Talent Magnet: Restoration Company Turned Life Academy

I know, everyone hates meetings. I thought that for years myself. I abhorred meetings so much I even held them in hallways where everyone had to stand up so we would get to the point and make them brief. I was not going to fall victim to “death by meeting”.

As the company began to shift to a younger workforce, I began rethinking many of the ideas I had about culture, work, and how our Millennial and Generation Z team members felt about our company. To keep good people in the building, I needed to start asking the team questions about what made them want to work for us, what they were looking for at our company to stay long term, and what we could do better to make sure all of us were winning at work.

I know this sounds like a lot of “thoughts and feel­ings” for many owners and managers, but I realized, long before The Great Resignation, that we needed to change the way we operated at work to insure we could keep and grow talent at our cleaning and res­toration company. So, I went about learning what I could do to create a company where people stay long term, love to come to work, feel cared for, and are engaged enough to help us grow our business so we could thrive.

After meeting with everyone and doing some research myself, I began a journey to make the com­pany a magnet for good people who wanted to grow and be part of something larger than themselves. I became convinced that if I created a “life academy” that happened to do cleaning and restoration, I could attract as much talent as I pleased in my local mar­ket. If I invested in my team, both inside and outside of work, I would have people in our area asking to be part of the cool little company we had.

So I began on a quest to rebuilding our company as an employee-driven enterprise. I read Matthew Kelly’s Dream Manager book. It was the story of a janitorial company that went from more than 400% yearly turnover to having a waiting list for people to get employment at their company. Using a concept of helping the team’s lives outside of work, the Dream Manager focused on investing in a person as a whole being (inside and outside of work) and they will, in turn, reciprocate with good performance and long-term employment with your company.

To jumpstart our company culture, I started hav­ing daily 10-15 minute meetings to build a team and build skills. Many of my team members had come from humble households where they lacked some basic life skills and the ability to run their lives in optimal ways. We took this time to work on ourselves and our “soft skills” to be better at home and at work. At first, they bucked me on working on personal development. They did not trust that I had their best interests in mind.

Prior to doing this, I was your quintessential production-oriented manager. I was going to have to prove to them, over time, I was serious about investing in them. However, once we got going and they saw I was serious about this, they began to get really excited about learning and that our company was investing so much in them personally. They loved their lessons on DISC personality profiling, job site behavior, communication, and of course personal development.

As the team started to see real life results, we real­ized some of them wanted more in their career. They wanted to get more business and leadership training so they could someday become supervisors, estimators, and man­agers. Knowing this, I got trained and certified to became a John Maxwell Leadership coach. I used what I learned in my Maxwell training and started using his books with our team by tweak­ing the lessons for our industry. I would conduct off-the-clock weekly Mastermind Groups every Wednesday night for any employ­ee who wanted to learn. It was within these groups where I was not only training my team, but identifying my next set of leaders to promote within the company.

We developed a MVP (Mis­sion, Vision, and Purpose) as a company and got everyone to buy in to what we were trying to accomplish with our company. My coach, Howard Partridge, would always reiterate to me that people will buy in to a world they help create, so it was imper­ative for us to include the entire team in the process.

We began the practice of re­viewing all team members every month. One of the most import­ant pieces of feedback I received from our people was they felt they did not always know how to win at work. They felt waiting for a yearly review was far too long to go without knowing where they stood. Therefore, I creat­ed a monthly “Quick Review” sheet so I could do a review with each team member in about 5-7 minutes every 30 days. In fact, often I would go visit job sites and just have the team member come out to the tailgate of my truck to perform the review. The upside of a monthly review is the employee can never get very far off. track when you are talking to them so frequently. It was truly one of the best things I ever did.

We also took time in our morning meetings to debrief the team on how we were doing, our goals, our current numbers, what we were doing well, and what we needed work on. We did not shy away from including all of them in the process. We wanted them to be part of all of our successes, trials, and tribu­lations. The more we included them, the less discontent there was. We found that inclusion created fewer staff members inventing false narratives in their minds of what management was doing or not doing. This level of transparency and team work was key to our growth, and our abili­ty to attract and retain talent.

I know you are reading this thinking, “Eric, you are nuts! Who has the time or money to do this?” That is exactly what I was thinking before we started to implement all of this. However, I was seeing disturbing trends in my business I did not like. I had high turnover, which is VERY expensive in our industry. I was having lackluster in-home sales numbers, which was costing me a ton in missed opportunities. Last, I just wasn’t happy coming to work anymore. The team seemed disengaged, morale was mediocre at best, and all of us in the com­pany were in a funk. Just to fix that alone was priceless.

Whether or not you imple­ment all of these ideas or just one or two, please know this stuff works. Our team was so much happier, their families we happier, our clients were happier and all of this drove us to have increased company growth. Do yourself and your company a huge favor and start a “life academy” pro­gram to invest in the develop­ment of all facets of your team’s lives and they will reward you for years to come with more profits and more happiness.

Eric Sprague

Eric Sprague is a long time cleaning and restoration business owner. Having sold his service business in 2018, Eric is now Director of Education at Super Tech University and Co-Host of the Blue Collar Nation Podcast. Eric’s passion is help­ing service business owners and their field technicians be the best they can be and grow as people and service business professionals.

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