Coming at you live once again from the ACCA 2022 Conference & Expo, this episode is a true meeting of the minds! To The Point Host and CEO of RYNO Strategic Solutions lead a Q&A panel where contractors asked their most pressing questions for our esteemed panel to discuss, debate, and dissect.
Without further ado, let’s dive into your questions and see what kinds of gems we learned from the panel!
When asked, the panel responded pretty much in agreement with this question. Lee noted that the best success they’ve had in recruiting is really just to build their own! Ken mirrored this, mentioning the Goettl Academy. With your own training school/program, you can attract newer candidates that don’t come with bad learned habits. You can mold them into your own, integrating them with your company culture and how you want things done!
It doesn’t have to be a whole academy of your own, either. Perhaps it’s as simple as bringing in a single trainer to help get a few people started. You can get involved with your local trade schools, and recruit students coming out of those programs. Don’t get stuck looking for candidates with a ton of experience. What you want is someone who has the right character fit for your culture. You can teach them everything they need to know.
The other piece our panel pointed out is that your culture and involvement in your community and network is vital. People want to work for a company that has great culture and takes care of its employees! Also, staying involved in the industry and making sure people know you have an open door can pay huge dividends down the line.
There were a few different lines of thought when this question was asked. On one hand, Ken mentioned that trying to get technicians to sell maintenance plans didn’t work out for him. Most of them got sold over the phone. WIth the right script and team, you can get thousands per month together. Chris Hoffman has had the same experience. One the other hand, 100% of Ryan’s come from out in the field. He points towards accountability as the major factor there.
What is consistent here, though, is that the panel agrees on building value in your maintenance agreement. That’s the real key. Not just for the customer, either. You have to make sure your team understands the value in what they are selling! If they believe it has value, they will have no trouble convincing the customer. Make it simple, make it valuable.
Ryan points out quickly that if you look at any study on employee retention, it’s not just about the money. Sure, it’s a factor, but it usually falls lower on the list than one might expect. What you really want is for your team to feel engaged and appreciated. That’s a powerful retention tool in and of itself. Lee compliments this and takes it a step further, mentioning that since he started his first company decades ago, they’ve never laid off an employee for lack of work. Not once. It’s about communication with your team, and treating them like family. He makes it a point to know employee birthdays, giving them positive feedback, and of course making sure the paychecks are solid. Chris Hoffman agrees, pointing out that you can’t just leave problems at the door. He’s gone as far as to pay out of his own pocket to help employees get through substance abuse programs, for short term disabliity, and all kinds of things he doesn’t “technically” have to do because he cares about his team.
Chris Hoffman provides more layers here, saying that creating a similar experience for your employees is crucial. That all starts with leadership. People want to work for people who value and appreciate them, and genuinely want to to help them grow. Brian adds that it’s all about how you treat your employees and your customers. Chris Yano points out that giving back together is a great way to build that company culture that will give employees that connection they won’t want to leave.
Ken Goodrich believes that the most important piece of retaining people is your management. It’s how you manage people. He started out as a technician and went through the evolution that many owners do, and learned how to manage people through trial and error. Management is a skill like being a technician or installer – it has to be learned, and it has to be practiced. One of the tools Ken has found success with at Goettl is a program called MAP, which trains their technician people as they move up through the ranks how to manage people.
Ryan Kletz jumps right in to say that leaders are leaders regardless of what industry they are from. You should be looking for good leaders, and they are hard to find! If you’re lucky enough to find one, take them. Ken Goodrich points out that his leadership team includes a former rockstar, PE guy, national salesperson for a paper company, and F-16 pilot. Enough said! Chris Yano adds that not all great players are great coaches, pointing to the need in some cases to hire outside of your organization. It can’t just be promoting your best technician.
Ken takes things a bit further and brings up the Peter Principle, which he has talked about on the podcast before. At some point, people will hit their ceiling and be at the highest position they can be while still being effective. As your company grows, you will inevitably need to bring in new experiences and new skills to add value. If your team isn’t growing and expanding in the same way, you’ll stall. The leadership teams of the most successful companies generally have a mix of talent and experience from a variety of industries because that is what brings the most value. That’s where you get fresh ideas to implement and stay ahead of the pack.
Ken believes that our trades have really started to see the benefits of working on your brand. By building a brand and a brand story, you can resonate with your communities and connect with people faster. There are all kinds of lead generation methodologies – digital being the most prevalent today – but you’ll find way more success in everything you do for lead generation when you focus on your brand and brand story. Make sure people know who you are and what you do first. Lee agrees, and mentions that while brand and referrals is huge, it does take time and effort. You have to be serious about it.
Brian is convinced that marketing to your existing customer base is huge. During a marketing study at Bovio Rubino Service, they found that their customers didn’t know all of the services they offered and may not have known everything about the business, but they sure knew the brand. That’s what they were calling for. If you’ve build that customer loyalty through your brand, why not tap into that first?
Chris Hoffman, operating his business out of St. Louis, is going through shoulder season right now. The weather isn’t generating enough demand. What they’ve been working on at Hoffman Brothers is updating their equipment history with their customers and focusing on their maintenance plan members. Keeping equipment information up to date and accurate allows them to focus on those 15, 20+ year-old systems. By being smart about the information you’re collecting and using it with your daily call board and other systems can really be huge during those slower times.
For Ken, he’s found that the least expensive, most effective lead generation you can do is getting the phone numbers and databases of smaller companies that are looking to exit. It might be that they are ready to retire, they’re done with the business, whatever — grab that database. Also, stay in contact with your industry! This industry is pretty unique in that everyone is willing to help each other and trade experiences. Learning from your peers can give you some great ideas.
Ryan thinks that the first thing you need to have in order is your foundation. Of course, “foundation” is a pretty vague term but what he means is having the pieces in place. For him, it was having their main office in place before trying to expand. Whether it’s culture, KPIs, recruiting efforts, profitability, marketing, or whatever, you have to have that foundation in place before you can really scale successfully. When they expanded, they had a plan and executed because they had those pieces in place.
Expanding on Ryan’s point, Brian points out that perhaps it isn’t about having a specific key process, but having SOME process at all. You need something written down. Have actual processes written down that someone can follow. Adding to that thought, Lee says his business has processes for everything. For a long time he’s been saying “you have to know your numbers cold”. You have to not just have processes, but you need to know your financials inside and out. It’s a lot of things that contribute to successful scaling.
On that note, Ken brings up something we’ve had him on the podcast to discuss before. It’s his 7 Centers of Management Attention! It comes down to having a management team armed with these processes, trained and able to execute with a plan in place.
In 1990, Ken Goodrich was ready to close the doors to his business. He had a few hundreds bucks to his name, and saw a flyer for an ACCA convention in San Antonion. Desperate to try anything, he scrounged up his pennies and flew out not know how he’d make payroll the next week. He told his story, spent those 3 days learning, got some ideas, and landed on his feet when he returned home. Those three days helped him through his challenge and connected him with others in the industry. That’s what started it all; everything he has built over the years.
This is why groups like ACCA are so valuable, and why it’s so important to be willing to connect with your community and your industry. There are a ton of people who have been through it all and want to help! It’s what makes To The Point such an amazing platform for us to give back and allow you to connect with these amazing people in the amazing service industries we’re connected with. Ask questions and learn. There’s plenty more in the audio and video of this episode that didn’t make it into the blog, so be sure to check it out for even more wisdom from this panel!