Run Your Contracting Business with Less Stress More Success He created the systems in his family business that allowed him to sell his shares of the family business at the young age of 50 to pursue a consulting career to other business owners create less stress and more success
Out of that process, he wrote a book called Run your Contracting Business with Less Stress and More Success, the 7- Power Contractor.
Al Levi he is a former heating air conditioning and electrical guy had his own business and at work for 25 years and his family business created systems and now actually had put his stuff in place to enable him to sell his share of his business to his brothers and retire before the age of 50. And of course, in return I thought is giving up some things that he doesn’t want to do to. So now Al has written a book and he does consulting and helps other companies become successful through the systems in the manuals that he created for his company that gave him so early retirement.
This is Dave Negri with Contractor Secret Weapon and today is another fine day in Florida. Sorry Sinos. How many of you guys are up in the winter and snow? Today, I have Al Levi with me and I’m excited to talk to him because he is a former heating air conditioning and electrical guy had his own business and at work for 25 years and his family business created systems and now actually had put his stuff in place to enable him to sell his share of his business to his brothers and retire before the age of 50. And of course, in return I thought is giving up some things that she doesn’t want to do to do some things that she does want to do. So now Al has written a book and he does consulting and helps other companies become successful through the systems in the manuals that he created for his company that gave him so so early retirement. He’s probably working harder now, aren’t you?
Let me do it all right. I’m not working. Right. Contract as well. Appreciate that you know the life that I lived then before I was lucky. I was third generation in our company started 1936 and we also did plumbing by the way.
Okay. So, it was 24/7 365 and I don’t need to we just ran ahead. We literally have our shift on to cover those hours. There were real people there wasn’t somebody up and come out. You know it was non-stop and it really was you know. Good news is I was making a lot of money. The bad news it was killing me. So, I had to change the thing and that was what this is all about. You know I created with help from other reasons seven power concepts which is the second things to run a company.
My dad did raise myself and my brother was the time we were young teenagers. To be in business meetings. So, we got a big education from him and the nature of it is that we also were surreal entrepreneurs. Beyond that we had a cable, liquor stores. We had an ice cream shop. We had to multi state real estate, the main golden goose was always the contracting business and that was really about the seven thing which was Planning, Operations, Staffing, Sales, Sales Coaching, Marketing, Finance. All those are the seven things because Dave, contractors it feels like there’s a million things.
We have to handle, a million of things we have to do. And I know what that chaos is about, but it really boils down to seven things I just rattled off and what I changed to be able to make those things systematic the fact that I had all these people that were now in power to help to me to themselves and most importantly to our customers and even better way than we have been
That’s really what was the secret. And so, I decided because I hope you appreciate the story as well as most contractors. We are able to do it in seven hours you know because they do seven hours in working hours trying to tell everybody this is how long would you say a good employer will give you notice that are leaving two weeks maybe a week. I said you know in my case sometimes my employees would just leave the keys on the desk and I’d have to go and find it you know. In all the places.
It’s how to get my brothers and my dad three years notice that I’d be leaving. Three years, that was, let it wash over you for a second. So, you would know what kind of fleener I am. Because that was not believable right.
I really just wrote all the system that we put in place. Letting out all the ability to create people who are willing with no skills and the people that are willing with skills and that all positions, I don’t mean tech position. But inside the office and all the other kinds of things right. The backbone of that is the operations manuals.
That’s a one of a kind thing that I spent one year of my life. I didn’t take all three years while I was doing all my other jobs. I sat with everybody when he walked out without warning calls and stuff I would make notes to create an outline.
Of all the things it took all the tests that our company had grown to give and to create that. That backbone I hired a writer. Initially, I gave Dan Callahan to help me run meetings.
And we spent you know about a hundred thousand dollars in 1996 money. Now got hundreds of hours putting these manuals in.
