Business Builders


Inappropriate Communication

Inappropriate CommunicationGiven the title of this article, let’s first be clear about what we are writing about.  We do not speak here of communicating inappropriate things, rather we are talking about using a form of communication which is inappropriate for its purpose.  Once upon a time and not that long ago, there were two primary forms of communication.  You could either talk with someone face-to-face, or you could write them a letter if they were far away.  It is pretty easy to assess nonverbal cues and emotions when you are speaking with someone face-to-face, but it is more difficult when you are writing.  Perhaps that is why that letters were pages long back in the day, because people wanted to make sure their meaning was completely communicated.  There was typically no inappropriate communication, you either spoke to someone or wrote them.  One form was not substituted when the other was appropriate.  When the telegraph came along in 1844, it dramatically sped up long distance communication, but due to its expense, was not a substitute for a letter.

 

Perhaps the first electronic device that allowed for inappropriate communication was the telephone.  Invented in 1876, there were literally millions of American homes that had a telephone by 1910.  With the telephone, you could deliver unpleasant news in a way that allowed you from having to actually see that individual, while simultaneously making it easier to terminate the conversation at a time of your choosing.  The addition of voicemail made accomplishing that task easier yet.  In the past 30 years, numerous additional forms of communication have been added to our arsenal.  Email came first, and by making phones smart we made them ubiquitous.  Throw in videoconferencing and social media and you have a virtual communications cornucopia!

 

Why is it now that we have more ways to communicate than ever, communication has become more difficult than ever?  There is certainly no shortage of communication going on, go to any restaurant and observe families gathered around a table where all of them have their heads buried in their phones.  I have heard people say that their millennial offspring only communicate on Facebook or text, that it is pointless to send them an email or try to call them.  I even know one individual who is completely paralyzed, with no use of his hands.  Yet people who know he is paralyzed still send him texts!  Perhaps what is needed is a communications primer.

 

Such a primer would start by distinguishing between when to use verbal and when to use written communication.  Verbal communication is typically best used when you need to convey context associated with a message.  Verbal communication allows you to use elements of nonverbal communication, tone and intonation in order to strengthen elements of your message in a way that written communication cannot.  Additionally, verbal communication is the only method to use when you need immediate feedback from the person to whom a message is being sent.  Never substitute a text or an email when what is needed is a conversation.

 

Written communication is best used when a one-way delivery of facts is required.  The beauty of written communication is that it does not take as much time on the part of the receiving party to get the message , and you have a record of what was communicated.  Our time is the most precious commodity we all have, so using in person communication when written is appropriate can be a waste of everyone’s time.  Written communication is also the most appropriate form to use when you are sending a lot of detail, such as a proposal or technical document.  The most difficult thing to communicate in a written document is context.  People may take your message in a completely different light than the way you intended it.  Perhaps that is the reason for the rise in the use of emoticons, although they may not be appropriate in a business setting.

 

There is obviously no one correct way of communicating with someone, but as a society we seemed to have lost some awareness of what may be appropriate in different situations.  The correct method of communication depends completely on the situation calling for its use in the first place.  Perhaps the best way to choose the appropriate form of communication is to put yourself in the shoes of the one to whom the communication is intended.  A major part of being an effective communicator is the use of good judgment regarding the type of communication utilized.


That Floating Price Point

Chances are if you are a medium to larger size business, you have defined what type of organization you strive to be and what that means relative to pricing your products in the market.  For example, you may strive to be a leading-edge provider of the best products and solutions, and your pricing is targeted to yield a specific return, regardless of the competition.  On the other hand, you may have decided that all products are essentially commodities, and you strive to be the low price leader to the point of your target margin.  If however you are like many thousands of small businesses, you have never formally defined what type of organization you want to be, nor have you determined any type of pricing strategy for your business.  You simply bid each job as it comes, using some type of pricing mechanism that you believe will yield a profit.  This column is aimed at this last group, because there are a few proven things you can do to improve the profitability of your business relative to pricing, and it doesn’t take a Harvard MBA to implement them.

