More Leads Online Podcast Episode 012

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Al Levi 1
Al Levi 2
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Al Levi 1
Al Levi 2
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Al Levi

Nathan Young, More Leads Online (00:00:00):

Hey everybody. This is Nathan Young for More Leads Online. I’m back with the Home Service Leaders podcast. And today I’m talking to Al Levi, who is the author of the seven power contractor. Al, I can’t possibly give you a better introduction than you can give yourself. Can you tell me more about yourself and your career and what led you to write the seven power contractor?

Al Levi (00:00:22):

I want to tell you that everybody who listens to Nathan, he kind of hears instructions. Cause I told him my name is Al Levi, so we’re already off and running and I love this show. Yeah, not a problem. I’m in trouble, but it was, it’s like, you know, I didn’t set my watch, but you know, you tripped right over it. Hey, so, you know, the basics of it is I was born into a family business. Uh, I was third generation. It was started out of my grandfather’s gas station in 1936. My dad and uncle returned from the war, went to work, moved this into fuel oil and for fuel heating for those who don’t live in the Northeast to think of like propane. And that was basically, you know, the business that we were in my brothers and I, by the time we were eight were, you know, being helpers, cleaning baskets, sweeping up, it’s the nature of a family business, third generation.

Al Levi (00:01:16):

And then, you know, we got to graduate and driving our own trucks and, you know, whenever I was not in school. And so even when I was in college, six months a year, I was driving a truck. And as I always liked to say, my dad’s idea of spring break was that I got to drive a different truck. I was, that was my spring break. So I was really immersed in it. And it was, you know, wild and crazy days. We were in New York city, New York city, long Island. And uh, if you know where JFK airport just go South towards the water, that’s us. And so that was our, our business and, uh, worked for my two older brothers. And my dad, I have to tell you that I was very lucky I had, if not South Korea, but I really had the best partners in the world.

Al Levi (00:01:57):

And even saying that at any given day, I used to like to say, there were either not enough Levy’s or too many and you, it, that was a problem. We w we had grown to about eight people. Basically what it was was every day was like the first day we were in business after all of this time already. And we’re putting out the fires we put out yesterday and are breaking out again today. And in the back of our mind, we know they’re going to break out tomorrow. And we’re just really busy running around being firefighters. My dad’s mantra, we had a very small office where the four of us would sit. The reason was because my dad told us as young men, he says, we don’t make any money with the Fort who’s sitting in here. So go out and do something. It was kind of like the mantra, if you will.

Al Levi (00:02:48):

And so, uh, you know, as time went by, um, I realized, I guess, you know, it was around the 1990s that we needed to take control of our business. And, uh, just, and my tagline is less stress, more successful. That’s not by accident. I was making a ton of money and that’s a nice thing, but I also realized the stress was going to put me in an early grave. So I’d be really rich, dead guy, not a great goal, not interested. And so we changed. It became systematic, and there’s a whole series of things that we’ll unpack together. But for this podcast, one of the things before you go away, wait a second, I was coming to a marketing podcast. What is this guy talking about? Stop for a second, catch your breath because Nathan and I will fill in what I shared with him. And our recall was I was great at sales and marketing, and my

team was excellent at blowing up every one of my opportunities. So that’s why I became so good at operations and staffing.

Nathan Young, More Leads Online (00:03:48):

Oh my gosh. I couldn’t have asked for a better intro. Right? Like that sounds incredible. And I can track with that. Like I grew up in the family business, what you said about like driving a different truck. I, you know, like I feel that I was doing furniture and appliance deliveries and I was like 15 years old and I know what you’re saying. I also think the desk thing is hilarious. My dad kept getting me a smaller and smaller desk. Right. He’s like, we got to make you, and he would never give me a, a desk in the back office. So he had a little couch back there where he would like take naps and stuff. And it, it was like known like that’s off limits. Like, no, no, no, you can’t get comfortable because you’re working. It’s just like hearing you talk about it. I’m like, Oh, okay. Apparently our dads were friends. Like,

Al Levi (00:04:38):

Yeah, yeah, no question about it. I mean, I think that’s, you know, anybody who’s grown up in a family business identified immediately with what I’m talking about. And I was pretty lucky, you know, I, I, I think of, you know, my dad, uh, he was really one of the best mentors and everybody, you know, thinks that the Apple doesn’t fall far from the tree. My brothers and I have similar core values, but we are quite different. And we were actually groomed, my dad was pretty secretive about it, but we were groomed for different positions. You know, Marty was the smart financial guy, ran the office. Richie had the hands golden, you know, he was anything mechanical could do. And I was the bridge between the two, uh, you know, both outside could work in the field and do the inside stuff. And I was also kind of, you know, the innovator or the guy who looks ahead and take somebody to have some vision.

Al Levi (00:05:27):

Otherwise you’re always just doing the same thing until you hit a wall and you don’t know why. And so it came around the, you know, the nineties about these systems. And basically I walked into my office, that small office that I described, and I looked at my brothers and my dad, and I said, you know, woke up this morning. He was sweating. And I said, here’s why I said, I feel like I’m a hostage at my own company. And my bitten that the three of you feel the same way. And they looked at me and they go, yeah, we do. What are you going to about it?

Al Levi (00:06:00):

It said, I don’t know, but I’m really good at this stuff. So just give me a little bit of time. And I knew instantly, cause I had read the great book, Michael Gerber’s E-Myth uh, and I finally understood, you know, the thing about Michael Burke Gerber’s book, I would say big things I took away well, is that if you’re always working in the business and never on it, nothing much is going to change. And that was why I needed to know and what I needed to do, you know, about systematizing my business. Now it didn’t give me really any help in the house, but I am really good at how, and I realized, you know, all these years I had tried to put the manuals together and unsuccessful. And the reason why is because they kind of read like a long book, you know, article one dash 0.2, three, five CX, you know, it’s just like, I, I could, could even decide for him so bad.

Al Levi (00:06:53):

And I also shared the story with Nathan, which was so at age 25, uh, where in New York city union shop, there’s a employer employee, you know, um, issue. We go to court and I feel a pretty good, I got this

big, you know, like 300 page employer, employee manual and walk in, sit in front of the judge. The judge looks at the manual and looks back at me, looks at the manual. He goes, has anybody ever read this thing? Those, anybody understand it? Are you running any meetings? Is it written in plain English? And before I could even be, he goes case dismissed, you lose. And at 25, that was like a sledgehammer on my head, but it was a good one in that, what I learned was that if the thing is not implanting, if the manual is not, uh, you know, trained on it, read on and part of your culture, it’s not worth it.

Al Levi (00:07:49):

Those days of paper. And now of course today, the digital device that you’re viewing it on. And so the other thing about employer, employee manual and I was sharing with Nathan is that when I was trained up, you know, a Dale Carnegie and a lot of other training, I was told that I was not allowed to curse. And from all these 18 years that have been out on the road in the second career now as a New York city, boy think it’s quite difficult. So I’m going to tell you what your employee employer manual is. First of all, it’s maybe one 10th of all the manuals. You need to run your company systematically, but the employer employee is a good thing to have. If it’s been read over by, you know, whoever’s going to represent you, whether it’s a labor lawyer or an HR company, or one of the, what they call PEOs. But the point of it, again, if it’s not in plain English out reading it, isn’t worthwhile. It’s what I call a good CYA. And I’m going to say it slowly, it’s a cover your anatomy because really helpful, but it doesn’t help you run your business. It doesn’t help you run your business. And that is a really big, strong sticking point.

Nathan Young, More Leads Online (00:09:04):

Well, so it sounds like you’re saying that the employer employee manual is almost more of the agreement between the employer and the employee. And then what’s the rest of what’s inside of that needs to be more clear, like SOP standard operating procedure. But you’re also saying that standard operating procedure. So there’s something unique there, and I’m hoping you can unpack this for us a little bit, because you said like, you literally call it a sledgehammer to your head, right? You, you got so granular, so detailed that it actually hurt you. Um, and we like in court, right? Like you took it to someone who sort of knew better. And then when I know how real people are, and this is useless, you’ve this is, this is a joke. So now that you’ve had that experience and come from there, you’ve said one, the employer employee agreement needs to be simple and, uh, and agreed to by both parties. That’s critical. But also you’ve, it sounds like you’re saying that SOP standard operating procedures, our, they are critical, but they need to be written a certain way. Unpack that for us.

Al Levi (00:10:16):

Yeah. So I’m going to back up even a little bit further, because what needs to be understood is that just writing manuals until you have the right kind of box or chart. And I, it’s what I call the boxes. It takes to run your company. Writing manuals is really close to worthless in my opinion, because the very first thing you need to know is boxes. Now, again, I was not born in light and these are my brothers and my dad. And so, um, came a time. And again, this is all probably back in the nineties. And Marty is the, again, the financial guy I mentioned, and he’s in the office, like I dunno, six, six, 15 in the morning. And he happens to get a call from an angry customer, uh, who had a service call the night before. And he goes across the hall and he starts ripping into the service manager to the point that when I show up at six 30, I, my first job of the day now is to walk the service manager off the roof before he jumps.

