“Always remain mentally flexible, and adapt.”
— Maegan Giler
Maegan Giler and her husband, Jimmy, have grown Charlotte, NC-based Viva Electric from a three- to 23-truck operation in just four years. It’s a family business. Maegan’s dad is a Viva construction manager, and all her employees are considered extended family.
In “Toolbox for the Trades,” she discusses the “shared services” work model, how to make a business pivot, and the need for mental flexibility.
Here are Maegan Giler’s top tips for managing a home-service business:
Key TakeawaysThriving with the “shared services” work model.You can be successful working remotely. Learning to make a business pivot.Mentorship is invaluable. Creating a family in the work environment. Promote from within. How to train market leaders. Have the ability to be mentally flexible. Welcoming women to the trades. Blue-collar workers are not lesser to white collars.
Thriving with the “shared services” work model.
Viva Electric has a partnership with the Griffin Brothers Companies, which assists with marketing, a call center, human resources and accounting.
“With this shared-services model, they take away the headaches from Jimmy and myself,” Giler says. “They allow us to focus on one thing, and for the most part that’s just growing our company.”
You can be successful working remotely.
Giler points out that the marketing, HR, accounting and the call center are not in the same physical location.
“They’re a 20- to 30-minute drive away from Charlotte,” she says. “But we still have a relationship with them and we can go visit them.”
She says the setup proves that working remotely can lead to success.
Learning to make a business pivot.
When the company first got off the ground, Giler says, Viva was primarily doing construction-related work. Now, that’s flipped and 95 percent of the business is service and small commercial.
“While we were changing, it was very disorganized and very helter-skelter,” she says. “We had to shift our specialty and our knowledge. It was apples and oranges.”
Giler says getting online with ServiceTitan was a huge help. “It’s a software that literally touches every facet of our business,” she says.
Mentorship is invaluable.
Giler’s mentor Joe Brenkus is part of Griffin Brothers.
“Every time I talk with Joe, or bounce ideas off him, I feel like he teaches me something new,” she says. “I feel like I learn from his example. I see how he acts as a leader and I try to re-create that through myself.
“Specifically, I’m learning to be stoic, stop, and think before I open my mouth. I ask myself, ‘What would Joe do?’”
Creating a family in the work environment.
Employees are part of a work family, Giler says.
“They have successes, they have wins—I want to celebrate them,” she says. “I want to know about them. I want to know about their kids and their wives and their families and their fishing trips.
“And same thing goes with their failures. I'm not going to kick them out of the house. Same thing with our technicians. If they make a mistake, we need to work with you as a human being, as part of the family. And not just kick you off the team.”
Promote from within.
Viva Electric implements a “market lead” program, in which talented employees are promoted to essentially run their own branch of the company.
“We look for young individuals who are humble, hungry and sharp,” Giler says. “We train them up on our processes and our vision. When they show they’re ready, we place them in a role as a market leader in a market.”
How to train market leaders.
Employees designated to become market leaders go through a training process, Giler says.
“They do ride-alongs with technicians,” she says. “We teach them the ins and outs of ServiceTitan—where to go for reports and any kind of processes we have in-house.
“It’s not a technical training—it’s all processes and replicating what we do in the Charlotte market.”
Have the ability to be mentally flexible.
The single most important advice Giler would give to others in the industry is to be flexible when presented with new challenges.
“Based on my experience at Viva and on shared services, whether it's a new market, a new business venture, whatever the case may be, just always remain mentally flexible and adapt,” she says. “You always have to adapt no matter what life throws at you and just keep putting one foot in front of the other.”
Welcoming women to the trades.
There have been hurdles for her, but Giler loves being in the trades and believes there’s room for more females in the field. In terms of recruiting women, she says bosses should let prospective employees know it’s a woman-friendly workplace.
“Let them know there’s a great culture at your workplace,” she says. “It sounds corny, but let them know they would be loved and cared for.”
Blue-collar workers are not lesser to white collars.
There's a preconceived notion out there that tradesmen are a little rough around the edges and maybe they aren't quite as intelligent as white-collar workers, Giler says.
“But I know from firsthand experience that’s not the case,” she says. “Our guys go home and they love their wives and their kids and their mothers and their families just as much as any other doctor or banker or anything else out there.
“And they work equally as hard. Their knowledge level is up there just as any other white-collared individual. It's just apples and oranges.”