1. Define Your Overall Business Strategy.

This doesn’t have to be complicated, but it sets the tone for everything else you do.  For example, you may have gone into business for yourself because you thought you could do it better than how you have seen it done, and you thought in the long run you could make more money.  You would like to someday sell your business, and have it be attractive enough that someone would want to buy it.  Other than that, you just want to be competitive and make a good profit.  So, define what is a “good profit.”  Is that 1%, 5%, 10%?  You have to answer this question.  Consider that someday when you sell your business, someone will want to know what kind of profits it generates, whereby they might be willing to pay 5-7 times earnings for that business.  If your business is only generating 1% or 2% net profit, you may end up having to sell it strictly for the assets.  It’s a good idea to talk with others in your industry before committing your answer to paper, do not shortcut this step.

2. Understand Prevailing Prices in Your Market

Who are your main competitors?  What do their prices look like relative to yours?  It is important to understand the market in which you operate relative to your overall business strategy.  If you are like the business described above and you are in a medium-sized or larger market, figure out which competitors are most similar to yours in terms of your business strategy and understand where they price their jobs.  Perhaps you plan to offer a good-better-best product strategy, so make sure you are comparing apples for apples when you look at prevailing pricing in the market.

3. Determine Your Target Market

Do you want to do jobs anywhere, or is there a specific area you want to concentrate your efforts in?  Chances are, you intrinsically know the answer to this, so define it in terms of specific ZIP Codes, and areas within those ZIP Codes.  You can base this on the age of the housing stock along with a variety of other demographics easily available.  (I.e. age of homeowners, household income etc.) Focusing your efforts on the customers most likely to fit your overall business strategy enhances your ability to be successful.  This is also an essential step toward developing a targeted marketing campaign.

4. Develop A Pricing Strategy That Fits with Your Overall Objectives

Perhaps you have decided that you essentially want to have an “everyday price” strategy as defined by margin goals by class of product.  You are willing to negotiate within reason, but you want to spend the limited amount of labor hours you have on jobs that yield your target margins.  Given that, you might plan to run occasional promotions, essentially one time deals to entice customers at certain times of the year or to throw off your competitors.  If you have a good-better-best product offering, you could price it in such a way that higher-end products or solutions deliver commensurately higher margins.  On the other hand, you could “sandwich” your pricing in such a way as to drive the consumer toward the solution in the middle category.  The point is, there are a number of ways to accomplish the same objective.

5. Do Job Costing

It is imperative to know how much you made on each job relative to your objective, and why.  This allows you to make the necessary corrections in order to make sure you are achieving your ultimate objective.  There are many places you can go to get help putting in systems to accomplish all this, and they don’t have to be complicated.  They just require a commitment on your part to make it happen!

 

Images courtesy of egyptinnovate.com & aviationbusinessconsultant.com


Did You Fail the Interview?

Did you fail the interview?

Image courtesy of wiki how

Remember, you are not the only one who is conducting the interview. According to LinkedIn Business Solutions, 65% of candidates say a bad interview experience make them lose interest in the job.

Interviewing is one of those subjects that everyone has an opinion about, because anyone who has ever worked (which includes just about everyone) has been through one.  Most of us have been through more than one interview in our lives, which likely means we have experienced both good and bad interviews.  This refers to the quality of the interview, not to our performance in them.  Unfortunately, it seems like attention paid to the interviewing process is lacking by many of those conducting them.  For one, the interviewing process is all too often handled in too casual of a manner, and is not approached from a planned or analytical point of view.  For example, if the person conducting an interview is the one who happens to be available at that moment in time, consider your firm guilty of failing the interview!  Other cardinal sins of interviewing include the interviewer talking too much, winging it when it comes to asking questions, not writing down and keeping a record of the candidate’s responses and not being clear it when it comes to articulating next steps with the candidate.  So what should you be trying to accomplish in interview and what are some steps you should take to make sure that is accomplished?

