Wednesday, June 10, 2015

The Main Thing

Running a restoration business is often very challenging.  When I was attending college I commented to one of my classmates that I was getting quite an education in restoration because it was more difficult than many businesses.  I made that statement without thinking since I had heard that many times but not given thought to the words.  My friend questioned my statement and I had to really give thought to the words that I had been repeating over the years.  In my reflection, and even more after over 20 years in the industry, I really believe these statements to be true and I think that the industry is becoming more difficult as time passes.  The complicating factors of the business are many: several clients on every job with often competing interests; unpredictable work flow with a twenty four hour service; extended payment delays due to several layers of payment authorization and now the potential that the mortgage company may lay claim to some of the money from the insurance proceeds; a disparate group of clients and jobs that all expect their property to be your only priority; third party payments for the work that you complete with the client’s name on the check thereby giving some property owners an expectation of a portion of the repair funds; property owners that are experiencing a great deal of stress and an invasion of privacy, plus many other contributing factors.  These challenges add to the daily frustrations experienced by the restorer.  Due to all of this, restorers often have leadership and management challenges.  I frequently see restorers using the excuse of the “restoration crisis” to allow this to dictate their management style. 

Successful restoration companies are able to create calm and predictability in the turbulent “always on” restoration world.  When our consulting company works with a restoration client we require that they read the book, Monday Morning Leadership by David Cottrell, before we start.  This book provides a great foundation for creating great leaders and also provides some valuable tools in order to manage an ever-changing business environment.  In these situations it is important to establish pillars that do not change so your employees experience some predictability in their day.  There are many gems in this book but I want to focus on one key element that will benefit any restoration company. 

The main things in any business establish your core business functions.  The main things of a business are the basic purpose or priority of your organization.  In restoration this can break down into several key components that would most likely include providing great service, making money, providing employees the tools for success, restoring order from chaos or many similar items.  When you simplify your business into several short and predictable elements it provides a foundation for all decisions in your organization. The simple process of defining the main things in your organization and then clearly communicating these Main things then you have created a foundation for all organizational decisions.  Properly done you can create a culture around these essential items, provide standards for decisions, define your vision, create your mission statement and much more. 

Defining The main things in your organization will provide clear expectations on how the employees are treated, creates your business objectives and provides an understanding of how the client is to be treated.  Your employees should know where the organizational priorities lie as well as their role in achieving these objectives.  This process may seem simplistic but is essential in your organization.  Owners and managers often make assumptions about employee feelings, thoughts and expectations.  Have you ever asked your employees the main goals or the purpose of your company?  When everyone is on the same page and looking in the same direction then you can create synergies in your business. 

Envirocare Disaster Restoration Services in Buffalo, NY has communicated one simple item that has been identified as the main thing in their organization.  The main thing for them is To Provide Exceptional Value Throughout the Restoration Process.  This is a very simple yet clear purpose that can be used to guide decisions for everyone in their organization from the leadership team to the front line staff.  I spoke to Dick MacGuire from Envirocare and he mentioned that the main thing has served as the foundation for their Mission, Vision and Values.  Dick goes on to say “I believe that if we adhere to this simple concept in all we do we will be happy with our work, having happy customers, happy employees and plenty of work.”  Several years ago, Dick gave me a gift that made their Main Thing completely clear.  They use poker chips with the words The Main Thing on the front and the words Exceptional Value of the other side.  This simple tool is a great resource for communicating the key purpose of their company.  These chips are used to communicate and reinforce the message as well as a recognition tool.  When employees are found to be performing exceptionally they are given a poker chip in recognition.  These chips can then be cashed in for prizes.  Dick says that as a result of consistent communication, you will find a clear understanding of the main things from the entire staff.  The employees of Envirocare are all on the same page and participating in value creation. 

In the changing world of restoration, how are you communicating consistency and the main purpose of your organization?  I recommend that you bring your leadership team together and discuss the core purpose of your business. When you have the top two or three items then you should take the step of putting these into writing and communicating them to your staff.  You can use this message to establish consistency in your core values, mission and vision.  I will leave you with a closing quote from Monday Morning Leadership. “When you depend on another’s perceptions to match your expectations, you’re setting yourself up for disappointment.”  Have you taken the steps needed to clarify your expectations to your staff?  Are you sure?

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