Al Levi (00:11:21):

If you get in the picture. And so turn the page the other day or so goes by I’m at the desk, dispatch trying to, you know, get the day organized and a phone call comes in and it’s from one of our vendors. Now I, you need to know the story here is that my dad raised myself and my brothers that you don’t get paid until all of the vendors get paid because when push comes to shove, those vendors will take care of you. Now, my father was brilliant because when hurricane Sandy hit long Island, my brothers were taken care of first, second, and third, it was the right thing to do anyway, anyway. So I, you know, he says, Oh, I know you overlooked it. Uh, could you fit it in? And I’m just trying to be nice because I am, my blood is boiling.

Al Levi (00:12:10):

I hang up the phone, I tear across the office and I find the accounts payable person and I rip into them. And now Marty’s job is to go get the accounts payable guy off the roof before they jumped. So we’re standing in the hallway, nose to nose. And I look at him and I go, you don’t like the way the service department is running. You tell me and I’ll fix it. And he looks at me and he goes, you don’t like the way the bills get paid. You come to me and I’ll get it fixed. And we stopped for a second and go, Hey, you know, we should really write this.

Nathan Young, More Leads Online (00:12:50): That’s a cocktail party joke. That’s like,

Al Levi (00:12:53):
Yeah. Yeah. Well, again, I always like to say all of this, everything I’m going to share with you is way

funnier today than it was back then.

Nathan Young, More Leads Online (00:13:02):
Oh man. I can imagine. I can imagine, right. You guys are just angry at each other. You’re like, boom,

you’re ready. Right. You’re so right. And then wait a minute.

Al Levi (00:13:13):

And so that was the first time we ever created an org chart, you know, the boxes without the fancy title. So there was no CEO, CIO, CTO, CFO, you know, they’re all the alphabet soup. It was, you know, a marketing manager, financial manager, warehouse manager, or a fleet manager, service manager, the sales manager, who in charge of the install wing. Those were all the boxes we had to do, but we really thought of our org chart as if you were building a pyramid. Now, the bigger, stronger than your pyramid means the bottom blocks are really good. So apprentices who becoming junior techs would become senior techs would become field supervisors. And then they can move on to either the big ticket sales department, or they can go run a spoke, which in our case, we had one main shop and three spokes because long Island was named aptly.

Al Levi (00:14:03):

It’s 115 miles to tip in New York traffic. And so this really makes a big time. There’s a lot of that goes into this program and how you do that. But I was sharing with another podcast or these guys are in their cleaning business. And, uh, I was sharing with them one day. I says, you know what, if you don’t have your systems rock tight, you couldn’t move your company across the street. Somebody couldn’t operate across the street and they’re laughing hysterically. And I go, what’s so funny. He goes with me and my partner, we bought the office right next door and it was like two worlds apart.

Nathan Young, More Leads Online (00:14:43):
They literally couldn’t run their office across the street,

Al Levi (00:14:46):

Not even across the street is, but they were trying to, we couldn’t run it in the next store building. We couldn’t run it the same way without systems. And really where it begins is this box org chart, which I shared with Nathan so that he could share it with you. But for 18 years now, I have used it with all types of contracting, whether you’re cabinetry comp, uh, roofing, um, garage door business, I’ve done it with a condo builder in Montreal. I actually did it with a photographer and we just thought anybody who has to answer a phone since dispatch and have somebody go out there needs this basic box or chart. That’s what if, and by the way, it’s, I’ve worked as small a company as a up in Redding, California. He was a he’s 60 years old at the time when we started and it was him and me at his dining room table.

Al Levi (00:15:38):

And the next room was his wife who was the bookkeeper playing with the grandchildren out in the garage, was the, uh, dispatcher. And they had one tech on the road. By the way, today he’s a monster company in two different locations within the chimney inventing business, which is a nice success story, but that’s what it’s worked with. And I’ve worked with shops that are, you know, have multiple locations, multiple States that are hundreds of employees. And they’re all working off that first, most important thing, which is the box org chart. Then if you think of the box, org chart is a bingo board, your goal. And the way that you get control of your company is to have a manual for each of those boxes. Now the one that I always like I think is one of the ones that trip up the next question, usually, Nathan, I’m just going to do your role here. I’m going to ask myself my own question.

Nathan Young, More Leads Online (00:16:29):
Well, yeah. Well, if you already know it’s coming in my head, I’m like, okay. So the next thing to know

then is,

Al Levi (00:16:36):

Okay, I’m an owner. What job boxes can I never give away? And the answer is, there’s two boxes. And this is just me and my really great friend and co consultant through the years has been Ellen Rohr and Ellen Rohr. We were also partners in a zoom, great franchise is we both believe that you can, is that an owner can never leave the financial manager role. It is your money. You need to know that what you’re looking at and those numbers can be trusted and that they’re generated on time. And now you don’t have to do any of the financial stuff, but you have to make sure everybody on that team, the accounts receivable, accounts payable, HR credit, the office manager, they’re all getting you what you need to have at a time when you can trust it, learn how to do budgeting. You do need to know that those certain KPIs, key performance indicators are being hit. And you need to know it in real time. Ellen has a great line about that, which is if you’re relying on your accountant to send you reports, there’s the danger in that because first of all, they’re too late. So you’re driving your financial car by looking out your rear window. Yes. Whereas if you can do budgeting in real time, you’re looking out the front and that is what makes the world,

Nathan Young, More Leads Online (00:17:51):

Are you familiar at all with the EOS or the traction system? I’ve heard of both. Okay. So it talks a lot about this stuff that you’re talking about. And so, and I’m pretty, I would consider myself pretty familiar.

One of the things that it talks about, so it calls them accountability charts, right? Scraps that sort of old org chart sounds so corporate. We’re used to thinking of it like corporate. And you’ve said like, do this box chart. One of the things it asks you to do, and it sounds like you’re holding to this. And again, towards that standard operating procedure and how it might be different from other approaches is that you’re saying, Hey, you’re not making an operating procedure for the people. You’re making an operating procedure for the box and the roles in the box

Al Levi (00:18:41):

That is perfect. I’ll put a $20 bill in the mail so that you really kind of it because it brings back another thing, which was, there were multiple conversations that put us on the path. And one day I just walked in and told my brothers. I said, uh, after we got about passages every day, we asked great people that are here to overcome broken systems or no systems. I’ve got an idea. How about if we just have some good objective, documented policies and procedures and let’s see how far they can go. And to the credit of my dad and my two older brothers, they bought him now be aware. I spent one year while I was working, sitting in every one of those boxes, tabulating the tasks that they do, 80% of the time, not geared 80% of what goes on, because if you could handle the AB the 20 years and what trips you go up, but you remember the one time that this happened and it’s never going to happen to me again, forget it. And you can say, what’s the difference now it’s digital. It doesn’t matter how big it is. Well, if you’re training on it and if you’re not training on it, it’s worth, the more you put in that isn’t really useful information. It drains off the effectiveness of the magnets.

Nathan Young, More Leads Online (00:20:08):

Well, so I think you’ve hit on something really significant. First of all, you’re talking about the, uh, what’s called the Pareto principle, I think, uh, which is basically right, focus. The 20% of your efforts you can give to the 80% that brings results or 20% of your efforts go into 80% of your result. And so you, what you want to document then, and it sounds like this would tie back to that gigantic manual. You had, you had maybe originally documented everything, but the value is, first of all, you’re not documenting for the person because people are inevitably going to make mistakes, no matter what you do, they’re going to forget something, even if you’ve written it down, but having documented processes for that box and the roles in the box and documenting the 20% of the most critical things that that box needs to be fulfilling every day means that most of the effort behind that you’re going to end up guiding almost all of that. Person’s work to generating all of the results.

Al Levi (00:21:19):

Yeah. It, it, it’s when you have the box, the goal of the manual is to cover the 80% of the tasks that go on within that box. Okay. Now here’s the key thing is it’s not like I don’t care about people. They’re not robots. They’re not, you know, I do care. We care a lot about people. And I think right now, the problem that I’ve always run into is you, the owner are being unfair to the people that work to you because you base your opinions on them, good or bad on your opinions. Like they could read your mind. So we were doing it as a, we spend $150,000 back in 1990, the today’s money to put together what I would consider a fraction of the manuals of what I do today in my program. But they were so profound. It’s such a big company shift for us that we paid it off in two years because callbacks went down, yes, insurance claims were less or pretty much gone, and we could put more trucks on the road.

Al Levi (00:22:22):

We could maximize every call that a CSR goes. So there’s my first tying back to the marketing. Yes. So I want to talk about that for just one second and we’ll drive back to it. Think of what a great marketing company or you as a great marketer can do. Your whole goal is to fill up a bathtub for you. Plumbers out there will understand is marketing is to put the right amount of calls at the right time from the right customer. That’s your goal. The problem is the CSR is you have suck. And so there’s a drain Wydell, and most of us will blame everybody other than ourselves. And so well, you know, they should just figure it out. You know, they should know what they’re doing. No, Nope. They won’t. It’s really very difficult day. So one of the stories that I like to always share about why would your employees want or care about these manuals?

