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Accountability Starts With You

Originally published: 10.01.09 by Terry Tanker

I like sales people who are accountable. In fact, I like anyone who’s accountable, but let’s stick with sales for now. Think about your top sales person and what they say when occasionally they miss their goal: “I’m on it, here is my plan, these are my targets, this is what my pipeline looks like, this is where I could use some help, here are the proposals that are out, I expect to close X percentage.”

Now, think about your weakest sales link, and the conversation you typically have with them. It probably sounds something like this: “I’ve been having a problem getting appointments, our price is too high, the market is soft.”

Which one is being accountable — the one addressing the shortfall with solutions, or the one addressing the shortfall with excuses? In the end, the person who delivers on the goal will be most accountable, and we all know that excuses don’t lead to sales. So as a leader, you just need to hire sales people who are accountable, and your job is done, right? After all, sales fix everything.

Sorry, but your challenge is much greater. The long-term success of hvacr contractors hinges mostly on activities other than and in equal importance to sales. Even goalsurpassing sales won’t make up for bad customer service, botched installations, or perceptions that your technicians are unprofessional or


Accountability in sales is simple because it’s so effortlessly tracked. But company owners need to be able to ensure accountability in all functions. Additionally, while some employees may naturally have this “accountability gene” in their personality, many do not. Your stars will naturally shine, and with a little encouragement, they will shine even brighter — the tougher job here is helping those in the shadows shine. How can you do this?

First and foremost, you must constantly communicate your company goals. Putting your goals in a company handbook that sits on a shelf or computer server, or reiterating company goals once a year at a company picnic won’t get the job done. We humans are distracted easily and tend to constantly refocus our attention on the thing that seems most important to us at the moment. As a leader, you need to keep refocusing your employees on what you have determined is most important.

There are many ways to do this. For instance, in our September issue, columnist Ron Smith wrote about the importance of holding regular and targeted meetings to communicate to every level of the business on an ongoing basis. Ron advocates setting a very high threshold for canceling these meetings because this communication is vital to success.

Standards and measurements also are part of accountability. This is where technology is a huge help. In this issue, contributor Mike Callahan describes how to create performance standards in 10 steps. He rightly states that all performance standards should be connected to how your customer perceives value, which supports my point that hvacr contractors need accountability checks for more than just sales. Use Mike’s steps to establish performance standards for all of your important activities and make them easily accessible via technology (i.e., networks, wireless devices, etc.). Additionally, keep a common company calendar that is accessible to all. This is where you document important dates and activities in addition to discussing them during face-to-face communications. Finally, use your personal technologyenabled habits to document observations of daily doings that do or don’t support your company goals and/or align with performance standards.

These practices will:

• Get to true problem-solving and solution-creating. If information on what should be done, how it should be done, and when it should be done is always available, this eliminates most excuses.

• Provide structure for employees who are not naturally inclined to stay on track. We now know that things such as attention span, ability to focus, and memory are neurologically based and not pure indicators of performance. Many intelligent people who have lots to contribute will have an easier time doing so with the structure these tools provide.

• Give ever-current examples of things employees should or shouldn’t be doing for you to praise (publicly), remind (publicly but anonymously), and hold accountable (privately during performance reviews or immediately if warranted) members of your team.

Finally, reward accountability. You might even ask individuals or teams to set their own goals (as long as they support your overall goals) and provide various levels of rewards depending upon performance. This will encourage employees to shoot higher as their performances improve.

Terry has more than 25 years of experience in the advertising and publishing industries. He began his career with a business-to-business advertising agency. Prior to forming Hutchinson Tanker Ltd. and HVACR Business in January 2006, he spent 20 years with a large national publishing and media firm where he was the publisher of several titles in the mechanical systems marketplace.

In addition to his experience in advertising and publishing, Terry has worked closely with numerous industry-related associations over the years including AHRI, AMCA and ABMA. He currently serves on the board of N.A.T.E  (North American Technicians Excellence Association). He has also served on the Board of Directors for the American Boiler Manufactures Association (ABMA) and as chairman for both the Associates Committee and the Marketing Communications Committee.


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