How do you become a good installation manager? Well, there are a few tricks that can go a long way in gaining and keeping the installers’ respect. I have often believed the word “respect” can be one of the most overused words in our vocabulary. The fact remains though, without it you will have trouble maintaining a workroom. In order to receive “respect,” it must be earned. Most installers, as in any trade, believe they have been beaten down for decades. The workforce feels under paid and underappreciated. Well, they are. Since the market dictates the price, all you as a manager can change is the level of appreciation.
When I look at the installers coming in and out of my shop on a daily basis, I cannot help but to thank them because they are good at what they do, and they make me look better at my job than I am. This I appreciated.
Some things that have helped me survive during some tough times I have listed for your review. The first thing that stands out is organization. It is so easy to spot the unorganized guy. He is the one that keeps all the company paperwork on one clipboard and yet, can never find anything that is necessary on that one clipboard. Truth of the matter is; most installers would rather work for a company that is very organized. Why not? All the paperwork is ready for them. This means no last second changes in paperwork.
Another thing to consider is actually having the workload ready for each crew as they arrive. If the carpet is pulled the night before and the cushion is cut and ready for the installers, they save time; valuable time I might add. The sooner their trucks are loaded; the quicker the installers can make it to the jobsite. This makes their first impression easier which in turn makes the entire day run smoother. Another thing about the cushion is using up that quantities of waste scraps. These can be used by simply pre-cutting the steps. What installer wants to load a 6-foot section of cushion on his truck? If you make a template for the warehouse employees, they can precut the steps for the installers from the scraps. This will both save your company cash as well as make the installers’ day easier.
Another part of this is just making certain that your warehouse is clean. This shouldn’t be too difficult if it is cleaned every day. Where would you rather they use the restroom? The installers will either use the one in the warehouse or in the customer’s house? In short, keep your house in order.
One of the most important things to know seems so simple; “Know your job!” Also, it helps if you know their job. Take the time to know everything you can about all the types of flooring your company installs. If you are fortunate enough to branch out into areas of flooring that you are not accustomed to installing, take the time to understand the installation specifics of each type. If an installer is trying to explain a situation to you over the phone, you must be able to understand them. This can create a very frustrating conversation in which everyone loses if you do not understand the situation.
Also, you must understand how to communicate the jobsite issues to your clients. This can be tricky. It is your job to run the middle ground for all parties involved. This means you have to understand everyone’s frustrations with any and every situation. This also means no one can sense that your day is not going as expected. Most installers do not feel like they have a voice in the industry. As the installation manager, you must be that voice. It is your job to learn how to tell their side of the story. To do this, you need to understand “their side of the story.”
I have found that many of the lessons I learned when I was installing everyday also apply to the installers. One of the simplest things to do on a daily basis is SMILE. How hard is that? A friendly environment is important. I really enjoy buying doughnuts twice a week. This works as an unspoken “thank you.” Do you have to do this? No, but it does help to let people around you know that you appreciate the work they do for you. Something as an installer that I always disliked was combative situations. Dealing with customers that were mad at the world bothered me. I always found that by smiling I could disarm them. This made my job easier.
Something else I never liked doing as an installer was dressing down my help. This could ruin the rhythm of a jobsite and make the installation more difficult that it needed to be. The same rule applies in a warehouse. I loathe shouting matches. What do these accomplish? Everyone gets upset including those not involved. If you need to make a point, do your best to do it privately. Treat the pros like pros. As the person in charge you will need to have those “do you understand” meetings. Have them in private. Remember, you hired them. If you tear someone apart in front of other people, the message sent is a negative one about yourself. Also never use profanity in these situations. If you do not want the installers swearing on the jobsite, do not put the words in their heads. If the installers are frustrated when they leave your warehouse, chances are that frustration will spill out onto your customers’ jobsites. It’s human nature. When we get upset, we stay upset for a while. Heck, one simple blow up in the morning can have a chain reaction that could end up costing everyone money.
One of the things that people in general believe is that nobody actually listens to them. Installers are no different than anybody else. Unfortunately, as humans we would rather talk than listen. Train yourself to listen to the installers. No matter how irrelevant their story is to your day, you hearing it is important to theirs. So train yourself to be a listener instead of a talker. Something you must realize is you cannot overreact. Situations are going to happen. It is inevitable. How you react to them can dictate how they get handled. By overreacting you can send a negative message quickly, and this could destroy a salvageable situation.
Try not to put yourself in a situation where you have to beg an installer to do something. I know this is another thing that easier said than done. If the installer does not want to do something, move on. There are other installers that will. However, if you treat an installer with “respect” they might be willing to go the extra mile for you. Of course, you will always have your “go to” guys. These are the guys that always seem to make the most money. Why? Because they are the biggest team players. What this means is that if you know you can lean on one or two crews to take care of you when you need them, you should not be afraid to reward them when they need you.
One of the biggest pieces of wisdom I have heard had to do with myself. When we are young we want to take over the world. As we get older we start to realize that the world is a big place. Without the help of the people you surround yourself with you will fail. No matter how strong of a personality you have, the business is not about you. Make it about the installer and the end user. Whenever I get the chance I brag about the installers. Why you might ask? The installers are the ones who end up making me look good. In the end if they do not do their installs correctly there will be no need for me, so I make it about them. To the installers I like to make about the customer. Why you might ask? Well, because without the customers nobody has any work.
The last tip I will share has to do with a dress code. If you look like a bum so will your installers. Make sure you dress like you run the place. I am not saying you have to wear a suit and tie every day, but you should look professional. Since you are the leader in your setting you need to act like one though. Professionalism breeds professionalism. The more professional you are the easier your job will be.