Imagine opening your door and finding a fully licensed, well-spoken, sales-minded roofing sales professional, job application in hand, eager to make life easy for you. Or perhaps you’ll discover a personable customer service expert who doubles as an accounting wizard and just happens to be looking for a job.

Imagine opening your door and finding a fully licensed, well-spoken, sales-minded roofing sales professional, job application in hand, eager to make life easy for you. Or perhaps you’ll discover a personable customer service expert who doubles as an accounting wizard and just happens to be looking for a job.

Sorry. It’s not that easy. If you want to grow your small shop, you are going to have to adopt and implement operational guidelines and systems for success. Then you’re going to have to teach those systems to your employees. Don’t count on finding a superstar on your front step. Work with the people you have. Teach them how to win.

Step one is to develop and document the systems. Step two is to teach these systems to your employees. Your job as a leader is to teach. Develop a training program. Use professionally delivered seminars to supplement your efforts, but don’t forget your own responsibilities as a trainer. If you don’t teach them how to do things your way, you will continue to do everything yourself or deal with unacceptable performance.

The key is training. And the place to start is your company meeting.

I’m going to help you. This article will teach you how to make the most of your company meetings. A meeting is a way to communicate information vital to the survival of your company, and your employees.

Have you ever thought of it that way? Or, have you thought that meetings were a waste of time? Take heart. Your meetings don’t have to turn into gripe sessions, and they don’t have to be a waste of billable hours. The weekly company meeting can be the core of your training program.

The Weekly Company Meeting

The purpose of this meeting is to keep everyone at your company focused on one thing: sales. Do you disagree? Well, get over it. Without sales, your business is a hobby. Please come to terms with this. Good sales involve doing the right thing for your customers, at the right price, and in compliance with all laws of man and physics. Is that so hard to get behind?

Your weekly meeting topics should revolve around sales. How to make sales - sales that sit well with your customers, sales that leave profits on the bottom line, sales that comply with all safety and code regulations, sales that solve your customers’ problems.

Here’s a sample agenda. Let this meeting overview serve as a general guideline, just to get you thinking about your own agenda.

  • Read the company mission statement. This is a gathering of the troops. Lead them to victory! Share your vision of the company. Insist that each employee memorizes the company mission statement. You could offer $5 to anyone who can recite it on the spot. Try reading from the dictionary the definitions of all the words in the mission statement. You could have everyone recite it in unison.

    Don’t have a mission statement yet? Well, get busy. Use these meetings to develop a purpose for coming to work that transcends roof installation and repair. ServiceMaster’s mission statement is: “To honor God in all we do; to help people develop; to pursue excellence; and to grow profitably.” ServiceMaster racks up more than $5 billion a year in sales, and they started out selling janitorial franchises. Their mission statement is more inspiring than, say, “To have the cleanest toilets.” Create a grand, meaningful mission statement and revisit it at every meeting.

  • Employee announcements. Offer best wishes for birthdays, anniversaries and new babies. Make sure newcomers are recognized and welcomed. Start a fun initiation tradition for new employees, like donning the company jacket.

  • Discuss big wins of the last week and acknowledge the winners. Make a big deal out of great performances. If you have posted the information on the shop wall, everyone already knows the top salesperson or contest winner. Still, make a formal presentation to the weekly winners. Read glowing customer response card information. Did someone do a particularly nice job with an angry customer? Act out the “save” with the responsible employee. Clap, stand up and cheer, crown the winners with a tiara made of nail strips. Think Golden Globe. Think Oscars. Think Harvard Hasty Pudding.

  • Go over a specified section of the operations manual. Read the sections of your operations manual one by one, week after week. Take turns reading. At least you’ll know that everyone has read the whole thing. Make your case for the written procedures. Discuss. Apply the acid test - do these procedures help or hinder employees in making good sales? Don’t be afraid to change what doesn’t work.

  • Offer a hypothetical sales scenario. Role-play different approaches to the situation. Encourage someone to impersonate a difficult customer they’ve encountered, and reward the person that does the best job winning him over. Introduce new phone scripts and have everyone practice with each other.

