We are pleased to feature business articles by renowned industry consultant Lloyd Smigel. For over 30 years he has helped develop corporate strategies for many small private and family-owned pest control firms throughout the United States.His courses focus on leadership, change, sales management, interpersonal skills and employee retention. Lloyd has helped many PMPs avoid problems BEFORE they occur.He has also helped companies break through that invisible wall that seems to keep them from progressing.
Lloyd has a column in Pest Management Professional Magazine and writes articles for 22 other state and national trade magazines - a combined circulation of well over 100,000 monthly. His new book, Bug People to Business People, has recently been published by PMP Magazine. Bug Off Pest Control Center is very proud to have sponsored Lloyd and Dr. Austin Frishman at the Dynamic Duo Event in 2007.
In 1999 Lloyd launched his “Discovery Retreats”.The Retreats are groups of no more than 20 non-competing companies from across the country.Each group meets 3 times per year to share information and train managers how to be more effective in their businesses.
“All this and he is also very good-looking and very humble.” - Helen Smigel, his mother. If you would like to contact Lloyd for a future speaking engagement, management consulting or the Discovery Retreats - call Terry at 888/711-3232 or visit : www.lloydsmigel.com
I WORK IN A FAMILY BUSINESS – PLEASE SHOOT ME!
For over 40 years I have worked in or for family businesses.This would explain to all who know me, why I am the way I am.
Probably about 95% of the work I do is with family businesses.It certainly is challenging. Brother versus brother, sister versus brother, father versus son, nephews, cousins, nieces, in-laws, out-laws – lots of fun.
Most of the problems occur because there are little or no definitions written down.Things like an employee handbook, for example. So it becomes a free-for-all.
Add to that how do you discipline your own relatives and you have some major problems.
About 50% of the family businesses that I have worked with are doing well and just need an occasional tune-up.However, the smaller family owned companies rarely have faced the music and brought true definition to the company.
CAN I BE THE PROBLEM?
After many years as a Management Consultant in this industry I have seen a lot.One of the hardest situations I have to deal with is when owners are the problem.
It is my job to inform them of that.Not an easy position to be in, but I represent the company – not the owner.Someone needs to point out the problems from an unbiased position and that’s what I have to do.
We all have our shortcomings and if it is not pointed out to you – you continue on that road.Some refer to this as the Bad Breath Window.Everyone knows you have bad breath but no one will tell you – I will.
Many people, deep in their soul, know what their problems are but won’t admit to it.Once confronted, they usually are O.K. with it.
If you are the problem – get some help so you can move forward.
For the past 35 years in this industry, I have found a lack of training in sales management as one of the reasons why companies cannot grow as quickly as they want to grow.The owner/manager hires sales reps and does not know how to supervise them.
The point is that Sales has to be managed just like you manage your routes.You have to learn how to strategize your sales and marketing and blend your sales strategies into your company.It is difficult.But in today’s times, you better learn quickly.
Working during these hard times calls for working more intellectually and having an ongoing review of your strategies. What got you to where you are may not get you to where you want to go.You may have to do things differently.
One of the problems I see out there is that many owner/managers are still slow to change.They hang on to their old ways and seem afraid to change.They still feel that times will change.It is time to cut back and to work more efficiently and more effectively.Paying more attention to customer service and hiring a more professional group of employees will be a huge value.
Management has to change with the times or they will, unfortunately, continue a downward spiral.If you do know what to do – do it.If not, get some outside help to create a new strategy in today’s hard times.It’s a choice – it’s up to you.
Business during the last two weeks of the year generally goes into limbo.People become lethargic and don’t want to make decisions.It’s time to worry about gifts and holiday cheer and religious commitments and social commitments.
It’s also a great time to do your planning for next year.
When you DO plan for next year, I suggest you bring your employees into the meetings.Wouldn’t it be nice to include them in the decision-making process?It’s a good way to get more realistic goals and, more of a buy-in from them.
Go for it and have a great New Year.
The Bad Manager In the past 20 years I have evaluated hundreds of pest control companies. Many of them had really good owners/managers that just needed new training and/or direction. But others were just plain bad.In one situation, the supervisor was promoted to manager with little to no training for the position. He was totally reactive; he didn’t communicate well with his employees; he never performed any employee evaluations. He may have been a good person – but he lacked training and his employees left because they saw no future and no leadership. Another manager was too tough on everyone including his son (who eventually left). He told me "I am not here for a popularity contest. I am their boss. They work or get fired. It’s that simple." Nice guy, huh? This Autocratic Management Style may have worked well 50 years ago. He's out of business now. Most bosses want their employees to do well. Some of them actually let their employees get away with way too much. In my opinion, bad managers are the same as bad employees: they have to change or go. Managers are only as good as the people they surround themselves with. If you hire good people, pay them a decent wage, have a vision and invest in their training, you will do well. Management is at the mercy of its employees as much as they are at the mercy of management. That’s a fair balance. When Bad Managers think they are better than the employees - "Me yell – you jump" – they will have high turnover rates. One of the areas that I look at in a company evaluation is where the potential leaders for this company are. Where the future talent is. Bad managers often don’t care about things like that. They don’t know what to do. They don’t know where to turn.
