Sunday, June 30, 2013

The Difficulty and the Enjoyment of Finding the Next Technician to Hire

The wonderful world of HVAC is where I spend much of my life.  Many of the hours spent are with our people who are or become core members of the tribe, we call them AirTightans.  We search high and low for the right type of person to join our tribe.  No they are not tribe members day one, but if we search out the right kind of folks, they can blend into our tribe and as they learn the AirTight culture, eventually (10,000 hours or so) they morph into AirTightans.

Yes, we do all of the "must do's" to ensure we are vetting out and getting the people to interview who at least have the best chance to stick around long-term.  35% of our small and young company have been with us 5 years or longer.  We are 14 years old and have 35 employees on the pay-roll.  We also have the first ever employee, Denny Baumgart and our first customer, Childress Klein Properties.

As you know if have ever tried to hire anyone, let alone a skilled craftsman, it is a laborious effort.  As you are interviewing, multiple times with multiple different people within your tribe, real life keeps going.  So after three rounds and three different groups of us interviewing, we narrow down or list, as that list gets narrowed, we ouch into the relationship with a ride along session with team leaders, work with our production team, etc...

If all of that goes well, then we get to make an offer and see if we can come to terms on finances and benefits.  We are not a unionized shop, so we actually get to negate the person skills value, versus there positional pay, way better in my mind .... Kind of like our customers do us!

Well, this past Friday we came to an agreement with such a gentleman, we are excited by the prospects of him coming, his opportunities to understand us, our ways and most importantly, how strongly we feel that Excellent Customer Service and Care are the cornerstone of AirTight.

Wish us well in our new relationship, we will be learning each other, coaching, mentoring, guiding and everything humanly possible to allow this to flow as it should.

Next up .... Start looking and being open to the next great soul that comes along and wants to take the ride with us.

Is that you?

Friday, June 7, 2013

Lunch as part of Success Series of Interviews / "Bob Smith" – A World Class I.T. Industry Leader

The lunch interview was one more installment of the “Success Interview Series”.  “Bob Smith”, the successful CEO of a local, Charlotte, NC, Co-Location & Managed Hosting Company was my willing guest.  Bob has been a friend of AirTight for many years, we have been fortunate to be able to assist their growth within the infrastructure of their companies multiple data centers scattered throughout the region.  I asked him if he would break bread and allow me to better understand what it took to become successful, at  least from my view-point, as you know, most successful people are slightly reserved when it comes to anointing themselves as successful.
After settling in, he was kind enough to really open up, we discussed how he got to where he was, the real road map, complete with pot holes, steep grades and even some dirt roads.  It was really amazing to me to be able to get a glimpse into the world that normally we only imagine.  Most often, I find anyway, that when I think about success and the people who fit under that banner, it seems pretty glamorous, then to find out about the pot holes and the slippery slopes of inclement weather, it allows a deeper appreciation.
This interview was certainly not the exception to that rule.  The exception was how much this gentleman told me and how goofy I must have looked as he told me some of the happenings.  We talked for over an hour, towards the end, he settled on just a few examples of what had “Made Him Successful”.
Being Forgiving:  This was the dominant thought.  Bob relayed how forgiveness allowed him to move from one business relationship that didn’t end so well, but the forgiveness he allowed to enter his heart, really put him on his current course.  I didn’t take this at all lightly, in fact it made me recount a time or two that I should have been / wished I would have been more forgiving.  It certainly would have allowed for quicker wound healing.  The second and most spoken about publicly part? … Having people around you that you can trust and have candid conversations with without the raw words spilling out.  Just good, simple and clear communications to put all on the same page.  The final thought was about your investors: …  Be it capital, emotions or just confidence:  Work to have a great rapport with the team, they can allow you to really roll, but they have to believe in the mission, they cannot do that if they do not believe in you.
This session, like all of them thus far have been, are about just a handful of things.  You do not have to complicate things, just concentrate on the basics.  (Jim Rohn was/is famous for this line /  Honesty, being fair and do not put your reputation at risk.
These are the exact things that Bob has done.

Thursday, June 6, 2013

Warren Buffet's 10 Rules to Success

I like to follow Warren Buffet.  He is a quirky, funny and great guy.  While he operates in an entirely different stratosphere than our company does, these rules seem to work for many different sized enterprises.  They are a good read and good things are bound to happen when you implement as many of them as you can.  He appears to have a great time in life and hangs out with some "fairly" successful folks as well.

So here they are, as he presents them:

1. Reinvest Your Profits. This makes sense not only in the stock market, but in a small business as well. Entrepreneurs who bleed all the profits out of a business find that they may struggle to grow the business into something larger and more valuable.

2. Be Willing to be Different. Buffet didn’t make his fortune by following the crowd. Instead, he invested when everyone else was panicked, and sold off when everyone else was buying. That strategy always beats the market. Doing what everybody else is doing - the same way they are doing it - is the recipe for becoming average. Nobody pays extra for “average”.

3. Never Suck Your Thumb. After you gather the information you need, make a decision. To Buffet, any time wasted to get to a decision is just “thumb sucking”. Success comes from immediately grabbing every opportunity that you can recognize.

4. Spell out the Deal In Advance. Your bargaining position is never stronger than before you are committed. So, advantage of that opportunity to spell out the details and specifics of any deal before you start. This is especially true when working with friends or family.

