Managing an HVAC, plumbing, or electrical business at any time of year can be tricky, but particularly during the most active times of the year. Below, we offer interviews with two HomeServe USA contractors who describe how they manage things when life – and business – become busy.
Interview with Mike DiPalma from Powerflo Service Plumbing and Gaetano Tabbanella from GT Plumbing & Heating.
HSUSA Question: What do you define as busy times? Are the holidays considered a busy time?
MD: We always expect any time of the year to be busy. That’s how we become prepared for it. If we assume that only one time of the year is busy, we might not be ready for it. A cold spurt could happen at any time in the winter. Then, as it applies to the summer times and warmer months, if we get rains and storms, then we get very busy. That weather can be unpredictable.
GT: Busy times of year are mostly when the cold weather hits. Normally, that’s right around the holidays. What you find is [that] everybody’s home and they’re starting to do whatever it is in their house. Then they find things that are problems. The biggest issue is the heat and the frozen pipes.
HSUSA Question: What types of incidents do you find during the holidays that you don’t see the rest of the year?
MD: This Thanksgiving we had a customer call us in a panic in the morning. They were preparing their frozen turkey. When they were putting it into the sink, the sink fell into the counter. We had to run over and fix that! We get some pretty strange service calls during the holidays. One year, it was the Fourth of July. Parents called us up; they were really mad because their son tried to flush a firework. The firework got stuck and clogged the toilet. Very weird service calls happen during the holidays that can be very unpredictable. We have to be prepared for the unpredictable.
GT: You get no heat and frozen pipes!
HSUSA Question: Do you manage a team? And, if so, what are your favorite management tips?
MD: Yes. Rather than focus on, “How am I going to get the guys out to do as much as possible?” I’m upfront with them. From the start I say, “We’ve got X amount of jobs pending, but we’re going to get through it. And if you get stalled on a job, don’t feel the pressure.” I try and relieve the pressure. And ironically, that works better. Someway, somehow, at the end of the day we get through everything.
GT: Yes. And communication, communication, communication.
HSUSA Question: How do you keep your cool during the busy holiday season – balancing your business and life?
MD: I don’t! I guess it’s a tough thing to do, honestly. Sometimes it’s just believing the advice that I just gave to my team [to relieve the pressure]. If it’s believable I have to take my own advice. The guys are going to do what they have to do, the team in the office is going to do what they’re supposed to do, and it always works out. My snap reaction is to get anxious, but when I step back and take my own advice it works.
GT: I just take a deep breath and make it work. Some people understand more than others on priorities, and I try to let them know as a normal human being. I level with them: “You have an issue with your small pipe, but I’ve got three people without heat right now. I really need to take care of them, but I won’t forget you.” Ninety percent of people understand. And they take humanity over insanity. I take a human route and not a business route when it gets overwhelming. And of course, we work 18 hours a day, seven days a week, so, we’ll get to you.
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