time or the effort to read or listen to them. So, here are some things to move them along this upward path.

  • When your team members come into the office, ask them, “how’s it going” and note their reply. Whatever their reply is, have them change it to “Great!” or better. “Good” becomes “Great!”, “OK” becomes “Great!”, “Surviving” becomes “Great!” and so on. If they say, “I’m doing great!” have them change “great!” to “awesome!” Hold them accountable every time you ask. At first, they may say it sarcastically, yet over time, it will become a positive habit and starts the attitude change from negative to positive and positive to super positive.
  • According to Aristotle, we strive for happiness in everything we do, and he distinguishes between four different levels of happiness. Things – Yourself – Others – Life.  Meaning: 1) material things, 2) self-accomplishments, 3) doing good things for others, and 4) the search for the ultimate perfect happiness in life. The fourth one is the most difficult to describe. Some fulfill this desire through spirituality or religion, others through philosophy, art, or scientific endeavors. There’s no definitive or universal answer. You have to find your own calling!

Psychologists found that those who are grateful and practice giving thanks to others have significantly higher levels of happiness than those who do not. They studied a practice called the “Three Good Things” exercise, and found that it significantly increases happiness by making us more aware of what gives us joy.

This exercise is a simple one to promote to your team. At the end of each day, have them write down three positive things, large or small that they experienced during the day. They could relate it to Aristotle’s four levels of happiness. (I had a great sandwich for lunch; I received a bonus for getting a customer happily involved in an IAQ system; I helped an elderly customer by changing a light bulb; I said a prayer in petition for someone in need.) Those that undertake this practice report that they are significantly happier than those who did not.

  • A similar exercise is to write a gratitude list of things that you are thankful for. Then read this list everyday first thing in the morning. Many successful people attribute part of their success and most of their happiness to writing and reading their gratitude list daily.

Start your team off by asking them to write down three things that they are grateful for. Don’t over complicate it. It could be as simple as being thankful for daily meals, a comfortable home, and good friends. Have them add something new to the list every day or when they think of something new. Ask them to read it every morning and this helps radiate joy all day long.

This can then develop into a more involved yet still simple process. Oprah keeps a daily journal and lists the things she is grateful for that happened to her each day. She has been doing this for years and says it is the key to her being stable and happy. Arianna Huffington shares her journal with friends, and they exchange what they are thankful for.

Google it and you will find many ways of doing this, simple things to be grateful for (a great cup of coffee), and testimonials from successful people we know and many we don’t. All with a common theme: Every day is a mixture of good things and bad things that happen, and a gratitude list helps you focus on the good, which drives us to be positive and happy.

Thanksgiving Day comes only once a year, but a gratitude list makes it a daily habit of starting your day on a positive note. Sometimes, we have to remind ourselves that there are many good things in our life that we need to be thankful for.

These simple exercises will help your team change negative, nonproductive behavior to positive, productive, happy attitudes. It won’t happen overnight. Studies show that it takes 21 – 90 days of doing something new or stopping something old to change a habit. But this will go a long way in improving customer relations, employee retention, and build a culture where everyone works together to improve their careers, the company, and the lives of others. This also extends into positively influencing relationships outside of work.

Just telling someone they need to be more positive or to “quit being so negative” doesn’t change their attitude or behavior. In some cases, they will take offense, and it will make things worse. Start them out with these simple exercises and they will want to expand it from there. Everyone wants to be happier, so show them the way!

Try it! It’s fun and it works. Then, you can add “I helped my employees become happier and more positive” to YOUR gratitude list!

Steve Mores is the Vice President of Residential Sales and Training at Dynamic Air Quality Solutions.

Service Roundtable is dedicated to growing your bottom line and helping your business maximize its full potential. These group of contractors work together to assist you with marketing, sales, business, and so much more. Twice a month, seminars around the United States and Canada are held to network and further assist your business. Visit Service Roundtable.com to see if there are Success Days in your area!

Seeing is Believing…Do You Believe?

