My husband and I became proud owners of our HVACR business a little more than 13 years ago. At the time, we had four technicians and ran the business out of our rental home. During this time, we both did everything in our business. I answered phones, scheduled and dispatched calls, recorded invoices, paid bills and processed payroll. My husband ran sales calls, created estimates, ordered parts and equipment and managed the service team. He even helped our installers and technicians when necessary.
It was an exciting time, but soon became exhausting and overwhelming. With three young children and a bright future ahead, we wanted to grow and began to hire more team members. As our team grew, we began to delegate tasks and responsibilities to our team. At first, I was hesitant to let anyone else take over the duties that I had been doing. What if they could not “do it as good as me?”
The myth that “no one can do it as good as me” often holds business owners back. They become the bottleneck that keeps their company from growing. It’s imperative that business owners learn how to delegate and delegate effectively. Once my husband and I began to “let go” and delegate to our new team members, we began to see amazing growth and success.
HVAC business owners who have effectively mastered the art of delegation have more time to work “on” their business and not “in” their business. When done properly, delegation can lead to increased productivity, revenue and profit. It can also lead to more fully engaged employees, improved team morale and happy customers.
While many owners are finding more freedom and growth as they delegate, there are some things that the owner should never delegate. The former teacher in me loves a good acronym, so in the spirit of “OWNERSHIP,” I would like to share nine responsibilities that the owner should never delegate.
The owner has the important responsibility of painting a clear vision for the future of the company. He or she should define the vision, mission and goals of the company. Once those are defined, it’s important to communicate the overall vision and share the WHY behind those goals. When team members can see the big picture, they can align their individual and team efforts with the company vision.
If an owner does not have a clear vision of where he or she want to go as a company, then it leaves a lack of direction for the team. Not only should owners provide the vision for the business and paint a clear picture of what goals they want to have accomplished, they should put deadlines and end dates of when they want those goals accomplished. Once the end goal is clear, the team can strategize and contribute as to how to meet those goals.
The world recently lost a great business leader with the passing of Tony Hsieh, CEO of Zappos. “At Zappos, we really view culture as our No. 1 priority. We decided that if we get the culture right, most of the stuff, like building a brand around delivering the very best customer service, will just take care of itself.”
Tony understood that interactions, both between employees and with customers, are the key to a business’s identity. When your team is excited to come to work and to be with their teammates in a safe, inviting and FUN environment, they will find more joy and satisfaction in their duties. They will also become more engaged and loyal to your company.
Need help with your culture? Start with your values. Define them and then create a plan to live those in your company. As the owner, you determine the values that will shape your culture. Then engage your team and bring the culture to life. Celebrate birthdays, holidays and other events that can bring your team together.
The owner should have a very solid understanding of the overall financial situation of the company. This includes a daily review of the income statement and understanding of the balance sheet. While bookkeeping and accountant work can be delegated, the owner should never stray too far from reviewing the important financial information such as expenses, cashflow and reconciliation of accounts. Each owner must ensure that proper checks and balances are in place to keep financial information accurate and safeguarded.
My good friend and profitability master, Ruth King, invites owners to look at their numbers — especially their cashflow — daily. “Looking at a balance sheet is more important than looking at a profit and loss statement. You build longevity, by building a strong balance sheet. From a business perspective, you cannot build wealth without profits.”
The owner should also be looking at key metrics on a regular basis and track benchmarks along the way. Knowing which KPIs (Key Performance Indicators) make the biggest impact on the company is something the owner should know and keep close watch over. KPIs such as number of booked calls, call booking rate, memberships sold, calls ran, average tickets (for all departments), turnover rates and lead conversion rates are just a few.
Service Excellence business coach, Todd Liles, promotes that all too often we give training to those who “need it,” not those who “deserve it.” I completely agree with him.
As an owner, be incredibly involved in the career paths that you are creating and providing for your team. Each path should include a level of professional and technical development that can help them develop into the leaders and representatives that best emulate your company and your values.
When determining a budget and plan for training, I have heard some concerned owners ask, “Well what if I give my technician this fabulous training and he leaves me?” The better question to ask is, “What if you DON’T give him training and he stays?”
Field employees are not the only team members that need (and deserve) to be developed. Your CSRs, dispatchers and managers will all start performing at higher levels with the right learning and development plan. We are only as strong as our weakest link. Identify weak areas in your company and find a good program, class or coach that can provide additional knowledge and skills.
Invest in your team, especially the team members who directly report to you. As you develop your leaders, they can then produce leaders on their own team.
This is one you simply MUST not delegate. Be intentional about creating relationships with every employee in your company. Get to know more about them personally, as well as professionally. Owners who are great at building such relationships seek opportunities to give their team members encouragement, advice and recognition when earned.
