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“Of course, I’m accountable, it’s just that …

Originally published
Originally published: 10/1/2021

I like salespeople who are accountable. In fact, I like anyone who’s accountable, but let’s stick with sales for now. Think about your top salesperson and what they say when occasionally they miss their goal: “I’m on it, here is my plan, these are my targets, this is what my pipeline looks like, this is where I could use some help, here are the proposals that are out, I expect to close X percentage.”

Now, think about your weakest sales link and the conversation you typically have with them. It probably sounds something like this: “I’ve been having a problem getting appointments, our price is too high, the market is soft.” 

Which one is being accountable — the one addressing the shortfall with solutions or the one addressing the shortfall with excuses? In the end, the person who delivers on the goal will be most accountable, and we all know that excuses don’t lead to sales. So as a leader, you just need to hire accountable salespeople, and your job is done, right? After all, sales fix everything.

 Sorry, but no, your challenges are much greater. The long-term success of HVACR contractors hinges primarily on activities other than and in equal importance to sales. And from what I hear, the majority of you are booking sales at record levels. And, in many cases, your firm is struggling to keep up for several reasons. You don’t have enough qualified service techs to do all the work, or new equipment is unavailable from manufacturers because of supply chain issues due to covid, or both. And even surpassing monthly sales goals won’t make up for bad customer service, botched installations, or perceptions that your technicians are unprofessional or untrustworthy. 

Accountability in sales is simple because you can track it effortlessly. But company owners need to be able to ensure accountability in all functions. Additionally, while some employees may naturally have this “accountability gene” in their personality, most do not. How do you help those in the shadows shine? 

You must constantly communicate your company goals. Putting your goals in a company handbook, computer server or mentioning them at the company picnic won’t get the job done. We humans are distracted easily and tend to constantly refocus our attention on the thing that seems most important to us at the moment. As a leader, you need to shine the spot light on what you have determined is most important. 

There are many ways to do this. Hold regular and targeted meetings to communicate to every level of the business on an ongoing basis. Make it part of every employee’s review process. Celebrate the milestones and successes and don’t be afraid to address the shortcomings. You have to address the good and the bad. 

Standards and measurements are a key part of accountability. This is where technology is a huge help. Way back in 2009, contributor Mike Callahan described how to create performance standards in 10 steps. He rightly stated that you should connect all performance standards to how your customer perceives value, which supports my point that HVACR contractors need accountability checks for more than just sales. 

Use Mike’s steps to establish performance standards for all of your important activities and make them easily accessible. Keep a standard company calendar that is accessible to all. This is where you document important dates and activities in addition to discussing them during face-to-face communications. Finally, use your technology to document observations of daily activities  that do or don’t support your company goals and align with performance standards. 

These practices will: 

  • Get to genuine problem-solving and solution-creating. If the information on what should be done, how it should be done, and when it should be done is always available, you  eliminate excuses. 
  • Provide structure for employees who are not naturally inclined to stay on track. Attention span, ability to focus, and memory are neurologically based and not pure indicators of performance. Many intelligent people who have lots to contribute have an easier time doing so with the structure these time management tools provide. 
  • Give current examples of things employees should or shouldn’t be doing. Remember to praise publicly and hold accountable privately.  

Finally, reward accountability at various levels. This encourage employees to aim higher as their performances improve. 

P.S.  If you save  issues of HVACR Business look for the October 2009 issue and turn to page 13. If not, then go to our website and type in Mike Callahan’s name. Old articles like this require a membership ... don’t worry, there’s no charge. But you’ll need to create an account if you don’t have one already.  FYI, we offer 36 months of content with no roadblocks. Content older than that requires a membership.     

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