There is a lot of talk and concern these days about the labor pool available to us in the service contracting business, and it seems like every owner or manager you talk to is “looking for good people.”

This trend is showing no sign of slowing down or improving dramatically in the near future. The companies that smash their competition in 2018 are the companies that will embrace their true authenticity more than ever before, work on constantly developing their leaders and focus on being a company that people want to work for.


Recruiting millennials

I’ve done a lot of research and studying lately regarding the millennial generation and their perceived lack of a work ethic. I’m sure you’ve heard phrases like this: “These kids don’t want to work anymore — they come from the times where everybody gets a medal just for participation.” You can certainly rattle off several more of these cliché statements.

Here’s the truth, though: The power of your thoughts shows up in the power of your words. We have Titanium Club clients that are growing by more than $1 million per year in revenue. We have seen tremendous growth in almost every market during 2017. The questions to be focusing on now have to do with understanding how and why this growth happens so you can grow at whatever rate you desire.

How are companies finding enough qualified technicians to grow by over a million dollars in a single calendar year? Why are qualified technicians choosing to work for these competing companies and not yours? If you want better results in your life and company, you must continue to develop your leadership skills and start by examining the quality of questions you’re asking yourself.

Most owners and operators are asking questions like “Why are they so lazy?” and “Why doesn’t anyone want to make an honest living anymore?” These questions do nothing to serve you or your business and are based on false generalizations.

The fastest-growing and most successful service businesses are very clear about who they are as a company, why they exist in the market and how each team member plays a vital role in the greater good of the company and community.


Put the past behind you

Authenticity in your leadership, company message and market penetration must line up with a team members’ beliefs and values in order to have a long-term employment relationship. Many of us were raised in the trades by thick-skinned tradespeople who would rather throw a pipe wrench at you to get a point across than have a quality education-based conversation.

What got you here won’t get you there. Just because we were taught one way does not mean that is an effective way to train or lead any longer. I hear owners speak of the “golden days” of terrible apprenticeships as if it’s a badge of honor that they had it so hard as a younger tradesperson.

Get over yourself. Nobody cares.

These two short statements will set you free as a leader. They may seem a bit harsh at first, but the power of change exists when applied effectively. Get over yourself and how difficult you had it. Get over how your grandfather would leave you to hand-dig a complete sewer replacement in the snow with no food, water or shelter. That may be a little extreme, but you get the point.

Nobody cares about your personal path that successfully got you to this point in your career. People are simply not interested in the way things used to be, or how things used to work. Millennials, specifically, can have a “couldn’t care less about your past” vibe that really bothers some people, sometimes so much so that they miss what this generation really does care about. A great number of millennials care tremendously about what is happening in their world right now and how they can be a part of making everyone’s life better, including yours and your clients’.

Your past has served you well. It gave you the tools to get you to this point in time. Now it’s time to embrace a new level of clarity about who you are as a leader and why your company truly exists.

When you have incredible clarity about these two things, the magnet for team members gets exponentially stronger. More people want to play the game on your team when your company has meaning and value to them.


Cultivating meaning and value

When you’re looking to recruit new team members, it’s actually important to let them know what you’re doing to give back to the community, every little job “perk” they will receive and that they’ll be a truly valued team member. Make sure they understand that you value training and want to help them reach their true potential; they aren’t just a number and you truly care about their personal success.

You may be in the plumbing, heating and air conditioning service business, but that is not why the new generation will look at joining your team. Your ability to grow with quality people is one of the biggest challenges you may face in 2018. Since you know this to be true, now is the time to get a plan in place to maximize your growth opportunities through strong leadership as well as recruitment and retention strategies.

Look at your company objectively. Honestly compare your company to your top five competitors. What are the tangibles and intangibles that make one company more attractive than another to an educated team member? Certainly, address and list the basics such as compensation plan, health benefits, vacation policy, 401(k), etc., but also go a little deeper than this. What are the other things that attract or repel qualified candidates? What is the on-call rotation? What type of software do we use and how does it impact the team? Do our team members hang out with each other when they’re not on the clock? How much turnover do we have and why?

There was a time when the service businesses that were the best marketers would always dominate a market. In our world of online reviews and web-based messages, that is no longer true; there are now many other factors contributing to overall profitability and growth.

There are a lot of companies that can send a good message to the marketplace and get a client to raise their hand to do business with them. However, now, the companies that win are the best at recruiting and retention of quality team members (and clients) as well as accomplished at making the phone ring.

Work on your recruiting, hiring and onboarding processes as if your company and life depend on it. If you haven’t already, it’s time for you to stop resisting inevitable changes and begin embracing a new time and generation. Maximizing new opportunities and technology, paired with purposeful leadership, can and will help you attract the team members you need to help accomplish all of your goals and dreams.


This article was originally titled, “What millennials bring to the trades” in the February 2018 print edition of Plumbing & Mechanical.