When a team member feels connected to their owner, they are more likely to buy into the owner’s vision and direction for the company. relationship, they will feel a deeper connection to the company, resulting in better employee retention.
Don’t forget to develop similar relationships with your customers. When a customer feels connected to the owner, they are more likely to stick with your brand and be an advocate and ambassador for your company. Take a special effort to send thank you notes, emails and phone calls to customers; especially those with a great influence and network. Build a solid network with other local business leaders.
Get involved in HVACR best practice groups, organizations, associations and vendors. The relationships that I have built in my membership with Service Nation Alliance, Women in HVACR, HVAC Excellence and other industry groups have helped me connect to some of the most influential people in the business. I have met and learned from industry icons such as Ron Smith, Larry Taylor and Matt Michel.
These groups have connected me to very successful contractors who have welcomed me into their shops and shared business practices and strategies. These relationships are priceless.
One of my favorite things about being an HVACR business owner is the daily variety and responsibility of making decisions in my company. Each day brings new decisions, opportunities and challenges. Regardless of the differences each day brings, I feel empowered to face those decisions when I have scheduled time for my personal self-development.
Taking time to develop my personal knowledge gives me an added level of confidence and energy to take on the day. Self-development may not be a responsibility that owners would delegate, but it may be one that owners procrastinate.
My husband (who is also my business partner) gets up early so he can arrive to his office an hour before everyone else and work on his personal development. This is his treasured quiet time when he is awake and focused so he can really ideate and implement the strategies he is reading about.
Like my husband, I enjoy doing my development in the early morning as well, but also look for opportunities to fit in during other times of the day. I will listen to podcasts while running, getting ready for the day or even while driving.
It sure would be nice to delegate my health to someone else in my company, but this is another key component to success that simply cannot be delegated. Nutrition, sleep, exercise as well as emotional and mental health will all play into one’s physical well-being and effect your ability to execute and perform on a high level.
Let’s face it, owning a business is stressful. The last thing any owner wants to do is carry that built up stress home and dump it on their family.
I encourage every business owner to find an effective way to release the negative emotions and stress that builds up throughout the day. Music, meditation, exercise and vocalizing frustrations are all effective ways to release emotional buildup. Find a healthy way to manage the stress and do it on a regular basis.
If necessary, seek help. While we can’t control all aspects of illness and genetic diseases, identify areas that you do have control over and make better decisions to help yourself be the best version of yourself possible.
Owners should never underestimate the influence they have on their team. The words you use, the thoughts you think, your body language, your decisions and behaviors are all being observed by your team. As an owner, you are a role model and example that your team is looking up to. This influential role cannot be delegated to your team but should be emulated by them.
I recently met with a college coach who was trying to recruit my daughter for his volleyball team. He shared a coaching strategy that I thought was very impactful. One of his team rules is that no one can swear. Seems like a stiff rule, right? He said that when he sees a player on the opposing team swearing, he knows they are frustrated. He will then design plays that go specifically toward that team player, which often ends up as a side out and a point for his team. He has won many games with this strategy.
As business owners, we must maintain control over our thoughts, language and actions. We cannot let our frustrations show. Crap happens. Expect it. But also know that when you react to any situation, your team is watching you and the way you respond. The best way to react is to be proactive in deciding right now how you will respond in any given situation.
As an owner, you started or purchased your business for a reason. What was that? What was so appealing about this industry that you decided to take the leap? I initially joined the industry to help my husband and eventually ended up loving so much about this industry. My passion quickly became marketing. As an owner, it was one of the last things that I delegated because I loved it so much.
If you have something that you absolutely love doing in your company, then don’t delegate it. Do it, enjoy it. But still take into consideration the most valuable tasks that you should be doing as an owner to help guide you in this decision as well.
Ownership comes with many responsibilities that can only be done by you, the owner. Owners have critical decisions to make every day, many of which should not and cannot be delegated. Your influence, vision and guidance will be respected by your team and customers when you take time to build meaningful relationships with them.
I invite HVACR owners to do what it takes to stay physically, mentally and intellectually empowered to lead your team and company to success.
While some business owners find more freedom and growth as they delegate, there are a few things they need to continue to do themselves.
Many smaller HVACR companies struggle with growth because the owner is wearing too many hats and tries to focus on too many areas in their business.
A culture of accountability will make a good organization great, and a great organization unstoppable.
Acknowledge and compliment your partner’s strengths, their great qualities and the good they bring to your business.
You just never know when you will run into a woman who has the skills, drive, desire or ability to become your next superstar technician.