The Importance of Your Plumbing Business Process
The bigger you get, the better it is to have the hows and whys written down
The Merriam-Webster Dictionary definition of the word process is, “a series of actions that produce something or that lead to a particular result.” I think it would be fair to argue that if you don’t have a defined process you would still get a result — it just might not be the result you were hoping for. Let me give you another definition that we’ve all heard: Insanity is doing the same thing over and over, and expecting a different result.
As a business coach, I get to see a lot of processes. Earlier this year, Nexstar developed a training program we call The Levels Project. We brought in several outstanding companies from our membership that are profitable and experience amazing growth year after year. The end result is a program that shows what operating at each revenue level looks like and that offers coaching on how to get to the next level. If you are at $5 million in annual sales, what does it take to get to $10 million, $20 million or beyond? We built a roadmap to show members how to get there.
One thing the larger companies had in common was a focus on defining process within the businesses. For example: When you are at $1 million in revenue, you may be able to handle individual hurdles, such as a technician calling out sick. However, when you are at $10 million in revenue, the lack of a defined time-off policy can make scheduling and customer service an absolute nightmare.
Another example of a process lies in how you expect your technicians to handle a situation. For example, a plumber is called to a home for a running toilet. The plumber rebuilds the toilet and the customer is happy. Two days later, the same homeowner calls the shop, blaming you for their flooded house because the 15-year-old, builder’s grade supply line to the toilet failed. You touched it last, so it must be your fault. As a result of this interaction, you define a company process requiring a new supply line to be included in any situation where that line is removed by your plumbers. Processes help you communicate your expectations to your team and create a plan to prevent those problems from ever happening again.
Creating your process
People running companies that experience exceptional growth and long-term success know you cannot move forward if you keep making the same mistakes over and over.
Start by identifying things that cause frustration within your business. Think of these as defects. Whenever a defect occurs, ask yourself how you can prevent this from happening again and write the process you want in place. If you are facing a recruiting challenge, then define what your process is to attract, interview and screen applicants. Who owns the process and is responsible for implementing the plan? If your drain technicians are not converting mainline opportunities into leads, then define their process. When do we notify dispatch? Who runs the lead? When do we get the sewer specialist out to the call? What you will find is that we make a lot of assumptions about what we think our teams are going to do. By defining your expectations, you will reduce stress that is caused by confusion.
As you start building your processes, they may evolve into operations manuals, field manuals, dispatch manuals and more. You will see these processes grow into volumes that become the owner’s manual for running your business. Control of the master copy becomes critical as you refine processes, so every employee expected to follow the newest version has it available to them.
Refining your process
Your first reaction to defects should be to ask: What is our process? Did we follow our process? Do we need to refine our process? A process is a living document that will never be finished. Changes in technology, best practices or sometimes personnel may dictate when a process needs to be rewritten. The importance of spending all this time writing processes may not seem important until one day you realize things are running much smoother. Your technicians will be performing at a higher level because they have been trained to follow an effective process that gets ever-better results. Every process you implement will make the foundation of your company stronger.
Most mansions have libraries in them. Of course they do. People don’t typically wait until they have a mansion to start buying books or at least reading them. The mansion is typically a result of the knowledge. Don’t wait to start building your processes. A healthy and profitable company is typically the result of implementing great processes.