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Gary Energizes Happy Heating - Level 4 - "You Win"

Dec 20, 2019

{This blog post is part of an ongoing series of posts that tell a story.  If you haven't read the previous posts, you will be lost.  Here is the first post in this series.}

“When people are financially invested, they want a return. When people are emotionally invested, they want to contribute.” ~ Simon Sinek

Gary called Russ after his few weeks of contemplation and told Russ that he wanted to engage him again to help Happy Heating reach the next level.  Russ set up meetings with his usual contacts, Sally and Oliver to discuss where they wanted to bring the company next.

His first meeting was with Sally in the small conference room.

Russ started, “It’s good to see you again, Sally.  How are things going?”

Sally smiled, “It’s great to see you too, Russ.  I must thank you for the work that you’ve done with Happy Heating.  We really like coming to work these days knowing that we have time to do our work right and that we are not constantly trying to beat Easy Heating & Cooling.”

“You’re quite welcome, Sally.  I’m glad things have calmed down around here a little in the past year.  The reason for my meeting today is a little personal.”

Sally was a little cautious, “Personal?  What do you mean?”

“I want to talk about you.”

“Does Gary have a problem with me?”

“No, no, nothing like that.  In fact, Gary really loves the work you’ve done for Happy Heating over the years.  He now wants to make sure that you are getting what you need from your position here.”

“You didn’t tell Gary about the offer from Easy Heating & Cooling last year, did you?”

“No.  Gary wants to be confident that you are completely happy and challenged with your work with Happy Heating.”

“Honestly, since the changes we made last year, I feel much more at ease with my job.  I think my sales team also feels comfortable with our new sales strategy.  It’s much nicer to convince a client to buy based on quality instead of price.”

“I’m glad to hear that, Sally.  I’m going to give you a scenario and want your input.”

Russ continued, “If Happy Heating were to double its revenues over the next five years, what role would you like to play in that growth?”

Sally was not expecting that question.  She wasn’t sure why, but she always thought that reaching some comfortable level of revenue would be satisfying.  She had accomplished this level of comfort over this past year.  Ironically, while this past year was calmer than the previous two years, it was boring.  She honestly had not realized how bored she was until Russ asked this simple question.

After a pause, Sally answered, “I guess I’d like to be involved in planning and being a part of this growth.  That sounds rather exciting.  What plans does Gary have for growing Happy Heating?”

Russ smiled, “How would you feel, if Gary asked you to come up with these growth plans?”

Sally couldn’t control the smile that emerged on her face, “I would be excited about that.  Would this mean a promotion?”

“I am only asking questions at this point.  I have several discussions to have with others before I discuss what we’ve talked about with Gary.”

Sally’s demeanor had changed substantially since Russ gave her a volley of questions asking for her input to lead the growth of Happy Heating.   When Sally went home that evening she couldn’t stop pestering her family about how it looked like she would most likely play a larger role in growing Happy Heating in the future.

Russ’s next meeting was with Oliver.  Russ was shocked when he entered Oliver’s office.  The last time he met with Oliver in his office, it looked like a tornado went through the file cabinets.  This time, Oliver had a few neatly piled stacks of paper on the front of his desk, and the rest of his space was neat and tidy.  He even had the stain cleaned from the chair he usually sat in.  I’m sure he caught grief for his neat office from his technicians.

Russ started, “How’ve you bean, Oliver?”

“I’ve been great.”

Russ joked, “I noticed that your hands are clean.”

Oliver chuckled as he offered a handshake to Russ, “I guess so.”

Oliver started, “I’m not sure why you’re here this time, Russ.  I think we’ve got things under control.”

“Yes, you do, Oliver.  You have all made such great progress.  The reason I am here today is to talk about you.”

“I’m doing a good job, aren’t I?”

“Of course.  Gary is very happy with the way things are going with Happy Heating.  How happy are you with the way things are going with your service department?”

“I can’t complain.  I wish Alex came back, but the young technicians are coming along fine and we don’t have the crazy work load we had a year ago.”

“That’s great, Oliver.  Let me ask you, if Happy Heating were twice the size it is today, where do you see yourself in this larger company?”

When Russ said this, Oliver had memories of how bureaucratic his job was at ACME Comfort Systems.  He left ACME Comfort Systems and joined Gary with Happy Heating because it was smaller and seemed like a much better opportunity for him.  If Happy Heating were to grow too large, it would mean more paperwork and less interaction with customers and his technicians.

