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Opinion: Don't relinquish control just to stave off turnover

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What if all your employees quit?

What if you alone were left standing when customers called? Does this thought scare you? Is that why you are putting up with poor performance from your team?


Do any of these thoughts seem familiar?
  • “I can’t raise my prices. All my guys would quit.”
  • “Enforce a dress code? Are you kidding? I’m just grateful that they show up at all!”
  • “If I started drug testing, I wouldn’t have an employee left. I’d rather not know.”
My friend, Steve, owns a plumbing company. He is enthusiastic and powered by positive thinking –in spite of what has happened at his company in the last couple of years.

He says, “I realized that I had lost control of my business. The employees were running the show. Every day I was compromising my standards. I was working too much, for too little money. It was time to change the company, to change my life or to get out of the plumbing business.

“I got busy revamping my company. We started sales training and tracking all of our sales and marketing data. We beefed up our technical training efforts. We crunched the numbers and raised our prices. We raised the pay structure. We offered a 401(k) plan and flex time. They could take the trucks home and avoid the expense of driving to and from work. I wanted the best plumbers to work for us.”

Following those changes, Steve says it was incredible how quickly the company improved.

“Finally, we were profitable. And our customer satisfaction reports were glowing. All my efforts were paying off. I knew there was a way to create a win-win-win with my company, my customers and my employees. We were making it happen.  It was like a dream come true.

“Then, the dream became a nightmare. I had five servicemen working for me. Before we started making changes, there was no accountability at our company. As I imposed more and more systems, the techs started to feel uncomfortable.

“One after another, the technicians quit, or tested my resolve by committing fire-able offenses. I stuck to my guns. As soon as I would hire a new person, another tech would quit. We had our company holiday party in January. Only one tech showed up. The others had quit. I was down to one technician. The five original techs were gone.

“I visited with my remaining technician, Bryan. I asked him to help me find some new techs, people who were interested in becoming professionals, and being paid professional salaries and benefits.

“With his help, I am back up to three technicians. Plumbers know other plumbers. He started selling the benefits of our company to other techs. We are moving forward slowly. I need to remember that most folks live in a world of fear. Change scares them, failure scares them – and success scares them.

“Now, I am careful not to let my emotions run away with me. I can’t take it personally if someone chooses to leave. I insist on compliance. I am not going to let anyone persuade me to drop my standards. We will run as a well-organized, disciplined, accountable company or not at all. Period. It feels good following through on what I believe in.

“The other day, one of the new guys remarked, ‘I can’t believe anyone would walk away from this job!’ It felt great to hear that. I knew I was offering a better way. And I am finally hiring people who recognize that.”

May Steve’s story inspire you to make the necessary changes at your company. If not now, when?

Ellen Rohr is an author and business consultant who offers systems for getting focused and organized, making money and having fun in business. Her latest book is “The Bare Bones Biz Plan.” She can be reached at ellen@barebonesbiz.com.[[In-content Ad]]

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