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Al Levi (00:23:16):

Well, again, the New York city union shop. So one day, um, I, one of my many jobs, I was at install managers part of my day. And, um, I had rent five, there were five crews to run, and this is back in the days of paper, I slide the sliding window open and I hand the instructions out to Bobby. Now Bobby was a guy I found flipping pizzas. And between our training, we got him up to be one of our top installers. And I said, Tommy and Bobby, go ahead and read this over. And me, you know what, you know, what do you need? He goes, I’m looking at it now. It’s not a problem. I said, well, one thing to know, Bobby is I won’t be able to get to the job at 10:00 AM. Like I usually do. I’ve got some other stuff. I’ll be there at two o’clock, two o’clock. I arrive at the job and I’m walking around the basement and looking at what’s going on. And I am muttering every four letter word under my breath. So the customer can hear it. I grabbed Bobby and I said, come outside to the truck. And I said to him, when we get outside and go, this is nothing like what I wanted. He goes, well, your brother Richie showed up and said, do it this way.

Al Levi (00:24:21):

And I said to myself, for the first time, we never had a way of doing our work. We never defined it in writing. And so when Bobby and I began to speak, because it was in this awful moment was also the best moment. And he and I are talking and what he says to me, you know, now I used to think that you lay awake at night, trying to figure out how to ruin my day. And I said, well, I’ll tell you what Bobby I’m, that’s what I’m sleeping. I’m thinking the same thing. And how are you going to ruin my day? And the both of us realized that unless we have a good game to play, we’re going to spend our time ruining each other’s day. Now who gets caught up in this is this poor customer. Yes. So it doesn’t serve the customer, right?

Al Levi (00:25:02):

It doesn’t serve the company and it doesn’t serve the employee. So move ahead. It’s time to roll out the manuals. And, um, Bobby tells everybody at the shop do what’s in the book, you’re off the hook. Finally, you had this objective thing here. And so we get in front of the, the union negotiator and we say, you know, the manuals have to be part of that because there’s metrics involved. This is how they move up the ladder, how they climb New York chart and a union guy in the big, the rep goes no way. And the seven delegates go, Oh yeah, it’s going in.

Nathan Young, More Leads Online (00:25:43):

Well, okay. So towards that, how do you, so something that I know I spent five years doing, uh, uh, I was in the bricklayers union. Every time I say that I feel a little silly. This was a deal that happened in the union all the time too. But I was in Toronto, uh, installation, concrete and terrazzo installation and maintenance. So I’m working with flooring all the time. And so I can tell you just from my personal

experience, right. Spending five years, grinding and blaming whatever flooring, there are some guys who are like, look, I’m the guy who knows. Right. I, I know I don’t need the manual. I could write the manual. Right. And maybe, maybe they did. I don’t know. But what I know is two things though, that that guy knew until, and then something happens and the manual needs to change. And so does that guy, first of all, you have to make the SOP small enough that people can train on them because that guy, at some point has to be willing to reread the manual. And then the other question I have is, so two-parter how do you make it so that the SOP is, can be agile enough to be changed?

Al Levi (00:26:59):

Well, there’s a, there’s a lot wrapped up in that is, you know, I have a lot of guys who wouldn’t give up the knowledge. They would not share because they thought that was their job security. And that’s what I would do with them is say you see this box and where you are, this is as far as you’re going, would you like to be on your saw? I’ll use your now, do you want to be on your hands and knees for the rest of your life? Do you’re an 80 year old guy? I think not because if that’s the case, you can help run some crews, but you’re never going to get that until you help me write these procedures. Now, the manuals, and for all of these trays, there’s nothing really longer than a page. It’s not like, Oh, I never did terrazzo.

Al Levi (00:27:35):

Here’s the book, go get them. It’s not like I never did plumbing. Here’s the manual. Go get them. That’s not how this works works is if I sent a hundred plumbers in a hundred different directions, an hour from my shop and they all go to a toilet reset, what’s the chances. They could all do a toilet reset the same way. And the answer is if you don’t have it written zero or not 0%. So that’s really why it’s it’s. The goal is to get consistent performance. Now, later on talking about staffing is yes. If you tied the manuals to training curriculum, having training center, which is what we did for every trade, plumbing, heating, cooling, electrical, as we expanded from betrayed, that’s what we really focused on. Now, the job security one, I’ll use the guy that knew everything and doesn’t want to give it up.

Al Levi (00:28:25):

So as I’m putting the manuals together, I’m going from desk to desk to desk. I ended up at my operations manager, Mark, and, um, question about, you know, terminal operations and some of the other stuff. And he goes, it depends. Ask another question. You go as well. You know, it depends. So finally I just like put down with pen and I looked at him and I go, here’s what I’m getting. You don’t want to give you this information because you think that’s where your job security lives, but here’s the problem. God forbid, you’re crossing the street, get hit by a bus, bad for you. But that for me, and if that’s the case and you’re going to leave, you might’ve go leave. Now I’ll figure it out. Or, or you could stay here and write the manual with me and make your own life better. So when you’re on vacation, you’re not getting bothered. You can get your life back. And this is not your job secure. You don’t get empowered or paid for what, you know, you get paid for how many people you empower and we end up with better, more success and more profit. That’s how you get paid.

Nathan Young, More Leads Online (00:29:32):

I think I’m going to, I need to write down what you just said. Like, I know I have the episode recorded, but what you just said is not something just that you need to tell your people within the company, but it’s something we need to embody as business owners and business leaders in general, right? What you just said is I’m not getting paid for what I know I’m getting paid for what I’m empowering, the people who work for me and with me to know and be able to do that’s true top down. And if I don’t buy into

that at the top, they’re definitely not going to buy into that below me. Right. And so my company’s going to grow. My company is going to get bigger. If I buy into that and standard operating procedures, writing processes, and getting my guys bought in to that concept because I am, is going to be critical. I have this question too. So I’m a marketing guy and I want to talk a little bit more about market.

Al Levi (00:30:26):
Yeah, I do. I, cause I, I there’s that second one that we haven’t told them about yet you as Mr. Owner

cannot miss or miss on, or can I leave?

Nathan Young, More Leads Online (00:30:34):

Cause I think this is going to play into that. But you mentioned one thing about like the, in the financial seat, if your accountant is just creating reports, you’re always looking backwards. So one thing I talked to people about is scorecarding and scorecards have to be a set of forward looking measureables. And that that’s really hard, but something that you just a forward-looking measurable, you said, so I’m thinking an implication here. I, I, my brain works a little bit like a flow chart. So you go, okay, we write the manuals and the employees have to be trained on the manuals. And what we found was if all the employees had manuals that they were trained on, our problems started going away. Like the amount of times we had customer callbacks or the amount of times, right? So those started going down in my head. I go, wait a minute. What you just said is employees consistently trained on manuals is a leading indicator of how many customer problems I’m going to have.

Al Levi (00:31:38):

Oh, it’s, it’s gonna, w part of the thing is I promised that if you do it right, callbacks are going to go down. Now you have to measure your callbacks. And statistically, when people begin to measure callbacks, I usually tell them if they’re not measuring figure about 4%. So by ran a hundred calls for coming back, for some reason, some going out of my control, the material is bad, or the parts are bad, or, you know, a bunch of different things. Now, the definition which I define out in the manuals as callbacks, it used to be in the old, good, old days when you just went to work and you didn’t even give him the price. And then the office sent them a bill. Those days of usually sale by now, right? You know, you have to make a presentation, you have to get the customer to agree to something.

Al Levi (00:32:21):

And then you do the work. And then you pick up the money before you leave. Especially in residential, it’s really changed the dynamics. So to me, a callback in that service scenario is if a customer calls back to CSR or whoever answers the call to complain in any time for any reason, the first 30 days, all it is is a potential callback that gets kicked upstairs to the service manager who digs a little deeper. So for instance, I went to Nathan’s house, he’s got a 30 year old water heater and I go days and there’s really not much I can do here anymore. Nothing we warranty nothing we can do. He goes, you know what? Just changed the draw. J’s a draw for tomorrow. Nathan calls up and it’s not working. So wherever we just stigma, that’s a callback on El will know. It’s not the service manager going to go. I’ll set. He told you about 30 year old heater. Are you ready to change it? So that’s why it’s called a potential callback, but there’s a consequence to your action and in great sailing selling companies that I’ve been worked for. I said, you know, if you just want to have great guys who can sell, be aware, they’re going to set fires everywhere. And eventually that’s going to ruin your reputation.