Oliver responded, “Honestly, Russ.  I don’t think I’d like working here if Happy Heating were larger.”

“Why is that, Oliver?”

“I just remember how I hated the bureaucracy of ACME Comfort Systems where Gary and I used to work.”

“Tell me a little more about that, Oliver.”

“Well, we had to fill out all of this paperwork every time we visited a client’s home to do any work.  It got to be so bad that we spent more time filling out paperwork than helping customers.”

“Wow!  Not sure how ACME Comfort Systems can get away with that kind of inefficiency.  What if you could lead the growth with Happy Heating so that it doesn’t become so bureaucratic as it grows bigger?”

Oliver thought about creating a different kind of large company, “You mean, I could tell Gary how we can grow differently than ACME?”

“I think that you would be fully in charge of determining how your technicians do their jobs and what additional products and services Happy Heating can offer to help customers.”

Oliver smiled, “Wow!  I guess I never thought of myself as a leader or coming up with new ideas.  I always thought of myself as a scheduler and a baby sitter for my technicians.”

“Oliver, you have done quite well at training new technicians and I believe you are ready to promote some of your technicians to supervisors while you take a stronger role in helping Gary lead Happy Heating.”

Oliver started to imagine all the things Happy Heating could do differently and what his department could look like, if they doubled in size.  In the past, he had always been focused on efficiency and cost reduction.  Now that he was thinking of growing, he felt good that he could drive growth instead of reducing costs.

This time around, Russ decided to visit with Penny.  Penny was supposedly in charge of human resources, but it seemed like she acted as a benefits administrator and bookkeeper.  Gary didn’t seem to trust Penny with critical thinking tasks, but felt like, if Happy Heating were to grow, Penny would need to take a more active role in leading the administrative group forward.

He met with Penny in the small conference room near the reception area behind closed doors. 

Russ started, “I’m glad you agreed to meet with me, Penny.”

“Sure.  Shouldn’t Gary be in this meeting with us like he was the last time we met?”

“Not this time, Penny.  I want to get to know you better and what aspirations you have with Happy Heating.”

“Aspirations?”

“Yes.  If Happy Heating were to double in size, how do you see your job changing?”

Penny smiled, “I’m not sure I understand.”

“Penny, you were put in charge of human resources, but it seems like you are more of a benefits administrator at Happy Heating. What more do you hope to accomplish with your role at Happy Heating?”

“I have a lot of ideas, but Gary seems to have his own way of doing things and so it makes more sense for me to stay out of his way and just do what he wants.”

“What if Gary was no longer able to make decisions on how Happy Heating is organized, or what pay structures to use for different positions, or manage promotions.  Who would do all of this?”

“Are you saying something is happening to Gary?”

Russ chuckled, “Heavens no!  I’m saying that if Happy Heating were to grow a lot, Gary would not have as much time as he has currently to manage all of the personnel decisions.”

Penny chuckled, “I think I could do all of that if Gary trusted me.”

“Once again, if Happy Heating were to double in size, how would you organize this kind of growth?”

Penny was noticeably taken off guard, “Russ, I haven’t really thought about it.  Do you mind if I think about your question over the next few days and get back to you?”

“That would be fine.”


 Russ decided he would visit Gary once again to get a complete picture of how Happy Heating could successfully transition into Level 4 – Compassion energy. 

There were two topics that he had avoided talking to Gary about in previous energy level discussions.  Growth was always a touchy topic when a company is trying to survive.  Most small business owners will not engage with a discussion on growth until they have conquered the fear of survival.  Legacy was a topic that most business owners never thought about until it was too late.  Legacy involved the exiting of your business and leaving behind something that would survive in the hands of those you sold your company to.

Gary was busy looking at his computer when Russ entered his office.  It was impossible for Russ to know what Gary was working on since Gary’s computer screen was turned away from him.

Gary held up a finger, “Just a second, Russ.  I need to finish this email.”

Gary continued typing for about a minute, and then pushed back from his desk, stood and greeted Russ with a hand shake.

After Gary and Russ sat down at the round table in Gary’s office, Gary asked, “So, how did your discussions go with my management team on ‘compassion’ energy?”

Russ smiled, “They went quite well, Gary.  Before I talk to you about my discussions with your staff, I want to cover a few bases with you first.  Is that okay?”

