What's new

You can also View by Categories


Routines and Patterns Can Work for or Against You

As seen on:

We have all heard this before, “You just have to get into the habit of doing it.” And that’s sometimes the advice and solution that owners and managers give to their team when discussing how to correctly work a service, maintenance, or sales call to increase average tickets and close rates. Well, that may be easier said than done, and just saying it doesn’t make it happen. We all have habits, some good, and some bad. From our personal morning and daily to-dos, to things we go through at work every day. We all have dozens of habits that get us through our daily routine. Some are bad, like smoking, and some are great, like regular visits to a gym and exercise.

Workwise, some are bad as well, like just going through the motions on a call to get it over with. And others are good, like working the call with enthusiasm and sharing equipment problems, solutions and accessory benefits with a homeowner on every call. Since we realize that our habits can be useful or detrimental behaviors, we often strive to correct the bad and improve the good.

Let’s take a deeper look at habit forming for a better understanding of where you may be in your company culture when it comes to promoting great habits.

Our phones have apps now that count calories, steps, and many other functions designed to help us form habits. These apps can be very useful if used regularly, and over time will form better habits. The question then becomes, how much time does it take?

There have been many scientific studies on the amount of time that it takes to form a habit. In Maxwell Maltz’s 1960 book titled Psych-Cybernetics, as a plastic surgeon he noticed that it took approximately 21 days for his patients to get used to their new facial look. So, many of these apps and other forms of creating new habits, or breaking old ones, base their time span on this 21-day assumption.

Yet, in 2009, researchers from University College London studied the new habits of 96 people over a 12-week period and found that it takes an average of 66 days for a new habit to stick. The timespans in this study varied from 18 to 254 days.

Psychology professor Susan Krauss Whitbourne says that sometimes a habit can be broken quickly: “In extreme cases, the habit can be broken instantly, such as if you happen to become violently ill when you inhale cigarette smoke or nearly get hit by a bus when texting and walking. But in most cases it's going to take longer than that, and you should probably allow for at least two months.”

When examining several of these types of studies on the subject, many researchers throw out the low and high timespan numbers and we end up with an average of 90 days. The takeaway here is that, to develop a new behavior, it will take nearly three months of constantly repeating the desired habit daily to get a positive result. As you stick with it beyond the 90 days, you'll end up with a habit that you will keep without thinking about it.

This goes the same for breaking unwanted bad habits. As psychologist Timothy Pychyl explains, these are two sides of the same coin: "Breaking a habit really means establishing a new habit, a new prepotent response. The old habit or pattern of responding is still there (a pattern of neuron responses in the brain), but it is less dominant (less potent)."

Neuroscientist Elliot Berkman reports that "it's much easier to start doing something new than to stop doing something habitual without a replacement behavior… That's one reason why smoking cessation aids such as nicotine gum or inhalers tend to be more effective than the nicotine patch" -- replacing one habit with another. Berkman also says, "People who want to kick their habit for reasons that are aligned with their personal values will change their behavior faster than people who are doing it for external reasons such as pressure from others."

Experts agree that other factors fall into play for breaking habits or creating new ones, and the right recipe is going to be a mix of personality, motivation, circumstances, and the habit in question.

You can see how all of this can apply to our personal lives, yet let’s address how we can apply this information when trying to mentor and motivate our team members.

  1. Meet with team members one-on-one to set personal, family, and career goals. This is to give them “skin in the game” and something that they want to shoot for, not pressuring them to just do it for you and the company.

  2. Discuss with them in this meeting their strengths and weaknesses. Then identify behaviors to start doing, and those to quit doing, to create great work habits that will help them achieve their goals.

  3. Post their goals in the training/meeting room as a daily reminder of the purpose for their new behavior that will help them achieve these goals.

  4. This should be a 90-day plan where bad habits are substituted with a good replacement behavior. (eg Replace rushing through a maintenance with pulling the blower wheel on EVERY call, cleaning off two fins to show the homeowner the dirt that’s getting through their current filter and asking, “Would you like to see a better filter to prevent this from happening in the future?” opening the door for an IAQ conversation and solution options.)

  5. Hold them accountable to the new behavior by identifying the new behavior or task as a KPI that is watched and measured.

  6. Make it fun and part of your weekly training sessions by having a group discussion during your weekly training sessions of successes that the new habit is creating. This will also create comradery and support from other team members to keep each other on track to succeed in achieving their goals.

  7. As you get closer to the 90-day mark, they will realize that the old habits have faded away, and they have become comfortable with the new habit that they will continue to do without thinking about it. It becomes habit!

To successfully break a habit, you need to think of your strongest motivation and goals, which will drive you along. Always think of replacing a bad behavior with a positive one -- just trying to stop a bad habit without a replacement is much more difficult to accomplish -- and be patient with your team: The longer they’ve had a habit, the longer it will take to get rid of it.

Neuroscientist Elliot Berkman explains that "longtime habits are literally entrenched at the neural level, so they are powerful determinants of behavior. The good news is that people are nearly always capable of doing something else when they're made aware of the habit and are sufficiently motivated to change."

As a closing note I would encourage you to share this quote from Margaret Thatcher with your team. It says it all.

Watch your thoughts, they become words;
Watch your words, they become actions;
Watch your actions, they become habits;
Watch your habits, they become character;
Watch your character, for it becomes your destiny.

Steve Mores
VP of Training and Sales
Dynamic Air Quality Solutions

Do You Have a Software Problem or Do You Have an HR Problem?

I have talked with numerous business owners who are disappointed in their software and are looking for a better solution. When I question them on what they hope to get out of new software, they most often talk about problems related to people or business operations, not software. I hear them mostly talking about getting people to follow known policies and procedures. I tell these owners this "You don't need new software; you need to find a way to get people to do what they are told to do."

Software doesn't fix people. Your software can't force people to fill out forms. If it could, what makes you think they would fill out the form accurately? The same person that refused to do their job, and forced you to spend big money on new software, is very likely not very concerned with filling out forms accurately.

People tell me, "we just need software that is really easy for everyone to use." When it comes to software, there is no such thing. The only way to make software simple to use is to take away features, preferences, and choices. Simple software is inflexible and weak. That's the secret to making software easy to use.

Owners often say, "Why can't our software just work the way we want it to? I can't believe that our company is that much different from all of the others that use this software." Trust me, you are! As a consultant to the HVAC industry, I have personally been inside over three hundred companies. I have taught classes to thousands more. I have never seen two companies that were alike. Our industry couldn't agree on a standardized chart of accounts, much less a set of forms, or a complete payroll compensation plan.

Most companies don't follow any kind of established business model. The way they do things is a hybrid of the company they once worked for, their own ideas, and the ideas of the various employees that have worked there over the years. That means you need flexible software that offers a wide array of options, methods, and possibilities. Flexible software is going to take more time to learn than it would "simple" software that forces you to do things their way.

