Winning habits aren't always the most complex. Enhance clarity to build consistency and establish accountability through the simple discipline of scheduling.
Scheduling is the process of having a plan, or at least attempting to tell you day how you think it should go. Writing down your goals is important to do on the macro level of having a life plan, on the annual level of mapping out your course and on the micro level of having a daily road map. There is something special that happens when we take the time to write things down, there is some connection between the engagement of the brain and the enabling of the will that is connected to committing something to your calendar. Read more on the stories of successful people who are in the habit of writing down their goals, HERE.
Scheduling yourself the day prior or early in the morning enables you to be ahead of your day before the chaos hits and the day takes on a mind of it’s own. If you don't schedule ahead, you will always be playing from behind. You never want to get behind, as we all know - that's where the farts are. Whether you schedule in blocks of time or are down to the minute, prioritization (more) starts with having a target. Real Estate mogul and Shark Tank star, Barbara Cocoran, swears by her daily to-do list which she hand writes every night, prioritizes with a simple rating system and emails to her personal assistant for accountability. In an interview with Inc. Magazine Barbara outlines her process, “I rate the items in order of importance: A, B, or C. The A's are where the gold is. These are the things that will move my business ahead and make me money. I find there are really only three to five A items on any given day, and I do those first.”
Goal setting is a muscle that must be worked out on the daily, it requires mental strength, it will test your will power and it is enhanced by accountability from others. Setting aside time in your day to prepare yourself can be as simple as the habit of writing down your schedule. Organization in this way becomes a powerful habit that will help you to make gains on the items that are important to you. Like budgeting for your finances, a good plan will assist you to spend your time (which is impossible to recoup) where it is needed rather than be in a vicious cycle of questioning where the time went at the end of your day. Making your schedule visible to yourself and your team members creates a level of accountability as well as demonstrates leadership by example (more).
Vince Lombardi has a great saying, “The will to win is not nearly so important as the will to prepare to win.” Who doesn’t want to win? Yet the thing that separates those who achieve success from those who talk about it is found in the preparation that winners put in. Those hours of discipline do not happen by accident, they come with a commitment to schedule in time for the things that are important, to prioritize and to persevere through the pain. Organization can be painful or just plain overlooked by many, but a successful system does not have to be complex to be effective.
In terms of property restoration every production manager knows that our schedules have to be constructed with a certain amount of flexibility in them for those inevitable calls for emergency services from water or fire related damages. Drafting a schedule the day prior and making the plan visible for the team (more) are key to communicating that leadership respects the team and is committed to helping them to be prepared for the upcoming needs of our clients. Scheduling is a core communication component that shows our employees we care about them and creates a visible game plan through which we are able to communicate effectively with our clients as well (more). The discipline of scheduling your self should carry into the care of scheduling the team and the courtesy of communicating those schedules to our clients.
The will to prepare to win starts with personal habits that translate into organizational systems that guide our core professional services. Being organized forces us to care about and budget our time. Scheduling generates habits that position us to pursue our goals with clarity, consistency and accountability. Simple things can be the difference between long term success (more) and cycles of chaos.
Organizational truth: Don’t get behind, that’s where the farts are.
More from Barbara Cocoran in her interview with Inc. Magazine, including video - https://www.inc.com/magazine/201704/anna-hensel/day-in-the-life-barbara-corcoran.html
Originally published as Shared Spaces: Shaking Up The Restoration In-Office Experience
February 24, 2016 by Restoration & Remediation Magazine (R&R)
By Jon Isaacson
Could restoration companies benefit from a non-traditional work space?
I started my career in property restoration in a shared office with myself, my manager and space designated for our crew to meet and interact. At most places I have worked since, the more normative office is laid out in designated segments of isolation. While I don't dismiss the value of personal space and enjoy my privacy as much as anyone, I have found the value of shared spaced and have worked to create open work space in every team that I have supervised.
Shared Space Equals Shared Experiences
When you share an office, you can feel the pulse of the team. You hear your team, even when you are not conversing with them directly, you are hearing their interactions. While there are times when the noise level has to be managed, when you hire people who are respectful they will likely already understand the dynamics of time and place in an open space.
For our teams the benefits of a communal office within our department has far outweighed the perceived negatives. Imposing an open office on people who are not ready for it is a recipe for disaster. Transitioning to a shared space is made much more seamless when you have people who enjoy working together and/or you hire people who understand the culture. Implementing an open office is not of any benefit if it does not reflect your culture or add value to your team.
Open Space Equals Open Communication
Creating a shared space has allowed us to more readily share information at all levels of our department. Having our crew come into our office in the morning creates a natural opportunity to discuss the day's assignments. When the crew returns in the evening, we can debrief and discuss needs for the following day.