“Sure.”

“I want to first want to get a sense of how you want to grow Happy Heating in the next few years?”

Gary’s smile turned into a grimace, “I suppose we will hire more technicians as we get more clients.  We may possibly expand our warehouse space or rent warehouse space in town as we get more supplies.”

As Russ was silent, Gary asked, “Russ, why are you asking about my growth plans as we discuss this Compassion energy you talked about?”

Russ responded, “Great question, Gary.  Before I answer that question, I want you to fill me in on how you felt during your first five years in business.”

“What do you mean?”

“You clearly grew in your first five years to the HVAC Service Company that you have today.  Tell me about how that growth occurred and how you decided to hire the staff you have today.”

Gary’s eyes looked at the ceiling as he racked his brain to remember his first five years, “You know, Russ.  I never planned to grow a company at all.  I initially thought I could start my own HVAC service business and install enough furnaces and air conditioners to make a living.  Then when I got too busy to handle my customers, I hired Oliver to help me out.  When it was rather obvious that I couldn’t sell and do technical work, I hired Sally to help us with administrative tasks and actively sell new work to keep us busy. I hired Sally about a year and a half into starting Happy Heating.  That’s when things really took off in our second year.  Sally started selling more than Oliver and I could handle and we continued to add sales people and HVAC technicians.  I hired Penny when I was overwhelmed with all the paperwork that employees require.  We moved into our new office and warehouse in year four.  At that time, we were almost the same size as we are today.”

Russ asked, “What happened between year four and year five?”

“I’m not sure I follow you.”

“You called me at the end of your fifth year ready to close the doors.  Something must have changed to stop the growth you were experiencing.”

Gary’s gaze turned down as he recalled that ugly year, “I would rather not remember that year, Russ.  It was rather difficult.  As you found out when you interviewed my staff, we had all gotten rather complacent.  People were coming late to work, and everyone was making excuses as to why we would be losing money that year.  Since we had moved into a larger facility, we added a large monthly lease payment and money was tight.  But we’ve overcome that all now.”

“Gary, I’ve avoided talking about growth until now because it was important that you rebuild the confidence you once had in your company to turn a profit.  My guess is that many of your people became complacent in year five because they saw no real growth opportunity.”

“I suppose that could have been true.  But we know better now.”

“You knew better then, but your team still had their ugly year five.”

“So, how can we avoid that in our future?”

“People want to believe they are contributing to something bigger than themselves.  They want to have a purpose that is greater than simply showing up to work for someone else’s company.  That’s where the compassion energy I have been talking about comes into play.”

Gary looked confused, “I don’t think I follow you, Russ.  What does compassion have to do with growth?”

Russ asked, “Which activity do you think is better for the human spirit, to come to work and do the same thing they’ve always done, or to build and create something new and better?”

“When you put it that way, I guess most people want to create something newer and better.”

“Do you feel like it is compassionate to feed this human desire to create and build, or to trap folks in a dead-end job?”

“Oh, come on, Russ!  No one here feels like they are in a dead-end job.”

“Tell me, what growth opportunities exist in Happy Heating for Sally, for Oliver, or Penny?”

Gary was getting it.  As he listened to Russ make his points about growth, he realized that he had inadvertently created a dead-end situation for his employees.  It wasn’t just Oliver and Sally.  If Oliver and Sally couldn’t see growth, the employees that worked for them would be equally stifled in their desire to grow as well.  In retrospect, he had created the same dead-end environment in Happy Heating that he tried to flee at ACME Comfort Systems. 

After a pause, Gary responded, “Russ, I suppose I get what you’re saying.  But I can’t promote anyone until and unless Happy Heating gets more customers and more revenue to pay for such growth.”

“You are certainly right, Gary.  That’s why it is important to create a growth plan.  If you don’t plan for growth and try to make it happen, it won’t happen.”

“And, exactly, how do I create a growth plan?”

“I’m glad you asked.  You don’t do anything.  You rely on your staff to come up with your growth plan.”

Gary chuckled, “Russ, I don’t think Sally or Oliver can plan the growth of Happy Heating.  It’s always been up to me to tell my people what the plan is.  That’s leadership, right?”

“Wrong!  Leadership to your lowest level workers may be more instructional.  But when you’re trying to nurture leadership skills in others, you need to engage their minds in creating your company’s growth with you.”

