Leaving a void on the truck …



We’ve been experiencing steady growth over the past 5 years.  Currently we are owner operated with one tech part time on the truck with the owner. (Me!) The other two days I am out on my working and networking.  My tech has been with us for 2 years and due to learning disabilities will never be able to be on a truck on his own or be a lead tech.  He’s a good worker, but will always only be a “helper/laborer” to a crew chief (which has been me up to this point) as he can’t write an invoice, up-sell etc.  We are on the edge of needing to have someone to take over my role on the truck and manage the daily jobs as I focus more on working on the business (manager?), rather then in it.  My question is when/how do I put in place another person…since I need to train and bring up to speed, but am not quite ready to add a full time person.  And what do I do with my current tech?

Worried in Portland

Wow, Worried, two good questions that are separate but obviously related.  Let’s tackle the first one first!

“My question is when/how do I put in place another person…since I need to train and bring up to speed, but am not quite ready to add a full time person?”

This is a very common challenge, Worried, and I guess I would say it is “leap of faith” time.  At some point you just need to go for it.  Try to have enough regular contract work lined up to cover your basic overhead including the additional salary, etc. of a new tech.  Even more importantly, reflect on how you are going to invest (not waste) your supposedly vast amount of free time by getting off the truck.  Too often I see newly liberated owner operators dribble away their time on busy work that accomplishes little or nothing on their strategic vision for their business.  (I call this stuff “Displacement Activities” and speak extensively on this danger in Strategies for Success.)

“And what do I do with my current tech?”

Believe it or not, Worried, this is actually a far tougher question but maybe not for the obvious reason of the hurt feelings of your current employee being passed over for the promotion.  The challenge is even with the best new hire and the best written Fast Track cleaning system (we have a great system in the SFS Operations Manual) you must still do personal one on one training to bring a new tech (and hopefully crew chief) up to speed.  So your current guy is probably going to be “clogging up the works”.  Yet, on the other hand, I assume he is:

a)     a hard worker

b)     reliable

c)     loyal and

d)     pleasant to you and the customers or you wouldn’t have kept him around so long!

So have you thought about reaching out and marketing to property managers, realtors and commercial establishments to build a route that he could do on his own?  The advantage here is most of the invoices are pre-written so the paperwork is easy and there is no need to up-sell or do major communicating with the home owner.

Now if you just don’t see any place for your current employee in your future vision for your company then it may be necessary to replace him.  Tough times call for tough decisions.  Let me gently remind you that you as the owner bear part of the guilt in this conundrum by allowing him to work for you so long when his potential is obviously limited.  Don’t let this happen again!  One of the most important things you must do as an entrepreneur is find and keep quality individuals that will help fuel (not hinder) your growth.  Come to SFS and we’ll cover this in detail!


P.S.  Let us know what you decide and hopefully others will chime in with their suggestions.  After all, we are all in this together!

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