5. Watch Small Expenses. In the investment world, this translates into watching not just the returns offered by investment funds, but also the fees charged by the fund managers. This is so true in every aspect of small business and personal finance, as well.

6. Limit What You Borrow. Buffet claims to never have borrowed a significant amount of money. His advice is to remain debt-free, and then save and invest money. This is a very counter-cultural (see #2) contrast to those who preach getting rich using Other People’s Money.

7. Be Persistent. This is an advantage that the small entrepreneur has over larger, more established competitors. Persistence and ingenuity can, and often does win against large odds. If you’ve done your research, taken care of the details, watched your expenses and stayed out of debt, your success through persistence may only be a matter of time.

8. Know When to Quit. Don’t throw good money after bad. Resist the temptation to salvage a bad deal with a last-minute home run.

9. Assess the Risk. Buffet recommends thinking through both the best-case and the worst-case scenarios. This helps clarify the risks and rewards for any venture, which is critical to the decision making process.

10. Know What Success Means. Buffet doesn’t measure success in terms of dollars. As he says, “When you get to my age, you’ll measure your success in life by how many of the people you want to have love you actually do love you.” Here is wisdom.

Wednesday, June 5, 2013

Cheap Is No Bargain

First Composed by Jim Bartolotta (HVAC – Mechanical Contractor & Friend), Chicago, IL / Tweaked add images added by G. Crumpton / AirTight


“It is unwise to pay too much, but it is worse to pay too little.  The common law of business balance prohibits paying a little and getting a lot … it can’t be done.  When you deal with the lowest bidder, it is wise to add something for the risk you run, and if you do that you will have enough to pay for something better!”

                                                                   John Ruskin (1819-1900)

This simple fact regarding cost was written in the late 1800s, but it still holds true today.  The HVAC industry is full of companies who claim to offer discount service, when in reality they perform “breakdown maintenance”.  The scenario usually goes something like this:  the building owner or manager calls for service (oftentimes, it’s an emergency); the “discount” company sends someone out to patch things up, and the building owner is led to believe that everything is working fine.  A short time later the system fails again, and this cycle continues until the system is in such disrepair that it must be replaced.  Now the building owner is faced with a large, unexpected expense. 

Maintaining a complex mechanical system in this way is like putting a band-aid on a serious injury.  Without routine testing procedures there is no way of knowing what trouble lies ahead.  So why then, when it comes to a building’s HVAC system, which is mechanically very complex and represents a large investment, that routine maintenance is often put off or forgotten?

One reason is because in commercial buildings, heating and air conditioning systems are usually housed where they’re not readily seen, like on the roof or in a basement mechanical room.  Their location makes it easy to forget that like anything mechanical, they need attention.  The functions they perform are also easily taken for granted, until the system ceases to operate properly.

Quality mechanical contractors take a different approach to mechanical systems.  Due to lack of maintenance, many building owners are spending far too much on their HVAC systems and related costs such as higher energy bills, loss of production, emergency repairs, and ultimately, premature replacement.  Long-term success comes from the contractor sharing their customer’s concerns and providing a planned maintenance program that offers solutions.

Because HVAC systems are extremely complex, quality contractors provide experts in all facets of operations, ensuring their customers get the right person for the job and information on technological advances.  Regularly scheduled visits guarantee that the system is constantly monitored and maintained according to the manufacturer’s recommendations.  An offensive approach to maintaining such valuable equipment allows for budget control and just makes good business sense.

Monday, June 3, 2013

Establishing a Leadership Team from Within

Many companies get to a point where you have to have some lieutenants to help forward the mission.  So you corral your top talent, real stars who get it, care about the mission and yet, have been taught little, if any, leadership skills.  Maybe a couple of them served our great country through one of the armed forces, maybe one was the captain of the football team or the majorette in charge of the drill team in college.  But overall, we all grow up, refrain, most of us grow up having to learn leadership from in front of the keyboard, becoming a student teacher, which from what I gather is like the band scene in the movie “Roadhouse” where the crowd was throwing stuff at the band  or peering out of the windshield of a service vehicle.

First step, get your core together and ask them what is it they want from a leadership position?  Most of the front line assassins simply do not know.  It isn’t that they do not want to help, it is simply that many people do not know what leadership looks like, sounds like or moreover, feels like to be sure.  Once you get them circled up, it does get easier, for me, we start simple and depending on your group, ours are mid-thirties with a wife/husband and two kids on average.  The amount of time that they can spend on personal development can be impaired fairly significantly until the kids are of a functional age and that the spouse of said employee or team member realizes that the effort by their partner may well indeed pay off later in life.  Learn how to deal with the DIMK’s (Dual Income Multiple Kid’s) group, they make up our future and current leaders.

As a male, I can attest to the fact that we on average do not mentally mature until we are in our mid thirties or at least 74.5% of us.  That isn’t a bad thing, it just is, deal with it, pace yourself, your expectations and work through it.  As a male doing what I can to serve the female members of our team, they do get it much faster, they also tend to have many more responsibilities than their hairier spouses, it all will come in time.  Just keep the faith, keep the energy flowing and work on your on expectations as to what you can expect from this next generation of EXCELLENT leaders you are shepherding.

Parting thought, Do Not Not Do This, It Is Important, We all need the next generation to be strong, keep the faith even on those days when you feel that ... whatever feeling.  

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