As your business grows and you start spending less time on the tools and more time managing everything else, you become increasingly reliant on the efforts of your staff. The more efficient they are with their time the higher your chargeable hours will be, and the more chargeable hours worked the greater your profits. Looking after your staff should be a no-brainer then, as the more they achieve the greater the benefits you, as the owner, will reap!
Experience tells me your goal should be 92% effective hours worked. In a 40 hour working week, that’s 36.8 hours of chargeable time. If you achieve that you’ll have a ruthlessly efficient team on your hands. And the only way to achieve it is to look after your team and give them the tools and support they need to stay motivated and perform.
For me, motivation starts at the top. It’s little things like being the first to arrive and last to leave, having a tidy office and workshop, and having all your own ducks in a row - leading by example can be very inspiring! Other things you should try to include:
Tell them that what’s required
Everyone wants to be successful in their own right and most people respond well to targets if they’re realistic and measurable. If one of your team push back on having clear goals, it’s a sure sign there’s a culture fit issue, in which case no amount of mentoring or motivation will work.
Understand your ‘Why’
When push comes to shove, the relationship you have with your team is at the core of everything. They have to understand and be invested in your ‘why’, in order for it to motivate them to work hard for you. For me it was really simple: the quality of life depends on the quality of relationships. In other words, great relationships = great life and shitty relationships = shitty life. My vision for the company was to be friendly and reliable and the local plumber of choice. The reason my tradies worked through all those truly dreadful days in the depths of winter when they could have bailed and faked a sickie is two fold: they shared the vision and we shared a good relationship. They supported me and my business by doing the hours and getting the job done in any weather, come what may, and I supported them too.
If you’re achieving 92% billable time and you’re managing jobs to come in on time, your business will be making money. By the sweat of their brow and the sweat on their backs you have made a capital gain on your employee means of production. It’s pure capitalism in action.
History has shown us all uprisings start when workers feel they’ve been exploited beyond what is reasonable, and the ultimate act of rebellion in our game is to resign.
There’s not a tradie I know who can afford to lose a member of their team, given the shortage of skilled labour we battle with every single day, so it’s key to avoid rebellion and you do this by preventing resentment and discontent in the first place. How? Very simple: Reward them for their efforts. Pay a monthly bonus every time your staff achieves their chargeable hours - this is a must. That one step will close the gap and will be the best thing you can do to hold on to your MVPs.
Give Them Resources They Need
Don’t skimp on gear. When you buy safety gear, do you buy crap gear or do you buy the Blundstones? If you say “Yeah, but the guys don’t respect my stuff”, don’t blame them, blame the culture you’ve allowed to develop by not addressing concerns. What about tool allowances, etc? Quite often your team will only break your stuff as a dig, because they resent the way they feel about working for you. Set the expectations clearly up front (e.g. boots are replaced once a year) and if they wreck them before that they pay.
Actively Manage Company Culture
If you take the wrecking gear example above, it’s an outward action towards an internal feeling, and it’s almost 100% reflective of your company culture. Your job as the boss is to draw out what’s going on inside, address their concerns and work together to improve the culture. There are two approaches depending on the size of your business and your relationship with your team: Either sit down individually with each staff member and ask them how they feel about working for you and your company, or bring someone in who’s completely impartial to speak to the team. Whichever approach you choose, you’ll gather some important feedback that clarifies how the team perceives you and the company, and gives you the ability to address concerns, which in turn enables you to improve morale. Improved morale leads to improved performance, which leads to more billable hours…
So there you have it. Some really important but simple to implement tips to help you motivate staff and ensure you’re getting them to work at their peak. Look after your team right and you’ll reap the benefits through increased efficiency and ultimately, a better bottom line.