It was still hot and sweaty in the midday sun. I mean it was just a couple of days after Labor Day in N.Y. and you’d think we were out in the yard in the dead of winter. Why? Well, our service manager, Tommy, was out there having them lay out truck tire snow chains at my family’s company.

This was an annual ritual triggered by the calendar. No, not Outlook or Google Calendar, but the one with pages you had to flip. If you haven’t quite pictured Tommy yet, he was not a guy you questioned!

Get in the yard now and don’t dare mess up or you’ll quickly understand how he could bury you with the worst of the worst tasks that needed to be done. Tommy was a master at breaking the arrogant and the obstinate. I know because he busted me into little pieces for my own long-term good.

Tommy shared with me that he had worked in the trades from the time he was 10 years old. He was trained as a young boy coming up under some very tough taskmasters that you train before you need to do something, you make sure everything in your tool box is where it should be so it’s ready to go when the weather hits.

Tommy’s legacy

But honestly, when I was young and unknowing, I thought he was a little crazy. Well, maybe I thought he was really crazy. Picture, if you will, all of us sweating under the summer sun straightening out snow chains, labeling them with the correct truck number and finally storing them on the proper hooks.

Of course, I learned only a few years later after Tommy had retired and we had stopped this goofy process, that the only one who was really crazy was, in fact, all of us. Why? Well, because when the first big snow storm of the season hit, of course, we had no idea where the chains were.

The ones we found were not labeled so good luck knowing for sure if they were the ones that you needed to put on your truck. And if you were lucky enough to find the “right” snow chains they were so snarled and tangled you’d have them straightened out and on the truck by the time the snow would have melted.

We had ignored Tommy’s brilliant thinking by disregarding his constant prodding, “You need to make sure the axe is sharp before you need to use it to chop down trees.”

The valve of looking ahead

Today, I coach many clients about the value of looking ahead, being prepared and staying ahead. One example of this was an email I got from a client in mid-August while the heat is still on:

My client:

“You mentioned today that every fall and spring your company rolled out the heating or cooling chapters as a refresher and did other stuff to get ready for the change of season.

I would also like to do this but when would be a good time and also who should pay for this type of training?”

My reply:

“Great questions!

My company did a re-rollout of the heating chapter [this was much faster than the initial rollout when we first wrote them] starting August 15th and ending on or around October 1st. It was coupled with hands-on live troubleshooting and simulated calls in our working Training Center all so we could be as ready as possible for the heating season.

We also mixed in with the “tricking up” of the equipment in the training center by having them act as if they were service calls:

    1. Come to the door.
    2. Ask a few key questions.
    3. Get permission to survey.
    4. Present the menu.
    5. Sign the invoice.
    6. Get to work [then, we’d switch gears and dig in technically].
    7. Switch back to sales mode and exit the call the right way.

This whole process got repeated with our cooling manuals and utilizing the cooling side of our training center around late March or early April and the training ran till around May 15th. It helped us get fully ready for cooling season

As to who pays for this type of training, our company paid for all company training time. Ultimately, I was taught by Frank Blau that the customer pays for everything. And that approach only makes sense because all the things we do from training, trucks, communication and more is in the customer’s best interest.

When you pay for training, it stamps that training is as important and non-negotiable of a subject as needing people to volunteer. The bulk of the training was done in two-hour blocks usually from 5 to 7 p.m. on Tuesdays and Thursdays. We brought in pizza and bonded as a group.

The only exception about paid training was when we offered big block training which was about career advancement. Apprentices and Techs would have to pay a school for this type of training and it wouldn’t ensure them of moving up our salary ladder and prepare them the same way to advance their careers.

Are you looking ahead, preparing now and getting ready for your best season ever? Be sure you sharpen that axe!


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