The objective of the interview should be formally defined by the interviewer in advance, and stated to the interviewee at the beginning of the discussion.  For example, you might tell the interviewee that the objective of the interview today is to better ascertain the candidates skills and fit for the opening available, and to allow the interviewee to find out more about both the company and the position so they can better decide whether it is a good fit for them.  If this is only an initial interview, make sure that is clear at the outset.  All persons from the company who plan on interviewing the same candidate should briefly meet before hand to discuss their strategy.  There is nothing to be gained by having multiple people ask the candidate the same or similar questions.  For example, one person might drill down on the candidates education and experience, while another might probe how they have or would handle real or theoretical situations.  The point is to find out information that you cannot discern from looking at their resume.  Following that, the interviewer should keep the following in mind as the discussion progresses.

  1. Allow sufficient time for the interview. If you rush the interview because you have too many other things going on, that will send major negative vibes to the candidate.  Remember, you are not only taking time out of your day for this process, but also time that the candidate could be productively looking for a job elsewhere.  If you are not prepared to spend a sufficient amount of time on the interview, reschedule or don’t hold the interview at all.
  2. Your job is to learn more about the candidate, not to tell them all about the position and how great the company is. Generally speaking, the interviewer should talk 20% of the time and listen 80% of the time.
  3. Give serious thought to your questions before hand and have them written down. You should be asking open ended questions that will elicit conversation, not those that lend themselves to yes/no or pat answers.  Having the questions written down keeps you from straying too far off course, and it communicates that you take both the candidate and the process seriously.  On the other hand, you want to be flexible enough to pursue a line of questioning if it is merited.  If you ask a question that elicits concern or further questions in your mind, spend time following your concern until you are satisfied. Jot notes down regarding the candidates responses to them, because a week later you are not likely to remember key elements of the candidates answers.  In addition, these notes will be extremely important if they are needed for reference prior to/during a subsequent interview.
  4. Remember that you communicate not only with what you say, but with how you say it. Your inflection, eye contact and body language are sending messages to the candidate.  By the same token, be looking for both verbal and nonverbal clues from the candidate in terms of their reaction to certain questions or elements of the discussion.
  5. Following the interview, all persons from the company who spoke with the candidate should briefly get together to compare notes. If you are the hiring manager, you may hear something from one of the other interviewers that causes you to disqualify the candidate, even if you had not arrived at that conclusion from your particular line of questioning.

 

While much, much more could be (and has been) written about this topic, these tips can go a long way toward making your interviews significantly more productive – both for you and for the candidate.


Are You a Micromanager?

Are you a micromanager?

Image courtesy of Pinterest

The term micromanager is one that is perceived negatively by managers – as it should be!  The behaviors associated with being a micromanager include detailed inquiries into the activities of both the employee and projects they are engaged in.  Micromanagers not only want to control the outcome of their employees projects, they also want to direct the process of how those outcomes are achieved.  These managers feel it is their job to give detailed directions to their employee in order to maintain control of the project.  If you were to ask the manager how they felt about the way they interacted with their employees, they might admit to wanting to maintain control, but it is doubtful they would classify themselves as micromanagers.

 

Their employees however would offer a different perspective.  They would likely describe themselves as frustrated and their work environment as constrained.  Micromanagement can reduce an employee’s productivity because it inhibits their creativity and erodes their confidence in solving problems.  Over time, this can cause the relationship between the employee and their manager to become strained and can result in low morale and high turnover.  Micromanagement typically drives away the good people, leaving in place the less capable.

 

Why does a manager micromanage?  Typically, these managers fear losing control, and the only way they know how to maintain it is to involve themselves in every aspect of their employees activity.  They might fear losing control because they are a new manager, and don’t know how else to practice their managerial duties. An all too often scenario is that an individual who is highly skilled and has a great deal of expertise is promoted into management.  Now they find themselves in a situation where they have responsibility over individuals they see as being much less skilled, so they feel the need to exert control in order to achieve outcomes that look like the ones they have produced in the past.  Perhaps you are an entrepreneur who went into business for yourself in order to be your own boss.  Now your business has grown, and you have people working for you who have high levels of competence.  This might make you feel diminished or out of control, so you react by involving yourself deeper into the daily activities of your employees.  This likely will result in outcomes you don’t expect and don’t want.

