Editor's Blog


Division or Divisive

October 31, 2011
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I work with companies that do commercial work only, commercial and residential work only and residential work only.

I also work with these same companies that are service work only, install work only and those who do both service and install work.

Wait…it gets more complicated.

Some companies like to distinguish between small install and big install. Or they like to separate AOR (add on replacement), typically for residential or light commercial from new construction which can be residential or commercial.

I’m not finished. I also work with companies who only do one trade: plumbing, heating, cooling, electrical, roofing and carpentry. And many more companies who now do one or more trades and create separate divisions for each.

The problem is that with so many factions brewing at these companies divisiveness can spring up and it usually does!

Tracking the Work

It gets super complicated to track what work was done by which of these multiple divisions and who is producing profit when we borrow labor from one another. Ultimately, you do either service work or you do install work.

To be clear, the way I define service is a tech goes to a home or business prepared to solve a problem, they present the solution, sell the repair, do the work and collect the money. The definition of ‘install’ is a job typically a day or more of work sold by someone else. At our company it was our salespeople who we call system engineers, and now the installer is installing equipment and trying to bring the job in on-time and on-budget.

Another problem with creating too many divisions on your Organizational Chart at your company is that it becomes a financial nightmare to track it all. Also, too many divisions create sub-cultures that create an unhealthy rivalry for the owner’s attention and the company’s resources.

This breeding of micro-companies at your company doesn’t work when you have to ask: “What’s the best way to serve the customer first, the company second and the staff third?” Nothing can benefit the staff or the company if it doesn’t first benefit the customer. In other words, you, the staff, can’t win at the expense of the customer first and the company second.

At my own shop years back, we had guys who were service techs only and guys who were just installers. The problem that we encountered (as is the case with most of my new clients) was we were either swamped with too many service calls or too much install work. We ended up stealing guys from each division occasionally to keep up.

I recall it being a divisive culture at my own shop. Understand that our installers worked very hard Monday through Friday from at least 8 to 5 p.m. and many times very late into the night to complete their work. But when it was freezing cold, broiling hot or flooding the installers would just finish their job and wave goodbye to the service techs, knowing full well that these guys would be out nights, weekends and holidays working crazy hours to keep up with the increased demand.

To make matters worse, the installers, despite constant pleading, would invariably do maddening things like bury circulators in inaccessible locations or put furnaces in so that the blower access doors became a service nightmare. They probably thought to themselves, “Why should I care…I’m not coming back to do the service?” But the Service techs knew how to play the game, too. They’d call for an installer anytime something so simple as cutting a 1-inch piece of pipe needed to be done. Hey, you know what they say about payback.

Finally, I had enough. I explained that from here on out my service techs are also going to be cross-trained to do appropriate install work when I need it to be done. And I explained to my installers that they, too, were going to be cross-trained to handle appropriate service work the right way as well.

I realized it was really my fault because I hadn’t done cross-training and I hadn’t provided an incentive to the techs that addressed their “What’s in it for me” so why should they help out mentality? When they were cross-trained the right way, I paid them more for their additional levels of skills and they loved the added responsibility of moving up the Organizational Chart. The other great thing was the inter-company divisiveness began to disappear.

We had more capable hands on deck for when the stuff hit the fan on service or we were getting backlogged on install work. For the first time ever, the installers actually installed stuff with access in mind just because they knew that they might now have to come back and actually work on this equipment. And service techs knew that they would be required to do simple install tasks that they could no longer dump on installers anymore. It was lovely!

Okay, I’m not suggesting you push this change until you have documented procedures for how you do your service and install work and a training center, or at least your own building and home, to work on how to do the work the right way. But, I am suggesting that if you commit to this path your dispatch nightmares and workflow issues will be greatly reduced. Plus, your company will start acting more like a team if you do this the right way!

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MaryanneHood
November 19, 2011
That's cool that people are able to receive the loan and this opens up new possibilities.

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