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Some Tools of the Trade

Having an instruction manual

Remember the movie, "Back to the Future"? Michael J. Fox used a futuristic car to travel back in time. When he went to the 1950's, one of the problems he experienced was finding fuel for a car which would be built many years later.

While he was able to solve this problem, we wonder what would have happened if he had needed any tools to repair the car. Many of today's tools did not exist then; especially the tools dealing with the electronics. We doubt he would have been able to repair the car. This same idea could apply to your business.

Think about the many specialty tools you utilize for installation. If these tools were taken from your business, and all you had to use were the tools commonly available at the local hardware store, many installations would take considerably longer or perhaps would become impossible. The same is true for the tools you can utilize to manage your business.

There are several "tools" we want to bring to your attention, to ask if you have them in your management tool chest. The first tool is job descriptions. Even if you have a shop in which there are only two people, job descriptions are crucial. If the other person is your partner, a job description is even more important as you need an agreement as to who will make which decisions.

Creating job descriptions can be a fairly easy process. Ask each of your employees to write out for you, in the order of importance, the ten most important tasks which they are responsible for. At the same time, you should duplicate the task, listing what you think they should be doing. It should come as no surprise to see that the employees you feel are doing the best job will be the ones whose list of ten most closely matches yours.

As you compare all of the lists, you should be able to compile a one list which will then become the necessary job descriptions. And, by using this sequence your employees will understand how they can all be on "the same page" with you.

There are two other "tools" which should be a part of this tool box. They are policies and procedures. A policy will be your written information for your employees about what they are to do.

If, in your business, you provide a uniform or t-shirt for your employees, this would be a part of your policy. Your policy would explain the appropriate attire to be worn at work. Your workman's compensation insurance company probably has a requirement that people wear shoes which are not open toed. If this is so, then the instructions for the appropriate type of shoes would also be a part of your policy.

The same goes for instructions if you utilize a time clock, and regarding overtime. Policies could also include instructions for writing service orders, and daily shop cleanup.

The third tool we mentioned was the procedure. A procedure is the instructions of how to perform a task. Your procedure manual could include how to do certain types of installations, as well as instructions of using the telephone, handling a request of an employee for a day off or vacation time, or how to answer questions when a customer has a complaint.

The combination of these three tools, job descriptions, policies, and procedures, allow you to become the exceptional business by eliminating several traits we observe with most shops. The first difference we will see is that you have employees that are educated, and know how to take care of your shop and your customers.

The second difference we will observe will be employees which are able to work together for the overall good of the business. These two differences will show up on your financial sheet with the changes in several lines: gross sales and net profit will increase while expenses will decrease.

There are a couple of suggestions we would make, involving these tools. As you are creating them, you should do so gradually. You should also implement them utilizing a series of staff meetings. In the years this writer was the owner of a business, we found a one hour bi-weekly meeting worked best for us.

As we created these tools, they were discussed during these meetings along with a question and answer period, followed by as much time as possible spent on teaching product knowledge. Even if a person was not an installer or a salesperson, they should have a working knowledge of each other's job. Few things impress a customer as much as does one of your staff members being able to answer questions which are out of their realm of expertise.

Our last point is to mention you should expect these tools will need updating. At least once a year, you should make sure you are getting the maximum results of these three tools. If you are making changes to these tools too often, your staff will see excellence as a moving target which can be too hard to hit.

There will continue to be many new challenges which will confront your business. However, with these three tools, you will spend more time cruising on the interstate towards your destination of increased profits as compared to continually facing stop signs and traffic lights.

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This article is copyrighted by Tom Shay and Profits Plus Solutions, who can be reached at: PO Box 1577, St. Petersburg, Fl. 33731. Phone 727-464-2182. It may be printed for an individual to read, but not duplicated or distributed without expressed written consent of the copyright owner.

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Profits Plus Solutions, Inc.
PO Box 1577
St. Petersburg, Fl 33731
(727) 464-2182
Fax: (727) 898-3179