Monthly Archives: December 2011

Money. It’s an undeniable fact that one of the things that motivates people to engage in a given activity is that they will wind up earning money in exchange for their efforts. And, as I said last week, technicians are people, so it’s undeniable that one of the things that motivates them to do the best job possible in troubleshooting and repairing HVACR equipment is the fact that they will, in the end, be getting paid to do their job.

OK…no argument there. People work, people get paid. It’s simple…but then again, when it comes to paying technicians for doing what they do (show up at the customer’s home, office, or other business, find out what’s wrong with something or what maintenance needs to be accomplished, then go ahead and either fix the equipment that’s not working or do the necessary PM), it’s not. The question of whether to pay a technician :

1. An hourly wage,

2. According to a commission scale, or,

3.  Some combination of 1 and 2,

always comes up when a technician’s earnings are discussed. And, that being said, in order that you can decide without reading any further where I stand on this subject so you can click off to somewhere else if you want to, I’ll give you my opinion. 

Paying an hourly wage only, sucks; for the technician, the business that employs them, and the customer. And you can quote me on that.

And, I’ll go one step further and say that I’m also convinced that the 2nd option listed above is the best possible compensation system for any employee. However, since I undestand that not everybody has a complete understanding of something that I call a fundamental law of prosperity, I can go along with the 3rd option until employees and employers are comfortable with the 2nd one.

On the hourly wage issue, the reason I feel so strongly about it is that I’ve never seen a situation where this system of compenation doesn’t at best, foster some degree of mediocrity, and at worst, act as the foundation for an antagonistic, us-versus-them mentality, which promotes a destructive negativity that permeates throughout an organization, and affects everybody involved. I see this from a very simple perspective. When you take away the opportunity for a human being to achieve and accomplish in accordance with some type of incentive system, it affects their motiviation. It may be a major effect, or it may only be a minor one, but it’s never non-existent. No matter how overjoyed somebody might be when they’re first hired and appreciate that the fact that they have a job, eventually, the goal-seeking, motivation system that is innate in all of us kicks in.

And, no, an annual review that results in a wage increase of a few percentage points doesn’t cut it. What motivates a person is the opportunity to be compensated for excellent performance in their job, which means that some type of commission compensation system is necessary for an harmonious relationship between the employee and employer….which, will, in the end, provide the best possible buying opportunity for the customer. The success of all this, is, of course, predicated on the fact that it has to be done the right way, and everybody involved is honest.

Naturally, we’ve all heard the horror stories. I recently encountered a discussion through social media in which an employer said: “I once made the mistake of telling my employees besides gettng paid they can earn commission selling jobs.” He went on to say that, “Those low life crooks tried selling……” (What they tried to sell and to whom isn’t important here. My point is only about what an employer said in regard to a commission compensation system.)

Why anyone would hire “low life crooks” to provide a service to their customers is beyond me, so I won’t dwell on that. I only wanted to use this example to discuss the idea that when a technician is offered the opportunity to earn commission on additional products and services, it all comes down to intent. If the technician’s intent is to make as much money as possible without caring whether or not the customer winds up buying things they don’t want or need, then the end result will be what that employer described.

However, if the technician, first and foremost, believes that the company he or she works with provides the best possible value for the customer’s money spent, and that the customer can benefit from the purchase of additonal products and services, then the intent is not simply to make money. The intent is to provide the best possible service for a customer.

It all comes down to intent….intent that, I’m convinced, filters throughout an organization, and begins with the ownership and management of that organization.  

Until next week.

Learn from yesterday…..live for today….look forward to tomorrow.

Jim

 

 

 

 

“How can I motivate technicians?”

This is something I’m often asked by  HVACR service company owners, or service managers. Of course, what I’ve quoted above is only the root of the question, with things like, “…..to show more interest in their job….” or something else along that line as the completing element to the query. And, whatever  the term or thought they refer to when asking this question, it’s universally understood that what they want to know is what specific steps they can take, or what they can say, that will result in a higher level of performance from the technicians they employ or supervise; as though there is some specific formula or exact verbiage that exists relative to ‘motiviating’ people.

My initial response to their question begins with making what I believe is a valid point about the subject, which is that no one can actually motivate anybody else. The only thing one can do is effectively guide other people to motivate themselves. And the next point I make is that technicians are people too, which means that there are no special methods of  helping others motivate themselves that apply only to technicians. With that said, I’d like to discuss a concept that I believe can be a part of a person’s development, and thereby affecting their level of professional performance….especially in this day and age of instant media communication and information….that of comparing oneself to others.

It’s my opinion that while it’s unfortunate, it’s true that a person’s self-opinion about how much they are accomplishing in their life and contributing to society (that’s the goal that’s innate for all of us, after all) can be influenced by their exposure to information about others. The best way I can explain this situation is by employing baseball as an analogy.

