Just as a good hitting or pitching coach can help a baseball player succeed, a good business coach can help a company succeed. At Mason Mechanical, we're living proof of this. This year, even with the slow economy, we saw our highest profits ever. We had to work hard to succeed, but the key advantage is that we also worked a lot smarter — thanks to the valuable help from a business profit coach.

My wife, Deanna, and I run Mason Mechanical, a 29-person, full-service mechanical contracting firm in Mesa, AZ. Rather than outsourcing or hiring for management responsibilities, Deanna and I like to be deeply involved with all of the day-to-day decisions.

What kept — and is still keeping — our firm from being a casualty of the times was the realization that we needed to make some serious changes. Through training sessions we had attended, we knew that the financial organization of our firm was a real mess. In addition, we wanted to be able to rely entirely on referrals to drive new business.

In 2006, we started working with a training and coaching firm. From the moment we first applied this company's insights and recommendations into the management of our business, our profitability has grown. If your company needs help, or if it just feels like your company isn't running as well as you would like, our advice is to turn to a business coach, and the sooner the better.

New Approach to Service Work
Our company needed to be reorganized. We broke down the financials by department, no longer looking at one big, vague bottom line like we had in the past. We examined each department individually to see where we were making money, and where we were losing it.

For us, our service department was a key concern. In the Southwest, service work is very seasonal, for obvious reasons. For the better part of the summer it's not unusual to go for weeks with daytime temps of 110F. Another aspect that makes service less profitable is that good technicians don't come cheap. But if you don't have good technicians, your service department is doomed to fail.

Our profit coach took a look at our list of service accounts, and recommended how much time we should be spending on each one. He also set guidelines for how much money each individual account should be making. It came as no surprise to learn that we had several accounts that weren't making the company any money at all.

We also learned to analyze our finances every month, for a clear picture of what changes needed to be made. It's a big improvement over wondering where the money went at the end of the fiscal year.

Having an organized business also makes for better, more productive employees. A company's employees — just like everyone else in this fast-paced world — have a lot going on at home. If you can provide them with an organized, well-structured work environment, one that lets them regain their focus, you're going to get better work out of them.

Small Things Make the Difference
In today's trying business environment, the most important asset that a dealer can have is a consistent, high-quality lead generation process.

Our profit coach taught us much about lead generation, product and company branding, social networking, spiff programs, and quality control. A seminar sponsored by our coach’s company covered all the facets that will help us reach a key goal: to become a 100% referral-driven company.

We learned that lots of little things make the biggest difference — things that you think you should know, or should have thought of on your own. For instance, all of our technicians now wear disposable booties when they enter a home, and everyone has matching uniforms. If our technicians are going to be touching finished walls when installing a thermostat, they wear latex gloves. We want every client to refer us to their friends as the most professional, friendly contractor they've ever dealt with.

We now mail newsletters twice a year. Our mailing list receives updates about the firm, and specials that we're running at the time. It keeps Mason Mechanical fresh in their minds, and is relatively inexpensive.

Our profit coach helped us see the importance of developing a genuine company culture that plays a key role in identifying who we are during and after company hours. Our service department's revenue is up 50% since last year, due to the changes that our coach suggested and we implemented.

My wife and I first heard about our profit coach in 2001, but we didn't start working with them until 2006. My only regret is not beginning our involvement with them when we first had the opportunity. In a nutshell, they've converted us from air conditioning mechanics into true entrepreneurs. We're glad to be among the small percentage of contractors in the country who have taken advantage of the help available to us from a business coach. Don't wait, as we did. The sooner you start, the sooner you'll see positive changes at your company and on your balance sheets.

Since 2006, Mason Mechanical managers have worked with Seattle-based Business Development Resources, Inc. (BDR), a training and coaching firm exclusively focused on the plumbing and HVACR industry. BDR's Profit Coach program offers guidance specifically focused on contracting firms. For more information, call 206/870-1880, or visit bdrco.com.

Steve Mason is president of Mason Mechanical, Mesa, AZ. He can be reached at 480/835-9928 or by e-mail at catchair@masonmechanical.com.

Coaching End Game

A successful approach to business coaching consists of a simple game plan, although the steps in following through will always require some sweat.

BDR, the group enlisted by Mason Mechanical, emphasizes four primary goals with plumbing and HVACR business customers:

  1. Drive profit and growth.
  2. Create a self-sustaining, recurring revenue, referral-driven business model.
  3. Strengthen ownership and management business and leadership skills.
  4. Implement changes that drive a customer-first culture, with a profit-center focus.

— Source: BDR