Nathan Young, More Leads Online (00:33:27):

We’re talking about CSRs a lot, obviously, and also how that inevitably plays in. And now you’re starting to talk about selling and it sounds like the other seat. So correct me if I’m wrong, but the other seat that you can never totally give up is this marketing seat

Al Levi (00:33:44):

As the marketing manager. Yes. You can never leave the marketing manager. Now, clients that I’ve worked with over the years go, well, wait a second. I’m not a creative talent. I don’t really know about that. And I go, you don’t have to. What you need to know is you want to be a $10 million company. You break down how many, you know, you know, which Drawbridge ticket is the rest of the stuff. And then you work back to how many leads you need over so much time. You wake out how many big tickets, you know, qualified good leads you need over so much time. And that is really what you set up with your marketing account company or your outside vendors or anything else to make it simple as your goal is to make sure that the right amount of calls from the right customers are happening at the right time.

Al Levi (00:34:26):

And it’s the rewrites of marketing. Now that takes a marketing manual marketing manager manual, but it also takes a marketing manual, a plan in writing. And then that plan is a lot of things about who’s your ideal customer, who’s your target market? Where’s your target audience? Where are you going? How are you measuring the ROI? Because there’s all different ROI. Some are very low ROI, but they generate huge dollars. Some are very high ROI, generate small dollars. He’s like a mix of that. And one of the things I talk about is marketing allocation or drivers. I like the focus on three marketing drivers. Now that doesn’t mean you can’t do more than three. I do advocate it, but what are the three biggest marketing drivers that are going to fill what I said, right? Amount of calls from the right customer, right time. And that is in your marketing manual.

Al Levi (00:35:16):

And that is what you’re making sure your whole team is driving for both the inside team. And if you’re using an outside team and driving on those metrics frequently enough to make sure because you could do everything, you could have the best manuals in the world. You could have the best guys trained in the world. And I hope you do. But if the phone doesn’t ring, right, you’re going out of business. It’s just that simple. So that’s why we insist on it. The owner is always filling the financial manager and the marketing manager. Now, one of the quirky things you’ll see in the, in our thing here is the CSR, the person who answers the phone or what I like to call the happy hostess in the restaurant makes you feel good that you came to the right place. It sets the expectations. They report directly to the marketing manager because managers work extraordinarily hard.

Al Levi (00:36:06):

We need to know the lead source tracking. Now software today does a phenomenal job that said, there’s still things that have to be accounted for. And we have to monitor the phone calls and the trading. Now, if you have a CSR manual, like I have the three most important manuals. I mean, I have 31 manuals that are available in this all access program, but the three most important manuals and the one that fixes companies first cause contracting companies that I’ve worked with over the years where they’re broken most is they pluck manuals from outer space and they don’t fit together. They’re not integrated. They’re not your culture. They’re nothing. So the idea is that have an integrated manual for the CSR. Who’s under the marketing one who answers the phone, happy hosts, this gaps, you do all information. Build sales momentum makes the customer feel good that the problem is going to go away

and then hands it off to the dispatcher and the dispatcher service manager, working together to figure out how to maximize the billable hours, working with an objective priority that I have in the manual about how do we, you know, it’s not my opinion about what the priority is.

Al Levi (00:37:14):

We all have the same opinion. How do we prioritize? And how do we maximize the day, getting all the information to the tech? The tech has a manual that tells them what they need to know from the time they woke up timely to go to bed other than turning the wrenches and screwdrivers. And then the tech has to close the gap, get all the information back to the dispatcher because there’s nothing more frustrating to a customer is they were here. He told me they were going to part and nothing’s happened. They’ve chill out. Or yeah. Or they’re there. We’re supposed to call the, you know, and make a, uh, code request or whatever happens all the time. So the triangle of communication, and one of the things is whenever you change something in any one of those three, you have to go look at what it changes to the other two.

Nathan Young, More Leads Online (00:37:59):

Yeah. Implication. Right? If you make a change, it’s going to, it implies something else is going to become different. Now this is going to tweak something else down the line. So you can’t just make a change and think you’re like solving a problem. There’s always some implication, like you’re going to make a change. And then Bobby’s day is going to somehow get affected, uh, later on. And you’re so you have to think about it when you’re making the changes. Would you say then, I mean, you, you S you said this CSRs are in the marketing role. I mean, like, it sounds like you’re literally saying wings.

Al Levi (00:38:36):

So right out of that box, the marketing manager right below it is where the CSR is. Now, if you’re a huge company, the CSRs go down and there’s a CSM customer service manager who sits in the pit and helps during the course of the day. And if you’re getting bigger, you want a marketing assistant, you can continue to drop it down, but that wing exists that way. Because if they’re not tied together, you have an issue.

Nathan Young, More Leads Online (00:38:58):

This curiosity question. So we specialize in local search, right? So a local SEO is a thing that we do. We, and we talk about all the time, like, Hey, there are all of these components that go in to making the phone ring. And you’re saying as something that we don’t have to talk about it anymore, because you’ve already said it, which is, I can only make your phone ring though. Like you have to take it from there. And what that means, it sounds like is if I have the ability to report back to you about how many calls went on answered, that would be a really critical stat for you to have as a company who has hired a marketing company,

Al Levi (00:39:38):

A central, and then of course, listening to the calls and see how many of them, they kicked away just botched it. They’re untrained. They ask the wrong questions, quoted prices over the phone. There’s a whole bunch of things. There’s it really takes a specific manual like mine for CSR to get like, again, here’s the manual, go home and read it. We don’t do that. You’re you get hired. First thing is orientation. And you and I are going to read the manual out loud, and we’re going to have you sit at the desk and you’re going to, you’re going to watch me answer a call, and you’re gonna read the manual. Then I’m going to

have you sit at the desk, answer, recall following the manual, and I will watch. And then I’m going to walk away, get a cup of coffee, come back, and let’s see how you did.

Al Levi (00:40:25):

And that applies to every position, cash receivable, accounts payable, anybody in the audit that has to happen. Same thing with dispatching. The equivalent of that, of course, is the techs. You know, if you’re doing plumbing, heating, cooling, electrical, roofing, a kitchen cabinetry, every one of the trades that I’ve worked with garage doors is where would I make you show me that you can sell this, be operationally eating clean and do a technically expert job. So people love to go run and build a training center. And here’s what I will tell you. If you don’t have manuals, you just wasted your money because they’re building all wrong. How do I know? Because my brothers and I built the training center with no manuals, they’re out there in the field a year or two later, Richard calls me up and says, Hey, didn’t you teach these guys motor rotation.

Al Levi (00:41:17):

I go, I did, but they’ve been out of class for two years. So they go together and also the manuals tell you what tasks they have to demonstrate in the training center in front of you. If you think about this way, part of the thing that’s always playing the industry is there’s a OT J T, which is on the job training. Yeah. Yeah. So the only training we do is you’re stuck at a job and now I’m supposed to teach you what’s going on. If you think about that, what does that mean? Your customer is paying you to learn your job while you’re supposed to be charging them, to fix their problem. The chances of catching, all of it is really close to none. So it’s a bad way. Now we did it for years. And, uh, I can tell you that that added to the stress, but once you have manuals, once you have a training curriculum, once you have a hands-on active training center and they’re all coordinated together, then you can do what you can do to this moment.

Al Levi (00:42:21):

You can find and fix the holes in your existing staff. Didn’t they all have holes. And here’s what I’m going to tell you. They don’t want to show it to you. I was the second best tech at a shop of 25 techs, fam business. I would talk customers out of doing work that I was not comfortable doing. I’m the boss’s kid. Now think about your gods. Yes. So find the holes in your existing staff. And that goes for all of them, the AR or the AP cause everybody oversold themselves. The second is who has not been in an interview with a bookkeeper go. So, you know, QuickBooks. Oh yeah. I know everything about QuickBooks until you hire them and you find out no, they don’t. And even if they do, they don’t know how to do it your way. So the idea is to find out in the hiring process, what they do and don’t know.

Al Levi (00:43:14):

So if you have a hands-on training center, do you have manuals, sit them down. You can find out what they do. Not that they’re perfect, but you can fix their holes once. You know what they are. So that’s hiring, experienced staff, finding the holes and fixing it, but the freedom and the reason I could leave my company all those years ago. And guys that I’ve worked with could expand as big as they wanted, because they learned how to hire willing people and provide skills. So then that really opens up to a wide, the widest funnel possible.

Nathan Young, More Leads Online (00:43:46):

So if I’m, and you mentioned one of these companies earlier, right? You were talking about the guy who’s in his kitchen and his wife is the bookkeeper and his God has one tech. So let’s say I’m a, you

know, I’m a five person company I’ve been running for 15 years already. This is, I mean, this is, I’m talking about my dad and right.