Written by John LaPlant

Most progressive contractors consistently try to increase average tickets. And they should. Why is this critical? The cost for a typical company to get a professionally trained technician, in a fully stocked company service vehicle, from point A to point B, is a crisp $100 bill.

With an emphasis on logic, reason, and value to engage the customer, we always try to communicate options to improve comfort, health, safety, and security for the best possible in-home lifestyle. Word pictures do not always convey the message.

One company started using the “real-time eyeglass recording and viewing technology,” such as Company Cam or XOi, in their residential replacement department. A Comfort Consultant shows up for a marketing-generated, scheduled appointment with a prospect. As the Comfort Consultant is inspecting the customer’s installation requirements, she is also using the eyeglass technology to record difficult or unusual aspects that an installation team would encounter. Nameplates are archived. The salesperson explains that this detailed, documented approach is to protect the homeowner’s investment and assure the job goes smoothly and meets all parameters of the agreed-upon specifications. Of course, photographic permission is obtained from the customer.

The homeowner is also shown an example of a video from a past job – like a live before and after snapshot. This includes the quality assurance walk-through at the end of the job and any homeowner comments. The homeowner also sees the company standards of excellence for commissioning a system to operation. Not just, “throw the breaker on” and “good luck”!

This is a unique opportunity for differentiation. It is a leverageable opportunity to spotlight a company’s Unique Selling Proposition.

Should this job close, the video and pictures become a great teaching tool for the installers to use on the job. The installation team has a clear understanding of the promises made to the customer and which details are most important to the customer.

It is also a way to safeguard the integrity of the sales process. The salesperson should be required to have specific video segments – such as where the pad will be located for new equipment and to review these aspects of the installation with the installers. Only when these requirements are met and the job installed and paid for, does the salesperson receive full commission.

This library of videos also builds a library of training situations for new hires. It is rich with what to do and what not to do. This eyeglass recording technology is cloud-based and stores data by customer ID, install team name, etc.

In the company that implemented this technology, the sales team quickly recognized the value to the customer. The salespeople wanted the residential service department to use it too. Initially, this department discounted the idea and basically said, “Too much work.” Sales did not give up.

The sales team set up a demonstration of how the technology could benefit both service and sales and how it increased the customer’s perception of value, quality, and workmanship. Then sales and service tried it together….on real service calls like a “beta test”.

The test began on two service calls with older equipment. In neither case was the customer thinking replacement. Using the eyeglass technology, the technician provided the homeowner with video documentation of what the system needed.

In the first case, the homeowner decided to talk with a salesperson and the video information better prepared the Comfort Consultant for the follow-up sales call.

In the second case, the customer was not interested in talking about replacement, but the video technology allowed the technician to bring up his recommendations for a system Refresh Package. The visual documentation of motor amp draws, airflow, compressor amp draws, capacitance readings, flame proving parts, and worn components such as pitted contacts on a contactor allowed the technician to visually explain why the factory refresh package was a good investment. The technician could use the video to explain the advantages of turbo capacitors and sealed contactors

The eyeglass technology presents an opportunity for the technician to be proactive and pre-emptive at the same time. The technician expresses his understanding of why a customer would want to get a couple more useful years out of his eight-year old system. The technician further explains that based on his experience and knowledge the Refresh Package would be a good investment. After all, the factory refresh package contains the items most likely to fail at the eight to nine-year point and protection devices such as a surge protector.

Provide the technician with information such as the average number of lightning strikes locally, the number of power spikes and the number of “brownouts” in the area. Then the technician can ask why the customer does not have an indoor and outdoor surge protector, which is an included part of the Refresh Package.

Companies report the Refresh Package is a valuable win for the customer, an expert win for the technician and a process win for the company. The customer is happy; he or she gets what was wanted – peace-of-mind and longer life from the system. And to make sure the customer has no regrets about the investment in the Refresh Package, l the customer receives a No Breakdown Guarantee and a full or partial credit of the cost of the Refresh Package should the customer elect to go for new equipment in the next 12 months. The technician is happy because he received a bonus or incentive. The company is happy because the labor capacity performance KPI is substantially improved.

