As seen in the November 2007 edition of HVACR Business magazine.
Having documented procedures empowers co-workers and helps them succeed.
When working with companies to help them succeed and grow, I am often asked how I define highly successful contractors. For me, these four elements need to be present:
1) Annual double-digit net profit;
2) Annual double-digit growth;
3) A more-than-satisfied, dedicated customer base;
4) Co-workers that are respected and involved in the company and enjoy working there.
I also stress that highly successful hvac contractors have developed and implemented a set of tested and proven processes by which they operate their companies.
A process is simply the very best way of doing things. Frankly, most contracting companies do not have processes in place. As a consequence, co-workers do things in different ways resulting in confusion, frustration, low morale, high turnover, less-than-favorable customer service and less-than-favorable profits and growth.
Most co-workers, including installers and technicians, want to be employed in an organized work environment. Without processes, the work is not organized and frustration runs rampant. In fact, this frustration is exactly what prompted me, in my mid-20s, to quit my job and start my first hvac contracting company.
From that day forward I have maintained that it is management’s job to:
1) Determine how things are to be done.
2) Document those decisions with establishedprocesses, flow charts, manuals, forms, etc.
3) Carefully train all appropriate co-workers on the processes to ensure everyone completely understands how the company operates.
4) Empower co-workers to do their jobs using the documented processes.
5) Get out of the way and allow co-workers to do their jobs.
Let’s examine each of the steps necessary to produce company processes.
Determine how things are to be done.
As an example, let’s start with the company telephone system. In fact, I recommend starting with a basic item to get the process started.
Questions you should ask include: What hours of the day are phones answered? How should the telephones be answered? Which co-worker should answer the phone first? If they are already on a call, who answers second and third? What exactly should be said? How should calls be transferred?
Document decisions with established processes, flow charts, manuals, forms, etc. A document needs to be prepared that states the days and hours that telephones will be answered, a conversation guide outlining what is to be said when answering, who answers the phones and how they are transferred. A flow chart could be a part of the complete document. The document needs to be dated (very important as all processes are subject to revision), and filed in the Operations Manual of Company Processes.
Carefully train all appropriate co-workers on processes to ensure everyone understands how the company operates. To do so properly, you must conduct a training meeting with all inside co-workers as well as any appropriate outside co-workers such as field supervisors. The complete document is distributed to co workers, explained carefully and any questions are answered.
Empower co-workers to do their jobs using the documented processes. Now that everyone thoroughly understands the telephone process, there is no reason for further discussion on the subject. The decisions were made, they were documented and people were trained.
Get Out Of The Way
Get out of the way and allow co-workers to do their jobs. Co-workers will enjoy job satisfaction when they know exactly how to do things. And more importantly, they will be more satisfied when they are allowed to do their jobs without interference from management.
In choosing telephones, I selected a very basic item for an example of a process. There are many processes required for an hvac contractor. Here are other examples for which you would apply the above steps in order to achieve well-documented processes:
How service calls are processed in the office. This includes among other items dispatch procedures, parts procurement, debriefing, processing invoices, processing payments, processing new and renewal service agreements and any other forms, and processing technician sales leads and sales. It’s good to have a flow chart as part of this document.
How service calls are processed in the field. Some of the items included are vehicle appearance, technician appearance, approaching a customer, service-repair pricing (a flat-rate manual serves well for this part of the process), parts procurement, discussing other products and making recommendations to the customer, service-agreement presentation and sales, processing invoices and collecting payment. Once again, a flow chart should be part of the document.
Take time to think of all of the processes that need to be determined and documented in your company.
While the list may be overwhelming, it is absolutely worth the effort. It will take time, but you are already using the time by continually answering questions because of a lack of documented processes.
Take it one step at a time and you will be surprised at your progress in just a few months. Pretty soon you will have many documented processes completed and filed away in your new Operations Manual of Company Processes. And as an added bonus, you will have an excellent source of training for new co-workers.
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Ron Smith is a well-known leading authority in the hvac industry. A very successful contractor, franchisor, consultant and consolidator, he has owned or co-owned 14 businesses — a true entrepreneur. His best selling and highly acclaimed book HVAC Spells Wealth can be seen and ordered at www.ronsmithhvac.com or phone 615-791-8474.