The vast majority of people (the number that seems popular these days is 99%) are born standing at bat at home plate, and as their life moves on through adulthood, the pitches begin, and, sometimes a swing of the bat results in a strike, and sometimes it’s a hit. And, there are times when it’s necessary to make a judgment not to swing at all at a pitch that’s outside the strike zone (or perhaps make the often unconventional decision to reach for one outside of the strike zone because your instinct tells you it’s the right thing to do). The bottom line is that the objective is to get on base and make your way to home plate, which means that in addition to your own efforts, you also depend on others to help you succeed and reach your objective. Or perhaps you’ll  be able to hit one out of the park and make it home very quickly with dramatic success.

Like I said, that’s the way it is for most people. And, then, there are some people that never have to face a pitch or make a judgment that gets them on first base, or allows them to hit a double, a triple, or a home run. Some people may, by the factor of their birth, be born on first base, which, if they accept their fortune in a positive way, will help them along through their baseball game of life without a lot of unnecessary difficulty.

Or they might even be born on second or third base, which means they still have to depend on others, and then also make some kind of effort to get home to success. (Of course, there are very rare exceptions to this rule. Take Donald Trump for example….in my opinion, he was born a short baby step from home plate with the umpire holding up one hand to stop any play while motioning with the other for him to move his foot just a little bit, but his situation is so rare, common sense dictates that we don’t even consider him in this discussion.) The point is that as a service manager or company owner who is trying to understand what motivates technicians to do the best job they can do, it’s possible that they’re making an unnecessary and destructive comparison, and it affects the way they make sense of things overall, not just their career.

This begs the question, “So, should I sit a technician down and explain the whole baseball scenario, and tell them that it’s destructive to compare themselves to others”? No, I don’t think that’s necessary. I think all we need to do is understand that the concept of comparing is something that could be happening for someone we’re trying to guide along their way to success, and then employ our supervisory skills accordingly to do the best we can for them.

Until next week.

Learn from yesterday….live for today….look forward to tomorrow.

Jim

OK…I’ll begin by admitting that I’m a card-carrying Baby-Boomer, which means that computers, doing business on the web, smart phones, Facebook, Twitter, etc…are second nature to me, and that I have grandchildren who continue to amaze me with their understanding, and their simple, no-questions-asked acceptance of, the global community we live in today. That being said, I also think that, on the whole, I’m not doing too bad with all of it. After all, we have an on-line workshop registration system on our site, and our customers can click-and-buy video training materials,  and they can purchase a download of an e-book if they prefer to do it that way rather than having a CD mailed to them. And, I do some Facebook and Linked-In, and I think that I’ve both provided, and derived some benefit from those activities, which is the way I believe it’s supposed to work.

But, I’ve got to say that I’m still trying to figure out whether or not the Social Media Boom actually works the way some people say it does. That’s the conundrum that I’m puzzling over.

I recently had the opportunity to attend a Fred Pryor seminar on the subject of using social media, and the pleasant and talented fellow who served as the presenter said that he used social media extensively in his “consulting” business. He showed examples of his Twitter activity, his Facebook account, and he explained how he used YouTube, where he posted a video every week from any location he happened to be in at the moment. And, he also said that he posted all these videos, tweeted, and updated his Facebook page while he was on the road doing workshops for Fred Pryor (which is fundamentally a situation in which a person is a contract employee, being paid a given amount of money for presenting at a workshop, and also earning a commission from the the ‘back-of-the-room’ sales), for three weeks out of every month.

Hmmm……am I missing something here?

All of his examples were in regard to __________ Consulting, with no reference to Fred Pryor (purposefully, to be sure), and these activities were designed to bring in business to his consulting firm, yet, he spent 75% of his time in the employ of another company. Call me skeptical, but, if all the tweeting, updating, and video-blogging is designed to generate leads, and ultimately, result in a sale, why hasn’t it, over the extended period of time he referred to, resulted in at least a 75/25 _________ Consulting/Fred Pryor mix rather than a 75/25 Fred Pryor/ _________ Consulting situation? (If, in fact, the ________ Consulting firm does actually result in 25% of his income…)

The other questions that are on my mind about social media in general are:

What if all this noise that is being pumped through various social platforms is really just that…..noise?

What if having a ton of followers on Twitter is really just nothing more than having a ton of followers?

What if all this level of mass connecting is really just contributing to space pollution that creates confusion for more people than it helps?

If you reply to a discussion on Linked In with a direct link to information on a product that you offer; one that will provide benefit and be of value to those involved in the discussion, but it winds up being deleted by the discussion creator because they think it detracts from the purity of the on-line discourse, and seems more like a “sales pitch”, is that what’s supposed to happen in the world of social media?

If you are under (or even over) 30, and you have insights on this subject for me, I’d love to hear from you.

Until next week….

Learn from yesterday…….Live for today……Look forward to tomorrow.

Jim

 

 

 

 

At the November, 2011 IHACI Convention in Pasadena, I had the oppportunity to talk with HVACR students, employers, and with technicians, and here are some of my observations and opinions about that experience.

First, students are being more serious about their education. Some of the students I talked with fit the “young and fresh’ profile…..late teens or early twenties, and not too far away from their high school experience, while the profile of others was the ‘mature’ (read it, older and changing careers) profile. In either case, when I say that they were being more serious about their education, I mean that they were willing to take a critical look at the school they were attending and ask for opinions about them. Whether they were attending a private school or a community college program, they wanted to know if their investment of time and money would pay off in the form of steady, well-paid employment in the HVACR industry.