Gary was silent as he was thinking about what Russ just said.

Russ continued, “Think about yourself.  How do you feel about yourself now compared to the time you worked as a technician for ACME Comfort Systems?”

“Wow!  I feel a lot better about where I am today than where I was then.”

“What if you managed to stick it out in ACME Comfort Systems for five more years and became a supervisor of HVAC technicians and that’s as far as you could have gotten?”

“That would have sucked.  I must be doing that same thing to Oliver and Sally.  Is that what they told you?”

“No.  In my discussions with Oliver and Sally, they were oblivious to anything beyond what they were doing now.  However, when I asked them how they could lead change in Happy Heating if it were to double revenue, I could see the excitement in their eyes.”

Gary was convinced.  He never understood how important growth was for his people.  He always thought that companies that grew were greedy wanting to earn more money than they could ever spend.  He now thought of growth differently.

Gary announced, “I’m in, Russ.  We need to grow, and I’ll ask my people to help me come up with a growth plan.”

Russ added, “One more thing.  I think Penny may be more capable that you think.  I talked with Penny about participating in helping you with your growth plans.  What do you think?”

Gary was a little unnerved that Russ had talked with Penny before talking with him, “I suppose that’s okay.  I’ll let Penny participate in our growth discussions to see how she does.”

Gary continued, “Earlier, you said that you wanted to talk to me about two items.  The first was obviously growth.  What’s the second topic?”

Russ smiled, “I’m glad you reminded me.  The next topic I want to cover is ‘legacy’.  Legacy is the eventual exit of your company by you and what type of legacy you want to leave behind.”

“Russ, I’m only 40-years old.  I’m not going to retire for quite some time.”

“Right you are, Gary.  However, legacy is not just for the voluntary exit of your company.”

“You mean you think I’m going to kick the bucket sometime soon?”

“You never know what will happen to you, Gary.  You may die, or get diagnosed with cancer, or become debilitated in some other way.  What would happen to Happy Heating if something happened to you?”

Gary had a life insurance policy, but it would be barely enough for his wife and kids to get by for a few years.

“Russ, couldn’t one of my employees continue with the business if I died?”

“The business would become the property of your wife… if she doesn’t die at the same time as you.  How would Sally or Oliver come up with any money to buy your business from your wife?”

“I see your point.  What can I do?”

“Many business owners in your position create what is called a buy/sell agreement.  If they die, an insurance company pays your wife a large sum of money for the business.  This payment is for the purchase of your company which then transitions to your management team.  You can split the company ownership a few different ways in your buy/sell agreement, but at least someone will own and be responsible for your company if you die or become severely incapacitated.”

“Wow.  I had no idea such a thing existed.  I agree that I need to get a buy/sell agreement in place to cover my folks.”

“Great, Gary.  Now you have officially engaged in the Compassion Energy we talked about at Level 4.  How does it feel?”

Gary smiled, “It feels great.  I feel much more connected to my staff.  Before our discussion I had always thought of my employees as receiving the benefit of my talent and skills, but I now realize that they will be a critical leadership component in growing Happy Heating to its next level.  I also feel better that I have covered my family and my employees if something were to happen to me.”

Gary took Russ’s advice to heart and engaged his employees in coming up with a growth plan.  Even Gary recognized the excitement that his staff was feeling about creating Happy Heating’s next phase of growth. 

After a few group meetings, his leadership team came up with some amazing ideas.  Gary was especially impressed with Penny.  In the past Gary thought that Penny was only capable of paper-shuffling.  It turns out that Penny knows a lot about organizational management. 

As part of Gary’s plan to take care of his employees and his family if something were to happen to him, he worked with an estate attorney to create a solid buy/sell agreement. with the appropriate insurance to pay for a succession plan that the team helped Gary write.

Happy Heating had just recorded a reasonably profitable year at $1.2M in revenue, and now Gary’s team had created an organization that could double profits, by making a few changes to the organization.

Penny would lead the administrative team and Happy Heating would hire its own blog series keeper that would report to her.  Oliver would promote two technicians to lead techs as they grew their technician group from 6 to 10 technicians.  Sally would promote Margaret to a full time Marketing representative responsible for generating leads that would be fed to her sales team.  Happy Heating would grow from 12 to 19 employees with their new $2.2M company.  All employees would get a 5% raise in this new, larger company.

