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Customer #1: Your Employees!

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As with most competitive industries, individuals looking to run successful contracting businesses need to make sure their employees are satisfied and motivated to work.

But how do you achieve something amorphous like job satisfaction? What are the key ingredients you need? Many believe salary and vacation days are enough…turns out, they’re not.

The phrase “happy workers are productive workers” goes far beyond pay and days off.

Numerous studies show employees are far more likely to give their best effort and ensure a job well done — if they know a boss truly appreciates their hard work. Of course, it’s one big cycle. A motivated worker means a pleased customer, which means good things for your business’ bottom line.

Simply put: Successful contractors know how to keep their teams satisfied week after week. While there isn’t a magic potion that works for everyone, you can take specific measures that will often generate positive, can’t wait-to-do-my-job sentiments from those you employee.

Just like the vents, pipes, and ducts that workers focus on each day, if things are kept free of obstruction (poor equipment, lack of recognition, zero bonuses), things flow freely and result in maximum impact.

We talked to two successful contractors and asked them about employee appreciation — and specifically how to achieve it. Here’s what they said:

Right tools for the job
Want the job done well? Employees can’t get very far without the right tools. Make sure your employees can perform the job correctly —and efficiently. Properly equipped workers also benefit a business by representing the company in the best light. You want employees and customers both thinking: This company is state of the art. It’s serious about doing this work.

Magic Touch Mechanical Inc. of Mesa, AZ, pays 50 percent of the cost of all its employees’ tools. Company President Rich Morgan said that touches like that help his company “acquire and keep top-notch people.”

Employees also love getting a pat on the back — in front of their peers. An outward demonstration shows that you value a person’s efforts, and it proves you’re willing to do so in a public setting.

At Conditioned Air in Naples, FL, President and COO Keith Walker implemented an “Above & Beyond” recognition program last year. The program allows co-workers to nominate fellow employees whom they feel should be honored for excellent performance. Honored employees are recognized in front of their peers at the company’s next department meeting and then given a financial reward.

The ultimate goal, Walker says, is to find employees who are the right fit for the company and its standards.

“We have worked very hard to establish a culture of honesty, integrity, and accountability,” Walker says. “At Conditioned Air, we hire for personality and train for skill. We look for employees who can communicate well, are friendly, and can sign off on our mission statement.”

Let’s be frank. Nothing says “thank you” like unexpected money. Of course, it’s important that you make the employee understand why the bonus is being given. Conditioned Air team members can cash in for accolades received from customers.

The company’s ATTA Bucks program rewards “bucks” to workers who receive glowing compliments from those they’ve served, whether those reviews are submitted in person, by phone or via computer. The bucks can be turned in for gift cards for numerous businesses.

Meanwhile, Magic Touch employees take part in an “AwesomeSauce Awards” program. Similar to the ATTA Bucks program, this program publicly posts customer reviews for those workers who are praised for how they do on the job. Those who are judged by their peers to be “the most awesome” get prizes awarded to them from the company, Morgan says.

Profit sharing
Conditioned Air also conducts a profit sharing enterprise with its employees. The Sincerity and Honesty Affords Rewards for Everyone (SHARE) program “rewards employees who embrace our five core values of business,” Walker says. Employees are given 10 “SHAREs” after their first full year on the job. One additional SHARE is given to every employee each year thereafter. The company then contributes a portion of its profits to the SHARE pool for distribution among employees. Walker says employees took home $29.21 for each SHARE they held in 2013. This rewards everyone, but especially pays off for tenured workers who might have 20 or more SHAREs on hand.


Staying safe
Conditioned Air employees are also rewarded for staying safe on the job. The company distributes money back to workers based on their safety records while on the job. Workers who didn’t lose any time at work — due to an accident last year — were paid $10 per month of employment in the year, he said. Employees also get $5 in “Safety Bucks” for each accident free month on the job. Like ATTA Bucks, they can be turned in for gift cards. Yet another perk gives employees $50 for every 90 days the company goes accident-free; a clock in each office keeps track of this.

Continued education
Learning is critical. If employees are kept up-to-date on the latest advances in the industry, they can increase their earning power and productivity. It also benefits you: You’ll develop an upgraded workforce at a minimal cost.

To this point, Magic Touch has seen good success by offering workers a higher learning program. In that program, the company pays for all courses, classes, and training for its employees. Workers can also have any certifications paid for and earn compensation for the time that they spend in the classroom. The classes need not be repair-specific in nature, Morgan says. They can include computer classes or any other subject that might be relevant to the worker’s job in some fashion, even when not in the field.

Likewise, Conditioned Air started its own training program when it launched the Conditioned Air Corporation University last year.

“We supplement customary supplier and wholesaler training programs with courses specifically designed for our installers and technicians,” Walker says. “The curriculum contains 18 specialized courses and focuses on proper installation methods, servicing and technical troubleshooting, maintenance, communication skills, and safety. Separately from this, employees who take and pass NATE exams receive an additional 50 cents per hour increase in their hourly wage rate. This helps encourage them to study for and pass the exam.”

Personal perks
Magic Touch takes several steps to keep its employees feeling good about their time spent at work — even when not on the job. Employees get paid birthdays off, Morgan says, and they can take family time as needed due to flex scheduling (so long as they give a couple weeks of advance notice). Technicians are also not required to work after dark, making Magic Touch an exception in an industry known for 24-hour, on-call service.

“This is very unusual in this market, but we feel it’s a safety issue,” Morgan says. Think employees love a boss who cares about safety? Absolutely.
The company also gives its employees iPad Mini devices that are equipped with cellular data. These iPads are issued so employees can use them on their personal time as well.

Deep discounts for do-it-yourself work
Contractor employees are likely to handle many mishaps around their homes independently. They are, after all, literally trained to take care of such situations on a daily basis. But contracting companies can help make sure that more major home maladies are taken care of.

By offering discounts, or even free home repair services, contractors can provide their employees a feeling of relief should something go wrong at home. Even a half-off discount goes a long way in making workers feel a real part of the team — especially when you’re talking about repairs that can cost tens of thousands of dollars, in the most severe cases. Such a benefit offers great assistance to the employee while also coming at a reduced cost to the contractor, which can simply draw from its own resources to provide this much-welcomed service.

Create your own
Don’t limit yourself. As a contractor, you can come up with any number of additional perks or services that will make your employees feel appreciated.

Also remember, it’s worth it. Any short-term expense on the front end will more than pay off at the end of the business day when workers feel like their employers are looking out for them.

As we talked about earlier, it’s one beautiful cycle. A motivated worker means happy customers. A happy customer means a successful business.

Michael McNulty
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Posted In: ACCA Now, Management

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