So, their policies and procedures were plain English. We got fired from the store from our staff from all these meetings and we were union shocked by the way, so, if everybody is listening you would say well that’s fine it won’t work either. My answer is I was a New York shop at a union shop and trust me. I’ve been all over this country for the last 15 years doing one on one consulting with people. Now I’m switching that up to where I’m going to be running these program workshop where people can pick a manual with me and show them how to do the same thing at their own company
So that’s really the essence of what it means that I, I’ve been doing. But there’s a lot more to it. And I want to be careful about how much I live in here because I know you’re in the lead but I’ve got some exciting things to share about how you can really transform your company to make it in a place that’s attractive to come to work and that you surround yourself with people that you want to be with. It’s a world of difference.
It’s what you were talking about creating your system before putting books together and working in a union shop of course you know the 90’s and so on and I’m thinking about what about today. You know I hear so many stories of people trying to attract the new generation the millennials. And getting to go to work for their contracting company.
And there are just some are just having a horrendous time and when you get to that I can assure I also have a franchise.
I talked to my partners. He’s actually a client I’ve been to back in 2005. You haven’t been to tell us story. Absolutely. OK so in 2005. I’m going to my plumbing meeting and cooling. I got some frame worker or at least I thought I I’d had done framework, you know plunger, you know big kind of steak and the rest of it is like oh, and I have to tell you and finally this is not telling a story I can’t get notice from.
So, I get a call from these guys in Philly. Two young brothers. They’re in their 30’s and, all they do is just framework and they’re telling me that and they do you know whatever specialized framework and I’m thinking ‘yeah right’. So, it’s all the job that there is you might be snap in picking up in plumbing, heating and air conditioning and electrical.
And so, I get down there and walk around and dirty and you know what I mean disorganized. Pretty much what I expected. But then I sit down and give adjacent to create magics for. And I get an education.
I had no idea your client’s framework and the way they do it with water Dave, camera and stuff. Was just incredible to me. Wow. That’s the joy of this whole thing. And so, the funny part of this is he was a missionary, say’s to me because you know how this is this is only like two months into the process they get the picture. He says to me I would love to license the franchises and look at this in a snarky New York attitude and go “franchise this?”
How about if we just get the guys dressed to go to meetings clean up the trucks. Obviously, here’s the big story here. Two to three years we had got everything. We had got to the point where we let training centers and built new pipes, and meetings guys dressed in this profession and working in white shirts all day long and doing all these things and so I’m not a contractor.
So, a lot of I said you know were all good and then I go off with my good friend. Ellen Moore is the model of Ben Franklin plumbing. And so, she finishes over there.
She and I had worked together for many years. She says to me “Al, do you know any clients that might be interested with franchising?”
And I said “Sure do Olives. I thought you worked with them. Zoomed trained. Not really. So, I called up Jim and I go “Jim, remember you said you have that desire to own the franchise, you still interested? And there’s a pause and Jim say “I’ve been waiting by the phone all this time for you to call.”
The rest as they say is history. Get a franchise down in Orlando and up in New England and down the Long Island. Me old stomping grounds. That’s really great, but you know what’s so great about them. They are living breathing the manual staffing systems that are put in place.
All of the other things the weekly meetings working on the top five everything that I’ve create is living breathing.
That brings me back to this because that will have nothing but young guys like the breed young people who want to build a career or not have a job who’s not kids and motivated young kids. They’re not motivated because we as leaders have failed. We are not heeding a vision of where they can go in this company. And they want more.
And it’s not who everybody thinks this is new. So, I’ll take you back if you will when I arrive at my job and like I told my dad well why don’t you guys can do this, and why aren’t they do this and my dad says sorry you weren’t born 30 years your younger, 30 years earlier because maybe you could have done that. But nobody is doing anything around here unless they know what happens to them in a good way. What happens in a bad way. Yeah. That was an education I’ve got early on. So, here’s the rest of that story.
The guys from the Vietnam era were just ahead of me when I arrived. Phil Atami was one of them and he’s talking to me because we’re training new candidates back in the 90s. And he’s telling me these kids have no work ethics. They just want to play around.