These organic connection points throughout the day have increased our interactions at professional and personal levels. Combining our open space with making our workloads visible has helped us to elevate our clarity across our team interactions.
Your office is your second home. Arguably, you spend more time in your work space with your work peeps than with your actual family, so making it an enjoyable and functional environment should be a priority.
When drafting the plan for your work space - whether open, traditional or some other system with a fancy name - think about the following:
For our department, we have hired people who bring value to the team, we have been protective of the culture that we have developed and we have enjoyed the benefits of a shared work space.
Originally published as Three Keys to Successfully Approaching New Clients Through Email, November, 22, 2016 in Restoration & Remediation Magazine (R&R).
By Jon Isaacson
All businesses need new clients, restoration most certainly included. Even the most basic research allows you to identify potentially valuable future customers, and draft a list of prospects. If the prospects are of as much value as anticipated, then the team must understand, appreciate and honor the etiquette of good business approaches and the gatekeeper to those clients. Paul Buccheit, the creator and lead developer of Gmail, expresses the sanctity of email, “Only my phone number and email are private because I don't want random people calling me. But I like the ability to share everything.”
Who is the gatekeeper? In the modern economy the gatekeeper, or first line of defense, for clients of value is their email. Approaching a potential client through email can either be perceived as an invasion of privacy or a respectful approach that honors business boundaries, depending on how the content is composed. The drafting of an email will either allow admittance into the outer courtyard or expel you into the moat of oblivion. Thankfully, the keys to honoring the modern gatekeeper when approaching new clients are rather simple.
1) Subject Line
"People often decide whether to open an email based on the subject line," business coach Barbara Pachter says. "Choose one that lets readers know you are addressing their concerns or business issues." (Smith, 2016)
The subject line should be concise and answer the question whether there is value for the targeted client to open this email or pass this failed attempt at communication through to junk mail (the moat). Junk mail is the default setting for most email from unknown sources, as well as emails that are clearly a solicitation. So, if you are approaching people through email, you must recognize that email is the invitation, not the drawn-out conversation. Your subject line is the extending of your hand and your body language transmitted through however many characters you utilize in this important electronic transmission. An effective posture when composing a subject line will be respectful of time by providing a brief value proposition without being kitschy. The goal of the subject line introduction is to get the email opened.
2) First Paragraph
“It’s better to say nothing than spend 1000 words or an hour speech saying nothing. Get to the point – fast.” Richard Branson
If the email is opened, congratulations, the careful efforts have made it through the first line of defense and the relationship is past the initial cyber handshake in approaching a potential client. Any day that emails are not added to the hundreds of efforts banished to junk/block is a good day. If emails to prospects are introductions and the introduction is received, it is appropriate to follow up. Don’t ruin the good favor that the well thought subject line has created by now backing a dump truck of information upon the prospect. Remember the current advancement is only into the outer courtyard, not yet within the castle walls.
Continue with the theme of the subject line and maintain respect for time, be brief and expound on the value proposition to the client, then ask for the opportunity to discuss further. This is the elevator pitch as the client has opened the outer gate but will discontinue the interaction just as quickly if there is an inability to connect.
3) Follow Up
Director of Marketing for The Muse, Elliot Bell encourages, “Remember: If someone does ask you to stop following up, stop following up. But until you hear that, it’s your responsibility to keep trying.”
Research, care and respect have advanced the efforts to this point and now it’s time for appropriate follow up with respect to the correct etiquette. This email is meant to ensure the client received the original email and determine whether they would like to discuss the content further. A follow up call or email should be brief and respectful, with a personalized addendum to the value proposition from prior email.
When a call is made, there is an inherent request to venture further into personal space as well as asking for additional time, so the same principles applied in previous stages are as essential. The purpose of follow up is to answer for both parties whether there is value in moving forward with this potential business interaction.
All clients have value and in the modern economy email serves as a gatekeeper when approaching prospects. Being brief, concise and respectful when composing a value proposition will enable greater success in introducing oneself through email. As noted in a previous article entitled Marketing Step One, good business practitioners are always looking to create opportunities to show potential clients how their organization can serve specific needs. Each step in the process of meeting new clients is about breaking down barriers rather than storming the gates in one fell swoop. All individuals are unique so it is important to listen through the process and learn from successful as well as unsuccessful approaches to new clients.
For a personal example of how the author was able to initiate and build a networking resource for local clients in an underserved market, read How To Network With Local Facility Management Peers posted on FacilityExecutive.com. Many of the invitations that lead to ongoing business relationships that built Local Facilities Manager’s Connection (LFMC) were initiated through emails using the principles outlined in the source article above.
