Service and repair workers' merit long overdue.

There are heroes in battles and even in sports, but I think our industry has some heroes in it, too. And I would like to recognize them. We don't usually think of people in the service and repair business, or in any business, for that matter, as individuals deserving some special recognition and merit as a real hero, but they are there.

In their own way, I believe, they deserve recognition as much as a sports legend or other person who has taken risks and come out as a winner. Probably few people in this business have risked their life, but life and death is not what we are talking about. Let's look

at what it takes to be a hero:

  • Courage: When I think of a hero, I think of someone who is willing to take a risk - a big risk - when most people wouldn't leave their comfortable environment. They step up and do what they believe is right, regardless of the potential loss or what others say about what they are trying to do.

    They have guts. Plain, old-fashioned guts is what it takes to do what you know is right, even if you have no guarantee of the outcome. Guts means you go ahead when most people would not; they are waiting for a guarantee of safety. They don't want to be the first to proceed. Until it is safe and sure, the masses hold back and wait. That is what separates them from those individuals with pure and powerful courage.

    Courage means not having to have anybody's approval to forge ahead. It means making the trail, not following a well-worn path. Breaking through barriers, not waiting for them to be lowered. The courageous are so far out in front that they can't see the risk-avoiders, who slowly follow when things are safe. However, the courageous are not looking back, only forward. They can see further than those in the masses.

    And the more they advance the more they are looking at a more distant point than they did in the past. Their progress becomes a vision; that's all they need, a vision. No path needs to be cleared for them. They know where they are going because they know what needs to be done.

    Heroes have that courage, the guts we sometimes wish we had. It is easy to admire, much more difficult to generate.

  • Risk: Heroes are willing to take a risk. Not a foolish chance or a dare or a stunt. They will knowingly risk personal comfort, achievement and what they own to aim for what they know they can achieve. They are not satisfied with the security of their position now. They know there is more out there - and they want it. Their goal is, in their mind, attainable.

    Maybe not everyone can do it, but they can. They can't sit idly by and be satisfied. If there is a better result available, they are the ones willing to take what they have that is secure and, with the chance of losing it, take the risk.

    The risk is, in exchange for a reward, worth the chance they have to take. No guarantees. No going back, only forward. Their decision is made; it's a willing choice to possibly give up what they can keep without risk. Instead, they proceed knowing they could lose, and lose big. They will take the risk - alone.

  • Leaders: Heroes lead, making the way for everyone else easier. The path is cleared; the way is marked. It is always easier to follow a leader; they show you the way. Even though they took the chance, they are willing to help others along. They come back and hold the hands of those less bold to show them the way. They help all those who hesitated, couldn't overcome their fears or wouldn't take a chance. Leading is natural for heroes because they think of others first and worry about themselves later. They protect their team.

  • Winners: Despite all the potential sacrifice and risk, heroes are winners. They achieve the goals they set for themselves. They are the first where it counts. To them, meeting the challenge was their first motivation - maybe their only motivation. But they performed. They did what they attempted. And only they enjoy the rewards of their efforts and risks. The reward of accomplishing the task is their best reward.

    Second, certainly, in importance to them, but not to be forgotten, heroes get the benefits: the ribbons, the trophies, the recognition, the privileges and the tangible benefits too. And well they should.

Step Forward Please

While there have been many leaders in our industry and many successful people who have helped others, I would like to recognize those who had much to lose, but stepped forward anyway.

I would like to acknowledge the accomplishments of those managers and technicians who heard about a new way of doing business: redefining what serving customers meant and taking care of technicians - their safety and their income. Those who were willing to take a chance because they knew they had uncovered something better for their business, their people and their customers are the ones I admire. Though the rest of the industry was still on time and materials, they forged ahead with flat rate. It took guts in the early years.

When businesses were quoting prices over the phone, they resisted and told the customer they would get a price, a real price, before any work was done from a technician who had diagnosed the problem in their home.

They persisted and offered technicians a chance to earn more with incentive pay. They trained their people so they would be prepared to deal with irate customers who needed service immediately.

Some of these heroes risked their livelihood by attending one of our seminars years ago and going back and convincing their owners or bosses there was a better way. Guts, nothing less

Some of those participants were (and still are) technicians who want to do more for their employer, despite the risk of criticism or contrary opinions or dismissal. They attended on their own initiative (and resources), hoping to learn how to better serve customers, and then shared the message with their company's owner. Their gambles paid off. Those people and the companies they represent are now the industry leaders in their communities. I admire what it took for them to take that step forward when everything they had been taught said to do it the old way and just keep going.

I would be remiss if I didn't count as heroes the professionals who drive the trucks, crawl under houses, squeeze into attics and work in the heat, the cold and face fire, gas and electricity, lift heavy objects and face untold dangers. They do all of these activities in the name of our businesses for our customers. I commend them. Many have started their own businesses when they realized they had an attainable goal, and now they knew how to reach it. They wouldn't let a short-sighted manager or owner hold them back.

Every year there are more heroes in the business. They are the ones who will lead this industry into the new century. Their courage, risk taking and leadership will serve them well.