“You have to imagine the house being built before you start building it.”
— Mario Martinez
A third-generation plumber, Mario Martinez held his first job as a service tech for six months. Then it rapidly progressed up the ladder to field supervisor, service manager, ops manager, and general manager. Now he’s COO at Ben Franklin Plumbing and Scott’s One-Hour Air in Tampa. On “Toolbox for the Trades,” Martinez talks about using discipline to achieve goals, incentivizing managers, and building a company with an in-house apprentice program.
Here are Mario Martinez’s top pieces of advice for managing and incentivizing a home services team:
Key TakeawaysHave a vision for your success.Set profit-margin goals for managers.Yes, incentives for managers are unique, but effective.People are your most valuable resource. Building your own apprentice program returns value. Training is a motivator for continued learning. Employees should respect the manager, not the title.Be willing to change, or be ready to fail. Recommended research and reading
Have a vision for your success.
You need discipline and you need to have a goal to be successful in any line of work, Martinez says. “Whatever it is that you want to do, you have to have a vision,” he says. “You have to build the house before it’s done. That means you have to imagine the house being built before you start building it. Then you come back and work hard for it. I always envision myself in a position of growth, as well as the people around me.”
Set profit-margin goals for managers.
Martinez says everyone on his team, including managers, are invested in every job they do. That means, managers can earn additional income depending on company goals, and not just by the whole company margins, but by every job. “On every job, if we don’t help the customers and walk out of there with nothing, managers are losing on their own investments,” Martinez says. “Every job that we go to, we do whatever it takes to help a customer and at the same time, they get rewarded for it.”
Yes, incentives for managers are unique, but effective.
Martinez admits he doesn’t see many other companies that incentivize managers based on individual jobs. He’s been doing it for about a year. “I needed a different way to have my managers invested in every single job,” he says. “It’s really helped with margins, like with materials being used. The managers now make sure everything that wasn’t used on a job is returned as a credit and returned back to the vendor. Details like this really help the bottom line.”
People are your most valuable resource.
Getting through COVID taught Martinez valuable lessons. “People are so valuable,” he says. “It’s hard to find them now—good employees and good technicians. In the trades, they’re like dinosaurs. So, we learned that if they’re not going to come knock on our door, we’d better build a process to create technicians. COVID made it tough, but we created the apprentice program. We decided to hire anybody with a great attitude who was willing to learn the trade.”
Building your own apprentice program returns value.
Martinez helped build the apprentice program from the ground up. “We hired people willing to invest in a career—so we paid the apprentices very well,” he says. We’re investing in them. We teach technicians in the field to train the apprentices. Those techs teach by our protocols, and they report back to us on progress.” The team also does class once a week—so that everybody is on the same page with policies, procedures and how they do business. Adds Martinez: “The techs who teach the apprentices are also compensated for helping us grow this new dream generation.”
Training is a motivator for continued learning.
Educating employees about processes, workflows and paths are critical in Martinez’s team-building plan. “Training, then follow through,” he says. “Most of the time we judge our employees because they lack on this, or they didn’t do this, or they didn’t do that. Instead, we should be asking, ‘How can I help you with the challenges that you have?’ That makes a big difference on employee retention. They should know that no matter what, they can come to my office and I will help them go through any challenge.”
Employees should respect the manager, not the title.
“Most of the time,” Martinez says, “employees and teams respect their manager just because of the position they hold—and I never liked that. I don’t want employees to respect me just because of the title. I want them to respect me because of who I am and what we are able to achieve together. It’s a team effort. And you have to give people credit. And again, that’s got nothing to do with the title.”
Be willing to change, or be ready to fail.
The number-one thing every contractor must do to run a successful business is be willing to change, Martinez says. “You can’t get stuck in your own ways,” he says. “Be willing to change. And when I’m talking about change, I’m talking about technology. A lot of contractors in the trades, they stay stuck with what worked for them 20 years ago—and they think it still works today and that’s why they don’t grow. They’ve got to be willing to change. If they're willing to change and try new things and take risks, they’ll most definitely grow.”