It is vital that you completely understand what your present software is capable of doing and its intended workflow. Do not take your employees' word for it because many are not going to admit that they don't know. Call your software company. Tell them you are thinking of switching software programs and ask to speak with a person who understands the software and your industry. If needed, schedule some training so that you can explain your business system. Find out if the software can match your methodology or If, perhaps, they have a better solution for what you are trying to accomplish.

Armed with a thorough knowledge of what your software can do, carefully examine each and every employee process. Eliminate unnecessary steps and streamline the remaining steps as much as possible. You should determine what is necessary and eliminate any steps that are not absolutely needed. When a step or process is important to your company, you must insist that the step be part of your system and that your software and employees comply.

The key is to decide exactly what you want from your employees. Make sure they understand what you want from them, why you want it, and how you will measure compliance. Create a handful of Key Performance Indicators (KPIs) that will tell you how well your employees are performing. Make sure all of your employees can see these numbers and that they know what they mean. Your software should quickly provide you with this information. It should be able to generate highly customizable dashboard style reports. Ideally, these dashboard reports need to be in Microsoft Excel format so that you can modify them to meet your own unique situations.

Next, work hard to tie compensation and bonuses to your KPIs. Your software will need to have a specialized and powerful payroll system that fully integrates your field operations, accounting, and payroll in order to provide complete and accurate KPIs. Talk to your software provider and have a conversation about how the software you currently have can meet those needs.

Switching software can be very expensive and disruptive. Each time you switch, you lose important service and financial history, not to mention valuable time and money. I have known people that have gone through multiple software programs, spent hundreds of thousands of dollars, and they're still not happy. They keep switching software, looking for the next great program that will somehow solve their people problems. They resemble a person who has been divorced four times and keeps telling everyone, "It was my spouse's fault. I didn't do anything wrong." At some point, the person needs to look in the mirror and say, "maybe it's me?" Or, in this case, it may be your HR problem.

How to Cultivate Success and Grow Your Business

As seen on:

Steven was baffled. After 15 successful years of running his heating, ventilation and air conditioning business, revenue was stagnating like the water in a broken-down swamp cooler. He thought he was doing all the right things: generating and meeting demand, working hard and smart, specializing, and even partnering with local construction and remodeling firms. Still, Steven was puzzled that his talented HVAC sales team struggled to close more deals and increase their average ticket size.

Heard that before? Most likely. You might also have heard that offering payment options is a solid strategy for growing your business through closing more deals and even persuading customers to upgrade. Our experience shows that regularly offering payment options to your customers can boost close rates from about 25 percent to 44 percent (a 76 percent increase), and increase installation ticket sizes by as much as 43 percent.

It’s one thing to know all that; it’s another thing to understand best practices for putting that knowledge into action. The good news? Asking money-related questions in the right way can be easy with just a little coaching. By following a few simple processes for offering payment options, you can take the price issue out of the equation and see that business growth you’ve been pushing for.

1. Plant the seed

Building in standard talking points from the beginning to the end of your sales cycle that address financial concerns can yield consistently strong results. When a lead calls your office to set an appointment, deliberately mention payment options. For example, “Don’t forget to ask Jim about our easy same-as-cash financing when he’s onsite with you.”

(Pro tip: it’s helpful if the seed was planted even a little earlier, by including payment options in your advertising and marketing materials. Be sure to work with a home improvement lender that offers customizable templates to make it easy to produce this messaging.)

2. Water the seed

As soon as your sales rep is onsite, at the beginning of the appointment, they should bring up payment options again. It’s a great sales tool for dispelling any apprehension about paying right up front, so it’s easy to talk about the job itself distraction-free. Taking concerns about price off the table allows your sales rep to focus instead on value. Be sure to mention two choices: a same-as-cash loan as well as a low interest low monthly payment option.

(Pro tip: make sure your home improvement lender offers a true same-as-cash option that has no interest and no payments during the same-as-cash period, plus a number of low interest loans with a variety of terms to fit your customer’s financial situation and preferences.)

3. Reap the harvest

Once again, as it comes time to close the sale, it’s the right time to make one more reference to the easy payment options your company offers. This is where it can become simpler to get a YES from the customer, or even encourage them to increase the job size. Many times, it’s more convenient to get some extra work done all at once when paying is made easier. The data shows higher close rates and bigger jobs when a customer chooses financing. It also leads to greater customer satisfaction and more referrals.

(Pro tip: save even more sales by working with a home improvement lender that offers an integrated counter-offer loan to help customers who are less creditworthy and may not qualify for one of the other loans. Utilizing this option can be a great way to assist some customers with an HVAC emergency and few other options.)


If you make these three simple steps a daily part of your standard operating procedure for your business, you’ll see a difference. But don’t try to do it alone — be sure to work with a home improvement lender that provides role-specific, on-demand training for your team, so these best practices can become habits of success and you can watch your business blossom.

The Basics of Inventory Control and Why You Should Care

Clients often tell us that they want the inventory on their balance sheet to match the reality of their business. This question came up recently during a tax planning session and it quickly turned into a discussion on how to get started managing inventory. The client found the discussion to be very valuable so I thought I would make that the topic of this month's article.

Accurate inventory control can be labor intensive and therefore expensive. Inventory control is not technically difficult but it requires written procedures, consistency, and discipline.

Inventory control is a worthy pursuit though. If you sell parts, materials, and equipment, and you don't have accurate inventory control, you don't have accurate job costing. You also don't have accurate financial statements. Here's why. If your balance sheet indicates that the value of your inventory is $250,000, but an actual count indicates that it is only worth $150,000, then your job costing and financial reports are incorrect by the $100,000 difference. You have understated your income by $150,000. The difference doesn't usually show up all at once; it happens over time.

The first step to inventory tracking is to limit who has access to your inventory. You may need to build a locked parts room. If you have the space, this is ideal. Employees would have to receive the items across a counter like they would from one of your suppliers. When people can take whatever they want, when they want it, inventory counts will quickly be wrong.

You will need to decide what inventory items will be tracked. Generally speaking, if it has a serial number and/or is worth more than $10, you should classify it as an inventory item and track it. Anything that is important for the completion of a job, even if not very valuable, should probably be tracked as well.

Create truck stock lists for each vehicle. When doing so, consider the size of vehicle, the skill set of the technician, and the type of work they do. Your goal is to stock a truck adequately enough that your techs will not have to make special trips to restock. You should mark items as winter, summer, and year-round. Change out items when the seasons change.

Each truck should be assigned an individualized truck stock list. Empty each truck and replenish it with just the items on that list.

Run an item sales report by vehicle each day or two and pull those items for restock. When your technician comes to the office for regularly scheduled reasons, such as a service meeting, they will leave with their restock items. One important key to this is keeping your technicians out of supply houses. That improves productivity.

Service technicians and installers should be required to write down everything that they used for each job. Mobile software with bar code scanning makes this process easier. If you are not there yet, try using removable item number stickers. Peal the sticker and place it on the back of the invoice or work order. Reapply this same sticker to a reorder sheet. Finally, use the same sticker yet again. Stick it to the items that you have reordered. That will help crosscheck that everything has been reordered and received.

