I've wandered off the subject of growing your company lately so would like to get back on track. If you've been following the trend of my articles, you'll have started a process of growth and better profits. Again, I'm not necessarily talking about adding employees, but changing your business practices so the internal structures and systems are growing.
Let's add another system — checklists. If you have a checklist for every job (coupled with Joe Cunningham's "Tech Pack" idea), then managing your business simply becomes easier, even if it's just managing yourself. Seems simple, and it is. The downside is it takes a while. However, after building each checklist they're good for life, good for training, and good for managing employees.
Let's use an example that recently reminded me of this idea. I just assembled two desks for our new home. Both were the same and I assembled them correctly to the astonishment of my wife, new neighbors, the dog, “Downboy,” and our two cats, “One” and “Two.” Yes, that's their names, One and Two.
□ Screwdriver. □ Drill. □ Hammer. □ Rags.
□ Lay out tarp to protect floor . □ Unpack the flat cartons these desks came in . (This packaging was absolutely bizarre because these suckers are in the shape of an "L" when fully assembled making the way they're packed seem little short of miraculous — and assembling them also miraculous!)
□ Lay out all the pieces on the floor. □ Make sure all the parts are there.
□ Follow the directions in the order given:□ Part "A" slides into the groove of part "B" .
□ Part "X" is screwed to part "Z" using screws "D"
□ Etc., □ etc., □ etc.
□ Put tools away.
□ Wipe down assembled desk with a clean cloth and Windex.
□ Celebrate (or, in your case, get paid for the work).
'Tis easy to draw correlating conclusions about your own biz from this story. The most eye-opening should be that tasks never done before can be done perfectly following a checklist; then that same task becomes easier and easier with repetition! Yeah, the first desk took time, but the second went together in less than half the time!
“Ah-ha!” you say, "but I'm a journeyman, I don't need no stinkin' lists!" Them was my thoughts as I began the second desk and, you guessed it, I made a few mistakes (callbacks) because I was now too arrogant to follow the checklist. Once I took the time to review the checklist, there were no mistakes!
With a checklist for every job in your repertoire some obvious conclusions emerge: A.) Minimally trained employees could do a perfect job.
B.) These employees would become more proficient with each repetition.
C.) Journeymen would be responsible for callbacks if they thought they were too experienced to follow checklists.
D.) Every homeowner would get the same degree of cleanliness, quality, and expertise no matter who you sent to do the work.
Remember those first five to 10 most common jobs I asked you to write down? I think changing out a garbage disposer was the first one. Build your checklists starting with them. Too much time? Well, don't do 'em all at once, and you can have your techs help ... those that want to. Then simply amend theirs the way you want it to read and, “presto!”, your employee manual becomes a managing and a training tool.Face it folks. There's a shortage of trained techs, so if you decide to expand by adding employees, the only way you'll do it successfully is to grow 'em yourself. Next time —if I remember — we'll talk exactly about doing just that.
I sincerely hope I'm helping some of you define and refine your businesses. It really ain't all that difficult if you institute systems-based procedures. I'll be speaking at Comfortech in Nashville about my heretical approaches to the easy, simple, do-it-your-way approach of implementing the business side of small business. Then you can spend most of your time doing what you want — fixin' stuff. Drop by and say hello.
Ed O'Connell is the founder emeritus of O'Connell Plumbing Inc. He is the subcontracting business coach for smaller contractors and a Service Round Table Coach. He can be reached in Auburn, California, at home/office: 530/878-5273 or at [email protected].