Smith, Jacquelyn (2016, February 1) 15 email-etiquette rules every professional should know.Business Insider. Retrieved from http://www.businessinsider.com/email-etiquette-rules-every-professional-needs-to-know-2016-1/#1-include-a-clear-direct-subject-line-1
Bell, Elliot. Pleasantly persistent: 5 rules for effectively following up.The Muse. Retrieved from https://www.themuse.com/advice/pleasantly-persistent-5-rules-for-effectively-following-up
Originally published as Peeling Back the Five Layers of in a Restoration Business
June 22, 2016 in Restoration & Remediation Magazine (R&R)
By Jon Isaacson
How many times a day does the phone ring and it's a customer calling wondering when your organization is going to get the work done, when the crew is going to arrive or what the schedule is?
Is it more often than it should be?
Who holds the responsibility in the organization to communicate these details to your customers? Before we start to point fingers, let's follow the sequence of information.
Organization Layer 1
Our customer called the office because they have not been communicated with, the last person at the job was an employee who was there over 48 hours ago. We ask, why didn't that employee tell the customer what the next sequence of work was going to be?
At the conclusion of our investigation into Layer 1, we are ready for a heated discussion with our lead technician assigned to the project. We say our organization values our customers, but we are not demonstrating this with clear and consistent communication.
Organization Layer 2
We track down the responsible employee who was last at our under-informed customer's home and it turns out that employee didn't communicate scheduling details with the customer because that employee was not provided with sufficient information to intelligently pass along to our customer. While we were prepared to discipline this employee as the source of miscommunication, we discover that there are additional parties involved with this malady - there are more layers to investigate. In addition to this discovery, our employee brings to our attention that they regularly don't know what they are doing for the day when they show up for work.
As an organization we would say we value our customers, we also would say that we value our employees, we may even have these values posted on our walls, and yet we are not communicating with clarity or consistency to either party.
Organization Layer 3
As a manager, the frustration is turning is now bordering on anger. We march forward to discuss these disturbing findings from the previous two layers with our employee's supervisor. Rather than uncovering the head of the snake, we reveal that our production supervisor hasn't been clearly or consistently communicating scheduling or work details because they haven't been receiving them from their supervisor (in most restoration companies we are now at the estimator level/layer of the org chart).
Our production team hasn't been communicating in the manner we would expect with customers or employees because they are flying by the seat of their pants with the work being handed down to them. We are uncovering that our issues are as much with systems as they are with persons.
Organization Layer 4
Each layer has revealed an additional layer, managers who are willing to investigate may now be fearful of encountering additional worm holes within the system. Not us, we continue our investigation and gather the estimators into the conference room for the final tongue lashings.
As a related side note, everyone serving in the 24/7 emergency response industry knows that work comes in at all times, in all sizes and has no mercy with regards to holidays or special occasions, yet just because we service emergencies does not mean that we shouldn't have as clear a process that we can develop.
Our management team unravels the layers of investigation stemming from the call received by our confused customer, the estimators relate their challenges in working with how the work flow is initiated. Work flow with relationship to how assignments are handed out, especially when our organization is serving the needs of clients who are all in various degrees of distress, is essential to setting our teams up for success. We are faced with a reality that our response process may be broken or at least damaged and needs some TLC in order for our team as a whole to be successful. If we value our customers and we value our employees, we need a system that communicates with clarity and consistency.
Organization Layer 5
The investigation goes full circle and we have determined that there are issues related to a lack clarity and consistency in the work flow process which is affecting us at every level. In order to fix this, we will need to address the system from top to bottom and will need every layer of our organization to be invested in the restoration of our process.
Communication is our organization showing our customers that we value them.
Clarity and consistency is our organization showing our employees that we value them.
Scheduling is the result of a commitment to preparation for success and a successful scheduling system enables everyone on our team to communicate with clarity as well as consistency. Our efforts to create a system of clear and consistent communication from start (receiving a request for service) to completion (creating a happy customer) will require intentional efforts as a workable schedule will not create itself.
The reason we spent all these words (all this time) just to establish the problem, is that while scheduling should be the foundation for any service organization, the commitment to clarity and consistency is rather uncommon. Often we get so wrapped up in the emergency nature of our business, that we forget to build around our values. When a customer calls with a valid complaint, this is an opportunity for some honest organizational evaluation as well as a wake up call for action.
What Must We Do?
Property restoration as an industry requires multiple aspects of technical knowledge in our fields of multiple service offerings as well as communication of multiple work details across multiple data entry points to keep multiple parties involved with a given loss updated on work progress.