For installers, consider creating item kits. You might have a furnace kit, heat pump kit, air handler kit, RTU kit, and others. You will place commonly used items in containers. Those containers will be given to the installer(s) and returned once the work is complete. The person who restocks the kits will be able to easily determine what items were used. That information will flow into your job costing system.

Another highly effective inventory management technique is the use of trailers for new construction and other installations. Trailers can be stocked on a job-by-job basis with equipment, materials, duct, and parts. When installers arrive, they will be told what trailer to hitch up. When the job is complete, the trailer is returned, cleaned out, and refitted for the next job.

One last important inventory process needed is to install and maintain a very strong purchase order system. Nothing should be ordered without a purchase order. There is too much on that topic to cover here. In a future article, we will explore that topic in detail.

Finally, we are often asked if contractors need to track inventory and maintain an inventory balance on their balance sheet. The answer depends on if you file your federal (and state) taxes on the "Accrual" or "Cash" basis. So, the question is really which method are you required to use? We recommend that you speak to your tax advisor. The answer is not always clear-cut and can have a significant impact on your tax burden. Here is the most important point, even if you file your taxes under the Cash method, you can and should maintain your books and manage your business under the Accrual method. Do not print your financial reports, under the Cash method, for management purposes. Do not use Cash method information to analyze and plan your business. Your tax expert can easily file under the Cash basis using accrual reports.

Under Accrual, you recognize revenue and expenses when you incur them. Under Cash, you only recognize revenue when you actually receive the money, not when you do the work. Under Cash, you only recognize expenses when the money clears your bank account, not when you actually incurred the expense. For these reasons, Cash basis accounting is a horrible and dangerous way to manage your business.

Using Personality Assessments to Manage Your Business

Personality assessments can help your company improve hiring, placement, and management. By knowing what motivates people, and what stresses them out, you can improve your ability to hire the right person, supervise your staff, and even improve your sales closure rates.

What are Personality Assessments?

They are many different methods of assessing human personality traits, characteristics, and makeup; most of these work in similar ways. In this article, we will be discussing the DISC method of personality assessment and how it relates to your company.

What is DISC?

This is a self-report system. By that, we mean you take the test without any help or interaction with the administrator. There are about 50 to 100 questions and the process will take about 20 minutes to complete. There are many organizations that offer the DISC assessment. Most of these can be taken online and printed immediately.

DISC is an acronym that measures to what degree your personality is Dominant (D), influential (I), Steady (S) or Conscientious (C). Most people have a main personality trait as well as a secondary trait. When people are put into situations where they must act in a manner that does not come naturally, that is called a "stretch behavior." This person will quickly become stressed and delusional with their job, and their performance will likely show it.


Personality assessments do not measure honesty and they do not measure competency. Just because someone exhibits a certain personality style, does not mean they are skilled at it. A person could be a high "D" and a poor manager. They could be a high "I" and an ineffective salesperson. However, it could also mean that they have a higher likelihood of being successful at those jobs if they had adequate training.

Assessment results can vary by day. Your results can vary depending on your stress level or mood at that time. However, a clear pattern is usually present. Your first results are typically the same results throughout your life.

The Four Personality Types and How to Recognize Them

D for Dominance (10-12% of the population)

The Leader. Task oriented. Direct, decisive, confident, strong-willed, competitive, and forceful (fast-paced and skeptical). Of the four personality types, they tend to be the least loyal and the most likely to bounce from job to job. They tend to avoid rules and regulations. They are often argumentative and tend to overstep authority.

How to Recognize Them

They have a louder voice and are animated while speaking. They tend to sit forward in their chair or prefer to stand. While standing, their hands are often on their waist. While seated, their arms are usually not folded, and their legs are typically not crossed. They tend to offer quick responses to questions. They might interrupt you or finish your sentences. They are poor listeners and they are unlikely to ask many personal questions. They are not afraid to challenge people and they can't stand weakness.

I for Influence (10-12% of the population)

People oriented. Intuitive, social, persuasive, talkative, charming, and lively (fast-paced and accepting). They are creative problem solvers, peacemakers, and usually have a good sense of humor. They often speak before thinking.

They are concerned with popularity. Their biggest fear is usually rejection. They often lack attention to detail. They are motivated by praise and want a friendly environment. They have a short attention span when stressed. They need someone else to handle the details.

How to Recognize Them

They tend to be friendly, energetic, and spontaneous during meetings. They are great listeners and will likely use and remember your name as well as remember personal traits. They are usually very positive and enthusiastic. They are great at starting projects but terrible finishers.

S for Steadiness (60-70% of the population)

The Peacekeeper. More reserved at work, but people oriented, they are dependable, team players. Gentle, great listener, patient, accommodating, soft-hearted and accepting, slow, methodical, detailed, and they have a steady pace. Like to say yes. Dislike change and conflict. They are the most loyal of the four personality types and tend to be very honest.

They resist change and take a long time to adjust to it. They hold grudges and are sensitive to criticism. They have difficulty setting priorities. Their biggest fear is typically a loss of security.

How to Recognize Them

They are usually sensitive and low keyed. They tend to speak more in statements rather than questions. They will ask about your personal life and listen carefully. They are motivated by recognition for their loyalty and dependability.

C for Conscientiousness (10-12% of the population)

The thinker or calculator. Reserved and task oriented. Private, compliant, cautious, analytical, and logical (moderate-paced and skeptical). Like data. Deal with facts and figures as opposed to feelings and emotion. They are systematic and have high standards.

They need clear cut boundaries, rules, and procedures. They resent managers that do not enforce established rules. They will give in rather than debate a point. They tend to get bogged down in minute details. They are motivated by high company standards, limited social interaction, detailed tasks, and logic.

How to Recognize Them

Even tempered. They are usually reserved and quiet and may be considered to be "standoffish." They will ask a lot of fact-finding questions and may pause between questions to think about your answers. Serious, direct, and formal in meetings and conversations. They are not typically very animated in speech or while listening.

What's the Best Personality Style?

There is no "correct" or "best" style. Each trait has its own strengths and weaknesses. Most people have two dominant traits with the other two being very low. For example, I am very high in "D" and "I" but very low in "S" and "C." I can lead the company and sell the products, but I hate details, things are going to get missed. You must take the good with the bad.

Using DISC to Manage Employees

Don't use DISC as your sole means of selecting employees. Remember, DISC does not measure honestly, intelligence, experience, or ability. DISC will help you realize who you are dealing with, what jobs they might enjoy, and how to deal with them.

For example, a good salesman usually has an "I" personality, while a technician is more of a "C," and the characteristics of an "S" personality work well for office staff and customer service representatives.

When managing a "D," you can be more direct and confront that person head-on without causing hurt feelings, while an "S" requires a subtler approach and a conversation in private. An "I" personality will need time limits on their assignments and you will need to set a follow-up date. A "C" can be counted on to be precise but needs clear boundaries. You must be careful criticizing them and never do it in front of others.

