The Lie That is Hurting the Maintenance Industry (and the HUGE Opportunity)

I sat in on an HVAC education session at a facility maintenance industry conference a couple of years ago. The man leading the course took the last 10 minutes to ask the audience a question.

“By a show of hands, who in this room wants their kids to grow up to be an HVAC technician?”

I looked around to see my hand was one of only several hands in the air out of a couple hundred in the room.

The point this man was made was that it’s hard to find good people in the HVAC industry, and that the expectations of the technicians who show up to make repairs at these retail and restaurant locations should be lowered because they simply can’t attract good help.

I was appalled.

There is a lie we have told my entire generation of millenials. The lie is that you only have value in society if you go to college and get a desk job. Working with our hands is beneath us. As a result, we have people with degrees chasing jobs that have will continue to be automated and outsourced.

I run a facilities maintenance company. When I ask our vendors what their biggest threat to their business is, it’s finding people to do the work. Their best technicians are approaching retirement, and young people aren’t entering the industry.

We are approaching one of the biggest deficits of plumbers, electricians, HVAC and refrigeration technicians, kitchen equipment technians, carpenters, etc. that we have ever seen. This is going to lead to the skyrocketing costs in the maintenance industry over the next 3 to 15  years. I have watched it happen steadily over the last decade, and it’s about to happen even faster than before.

This is going to lead to the skyrocketing costs in the maintenance industry over the next 3 to 15 years.

We have to stop this lie, and change the message.

First, human value does not come from the work we do. We have intrinsic value.

Second, this workforce deficit creates a huge opportunity for our children. I am calling it right now. Journeyman level licensed technicians will demand 6 figure annual incomes within the next 7 years because scarcity drives prices up. What an opportunity? Why not stop the cycle  of devaluing the maintenance industry? Fixing things…maintenance…is one of the most important functions of society? Would you really want to live in a state of disrepair?

I hope I am in a room one day when someone asks who wants their kid to grow up to be an HVAC technician and those with their hands down are the minority.

Reverse Engineering

I have a secret…my business…it’s all made up. All of it.

Seriously, it used to be nothing…then it was an idea…and now it’s a business that makes money and provides jobs and helps people.

But it used to be nothing.

And basically, everything you interact with in life that is man made has the same story. It was made up from nothing into something.

I talk to a lot of people who get paralyzed in the idea state of their dreams. I used to be there. The gap between nothing and something is deep and long and scary.

So here is a little advice if you have dream that you want to make happen…reverse engineer it.

Define what your dream looks like in 5 years. Imagine it in every little detail. I like to write it out. I tell myself the story of what it feels like to wake up 5 years from today. What do I see when I open my eyes. What time is it? What do my feet feel when they hit the floor. Where am I? What does my house look like? What do I eat? What do I see? Where do I go to work and how do I get there? Who works there? How many people? How do I spend my day? You get the idea.

Next, write down the 10 things that need to happen in 3 years to realize the dream. Got it?

Now, write down 9 things that need to happen in 1 year to realize the dream.

Now, 6 things in 6 months (repeat each 6 months until you hit your 1year goal).

Now, 3 things in 3 months (repeat each quarter until you hit your 6 month goal).

Now 1 thing in 1 month (repeat each month until you hit your 3 month goal).

Now 2-3 three things this week (repeat each week until you hit your 1 month goal).

Every morning, look at your 3 month goal and figure out the 1 thing you need to get done that day. Schedule it and do it.

Repeat this every day, week, month, 6 months, and year.

By reverse engineering down to today you turn a wild goal into make a manageable task. The gap becomes less scary, and when you look back you can feel great what you have accomplished every single day.

It’s simple, but it’s hard work.

If you want a great tool to manage this process, check out the Best Self Journal (not a paid sponsorship…I just love the product). It’s the best tool I have found to build consistence execution agains a goal. 

Make Something Better

We are in full on hiring mode at Envoy. One question I love to ask is, “Tell me about a time you decided to make something better.”

People who make things better are happier, more fulfilled, and more confident than those who wait for something to happen. They make better team members, require less external motivation, and take action. And…they make things better.

I am so thankful this was something my parents drilled into my head as a kid. “Always do your best.” I heard it more than I heard by own name. “Now that you know better, you can do better.” It drove me nuts. And now, this simple phrase is the thing that set me up for where I am in life.

If you feel stuck right now, I can pretty much bet you are not working towards making something better. Don’t get caught up on what that is. Instead, figure out how you can leave everything better than you found it. Figure out how to always do your best. Bring that do everything you do. Pretty soon, the big thing will find you.

Don’t Rule Out The Experience

I woke up the last couple of mornings to some articles in my inbox about doom and gloom in the casual dining industry. My business serves this market, and a failing industry can negatively affect my company.