They’re not that interested in this. And I said, Tommy it’s funny because the old guys used to say the same thing about you and the rest of us. As for the essence of this is Zoom is one example of all the companies that I work with today that take good young millennials and show them there’s a career path.
And if you don’t have a great organization chart that shows where am I today and where can I go tomorrow? You’re not going to sign the equal your shoes to your door. But your heart and soul are not there. Alright. What you must have is heart and soul.
So that’s another way. And from what I’m hearing you say is what you’re doing is you’re creating a team that’s buying in to the whole company and the future of the company it’s not a job.
And for themselves, that this is where I want to be. Right. My dad had a great line. Employees boat with their feet. Every day they decide that you can be here or be elsewhere.
That’s a great way to see it. Wow, that is really awesome. So, this is just amazing.
And a lot of it had to come with you creating the manuals from the business that you’re in with your dad and creating that whole process and how wow this is just how long does it take like for you to walk into company NSA and a decent size company.
I don’t know 10 ,12 employees and I’m sure most of the time when you walk into something like that they’re pretty much flying by the seat of their pants and its chaos. How long does it take to create for them to help them correct that system to get it up and viable in place? You’re going to tweak it on a regular basis.
Well there are two types of companies that I’ve worked with over the 15 years doing this job now, and they’re one of two flavors. One is that they are fast growers and it’s nothing but chaos. Every moment of the day. So, they got this great house built on a really bad foundation or no foundation at all. Right. And my job was to come in Dave, and put a foundation under that company so that control can come back in and stop chaos. Every moment you go there’s a plan of we work plan. So, first thing I with planning power which is teaching them how to get a master project list the top 30 and work on the top five which make all the difference.
One of the top five is always the operations manager which are my managers and they’re pretty much 90-95 percent of the way that they need to have them. Because they make adjustments to better fit their company.
And I work with blue frame and photographers and believe or not it’s still pretty much the same. Yeah pretty much. Pretty much the same. Yeah getting reform just back to the rest of it and so I fix those areas right around the start. Then we move want to staffing it. That’s what needs to be done which is, I teach them how to leverage the manuals and have one of a kind building blocks for training people all the way up apprentice, taxicab field supervisor and all.
And so, it’s also hands on training center. I built hands on training centers for ever and now I’ve been all over the place building training centers everywhere we go it’s not the training center alone about what we’re talking about hands on where you can create the problems that people will encounter in the field of your employees as far as setting faucet showers.
If it’s it’s heating, it’s warm their or colder, whatever. It’s working breathing and you can simulate all the problems. So by the time they get in the field, attack can do the three most important things she’s talked to customers, communicate and today that being said, was it the customer’s best interest?
in what I call ethical self. No one will ever hear that I want you to sell anybody anything that’s not in your best interest. Right. But you are here to serve them. You are the one that’s the expert and it’s your job to take the blinders off and look around. Not just think fix the handle of the toilet have along the toilet that you know is 30 years old and we are back from our fix in a flap or not. You know you don’t change air filter out when you know you really need to change the unit out. Those are the things that you know we train right from the beginning because ultimately that serves people best.
You know the fact the matter most couples these they’ve told got to go to work and you have good high paying job. Nobody wants to take home more time to go hang out with your plumbing heating pool electric guy. So you’ve got to fix it right the first time. And a lot of times that means selling the right things and doing the right repairs. So sales operation technical are the skills that you must train.
That’s a where good sale system which is another thing that really helps to ratchet it off. But at the backbone of it all it’s really the manuals. The operations man buying policy procedures and that’s the way I’m doing it today is still your operating manual.
First of all, that’s where people will be doing, kind of what I used to do when I came to their shop. So the answer to your question is; the fastest anybody run with all of my programs today and not everybody goes all through the programs. Then what.
I’ve had so many do it in 18 months and they’ve gone from 9 million to 33 million in sales that just because of me because they were great guys. They just need to get the foundation right. I’ve had guys typically like the Zoom guys I was talking about thought we had done everything in three years because it’s not how fast you show progress out. It’s how well you get them.