Clarity At The Point Of Work Intake
Do we have a consistent process for gathering as much information as we can when a call for service comes in? Regardless of who answers the phone, we should have a clear and consistent process for acquiring the details necessary to set our teams up for success. When we answer the phone, we communicate to our customers that we care by getting the details right and we communicate to our service employees that we care by providing them with the details they need to start a project off with good information.
Clarity At The Point of Work Initiation
The reality In emergency response to disasters, work comes in at all hours of the day as pipes break, fires occur or a host of other scenarios play out for homes and businesses in our area. Because of these contingencies, our schedules can never be fixed to the point that they cannot change at a moments notice. As such we always have to build into our schedules a certain amount of flexibility. Our production managers have to be aware that they cannot send all of our resources to the furthest reaches of our service territory and still be able to reallocate personnel to respond in the middle of the day to a customer that is in need of emergency services. We have to be honest with our customers about what we can and cannot do as we have to fulfill our prior commitments while evaluating our abilities to service new ones. Being busy is a good problem for any organization, this usually means we are growing, but being chaotic is unhealthy and will lead to failure.
Clarity Within The Organization
Establishing a visible joint schedule for our organization is an essential means of assisting all of our teams to prepare for the day ahead while enabling us to update our customers with our strategy for keeping their project moving forward (read our previous article about visible schedules HERE). Our people deserve to know, as best as management is able to communicate, what their assignment will be for the following 24 hour period so that they can mentally prepare and ready their teams to respond to our customers needs. Our customers deserve to have consistent communication of job progress and to know when strangers are going to be in their home. Find the medium that works for your team, but make the schedule accessible and visible by all in the organization as this creates great accountability through transparency. When the concerned customer calls to ask about their job, the person answering the phone should be able to say, "Let me pull up the schedule. Yes, I can see we are scheduled to be at your home between 11am and 12pm today, would you like me to get ahold of the technician who will be responding or the project manager assigned to your loss?"
Clarity Within Your Work Communication
For our team, we inherited a system of carbon copies for printed work orders (or field scopes). Carbon copies served a purpose at some point in time...a point in time right around when the dinosaurs became extinct. We were able to adapt our hand printed work orders (penmanship is a barrier to clarity) into a Microsoft Excel format so that they could be typed - allowing us to ensure they were readable and savable which allows us to track and reference these forms.
The first order of the work order is that in order to be effective the work order must be legible, must have sufficient details and must be executable by the team members assigned to the tasks. Notes on a piece of paper are useless unless those composing the document have been intentional to be clear with those who will be touching the project.
As our system for work orders evolved we wanted our system to be easier to input and more readily shareable by our entire organization. We needed a medium that would allow team leaders to communicate effectively with team members the details of work scopes and resource allocation. We looked into mobile and desktop applications as well as cloud based systems, most of the ones that were the most appealing were also fairly expensive. We experimented with free versions of popular systems but found many of them to be a time consuming venture that did not have the return that we needed, especially with our shorter term projects.
Our schedule needed to show management where our fleet would be assigned, which personnel would be responding to an assignment and what production tools would accompany that crew to complete their tasks. We found that some of the best resource were those that we were already utilizing (see a fun video we made introducing our simple systems HERE). Google calendar is an effective means of creating a shared calendar that could be viewed by anyone in the organization at any time with features such as assigning a color to individuals to enhance the ease of visual review. (We gladly borrowed this aspect from a local plumbing company who showed us their production system). Through the shared calendar, each technician had an email that would show up in their email as well as their calendar with details such as the job address (which assists with OSHA compliance), the job number, contact information for the customer and a detailed scope of work written out for each day in the body of the calendar notes. Team members that wanted printed copies for their folders could have those in their hands and those that were savvy with their mobile devices always had records for reference.
Each organization is unique, for us the values we are building around are:
1. Our schedule should be visible - anyone in our organization should be able to see where our resources are assigned at any given time (to the best of our ability)
2. We want to show our customers that we value them by being clear with our communication
3. We want to show our team members that we value them by being clear and consistent with our scheduling
Clarity and consistency in communication requires the commitment of everyone in the organization, top to bottom - from the point of receiving a call for service to the completion of a project. We have to be intentional about improving our systems as the systems (good or bad) do not create themselves. Our systems may never be perfect, but we will reap what we sow.
If the phone rings more often than it should with confused or upset customers, follow the layers to yourself and get to work on fixing the problems with the system.
Let us help you build and execute a plan for achieving success in your personal and professional development.
Jon Isaacson has a monthly feature column with Restoration & Remediation (R&R) Magazine titled The Intentional Restorer