Profile your current employees. Do you have underperforming employees? Do they match other high performing employees? Maybe they just need a change?

Hiring using DISC

Certain positions lend themselves to specific personality traits. Here, we have tried to list common roles within a contracting company and the personality traits that do and do not lend themselves to that role. Keep in mind that not all people will have each trait within their personality profile. Other personality types will influence their overall characteristics.

Be sure to profile your best people and try to match their profiles with new hires or with people you already have but are in different positions. The best team will have a variety of personality profiles.

Let's cover some of the main roles your company may have.


You want someone who is compliant, accurate, analytical, and careful. You need someone who is happy with repetitive tasks and does not like change.

You are looking for a high "S" or "C." You do not want a "D" or an "I." Ds want variety and want to avoid details. There will not be enough social interaction for an "I."

Sales Manager

You are looking for a person with good people skills and attention to detail. You are looking for an "S" or "I." Too much "D" can be a problem as they tend to lack attention to detail. You do not want a "C" because they are too introverted and do not like change.

Salesperson (residential outside)

You will want a person with good people skills and attention to detail. You are looking for a high "I" with "S" or even "D." You do not want a "C" because they prefer tasks over people.

Sales Engineer (commercial outside)

This person is more technically oriented than the residential salesperson. They might deal with prospects who are also technically oriented. If that's the case, you will want someone who has an "S" with "I." Some "C" will be helpful but avoid "D" because they want to meet goals versus please people.

Service Technician

This might be a person that performs commercial service or otherwise will not be in a position to sell upgrades or replacements.

If you will want someone who is reliable, analytical, even tempered, a team workers and has high standards and listening skills, then you are looking for someone who has high "S" with "C" as their secondary trait. "I" could also be high but avoid "D" as they do not like rules and have poor attention to detail.

Selling Service Technician

People oriented but technically proficient. This person will be expected to identify and capitalize on sales opportunities. You will want to find a person with "I" and "S." Avoid high "C" people. Moderate "D" can be also be helpful.

Installation Technician

They need minimal people skills but must be technically proficient. They must be happy working alone or without much social interaction.

Look for people with high "C" and/or "S." You don't want a D because they want a variety of jobs and don't want to be bogged down with details. You don't want an "I" because they must have people contact and plenty of social interactions.

Customer Service Rep

They must be enthusiastic and people oriented, with good attention to detail. You are looking for an "I" with "S" or an "I" with "C." You want to avoid "D" because they are the drivers. They are demanding, impatient, and do not want to listen to a customer's story.

General Manager

This person needs to have a take-charge personality with the ability to motivate and manage a variety of personality traits. You want a person with high "D" and "I." You do not want a "C" because they want clearly defined priorities and pace. Avoid someone who is a high "S," as this person could resist change and be sensitive to criticism.

Using DISC in Sales

When you are selling, you need to know who you are dealing with. Once you understand how to quickly identify the four personality types, you will be in a better position to tailor your approach and message to that particular person. For example, do not offer too many details to a "D" person. Save those details for a "C" and be prepared for a longer sales cycle. If you are dealing with an "I" type, you are going to need to build rapport and establish a relationship. Be ready to talk about their hobbies. If dealing with an "S," keep in mind they are averse to change. You will need to paint the picture of simplicity and assure them that the new system will be easy to use, and the process will be pain-free.

Knowing "what makes people tick" is a key to being a successful "people person." Being able to assess a person's personality quickly and accurately will allow you to communicate better and get along with people more easily. By implementing personality tests into your company, you and your company will be more successful while making those around you happier.

Seize an Opportunity or Serve the Customer?

Selling Techs or Salespeople – What Makes Sense?

Many contractors are about to roll into their busiest time of year with the warmer weather approaching. Phones will ring off the hook for tune-ups, replacement leads and service repair requests.

When it comes to Service Management Operations at this time of year, owners, service managers and sales managers (one person may serve multiple roles) wonder how to best handle service calls with older equipment that is beyond repair, or where the cost of the repair, age of equipment and other factors may warrant the customer considering replacing or upgrading their equipment.

I find that contractors nationwide disagree on whether to promote a technician to a sales position to run leads, let all technicians quote equipment on service calls, or hire a professional salesperson from outside the company.

This debate is one that has raged on in the HVAC industry for years, and you can rest assured that this article will only serve to add fuel to someone's fire, but let's just consider some of the following, understanding there are no right or wrong answers, or better or worse approaches. Your approach should be based on you and your co-workers' beliefs and commitments. I'll share mine here.

I work with my contractor clients to make business decisions in this regard based upon shattering customer expectations and providing extraordinary experiences – THE PROCESS. I believe you should always hire for attitude, commitment, desire, outlook and willingness to take initiative and responsibility and hold co-workers accountable to performance. I advocate having a recruiting system and hiring the best people to work in that system given their ability to execute at the highest possible level. If that is a technician or professional salesperson from outside the company or outside the industry, that's who gets the job – THE PERSON

We then match the PERSON to the PROCESS, which are selected based on our beliefs and commitments and the following criteria:

Desire and passion.

Technicians are technicians for a reason. Most have a drive and desire to fix things and work with their hands. They tend to be thing- or task-oriented. That does not mean they cannot work and communicate with people or be taught how to do so more effectively. However, their passion lies in completing tasks, not building relationships, or they would have chosen a different career.

Top-producing salespeople typically are people-oriented and have a desire, drive and passion in building relationships that yield results. They are not task-oriented, which may explain their paperwork.

Words are key.

Technicians tend to talk about equipment and technical things. How much you know does not impress customers until they know how much you care. This approach can intimidate and confuse a customer, making them feel stupid or overwhelmed. A customer who feels this way will do business elsewhere or not at all.

Top salespeople have natural conversations about real concerns, needs, and wants and present differentiated solutions in a user-friendly, non-technical, non-commodity manner that fully addresses the customer's concerns.

Pay me or pay me not – It's up to me.

A salesperson has no reservations about where their next paycheck is coming from as they believe 100% in their ability to generate income in the blink of an eye. Most technicians are accustomed to receiving a weekly paycheck and want this safety net or security blanket. However, most sales positions usually have a performance-based pay system (mostly, if not all, commission), which most technicians dislike since it could result in them going a week without a paycheck.

Always send a professional to do the job.

A technician may be able to work on the equipment and know all the industry lingo and technical aspects of designing, installing, maintaining and repairing a system.

You can train a technician in sales and communication, but their persona is not usually as good a match at leveraging these skills as a salesperson's mindset, attitude and persona.

In my experience, it is much easier to train a salesperson from outside the industry about the industry, products, and services and have success than it is to teach a technician how to sell with a high level of performance. I am not saying you can't do it, but it is rare.

Seize an Opportunity or Serve the Customer?

Whose best interests are we looking out for?

