BALTIMORE — The picturesque inner harbor area of this old seaport town hosted a healthy turnout of 170 for the mid-July Quality Service Contractors’ Power Meeting 39, including 125 contractor members. Attendees heard how to amp up performance of their teams, growing a successful service team that makes sales, and legal strategies for protecting assets and getting paid.
Nearly 40 of the attendees traveled before the Power Meeting to see the huge third-generation plumbing contractor, Magnolia Plumbing, which has offices in both D.C. and Maryland. Magnolia is probably 20 times bigger than the average QSC member, but the attendees appreciated that Magnolia had gone through the same growing pains as everyone else — just several years earlier.
Dominick Magnolia, vice president of plumbing and mechanical operations, who served as the host and tour guide for much of the visit, admitted that a marketing consultant had fussed at them for their inability to come up with a consistent logo and tagline, even though the company has been in existence for 63 years.
Magnolia, with a current headcount of about 300, thrived even through the recession because the federal government always has some sort of construction, renovation or tenant fit-out activity going on.
Magnolia’s breadth of offering is staggering. It’s building up its residential plumbing and HVAC service division because it’s C.O.D. business. Much of the firm’s work is in commercial plumbing new construction, including multi-year projects that may total $30 million. It also performs a lot of municipal, institutional, and heavy commercial pumping, grease trap service, and jetting. Its fleet includes semi-tractor trailer-sized pump trucks. Much of the commercial drain cleaning fleet is located at Magnolia’s Laurel, Md., office.
Chip Eichelberger attempted to get the attendees “switched on.” So many people, he said, are satisfied with being mediocre. To begin with, only 3% of people, Eichelberger, said, truly lead a healthy lifestyle, exercising five times a week, not smoking, and eating nine servings of fruits and vegetables daily. “Are you treating your body as a temple or an outhouse,” he asked.
After taking care of themselves, the contractors were urged to focus on changing their attitude and make real and substantial goals for the coming year. Those goals don’t have to be gigantic, he noted. In a market where differentiation is difficult, concentrate on the trivial details that nobody else does. How many contractors send thank you cards to customers?
Eichelberger cautioned the contractors about the laws of familiarity that cause you to take people for granted. That includes a lot of people — your spouse, your existing customers, and your employees. Take your spouse on a surprise date and treat established customers as if they are brand new. Really know your employees, he said, including their spouse’s and children’s names, birthdays, and activities.
The always-enthusiastic Kenny Chapman, a Colorado contractor who trains other contractors as The Blue Collar Coach, spoke to the attendees about growing a successful service team. Chapman’s focus was on increasing service sales of add-ons and replacement equipment. He covered gaining customers’ trust, how to overcome objections, eliminating bad sales habits, and how to close more deals. The outcome, Chapman told the contractors, is a service team that delivers sales and profits to the contractor, achieves greater client satisfaction and lowers turnover of the service team.
Attorney David Turiciano addressed a topic dear to the hearts of all contractors — getting paid. Construction lawyer Turiciano’s session covered contracts, liens and bankruptcies. He steered away from discussion of statutes and court decisions and focused on what really needs to happen, whether in contract negotiations or in the courtroom, for a contractor to get his money.
In addition to owners and principals, contractors were encouraged to bring along their service managers for a two-days service manager and supervisor training that was run by QSC business coach Beth Dobkin. The workshop was designed to help the service managers, some of whom may have been new to management, improve their skills, efficiency, productivity and motivation. Dobkin taught them the performance metrics for running a service department, such as attendance, image, job averages, closing rates and add-on sales. Dobkin also told the service managers how to create incentive programs, run meetings and conduct training.