 

Employees who are being micromanaged will likely react one of two ways.  On the one hand, they may develop a total dependence on the manager because they don’t feel like they can make a decision on their own.  That reduces productivity because employees feel that the best way to accomplish what the boss is asking for is to run everything by them before taking action on anything.  If the boss is busy, which is typically the case, waiting on decisions extends the timeline of the project.  It may also lead the employee to stop caring, which causes their talent to be underutilized because it is no longer offered.  On the other hand, employees who pride themselves on their own capabilities and expertise will feel building frustration and resentment toward the manager.  This resentment can lead toward conflict with the manager, and the resulting frustration can cause the employee to leave the organization.  If the employee was truly talented, their loss should be chalked up to poor management.  The best thing an employee can do with a micromanaging supervisor is to give them all the information they need.  Knowing their boss thrives on details, they should provide them with detailed reports.  They should also ask clarifying questions in order to make sure they know what their bosses are looking for, and repeat the answers they are given to make sure they have heard correctly.  For managers, the most important realization they can come to is that micromanagement does not offer any benefit as far as workplace productivity and employee development are concerned.  Managers need to be clear about what needs to be accomplished and by when, then give general directions as far as how the end result should be accomplished.  They should make it clear to their employees that if they want direction they should not be afraid to ask for it.  If the employee then does ask for guidance, they should not be berated for doing so.  By letting your employees make decisions about how they accomplish outcomes related to their responsibilities, you will be helping them learn how to become managers in their own right while freeing yourself for higher-level activities.


A Crisis of Trust

Source: supportforstepdads.com

The Annual Edelman Trust Barometer shows an overall reduction of trust in the four institutions it measures; the government, media, business and nongovernmental institutions.  In addition, the credibility of  “a person like yourself” – often a source of news and information on social media, has dipped to an all-time low in the studies history.  The survey shows trust falling more steeply in the United States than in any of the 28 countries surveyed, despite the robust economy and booming stock market.  The survey also showed that Americans’ trust in their own companies fell more steeply than in any other country.  Richard Edelman, head of the communications marketing firm that commissioned the research, said “The United States is enduring an unprecedented crisis of trust.”  Why is that, and could it be happening in your business?

 

The survey sites a number of reasons for this discord.  The past year has been one of exceptional public opinion volatility, and concerns about issues ranging from stagnant wage growth to mass shootings along with a number of others are juxtaposed against the buoyancy of a strong economy.  According to the survey, the result is an unsettled and unnerved public at large.  Particularly for business leaders, the survey suggests that this is not the time for inaction or staying silent.  Getting employees and customers to trust you can be complicated, but it is imperative to your success.  If lost, it may be impossible to recover.

 

According to Chelsea Berler of the Entrepreneurial Network, the following seven concrete actions build trust in a business environment.

  1. Demonstrate That You Trust Others. One way to do this is to be generous and forgiving when someone else makes a mistake or disappoints you in some way.
  2. Create Relationships That Are Mutually Beneficial. Customers and employees all want to believe they are making the right decision to work with you, and trust is about showing people you care about them.
  3. Directly Address Issues. How you deal with concerns and problems is what instills trust and loyalty.
  4. Tell the Truth. If you get caught in a lie, no one will trust you.
  5. Be Flexible and Patient. Trust is built over time, especially when you are dealing with someone who isn’t fortunate enough to have experienced trust in their own life.
  6. Respect Others Time. To earn others trust, raise your awareness of their time, personal schedule and needs.
  7. Deliver the Unexpected. The best way to deliver trust is to delight clients and customers.

 

Click Here, For more information on this topic from this article.

 

Sources: The Edelman Trust Barometer; Chelsea Berler, Entrepreneurial Network


The Amazon Effect

Howard Schultz, Starbucks’ longtime CEO and current Chairman, says the retail industry is facing critical challenges.  “For every consumer brand that exists today, especially a brick-and-mortar retailer like Starbucks, there are very unique challenges because there is such a seismic change in consumer behavior – the Amazon effect,” he said.  That’s not really news, anyone who has been paying attention knows that Amazon is reshaping the retail landscape.  But beyond vague awareness, what are the numbers?  What is really happening?