Most technicians end up in sales by default, not design and desire, since they get "promoted" because no one else steps up, they had some success as a technician selling off service calls, or they are technically competent.

The biggest reason for this tends to be the owner's unwillingness to properly recruit, hire, train and coach the best person for the position, as this requires vast amounts of time. If this is the mindset, then are you truly doing what is in the best interests of the customer and putting the company's best foot forward?

Remember, when a customer calls they call for ONE thing – your expertise. They don't want a price, the thing fixed, etc. They want good information and possibly a little guidance to make a good decision. When a repair becomes a replacement situation, the customer is best served by a professional who can assess people, the home, and the equipment application, and design a complete solution to address the safety, health, comfort, energy management and peace of mind desires of the buyer. This professional must effectively communicate all this information in a manner that compels a buyer to act.

As such, this is where I believe and have seen salespeople, more so than technicians, shatter customer expectations, design extraordinary experiences, and allow companies to excel at the highest levels. And that's the objective of business.

Leads versus calls.

There is a vast difference in a technician who is successful selling off service calls and a salesperson having the ability to sell off open leads that come from a variety of sources. Service calls result from non-functioning or not properly functioning components. The customer's initial perception is a potential repair scenario quoted by a service-oriented technician, which makes the technician's ability to communicate openly with the customer relatively easy, even if one of the recommendations is a system replacement.

Conversely, on an open sales lead, with a source other than a referral or current customer, the customer's anxiety level is elevated and buyer resistance is high because the customer perceives the salesperson is going to try to sell them something they don't want, don't need, can't afford or don't understand. Now is when excellent people and communication skills are required most.

You only get ONE shot.

Customers are like comets – they only come around once in a great while. You only get ONE opportunity to make the proper qualification and presentation. A person with good people and communication skills will be more apt to build a bond, rapport, trust, respect and gain a mutual commitment to work with a customer toward a common endeavor than a technically competent individual. The person who best builds the relationship with a prospect usually earns the customer's business.

When a customer calls your company, they want your expertise and are willing to pay for it. If the call is initially for a repair, then a technician is the proper expert. If the call is for replacement or the repair call turns into a replacement opportunity, then a salesperson, knowledgeable in the latest equipment, equipment and duct sizing, installation applications, solving comfort, IAQ and energy concerns, building value and relationships, etc., is the proper expert.

Take your best shot because that's what your customer wants and that's what your company deserves.

Nothing is absolute.

The success that certain companies have converting technicians to salespeople or utilizing selling technicians is undeniable. However, hiring the right people for the right job and training them properly is easier, more cost-effective and results-oriented than trying to train someone, and change that which is inherent to their personality and possibly even their genetic makeup. You can teach many sales traits, skills, concepts and mindsets, but this does not mean someone will adopt these characteristics or that someone else may be better suited as a candidate.

Animal instincts are second nature.

A cheetah cannot change its spots to stripes and become a tiger, even if you have trained the cheetah to mimic a tiger's tendencies and behavior. A cheetah's natural instincts are to be a cheetah, and no amount of tiger training will ever change that.

In sales, top producing salespeople learn sales behaviors and techniques during their training and integrate them into their sales process whereby they become second nature to the point that the salesperson acts instinctively without thinking about the process or next move. This is similar to how technicians can instinctively perform a diagnostic or repair.

People who perform in roles that come more naturally to them tend to perform better than those who adopt roles out of necessity.

Hire PEOPLE and design your PROCESS accordingly.

Tune Up Your Service Department for a Profitable Summer

With summer coming, it is important to make sure your company has a few systems and processes in place to get the most out of your service department.

Make sure your service trucks are well stocked with the parts and tools necessary to perform a complete service and perform most service calls in one trip. Labor management is one key to operating a service department profitably, so you need to keep your unbillable time as low as possible. You will also want to reduce trips to suppliers, prevent callbacks, and raise your average ticket amount.

While there are numerous key performance indicators that are important to you, here are four good rules of thumb to live by when managing a service department.

  1. Your service department unbillable time should be less than 25%.
  2. Your diagnostic fee only service calls should be under 5%.
  3. Your average service ticket should be $350 or higher.
  4. Service technicians should produce an average of $650 or more in gross profit per man day.

For a service department to run smoothly and efficiently, trucks must be well stocked with a well thought out list of parts that are likely to be needed. These parts must also be replenished quickly. Don't stop there. It is essential that your trucks be equipped with the proper tools to diagnose problems, detect dangerous conditions, and make fast accurate repairs.

Establish a Truck Stock List

Create a truck stock list that includes parts and supplies that each technician must carry. You might create a list for each technician or truck configuration. Certain trucks, due to their size or configuration, might be able to carry more inventory, and your truck stock list should reflect that capability. Your goal is to try and keep enough parts that you only need to restock one per week during the busy season.

Technicians will not sell parts they don't have. Too often, a technician will see the opportunity to make additional repairs or upsell but won't because they don't have the parts. Rather than come back later, they just don't mention the opportunity to the client. For example, a technician might replace a fan motor and notice that the humidifier needs a new water panel. If he doesn't have that water panel on his truck, he will likely not mention that it needs to be replaced. Even if he does, your company may never have that chance again. Selling that extra part, at that moment, is one of the keys to service profitability.

Create a Tool Requirement List

Establish a clear written policy of what tools your technicians are expected to own and which ones the company will provide. You will need to write a procedure for regularly checking to be sure that each technician has all the tools on their tool list. You should also establish rules for who is financially responsible for tools that are lost or broken. Will you replace a technician's personal tool if they broke it during the normal course of their job? What about your company's tools? It all must be in writing.

Having the correct tools and diagnostic equipment can increase service sales. A megohmmeter and combustion analyzer can pay for themselves very quickly by detecting legitimate repair opportunities that may have otherwise gone unnoticed. Owning a good fan blade puller can save your technician a trip to the supplier. Even though that trip would mean selling an additional part, the cost of the trip will outweigh the sale of the fan blade. Be sure your trucks are equipped with all the necessary tools to be fast and efficient.

Create a list of tools that all technicians will be required to have in their possession. Tweak this list by title or job function. For example, your master technicians might be required to carry certain tools that your journeyman isn't expected to have. Each job function will need their own tool list.

Track Inventory by Warehouse and Bin

It is important to track inventory by vehicle, warehouse, and bin location. Each truck should be organized as similarly as possible. HVAC business management software, such as Total Office Manager®, makes tracking inventory by warehouse and bin location easy. Knowing what parts are on what truck can reduce needless trips to your suppliers. Technicians should be able to see what parts (and equipment) are on which trucks. That makes sharing resources possible.

A Simple Reordering System

If you use mobile software, you should have some type of automatic reordering system or reports that make the process easy. Technicians should meet each week for a quick debrief, training, and restock.

If you are still using paper, here is an easy way to reorder. Label all your truck stock items with a removable (reusable) label. When an item is used, technicians will remove the stickers and place them on the back of their service invoices. Your office will transfer those labels to a page that will be faxed to your favorite supplier. At the conclusion of your weekly meeting, each technician will pick up their box of restock items.