I’m not all that concerned. First, read these articles, and then I’ll explain.

Millennials are killing chains like Buffalo Wild Wings and Applebee’s

Millennials are killing chain restaurants thanks to Instagram

The first article is from Business Insider. It makes the case that Millennials are cost-conscious and disinterested in what casual dining has to offer. It gives trends like eating at home, take-out, and fast-casual chains serving a price-conscious, impatient market.

While there is truth to this argument, I believe it has missed the most important factor affecting the casual dining market, and Carissa Lintao from The Next Web gets it.

Where Millennials spend their money is about fashion and expression…not time and price.

Restaurants…and all businesses…must provide a unique, shareable experience that helps the Millennial consumer tell a story about who they are. We live in a world where one’s style can be expressed to a mass audience with the sharing of a photo. Where Millennials spend their money is about fashion and expression…not time and price.

Now…as a Millennial, business owner, and someone who serves the food and service industry…here is my advice.

First…Don’t cut costs on areas that contribute to experience. If you are selling me on this…

Delicious Cheeseburger

Don’t let me see this when I walk into the bathroom…

dirty toilet

Second…Don’t blame the market for not wanting your product. It sends the message that you are not for us. We will find another place to go.

Third…Don’t fake it or phone it in. We sense disingenuousness better than any other generation.

Finally…Now matter how big you are…don’t rule out feel in brand and experience creation. Put people in charge who are members of the demographic you are trying to serve. They will naturally lead you towards an experience and product they actually want for themselves.

“Feel” is so important in the food industry…the service industry. Ignoring this fact is dangerous.

As I said earlier, I am not concerned about our customers going out of business. These are large organizations led and made up by smart individuals. It may be painful, but they are going to figure out how to pivot and deliver a product the market wants.

As for me, we will keep creating the best service experience we can because helpful, happy, positive people always win in the end.

Compound Hard Work

You do the right things.

You keep trying when it feels like it’s not going your way.

You adjust. Keep working. Keep your head up. Tell the loud, negative voices to shut up.

Then all of a sudden opportunity starts up open up. The results come faster.

Not easier…but faster.

And the more you put in, the more you get out.

But the more you take it for granted, the faster it all falls apart.

Whatever you are in the middle of…keep pushing. You’ll feel the most pressure right before you break through.

Fundamentals, shortcuts, and complacency

I’ve been in client meetings for the past 3 weeks. It’s follow up season where I meet with our customers to find out what we can do to improve and better serve them.

The first repose to how we are performing is usually, “Things are good.” And, while I believe that is the truth, I still push for a bigger answer. Deep down there is a frustration somewhere. It’s usually not a large glaring problem, but a small nagging discomfort…like a paper cut on your ring finger. It doesn’t bother you most of the time, and then in a quick burst of pain, you become acutely aware.

I want to know about these problems because when things fall apart, it usually starts with the fundamentals.

The basics get shortcut because they are just that…basic. They seem unimportant. Maybe you have a time constraint, so you cut a corner…just this once…so you get fit in the work. No one notices, so the next time the situation comes up, you take the same shortcut. Then you’ve started a habit.

A shortcut in one area leads to shortcuts in other areas…or bigger areas. Before you know it these shortcuts have crept into every process in your business. It’s become culture that leads to complacency. Complacency kills businesses.

Businesses don’t grow complacent in an instant. They creep that direction, building momentum in every passing moment. This is why I press the “How are we doing, really?” question until I root out a problem.

Because we are NOT going to take shortcuts…ever. We will NOT grow complacent. It won’t be tolerated.

My company, Envoy FM, is very strong with relationship building. That’s intentional. Magic happens when people have a strong connection of trust and camaraderie. It’s this same skill that leads to our complacency mistakes. We trust the relationship to overcome the shortcut. We believe we can get away with a taking a shortcut…counting on the grace of others to outweigh our action. And they do sometimes. But like I stated early, it’s the road to disaster. It’s withdrawal from the relationship, and eventually there is no grace left.

Relationships only remain strong when they are deposited into. They must always grow, and they will not grow with withdrawals. This takes work and work is a habit.

As a leader, I have to look at my role in why problems, shortcuts, and relationship withdrawals happen. Is my own behavior setting the wrong example? In what ways am I allowing poor performance to happen? It which areas am I off-brand, off-culture, and especially…hypocritical?

At the same time, I have to look at my organization. What areas are not give the attention to detail they deserve? What team members are consistently taking shortcuts? Do we have a collective pride in the service we provide and the work we do? What do we need to change?

The fundamentals are so important. Get them right, and the almost everything takes care of itself. Ignore them, take shortcuts, become complacent, and you will have a really hard time moving your business forward.

