Al Levi’s New York City-based family businesses were successful—but he looked into the future and saw himself as a rich man who’d die young because of work-related stress. He convinced his father and brothers to systematically and strategically expand into other trades that today is a fourth-generation shop called OSI Comfort Specialists.
A recent guest on ServiceTitan’s “Toolbox for the Trades” podcast, Levi, now an international consultant, is a process, systems and operating manual specialist. His book, The 7-Power Contractor: Run Your Contracting Business With Less Stress and More Success, is a guide dozens of companies have used to turn their own systems around.
Here are Al Levi’s top tips for managing a trade business:
Key TakeawaysMaster the 7-Powers During COVID, the power of technology has saved business.Don’t lose the war by trying to win every battle. Look closely at the ways your company can grow. Short, frequent and focused meetings are the most efficient. Don’t be a knowledge pig. The best talkers are not necessarily the best salespeople. Self-improvement equals success.Recommended research and reading
Master the 7-Powers
There are seven powers you have to master to be successful in business: planning, operations, staffing, sales, sales coaching, marketing, and financials.
“When I was struggling, I figured there must be seven million things I have to get right,” Levi says. “I figured if it wasn't seven million things, I would already be successful, and life wouldn't be this stressful. No. These are the seven things you have to master, and you'll spend the rest of your life getting good at them.”
During COVID, the power of technology has saved business.
“Imagine if a pandemic had hit 10 or 20 years ago, and you didn’t have a tool in your toolbox like ServiceTitan,” Levi says. The technology lets people answer company phones at home. Dispatch from home. Get text messages out on the road. Do contact-less work.
Levi says the pandemic actually presents an opportunity to up your game and become proficient with all available technology.
Don’t lose the war by trying to win every battle.
“Learn how to lose a few battles and win the war,” he says. For example: You have a desire to leave the office and do calls yourself. But you need to stay in the office to pay attention to the dispatch board. Doing the latter helps you fix 200 calls rather than the 10 you could have done yourself.
Look closely at the ways your company can grow.
The problems you think exist aren’t always what they appear to be, Levi says. “Say you are a multiple-trade shop and you send somebody far away for a plumbing call,” he says. Then there’s a heating call in that far-away neighborhood, and you have to send a heating guy out there.
“Some people think that’s a dispatch problem,” he says. “But think about it: What if that one guy was cross-trained to cover the whole area?”
Short, frequent and focused meetings are the most efficient.
It’s a mistake not to hold meetings, Levi says. And it’s a waste of time to hold “doughnut” meetings that drag on and are unfocused.
“Have a short agenda and stay on that agenda,” he says. “Take notes and do a recap—to make sure everyone winds up hearing the same things.”
Don’t be a knowledge pig.
Owners tend to hoard knowledge—for a variety of reasons. It’s a mistake to not empower employees with knowledge. “It eliminates initiative,” Levi says. It also robs employees of opportunities to find new, faster, more efficient ways to do things.
The best talkers are not necessarily the best salespeople.
“The best salespeople in this country, for decades, have always been people that see themselves as a servant,” Levi says. “They ask great questions and then shut up and prove to the other person that they are listening.”
Self-improvement equals success.
Levi believes there’s one simple distinction every contractor can make to run a successful business: “Learn how to work on the business, not just in it.”
Recommended research and reading
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