Issues to consider for finding and keeping good techs

You can’t find good techs!” say many a PHC service contractor. If that were true, all PHC service contracting businesses that deliver excellence would be one person operations while multi-tech PHC service contracting businesses would at best deliver mediocrity.

But, it’s not true. Contractors who can’t find good help just don’t know how to find and retain good help. But, there are ways to find good techs, and, there are contractors who retain those good techs by properly taking care of their employees.

The following issues should be considered before the process of looking, hiring and retaining good techs.

Do you really need help?

As a PHC service contractor, you must decide whether you really need more techs or just have a temporary overabundance of work. After all, more employees give you more expenses. Dependent upon the accuracy of your monetary numbers (the revenue you bring in for the temporary overabundant workload versus the cost you incur to bring it in), it is possible that adding extra help for the temporary surge of work could make you less profitable. To keep additional techs fully employed you will need a constant workload that justifies the related expenses associated with the employment of the added techs and purchase of additional vehicles.

Occasional busy times can be addressed by having existing techs work overtime. This will not cost as much as the addition of more techs and trucks. However, picking up new clientele who require a constant need for your services for the long term does justify the cost of additional techs/vehicles.

Compensation

There is a difference between new construction contracting businesses and service contracting businesses. New construction contracting businesses usually have a core crew who are continually employed by the business and ancillary personnel who are hired only to fill employment needs of certain projects. The continually employed core crew affords the guidance needed to direct the supplemental and expendable personal that will probably be laid off once the project is completed.

As a PHC service contractor, when you find a top quality service tech you want to keep that person in your employ. Top quality service techs should be properly compensated commensurate with their ability. Experienced top quality techs deserve more money than those with potential but less experience and know-how. Those potential techs can be trained to become experienced top quality techs.

All techs want the stability in their lives that comes from full and continual employment as well as good pay. To assure yourself the compensation you offer is proper ask yourself what amount you, as a top quality tech, would like to earn if you worked for someone else’s business. Keep in mind, there are three levels of tech compensation. There is that which allows techs to just survive, be comfortable,; or be content.

If your techs are paid at the survival level, you are not going to get top quality techs. Thus, a major reason you can’t find good techs. And, the techs you do get will be looking for greener pastures and jump ship when the opportunity arises. At the comfortable level, they would be less likely to abandon ship. And, at the content level your employee retention is the best with regards to the compensation issue.

But, to pay top quality techs at the comfortable and/or content levels, you must price your services in a manner that will allow you to be able to afford to pay those techs. That means you must have a good sense of your true cost so you can set your selling prices are above that cost.

Full and continual employment

Full employment means 40 hours a week. Continual employment means 52 weeks a year less vacation days and holidays, year in and year out. That gives techs a career rather than just a temporary job. Without full and continual employment, techs will have difficulty being comfortable or content. They will constantly wonder if they can afford to shelter, feed and clothe themselves and their families when the business for which they work sends them home without pay on days when there are few service calls.

Put yourself in the shoes of your employees. You wouldn’t be happy working for an employer who wants your expertise and loyalty when he/she has service calls, but, sends you home without a full day’s pay on days when there are few service calls.

With the exception of total commission sales personnel, retail businesses that hire sales people pay those sales people for all hours worked not just when a sale is made. Those whose pay is based on total commission usually get a good percentage of the sale price which allows them to live comfortably. In either case, the selling price of the items sold must take into consideration the cost of the time when those sales people are just standing around waiting for a consumer to come into their retail establishment.

Your techs are your sales force. When you decided to become a person in business, you, not your employees, took on the risk that comes from owning a business. That’s why you earn the profit if you properly run your business. Your techs don’t want the responsibility of running a business. That’s why they work for you. If you want your techs to be loyal to your business, you owe them loyalty in return. That means you must do the number crunching that takes into consideration the cost and circumstances you will incur. And, you must price your services accordingly.

One of those costs and circumstances is unapplied labor. Another is full and continual employment of techs. Even if you offer techs top hourly wages, but do not give them full and continual employment, you are the reason you can’t retain good techs.

If you do cut short the techs’ hours and/or days of gainful employment, you are actually diminishing their wages and depriving them of the ability to properly shelter, feed and clothe themselves and their families. You will have difficulty keeping that tech in your employment. And then, your search for good help will start over again.

Disgruntled employees don’t deliver excellence to your clientele. In which case, you will neither maximize your profits nor keep your employees or clientele satisfied. In other words, you lose.

Assets techs need

Once you correctly adjust your mindset regarding the aforementioned issues your search for good help can begin. The next issue to consider is whether candidates for employment have the right attributes. Handing a wrench to an applicant for employment, and, if he doesn’t drop it, then, placing a mirror under his nose to see if he is breathing is not a good measuring stick of employee attributes.

There are many assets needed. Some can be taught. Others cannot. Integrity, loyalty, mechanical aptitude, great mental attitude, self-starting, pride in workmanship, following legitimate orders, responsibility and dependability are ingrained in our persona. If a candidate for employment lacks any of these, you must beware.

Evaluate tech performance

After you decide to take a chance hiring someone it is imperative to monitor this person’s performance to assure the tech is bringing in more money than he/she is costing your business. To accomplish this techs need guidance from you so they can please your clientele while pleasing you.

When you see flaws in a tech’s performance you should have a constructive conversation with the tech in hopes of rectifying the issue. When techs perform in a superlative manner, they appreciate a good pat on the back.

You might consider instituting a properly organized incentive program that monetarily rewards excellence. It can give techs the enthusiasm and resolve to deliver excellence rather than mediocrity to your clientele. This would allow you to recover your operational costs and earn the reward you deserve for the delivery of excellence and risks you take.

The search for good techs starts with you

You must realize techs are humans like you. They want the same things you want without the responsibilities of owning a business. They are not your tools. They are more like your partners since they interact with your clientele more than you do.

If you don’t believe the importance of these issues, then the statement that started this article — “You can’t find good techs!” — is correct. You can’t find good techs because you refuse to do that which is needed to find and retain good techs.

If you take these issues seriously before looking for good techs, you would be taking a step toward being a good business person rather than just a person in business. However, there are many other issues which must be considered to be a good business person. For a copy of my book “Solutions Management Theories and Methods for the Contracting Business,” which addresses these issues or my assistance regarding any contracting business matters, including organizing a tech incentive program, or showing techs the proper way to conduct their interactions with your clientele call me. 

Richard P. DiToma is a contracting business coach/consultant and an active PHC contractor. For information about the CONTRACTOR PROFIT ADVANTAGE or to contact Richard: call 845-639-5050; e-mail richardditoma@verizon.net; mail to R & G Profit-Ability, Inc. P.O. Box 282, West Nyack, N.Y., 10994; or fax 845-634-7236.

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