For restocking purposes, keep at least one full truck list of parts in your office or warehouse. You will draw on that list as necessary to avoid ordering from a supplier more often than necessary.

A Time and Material Warning

If your service department charges by the hour, you should note that you are likely to see a decrease in billable hours. Generally, with T&M, the faster your technicians get, the smaller their invoices. Fast and efficient service technicians are a great compliment to flat rate pricing.

Recruiting for Riches: How to Build Your Winning Sales Team

Do you struggle to find top-producing people? Do you make bad hires that either quit or have to be de-hired? Are you frustrated by hiring people that are not "as advertised?"

Here are six of the top action items an effective and efficient recruiter does to execute a rewarding recruitment strategy. Ready, here we go:

No. 1: Commit adequate time and resources

Now is not the time to be thrifty. Allocate uninterrupted time to do the phone and in-person interviews. Be thorough, but don't let the process drag on and don't string candidates along, or you'll lose top tier. Marketing effectively for top recruits or using an outside recruiter can be expensive, but is worth the investment if it means expediting the process and yielding a top performer. Don't cut corners, pinch pennies, and shave minutes. You are only cheating your customers, co-workers, company and yourself. You either invest adequately upfront or you squander your investment later.

No. 2: Define the job and compensation program

Determine exactly what you expect or need from the position and hire accordingly. The job description should outline specific duties, responsibilities, and expectations. The compensation program should be crafted to allow for initial training, ramp-up period, and shift to a standard compensation program after six months. Sales is performance-driven, and thus the compensation should incentivize and reward performance, especially incrementally, when targets for revenue, profit, closing ratio, etc. are met. Conversely, there should be penalties for non-performance or underperformance.

No. 3: Develop a profile of your ideal candidate

Look for a candidate that possesses the core competencies of top performers, has a high ego-drive and ego-strength with an equally high level of empathy. The candidate must be money motivated or motivated by things money can buy, and be a person of integrity and character. The candidate must exude confidence, conviction and a belief in their story, while being customer care oriented. Lastly, look for someone with a high degree of talent and a great attitude who has pride, passion and enthusiasm for taking initiative, working and making sales.

No. 4: Work your network

Do not be so quick to run a want ad. You, your spouse, neighbors, friends, and coworkers all know people who could be a good fit. These same people also encounter salespeople and deal with them. They might meet someone who could be a good fit, or know someone who is. Additionally, if these same people work their personal and professional networks and tell everyone they know that you're looking to hire, don't be surprised when your request is fulfilled. Every actor in Hollywood might be within six degrees of separation from actor Kevin Bacon, but it's more likely that you are six degrees from a great salesperson.

No. 5: Write emotionally appealing recruitment marketing materials that include filters

Start with a thought-provoking headline such as "Do You Have This Much Opportunity?" List the benefits the job offers before your requirements for the position. Tell the readers what's in it for them. Set the bar high by stating that they must have experience earning a similar amount of income versus requiring industry experience. Do not request résumés, as you will limit some top-producers who don't have one, and can write their ticket anywhere in a heartbeat. Place filters to focus your search as well as to speed response. Require candidates to call to be screened and schedule a confidential phone interview to save them time and determine those most qualified.

No. 6: Think outside the box

Do not limit your recruiting efforts to simply a classified ad or online jobsite. Instead, leverage several other high-yield avenues such as radio, television, schools, job fairs, signage (truck, building, billboard, area locations, bulletin boards, etc.), direct mail, inserts, circulars, church bulletins, fraternity/sorority magazines, professional recruiters, etc.

With this information you will more readily distinguish between those candidates who are the seeds, the weeds, and the ghosts that turn into the "Phantom Menace" — and you'll profit greatly as a result.

When recruiting a sales team, realize the impact it can have, positively or negatively, on top-line revenue and bottom-line profitability as well as the time and opportunity costs. Keeping this in mind will help guide your commitment to the process and making the right decisions.

To Grow a Contracting Business or Not to Grow a Contracting Business?

One of the questions I often get from contractors is, "When should I grow my business?'"

My answer is always the same, "When you have learned to make money on your existing business."

After years of working with thousands of contractors I have learned that if you can't make money at $1,000,000 in annual revenue you won't make money at $2,000,000 in annual revenue.

Learning how to turn a profit is a very different skill than growing revenue, so until you learn to turn a profit on your current revenue, it doesn't matter how much revenue you generate. You can easily double revenue and brain damage without generating profits.

It reminds me of the old story of a contractor who was losing money on every installation, but decided he could make up for it by doing more installations. We'll make it up in volume! Or the contractor whose response to losing money on every service truck was to put more trucks on the road!

Again, making a profit is very different form generating revenue. Anyone can open a company and generate revenue. It takes a savvy business expert to turn a profit.

Since the beginning of time there are only two ways to grow your business. You can grow your business buy attracting new customers or you can grow your business by solving additional problems for your existing customers.

Growing your business by attracting new customers can be very expensive and often the results are less than ideal. For example, let's say a company has 500 sales opportunities each year and wants to double revenue by generating 500 additional sales leads. Doing that requires time and a ton of marketing money to generate the 500 additional sales leads.

Once the company has spent the time and money to generate 500 new leads, guess what happens next? The company has to hire new sales staff, installers and technicians and purchase new vehicles to service the new customers. With new sales staff, installers, technicians and vehicles come additional labor expenses, insurance, fuel and worker's compensation and other increases in overhead.

New office staff and CSRs are needed to support the new sales staff. Plus, installers and technicians are needed, which adds additional overhead. Then more office space is needed to house the new office staff. You get the picture?

In many cases, the increased revenue generated with new customers is consumed by additional expenses, leaving us with a company that is twice the size and twice the brain damage, but no more profitable than it was at half the size.

Sounds wonderful, doesn't it? Maybe with a little luck, we'll even get to work more hours to run a company twice as big as it was, yet no more profitable.

As unattractive as this scenario appears to be, I have seen it countless times. A company that is not profitable grows its revenues, increases brain damage and requires more time to manage, but remains as unprofitable as ever.

Let's look at the second way of growing this company. Let's imagine that this company chooses to double its revenue by improving sales skills and solving additional problems on its existing 500 sales opportunities, and thereby growing revenues without the expense of generating 500 new sales leads.

We will assume that the existing sales productivity of the company looks something like this:

Leads per year: 500

Total number of sales (40 percent): 200

Average dollar volume per sale: $5000

Total Revenue $1,000,000

Now instead of trying to double revenue by generating 500 new sales leads, the company chooses to double revenue by increasing sales productivity. In other words, this company chooses to double revenue by getting better at selling and solving more problems on their existing 500 sales opportunities.

So the company learns to get better at selling. After all, since they were closing four sales out of every 10 leads, that means they were losing six sales out of every 10 leads. The net result is that after learning to implement a professional sales system, they manage to close one of the six sales leads they were previously losing, thereby improving sales productivity to 50 percent from the previous 40 percent.