Bravo, I say. Some students I’ve talked with in the past didn’t ask the critical questions about their training programs, and the fact that this crop of soon-to-be entry level technicians did, shows that we are cultivating a group of industry professionals who are serious about their career.

Second, there were the employers…..I had many conversations with contractors about their business, and about the technicians they employ. While a few of them were of that tired old  belief that “you can’t get good help anymore” or “all we can hope for these days is somebody who can fog a mirror and not fail a drug test”  when it comes to hiring technicians, many of them have also developed a healthy respect for employee development. In short, they have figured out that the only thing that is more expensive than training a technician and losing them, is not training training them and keeping them.

To be sure, the HVACR industry is rife with technicians who think about being self-employed, and there will always be situations in which an individual “does his time” with an employer and then opens his own shop. (Often, to discover that it isn’t what it’s cracked up to be, but that’s another story….) However, when an HVACR contractor does the right thing by the technicians they employ, and treat them as a industry colleague, they won’t experience the frustration of investing time and money in bringing a technician along to journeyman status, then find themselves competing with them for business. By treating them as a colleague, I mean treat them with the respect they deserve as a professional, and set up a compensation program for them that proves that they actually are in business for themselves as an employee, it’s just that they have chosen to work in an environment where their income is derived via providing service for one client, their employer.

And then there were the technicians…..some of them fit the profile of the technician I refer to above; of the opinion that their employer is making a ton of money off of them and not paying them enough, so they’re just putting in their time until they can open their own shop and wind up with a large chunk of cash in their pocket at the early afternoon end of a workday. And these particular technicians had another interesting approach to their work, which was ignoring ( or even bemoaning)  the inevitible continuing process of the ‘greening’ of the HVACR industry.

The fact of the matter is, “Green” isn’t going to go away. The new and more stringent requirements for proper installation and servicing of HVACR equipment has only just begun, so every student, contractor and technician who is serious about our craft simply needs to accept that fact, adapt, and learn so they can benefit from the initiative.

Until next week….

Learn from yesterday….Live for today…..Look  forward to tomorrow.

Jim

No one in the HVACR service business will argue that the end result of getting a piece of non-operating equipment functioning again isn’t the bottom line for a technician. As I mentioned last week, getting paid is, after all, what it’s about in the end, and the way we get there is to accomplish our assigned task for our customer….which is to fix their stuff. And fixing their stuff requires a specialized set of skills that are far above the understanding of the general public, something we can correctly refer to as “advanced” skills. However, the fact that we employ these advanced skills doesn’t discount the fact that troubleshooting can only be effectively accomplished when the technician has a good grip on the fundamentals of HVACR.

And, by the way, considering “HVACR” itself is a good place to start when discussing the importance of fundamentals……HVACR: Heating, Ventilation, Air Conditioning, & Refrigeration, as everybody knows when it comes to what the letter themselves mean, but what about a deeper understanding of this well-known acronym?

Cosider this information, which is from a reply to a question that asked for input on what technicians should be taught first, as they enter the HVACR industry:

Heating (H) influences the relative humidity, vapor pressures, drafts, material integrity, durability, and material VOC emission rates and the mean radiant and operative temperature. It does not apply exclusively to air but to any mass including the heating of water for process and domestic use and surface conditioning such as radiant heating (and negative heating i.e. radiant cooling) panels;

Ventilation (V) in and by itself does not guarantee air quality as its function is to move air mass, i.e. exhaust indoor air and replace it with outdoor air, and this process provides the opportunity for;

Air Conditioning (AC) or preferably “Conditioning the Air” (CA); accomplished through deodorization, decontamination, dehumidification and dilution as well as velocity and temperature control. Since this part of the definition excludes cooling with radiation, radiant cooling is considered as negative heating above.

Thus, the H in HVAC is not exclusively heating air for comfort, the V is not exclusively air quality and the AC is not exclusively cooling air for comfort.

And that, as they say in the meat market, “wraps that up nice and tight”. It’s a detailed, down-to-earth definition of the process of creating comfort and wellness for our customer (VOC stands for Volatiile Organic Compounds….tobacco smoke, building products, etc…), and while somebody could argue that it’s too ‘engineering-like’ for a service technician because the task at hand for somebody running service calls is not about designing a system, but fixing it instead, they would be wrong.

I’m not saying that every time a technician enounters a system that’s not operating properly that they need to crack open their fundamentals manual and recite the above before taking the necessary steps to evaluate a system and determing what specific repair or which specific part needs to be replaced, but what I am saying is that having a complete understanding of something as simple as “HVAC”….we’ll get to the “R” in HVACR in Part Two of this series….gives the technician a certain level of confidence regarding their ability to solve the problem they are facing at the moment. And that confidence is gained through simply eliminating the mysteries of the fundamental of air movement and treatment, heat transfer via refrigeration, and the electrical principles that lead to development of the skills related to reading and interpeting schematic diagrams, testing components, and ultimately isolating the source of the problem.

Until next week…..

Learn from yesterday…..Live for today…..Look forward to tomorrow

Jim

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