Learn the 6 things to do before hiring a marketing agency

Al Levi (00:23:16):

Well, again, the New York city union shop. So one day, um, I, one of my many jobs, I was at install managers part of my day. And, um, I had rent five, there were five crews to run, and this is back in the days of paper, I slide the sliding window open and I hand the instructions out to Bobby. Now Bobby was a guy I found flipping pizzas. And between our training, we got him up to be one of our top installers. And I said, Tommy and Bobby, go ahead and read this over. And me, you know what, you know, what do you need? He goes, I’m looking at it now. It’s not a problem. I said, well, one thing to know, Bobby is I won’t be able to get to the job at 10:00 AM. Like I usually do. I’ve got some other stuff. I’ll be there at two o’clock, two o’clock. I arrive at the job and I’m walking around the basement and looking at what’s going on. And I am muttering every four letter word under my breath. So the customer can hear it. I grabbed Bobby and I said, come outside to the truck. And I said to him, when we get outside and go, this is nothing like what I wanted. He goes, well, your brother Richie showed up and said, do it this way.

Al Levi (00:24:21):

And I said to myself, for the first time, we never had a way of doing our work. We never defined it in writing. And so when Bobby and I began to speak, because it was in this awful moment was also the best moment. And he and I are talking and what he says to me, you know, now I used to think that you lay awake at night, trying to figure out how to ruin my day. And I said, well, I’ll tell you what Bobby I’m, that’s what I’m sleeping. I’m thinking the same thing. And how are you going to ruin my day? And the both of us realized that unless we have a good game to play, we’re going to spend our time ruining each other’s day. Now who gets caught up in this is this poor customer. Yes. So it doesn’t serve the customer, right?

Al Levi (00:25:02):

It doesn’t serve the company and it doesn’t serve the employee. So move ahead. It’s time to roll out the manuals. And, um, Bobby tells everybody at the shop do what’s in the book, you’re off the hook. Finally, you had this objective thing here. And so we get in front of the, the union negotiator and we say, you know, the manuals have to be part of that because there’s metrics involved. This is how they move up the ladder, how they climb New York chart and a union guy in the big, the rep goes no way. And the seven delegates go, Oh yeah, it’s going in.

Nathan Young, More Leads Online (00:25:43):

Well, okay. So towards that, how do you, so something that I know I spent five years doing, uh, uh, I was in the bricklayers union. Every time I say that I feel a little silly. This was a deal that happened in the union all the time too. But I was in Toronto, uh, installation, concrete and terrazzo installation and maintenance. So I’m working with flooring all the time. And so I can tell you just from my personal

experience, right. Spending five years, grinding and blaming whatever flooring, there are some guys who are like, look, I’m the guy who knows. Right. I, I know I don’t need the manual. I could write the manual. Right. And maybe, maybe they did. I don’t know. But what I know is two things though, that that guy knew until, and then something happens and the manual needs to change. And so does that guy, first of all, you have to make the SOP small enough that people can train on them because that guy, at some point has to be willing to reread the manual. And then the other question I have is, so two-parter how do you make it so that the SOP is, can be agile enough to be changed?

Al Levi (00:26:59):

Well, there’s a, there’s a lot wrapped up in that is, you know, I have a lot of guys who wouldn’t give up the knowledge. They would not share because they thought that was their job security. And that’s what I would do with them is say you see this box and where you are, this is as far as you’re going, would you like to be on your saw? I’ll use your now, do you want to be on your hands and knees for the rest of your life? Do you’re an 80 year old guy? I think not because if that’s the case, you can help run some crews, but you’re never going to get that until you help me write these procedures. Now, the manuals, and for all of these trays, there’s nothing really longer than a page. It’s not like, Oh, I never did terrazzo.

Al Levi (00:27:35):

Here’s the book, go get them. It’s not like I never did plumbing. Here’s the manual. Go get them. That’s not how this works works is if I sent a hundred plumbers in a hundred different directions, an hour from my shop and they all go to a toilet reset, what’s the chances. They could all do a toilet reset the same way. And the answer is if you don’t have it written zero or not 0%. So that’s really why it’s it’s. The goal is to get consistent performance. Now, later on talking about staffing is yes. If you tied the manuals to training curriculum, having training center, which is what we did for every trade, plumbing, heating, cooling, electrical, as we expanded from betrayed, that’s what we really focused on. Now, the job security one, I’ll use the guy that knew everything and doesn’t want to give it up.

Al Levi (00:28:25):

So as I’m putting the manuals together, I’m going from desk to desk to desk. I ended up at my operations manager, Mark, and, um, question about, you know, terminal operations and some of the other stuff. And he goes, it depends. Ask another question. You go as well. You know, it depends. So finally I just like put down with pen and I looked at him and I go, here’s what I’m getting. You don’t want to give you this information because you think that’s where your job security lives, but here’s the problem. God forbid, you’re crossing the street, get hit by a bus, bad for you. But that for me, and if that’s the case and you’re going to leave, you might’ve go leave. Now I’ll figure it out. Or, or you could stay here and write the manual with me and make your own life better. So when you’re on vacation, you’re not getting bothered. You can get your life back. And this is not your job secure. You don’t get empowered or paid for what, you know, you get paid for how many people you empower and we end up with better, more success and more profit. That’s how you get paid.

Nathan Young, More Leads Online (00:29:32):

I think I’m going to, I need to write down what you just said. Like, I know I have the episode recorded, but what you just said is not something just that you need to tell your people within the company, but it’s something we need to embody as business owners and business leaders in general, right? What you just said is I’m not getting paid for what I know I’m getting paid for what I’m empowering, the people who work for me and with me to know and be able to do that’s true top down. And if I don’t buy into

that at the top, they’re definitely not going to buy into that below me. Right. And so my company’s going to grow. My company is going to get bigger. If I buy into that and standard operating procedures, writing processes, and getting my guys bought in to that concept because I am, is going to be critical. I have this question too. So I’m a marketing guy and I want to talk a little bit more about market.

Al Levi (00:30:26):
Yeah, I do. I, cause I, I there’s that second one that we haven’t told them about yet you as Mr. Owner

cannot miss or miss on, or can I leave?

Nathan Young, More Leads Online (00:30:34):

Cause I think this is going to play into that. But you mentioned one thing about like the, in the financial seat, if your accountant is just creating reports, you’re always looking backwards. So one thing I talked to people about is scorecarding and scorecards have to be a set of forward looking measureables. And that that’s really hard, but something that you just a forward-looking measurable, you said, so I’m thinking an implication here. I, I, my brain works a little bit like a flow chart. So you go, okay, we write the manuals and the employees have to be trained on the manuals. And what we found was if all the employees had manuals that they were trained on, our problems started going away. Like the amount of times we had customer callbacks or the amount of times, right? So those started going down in my head. I go, wait a minute. What you just said is employees consistently trained on manuals is a leading indicator of how many customer problems I’m going to have.

Al Levi (00:31:38):

Oh, it’s, it’s gonna, w part of the thing is I promised that if you do it right, callbacks are going to go down. Now you have to measure your callbacks. And statistically, when people begin to measure callbacks, I usually tell them if they’re not measuring figure about 4%. So by ran a hundred calls for coming back, for some reason, some going out of my control, the material is bad, or the parts are bad, or, you know, a bunch of different things. Now, the definition which I define out in the manuals as callbacks, it used to be in the old, good, old days when you just went to work and you didn’t even give him the price. And then the office sent them a bill. Those days of usually sale by now, right? You know, you have to make a presentation, you have to get the customer to agree to something.

Al Levi (00:32:21):

And then you do the work. And then you pick up the money before you leave. Especially in residential, it’s really changed the dynamics. So to me, a callback in that service scenario is if a customer calls back to CSR or whoever answers the call to complain in any time for any reason, the first 30 days, all it is is a potential callback that gets kicked upstairs to the service manager who digs a little deeper. So for instance, I went to Nathan’s house, he’s got a 30 year old water heater and I go days and there’s really not much I can do here anymore. Nothing we warranty nothing we can do. He goes, you know what? Just changed the draw. J’s a draw for tomorrow. Nathan calls up and it’s not working. So wherever we just stigma, that’s a callback on El will know. It’s not the service manager going to go. I’ll set. He told you about 30 year old heater. Are you ready to change it? So that’s why it’s called a potential callback, but there’s a consequence to your action and in great sailing selling companies that I’ve been worked for. I said, you know, if you just want to have great guys who can sell, be aware, they’re going to set fires everywhere. And eventually that’s going to ruin your reputation.

Nathan Young, More Leads Online (00:33:27):

We’re talking about CSRs a lot, obviously, and also how that inevitably plays in. And now you’re starting to talk about selling and it sounds like the other seat. So correct me if I’m wrong, but the other seat that you can never totally give up is this marketing seat

Al Levi (00:33:44):

As the marketing manager. Yes. You can never leave the marketing manager. Now, clients that I’ve worked with over the years go, well, wait a second. I’m not a creative talent. I don’t really know about that. And I go, you don’t have to. What you need to know is you want to be a $10 million company. You break down how many, you know, you know, which Drawbridge ticket is the rest of the stuff. And then you work back to how many leads you need over so much time. You wake out how many big tickets, you know, qualified good leads you need over so much time. And that is really what you set up with your marketing account company or your outside vendors or anything else to make it simple as your goal is to make sure that the right amount of calls from the right customers are happening at the right time.