Additionally, the company learns how to engage in a more comprehensive discovery process, which results in identifying more problems, which the company learns to solve for its homeowners. The net result of that effort is that they company solves more high efficiency, indoor comfort and air flow problems.

This results in increasing the average sale from $5,000 to $8,000. The increase in average sale does not come from high pressure sales or arbitrary price increases. The increase in average sales is a result of solving comprehensive home comfort and efficiency problems.

The combination of those two efforts results in sales productivity that looks like this:

Leads per year: 500

Total number of sales (50%): 250

Average dollar volume per sale: $8,000

Total Revenue: $2,000,000

How much did overhead increase by doubling revenue through this method? How much additional marketing expense did they incur? Absolutely $0. Of course there will be an increase in Cost of Goods as the company sells more systems and more comprehensive home comfort solutions.

But because the company doubles revenues without the corresponding increases in expenses, profitability soars. Now the company is ready to commit the resources to attract new customers, because they have learned to be profitable on their existing customers.

If you are considering growing your company, you must make sure you grow it in a way that generates additional profits, not just additional brain damage and expenses.

To make sure this happens, it's critical to make sure that your company is generating maximum sales productivity on the existing sales opportunities and that your company is profitable. Once you've got generating a profit out of your existing revenue, you'll be perfectly positioned to grow your company and profitability.

When There Is a Shift in Technology, Opportunity Abounds

I met my wife at a small record store in Lynnwood, Washington, in 1979. If you ever saw John Cusack's film "High Fidelity" you know what this store was like. For me, a serious record collector, it was the most fun I ever had working. I read liner notes all day, played the records I liked and talked with customers for hours about music. What a great gig.

On a recent flight to Chicago I watched a documentary film by Colin Hanks (Tom's son) entitled "All Things Must Pass." It was a fascinating story of the rise and fall of Tower Records. It is, quite simply a cautionary business tale. Documentaries are the non-fiction of movies. For any Baby Boomers who grew up in the 60s, this story will resonate and bring back a flood of memories. The central theme of this story is however, "Change or Die!"

Tower Records, a prime example

In 1999, Tower had revenues of over a Billion Dollars! By 2004, it filed for Bankruptcy. The charismatic and charming founder, Russ Solomon is interviewed extensively. It's a little like attending a living funeral. In 1961, Tower Drugs in Sacramento, California, began selling used 45's and the business took off. It was truly, "Find a need and fill it." It quickly became "The place to work:" no dress code, family atmosphere, work hard, play hard. Clerks were music snobs — smart, rude and opinionated.

As the company quickly expanded to San Francisco (at the corner of Columbus and Bay) and eventually Los Angeles on Sunset, business boomed. The Beach Boys released LP's that changed the landscape of the buying public. "Stack ‘em high and sell ‘em low" became their motto. Huge inventories and a well-informed staff — it became a hangout for serious and successful musicians. Bruce Springsteen called it "A lost boys club." Almost every day, you could spot famous musicians in the stores buying records. Serious audiophiles and collectors could be seen listening to albums, reading liner notes and socializing. In a very short time, the west coast was dotted with Tower Record stores. Eventually a flagship store was opened in Tokyo Japan!

In five short years, Tower Records died for three simple reasons:

  1. To continue their expansion internationally they began borrowing money from investors and accumulated massive debt.
  2. The marketplace changed and they did not change with it. Their customers wanted singles, they pushed LP's. What got you "here" won't take you "there!"
  3. There was a tectonic shift in the music industry — Napster — virtually overnight, kids were downloading music for free. Tower did not change with the times.

Size is no guarantee of success. Natural Selection has taught us only the paranoid and adaptable survive. History is replete with similar cautionary tales: Ford vs. GM, Blackberry vs. i-phones, Amazon vs. Book Publishers. When there is a shift in technology, opportunity abounds. In nature, as in business, the smart take from the strong. The nimble soar past the mighty.

Some quotes for thoughts:

"Progress is impossible without change, and those who cannot change their minds cannot change anything." — George Bernard Shaw

"Change is the law of life. And those who look only to the past or present are certain to miss the future." — John F. Kennedy

"The only way to make sense out of change is to plunge into it, move with it, and join the dance." — Alan Watts

"Because things are the way they are, things will not stay the way they are." — Bertholt Brecht

So what is my point? Regardless of the size of your business, or in what industry you find yourself, there are certain questions leadership must ask in the basic aspects of business, sales and marketing, distribution, manufacturing and innovation, and service:

  1. What will our business look like in five years?
  2. What are our strengths?
  3. What are our weaknesses?
  4. What are our opportunities? (What do our customers need now?)
  5. What will our customers want in five years?
  6. What are our threats? (What is competition doing that we are not?)
  7. How is technology changing in our industry?

They were able to do that for the exact opposite reason Tower Records failed:

  1. They have $100 Billion in cash
  2. They looked at what their customers wanted and adjusted
  3. They recognized they needed to change with times.

I miss going to record stores like Tower. It was so much fun to read liner notes, talk with the snobbish but well informed clerks, and leave with a smile on my face knowing I am going to enjoy some new tunes. Oh well… Maybe I'll just download George Harrison's LP with "All Things Must Pass" and reminisce on i-tunes and brag about my purchase on Facebook. Urgh! It's just not the same. When something is gained, something is lost.

I need to remember, "Change or Die!" How about you?

10 Commandments for Managers

I have been on this spinning, big blue orb for 55 years now — time enough to have learned a few things. I consider myself a pretty smart guy. However, I am constantly amazed at how stupid I was two years ago and the cycle repeats. Yet, every once in a while, I hear or read something that takes me aback and I simply must write it down.

Here it is: "You must learn to place less value on all that you can remember and more on those few things that you must never forget." Marcus Buckingham wrote that in his 2005 book "The One Thing You Need to Know" (About Great Managing, Great Leading and Sustained Individual Success).

In my first 30 years, I have had a lot of horrible bosses and a few really great ones. The very best managers stand out. They get talked about. We all know who they are. We might not agree with what they say or do or understand why they do what they do, but we like how they make us feel. I have the extreme honor of being hired by some really great managers and leaders. I pay attention. I watch what they do and say. I listen to the language they use with others and themselves. I write it all down.

Do you remember the Billy Crystal movie "City Slickers?" Jack Palance's pitch perfect character Curly is the grizzled stone faced loner and ranch trail boss — a real cowboy. He steals every scene he is in. Billy's character is a clueless city slicker, trying to build rapport and engage Curly in conversation, without much luck.

Finally, Curly tells Billy, "The secret of (success) in life is just one thing."

Curious, Billy replies, "What is that?"

Smiling as he rolls another cigarette, he says, "That's your job. To find out what that one thing is."

Mine is writing and speaking. It took me 32 years to figure it out. U2 singer Bono laments in their 1983 LP, "I Still Haven't Found What I'm Looking For." Most people haven't either.

