Business Growth

Tradies you can trust – How to build a high-functioning team

After a long day on the tools, which of us hasn’t fantasised about hanging up the high-vis and hiring the perfect team of tradies who can handle the field work with minimal supervision or oversight?  

Spending your days working on the business side of things instead of crammed inside a roof or driving endlessly from job to job is a dream many tradies share, but few of us ever find the time or drive to pursue. And it’s not hard to see why many of us don’t act, as in today’s job market, finding a reliable tradie for less than a bag of gold seems impossible, and the dream of running your business rather than being stuck in the field feels way out of reach.

For those still hoping to achieve their dream of getting off the tools, you need to get a few critical things right before you can begin creating a self-sufficient field team. First and foremost, before you even consider hiring more people, you need to make sure your business is running correctly and capable of facilitating your transition from field to office.

So, with that in mind, here are the steps you need to take to reach your independent field team dreams:  

Get your business basics right:

Start by physically writing down your business plan or goals and setting clear KPIs (targets) for your business. If your gut reaction to hearing this advice is “that sounds like a waste of time, ” you may have trouble achieving these goals down the track without shifting mindset. Overall, though, approaching business growth with a clear plan & strategy BEFORE you build up your team will make the arduous task of hiring so much easier.

Have transparent systems and processes in place that anybody can follow:  

Systems are the key to engineering a business that doesn’t constantly demand your attention at the office and in the field. How you do this is as simple as creating step-by-step instructions for how you want a task to be performed and then implementing the new process into your business. For instance, in my plumbing business Dr. DRiP, we have procedures ranging from how to arrive on-site, upselling, and even a word-by-word script on answering the phone. If your employees do something business-critical on an average day, you should create a system for it! The best part is that when a new procedure is implemented correctly, employees will quickly see the benefits of always having the best process procedure to refer to in their everyday work.

Creating detailed procedures lets you rest assured that no matter which of your trade staff attend a job, the client will receive the same high-quality service every time. Having these systems in place will help your field team remain consistent and ensure that you won’t need to waste your time training every new employee and can spend your energy on growing or managing your business.  

Get the right technology set up:

Having a feature-rich job management system like AroFlo means that your field team can work with your admin team seamlessly and get their everyday work sorted with little to no involvement from yourself. Having digital job management infrastructure ready to go BEFORE you hire your team will show new hires that they’ll be part of a well-oiled machine from the get-go.

Hire BEFORE your peak, not at it:  

Many of us wait until we’re in the thick of it to hire. We are run off our feet busy and finally throw our hands up and say, “I need more tradies,” but it’s often too late by this point. For example, if you KNOW February is a busy time, then hire in December to train them up in time, so when February hits, you’ll be more than confident that they can perform solo.  

Now that you’ve meticulously set the basics up, the actual process of hiring can begin. However, we need to consider a handful of elements before settling on even one new hire.

Here is what you need and need to know about hiring the RIGHT person for the job.

You need a bit of razzle-dazzle:  

A single page with a dot point list of required skills for the job and the minimum experience required no longer attracts staff and can even cause them not to apply if they feel that your business might be stuck in the past. The tables have turned and what was once “show me why YOU should work for ME” is now, “show ME why I should work for YOU!”  

With so many businesses competing for the best tradies, the onus is now on you, the business owner, to showcase why you are the best business for them. Creating a flashy hiring video is always a standout way to attract staff and put your best foot forward — when well-produced, these hiring videos don’t cost an arm and a leg and can be reused for YEARS!  

Be prepared to pay:  

We all know there are massive tradie shortages right now, and this means reliable staff can be tough to come by. So, if you’re looking for someone who can step in and hit the ground running immediately, you need to be prepared to pay. Alternatively, reassess if you can hire somebody greener like a newly qualified tradie or even an apprentice (who may be closer to your salary budget) and instead train them to the level of confidence and self-sufficiency you desire.  

You can teach skills; you can’t teach attitude:  

This is the critical thing to remember when hiring. Just because somebody SEEMS like the right fit on paper doesn’t mean they aren’t hiding issues like a poor attitude or lousy work ethic. Dig a little deeper on these kinds of things, and if you spot any red flags, they may NOT be the right person for you. If you find a tradie who is personable, aligns with your company values, seems like a team player, and is eager to work, but perhaps lacks a few essential skills, weigh up the time it takes to bring them up to speed and consider if they might still be a fantastic fit. And whatever you do, never forget the golden rule: A good tradie can pick up skills, but they can never pick up a good attitude if they lack one.  

Hire fast, fire fast:  

As mentioned, those who are good at their trade are being snapped up quickly. If you find a candidate who SEEMS right for the job, aligns with your company’s values, is within budget, and has a fantastic attitude: HIRE THEM IMMEDIATELY! If you twiddle your thumbs and wait, there’s a good chance they’ll be off the market by the time you decide. If it turns out that they’re not right, let them go and keep looking!

Now that your business foundation is solid and you’ve attracted and hired the right people, many would say, “my job is done”, and settle in. WRONG! You now have a cracking team, so it’s time to become a leader!

We want to think our staff give 150% every day, but the reality is that if they’re not being inspired or pushed to achieve, it’s unlikely they are ever going to give you their all. That’s not to say you need to stand at the helm of the ship cracking the whip, but it does mean you might need to be smart about how you inspire your tradies.  

Check out our podcast episode on The Tradie Show “KPI’s for tradies” by scanning the QR code below.

In this episode, I, alongside my wife and business partner Angela, break down exactly how to implement and run KPIs in your trade team to inspire them to go for gold every day (and foster some healthy competition!)

While you’re there, don’t miss our episode “Our Guide To Hiring Top-Notch Staff“, where Angela and I break down exactly how to hire in detail so that you can achieve your business dreams and turn them into a reality.  

With the proper planning and execution, we can turn the dream of cultivating a trustworthy trade team so you can focus on the business into a reality. I did it myself, and I’ve taught hundreds of other trade business owners how to get there! It may feel impossible, but I promise you. It is achievable.  

Article written by Andy Smith

Andy Smith is the former owner of award-winning Dr.DRiP Plumbing, co-author of Start Up, Scale Up, Sell Up, co-host of The Tradie Show – Together in Tradie Business podcast, and co-founder of Lifestyle Tradie — an education hub and community for tradies and their partners in business, where he generously shares his knowledge and lived experience to help others.

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