 

Amazon started with books, then went to selling virtually… Everything.  Sales of electronics and general merchandise have have increased in the range of 2-3% year-over-year since 2007, while e-commerce sales of these items have increased in the range of 14-17% during this time.  That means more and more sales in this category are happening online than in a brick and mortar store.  Sales at Amazon however in this category have increased 28-74% year-over-year during this timeframe, which means an increasing number of these online sales are happening through Amazon.  According to a 2017 Forbes article, “Amazon’s entry into a market segment reshapes shopping dynamics, upsets the supply chain and exerts tremendous pricing and margin pressure.  Store closings are followed by bankruptcies and once proud and dominant retailers are teetering on the brink.”  Amazon now accounts for approximately 43% of all e-commerce sales.  Can this go on forever?  Maybe, and while the Amazon Effect may be good for consumers today, there may be a reckoning in the long-term.  According to Forbes, Amazon isn’t required by its investors to make any real money.  Amazon shareholders provide huge subsidies to its delivery operation, and according to one analysis, Amazon lost $7.2 billion on shipping costs last year alone.  That’s billion, with a B.

 

Source: Marketingsherpa

Source: Marketingsherpa

 

What does that mean for the HVAC industry?  Certainly, the industry is not immune from this phenomena.  A recent ACHR article cited research by an HVAC manufacturer that showed 43 websites selling HVAC equipment direct to consumers, and these websites collected more than 40 million hits.  The article points out that as ominous as these figures might seem, the closing rate for these Internet resellers was only around 3%.  That suggests that consumers were using these websites more for education than for purchasing.  Part of their education however includes obtaining better information about the price of equipment.  That has implications for every contractor, because today’s consumers want to know what things are going to cost before they buy.  They (read millennial’s) are much less likely to be okay with time and material estimates or convoluted explanations of what things cost.

 

When big-box retailers first came on the scene, there were predictions of the demise of traditional contractors that didn’t come true.  Do not confuse the Internet phenomena however with the advent of big-box retailers.  Internet information and sales are here to stay.  The above-mentioned news article asks contractors what they will do if they are approached by consumers asking them to install equipment purchased online.  Predictably, many contractors will stiffen their back and say they will never bow to such transactions.  The question is however, is that the smart move?  When your labor is fully productive and you have more sales than you can handle, perhaps that is the smart move.  But that is not always the case, is it?  Does it make sense to ignore ways of productively engaging your labor when you are otherwise keeping people employed by having them clean the shop or the trucks?  So what should you do?

 

The first thing you should consider is to go to flat rate pricing if you are not on it already.  This allows you to be upfront with consumers about what things will cost without going into mumbo-jumbo.  It also allows you the opportunity to properly price your payable hours as billable hours.  Secondly, you have an advantage over a retailer who is selling widgets over the Internet.  You have an applied product, not something that is plug-and-play.  The Internet can’t (at least yet) replace your technical skills and your ability to diagnose all of the thermal characteristics that have impact on a consumers energy consumption and comfort.  With that in mind, you can create a complete menu of flat rate priced services for the consumer who wants you to install equipment purchased on the Internet.  For example, you can have a fee for examining the structure to make sure it is properly matched to the purchased equipment.  The examination of the home required for that transaction allows you to examine the condition of the thermal envelope, ductwork and commensurate leakage.  It also allows you to investigate the presence of other items of potential interest to the consumer, such as areas of insufficient comfort, smart thermostats and IAQ options.

 

The point is, you can either treat Internet buyers and inquiries as hostile to your business or as leads for your business.  As the ACHR news article says, “What is your strategy?”


Will You Be among the 65,000?

If it exists in the HVACR industry, you’ll find it here!

If it exists in the HVACR industry, you’ll find it here!