Al Levi (00:34:26):

And it’s the rewrites of marketing. Now that takes a marketing manual marketing manager manual, but it also takes a marketing manual, a plan in writing. And then that plan is a lot of things about who’s your ideal customer, who’s your target market? Where’s your target audience? Where are you going? How are you measuring the ROI? Because there’s all different ROI. Some are very low ROI, but they generate huge dollars. Some are very high ROI, generate small dollars. He’s like a mix of that. And one of the things I talk about is marketing allocation or drivers. I like the focus on three marketing drivers. Now that doesn’t mean you can’t do more than three. I do advocate it, but what are the three biggest marketing drivers that are going to fill what I said, right? Amount of calls from the right customer, right time. And that is in your marketing manual.

Al Levi (00:35:16):

And that is what you’re making sure your whole team is driving for both the inside team. And if you’re using an outside team and driving on those metrics frequently enough to make sure because you could do everything, you could have the best manuals in the world. You could have the best guys trained in the world. And I hope you do. But if the phone doesn’t ring, right, you’re going out of business. It’s just that simple. So that’s why we insist on it. The owner is always filling the financial manager and the marketing manager. Now, one of the quirky things you’ll see in the, in our thing here is the CSR, the person who answers the phone or what I like to call the happy hostess in the restaurant makes you feel good that you came to the right place. It sets the expectations. They report directly to the marketing manager because managers work extraordinarily hard.

Al Levi (00:36:06):

We need to know the lead source tracking. Now software today does a phenomenal job that said, there’s still things that have to be accounted for. And we have to monitor the phone calls and the trading. Now, if you have a CSR manual, like I have the three most important manuals. I mean, I have 31 manuals that are available in this all access program, but the three most important manuals and the one that fixes companies first cause contracting companies that I’ve worked with over the years where they’re broken most is they pluck manuals from outer space and they don’t fit together. They’re not integrated. They’re not your culture. They’re nothing. So the idea is that have an integrated manual for the CSR. Who’s under the marketing one who answers the phone, happy hosts, this gaps, you do all information. Build sales momentum makes the customer feel good that the problem is going to go away

and then hands it off to the dispatcher and the dispatcher service manager, working together to figure out how to maximize the billable hours, working with an objective priority that I have in the manual about how do we, you know, it’s not my opinion about what the priority is.

Al Levi (00:37:14):

We all have the same opinion. How do we prioritize? And how do we maximize the day, getting all the information to the tech? The tech has a manual that tells them what they need to know from the time they woke up timely to go to bed other than turning the wrenches and screwdrivers. And then the tech has to close the gap, get all the information back to the dispatcher because there’s nothing more frustrating to a customer is they were here. He told me they were going to part and nothing’s happened. They’ve chill out. Or yeah. Or they’re there. We’re supposed to call the, you know, and make a, uh, code request or whatever happens all the time. So the triangle of communication, and one of the things is whenever you change something in any one of those three, you have to go look at what it changes to the other two.

Nathan Young, More Leads Online (00:37:59):

Yeah. Implication. Right? If you make a change, it’s going to, it implies something else is going to become different. Now this is going to tweak something else down the line. So you can’t just make a change and think you’re like solving a problem. There’s always some implication, like you’re going to make a change. And then Bobby’s day is going to somehow get affected, uh, later on. And you’re so you have to think about it when you’re making the changes. Would you say then, I mean, you, you S you said this CSRs are in the marketing role. I mean, like, it sounds like you’re literally saying wings.

Al Levi (00:38:36):

So right out of that box, the marketing manager right below it is where the CSR is. Now, if you’re a huge company, the CSRs go down and there’s a CSM customer service manager who sits in the pit and helps during the course of the day. And if you’re getting bigger, you want a marketing assistant, you can continue to drop it down, but that wing exists that way. Because if they’re not tied together, you have an issue.

Nathan Young, More Leads Online (00:38:58):

This curiosity question. So we specialize in local search, right? So a local SEO is a thing that we do. We, and we talk about all the time, like, Hey, there are all of these components that go in to making the phone ring. And you’re saying as something that we don’t have to talk about it anymore, because you’ve already said it, which is, I can only make your phone ring though. Like you have to take it from there. And what that means, it sounds like is if I have the ability to report back to you about how many calls went on answered, that would be a really critical stat for you to have as a company who has hired a marketing company,

Al Levi (00:39:38):

A central, and then of course, listening to the calls and see how many of them, they kicked away just botched it. They’re untrained. They ask the wrong questions, quoted prices over the phone. There’s a whole bunch of things. There’s it really takes a specific manual like mine for CSR to get like, again, here’s the manual, go home and read it. We don’t do that. You’re you get hired. First thing is orientation. And you and I are going to read the manual out loud, and we’re going to have you sit at the desk and you’re going to, you’re going to watch me answer a call, and you’re gonna read the manual. Then I’m going to

have you sit at the desk, answer, recall following the manual, and I will watch. And then I’m going to walk away, get a cup of coffee, come back, and let’s see how you did.

Al Levi (00:40:25):

And that applies to every position, cash receivable, accounts payable, anybody in the audit that has to happen. Same thing with dispatching. The equivalent of that, of course, is the techs. You know, if you’re doing plumbing, heating, cooling, electrical, roofing, a kitchen cabinetry, every one of the trades that I’ve worked with garage doors is where would I make you show me that you can sell this, be operationally eating clean and do a technically expert job. So people love to go run and build a training center. And here’s what I will tell you. If you don’t have manuals, you just wasted your money because they’re building all wrong. How do I know? Because my brothers and I built the training center with no manuals, they’re out there in the field a year or two later, Richard calls me up and says, Hey, didn’t you teach these guys motor rotation.

Al Levi (00:41:17):

I go, I did, but they’ve been out of class for two years. So they go together and also the manuals tell you what tasks they have to demonstrate in the training center in front of you. If you think about this way, part of the thing that’s always playing the industry is there’s a OT J T, which is on the job training. Yeah. Yeah. So the only training we do is you’re stuck at a job and now I’m supposed to teach you what’s going on. If you think about that, what does that mean? Your customer is paying you to learn your job while you’re supposed to be charging them, to fix their problem. The chances of catching, all of it is really close to none. So it’s a bad way. Now we did it for years. And, uh, I can tell you that that added to the stress, but once you have manuals, once you have a training curriculum, once you have a hands-on active training center and they’re all coordinated together, then you can do what you can do to this moment.

Al Levi (00:42:21):

You can find and fix the holes in your existing staff. Didn’t they all have holes. And here’s what I’m going to tell you. They don’t want to show it to you. I was the second best tech at a shop of 25 techs, fam business. I would talk customers out of doing work that I was not comfortable doing. I’m the boss’s kid. Now think about your gods. Yes. So find the holes in your existing staff. And that goes for all of them, the AR or the AP cause everybody oversold themselves. The second is who has not been in an interview with a bookkeeper go. So, you know, QuickBooks. Oh yeah. I know everything about QuickBooks until you hire them and you find out no, they don’t. And even if they do, they don’t know how to do it your way. So the idea is to find out in the hiring process, what they do and don’t know.

Al Levi (00:43:14):

So if you have a hands-on training center, do you have manuals, sit them down. You can find out what they do. Not that they’re perfect, but you can fix their holes once. You know what they are. So that’s hiring, experienced staff, finding the holes and fixing it, but the freedom and the reason I could leave my company all those years ago. And guys that I’ve worked with could expand as big as they wanted, because they learned how to hire willing people and provide skills. So then that really opens up to a wide, the widest funnel possible.

Nathan Young, More Leads Online (00:43:46):

So if I’m, and you mentioned one of these companies earlier, right? You were talking about the guy who’s in his kitchen and his wife is the bookkeeper and his God has one tech. So let’s say I’m a, you

know, I’m a five person company I’ve been running for 15 years already. This is, I mean, this is, I’m talking about my dad and right.

Al Levi (00:44:07):
My dad, I hope you’re not listening. He’s he’s saying it in a way that he loves you.

Nathan Young, More Leads Online (00:44:11):

That’s exactly right, Brett. Well I’m and I’m thinking about it from 10 years ago when I was one of these guys. Right? So he’s got his sons working mostly, and then a couple other guys he’s hired around town. It’s been this way already for 10 years, whatever. There are no manuals. There are no, none of this stuff exists he’s to this and he’s going, Oh, I should probably do one of these things. They’re saying which one do I grab off the shelf of your 31 manuals? Right? Which, which is the one I need to go get. And it sounds like you said, you need the text to do what they need to do. You can’t give up the money and you can’t give up the marketing. So it sounds like those are the three most important. Can you put those in order for me?

Al Levi (00:44:56):

You, you have to it’s the CSR, dispatcher and tech in the program. There’s 20 free video lessons because I’m not coming out to hang out with you more. I used to do that. So I’m virtually hanging out. I’ve been up the path here a thousand times. I find that now I know every pitfall in a weird arrest. I know what you need to take the goal for people who joined the program is really, can you stay on my hip? So in other words, I’m at the top of the Hill, don’t be at the bottom. And as I’m climbing, don’t race to the top because you’re going to get up there the wrong way. And so there’s step-by-step process for this. Okay. I hate to say, it’s kind of like, how do you eat an elephant, but it’s, but I will tell you immediately the CSR, dispatcher tech, those three key manuals that are integrated really makes the biggest difference.

