Your Employees Need a Leader, Not a Friend

By David Crary  

According to Walter Isaacson’s excellent biography of Steve Jobs, Jobs was not exactly the world’s friendliest boss. As recounted in the book, Jobs once gathered the team responsible for MobileMe, a cloud-based solution that, when introduced, was panned as an unfinished product. To address the problem, Jobs gathered the entire MobileMe team in Apple’s auditorium and asked “Can anyone tell me what MobileMe is supposed to do?” After hearing the responses, he asked “Then why the F doesn’t it do that?” Then, he fired the MobileMe boss on the spot. 

steve jobs

Jobs was notorious for being – pardon my French – an asshole. But he also grew Apple into the most profitable company in the world.

Unlike Jobs, many field service business owners have close personal relationships with their workers. I have always advocated the opposite. If you really want to do something for your employees, take care of the business first. That means cutting away the fatty parts of your operation (like project leaders who underperform) and putting your truly talented employees in roles that mean most to the success of your company. My advice:

  • Hire slow and fire quickly. Take time to interview many applicants for your open positions. There are many qualified professionals out there who are looking for a chance in today’s job market. Don’t be trigger happy just because you really liked the last guy that walked out of your office. The next one may be a better fit.
  • On the other side of things, firing someone is never easy, but firing a friend or family member is much trickier. So don’t hire them. Once you’ve made a decision to let someone go, fire them quickly. Don’t wait until Friday if you’ve made the decision on a Monday. Cutting away the fat is important part to keeping a business efficient and to maintaining balance in the workplace. In my experience I have noticed that firing the weakest or laziest link is not only great for your efficiency but it boosts the moral of the employees who are pulling their weight. 
  • Everyone needs to be on the same page. Institute procedures for tasks and stick to them, this ensures everyone knows what to expect of each other and will cut down on miscommunication. Take time every quarter or bi-annually to review your procedures and tune them up where needed. Ask your employees to contribute their ideas on how to streamline things, they are the ones using these procedures and can see where they are lacking.
  • Every job within a company has a value, not every employee. This may sound callused, but it is important to make this distinction or you will be filing for bankruptcy before you know what hit you. You can only pay people for the jobs they are completing, not the potential they have to complete jobs. Along with this is putting your best employees on the contracts that will generate the most profit for your field service management company.
  • Set up your personal budget on your worst year. This will ensure that you’re not over spending on the lean years, and on the good years you will be able to increase business investments or take the family to Disney World.
  • Owning a business is 24/7. Don’t make the mistake of taking time off just because you’re not booking jobs. If you find yourself with more free time, start planning ahead to the busy season. Get ready for the problems you can anticipate and keep your mind searching for the ones you haven’t thought of yet. Remember your 6 P’s. Prior Planning Prevents Piss Poor Performance.
  If you take care of your business, it will take care of both you and your employees. 

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