Solve the problem: Fix Your Plumbing Business Instead of Symptoms
Pharmaceutical drugs don’t heal, they manage symptoms
You have a really bad headache. What do you do? Often we search for the bottle of aspirin. Now stop and think for a moment. Is your body really lacking aspirin? Is that why you take a tablet or two? No, the aspirin treats the symptoms, not the cause. The aspirin doesn’t deal with the cause of the headache, it simply manages the pain so you don’t feel it any more ... but the problem remains. Have you watched any TV commercials that advertise drugs? “Take XYZ pill and your symptoms will be reduced.” Notice a couple things as you watch those commercials. None “heal,” they simply manage symptoms. Secondly, nearly all have side effects. “This product may cause bleeding, heart attack, stroke or death.” Meanwhile, they’re showing the happy individual going about relatively simple day-to-day activities in luxurious soft-focus slow motion.
Do you want to be healed or do you want your symptoms managed? Besides that, sometimes the drugs side effects are actually worse than the original problem. The reality, however, is that many would rather take a pill to manage the symptoms than to do the hard work of making lifestyle changes in order to facilitate a cure.
Now what are you doing as an owner or manager? Are you managing symptoms or solving root problems?
If you are an owner or manager, you probably have lots of irons in the fire every day. When a problem arises we all want the fastest solution possible so we can move on to the next fire. The reality is that, in the long run, it’s better to spend a bit more time, energy and money today than to have to deal with the same problem again several weeks or months down the road.
Delegate or die
One example of this principle is delegation. One of the most difficult things for most owners to do is to truly delegate duties and responsibilities to others. We feel like we are losing control if we are not intimately involved in everything. Also, it “seems” a lot easier to simply do it ourselves than to spend time training someone else to do it. After all, you can handle it in 30 min. and it will take you an hour or more to show Joe how to do it. The results are obvious. If you do it yourself, next time a similar situation arises you will be the one who has to take the time, again, to fix it. If you trained Joe how to handle it you would not have to be involved. The choice is yours.
Let’s look at another situation. My goodness, things are busy and we need another service tech today. We quickly hire a warm body to get the position filled ASAP. However, we later find out the new hire is really not all that skilled. Besides that, his customer service skills are poor and he ends up alienating a couple of long-time customers. Within a few weeks, or months, he’ll either leave or we’ll fire him. What will that cost the company? Perhaps we really should have done an assessment on him before we hired him to see if he had the technical ability, handled paperwork well and was willing to be a team player. Checking references would have been helpful too, as doing a background check would have revealed he had three DUIs over the past two years. Taking a pill to manage the symptoms — hiring the first warm body we could find — seemed like a good idea at the time but, in the long run, it caused a lot of damage.
How about this one? You just invested $5,000 in a new piece of equipment that should increase productivity and profitability. William is a sharp tech; so he’s the man to use it. You hand him the manual and rush him out the door. He spends precious minutes skimming the manual, uses the equipment improperly and bingo! He messes up the job and breaks the new piece of equipment. Maybe you should have sent William to that half-day training class.
Now let’s look at one last example. Sam has been with the company for ten years and he handles most of your sales. His close rate isn’t real good but he is a hard worker. As time goes on you’re sure he will get better. He is on 100% commission so his income depends on it. Over the next few months Sam begins selling more jobs, but the company seems to always be drawing from its line of credit to survive. You know you should be job costing Sam’s jobs but that takes time, time you don’t have. However, one day you decide to take the time and you discover the company lost money on most of his jobs. After a bit of research you discover Sam has been lowering the price for some time. You might also discover that Sam’s sales began going up at the same time profitability began to fall. Sam, however, is doing okay. He is earning a commission on every job while the company is losing money. Truth be known, you should have replaced Sam months ago, but hey, he has been with your company a long time. You should have dealt with the problem but it was a lot easier to treat symptoms at the time; however the long-terms affects have been much worse.
Ignoring problems we know in our heart need to be fixed doesn’t help anyone. The short, quick answer is seldom the right one. Pay attention and make the hard decisions.
Let me suggest one other practical tip. I don’t know why but women seem to have a God-given ability to sense trouble before men do. I have been married more than 46 years. Especially early in our marriage my wife would come to me with a “feeling.” She would say, “Tom, I don’t feel comfortable with this situation or that.” My response, as a man, was very straightforward. Tell me what the problem is and I’ll solve it. Since it was a “feeling” she didn’t have specifics so I tended to ignore the situation only to have the problem she described pop up several weeks, or months, later. Why do I share that story? If your wife (or female staff member) shares a “feeling” about an employee, customer or situation do yourself a favor. Take the time to check it out. It might just save you a lot of time, energy and/or money.
Is your company growing, but making less and less money? If so, it might be time to have a two-day, on-site, Company Overview performed. Over the two days we will model your company, by department, on our labor pricing software. By the end of the two days your Financial Business Plan will tell you what you need to charge per hour and you will have created month-by-month, department-by-department cash flow budgets to track your progress. Proper maintenance agreement and job pricing will also be determined.
For more details, contact Tom Grandy. We are also offering Reeves Journal readers a $500 discount so be sure to mention you read this article.