Just four weeks ago, I wrote a blog titled “Knowing When to Cut Ties with an Unresponsive Custom Install Prospect." Back on July 1, I had yet to receive a payment for the several site visits and two rounds of estimates. I was ready to write off the project and any hope of getting paid. How quickly things change. Just two weeks later, the client has hand delivered a check for the initial estimate fees plus a small retainer to show good faith. Last week we started the pre-wire after receiving the full initial deposit and a signed contract.
Not only was the client profusely happy that we were able to schedule him in so quickly, as the construction is moving forward and walls are starting to be closed up, but he pulled me aside and told me how much he trusted me. He had made changes to the contract and he stated that he would normally not have provided the full deposit without all contract changes executed and a finalized product list (he’s changing the size of some TVs and a few other things), but he really appreciates how professional my team has been through the process. He called us the most reliable and professional company on the renovation project. I was so proud of my team and so pleased to hear that from a customer, that it made me almost forget all of the hassles of getting the initial payment. Well, almost… I’m still going to make sure we are fully paid before moving on to future phases.
But his glowing words and the impact it had on me reminded me how important it is to provide positive reinforcement in all aspects of business and life, including (and most importantly) our employees. It’s critical to give feedback, both positive and constructive to every employee on a regular basis. This is something that has been reinforced not only by my interactions with this client, but also by Mark Feinberg, the owner of Home Theater Advisors. Mark was previously in Corporate America and managed large teams of professionals. He has an MBA and went through many management-training programs provided by his employers. He is also an enormous supporter of regular reinforcement.
One of the most important comments he ever made to me was “Money attracts, it doesn’t motivate or retain”. By that he meant that people may come to work for you for more money, but throwing more money at them every time they seem unhappy or to reward them or they comment about pay only has a short-term effect. You need to find other ways to motivate and retain them. They stay with you because they are happy and you provide a positive, engaging work environment.
Here are my six suggestions for creating this time of climate for your team:
1.Provide regular feedback. Always let your employees know how they are doing. I try to do it at the end or even during every job. Whenever someone goes above and beyond, finishes a job faster than expected or provides a great customer experience, I let them know how well they did.
2.Be constructive, not negative. Conversely if I see something not being done properly, whether it it’s a TV mount not being fastened properly or a dirty worksite or sloppy practices, I comment immediately, explain why it is important – is there a damage risk, a reputation risk, liability, etc? – and ensure it is done properly. Then I provide positive feedback for it being done right.
3.Reward top performers. It can be monetary, but doesn’t have to be. Remember, “money attracts, it doesn’t retain.’ Find other ways to reward. Small tokens like a great set of earbuds, a few extra days of paid vacation, going home early a few days for a job well done, a long weekend, or simply recognition in front of their peers with a company-wide announcement or on-site celebration or going out for a few drinks after work.
4.Eliminate the bottom performers. To maintain a high-performance team, everyone has to be high performance. Don’t hesitate to cull those who can’t or won’t cut it. Be sure to provide them support, feedback and training, but if after all of that they don’t seem to ‘get it’, it is time to move on.
5.Pay appropriately. Don’t take ‘money doesn’t retain’ to its extreme. If you underpay, 1). you won’t attract the best talent, and 2). they could leave for more money—the grass is always greener. You need to be competitive in your marketplace. You don’t need to pay the most, but you can’t pay the least either.
6.Provide a path to growth. Does your installer want to learn to be a tech as well? Send him to some manufacturer classes. Send your tech to a control system-programming course. Help people grow into new and challenging roles. They will see you believe in them, they will likely want new challenges and to not be bored, and they will be hungry to do a great job.
There was a great article in BusinessWeek a few weeks ago about Costco. They retain employees for decades. They provide great pay and benefits and also recognize and reward their top performers and cull those not cutting it. People have an opportunity to rise in the organization from cashier to store manager and beyond. It reaffirmed my opinion of Costco and my own management philosophy.
+Todd Anthony Pumais president of The Source Home Theater Installation in New York City.