Do You Need An Evaluation?
Employee evaluations are important not just for the company. Employees actually want evaluations in order to find out how you think they are doing.
Most of my work centers around interviewing employees in order to help me determine how a company is being run. Additionally, many employees have great ideas but are unwilling to share them. It's my job to get that information out. I often find that the owner/manager’s perception of themselves (and how they are managing) is not the same as their employees'. This is a huge problem that can easily lead to a high turnover rate.
By time I leave, the company has a six-month business plan. That’s the good news. The bad news is that most of the employees take a wait-and-see attitude to see if any of the recommendations will be acted upon. This is why I usually go back in six months. I don’t expect everything to be done, but I take a look and see what is holding you back from making all those changes we agreed upon.
If you need your company to be evaluated – let me know.
Time To Work
In case you haven’t noticed, this country is going through a very hard time financially. Most of my clients seem to HOPE that this will pass. Many are trying to cut back here and there but few have a master 6-month to one-year plan.
In fact, I have heard from many of my contacts throughout the industry that most owners are still taking their extended vacations, taking off to play their sports and taking time off for personal reasons. This does not sit well with their employees who are hearing what a tough time we are going through.
Take heed: drastic times call for drastic measures and now is the time to exemplify how tough it really is. It is time to show leadership – not just talk about it. You better put in more days, longer hours and be there for your people. We have to be more aggressive in getting the business. If you don’t know what to do – get some help – don’t go on vacation.
"Turn Off The Lights – The Party's Over"
Sometimes we don’t know when to quit what we are doing. When do we turn off the lights? I’m not talking about closing your company but rather changing before it’s too late. For example, when you keep poor personnel your good employees wonder why. When I go to an office and interview the staff they often mention the problems they see. Even after talking to management about the problems, nothing is done. They are frustrated, irritated and confused.
We often know that we have to do things differently but it is more comfortable to stay as we are. Sort of like seeing a ship taking on water but not worrying about it as long as the ship is still moving forward. Slower and slower, but…
As we grow we have to change. What got you to where you are may not be what will get you to where you want to go. I say that over and over again. We don’t service the same as we did 30 years ago, we don’t bill the same way, we don’t use the same materials. Everything changes; and so must we. There have been many changes in communications, leadership, management and sales and we have to get with it.
It often takes a lot to change. Start with the desire. If you have the desire, go out and learn what it is you have to do to change. There are courses, classes, videos, books and seminars (mine are the best, though!). Whichever you choose – learn to make the changes before it’s too late and you have to turn off YOUR lights.
Planning To Plan
"There’s never any time to plan."
That is true. However, like the old saying goes, we never have time to plan but we always have time to fail. The point is that without a plan – the odds are against you. A plan for growth requires a lot of changes – it is very difficult. But without it you are destined to plow along at the mercy of fate, luck and our governmental problems.
I just finished working with a company in Florida putting together a six-month workable business plan for them. Hard questions had to be answered first: What part of the business to grow? Is there enough cash for the project? How will the personnel be involved? What are the time lines? What are the regulatory concerns? What training is needed? How to do all of this while still running the company? The point is, that after 3-4 hard days of reviews and strategy planning we came up with a viable growth plan.
The reaction from the entire staff has been both supportive and cheerful. They are glad to see that the owners are no longer going to be stumbling along (they are doing well) but now there is a plan and everyone is involved. Additionally, there will be opportunities for advancement as the company grows.
What's YOUR plan? Think about it….
Is Your Learning Curve Flat?
The end of the year is a good time for reflection. Times have changed.The good times have rolled and now we are no longer riding that great wave of prosperity.This is the time when businesses have to really show what they are made of.
When many of us began our businesses we did it all.We worked hard to get it started.Hours meant nothing.Challenges were constant and it was hard to meet payroll – if we even had any other employees.We often went without a paycheck but through hard work, blood, sweat and tears, we made it.We sacrificed our time from our families because we had to do what we had to do to make the company work.Remember those days?
Many owners got fat.They sat around and enjoyed what they sowed.Life was good.The money was coming in and they didn’t have to make those sacrifices. They now come in late, don’t work on Saturdays and go fishing and on vacations when they want. Sorry to say, but times have changed and it is now time to get back to the basics.Not only do we have to face these hard times head on, but we need to give up some of those luxuries and in many cases learn new techniques to stay alive.
