7 Steps to a More 'Fit' Firm
By Greg Crosslin
In addition to being a police officer, my son-in-law Adam is a licensed and certified personal trainer. I am fascinated by how he has not only helped athletes, but also persons recuperating from injuries and illnesses, amputees, disabled veterans, and a wide range of other individuals. Recently, as I was listening to one of his success stories, it dawned on me that many of the lessons learned at his gym also apply to pest management professionals (PMPs). Thus, the following lessons will not only help you get fit physically, but will help your business get in shape fiscally as well.
Core exercises are vital. Like every other fitness instructor I have ever talked to, Adam has told me you can never be “truly fit” if you do not pay attention to your abdominal muscles. A healthy core is the foundation of a good physique, and the same is true for any PMP. Are your core exercises in place? Do you follow them daily? Do you do what you do well, or do you just walk through the motions? What does your gut tell you about your business? Is it firm and strong, or weak and flabby? Your employees (and by extension, your customers) can usually tell whether you are strong or flabby in what you do.
Diet makes a difference. If you do not “eat right,” no amount of exercise will benefit you. What you “consume” as a company is just as important. What are you reading? What are you watching? To whom are you listening? Which consultants or experts are shaping your business practices?
Some people believe that if they run on a treadmill 15 minutes a day, they can binge on chocolate cake. Adam tells me that if you want to lose weight and add muscle, you must cut the empty carbs and eat the right kinds of food, including protein and power foods. Isn’t the same applicable for our industry? Cut out the empty fluff that comes across your desk, and focus on the “power” information that makes a difference in your business. From customer service to the latest inspection and/ or treatment techniques, to whom are you listening, and why? Are you reading the right magazines? Are you going to state and national conferences? Are you working closely with your manufacturer representatives and dealers? Or are you just eating the cake?
Develop a plan, and work it. If you approach exercise haphazardly, the results will be minimal, at best. The same is true about business.
When I first began practicing law, one of my colleagues had an old saying: “Plan your work and work your plan, and the day will be successful.” The same applies to PMPs. If you do not plan, you are just wandering — or worse, wallowing. If you have a plan but do not follow it, you are intentionally causing harm. From growth to customer retention, client development to marketing, improving your internal practices to technician training, everything needs a plan. Believe me, the most successful companies across the country have detailed plans that are followed, checked, doublechecked, tweaked, improved, revised — and most importantly — adhered to. If you don’t have a plan, you are out of shape!
Consistency matters. You will never make progress in any aspect of your business if you are not consistent. Adam tells me all he needs to exercise is a floor, a chair and some rubber exercise cords and/ or a doorframe. He can work out every aspect of his body using his body weight alone, but having this type of plan in hand is useless if he does not use it many times a week. The more consistent he is, the more results he will see.
Doesn’t the same apply to our industry? It does not matter how many manuals you have on your shelf, how many plans, protocols, processes, procedures and policies you have in place: If you do not adhere to, enforce and practice them, and make sure everyone in your business understands them and applies them, you will not make any progress. Pick any business in any industry. Those who are successful in the long term are consistent in what they do. Do what you do, do it well, and do it routinely.
To make the most progress, get a coach. It is important not only to have a plan, but also to have someone who helps you work your plan. Ask someone to show you not only that you need a routine of exercises, but how to perform the exercises, monitor them, vary them, tweak them, and improve them so you have even greater progress. Everyone needs a mentor.
There is only so much you are going to get out of the four corners of a page, whether it’s an article, a manual, a book or otherwise. Our industry is full of great leaders who have mentored others. This can be accomplished by attending your local chapter meetings, your state association meetings and of course, national meetings and conventions. Do not fail to count on mentors coming from various suppliers, distributors and manufacturers. Do not be afraid to pick up the phone or visit with people who work for your regulatory agencies, field technicians, or U.S. Department of Agriculture representatives. Do not hesitate to reach out to your association’s executive directors, management teams and boards of directors. If there is one thing I have discovered over the past 25 years of working with PMPs, it is that people in this industry are willing to share. Aren’t you?
Fitness requires rest. One of the first things Adam talked about is the fact that you must have rest in between repetition. Muscles will not grow if you push them without breaks.
Businesses are the same. This applies to you, the owner and your supervisors, managers, office staff and technicians. Recharged muscles work better than those that are always overloaded and overtaxed. Athletes take time away from training to test their training and to make it stronger by feeding “downtime.”
When was the last time you took a meaningful vacation? When was the last time one of your staff members, supervisors or office assistant was given a little extra “off time,” a longer lunch or the afternoon off to be with the kids at a special event? Important muscles need to rest; so do people.
No pain, no gain. We should plan to meet resistance along the way. Employees tend to get into a habit, pattern and practice of doing things a certain way and have a resistance to change. Not that all change is appropriate or necessary, but there are times when we just have to move forward — especially as technology, new products and techniques pave the way toward greater efficiency and progress.
Oftentimes, customers are resistant to change, especially when it affects their costs. We have to educate them as to why changes are necessary and show them how it benefits the same. We may have to feel a bit of the “burn” after exercising our practices, but if we do it right, this is the evidence that we are growing.
As we vary our routines and our patterns, practices and plans, as we develop them, and as we grow our employees and customers along the way, we find, just like in the gym, we get stronger, more resilient and better prepared to handle the challenges thrown at us. Treat business like a workout, both mentally and fiscally, and see the difference.