When It Starts To Click

Starting a business is different than working for yourself. Seth Godin talks about this when he recommends deciding if you are freelancing or creating a company. One isn’t necessarily better than the other. They are just 2 completely differnt strategies.

When we set out on our own to build FM Dashboard which ultimately became Envoy Facilities Maintenance, my co-founder and I decided we were creating a company that, if we one day decide to move on to something else, can run on it’s own.

This means thinking long term and taking more risks when it comes to leading people. If we are going to be replacing ourselves, the people who are going to replace us need to start building experience early on. The company has to have decision making ethics built into the culture. We have to give room for people to figure things out and make mistakes.

Otherwise, as leaders, we become the bottlenecks for the ornaziation. It’s been 3 years and 4 months, and the work and risk is starting to pay off. Here are the signs.

Team members talk about the decisions they are going to make instead of asking what to do.

Managers are replicating our meeting and execution rhythm on their own.

Ideas are being tested and implemented into our operating processes.

People work when we are not in the room.

It’s really neat seeing this progress. It’s a manifestation of decisions and actions from months and years ago. It’s motivating me to stay ahead of the curve because there are people who are closing in on me.

I’m really loving this entire process and look forard to many more years of it.

On being proactive…

On being proactive…

First a couple of quotes.

Life can me much broader, once you discover one simple fact, and that is that everything around you that you call ‘life’ was made up by people no smarter than you. And you can change it, you can influence it, you can build your own things that other people can use. Once you learn that, you’ll never be the same. — Marc Andreesen


Our behavior is a function of our decisions, not our conditions. — Stephen R. Covey

These 2 ideas have been rattling around in my head. I’ve been working on the early stages of my year-in-review, and I’m looking around at my life. For the first time ever I can honestly say, I am making decisions and taking action that consistent with where I want to be and where I want to go.

It’s energizing!

My family life? Made up by 2 friends/lovers/spouses/parents who said what they wanted to do and did it.

My business? Made up by a group of people who said what they were going to do and did it.

This isn’t to say it’s easy or without setbacks. I’ve had to change my approach. I have messed up. I have failed. It’s just that everything in life is a choice, and when I choose to focus on what I need to do to get where I want to go, I have the opportunity to go there.

There are very few things we are forced into, so when the outcomes don’t go our way, at least we can have know we still get to choose how to move on.

You might be going through something really tough that’s out of your control. Something may have happened to you that’s irreversible. It may be painful, hard, burdensome, unfair, cruel, etc. I’m not trying to dismiss your circumstances. I just want to encourage you as you go into next year to decide that you have control over your responses, your perspective, your choices, and the action you take.

Whether you accept this truth or not, you are creating the life you want to have through the choices you make and the action you take.

If I’m Behind, It’s Because I’m Reacting

lady looking at phone

There are 2 books I recommend to everyone who asks.

The first is Linchpin by Seth Godin. If you read and and buy in to the ideas in that book, I’ll tell you to read the 7 Habits of Highly Effective People by Stephen R Covey.

The first book is about making the choice that you have the permission to make the decisions and do the work/have the life you want to have.

The second book talks about what to do once you have made that choice.

There is a principle the the second book that is foundational to the way I approach work, the way our systems are set up, and the way I try to approach my personal life.

The principle is work on the important work first.

Important work keeps you from having urgent work.

It’s proactively communicating, so you don’t end up with unnecessary questions.

It’s writing job descriptions and creating measurement metrics, so you don’t end up with people spinning their wheels.

It’s holding one-on-one meetings with your direct reports so problems don’t sneak up on you.

It’s sales before you need it. It’s recruiting employees before you have the pain. It’s making decisions ahead of possible events so you know how you are going to react when that event comes up.

If I am overwhelmed, stressed, out of control, angry, frustrated, etc., it’s because I am not working on the important.

I don’t get this right all of the time, but when I do, things run smoother and growth happens faster.

You know more than you realize

man taking notes

It’s true.

When’s the last time you took an inventory of your knowledge and experience? If you did this right now here is what you would find.

  1. There are things you do instinctively that most people can’t do.
  2. There are skills you have that you don’t use or lean into hard enough.
  3. You are probably not applying yourself as completely as you should be.

I have been thinking about this topic because I’m assessing how my company is performing in light of what we are working towards. I have encouraged my team to do the same for themselves.

The truth is there we have so much room for improvement, and we do so many things really well. Some of those are areas where we can add value to our customers, but aren’t because we did not think about them as a skillset.

By documenting and categorizing our intellectual inventory, we are opening up doors inside of our organization to perform better and grow in the ways we can help our customers.

So what hidden talents are you hiding from yourself? Where can you be adding value to others and to yourself that you are ignorant of today? You should search for answers to these questions.

You’ll be surprised what you find.