Quality Service Contractors learned how to create a sustainable future for their companies that has nothing to do with the environment or green building craze. Educator Bob Kelley taught QSC members five steps to take for lasting business growth during his workshop March 8 at Power Meeting XXVIII in Cathedral City, Calif.

The role of the company leader is especially important in growing small businesses, he said. The leader’s roles are: the rainmaker to find new customers; the ambassador to build relationships with customers, employees and other stakeholders; and the technician to handle details that ensure the organization is working the way it should.

“The small-business owner should be all three,” Kelley said. “The external business environment may dictate which of the three roles is most important.”

Great businesses reinvent themselves to maintain long-term success by conducting an ongoing examination of what they need to do to get better, he said. They consistently excel financially against competitors in their market by making a tight emotional connection with their customers and community.

A brand relates to how customers perceive and experience a business. For service contractors, brand behaviors may be how the technician appears at the door, how phones are answered or the nature of follow-up communications.

“They can be subtle or big things to create positive moments of truth,” Kelley said. “A moment of truth is any encounter with a customer.”

The first step for sustainable growth is for a company to clarify the key elements of its brand. This includes brand behaviors as well as three to five core values that the company wants to communicate to its customers.

The next step is to find out if the brand is being used the way the company wants it to be. This means the leader and employees must utilize listening to learn about the company’s strengths, weaknesses, opportunities and threats. The leader has to eliminate defensiveness and ego and be appreciative even of complaints.

“Find common ground where you can build your business,” Kelley said.

The third step is for the leader to clearly state how the company is to grow. Increased business could come from the current customer base, tearing customers away from competitors, showing up where growth is going to happen or investing in new lines of business.

A written growth plan is helpful, although it should be kept to one page. It should be easy to understand, inspiring to team members and contain five to eight strategies that can be measured.

The fourth step is for the leader to anchor the change process. The leader must tell all employees the part they play in extending the company’s brand, Kelley said. New hires have to be aligned with the company’s core values.

Finally, performance has to be measured. The metrics should be easy to understand, yet present challenging targets. They also must show a cause-and-effect relationship between actions and results.

QSC is an enhanced service group of the Plumbing-Heating-Cooling Contractors – National Association. Power Meeting XXIX will take place July 31-Aug. 2 in Milwaukee.