Qualified Remodeler interviewed Dave Azer, account executive with Dave Yoho Associates, about the subject of what remodelers/home improvement companies could do to raise the quality of their management techniques. Azer is a management specialist who has spent most of his adult life working for mid- to large-size companies on improving business plans and bottom lines.

QR: Dave, give us a quick snapshot of what makes the difference between success and failure in the average home improvement company.

Dave: Here is the simplest answer I can provide. There are three reasons for success or failure in business. You‘ve heard the “location, location, location” rule for real estate. In your business, the reason for success or failure has a similar ring to it – “the manager, the manager, the manager.” Your company is doing well? It’s the manager. Your company is losing money? It’s the manager. Lead cost is too high? Again, it’s the manager. You have customer complaints? It’s the manager. Your company is growing or shrinking? It’s the manager.

QR: How about some insights on creating and maintaining standards?

Dave: Set clear standards and provide your staff the necessary training and resources. Realize that some people are just not a good fit for certain jobs, re-assign or terminate employees that show they can’t meet communicated standards. This sends the message to the entire team that everyone needs to “pull their weight” for the company to succeed.

QR: Do you have a theory on “leading by example”?

Dave: When managers talk about a positive attitude, are they displaying one? Pretty obvious, but often not done. When they talk to a prospect in the office, do they follow the company script? And do they get in the trenches with their people? Leading by example is crucial to developing a team of high performers.

QR: How does a manager focus on actions that drive growth and profit?

Dave: Too many mangers stay in their office to do paperwork, return emails, and just “keep busy.” Stay focused on actions that drive growth and profit. Actions like working at shows and events with the marketing team, riding with sales people and going to job sites with installers. Set goals for the upcoming week, month, quarter and year and implement action plans to achieve these goals.

QR: What about the theory of creating upbeat and motivational environments?

Dave: Build trust and rapport with your people and within your company by relentlessly pursuing two objectives: The success of the company, and the success of your people. One is never done at the expense of the other. When both the company a manager works for and the people a manager leads consistently understand that the manager is relentlessly pursuing their success, the team is upbeat and motived to succeed for themselves, their leader and each other.

QR: What does a manager do to stay engaged with his people?

Dave: Ask questions of your people to understand their goals and ambition, plus their understanding of your plan. Talk with them about what they need to do to achieve their goals. The advice given should always benefit both the employee and the company. And then make sure your people have the resources needed to move towards achieving these goals and get out of the way!

QR: How do you suggest management goes about recognizing great performance?

Dave: Motivational leaders recognize outstanding performance by communicating with their employee exactly what was done well, and how it benefitted the company. For example, a manager tells their staff “You really did a great job last month working on improving your demo (presentation) rate by slowing down and being a better listener – or your demo rate improved by 15 percent, a major reason for our increased sales. I appreciate the time and effort you put into this area, and the outstanding results – thank you very much.”

QR: Despite all this there is still the problem of maintaining costs, budgets, and achieving goals

Dave:  A good manager has to manage by the numbers to understand cause and effect. Some managers state “sales are down” as if that is the cause of their problem. Sales being down is a symptom. What is the cause? Low closing, customer cancellations, or not enough leads? Dig deeper. Low closing is still a symptom of a deeper problem. What is causing low closing? Poor selling system, insufficient training, or manager not spending one on one time with sales reps? Figure out the root cause and you’re on your way to solving the problem. Make sure all key metrics are tracked, and when the company is not hitting a revenue or profit goal, dig deep into the data, determine the issue, and implement a corrective plan of action.  

QR: We live in an ever changing world. How does this relate to managing?

Dave: I call this dedication to “AL” – Always Learning.  Outstanding managers realize “they don’t know everything”. They build relationships with successful people that provide advice and mentoring. They read books, watch DVDs, and attend seminars that provide up-to-date information on their industry, strategies for effective people leadership, and training on their specific area of focus.

QR: What final advice do you have for those who own and run a remodeling/home improvement company?

Dave: The owner is the most important manager. Industry leading companies are led by owners that are great managers. The owner is the most important manager. Pick one or two of the above concepts, put a real focus on it, and it will make a positive impact on your bottom line. Because in business, when you want to know why something is what it is, the answer is always three things – “The Manager, The Manager, The Manager”!

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