While Gary liked the notion of growing, he was concerned they were getting ahead of themselves.  What if customers didn’t buy support their growth?  What if the economy tanked as they were increasing the cost of additional staff?  What if their current revenue and profit was the best they could do?

Gary asked these questions of himself and his staff.  Penny was adamant that she had ways to measure their growth and manage their costs accordingly so that they would not see a decline in profits.  That was one of the things Gary was looking forward to.  Penny was now officially responsible for financial forecasting and the staffing of Happy Heating.

While Gary felt relieved, he also felt unsettled with the ‘letting go’ of so much control that he insisted on having in the past.  As Russ kept telling Gary… it’s all part of transitioning from Level 3 to Level 4.  Level 4 is all about empowering and growing people.  Gary knew his job was supporting his folks… not doing their work.

After a few years of shifting to Level 4, Happy Heating had progressed along its growth path to increasing revenue and growing its organization.  They had made some of the simple changes right away.  Sally promoted Margaret to full time marketing leader, and Oliver had started training some of his more experienced technicians on leadership principles with Coach Russ’s help.  Penny had started to take a much more active role in phasing in their new organization. 

Everyone was so excited about their new roles and the growth with Happy Heating.  This energy was evident by Happy Heating’s customers.  For the first time in 9-years, employees at Happy Heating were HAPPY. 


COACH’s SUMMARY

Identifying Compassionate Energy

Compassionate energy is obvious to employees.  They feel cared for by their boss.  If you interview employees, they will quickly comment on how they love working for their boss.  They will volunteer stories on how their boss helped them in some way when that help didn’t relate to the success of the company.   

As a business leader, Level 4 will be most obvious when your employees will engage in the success of the company as much or more than you have.  This energy can take a few different paths: 1) pity, and 2) empowerment. 

A business leader who takes pity on his workers starts to diminish their worth. This often will happen if an employee is in victim mode while the manager is in compassion mode.  This type of relationship is damaging to both parties. 

Empowerment is the way that compassion energy can shine in a company.  This energy gives your employees strength, worth and control.  These ideals are requirements for any human spirit to thrive.

SHIFTING Compassion to Opportunity

In order to shift from Compassion to Opportunity, you must be clear about the advantages of doing so.  Otherwise, why leave this place of caring and love?

To shift a person from Level 4 – Compassion to Level 5 – Opportunity, you need to connect the reasons why Level 5 is good for you and your people.  A Level 4 person is all about people.  If the impending opportunity or innovation is not good for your people, you won’t do it.  Nor should you.  In business, this comes down to the opportunities that continued growth provides a company and its people.  Not only the employees in the company, but the customers who may be missing out on whatever innovation you have in mind.

In order for business owners to make this shift, they have to be convinced that their people are taken care of by managers they have put in place.  While their managers lead their people, they are freed up to think about vision and plan the next step of growth for their company.  While shifting from Level 3 to Level 4 is an exercise in getting outside of yourself, shifting from Level 4 to Level 5, is an exercise in going back into thinking mode to some extent.  Your thoughts at Level 5 are constructed around innovation for your company and your industry.

Staying AT Compassion

Level 4 can be a great place to be stuck.  You will feel loved and your employees will feel cared for at Level 4.  In fact, your company will probably be growing to the extent that you don’t lose the “family” feel that you’ve tried to nurture.  In order to keep from slipping back to Level 3, you need to ensure that you maintain the empowerment culture that got you to this place.  Why?  Because when you go back into thinking mode to create your new opportunity vision, you may neglect your people that got you to Level 4.

Why Level Up?

A problem with being stuck at Level 4, is that outsiders may find it difficult to break into your “family”.  When you hire new employees, they may feel rejected or they may not feel like they fit in.  This culture will limit your ability to grow your company beyond your close family.  Your family can also create some dysfunction to care for weak members, you may develop a pity atmosphere instead of an empowering atmosphere.

By moving to Level 5, you start to embrace mutually beneficial relationships with employees, customers and vendors that have healthy boundaries and promote a high level of business growth.

Next Blog Post - Gary Energizes Happy Heating - Level 5 "Win-Win"

Core Energy Coaching™ and all core energy concepts described in this post are registered trademark belonging to Bruce Schneider and the Institute for Professional Excellence in Coaching (iPEC)

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