In the company that implemented this procedure, a very interesting dynamic emerged. Two departments that used to be stand-alone silos started working together and speaking the language of problem-solving by using video and pictures. They assisted each other finding new leads and looked via visuals to better serve their customers. They had one another’s backs!  And, field operations certainly got more efficient.

Service Roundtable is dedicated to growing your bottom line and helping your business maximize its full potential. These group of contractors work together to assist you with marketing, sales, business, and so much more. Twice a month, seminars around the United States and Canada are held to network and further assist your business. Visit Service Roundtable.com to see if there are Success Days in your area!

Is Your Marketing Ruling the Roost?

Written by Danielle Putnam

Let’s be honest, have you done your September marketing? Are you a few months ahead? We all know that we need to have our marketing efforts organized and ready to go before the phones stop ringing, but the “busyness of the business” has us putting it on the backburner.

I think of my planning whiteboard like a big coop of chickens. Right now, every task, every chicken, has its own color-coded nest, but all the chickens are running around pecking at one another and pecking at me, demanding my attention. Each day, I plan to focus on feeding the most important chickens—the ones that are really going to push my business forward; my super chickens. But the other chickens are clucking and begging for some food as deadlines draw near.

I throw a big handful of feed out, but at the end of the day, I got a little bit done in a lot of things; I got all of the chickens a taste of food, and yet my prized chickens, my super chickens, are not yet plump enough for the county fair. Meanwhile, I’m fried!

I’ll bet you have your own chickens in your business pecking around for attention, too, right? You’re running a business, managing your team, keeping customers satisfied, answering phone calls and emails, focusing on craftsmanship, and on top of all that, you have marketing to do, too. It can get pretty overwhelming.

I found that I was always marketing “today” when I needed leads or a service call “today.” Well, we all know from Marketing 101 that you can’t market for today; you have to market for the future. So, I worked to develop a way to keep myself ahead of the game. The marketing calendar I made gives me a nice little nest egg for my business. It prompts me to shake a tail feather and list out the marketing I want for two months from now, so I am always thinking ahead. That means I am constantly building content and repurposing content that worked, and I know how to space it out. Each month, it says to start marketing for two months from now and at the end of each month, it says that those projects are due to be finalized. It also gives space to plan marketing for social media, email, and print.

And wow, something else I found is that it isn’t just about planning ahead, but next year, my road map is already done. With the marketing calendar, you take your numbers and successes from the previous year, and instead of trying to remember what you did, you already know what you sent out and what worked and what didn’t. Many big businesses say you don’t need a calendar because things change, but it’s good to have some pieces ready in your pocket so they don’t get pushed to the back burner. I don’t plan my whole year out, but I go two months at a time, so my pieces are already rotating around in the rotisserie.

Want a tool to help you rule the roost?

If you don’t want your feathers ruffled worrying about making your own marketing calendar, shoot me an email and I’ll physically MAIL you one, too (FREE 😊 )!!! It’s a large, 11×17” full color calendar. Let’s start incubating our September marketing plans now.

Are you tending to your super chickens, or are you a chicken with your head cut off?

By the way, if you’re coming to Service World Expo, be sure to join me for my session; I’ll tell you how to dumb down your marketing and really focus on what works. No spoilers, but you don’t want to miss it. Go ahead and put your eggs in that basket.

Danielle Putnam is the President of The New Flat Rate and Women in HVACR. The New Flat Rate, a home service menu-selling system designed to put profit directly into the hands of plumbing, electrical, and HVAC contractors. Women in HVACR, a non-profit member-based organization providing professional avenues for networking and educating women while encouraging more women to enter the trades. For more information, email danielle@menupricing.com or visit www.thenewflatrate.com and www.womeninhvacr.org.

Service Roundtable is dedicated to growing your bottom line and helping your business maximize its full potential. These group of contractors work together to assist you with marketing, sales, business, and so much more. Twice a month, seminars around the United States and Canada are held to network and further assist your business. Visit Service Roundtable.com to see if there are Success Days in your area!