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Pruning the Field: Getting Rid of Dead Wood

By on November 8, 2012 in Business Practices with 0 Comments

Planning for next year…

Now that your marketing plans for winter well under way and are better able to understand the size of the workforce that you can use in the next few months, it is time to start considering who should be on the team and who should be out the door. You have spent a lot of time learning how your feet on the street impacts your revenue. Now, turn the equation around and let your revenue determine your feet on the street.

Many of the steps you will need to rely on in this process should have been started already. In fact, the ground work for this should have been laid the moment you hired your staff. The conversation should have gone something like this:

“Welcome to Fingertip Painting, here is your shirt and brushes and, don’t forget, business goes down in winter, we may need to let you go.”

A slight exaggeration perhaps, but close enough to the truth.

Work on it all year!

Additionally, as the season goes on, your team needs regular, consistent feedback from their crew leaders. Tardiness, cleanliness, accuracy, efficiency. These should have all been topics of discussion, generated by you and your crew leaders, over the last few months. Any conversation you have with a team member, you should document. Even if you write down the gist of the conversation in an email to yourself, you should have a record.

That forced ranking you have had your crew leaders do? That becomes an essential tool in this process as well. You and your leadership need to know where each member of your team stands. The guy who could do good enough in the summer is not going to be good enough in winter when you are struggling to compete for any bit of Gross Profit you can get.

What to Look For

Key your eye out for the people who can handle the tough time while maintaining a positive attitude. They need to work at maximum capacity all the time, paint sharply and quickly to help you compete in a customer driven marketplace. The outfit down the street whose guys are not as good as yours will suddenly be your main competition as the savvy bargain shoppers smell your vulnerability and look to wring every dime of discount out of you that they can. This is not the time to have your “sister’s best friend’s son’s cousin” painting just because you owe somebody a favor. This is the time to have the best that you can, those painters who are at the top of their game, to help make your business successful.

How to prepare to get rid of the “dead wood”

Make sure that you spend some time preparing for these conversations. Have the documentation that you and the crew leaders have been collecting readily available and summarized in front of you. Be prepared to collect truck keys, cell phones, computers, tools, etc. Do not engage is the what ifs and whys of your decision. If you and your crew leaders have been doing your jobs, this conversation will not come as a surprise to anyone. If it legitimately is, that then is further conversation between you and the crew leaders, not the person being let go. Have these conversations on neutral ground. It is best to be able to leave once the conversation is over and you cannot do that if you are stuck in your office.

Your conversations should be short and sweet. Do not let your emotions or the emotions of the person sitting in front of you get in the way of making this important business decision. And speaking of emotion, if there is any sense at all that this conversation will not go well, ask someone to sit in with you. This is not to participate in the conversation, but to observe and to be a potential witness.

This is not the fun part of your job but it may be one of the most important parts of your job. This will set you up for a successful winter and an even better 2013!

 

All the Best!

– Kathryn Freeman

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