Every year my business finds itself in a situation where client demand significantly outweighs our capacity. We have a name for this situation. We call it a “state of emergency” and we do that to make it clear to everyone that we are in a moment of special need. We have a specific set of rules that we expect everyone (including the company and leadership team) to live by during these times. These expectations are communicated during the interview process, about a month before every expected busy season and when the busy season finally arrives. Setting expectations on the front end significantly reduces the odds of friction within the team. If everyone knows what the expectations are, then one of the only things that could produce friction is someone not honoring their part of the commitment to the expectations. Again, this is a topic that you should discuss in your planning meeting and communicate to your team regularly. I suggest allowing all the team members to add suggestions to the list of expectations. This is a great way to find true balance and harmony within your team.
A few ideas that can help you get started on brainstorming the expectations of the company include:
• Value Your Team Members - Keep in mind while the team is giving more than usual, the company should be giving them more than usual. Relationships where one person is giving more than the other don’t last.
• Healthy Team - Team members who work late get to start later the next day.
• Work-Life Balance - Guarantee that nobody will be expected to work more than X hours per day and/or week.
• Offer Guarantees - Guarantee for anyone who works X number of days straight will be allowed a day off.
• Bonuses - Offer special bonuses for people who run X number of calls per day with no callbacks and do X number of installs per day.
• Remove On-Call - Remove on-call responsibilities during this time. Everyone will be working hard enough as it is. I don’t believe in the value of on-call in general. In my company, we don’t do on-call.
A few ideas that can help you get started on brainstorming expectations of the field teams:
• Remember that these rules only apply while the company is under a “state of emergency” which shouldn’t be more than a few weeks per year.
• All techs are expected to run calls until all the calls are run, or they have worked X number of hours regardless of whether they are on call.
• All techs or installers are expected to work up to X number of days in a row regardless of whether they are on call.
Praise and Blame Aren’t Created Equally
Praising team members puts fuel in their tanks and encourages more of the behaviors praised. The things we praise also communicate what we value as an organization. You can exponentially improve the value of your praise by using words found in your mission and values in the praise message. As an example, at my company, our mission is “Elevating Lives”. So, I could see someone in the hallway and say, “Great job last night, Bob. The fact that you went out of your way to make sure Mrs. Jones got her AC running last night was a prime example of ‘Elevating Lives. ‘“
Another tip is to praise in public most of the time, so others hear it. The more people hear that language, the more you bring those things alive and make them real in your business. Positive leadership spreads a general feeling of security and wellness throughout the company. Send out company-wide text messages and emails giving praise to people who go above and beyond. It’s difficult to ever praise too much. More praise also buys you the right to coach when things don’t work. If you’re always coaching and rarely praising people, they get beat down, and that can kill morale and eventually team member retention. I suggest following these tips all year long, but if not, do these things more often during the busy season.
A couple of ideas that can help you get started on this:
• Companywide email: Last night Mary volunteered to stay at the office an extra 2 hours to take calls because she wanted to make sure we were able to serve as many clients without cooling as possible. I am so proud of you Mary. You are a perfect example of a team player!
• Encourage Team Building Behavior: Ask people on the team to whom they would like to give praise. Do this in person with as many people present as possible if you can and do this as often as you can. In my company, we take time at every company meeting to ask who has praise for another team member that they would like to share with the room. This is always very heartwarming. It reminds everyone why they’re working so hard and that they’re part of a team and motivates more of these behaviors.
Communication & Listening to Feedback
We need to communicate very effectively while maintaining an appropriate balance of frequency. Communicating effectively includes using caring and tactful language and trying to be as clear as possible in your messaging. Take the extra time to craft your language in such a way that it accomplishes those objectives. Also, we need to be conscious of whether we’re communicating too much. Especially during the busy season as we need to respect the fact that everyone is overloaded and doesn’t have a lot of extra time for meetings or reading messages. It's a delicate balance that you should work towards to be truly effective. Listening to your team in an empathetic way is just as important as effective communication. When we listen, we need to listen to hear. Often, we’re just listening to respond and convince someone of doing something our way. Great outcomes result when we listen, understand, and genuinely seek answers that will lead to win-win outcomes. Most humans want to be heard and valued. I can’t say that I can think of any human that doesn’t value this. When considering a big company change or a big event (like a busy season), ask the company for their input on it.
An example of effective asking and listening that can help you get started on this:
Prompt: We’re considering changing our business hours…
• How do you think this could positively and negatively impact the company, clients, and team members?
• If we decide to do this, what ideas do you have to make it as successful as possible?
• Take notes on a whiteboard or flip chart as you receive their feedback.
• After it’s done, thank them for their input, repeat back the feedback that they provided, and tell them you will be considering everything they’ve shared. Then, communicate your final decision and the details when you have them.
In summary, I would say that most of the advice I’ve shared applies to running a great business all year long. Most of the things I’ve suggested should simply be amplified during the more stressful times. Understanding team building and its importance before the busy season hits is a best practice for any business.
Justin Carrol is an esteemed entrepreneur and visionary. His professional journey is characterized by a dedication to personal and business growth, and a mission to elevate lives. Carrol began a career in the HVAC and plumbing industry in 1999 and by 2006, he had founded his own HVAC and plumbing company, Perfect Home Services. In November 2021, driven by an ambition to expand his mission in a more impactful way, Justin made the strategic decision to bring a private equity partner on board. This partnership infused the company with capital and paved the way for further growth and nationwide expansion. In 2023, fueled by his unwavering dedication to the mission of elevating lives, Carrol made the courageous decision to step down from his position. This year he embarked on a new chapter by launching Elevating Lives, a family and team member-owned venture based in Naples, Florida. Carrol’s commitment to his mission, coupled with his strong belief in the power of faith, is reflected in the exceptional reputation of the businesses he manages.