“Being a female in the home-services industry can be equal parts fun and amazing combined with terrifying and difficult”
— Lauren Vahey
The way Lauren Vahey sees it, her job responsibilities include anything and everything that could possibly contribute to the growth of the company. The Director of Customer Experience of 48-employee Nicholson Plumbing Heating & Air in Boston has been wearing a collection of hats there for four years. In a ServiceTitan podcast, she talks about work/life balance, empowering employees, and the role of Lady Titans in the industry.
Here are Lauren Vahey’s top tips for managing a residential trade company:
Key TakeawaysEstablish work/life balance.Reinforce your team by referrals.Apprentices matter. People are hard-wired for success. Empower good employees. Overcome “imposter syndrome.” Customize with ServiceTitan.Women in the trades can flourish. Discover the Lady Titans. Recommended research and reading
Establish work/life balance.
Vahey won’t say her work isn’t stressful—it can be. But even on the bad days, she still loves her job.
“I’ve found that work-life balance really has more to do with the culture that you work in and help foster than just straight hours that you're working,” she says. “Even though I may be actually working more hours than I did in other positions, I'm so much more fulfilled because of who I work for, who I work with, and who works for me.”
Reinforce your team by referrals.
It’s a compliment and helps business when a company gets a positive online review. Those reviews, as well as glowing referrals from your own work team, Vahey says, can also help you keep stocking up on the best talent in town.
“Employees tell family and friends how much they love their job,” she says. “I can’t think of a better compliment than wanting to open our doors to the people in their lives they love and care about. The second employees stop saying, ‘I know somebody’ or ‘you should talk to this person,’ that's when I'll think we're doing something wrong.”
Vahey proudly notes that of the company's 17 technicians, more started at the company as apprentices than were hired directly as techs. And at the moment, Nicholson has 11 apprentices.
“It’s a proud-mama feeling when you graduate someone from an apprentice and put them in a truck and release them into the world,” she says. “We bring on people with good attitude, work ethic and who are positive, team players. After that, people can learn how to use tools.”
People are hard-wired for success.
Vahey has found that people are either wired with a positive attitude and a sense of teamwork, or they are not. The same theory goes for leadership skills.
“That’s why we focus on hiring a human instead of a skill set,” she says. “We can teach a skill set.” Rewiring people with negative attitudes, however, is a much more difficult task.
Empower good employees.
When she was initially hired as the company’s liaison to field customer complaints, Vahey was given clear guidelines as to what she could say or offer to the public to appease them.
“Clarity is the name of the game for any position in which you want to find unlimited success,” she says. “As long as people know what is inside their boundaries, they’ll feel empowered to do everything possible to make something right.”
Overcome “imposter syndrome.”
Imposter syndrome refers to the feeling that you don’t belong in a job or a fear that people will discover you don’t know what you’re talking about. It’s not uncommon, Vahey notes, and there are ways to get past it.
“Instead of preventing a meltdown, let yourself melt down every once in a while,” she says. “Surround yourself with people who will help you chill, and give you a break. That’ll give you a chance to get out of your head and pick yourself back up. You’ll answer the next email or phone call and the rest will fall into place.”
Customize with ServiceTitan.
“We're lucky that we have ServiceTitan, which is such a dynamic software, and it allows us to run our business the way we always have, only better,” Vahey says. “I joke that we're all running the same business, but we're all running completely different businesses.”
There are, for instance, a million ways to do service plans, maintenance visits, and everything.
“We're all doing the same thing, but we're all doing it so differently,” she says. “So, to be able to have a software that's so customizable and the more work you put into it, truly the more you get out of it, couldn't be more accurate.”
Women in the trades can flourish.
Being a female in the home-services industry can be equal parts fun and amazing combined with terrifying and difficult, Vahey says.
“I’m lucky that the owner of my company and the management team values my opinion, gives me space to have ideas and doesn’t shush me.”
She admits the industry is far from perfect, though.
“In my leadership role, I deal with vendors and supply houses,” she says. “There have been times I asked a question and I felt like the answer was, ‘How dumb can you be?’ or, ‘You wouldn’t get it. You’re just a girl in an office.’”
Discover the LadyTitans.
LadyTitans is a fast-growing women’s group within the industry founded by Lauren Vahey and a number of other exceptional women in the trades, including Stacy Fore and Jessica Smith.
“It’s happening so fast and gotten so big, and we’re putting together an official mission for Lady Titans,” Vahey says. “The goal is to help women find their voice, feel like they have connections to the work they do, to employers, and to other people in the industry. It’s a community. It’s about access. It’s about finding allies and creating career growth.”
Recommended research and reading
Dare to Lead and The Gifts of Imperfection by Brené Brown