Will you be among the 65,000 attendees that are expected to attend the upcoming AHR Expo in Chicago?  The world’s largest HVACR marketplace got its start 86 years ago as a heating and ventilation show, but it has grown over the years into the event of the year for the industry.  Attending industry professionals will come from every state in the union and 165 countries worldwide.  They will be joined by more than 2000 exhibitors, who will come together to share new products, technologies and ideas.  What kinds of new technologies?  Take a look at the end of this article for just a sampling.

 

This year’s event will once again be held at McCormick Place in Chicago, from January 22-24.  Most people in the industry are familiar with this Expo, commonly called “The ASHRAE Show,” but if you have never been it is hard to imagine the sheer size of this event.  When we mentioned 2000 exhibitors above, we didn’t mean 2000 people.  We meant 2000 different organizations, each coming to exhibit their company’s product offerings!  That is why this international show, held only once every four years, exhibits at the nation’s largest convention center which has over 2,600,000 ft.² of exhibition space.  Fortunately for the attendee, only about 500,000 ft.² of exhibition space will be needed for the HVACR show!  If you are looking for new product lines to boost your company’s sales, or if you’re looking to change product suppliers, or just want to do some first-hand competitive and new product research, there simply is no other opportunity like this show.  This is the granddaddy of them all.

 

Many people do not realize there is much more to this show than just the exposition.  The AHR Expo is also a major educational symposium as well.  There are over 50 free seminars offered on a wide range of topics, most lasting only 1 to 2 hours.  In addition, The ASHRAE Learning Institute will offer continuing education courses where you can choose from half day to full day professional development seminars that offer professional development hour and continuing education unit credits.

 

Finally, if you have never been to Chicago this provides a great excuse to visit a truly world-class city.  Take a stroll along the Magnificent Mile, one of the great avenues of the world, a 13 block stretch of North Michigan Ave. that runs from the Chicago River north to Oak St.  Along the way you will see the famous Chicago Water Tower, one of the few structures to survive the great Chicago fire of 1871.  From world-class museums (i.e. The Museum of Science and Industry, Shedd Aquarium, The Art Institute of Chicago, The Field Museum Of Natural History) to iconic sports stadiums (Wrigley Field) to taking in unprecedented views from atop the tallest building in the Western Hemisphere, (Willis Tower) the “City of Big Shoulders” will quickly become your kind of town.

 

Giordano’s Deep Dish Pizza

Did we mention that you can find nearly every type of food there is in Chicago, ranging from affordable to world-class cuisine?  If you are not familiar with Chicago however, we will pass on a contractor’s tip which you will only find here.  If you are looking for genuine deep dish Chicago pizza, there is only one place to go –Giordanos Pizzeria!  Fortunately, you are not limited to just one location, as there are 18 scattered around the city and even more in the suburbs.  The secret is for you, but just remember, you heard it here first!

 

Sample of Innovations To Be Seen at the AHR Expo

 

  • A digitally controlled mixing valve that provides precise temperature control for domestic hot water applications
  • A self contained HVAC system for hazardous locations, designed to prevent an explosion
  • New bionic impeller technology with a special blade designed to ensure optimized airflow angles and reduced flow separation
  • An oscilloscope for testing motor shaft voltages, allowing contractors to determine if motors are at risk of premature bearing failure

 

For more information, see September 14, 2017 ACHR news article.


Making Your Business Better

Have you ever driven home at the end of a long day or week, feeling the need for a personal recharge?  Have you ever felt that there must be a better way to run your business?  Have you ever wondered if there are others feeling and experiencing the same things as you?  Of course you have, we all have.  Ernesto Bertarelli, an Italian born Swiss entrepreneur once said, “You can’t change who you are, but you can change what you have in your head.  You can refresh what you’re thinking about, you can put some fresh air in your brain.”  If you want to change what you have in your head and refresh what you are thinking about, you should definitely consider attending Service World Expo in September!  What is that, you ask?

