I would like to continue with December’s theme, sharing examples of some “gotchas,” and the documentation I created to reduce them, which increased my bottom line and reduced my stress level. This documentation does two things: It made my crews aware of many things they never considered affecting my business, and ultimately became procedures that were to be followed.
I was working a residential installation entailing about $50k. I received a 30% deposit like always, ordered the equipment and started the prewiring and cabling, which required several days. The project came from a friend who was a contractor renovating the home.
Upon delivery of the bulk of the equipment, I require another one-third payment. I spoke to the client, who confirmed that I would get a check when the equipment arrived, as agreed in our contract. My crew delivered the equipment and was convinced by the client that we had worked something out where he did not have to pay upon delivery…even after I told my guys that morning not to deliver until they got the check! Fifteen grand in equipment…uuugh!
As it turned out, the renovation to his home went over budget; he figured that I was not entitled to any money for the work I had done, and that if he got the rest of the equipment (he would have his son install it), we would be even. Needless to say, after that, I made it a policy, to not only always collect all documents and funds before delivering equipment, but also, when in doubt…CALL! You would think I would not have to create a document and policy for this, wouldn’t you?
When your crew is in the field, it is of the utmost importance that they exhibit good common sense, courtesy toward one another and, of course, the client. My business thrived not on advertising, but from “word of mouth,” from a history of doing the right thing and good work. This becomes more difficult to manage when there is more than one job going on at a time and you can’t always be around supervising.
Here’s one that always gets me: You have a crew member in the field working on a project and receive a call that he requires additional hardware. You tell him to buy it at the nearest hardware store. Silence, then he says he has no money with him! I instigated a policy that, if you do not have $50 in cash or a credit card on you, don’t come to work! Of course, I would give them some petty cash at the beginning of the week (if necessary and hope they did not spend it). The lesson here is that field techs need to be able to make small purchases to keep the project moving when a situation arises, and you do not want to hear that silence!
Common sense is another issue: What do you do if you have a van full of equipment and tools that breaks down on the way to a jobsite? I once had a crew walk a half hour each way to a gas station, leaving the van unattended on the highway. When they got back, equipment and tools were missing. Is it too much to ask to call for help?
How about the one where they locked the keys in the van? I instituted a policy that crew members must have a spare key in their wallet when they use their own vehicle. I made spares for my vehicles, and made sure that they carried an extra key for those vehicles.
The most important policy I’ve ever had is to never, under any circumstances, take on additional work for a client without paperwork first. We get requests all the time, and this becomes a major safety and liability issue. When your crew is onsite, they may be asked to take on additional work, such as adding an extra electrical outlet or hanging loudspeakers in an extra room. If something goes wrong, we all know who is going to be liable. This is the offense that would cause termination the first time. Any time my crew is asked to do anything not in the original scope, they are to call in and discuss it with me. I would either approve the work, which they would write up as a change order and get signed, or we would pass on it.
As a result of these and other issues, I developed documents that I call “Installation
Guidelines,” incorporating four sections: before leaving for the jobsite, while en-route to the jobsite, at the jobsite and before leaving the jobsite. Over the years, I have modified this to reflect real experiences. Many of these lessons need not be learned the hard way.
All employees have to review these documents and return a copy to me signed, acknowledging that they have read them and will adhere to the guidelines as best they can. This has been my policy and I enforce it. I get some grumbling, but it is a fair set of instructions, and just plain common sense. Everyone has signed and it made them conscious of the additional details I wanted them to follow when I was not there with them. This is just one of the many issues you have as your business grows, when you just can’t be at every job.
Policy, procedure, documentation: You likely have it, but do you enforce it? Does it cover the issues discussed here? How has it worked for you? These documents worked well for me. If you would like a copy, send me an email request. Of course, if you have any further examples or situations you would like to share, as well, please send them to firstname.lastname@example.org.