Hurray for Team Gene Johnson Plumbing: Winners of a Biz Makeover

This past winter,, Phc News launched a contest for our readers. The prize: A day with me! It was planned that I would visit with the winners for one day at their shop, and help them makeover their business.

Hmmm. Perhaps I should point out to my husband, Hot Rod, that he is probably the luckiest man on the planet. He wins a day with me almost every day. How fortunate for him that I can tell him how to live his life. I bet he totally appreciates it.

After a flood of entries – thanks, for sharing your compelling stories! – the Phc News Team picked Gene Johnson Plumbing. This family business is managed by Kimberly Kean and Dennis Hamon. They are sister and brother-in-law, and second generation to the founding owner, Kimberly’s dad, Gene Johnson. They have been operating in Seattle, Wash. since 1976.

We called their office and announced to Kimberly that they were the big winners. What a treat to have her respond so enthusiastically.

Get ready!

Prior to my visit, I set up two phone calls with Kimberly and Dennis. On the first call, I got to know them a little bit and learned about their company. What great people! They are ready to learn, and welcomed the makeover with a sense of adventure. They have 10 total team members, including five terrific service technicians, two eager apprentices and Kimberly, Dennis and Kristin in the office.

Kristin is the multi-talented CSR and dispatcher. They charge “flat rate” and are working with a hefty selling price. They have a great market area and really good competition, which can be a plus.

We dug into their financials. Kimberly is very savvy when it comes to accounting and financial reports. They are cranking out solid sales, yet struggling with cash flow and inconsistent calls. Sound familiar? Common challenges. They are converting to a new software program, which will help with dispatch, scorekeeping and wirelessly integrating field data.

On call number two, we nailed down the agenda for the onsite Business Makeover Day. I sent them copies of “The Weekend Biz Plan.” We agreed that we would do as many of the exercises as we could, squeezing the business planning process into just one day.

I asked them to get started on a few things so I could hit the ground running when I arrived. One, I suggested that they clean the place up. A benefit of having a guest come to your home or business is that you get to mark “done” on items you already have on your punch list. Note that as a consultant, I don’t need or want to see your place “warts and all.” Show me the best you can do. (Check out the “before” pictures!)

Next, I directed them to get a few office supplies, including a three ring binder, binder tabs, a three-hole punch, and a package of single subject spiral notebooks.

The binder is to “house” their business plan. The notebooks are for writing things down: ideas, to-do’s and projects. A to-do is a one-off.

“Order materials for the Fernwickey Job” is a to-do.

“Create a Procedure for Managing Inventory” is a project.

As an alternative, they could use Evernote, Basecamp or another high-tech tool to stay organized. The rule is to pick one approach and use it exclusively. No sticky notes or multiple notepads. Each team member is responsible for writing down their own to-do’s and projects. Note that these organizational skills take time to develop, and are always a big part of my consulting work. I wanted Kimberly and Dennis to get used to using their notebooks before I showed up.

Lastly, I suggested that Kimberly and Dennis each write an essay about their “Perfect Life.” Start at the beginning of the day, and image what life would be like – moment by moment – if they were living the dream in every area of their life. Writing it all out starts the creative process. This is an easy and powerful exercise for visualizing what you really, really, really want, and sets the stage for receiving it.

Here I come!

Have you ever flown into Seattle? The plane nearly touches Tahoma (aka Mt. Ranier) as you float down on this gorgeous harbor city. I stayed at the famous Edgewater Hotel (like The Beatles did back in the day!) and got to explore fabulous Pike Market.

Then, on the Day with Ellen, Kimberly picked me up bright and early. I started with a tour of their office building and trucks, and got a chance to meet and greet their delightful team members. This is a fun loving crew! Go Seahawks! There is a sense of pride and honor that runs throughout the company.

While the place was pretty tidy, I challenged them to an even higher standard of clean. Out with the old; a place for everything and everything in its place. They have the right idea with glass window/walls and minimalist furnishings. However, the two-story building is not very functional. It is centrally located in their market area, but there isn’t a lot of room for the trucks.

Kimberly jotted down, “Explore new location versus rebuild options for the shop” in her notebook. She also noted other topics for discussion as we continued the tour.

We set up in the conference room with our computers and office supplies. Then, we got to work on the following exercises.

• We reviewed their Perfect Life Essays. It’s a good idea to make sure that your Perfect Life is not in conflict with your partner’s Perfect Life. It was cool to discover that Kimberly and Dennis have similar dreams and values, and are on the same page about how the business plays a role.

• They crafted a Mission Statement: Success. Respect. Trust.

• We explored their Unique Selling Proposition (USP) and a list of values, which they now call their Five Star Service Promise. The intention is to “Strive for Five” stars on every single service call, and give each customer their full energy, attention and expertise. |• We mocked up an Organizational Chart to illustrate who does what, and who reports to whom.

• We assembled a list of Goals for 2014 and beyond. Goals are “To Have” statements and require a due date. We created Financial Goals by putting a simple Budget together.