So I don’t just come there as and pull up and changed my residence and hang out with you.
You got to be able to do these things and get each one of them because they build on each other the good way to see this. Imagine a pyramid the higher and bigger you want that pyramid the longer you want to last. That starts at the bottom not at the top.
That’s right, the better the base and the selling power concepts are, it blocks. Better those block form which is planning which means working on right thing at the right time, the right way. That’s what planning power is. Operating power is having the manuals that handle 80 percent. Nothing’s gonna cover 100 percent of what goes on.
But handling the 80% of the policies and procedures of each of the boxes on your old chart, the things that go on. So, it’s replica and people can be empowered from the day they show up. And then there’s Staffing which is again building you know young willing people into skilled willing people and giving them a career path. And that its Sales, have your sales system for both techs and also or ticket sales people.
And if you’re in a commercial like that was what I called Commercial sales agents the person who goes to order to pick places open up accounts keep them happy and keep them buying from you. Which is critical so there’s sales process for that. That’s another block. Sales Coaching, which is coaching the right things and you get the right rewards and they win. But ultimately always the customer first wins. Right.
Marketing which is what you’re seeking is a contractor is right about a call from the right customer at the right time.
The three rights of Mark and so we beyond that is Financial which is you know you can do all that off and if you don’t charge and if you’re not careful about your expenses it doesn’t matter anything else, you won’t be in business. Yeah it’s called The Leaky Bucket Syndrome. Yeah exactly right.
And sometimes, you’re lucky it was just The Leaky Bucket is exploded. What are you. Yeah yeah I’ve never heard that one but yeah when I heard one no one guy “Some days you’re the bug again. Some days your the windshield”. It’s a country song. Yes.
I love that one. Yeah he was a plumbing contractor. But that was kind of funny. So how did you come up with the idea here.
Have you booked.
I actually when I changed for me you know it’s hard to remember when you make a change. You’re in the midst of craziness. Yeah. You know my kind of day was so I could wake up at 5 a.m. get back home in 2 am and get my three hours of sleep. I always have always really love sleeping because the phone next to my head was going to ring. Yeah from the guys who are on the call shift that were stuck yeah. I was mad as heck at them for calling and waking me up Sure. But, he it was needed. That’s the awful truth of being an owner. I never gave them enough information. I never documented it. They were in a position where they had to call. Yeah. And it was really kind of crazy when my brother, Richie, and I rode up the manual with them we defied you know. Do these three thing before you call Richie. And, 50% of the calls went away.
Yeah I was doing in class education class one day and the guy was a remodeling contractor and his guys were calm all the time. Lucky for him it was just normal business hours so it wasn’t like 24/7 like yours was. But he’d finally get to the point he goes what would you do if I wasn’t there.
But no, I want you to think about. Give me the answer What would You do if I wasn’t there. He
said you know it’s if you ask me that question enough times they come up with the answer.
I agree. And it actually in seminars that I teach about how I train a stepping power agent is.
If you ask a question and you answer it on your own. Why should I think right? You may ask the question shut up and let them. Even if they guessed wrong. Give me a call because they have the guts to speak up right. And you treat I like that.
I think that’s great. That’s a really good first step.
Yeah it was just so then. Next time you about these three or four times before you call me. he said he tends closedown. He said I got some but he said it was nowhere near what I got before then. And it’s like you said it’s just it’s goes back to the training.
Yes. And part of that thing now is that we’re going to speak to a deeper level issue. So why didn’t I share all this information. Why didn’t I do all of this stuff. Was the question at all? Yeah. One day this fellow, I was talking about Dan Callahan, he was an industry giant and he didn’t go as well as everything else. I was one of the lucky guys that he actually rode in my truck and he’s in my truck. I know the same thing but I always read my pages go at all. My friend Dan looks over at me, while I’m driving and he goes “You think that’s normal, don’t you?”.