What's a manager?

A manager is not the same thing as a leader. Managers manage people. It's one to one. A manager grows people. He inspires change, coaches up, teaches specific skills, encourages people to take risks and stretch comfort zones. He brings out the best in people. He truly cares about the people he serves. It really is true — you can have everything you want in life if you only help enough other people get what they want or need, first.

Here is my list of 10 Disciplines, 10 Principles, 10 Commandments to master. They represent the things we must never forget if you are a manager. It might not be a complete list, but it's a great start. Think of them as 10 goals to master over the next five years.

  1. Fall in love with your work (organization and industry).

    Great managers love their job. They are proud of the company they work for. They are hardworking and loyal. They take 100 percent responsibility for their actions and decisions. They are at once coaches, teachers, servant leaders who teach by able example. They smile a lot. They seem to genuinely love what they do and wouldn't dream of doing anything else. Their attitude is contagious. They talk about their work away from the job. They love talking to other managers in their industry and are always looking for and finding new and better ways of getting things done. If you do what you love, you'll never work another day in your life.

  2. Become a lifelong student

    Great managers read books and trade magazines (the books you don't read won't help), they attend every seminar they can, they are sponges for any information that will help them reach their goals. They pick the brains of other people who are more successful. They find mentors. They keep a journal, capturing lessons and ideas, borrowing boldly from the best. They practice the "Hour of Power:" 20 minutes of reading, 20 minutes of planning and 20 minutes rhinking and affirming their goals every morning (or evening) without fail.

  3. Get great at sales (and marketing)

    Everyone is in sales. The only question is, "How good are you at it?"

    Sales is both a science and an art. The science is the math. What is your close ratio? How many deals do you close out of 10? 10 percent? 20 percent? 50 percent? You need to know. It's how you track your progress and skill. You are either green and growing or ripe and rotting. There is no neutral in business. The art is the people side of the equation. We make buying decisions based on emotion and justify with logic. Sales is like a chair with four legs: trust, relationships, competence and timing.

    People buy from people they like, trust and believe. How good are you at asking great open ended questions and actively listening? As a manager, you are selling all day long. You sell internal customers (associates) on the company values, ideology and vision. You sell external customers giving you the chance to demonstrate your competency. We are all in sales. How good are you at it?

  4. Know thyself (and others)

    What is the best and highest use of your time and talent? One the secrets of successful managers is they know and understand their gifts and strengths. At the same time, they are brutally honest about their shortcomings and weaknesses. They delegate those weaknesses and invest most of their time on the things they are good at. They solicit feedback from technology (MMPI, DISC, Personality Profiles, etc.), the people they serve and the people they report to. They are flexible, willing and able to change. They are change masters. They have thick skin and cold blood. They welcome feedback, both positive and negative. They are serious about improving and pay the price in advance.

  5. Set big, audacious goals (and lots of little ones too!)

    From big goals like "Increase sales by 30 percent this year while maintaining Gross Profit of 40 percent" to having crystal clear expectations about what they expect from each job and employee, create clear job descriptions and walk through each bullet point with each associate.

    "What do you get paid to do?" is a vital question! If you ask a receptionist she might say "I get paid to answer the phone."

    "No," you say in a kind soft tone, "You get paid to solve clients problems by telephone and do whatever it takes to delight them."

    Focus on what you want and why! Leave the how up to them. First we work on goals then they work on us. Be absolutely clear on your expectations of yourself and others. Peter Drucker said, "What is your contribution to the organization?"

  6. Track and measure everything

    As a sales manager, your goals need to be made clear by publicly posting both the goals and activity (month by month, in a public place, everyone needs to know: "Mark Matteson sold $75,000 and is 300 percent of sales plan!"). How many service agreements were sold? Projects? How many did you lose last year (the term is "churn," the percent of clients that left measured against the total. Less than 5 percent is great, more than 10 percent is bad!). Where performance is measured, performance improves. What are you measuring?

  7. Reward behavior you want repeated (the window and the mirror)

    Whatever gets rewarded gets repeated. Whatever gets punished stops. That is the greatest management principle in the world. What do you want to see more of? Less of? Praise pays. High fives in the hallway, ringing of the bell, awards, trophies, plaques and cold hard cash given in public settings (annual meetings, monthly meetings) matter. You are making a statement. Sales Star of the Month with movie coupons, dinner credit cards, time off paid; get creative and make the acknowledgment public.

    Remember the Window and the Mirror. When it comes time to take credit for the success, look out the window and give it away, to your team! When it comes time to asses blame, look in the mirror and assume full responsibility. What gets rewarded gets repeated.

  8. Hire hard, train easy

    This discipline is easier said than done. What is your percentage of interviews to hires? Is it 2 to 1; 5 to 1; 10 to 1; or 20 to 1? The larger the first number, the lower the turnover and higher the productivity. Great managers understand and accept this, poor managers are lazy with this commandment. Who do you let on the bus? Are they in the right seat on the bus? This is huge when building your team.

    My friend Chuck was a master at this. He was great at developing relationships with the right people. He was patient, persistent and relentless in pursuing and hiring great people. He built a $25 million dollar commercial HVAC service company from $800,000 in 1980 in 20 years. He trained liked crazy. He told the CEO one day in front of me, when the CEO was lamenting over the overall cost of training new people, "There is only one thing worse than training someone and then having them leave; that is if you don't train them and they stay!" Hire up. Hire young Turks who want your job. Talent deprecation is hiring down. They in turn hire down and that person is serving your customer. If you are a 6, hire an 8, and they will hire 10's!

  9. Become a good-finder

    Are you a good-finder or a fault-finder? What if you got in the habit of praising people in public? The very best managers I have seen are great at acknowledgement and recognition. "Treat people as they are, they remain. Treat them as they can be, they become."

    Catch people in the act of doing things right. This is simple, but not easy. It's a habit. Each of us moves toward pleasure and away from pain. My publisher used to say, "You know what I like about you? Everything!" Research and the successful organizations around the globe have proven one thing, "Employees who are cared about, produce more, stay longer and are easier to get along with. Care more than others think is wise. Become a good-finder. Praise pays!

  10. You have a team Of people

    In a bacon and egg breakfast, the chicken was involved but the pig was committed! Do you want compliance or commitment? Get your team involved in the ideation process. Break them into groups to brainstorm and ask the right questions: "How can we generated more leads from the field?" and "What will inspire you to action (time off, cash, movie tickets)?"

As the coach goes, so goes the team. Keep searching for new ideas. Master the previous 9-Disciplines. The answers will come. Invest in education for you and your greatest asset, your people. Education always brings a return, not once but many times over.

Ben Franklin said, "Take a coin from your purse and put it in your head. It will come flowing from your head and overflow your purse." Ben understood.

These are the things you must never forget… and remember to do!

One last thing, have fun. Life is short. The best is yet to come. The secret to life is just one thing. That's your job. Find out what that one thing is. Thank Curly. Giddy up!