If the truth does set you free, Ellen Rohr is flying.
Rohr is all about what she calls “open book management,” which means telling your team the truth—even when it comes to financials. Telling your team the truth will result in employee engagement and other positives that grow the business.
“Your team can fix everything if you invite them to the game and you create a true conversation,” Rohr said on a webinar that was part of the ServiceTitan Growth Series. Registration is still open, and signing up provides access to the whole series.
“How Transparent Goals Can Unite Your Team” was the fourth in the eight-part masterclass for the trades. Rohr spoke from the experience of struggling with, then growing a family business, in part thanks to the mentorship and guidance of Frank Blau.
She now is COO of Zoom Drain Franchising, she runs Bare Bones Biz, a consulting firm that helps turn ideas into successful ventures, and is president of Benjamin Franklin, the Punctual Plumber, which she helped grow to $40 million in sales and 47 locations.
The entire effort with open book management is about sharing what is real, with the goal and end result to benefit everyone. The idea she tries to teach: Avoid the mistakes she made.
“It was absolutely horrible,” she said of the initial time after she joined her husband’s business when his partner died. “To this day, we still have scars in our relationship as a result of running out of money and taking it out on each other. This is where in a moment of desperation, I reached out to Frank Blau.
“Within the ServiceTitan community, Frank Blau is a revered name. I am one of his eagles.
“I am one of the people that he reached out and helped because I wrote him a letter. He called me up. He told me what a knucklehead I was, and he was right. He taught me how to combine and read and use financial reports to make better, faster, more profitable decisions.
“Now, does that sound sexy? Well, it is. Because I am all about making money.”
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Rohr used intriguing metaphors in explaining herself. She said she was able to get off the hamster wheel, to stop running and getting nowhere. That helped her, she said, “figure out my asset from my elbow.”
“When you start to confront the numbers, it becomes crystal clear,” she said.
So she went to her husband, who shall be called Hot Rod because that’s what Rohr calls him, and she was blunt: We have to raise prices.
“Once I had the data, I could say, ‘This is why we’re not making any money,’” she said. “The emotion came down and the decisions were clear.”
That led her to open-book management and Jack Stack’s Great Game of Business, which includes a reason to believe and explaining your why. Like any sport, this game needs rules. Then it involves telling the truth.
“You know what telling the truth does? It builds trust,” Rohr said. “The only way to get to trust is to tell the truth. The truth as I know it was this ever increasingly accurate set of financials that I continued to share with my team.
“If I made a mistake, I fixed it, and I showed them that I fixed it. If I didn't know where to put something, I shared with them what my thought process was. Even if in the case of a couple of the guys, they didn't really care or understand it, the fact that I was sharing the truth was helpful in building a trustworthy relationship.”
She calls it “business uncomplicated, life unleashed.” The responsibility of the owner, she said, is to engage with the team so they can see how their actions and approach impact the numbers.
“That's all part of a game that could ultimately lead to more money in your pocket and theirs, and more opportunity for you and for them as you grow your company,” she said.
Sharing the score involves and energizes everyone. Their efforts are noticed, their work recognized. It challenges the team, and the owner, to be honest and upfront about what is working and what isn’t.
“It's not just so that I can make more money and grow the company,” she said. “It's so that while you're riding along with me, you can also make your dreams and goals come true.”
Rohr speaks with each team member about his or her goals, remembering that the quality of time matters more than the quantity. She tries to “demystify” the bookkeeping so everyone understands how their efforts impact the bottom line. To connect the dots between what they do and what they see on the financial scorecard.
She created the “financial quick check,” a one-page summary of the most important financial measures of a business. That one-page summary reduces fear and complexity and shows what is working and is not.
A sports analogy applies.
“If you are a professional golfer or even if you're an amateur golfer who wants to get better, if you're out on the links all by yourself at 7 p.m. on a spring evening, you're going to have that little pencil and the piece of paper, and you're going to keep score as you play,” she said.
“You're going to make note of, ‘That felt great. That swing felt great.’
“What did you do and how did you backswing and follow? What were you doing to create that? You start to relive how that behavior impacted the score.
“Pros keep score, and so we want to round out any resistance to posting information.”
Sharing the score –
Strategies for getting your team’s buy-in for growth
How to implement open-book management
Deciding which data points to share with your team
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