20 Questions with Wade Mayfield, President of Thermal Services Inc.
Originally published: 03.01.10 by Terry Tanker
Wade Mayfield is President of Thermal Services Inc., Omaha, Neb. Recently, Publisher Terry Tanker talked to Mayfield about his rise from sheet-metal apprentice in 2000 to his current leadership role.
1. How would you finish this sentence, I need to get a new…..?
2. Secretly, what talent do you wish you had?
I would love to play the drums, but I don’t have any rhythm!
3. What’s at the top of your wish list not related to family or business?
My son Jake and I think it would be cool to have a tank.
4. What makes you lose track of time?
I enjoy thinking about work and new ways to do things. I find myself in deep thought thinking about how we can “do it even better.”
5. You joined Thermal Services in the fall of 2000 as a sheet metal apprentice. Tell me about that experience.
I was paired with one of our best and toughest installers. It was a great experience for me to learn this business from the bottom up. I have a great deal of respect for the craftsmen that I work with.
6. You took classes to become a residential service technician. What were your goals?
It did not take long to discover that sheet metal was not going to be one of my strengths. I was excited about learning the service side of the business. My goals were to be the best residential serviceman the company had and then move into our commercial service group.
7. In less than two years you were promoted to service manager for residential and commercial. What were your thoughts on becoming a manager?
I knew that to be a good manager, I needed to become a great leader first. As my leadership aptitude grew, my effectiveness as a manager grew; as my management skills grew, our revenue grew. For me it all started with leadership.
8. What strategies did you learn in the field that you used as a manager?
Always remember the customers. Too many times managers make the mistake of implementing internal processes and procedures that make things easier for the company, but often make things more difficult for customers to do business with you. I still focus on being easy to do business with at the customer level.
9. You were the least-tenured candidate for the service manager’s position, yet you got the promotion. What did the owner(s) see in you?
That’s a great question that I have never asked. Once I was given the job, I focused only on being the best at my newest challenge.
10. What steps did you do take to improve your skills as a new manager?
I became an avid reader and decided to always keep a book going. Most focused on growing my leadership as well as my business acumen. I’ve also sought out people whom I respected to mentor me inside and outside the company.
11. Your next position was Operations Manager. How did you address the challenges of this position?
This was my first experience with managing managers, and it was a much more difficult transition than I would have initially thought. You are further removed from directly effecting things, and you are now leading and managing by influence. It helped that I focused on my leadership skills first, and the mechanics of business second.
12. How has the company grown since you were a sheet metal apprentice?
We were roughly 50 employees with sales of $8 million in 2000; today we are roughly 90 employees with sales of about $17 million. Our business mix has changed a little also; we are60/40 commercial/residential. Back in 2000, we were 50/50.
13. What is the largest challenge your company will face in 2010?
The effect the economy has had on the consumer and their spending both residentially and commercially. As long as your business is focused on delivering quality products and services, while being easy to do business with, the economy should have minimal impact on you.
14. How do you use technology to improve your business?
About four years ago, we made the jump to wireless/paperless service software from Openstream. This has given us a tremendous advantage by having instant access to price changes on both labor and material. We no longer have support staff pouring through hundreds of invoices weekly; they are now pointed towards customer service.
15. What pushed you toward using this technology?
As we grew through service, the more inefficient we became. The more service calls we received, the longer the tech was waiting for his next call in the field. The more paper invoices we created, the more clerical staff we needed to hire. So we decided that we needed a seamless, wireless mobile dispatching, pricing, inventory and time-keeping solution if we were going to grow externally and not internally. With Openstream, we have doubled our service with little internal growth. This equaled more profits from service.
16. What aspect of business do you enjoy the most?
Managing change. In order for businesses to grow and succeed, they must adapt.
17. How would you describe your management philosophy?
There are four qualities you must posses in order to work for me. 1. Leadership – Worthy of being followed. 2. Candor – Being able to speak openly and honestly while leaving dignity in place. 3. Tenacity – Wanting to win at every level in your life. 4. Execution – Being able to take a plan and put wheels on it.
18. What is your most important role?
Leadership. Successful organizations have clearly defined leaders who also are great coaches and inspire others.
19. What tools do you use to motivate your management team?
If you are well structured, well led and goal driven, then winning is enough motivation for the right people.
20. What training does Thermal Service offer?
We have our own full-time instructor. We have many technical training sessions for service techs and installers; and we have hired professional sales trainers to help polish our skill set.