I received a call not long ago from a Restoration Franchisee owner. “Freddy” had read my book on business process systemization. He wanted to meet me about his business, because, as he said, his business was flooded with internal chaos.
Since reading our book, Freddy said he was “so fired up” he’d had little sleep the entire weekend. He had already begun working to implement the systems mentioned in the book, into his own business.
When we met, Freddy showed me what he’d come up with to help prevent mistakes and other dropped-balls that were happening when his technicians were in the field. He shared some of the history about his business. He had grown the company to a nice size, but it had begun to implode due to the chaos.
Freddy had become despondent, because he felt he’d lost control of his business. No matter how many hours he worked, it was never enough to keep up, due to so many mistakes. So, he was excited to learn there was actually a solution out there. He knew now what he must do to restore his own restoration business, to bring it to real and sustainable order.
How to Make Independent Businesses Run Smoothly
I’d like to report that most independent restoration businesses run smoothly. Or, that their franchisees are as turn-key and systemized as McDonald’s or Starbucks, but that would be a stretch! In fact, the opposite is true, and especially true of most independent companies. I know this to be true, because I work with all types and sizes of companies across America.
My own first company was in a constant state of chaos. The only reason we stayed in business back then was because I was determined to make things RIGHT with our customers. We had so many re-do’s, I actually became good at using a system of apology. I had all my excuses down pat. Other business owners had convinced me that errors and mistakes were “normal,” just business as usual. “Besides,” one owner had said, “We’re only human… mistakes are what we do!”
Errors and Mistakes “Normal”?
Well, I say, HORSE HOCKEY! The vast majority of businesses fail in the first five years, due to a lack of systemization!
What if the next time, just before boarding an airplane, you overhear a couple of pilots talking. One of them says, “You know, Ralph, I’ve been flying these jets for over 20 years and I don’t need those stupid checklists, because I’m a professional. I know what I’m doing!” My guess is, you would think twice before using that pilot’s airline again.
Okay, back to Freddy. It was easy to see , with his A-type personality, when deciding to accomplish something, he was like a dog on a bone. Freddy was a real decision-maker, determined to get things done and make things right in his company. He just wanted his life back!
Helping Freddy Get His Life Back
Freddy asked me to work directly with him and his employees to systemize his business. It was a challenge I couldn’t refuse. We agreed on the days I would spend each week at his company, and the work began. First, came the interview process, starting with one of the Lead Techs in Freddy’s Water Department. I asked him what he did exactly, from the time he arrived at a job, until the job was completely restored. We made a long list.
I must admit it was a grueling exercise. Learning what all is involved in the restoration process, I might have preferred a root-canal. But, we moved forward. I wrote down every step… step-by-step-by-step… that Lead Techs perform in an average restoration job. By the time we finished, there were seven actual pages of necessary steps, and I shook my head in disbelief.
Folks, that list of required steps in the restoration industry, that we had turned into a checklist of prompts, took several days to build. But, it was an interesting process, working with and interviewing many techs, helpers and managers.
Working By Checklist Prompts vs. Working By Memory
Yes, as that man said, “We’re only human, mistakes are what we do!” The trick is, NOT to just go with the mistakes, but to make a way NOT to, using a checklist, like the airlines do!
These Restoration Techs had worked hard every day, doing the necessary steps… BY MEMORY. I can only imagine how many mistakes were made using that method!
Using the First Checklist
The first checklist was now completed, and I was excited to show it to Freddy. We sat down at his conference room table, and began to review the new Quality Assurance Checklist. I asked Freddy, “How in the world did your company ever get a job done without umpteen mistakes? I see that your techs are constantly going back and forth to the shop for needed materials or equipment. They often forget to get a required customer signature. Time-sensitive calls aren’t always made to outside vendors needed in the process. How many tools are left at job sites? How much equipment gets lost in the process?”
Freddy said, “Philip, that’s the problem! We make all kinds of mistakes, but we want to fix it and I’m committed to systemization here!”
Facing the Problem and Fixing it
We implemented that Checklist, and the results were amazing! Freddy’s company’s errors and exceptions were reduced drastically and immediately. His cash flow improved, because the insurance companies’ approvals came back more quickly. Jobs were consistently completed to their to insurance company specifications, with no exceptions.
The great thing about systemization, implementing a written system to FIX the messes in your business, is: YOU ONLY HAVE TO DO IT ONCE, and then tweak it from time to time.
Well, not only did we finish THAT Quality Assurance Checklist for the Lead Techs, we went up and downstream in Freddy’s business. We built WRITTEN checklists, procedures, policies; all the processes of how the entire company operates 24 hours a day. This included General Management, Fleet Management, Human Resources, Water & Fire Department Production, Floor Care, Construction, Accounting, Estimating, and so on.
Systemization Builds / Maintains Your Operations Manual
This kind of systemization becomes an Operations Manual. It’s your eyes and ears, your controls, for actually OWNING your company, instead of your company owning and running you. It’s the tool for cleaning up the flood of internal chaos in your business. Systemization is real hope for that free time you’ve always dreamed of as a business owner. It can be done. I’ve seen it! I’ve done it!
Did I mention? Great Systems Work!