Keep doing business as you are, and you’ll stay afloat… at least a while. And dying in your beds, many years from now, would you be willin’ to trade ALL the days, from this day to that, for one chance, just one chance, to come back here and tell our competitors that they may take our ideas, but they’ll never take…OUR AMBITION!
Eddie McFarlane, VP of Learning and Development for Haller Enterprises, is so much more than simply a training expert in the trades. Hailing from Alloa, Scotland, Eddie sees the HVAC industry, training, and possibilities of our industry with a different perspective than most, giving him the freedom to implement innovation and his incredible repertoire of wisdom from the ages into his success at Haller. Also one of the co-founders of Schedule Engine, Eddie continues to make his mark on our industry by changing the way training, technology, and innovation is used to grow business and improve the customer experience.
Eddie came into the industry about 20 years ago. Even then, as many may remember, there was a skilled trades workforce shortage. It was more opportunistic and a second career than a reflection of his natural talents, as he wasn’t the kid who grew up taking the toaster apart and rebuilding cars in the garage. Eddie credits his success to being the beneficiary of a great company with great people, systems, and processes. He started out as a PM technician/helper, and after a few years, joined the Haller team. From sales management to the B2B side of things, Eddie worked his way up Haller and continued to help grow the company into the 400 employee, four location service force it is today.
Haller Enterprises was started out of a garage, and is the story of a company who simply had a better way of doing things. Initially only offering electrical services, plumbing and HVAC were added into their services as they expanded over the years. When Eddie joined the team, Haller didn’t really have a customer-centric model. The owner, Rick, wanted to put the customer at the center of all they were doing. He sent Eddie to a BDR (Business Development Resources) conference, and Eddie took notes, came back, and put things in place. Eddie is the first to tell you that he isn’t the smartest person in the room, but he absorbs information and implements it. Simply having the ability to recognize wisdom and apply it to his life and in business allows Eddie to grow both personally and professionally in ways that others can strive for.
He worked his way into the executive team at Haller, and is constantly analyzing the customer journey, metrics, and the team to find better ways of doing things. Eddie has developed a deep ethos for the trades, which he says revolves around “helping people, building trust, and serving”.
The way Eddie approaches training is all about diagnostics. In many organizations, training is something you do when average ticket sales are down. For Eddie, it’s much deeper than that. He uses a diagnostic approach to training, trying to understand the true nature of the problem rather than addressing the symptoms with a general, blanket approach. You can’t just hold a training course when the problem lies much deeper.
Oftentimes, technicians may not have the answer to some of the questions customers ask out in the field. That could mean needing soft skill training, more access to information, or a wide variety of other possible solutions. It’s important to Eddie to properly diagnose what type of training should happen and what type of response is required. If the only time you offer training is when something is wrong, your team will notice the pattern. You have to harness human instinct, set up expectations, and create a safe environment for learning to truly unfold.
Once you’ve set up those expectations and the proper environment for learning, training is about simple rules and techniques. The number one mistake trainers make is talking too much! Eddie uses the Socratic method for training, listening first and restating questions to fully understand. He doesn’t just talk to his team, he listens and responds to understand the individual on a deeper level. Lots of technicians are burly, silverback gorilla alpha males, but if you ask them to read something in a meeting they break down. Why is that? It could be something that a teacher said to them in grade school and continues to scar and prevent them from growing today. If you don’t try to understand people on a personal level, real training and growth can’t take place.
Technology in the trades is incredibly egalitarian. Back in the day, only the big boys had the website and technology. Now, everyone can have all of that. It’s a great equalizer, but understanding what technology you need in the trades is important. Paraphrasing Bill Gates, Eddie echoes the sentiment that technology isn’t a magic wand, and can’t simply be placed on top of poor processes. You have to view technology by framing it for what you want now and in the future to best utilize it for success. Eddie reflects on the teachings of Tony Robbins, pointing out that a leader’s job is to see things as they are, and the future as it can be. We have to be profitable in business, and that means being good to do good, and technology plays a big part in that.
Technology isn’t just relevant to the trades, and we have to look at how other industries are implementing it to stay competitive and enhance the customer experience. Our industry has been given a pass for a long time, but the gap is closing and customers are being trained to expect a certain level of convenience when investing in a service. You’re never going to train your customers to not chase convenience, and it only takes on business to do things better than you to lose your foothold on your market. You have to be willing to take the risk of trying new things. An entire generation is rising that expects convenience, and if you aren’t making your services accessible and available the way your customers want, you’re going to fall behind.
Eddie’s approach to training and leadership is the combination of personal experience and the wisdom of hundreds of brilliant leaders, innovators, and entrepreneurs he has taken the time to learn from. He pulls quotes from the likes of Sun Tzu when talking about leadership, explaining that the relationship between the general and the army is integral. When speaking to expertise, he quotes Neil Bohr as saying “An expert is a man who has made all the mistakes which can be made, in a narrow field”. This plethora of quotes isn’t an attempt to show off his knowledge, but rather an example of his humility. He has had the grace and runway to make mistakes and learn from them, and through studying the great leaders in history understands success doesn’t come from within. Eddie gives full credit to the team, and quoting Isaac Newton, points out that both he and our entire industry is “standing on the shoulders of giants”.
You can’t push a rope, and leading from the front means having the humility, flexibility, and malleability to mold your team into what it needs to be. Good leaders are humble, and take a servant-leadership role to charge their team ahead. You have to understand that your culture is simply the behaviors that are rewarded and punished, and carry yourself with the behavior you want your culture to value. Eddie knows that everyone wants the fruit of the labor, but not everyone is willing to tend to the roots. As the fruit is the last thing to grow on the tree, taking a bottom-up approach to culture is vital. You have to understand your role as a leader, and build your team up on a personal level to gain lasting results. Instead of arrogance, utilize confidence in your people and systems through continual nurturing and tending to those roots.
Remember, fear of failure isn’t fatal. Lack of innovation is! While being afraid to fail can be a healthy motivator, you have to frame failure as a pathway to success. It’s how we learn, grow, and become better people and businesses in the end.
Eddie is a co-founder of Schedule Engine, an incredible technology for the trades that helps contractors deliver a convenient, modern experience for their customers. It comes with tons of efficient tools and ways to make your customers more engaged, involved, and satisfied with your services. Schedule Engine and To The Point are teaming up to celebrate the season of giving by offering to waive the setup fee and offer you your first month of Schedule Engine completely FREE! All you have to do is mention that you heard the offer on To The Point, and you’ll have a chance to upgrade your business without spending a dime.
We wish all of our listeners the happiest of holidays. Don’t wait to innovate; get started today and prepare yourself for a kick-ass 2021!