  • Introduce a new product or service. Discuss the features and benefits of the new item. Have volunteers give a 30-second spiel on the item, describing what’s in it for the customer. Lay out the policies regarding price and detail any special promotions.

  • Wrap up with a contest update. It’s a nice way to send everyone out the door. Contests are great. But it takes an effort to keep the energy up. Have long term and short-term contests. Report on the status of a long-term contest. You could also run a mini-contest everyday. Most customer compliments wins. Or highest average sale. Most projects sold. Involve every department in some kind of game - Most service calls scheduled, quickest time loading or unloading the truck.

  • Keys to Meaningful Meetings

    Here are some tips on conducting successful meetings:

  • Start and stop on time. Don’t be late, and do not tolerate latecomers. I’ve heard of locking the door when the meeting begins. Those who miss the meeting are responsible for finding the information they missed, and they are written up.

  • Once a week, no matter what. What’s more important than this?

  • Use stories to make a point. Lectures fall on deaf ears. A real life story - yours or someone else’s - can be spellbinding. Mine your past for appropriate stories. You can also read a well-written passage from a book to highlight a lesson.

  • Don’t take more than an hour. As the leader, prepare ahead of time. Don’t ramble and waste people’s time. Work on your communication skills. Use the right words, so you can use fewer words.

  • Have a written agenda. At least two days before the meeting, post the meeting agenda. You can send an e-mail or memo, or tack the agenda on the company bulletin board. Some folks just can’t participate in a discussion unless they have thought about it and slept on it. Stay on the agenda. If someone goes off on a tangent, call time out. You can put the topic on next week’s agenda, or discuss it in private after the meeting.

  • Hang in there! Don’t quit having meetings because no one is participating. They are waiting for you to give up! Hang in there. Ask open-ended questions - what, why, how. Call on people to share their thoughts. In time, they’ll chime in.

  • Pay people for their meeting time. If you don’t take meeting time seriously enough to pay people for it, they won’t take it very seriously either. Just pay them and save yourself the inevitable headaches associated with not paying them for it. They’re worth it. Build the cost into your overhead, like any other cost.

  • Think sales. No matter the topic - safety, operations, technical training - remember, the big game is sales. Figure out how to tie it all together.

  • Keep the teaching technology simple. If you are a whiz at PowerPoint, go ahead and use the technology. As a rule of thumb, the apparatus used to deliver the learning shouldn’t be more difficult to master than the subject being taught. Do mix up your presentation techniques in some way … video, lecture, reading, role-playing, flip charts, question and answer sessions. This keeps it interesting and makes the information more accessible to people with different learning styles.

  • Never, ever attempt to discipline someone in a group setting. You have been guilty of this, I know. We all have. But it doesn’t work. In fact, it’s downright destructive. Suppose you have had it up to here with employees showing up late for work. The workload has been heavy, so you’ve ignored the problem. Today, you decide, you’ll lay down the law. You announce in your company meeting that the tardiness has got to stop. You get all worked up, and red in the face. You are yelling about how unprofessional it is, and how you are going to start writing people up for tardiness. Well, here’s what your employees are thinking.

    The folks who show up late assume that everyone must be late … so, no big deal. They’re off the hook. The folks who show up on time lose all respect for you. They’ve been compliant, and they don’t need to listen to this lecture about tardiness. And they don’t get why you haven’t been writing people up for being late.

    All policy violations should be dealt with immediately, and privately, with the offender. Even if everyone at your company is in violation of a particular policy (not likely), discuss it in private with each individual. I once had a job where we referred to the weekly meeting as the weekly beating. Ouch. Not good.

  • Keep the meeting positive. You are their leader. Good leaders teach. That’s what you get to do in this weekly meeting. Teach them about your vision, your hopes and dreams. Teach them what they need to do to succeed in your wonderful company.

  • Follow up on all action items. Keep a running list of the things you “green light” in the heat of the meeting. Do them or delegate them. Let your team know what’s going on with long-term projects.

    Take your role as a trainer seriously. The best book on the subject is Dan Holohan’s How To Teach Technicians Without Putting Them To Sleep. The title says it all. Stop by to order.