 

Service World Expo (SWE) 2017 is a veritable learning event and tradeshow fiesta, and it is being held at the Mandalay Bay, in Las Vegas on September 7-8.  SWE 2017 provides learning events for residential contractors on business, management, hiring, and product development.  The tradeshow side of the event showcases cutting-edge products and services in plumbing, HVAC and the electrical home service industries.  What makes the show so special?  Well consider what you will have access to.  (Only a partial list)

 

 Don’t Forget about The Industry’s Best Tradeshow With the Newest Products and Latest Trends


Don’t Forget about The Industry’s Best Tradeshow With the Newest Products and Latest Trends

 

Keynotes

Ryan Estis is one of America’s leading business performance experts, and he will talk about the importance of promoting your brand as well as understanding the impact of social connections and technology on your brand.

 

Traci Brown is a body language and persuasion expert, speaker, author and three-time US collegiate cycling champion.  In this fast-paced keynote, you will learn how to use her system to separate lies from the truth in today’s headlines as well as your own life.  She will tell you how to instantly tell if someone is lying, decipher the important lies and quickly uncover the truth.

 

J.R. Martinez, American Actor, author, motivational speaker, and retired U.S. Army soldier.  Martinez received burns to over 34% of his body when his Humvee hit a roadside bomb in Iraq.  He will talk about how true potential can only be realized by believing, trusting and not quitting.

General Business Information

– How to avoid theft in your business, by Ruth King.

– Getting reviews your business deserves, by Daniel Lemin.

– Where to spend most of your time, by Adam Thompson.

– Recruiting and leading millennials, by Kenny Chapman.

– Getting a 10 X return on your time, by Allan Ferguson.

– Industry forecast panel, with Vicki Laplant, Jen Anesi, Mike Murphy & Steve Miles.

 

Service Department Information

– The five blockers of service management success, by Tab Hunter.

– Understanding the minds of technicians, by Nathan Broughton.

 

Sales and Marketing

– Making more sales in a fair, honest, and dignified manner, by Charlie Greer.

– Selling in the replacement market, by Bill Ligon.

– Web marketing, what works and what doesn’t, by David Squires.

– Making another million dollars by adding more trade lines, by MikeAgugliaro.

– The five step system to generating more qualified leads, by Matt Jones and Will Wang.

 

This does not include of course opportunities to rub shoulders with industry leaders and top performers.  The value of networking and making new connections for your business often exceeds the cost of attendance just by itself!  This is a Las Vegas bet you will be sure to win, so don’t miss this opportunity to participate in the service industry’s most impactful event of 2017!  Follow the link below for more details.

 

Service World Expo (SWE) 2017


The Case for Disability Insurance

A major disability is something that happens to someone else… until it doesn’t!  The sad fact is most Americans are better prepared to die than they are to deal with disabilities.  If you are in your twenties, the chances are you rarely think about this.  But you should.  Just over one in 4 of today’s 20-year-olds will become disabled before they retire.In fact, over 37 million Americans or about 12% of the total population are classified as disabledMore than 50% of those disabled Americans are between the ages of 18-64.  At the end of 2012, 8.8 million wage earners representing more than 5% of the entire workforce were receiving Social Security disability insurance, (SSDI) 2.5 million of these were in their twenties, thirties or forties.  But I’m careful, I eat healthy and work out you say.  As it turns out, accidents are NOT usually the culprit.  Statistically, about 90% of disabilities are caused by illness.  Cancer, heart disease and other illnesses cause the majority of long-term absences.  Consider the following statistic for a 35-year-old male.

These costs are immediate, expensive and often not covered by insurance!

These costs are immediate, expensive and often not covered by insurance!

A non-smoking male, 5’10”, 170 pounds, who works an office job with some outdoor physical responsibilities and who leads a healthy lifestyle has the following risks:

  • A 21% chance of becoming disabled for 3 months or longer during his working career
    • Of these, 38% run the chance that the disability will last 5 years or longer
    • the average disability length for this person is 82 months

 

Similarly, a 35-year-old female weighing 125 pounds has a 24% chance of becoming disabled for 3 months or more during her working career.  As you can see, the chances are simply too great to ignore for the average working person.  Furthermore, most people think that Workers Comp or Social Security Disability insurance will cover their needs if they become disabled.  According to the Council for Disability Awareness, less than 5% of disabling accidents and illnesses are work-related.  The other 95% are not, meaning Workers Compensation does not cover them.  In addition, according to the Social Security Administration, 65% of initial SSDI claim applications were denied in 2012.  The average SSDI monthly benefit payment for males was $1256 and for females was $993, with 93% of all recipients receiving less than $2000 per month.