Management has changed over the last 20-30 years and so have the values of the work force.At my Discovery Retreats we consistently discuss this.Everyone agrees that the good old days are gone and we have to change. Be it by diversifying services, changing frequency of visits, changing work patterns, modifying interpersonal relations or strategizing for the future by creating a Business Plan. Change is not an option any more.
If you choose to invest your time and money and learn how to do things differently, you will survive and do well.If you simply think you are going to wait this out – you may be out. If your learning curve is flat – you will more than likely get flattened by the changing times.
It is your choice.It is time to roll up your sleeves and begin the new year with a new courage – you had that courage before – dig in and you will find it again and not only survive, but do even better than before.It will take some sacrifice, but that is what you did once before.Go for it.
How to Become the Cheapest Game in Town
First, cut your prices.Then, cut your benefits.Then, cut everyone’s pay.Buy cheaper vehicles and reduce your insurance.Move into the cheapest, dirtiest building you can find to cut your rent.Do all of these things and I am sure you can drop your prices.
However, plan on having high turnover in personnel and customers.That is all part of being the cheapest. Often these companies are referred to as the "bottom feeders" of our industry.It’s the way our system works.
My personal preference has always been to aspire to be the best possible service provider and therefore, our prices are usually near the top of the market.I prefer our trucks look good and operate well. I prefer to invest in the best equipment we can get.If you want to secure good people – you have to pay well.If you want to pay them well - you better get good prices to support them.This is also the way the system works.
How to change is what I deal with all of the time. People are realizing that they have to make changes or they may go out of business.In January, 2009 I will be conducting a Seminar entitled “Overcoming a Poor Economy”.Contact Terry at 1-888-711-3232 for more information.One way or another – you better make some proactive changes before the economy gets you.
The Law of Unintended Consequences
There was this manager I once met who learned the hard way to LISTEN before he makes a decision. Here’s what happened to him and his company.
He was holding a general meeting with his personnel and "Bob" was one of those people who could never make meetings on time.He came in about ten minutes late.The manager was upset:
“How many times must I tell you to be here on time?The next time you're late, will be the last!”
A few weeks later there was another general meeting and all were there except for Bob.About 20 minutes into the meeting Bob comes rushing in – he really looked like hell.
“I’m sorry boss – I can explain.”
Everyone looked at the boss to see whether or not he would fire him - he did.
“There is no explanation – you’re fired!”
“But I want to explain” Bob said as he began to cry.
“Get out of here!"
Here’s how the jury ruled in the wrongful termination lawsuit.The manager did give Bob a warning and the manager was probably within his legal rights to fire him but the jury sided with Bob when they found out that his wife had a miscarriage and he was in the hospital all evening and then drove in to work.The manager lost the case and it was quite costly to the company.
A case of unintended consequences.
Many times when employers do not listen or fail to think things through – bad things happen.By doing the right thing – bad things rarely happen.
I recall an incident when our babysitter set fire to the kitchen counter by leaving the popcorn maker on.It was an accident.I called my insurance company – State Farm, and they denied the claim.I fought back. They had an adjuster come to the house who stated that there was no "burn" – only a "singe". I went to their divisional office and complained directly to the manager and he just sat and stuck by his claims adjuster.This was my first claim with them and I ripped up my policy and threw it on his desk (I was young and impetuous back then).He couldn’t care less.
Two years later the company I was working for (a multimillion dollar company) was considering State Farm’s insurance proposal.I spoke to the president of the company and he wrote them a letter advising them that because of this "singe – not burn" event, he was not considering their proposal.I got a call from my old agent and several people from State Farm.No, I did not take their offers – I wanted them to learn from their mistakes, not buy me off.
Again – unintended consequences.
The point is that often, when we do things hastily, we suffer from unintended consequences. Many people in power positions look down on others and play the holier than thou roles. No matter what your title or position is, we are all still human beings that deserve to be treated with respect.
Advertising Can Be A Waste of Time and $$$
People in this industry often think that advertising will cure all of their woes.Not true. It may be able to cure SOME problems – but not all.
Many outfits will spend thousands of dollars on advertising with very poor organizational planning. Little things like not answering phones quickly; failing to return phone calls promptly; receiving a busy signal during working hours; putting customers on hold too long, etc.So here they are spending all of that money to make their phones ring and they blow it all on lack of manpower, no established procedures to follow and poor followup.Money down the drain. Or how about not training office personnel on selling on the phones or sending people out to close the deal who have had no or little professional sales training.The entire cycle is bizarre.
