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Do You Use a ‘Pilot’s Pre-Flight’ Installation Checklist?

As I was leaving the classroom, a poster on one of the doors caught my eye. It said, “If you don’t have time to do it right, you must have time to do it over.” How well does that sum up some of the issues we run into on the design and install portions of jobs?

Last week I volunteered at my daughter Lauryn’s school and spent some time with her Gifted/Talented English teacher. (As you can imagine, as a writer, it’s especially important to me that Lauryn takes reading and writing seriously.) During my day at the school I had the opportunity to talk to a 5th grade class and share some of the reasons why I felt pursuing a career as a writer was a pretty cool thing. I prepared a PowerPoint presentation filled with pictures of some of the amazing experiences I’ve been able to have because of my writing career. You know, things like landing on and getting shot off the deck of an aircraft carrier, driving a $300,000 Aston Martin around New York wearing a Brioni tuxedo, interviewing Star Wars video game creators at ILM, and seeing a movie at Lucas Ranch. I’m not sure I convinced anyone to be a writer, but all the kids were paying attention and asking questions so I’m counting that as a win.

As I was leaving the classroom, this poster on one of the doors caught my eye and I had to stop and take a picture.

“If you don’t have time to do it right, you must have time to do it over.”

Let that sink in for a moment.

How well does that sum up some of the issues we run into on the design and install portions of jobs? You can rush it now and likely go back and pay for it later, or you can put in the time required up front to do it right.

Growing up, my dad was a real stickler for doing things right. And he wasn’t really one for taking my word for whether it was done right or not. A job wasn’t finished until my dad came and inspected the work. And where other kids would have chores like taking out the trash, I had things like picking 100 weeds a day. And putting them in piles of 10 for later inspection. (I wish I was kidding.) One of the sayings I can remember hearing often growing up was, “John, the Sciacca name stands for quality!” I’ll be honest, I hated that saying, and it became kind of a joke with friends. But I get it now.

When I had one of my first jobs at a golf course later in life, the pro asked me to clean out the cart barn. He told me later that he just wanted me to straighten up a bit, but I heard this as, “Clean out the cart barn.” I removed every cart. Swept it all down. And then hosed it all down. Then I asked him if he wanted to come and inspect. I didn’t realize that inspection wasn’t a normal part of a completed job.

These days it isn’t really cool to be constantly looking over the shoulders of your employees or constantly going behind them to inspect the quality of their work. Doing so will likely get you nothing but resentment from your crew and probably end up with employees that don’t stick around too long, or they’ll just do half-ass work because they’ll figure you’ll just tell them what they did wrong anyhow.

But the truth is, if the job doesn’t get done right the first time, it is going to have to be done over again and the cost of that is very real in lost time and money. And with margins in our industry as tight as they are, we can’t afford to go back and do something again.

And beyond the monetary loss is the likely damage to your company’s reputation. “Sure, it got finished and it’s working now, but they had to keep coming back to make everything work like it was supposed to.”

Is that the kind of “recommendation” you want to have customers giving about your work?

It is so easy to get in a rush near the end of a large project, or at the end of a long day, but that is when the sloppy little mistakes are made that quickly add up to potentially hundreds of dollars in lost revenue due to having to return and do it over again.

And it’s usually the simple things that get overlooked. Things like not checking the programming on the remote control to make sure that all activities actually do what they are supposed to. Or that the system turns on and off correctly when coming into or out of different states. Or that all of the source components are working and that menu buttons bring up the correct menu. Or checking that all of the rooms in a house audio system are working. Or just something as “simple” as making sure the customer actually understands how to use everything.

Sure, these are all “small” things that are easily and quickly fixed, but if they require a return trip to the job, you might as well light a Benjamin (or Benjamins) on fire. Not to mention the stress of trying to cram this return visit into an already busy schedule.

It’s so much better to have your team ingrained with the mindset that the workday isn’t necessarily over just because eight hours have passed on the clock. To take a beat at the end of the day, stop looking at the clock, and complete each job as it needs to be completed, which means thoroughly checking each system and making sure it is truly done when they leave.

A good way to help insure this is done is to create a checklist for your installers to go through. Much like a pilot’s pre-flight sheet, prepare a list of items they need to go through and confirm have been completed on each job. Include a place for the customer to initial that the system has been explained and demonstrated to them. Then if it has been signed-off on and isn’t working there is accountability. “Hey, Bill, you initialed that you checked this but the customer says it isn’t working, so I’m going to need you to go back and fix it.”

Also, it’s fair to set realistic expectations with your team. Some people love overtime but others don’t, so stacking multiple 10 and 12 hours days on people should be discussed ahead of time, and might mean that you need to manage scheduling better…or look to hiring more help. If you have a day that looks like it might run long, why not tell your guys ahead of time so they can plan accordingly? Life happens and our teams have lives beyond our four walls, so when you know a day might run long, prepare them for that so they can adjust their schedules accordingly and be ready to give 100 percent.