Think back to when you worked for your old boss. In that time, did you ever raise a great idea or suggestion, only to have them shut you down? If the answer to that question is yes, then you probably also thought, “I could do this WAY better than you.”
At the end of the day, we’re all shaped by our experiences, and it’s worth considering if your current employees may be thinking or feeling like you did then.
As the owner of my own trade business, Dr. DRiP Plumbing, I’ve learnt a lot about company culture over the years, but I’ll admit I haven’t always gotten it right. So, if you’re having trouble with staff retention, growing your business and maintaining repeat customers, it might be because your company culture is lacking and needs some help.
What is “company culture?”
Company culture isn’t just about pub lunches and early Friday knockoffs. It’s about building a positive work environment where employees feel they have job security, confidence in their abilities, and a safe place to raise concerns. But most importantly, It means feeling empowered to suggest alternative ways of working without meeting resistance.
Many of us started our trade businesses so we could finally say, “It’s my way or the highway!” But if that’s still your business outlook, then there is a good chance that your business will decline over time.
Good company culture can be felt, as well as heard throughout your business, and it affects every aspect of how well your business operates day-to-day.
People don’t quit a job; they quit a boss
If you don’t listen to your employee’s suggestions and consider how you could make work a more positive experience for them, they’ll leave. It’s as simple as that. The next person you hire will do the same too, and so on until you’re replacing your tradies annually.
Losing staff hurts financially, as the time you spend on the hiring and training process only to lose an employee soon after is nothing but a loss for your business.
So, if all you need to do is listen to your tradies and provide them with a safe space to raise concerns… Then it shouldn’t be too hard to build a good company culture, right?
Anonymous “workplace happiness” surveys are available on the internet, and you can provide them to your team whenever you like. That way, you can track pain points and flag any potential concerns within your business proactively. Anonymous surveys are often more truthful, as employees can express their opinion without fear of retribution or some sort of punishment somewhere down the line.
Alternatively, I use our fortnightly team toolbox meeting as a GREAT forum to give my tradies a space to speak openly and suggest ideas. As the business owner, your only job is to listen, don’t interrupt, and take feedback professionally, not personally.
I’ve built a top-notch relationship with my tradies, and each of them feels they can come to me with ideas, concerns and anything else they need. If you don’t think you’re quite there yet, starting with anonymous surveys can be a great place to begin building that trust and getting actionable feedback.
Because the reality is, good ideas can come from anywhere
You may be surprised at how many fantastic ideas your tradies have that lead to direct growth for your business. If you’re like me and spend more time in the office or meeting with clients, then you may not see the potential areas for growth on site.
For example, a tradie may see that a particular tool or fitting is constantly getting damaged in the back of the truck and offers a clever solution to prevent this from happening. Or they may see a gap in the market for expansion
or a chance to upsell a customer.
Things like this have the potential to make you thousands in the long run, and it’s important to give something back in return for their commitment to your business. Some employers offer incentives to any staff member that excels in a particular area, and it doesn’t have to be massive either. Anything from a gift card to a family movie pass, the point is that you’re returning the favour and highlighting their success with a reward.
Now you can put that money back into growing your business, but all of this would never have happened if you didn’t take the time to listen.
Also, consider how good company culture can help you retain customers
Your employees are representing your business every day, and this includes their interactions with your customers. Clean and tidy uniforms and a shiny work truck are a great start and can get you in the door easily. However, it’s the level of confidence and professionalism that your staff present on-site that can be the deciding factor in whether you land a quote or get a future repeat customer.
My plumbing business gets more than HALF of its work from repeat customers, so I work hard to win their business again by ensuring my tradies are well trained and confident. I also utilise clear systems and job management software to ensure that every tradie does everything the same way every time because consistency is core to keeping customers coming back!
This is GREAT for our customers too, as no matter which of our team members shows up, they get the same excellent quality of service and level of confidence guaranteed.
This seems unrelated to company culture, but the truth is that systems and clear processes are the best way to empower your team to be confident on site. If you have digital systems that they can access on the go with a defined step-by-step process on completing a task, your tradies will feel more comfortable in their actions.
This sets your tradies up for success and will significantly impact your workplace culture as they see that you really do care for their needs. You can even use your toolbox meetings as opportunities to teach your tradies how to adapt these systems further and encourage them to air concerns around what they’re struggling with on-site.
If your tradies feel heard and are actively being up-skilled and trained, they will perform better on site, which can only result in good things for your business!
Small team, medium team, big team — no matter your size or your trade profession— you are the business owner at the end of the day. Therefore, it’s a part of YOUR role to ensure you nail your company culture. It impacts every facet of your company, so you must address it without hesitation.
If you’d like some help revising your company’s culture, let’s set up a strategy session. We’ll talk about culture, confidence and what you need to do right now in your business to build clarity, direction and success. Book at www.lifestyletradie.com.au. It’s completely free!
Written by Andy Smith
Andy Smith is a fellow trade business owner of Dr DRiP Plumbing and co-founder of Lifestyle Tradie, a membership and community for tradies in business.