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    Process Puzzle

    ESSENTIALS: The Importance of Process

    Feb. 12, 2020
    When you establish processes in your HVAC business, your team is organized and on schedule, with fewer conflicts, increased sales, and reduced employee turnover.

    According to a report by Planview, conducted in 2015, by Loudhouse, poor processes were determined to cause of 44% of company inefficiencies in the US.

    There’s only one reason to start an HVAC company, and that’s to eventually sell it at a profit. It will be easier to sell if the company can run without you being there. You do that by having processes that are documented in an operations manual.

    Wouldn’t it be nice of HVAC companies came with an instruction manual? You can buy operations manuals to give you a starting point, but you’re really going to need to create one yourself.

    • Processes are measurable and repeatable.

    • Processes set standards and expectations.

    • Processes can improve employee cooperation because everyone knows their role; everyone knows what to do. When processes are in place, one person doesn’t get stuck doing the work of others.

    With strict procedures already in place, employees simply have to follow them and managers just have to enforce them.
    Having a set process in place makes you more organized and helps you to stay on schedule.

    With proper procedures in place, you may experience fewer workplace conflicts because everyone will know their individual responsibilities and employees clearly understand how to approach their jobs. Employees understand exactly what is expected of them. With strict procedures already in place, employees simply have to follow them and managers just have to enforce them.

    “People-centered” or “Process-centered”
    Service Nation
    ’s Matt Michel says that companies are either “people-centered,” or  “process-centered.” 

    Contractors with “people-centered” companies are in a turmoil when someone leaves the company. Others have their workload increased and become unhappy. You replace that person with someone new, and that person has to be trained. Often, the person responsible for training the new hire is unfamiliar with the job they’re training the new hire for. When the new employee doesn’t work out, it compounds the problem and the expense.

    “Process-centered” companies have fewer difficulties when people don’t show up for work or leave the company.

    When a company is truly “process-centered,” it can run without the owner or upper management being on the premises, or even easily reachable via phone or electronic means.

    New Hires
    The commonly accepted figure is that a new hire costs about two times the employee’s annual salary. A new hire that doesn’t work out costs even more.

    In his April 16, 2015 article — “Onboarding Key to Retaining, Engaging Talent” — which was posted on shrm.org, Roy Maurer wrote:

    “A 2009 study by the Aberdeen Group of senior executives and HR staffing and recruiting functions found that 86 percent of respondents felt that a new hire’s decision to stay with a company long-term is made within the first six months of employment.

    “Correspondingly, one-third of approximately 1,000 respondents to a February 2014 survey by BambooHR said they had quit a job within six months of starting it. Between 16-17 percent of the respondents left between the first week and the third month of starting their new job.

    “Of those respondents who left within the first six months, 23 percent said ‘receiving clear guidelines to what my responsibilities were’ would have helped them stay on the job. Twenty-one percent said they wanted ‘more effective training,’ 17 percent said ‘a friendly smile or helpful co-worker would have made all the difference,’ 12 percent said they wanted to be ‘recognized for [their] unique contributions,’ and 9 percent said they wanted more attention from the manager and co-workers.

    “About one-third of the new hires who had quit said they’d had barely any onboarding or none at all, and 15 percent of respondents noted that lack of an effective onboarding process contributed to their decision to quit.”

    The lesson here: nobody wants to stay in a new job where their first impression is that the work environment is disorganized.

    A well thought out training process is probably one of the most effective ways of ensuring that a new candidate will choose to stay with your company.

    Writing your Operations Manual
    I’ll start by making it clear that you do not need to be a writer yourself, you do not need to know how to type, you don’t need to know how to spell, and you don’t need to know punctuation to write your own operations manual, or even a best-selling novel, for that matter. There are services available on the Internet that will transcribe your voice recordings for as little as $1 per minute of voice recording. Just do a web search on “Who can transcribe my voice recordings”. 

    (Ed. note: CB has used rev.com for transcriptions, with good results.)

    So, to write your Operations Manual, award-winning script, or life story, all you need to do is recite it into the voice recorder on your mobile phone and send the recording off to one of these services to be transcribed. I know of a few best-selling authors that do exactly that.

    Write down everything you’re doing, step-by-step. Coming up with written instructions for running a company may seem like a daunting task, but you don’t have to do it all by yourself. As you hire additional people and new tasks are created, have your employees write these step-by-step procedures. That’s what I did.

    Then, when you hire someone to take your place, they know what to do and have a reference to  turn to, rather than hunt you down and bother you.

    Eventually, you’ll have an operations manual for your company. A side benefit to this is that if your company is profitable and has a good reputation, you could wind up being able to sell that operations manual to other contractors. It will that make your company easier to sell one day.

    Process Training
    Once you write out your procedures, the next step is to train employees on them. Communication is key, and employees can only be expected to follow procedures if they know they exist. Schedule regular refresher sessions to keep employees on track.

    You want every customer to have the same experience, regardless of which technician runs the call. The only way to do that is with ongoing training that includes scripts and role-playing. The technician training can include such topics as:

    • The greeting at the door

    • Where you go first

    • What you do when you encounter refrigerant leaks and failed heat exchangers

    • How you present the price

    • How to arrange credit

    • Presenting the product and the price 

    • Write up a quote

    • Write up an invoice

    • What to say when collecting

    • Selling service agreements

    • Selling everything else you have to sell

    • Selling over the phone 

    • Selling to landlords 

    • Selling service agreements 

    • Upgrading a repair to a replacement, or generating a replacement lead

    • What you say when customers say:

    - Your price is too high!

    - I want to think it over!

    - I have to talk to my husband.

    - If it ain’t broke, don’t fix it.

    Additionally, techs should be trained on:

    • Truck maintenance

    • Inventory control

    • Safety

    • Arranging credit for customers.

    Essential ‘How To’ Methods

    • Answer the phone (should be scripted and followed precisely every time)

    • Dispatch calls

    • Prioritize calls

    • Arrange for payment.

    These are just topics to cover in the service department.

    Processes Followed by Improvement
    In his blog on agiledge.com, Alan Hoffmanner wrote,

    “Because we do many processes repeatedly, small improvements can add up to huge benefits.

    “I was involved with a heating and air conditioning company where a division leader focused his entire energy for a year on eliminating costs one penny at a time. This singular focus led to numerous ideas and many innovations that led to a rather amazing result. During the following year, as a result of this effort, their market share nearly doubled. The focus on these improvements led not only to significant cost reductions but a number of innovative product and marketing innovations that made a huge difference in the marketplace. In small businesses, it may not be the pennies, but it is the dollars saved or gained by making small adjustments to your product or service delivery processes that make the difference.”

    I couldn’t have said it better myself, Alan.