Al Levi (00:45:47):

I don’t care what type of work you do as a contractor really don’t care what you do. If you do a service work in particular, that difference. And so those are the manuals that you need to know. Now there’s the place. Believe it or not to start is with the tech man, because we have to have the tech was out there in the field doing this stuff first. So we edit that and then we compare it to the dispatcher manual. So the tech and the scratcher manual are similar, but they’re just read from a different perspective. So when you read the tech manual, you read it as if you’re a tech, when you read the dispatcher manual, you read it as a dispatcher and it tells them what each other is supposed to do, what they owe each other. So it’s kind of a handshake.

Al Levi (00:46:31):

And so that really helps a lot. And so that’s really kind of, actually, it’s kind of funny if you’re talking about the work chart at any company and anybody who’s out there and listening, here’s what I bet your dispatcher thinks. They’re the boss of the techs and the tech stick. They’re the boss. The dispatcher is what they are both wrong. They both, if the tech, so I’m a dispatcher and Nathan is a misbehaving tech. My job is not to yell at him. My job is to report this ongoing behavior to the service manager who brings the three of us together. Cause that’s who ultimately is our reporting water. So the box work chart that I was mentioning is really important for your employees for, for good reasons. It shows me where I am at your company. It, you said, you’re going to give me a career, not a job.

Al Levi (00:47:20):

It shows me where I can go. It tells me who is my boss. Cause as I go around this office, everybody’s yelling at me. So who’s my boss. And ultimately who is, I can go to for help. You mentioned something before, I don’t want to forget about safe. And you mentioned about top-down top-down, I am not a top- down management person. I actually hate it. And I’ve worked with a lot of great Nexstar shops and that’s how they’re kind of, what do I have to do? What am I manager’s supposed to do? And I give them an answer right away that they really hate the answer is nothing. And you go, what? Well, let me explain nothing right now because the managers first, second, and third job is to train everybody beneath them. That has a manual, how to fill their box, how to get ready to go to the next box, how to bring in new people. That’s their first, second and third job when they have that handled. Yes. We have more KPIs for the financial manager, marketing manager, fleet manager for the, all the other top line things

Nathan Young, More Leads Online (00:48:23):

That makes perfect sense to me. Okay. So the, to crystallize the answer is what should I do first? Uh, Al I’m overwhelmed. What should I do first? And the answer is, look, I will guide you on this sign up for the course. We start at 0.1

Al Levi (00:48:40):

And it sounds like a sales thing, which I look at me or listen to my voice. Um, I don’t need your money. I haven’t needed money since I left my job. Now I will take it. And not because it’s for me. Right? You have to invest in yourself. Yes. Uh, by the way, the most expensive program is like $10,000 and got some support from me as well as burn tool. It costs me $150,000. And mine was nothing compared to what you get today, right? So it’s kind of a no brainer if you’re at that size. Especially what I usually use is a, if you’re 2 million or more, all access makes a lot of sense. If you’re a smaller company and it’s more than you can do, you’re welcome to start at basic. And then you can always upgrade later if you so desire 31 manuals, because some of them are trades.

Al Levi (00:49:31):

You don’t do, but you’re going to need all the ones that cover the boxes. And when you, at the end, when you look at the thing, you’ll, you will know more. Okay. Let’s throw that. Everything I set out about mine is it’s way easier to be an editor than a creator. There’s nothing that says that you can’t do what I did. I always say I’m so clear. There was no video that was putting this video. When I was putting this stuff together and I was running a service call, I would get in my truck and it would turn to the imaginary passenger in the passenger seat and go, okay, this is what I did on this call. And I would be writing down bullets as to what it was. You can do the same thing. If you get one page I’m serious, one page for each of the boxes versus zero pages, you’re already on a good path.

Al Levi (00:50:21):

There’s much to know, besides the words on a page or a digital device, you know, in what you, what you put in are two different things. So for example, the example I like to give is for plumbers out there. If you go to a 60 or apartment house, four stories, there’s a tiny little gas leak and a stove behind on a gas stove on a gas line. You’re not going to shut down that whole building to change that one little skinny line, because you’re going to be bleeding out this line forever. So if you call it, if you want to know, I’m not going to put it in the manual that says, pull it on the fly. Cause I can’t say that. Right. So I’m just going to say, if you should encounter this situation, call your supervisor for help. And then the supervisor says, yeah, pull it on the fly.

Al Levi (00:51:11):

So that’s part of it. There’s also a lot of structure that’s in here. Your team knows when you are yelling at them. Yeah. Yeah. The font, all of a sudden goes to 24 or it’s an all bold or it’s in caps and it’s in red because you remember one guy, one time did something or your bookkeeper didn’t do something. And that caused the problem. And you’re always kept tail chasing this thing. And so that’s not what, this is the tone of the manuals. It should be like my big brother, big sister coaching me. Right. That is how we tried to write it. And so as you put it out there, that really is what makes the difference.

Nathan Young, More Leads Online (00:51:54):

Well, cause it’s not, and you just said this, you’re not handing something down. You’re, you’re building someone up. So you’re not yelling down at someone you’re saying we’re all on the same page here. Yup. That makes perfect sense. I have to ask these questions because I it’s a little bit self interested, but I also, I like to get really granular so that I’m, I’m interested in bringing the most value that I can to the home services. And one of the, the way, one of the ways that I could do that I knew was to have this podcast and have guys like you on who know what they’re talking about, because I’m like, okay, well I’m running a marketing company, right. So, and I, I have to face this. And so I need, I need to take a little time and get really open here, phone honorable with myself. But if this is a thing that I know is very common in home services. So like I mentioned, uh, we’re like a local SEO shop and do we do web design and ads? We’re doing our work. A lot of this seems like a little science fictiony or magic or whatever. And frankly, I mean, no lie, right? Like the home service industry has an, the industries have a little bit of an issue with homeowners being like, Oh yeah, I get, you know, who’s going to screw me next. Right.

Al Levi (00:53:12):

Well, I watched, I watched shows, catch a contractor, right. And by the way, that makes my blood boil because you know, they had the guy with the hoodie cause it makes good. How about 10 companies who did the right thing? Do they get equal if they don’t? It doesn’t matter. Because if you don’t train, this speaks to this is that if you don’t train them, in-house about that kind of thing. If you don’t have them make the right recommendations, talk to the customer the right way, you could risk your whole company in the scenario that Nathan just uncovered.

Nathan Young, More Leads Online (00:53:46):

Right. So how do I, how do Y as a guy who’s running this shop who home services companies have gone, SEO guys that’s BS, right? Every, every single one of those doctors screw me. I’ve already been through three, I’ve paid a thousand dollars a month and I’ve paid $5,000 a month. I have no idea if I’ve ever actually gotten anywhere with this, forget all of it. And I’m sitting here being like, I swear that the work that I’m doing is good. How do I actually prove that? What are you actually looking for? How do you, how should I hold myself accountable for you? How do I be, not the guy in a hoodie? I mean, I’m literally in a hoodie, so that’s a little embarrassing, but

Al Levi (00:54:30):

Ignore the man and the hoodie, you know, in this particular occasion, the, uh, yeah, th you know, there’s a lot of great marketing guys that I’ve worked with as well. And, um, they are also like, w what am I supposed to do? And most of them have in their contract now to help us as contractors not fall into this trap, we understand you’re aggravating. It, it just seems like, you know, fairy dust thrown around and some kind of magic happens. And so your job is to educate them. The only way you can, like the only way when I came to sell you a heating air, conditioning and plumbing is on the front end. Here’s what

we can do. Here’s what we can do. Here’s the controls that I need to have in place to protect myself, but really you, so you need to see how often that phone rings off of that.

Al Levi (00:55:21):

So then you have that benchmarks go be aware. You got a thousand calls. The thing is they came in after four o’clock and your inability to run, or even want a call after four o’clock is the issue. Now, if you’re ready to learn more and you ready want to do more, and you want to, because I ran shift, I’ve been to four, 10 to seven, to two to 11, five to, I mean, I had the shifts out there. They weren’t like on-call. They were guys out there because I learned long ago that, you know, my ability to handle calls. And this is Frank loud, the great guy in our industry a hundred years ago, you know, I drinking in a bar, Dallas said to me out 40% of my profit comes from my ability to run the call after four. O’clock the same way I was if it was during the day.

Al Levi (00:56:09):

So that’s what you need to do that has to be set up. And of course, today with digital and phone tracking and your ability to hear their calls, there’s so much more if they have good software, because they don’t want to invest and feel like they’re going to get again. And I hear you as contractors, and we are not, how are we different than customers? Who’ve been burned with contractors who disappeared. We’ve got to put that aside a little bit, and we have to agree to the ground rules on the front end. That’s the best thing that I can share for both Nathan and for you that our lists, because what I was going to get to before, when I talk about this marketing, because I’m so absorbed, it’s what I love. But everything I buy business stole me from being the marketing manager at a certain extent, I’m doing everything I wanted was in the marketing manual.