• From those goals, and from the To-do Lists, we assembled a list of Projects – the Master Projects List. The projects with top priority are elevated to the Top Projects List. Those are the ones that get time and energy right now. Any other projects are added to the Master Projects List. As top projects are completed, other projects “graduate” to top project status.

We moved fast. I encouraged them to put something down quickly, as the first thoughts you have are often the best. Dennis and Kimberly had participated in many seminars and training sessions, so they brought their previous work to the table. As we discussed the mission statement, my advice was to shorten their thoughts into something simple and easily memorized.

The point of business planning is to gain clarity, get inspired, and take aligned action. We got really fired up with these conversations. I would put an end to one exercise when I felt like we captured the essence of it. Then, off to the next one. As we progressed, they printed and punched holes in each page, and stored it in their Biz Plan Binder. They can always go back and review and refine these exercises.

The B=big ahas…

We had lots of little “wins” all day. There was one big “aha moment.” In their attempts to help, Dennis and Kimberly were consistently robbing their team members of opportunity. It’s a common problem. Often, owners are swamped, yet put themselves right in the middle of everything and become the bottle neck.

For example, if a technician doesn’t have what he needs to make a sale – the right parts or information – Dennis offers to step in. This creates a back log of follow up work, and becomes stressful for everyone. Also, Dennis keeps a daily running tally of sales – month to date compared to goal. This is a fine idea, except Dennis takes it on himself to reach goal with his stack of call backs. That’s a lot of pressure, and he is failing to engage the power of his rockin’ team. Wouldn’t it be better to equip the techs with what they need to solve problems while they are on the first visit? Yes! And, it would help cash flow, too. Kimberly was also doing bookkeeping tasks that could be delegated, which would free up her time and expand opportunities for Kristin.

My advice was to help team members handle more tasks on their own. This would include writing procedures for AR and AP data entry, and for truck material restock – and a good time for Kimberly and Kristin to tackle these procedures would be while the software integration is happening. These projects are now on the Gene Johnson Plumbing Master Project List.

Dennis shared an immediate feeling of relief from having to make that sales number himself every day. Instead, his focus can be on helping his team – and his yet-to-be hired team members – get really good. Together, they can identify the rocks in their road and complete projects that will get rid of them. Dennis can delegate these projects, and start grooming techs for supervisory positions. This makes it easier for them to deliver on their “Strive for Five” stars promise, too.

An “aha” moment for me was discovering that Kimberly and Dennis are committed not only to their own success, but also to the wellbeing of their team members and their competitors. They understand that “all boats rise” as plumbers and technicians expand their knowledge and business skills. They set a goal to have 12 couples go through Dave Ramsey’s course on personal prosperity and debt-free living. That translated to a project on the Top Projects List: Host two Dave Ramsey courses. How cool is that?

Wrapping up the day

As we wrapped up the day, my concern turned to making sure all the advice and “ahas” resulted in new thought, action and results. That takes a disciplined approach to time management, organization and focused meetings. We explored the “Meeting with Me.” (See my column in the June 2014 issue of Phc News.) This weekly meeting will help them stay on track. Block out time on the calendar for activities that are aligned with the Top Projects list and the business plan.

We also discussed how productive meetings improve communication and successful delegation. I suggested that, in addition to the individual “Meeting with Me,” they hold to a weekly Financial Quick Check and Top Projects meeting with the team. This way, they can take a pulse on actual vs. budgeted financial information, and discuss the progress of their top projects. They can add to the Master Project List as new things crop up. Check out their current top projects in the pictures provided.

Business is dynamic. Envision your perfect life. Establish a mission for your business. Set goals and take action. Measure results, and reflect on what happened. Then, do it all again. For the fun of it, and the fortune in it.

Good bye,and good luck!

Kimberly and Dennis are hard working, enthusiastic, positive people. Now, they have an updated business plan. And, they have a better approach to organization, accountability and communication. We tackled a lot in our Biz Makeover Day.

Dennis shared this about the experience, “As owners…it’s always good to have a person with authority like Ellen, who has been up the road a whole lot farther than us, to come give us a kick in the pants. Ellen’s arrival gave us the ‘oomph’ to clean things up and get ready.”

Dennis continued, “Your business always looks different with a fresh set of eyes looking at it and asking questions that you haven’t asked yourself. The visit has actually done a lot to shape our year. We now have a list of important projects to go after and get done. The Organization Chart was a big thing. realized that we didn’t have a map or ladder for our people to climb and to see a future for themselves. The Organization Chart exercise highlighted our need for growth!”

Congratulations, Dennis and Kimberly, on all your success…past, present and future! What a joy to spend a day with you all.

And a big thank you to the Phc News Team for sponsoring this contest and my participation. You rock!

For more on business planning, check out The Biz Plan Challenge. You, me, other business builders…working in real time to craft customized Biz Plans for creating your ideal business and best life. www.bizplanchallenge.com.

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