 

Given these numbers, how well prepared are American workers for disability?  Not very.  Forty-eight percent of US families do not save any of their annual income, and one third of working families have no retirement savings.  Consider the following chilling statistics.

  • 68% of adult Americans have no savings earmarked for emergencies
  • 65% of working Americans say they could not cover normal living expenses even for one year if their employment income was lost.
  • 38% could not pay their bills for more than 3 months.

So what does the average family do when confronted with a disability?  They begin running up expenses on their credit cards, get a 2nd mortgage, cash in their 401(k) or take out a home equity line of credit and ask family and friends for assistance through sites like go fund me.  As you might guess from the above numbers however, these solutions are inadequate.  According to a Harvard study, 62% of all personal bankruptcies and over 50% of mortgage foreclosures are a consequence of disability, and many end up on Medicaid for insurance.  Keep in mind that while Medicaid rules vary from state to state, the general requirements for income are less than $931 per month and countable assets of $2000 per person, not including your primary residence (with limitations based on your home equity), personal property and household belongings and up to one motor vehicle.  ($3000 per couple living in the same household)

 

What is the answer then?  Disability insurance!  How common is it?  Consider:

  • 65-70 % of workers in the private sector have no long-term disability insurance
  • That equates to about 75-80 million private-sector workers who are without long-term disability income insurance
  • Worse yet, only 46% of workers have even discussed disability planning

 

Next Blog: Access To And Cost of Disability Insurance

 

Sources

American Journal of Medicine

US Social Security Administration

Counsel for Disability Awareness

US Federal Reserve Board

American Payroll Association

Get Sick, Get out: The Medical Causes of Home Mortgage Foreclosures


Start off the Year with a Vow to Improve Customer Service Skills

Start off the Year with a Vow to Improve Customer Service SkillsWhenever there is a discussion about customer service, your first thought likely gravitates to an interaction between your service technician and the customer.  While that is not the only interaction, it is the obvious one.

 

Don’t forget about the exterior of your building.  If a customer who is in the market for your products and services were to drive past your business, would they be more, much more, less or much less inclined to call you because of that interaction?  The same can be said for a customer who comes across one of your company’s service trucks, as well as one who calls your office or visits your website.  All of these have the power to bring potential customers closer…or push them away.

 

Let’s go back to that obvious one – your company’s service technicians.  Perhaps like no other, they have the ability to bind your company to the consumer in a way that will bring them back for many years if done correctly.  However, good customer service is a discipline that is regularly practiced and backed up with ongoing training and accountability.

 

Treating the customer equitably and with understanding and empathy is a given.  If your technicians are not going to do that, they should not be working for you.  This is the cornerstone of building trust in a long-term relationship.  Beyond that, they need to look and sound trustworthy.  It goes without saying, but your techs need to have a neat and clean appearance, and providing company issued clothing sends the message that you deem this important.  What about piercings and tattoos?  Feelings about that vary by owner, but remember – the customer is whom it matters to, not the service technician.  Good communication skills should also go without saying, but part of that means training your techs on how you want them to present problems and opportunities to the customer – and how to handle irate customers.  We all like to use technical terms and industry jargon when talking with each other, but the customer likely won’t understand any of it – and may be too embarrassed to let you know it.  By the same token, don’t talk down to your customer either, they may know more about the subject then they let on.  Make sure to pick up on cues for lack of or understanding, and take the time to answer their questions completely.  Rushing through an explanation or looking at your phone will let them know that the schedule is more important than they are.  Finally, treat the customers property with the same respect as you would your own.

 

By re-dedicating your company to these core behaviors, you can create a competitive advantage that customers will pay for!

 

Picture courtesy of SteveDiGioiacom