Al Levi (00:56:57):

We constantly went through it. We had meetings that were constantly set up. We’re always adjusting it, you know, and basically we were lucky. We had more calls than we could humanly do in a day. Now it feels frustrating. You don’t want to disappoint anybody, but here’s what I can assure you. If I can make your phone ringing off the hook with the right customer, right time, you got to figure out how to get the texts on the road. And that was something I learned how to do way back. And that’s what I’ve shown clients, how to do to this day. So they can be handled. Will you ever have enough techs to go with your calls? Would you ever have enough calls? No. Now I always talk about the seven powers. There’s planning, power operating, power, staffing, power sales, power, sales, coaching, marketing, power, and financial.

Al Levi (00:57:40):

So for those of you who can’t remember the seven that I just rattled off, I’m going to make it easy. You got two jobs. My friends make more calls, make more texts. Now that will keep you busy for the rest of your life. Because what I said about making calls doesn’t mean anybody. Who’s not my customer calling me anytime when I’m already crazy busy and more text doesn’t mean bodies in trucks. It means guys who have good communications and learns leads to good sales. They’re neat and clean and operationally professional. And whenever they went out to do is a good chance it’s fixed. And that customer is happy. So happy. They’re going to give me a testimonial because I need their testimonies. What I learned years ago about why our marketing was so good is my friend. Who’s a really great actually helped me with the manuals.

Al Levi (00:58:31):

He said to me, people kind of care what you say, but what they really want to hear is from somebody who looks like me. So if I’m a residential homeowner, I want to see a residential homeowner that looks like me. Think mistake. A lot of guys out there love the equipment. So they have pictures of all their equipment, right? They don’t know what they’re looking at and they don’t care what they do care. Is this a happy smiling people go? We’ve never been warmer in our house. We have all the hot water we ever dreamed of. You know, that the power of testimonials is enormous. Can you ever have enough? No, no, no, no, no videos, pictures. And there’s levels of trust. When you only write the initials, that kind of thing. Did you make them up or what’s their full name? Is it in the town where I am want to do a micro marketing around that area.

Al Levi (00:59:26):

And I do this person had roots in their drain. I bet all the rest of them around here, I’m going to do a marketing. If these people will give me permission to use them as the testimonial that breaks it up. One big thing I wanted to kind of get to is the thing about marketing is a percentage of sales is your marketing, but it’s gasoline and fuel tank, right? Your trip marketing allocation picked three main drivers and not the only driver, but the main drivers that you’re going to put your time, energy, and money into. And here’s where they all fall down. And I’m talking about great marketers. They, the power of a marketing calendar. The trick is to go backwards in your calendar. So if I’m going to put direct mail postcards out there as an example, I have to start when I want a customer, do I have had three touches in six weeks and work my way backwards and spoiler alert. Don’t waste your time. Sending out a post direct mail postcard, big one, unless you have a picture and testimonial from a customer. That’s the only glue you need.

Nathan Young, More Leads Online (01:00:34):

Clearly we can continue talking all day. That means obviously that you have to come back because you mentioned that there were seven powers. We talked a lot about operations. We started to dig into marketing and there’s also sales. So next time we have to focus on marketing and sales and you have to come back. That’s the only obvious conclusion here.

Al Levi (01:00:58):
I would be pleased and honored because I figure you can fool people once I write it back twice. Okay.

I’m in.

Nathan Young, More Leads Online (01:01:08):

Well, awesome. I’m I have to, I know that I already am going to have to relisten to this episode. I always relisten to the episodes. Um, because right now I’m so focused on the conversation that we’re having that even though I’m like, Oh my gosh, that’s a key thing that I need to take. And so I actually read, listened to all the episodes and I pull the little nuggets out and that’s what we try to post on social media and stuff. Are these things that you’ve said that I’m like, Oh my God, I have to go back. And I have to capsulate that, but I’m going to have to listen to this one two more times, because there’s so much stuff in here that I know that I want to do. One of those things that I know I want to do. You mentioned this making the org chart available to any organization that wants it. We know that we’re going to push that out on our social media stuff. Is there anywhere else that somebody can go or like, how do people find you specifically if they want to find you

Al Levi (01:02:01):

The best way to go is, uh, the number seven power contractor, number seven, power contractor.com. The website is really laid out pretty well. I actually have some gifts there as well. If you sign up for the jump start guide, there’s some really good tools that I’ve put in that toolbox and it’s free. Free is always nice. Yeah. And then the bottom of the page, there’s a chat thing. If you have some questions and if this thing I’m just talking about the operating manuals, you just go up into the product page and you’ll be able to click down if you want to see more detail. And you’re a bigger company, a 2 million or more that it’s seven power contractor.com forward slash S as in Sam, O as in Oscar, M as in Mary, S as in Sam, a L S O M S a L. And that will take you to the page where you can really, you can see every one of these manuals, you can see the org chart.

Al Levi (01:02:56):

You can read the testimonials, because really, I know to this point, Nathan, where I offered as a contractor, my family, I can never get that time back. And I get choked up because you know what, I’m blessed and I have been sold, but I feel if you’ve gotten a gift, you’re an obligation to give it back. Like I said, you will pay for it, but it’s the best money you’ll ever spend in your life. If you’re willing to give yourself and do the work, but it’s the right work. And it’s way less work than you. It’s much easier to be an editor than it is to be a creator.

Nathan Young, More Leads Online (01:03:35):

Oh my gosh. Oh my gosh. Yeah. That’s my, I wrote that down on a whiteboard while we were talking it’s so much better than just figuring out. I was like, woo. Okay. And, uh, that’s like the encapsulation of this podcast, right? Like I just, I just brought you on I’m. I’m not, I don’t know, like owl knows. I got to, I got to live that out today. If somebody wants to find seven power contractor out on social media, it’s Facebook or LinkedIn,

Al Levi (01:04:05):

Facebook, LinkedIn. Yeah. We actually have some posts that Instagram, but that’s where I spent. That’s where I hung out my time. That’s how Nathan and I met was on LinkedIn. And, but also on Facebook there’s Facebook groups is a, if you’re a trade contractor, like science Stein, there’s a bunch of good ones out there that I, uh, I pop in periodically as well. And so, uh, yeah, I’ve also, I’ve put out if you get up on the, on the, on my list, um, that I was talking about at seven power contracts, sign up for the jumpstart guide. I have a monthly e-newsletter. I also do a podcast, but let me be really clear. It’s not this kind of podcast. It’s me reading my blogs and columns because I’ve got hundreds of them. Right. And I recognize that, you know what you guys are in your truck. Most of you are, you’re just busy. It’s a whole lot easier to plug in your headphones and just listen to them. So anywhere out there, you’ll find the seven power contractor, radio podcasts, and it’s just love this lovely voice. You can have more of it.

Nathan Young, More Leads Online (01:05:03):

Well, I, I mean, personally, I can vouch for it. I, I, uh, I am now a subscriber and I’ve listened to a couple so I can confirm they are very valuable. Um, or at least I liked him, you know, I don’t know how much opinion I, I

Al Levi (01:05:18):

Do. I do appreciate it, but yeah, it’s gotten great views and it’s gotten great stuff. It’s it was a wonderful suggestion that was made to me about, you know, what, I’m stuck in my truck. What can you do for me? I don’t have time to read your blogs. And I go, okay, I’ll just record.

Nathan Young, More Leads Online (01:05:34):

Yeah. It’s been amazing having you on, like I said, there’s no question. We’re going to have you back. I want to dig into this further. I’ve already subscribed to your radio stuff myself. Um, it’s already been fantastic. I want to dig in further. We’re going to be sharing the org chart on all of our stuff, but now you know where to go and you know how to find out on your own Al levy levy levy. I just wanted you to correct me one more time.

Al Levi (01:06:04):
Right? There’s a podcast in Australia. We’ve been doing this for five years and he still says levy. And the

person who works with me wants to correct him. And I go, no, he’s already branded me as levy.

Nathan Young, More Leads Online (01:06:15):

Yeah, that’s right. That’s right. Al not levy. It’s levy has been the best. Uh, and that’s it for the MLO podcast today, the home service leaders we’re signing out. Uh, we’ll see you guys next time.

Al Levi

Al Levi

Author: 7 Power Contractor

Growing up, Al and his brothers helped to run the family plumbing, heating, cooling, and electrical business. They grew into one of the largest and most trusted trade company’s in the New York City area….until Al realized that the stress wasn’t worth the success. Needing a better way to manage his businesses, Al developed The 7 Power Contractor system, a method for standardizing business processes. With guidance on creating custom standard operating procedures (SOPs) for your business, Al consultants with companies nationwide to transform the ease with which they do business.

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