Running Your Business is a Team Sport
Originally published: 07.01.22 by Jeremy Pruitt
As a fan of football, after watching the NFL draft picks, it’s hard not to make a comparison between how players prepare for draft day and the start of the NFL season, to how HVACR business owners, prepare for the busy season. Based on my experience, having prepared for more than a few of these busy stretches, I thought I’d offer a few tips for your “pregame” regimen, so you can be your best when it’s time to play at peak performance.
I’m hyped and ready to play! If you’re with me, then let’s go!
The Workforce Pregame: Preparing for the Busy Season
Many of your employees may be fighting through residual fallout from last season, given that the industry has weathered some wide swings in volatility due to supply issues. But let’s use those growing pains to learn instead of ignoring them. In the NFL, there is an emphasis on changing your mindset – not allowing negative thoughts to get in your head and affect the game. So, if your team lacks morale, if there is residual pain from a less-successful season, change your collective attitude. As an HVACR manager, while it’s never effective to ignore issues expressed by your technicians or staff, once heard, rally the team so that they stay positive. You set the example. If your staff senses trepidation from you, that fear mindset will only trickle into the culture.
Following are a few tips to manage company morale:
- Hold weekly or daily meetings and allow employees to express concerns
- Get to know your employees and utilize their unique strengths
- Encourage employees to use vacation time and personal days – they may be worried about losing jobs, but it’s vital to protect their physical and mental health
- Make sure that all team members ask for reviews and/or customer feedback at every appointment.
- Stay ahead of the curve. Read all the reviews. Check-in with the team!
Company Culture: As the Leader, Change Your Mindset
It’s vital that as the head of the organization, you promote positivity both by example and as part of the company culture. According to Allison Holzer, co-author of Dare to Inspire: Sustain the Fire of Inspiration in Work and Life, resetting your mindset during the busy season, is essential to successful performance.
A common expectation of a busy season is that you will be overworked and stressed, not energized and inspired. Instead, as a crazy project deadline or large customer influx looms, try changing your view about it. When you view stress as an opportunity to overcome an obstacle or challenge yourself to learn and grow in new ways, it can be good for you—even inspiring.
The importance of communication in sports and business cannot be understated. But the word “communication” is often overused and has become almost a cliché term in business. We’ve all seen managers who communicate, but is it effective communication? Therefore, implementing effective communication within your company as part of the overall daily culture is key. Start by understanding what being an effective communicator truly means. After all, you can’t play the game without understanding the rules.
Increased Productivity is Dependent on Effective Communication
Recent research confirms that effective communication in business can increase productivity. According to Expert Market, in an article titled, The Importance of Effective Workplace Communication – Statistics for 2022, “with the sudden move from office-based collaboration to remote communication, some businesses have struggled.” But HVACR business owners have understood these “remote” communication issues for decades because their technicians are often communicating from out in the field. The study suggests then, that if you understand effective communication, it can positively impact your business productivity. According to the statistics:
- Organizations with connected employees show productivity increases of 20-25%.
- 64% of businesses list communicating their ‘strategy, values, and purpose’ to employees as a key priority.
- 97% of workers believe that communication impacts tasks every day.
- When employees are offered better communication technology and skills, productivity can increase by up to 30%.
Effective communication with regards to systems and procedures means setting expectations. It’s important to check in often to assure that everyone is on the same page with the given expectations. An example: you set the number of scheduled daily service calls years ago and have not modified that number. But now your business is twice as busy. Are your people still on board with those expectations? As the leader, stay informed, and talk to your team often. In this way, you will be in the know when delays are expected based on weather, an increase in business – a good problem to have – or issues with a service appointment. If you manage communication well and stay ahead of the curve, you’ll continue to deliver services at peak performance and be less impacted by seasonal ebbs and flows in business. This leads me to the next topic. Have a game plan.
Do You Have a Company Playbook – A Guide to Systems and Procedures?
Be proactive about adjusting schedules and timelines accordingly. Focus on what you can control. When bringing on new employees you will need to review the systems and procedures in detail. A team’s playbook is their bible. Do you have a clear playbook of policies, procedures, and training? It might be time to create one if not. It should contain all the offensive and defensive plays, special teams strategies, and everything else expected during the season. You can even list “likely service-call scenarios” and then give expected solutions. In sports, the manual describes how the team competes, from their overall offensive philosophy to the basic defensive look. But no manual can cover everything for every person. The best teams work, learn, and adapt together. Playbooks (systems and procedures) are a powerful tool to help business teams not only act cohesively but also produce solid work.
Recognize Your Best Employees
As with team sports, business team members like to be given an occasional, “you did a good job,” or “you were this game’s MVP”.
Recognize your team! Did a team member sell a maintenance plan? Perhaps they worked extra time to make sure a customer was happy. Recognition goes a long way. If you have found this extra step getting lost amid the busy rush, then schedule a once-monthly recognition event. It will keep you accountable and the staff will look forward to it. It can be a short fifteen-minute addition to your monthly meeting. For business owners, recognition doesn’t have to be expensive or formal. A simple gift card, sports drinks for the day, or a pizza party goes a long way. Some companies offer a paid day off. When employees feel appreciated, it goes miles toward maintaining good employee retention.
Workforce Pre-Game Planning Leads to Success!
If your goal is to have a winning season, the time to figure out the strategy is before the game. In pregame meetings and training, players get their last-minute pregame treatments, from tape-ups to massages and everything in between. You are the coach. Help your employees work through any issues they are confronting whether it be training or internal issues. The only way you can do this is through effective communication. Prepare ahead of time, so next season, competitors will be asking, “What did they do to attract so much business this year?” Get your head in the game now. I assure you, that your hard work will create a winning business model!