Advertising, to me, is something to do AFTER you have your company organized.Often there is little strategy and/or sales management involved.If you don’t put the money and effort into strategy and sales management – you are wasting your money.
We need to invest our time and money wisely. We can't afford to try things that MAY work.If not, we may not survive.
How many bosses out there would fire themselves for the amount of time they take off if they were an employee? Many bosses I know take off WAY too much time and set poor examples for their personnel. When I ran offices I was in at 6:00 A.M. and usually closed up at the end of the day.I worked a half day every Saturday, as well. I led by example and I believe my employees appreciated that.
Some bosses come in late and are nowhere to be found most of the day.They say they will be back later and don’t tell the secretary where they are going or when they expect to be back.“I don’t have to report to them.” What is that about? But you expect THEM to report to you.Management is a two-way street with mutual obligations.My secretary Terry has been with me 25 years and she always knows where I am.It’s a matter of trust, isn’t it?
Do you allow employees to take off for every relative's birthday?Do you allow them to take off extra time when family comes in from out of town?Do you allow them to take time off to babysit their nieces and nephews so their parents can go on vacation?How many days off per year do you give your people to play golf, go hunting, go fishing, go skiing? Do you give them 10 days a year extra time off for ‘personal stuff’?Are they paid for this?Is it O.K. for you to do but not them? "It’s MY business". You're right, but you are not leading by example.It’s do as I tell you – not as I do.
The point is that you become undependable. Leadership by example is strong. Employees SEE what they can SEE. Their perception is their reality. You lose credibility and soon they feel that they work their butts off so that you can relax and spend extra time doing your stuff. Rarely will they say anything to you about this.But they all think it.
Education and Training:
An Expense or an Investment?
I have been to hundreds of different pest control companies working on new strategies with owners and managers.It's interesting to me when they view training their employees to be an expense as opposed to an investment. Training managers/owners or showing them ways ofdeveloping personnel or coming up with new services or policies seem to be less important than sending out flyers for new business.
Ironically, most companies do not even have formal training in sales or sales management.But the owner somehow (poof!) becomes a sales master and (poof!), the sales reps come and go (at $10,000 a shot). And they don't get the training to offset that loss. If you don’t take the time and money to develop a plan then you are destined to suffer the consequences.
Most of the people in this industry have gotten to where they are today by pure guts and stamina.They ran their business through hard work.But there comes a time when the economy will separate the professionals from the hard working owner/managers. It is happening right now. What got you to where you are may not get you to where you want to go and may even bring you down. It’s a new world.You will have to either learn to join it or suffer the consequences.
My book, Bug People to Business People gives you many ideas on structuring.But each one of you out there has a unique situation. If you need the help – get it. Not necessarily from me, but from anyone who can help you move out from that box you inadvertently created for yourself. Don't wait for the perfect time - do it now. The perfect time never happens. "This is my busy season, this is my vacation time, this is when I usually go hunting, this is when I usually watch Days of Our Lives".
JUST DO IT!
Famous Last Words
“I know exactly what I am doing!”“I don’t need to change!”“I am a natural leader!”“My people either respect me or they are fired!”
Over the last 33 years in this industry, I find that I am still learning.I still go to seminars, I still read books on sales, management, leadership and interpersonal skills and I still read business books.I consider myself to be of average intelligence and I am blessed to be in a job where I can still learn from my clients, as well as teach them. But every now and then I meet someone who knows it all.What a blessing that must be, huh?Why they spend their time in this business rather than bet on the horses, is beyond me. The problem with these Know-It-Alls is that they don’t. It’s all about their egos. Unfortunately, many of these people have employees who believe this person is pompous and does not listen or change.There lies the problem. Sort of like the guy who thinks he is the greatest quarterback in the world and his only problem is that he can't find a receiver who is talented enough to catch what he throws.
Each company I work with, I interview the employees first. I do this to find out, not what the perceived reality is from the boss – but what the reality is from the employees' point of view.If they both match up – life is good.If they don’t, I need to work it out. The point is that when self image does not match up with your true image – there is a problem.
“I don’t want to hear it - Do you really want to know the truth????”
Most of my work with smaller companies begins with the owner and me leveling with each other. Many have told me that they got to where they are by just hard work and now they are in over their heads. They are not sure what to do to move forward. I love that. It is honest and we can go from there. However, there are many owners that still feel that just hard work will get them ahead. That is very rare.
As you grow you have to LEARN. You have to CHANGE. You, personally have to grow and/or change your attitude and hire people to support your shortcomings.
Bug Off Pest Control Center
1085 Saint Nicholas Ave
New York, NY 10032
Phone: 212-781-2304 Fax: 212-781-0225 firstname.lastname@example.org