And I stopped for one second and I go “Yeah I do” and then i said “I hate it.” And then one second later I said “But I’m really indispensable.”
And, I just popped out. And that was it. We as owners, first of all what made as great is what sabotages us. Right. Great text, so we were great at whatever that thing was, and so with the the rest of it. Nobody else can do the job as well as us. What you’re not saying is untrue but you really can’t have people I’m certain but you really can’t have people you can’t group because you automatically get a lid on the pot and you can’t you can’t have business run run without you.
And you can have vacation. You can’t get sick. You have to be on target. All of them.
Yeah yeah. Unless you are willing to be in the base.
So here are the three syndrome that I finally pointed the finger back at me.
So are you ready. Yeah, I like being a rescuer. I like running to the rescue. OK. And I like coming in and be able to you know to pull out that thing. I like being the fire. What I didn’t realize is I also was hoping to set the fires that I could put out that way. Here’s the last one. You know coming from New York this one will make sense. I like being the guru. Seems right now we’re renting. Dave, you don’t know how to do that? Really? You know what? I know, would you like to know. Because I’ll be happy to share it with you.
I was I was operating and when I witness the contractors I worked with over the year they to their credit finally go yeah, I get it. And that is what you have to deal with first. Because even with quick manuals, even with the training centers and everything else that you can do on the marketing systems because every one of these things are a system.
If you’re not willing to give up those three identities you are automatically sabotaging everybody who’s trying to help you.
That’s that’s. Say that again because that’s profound. If you are not willing to give up being a rescue or a fireman guru like I was you are automatically sabotaging those who are there to help you or anybody who will arrive. You know. Wow.
That was a big Aha moment. It was a big aha moment and I thank my friend for sticking the truth mirror in my face. Yeah.
Wow that’s it’s amazing that that’s you know that’s one thing in two set. We are in our own businesses or so in the weeds we can’t see what’s going on and it takes you know someone like you or you know someone to come along and say like your friend did he could see beyond the weeds because he wasn’t in the depths of it.
I like that analogy. It’s really important for that.
And you know even to this day Elle Agror who’s the one I was mentioning before she has a consulting business in dozen, and we worked together. She also in the branch with me. We had a meeting where she an I know her sister Ellen Gayle in Ellewood she’s H.D. and we meet and we look at each other’s business even though we talk to each other all the time.
That meeting is all about you know looking at things we haven’t got every time we have that meeting every year all three of us. Our business grows and gets better. To this day after all these years.
Wow that’s pretty amazing. If she can have someone that would help you you know that you could go to a lot of times most of us are afraid to unravel the thing before us because so few will get ridiculed. It’s dealing with people who are like minded and think alike and want the best interest for you.
Put that to can do that. You know it’s interesting when you mentioned that when they think about it when you go to the doctor for your health care check-up or you need.
When you’re not in your clothes off it out at the end of it. It’s the same thing with your business which is you can’t see it.
And I’ll give you guys. Listen to this quote I can see it. Here’s another. How many times have you got to another company that you don’t know. And by the time you walk through door and spend 30 minutes and you know what’s broken. Yeah that’s good. Why is that. Why is that. Because you’re not emotionally invested in it and that’s why it’s so hard for any individual to do it all on your own.
To think that you can see your own business the way you need to. And that’s why there is outside people that you know they’re the doctors. That’s really what it is. Right.
I know that you do a lot of consulting and if someone wanted to learn your 7 signatures or your power your signature or seven power contractor system, how do they get a hold of you? How do they reach you?
Oh, the best thing they could do is to go to my website which is http://www.7powercontractor.com . And there’s two things, there’s a, and you’ll see plenty of videos and testimonials from clients. Not because I needed for my ego but I know you need to hear from other people that it’s been done right. I don’t do one to one consulting like I did before. What I’m doing now is you have two things. When it comes to me is One you can go there to the shop and but this book that’s 7 power Contractor System. There’s an e-book $9.99. . Link on the website. I wrote it, and I made it short for a reason, for who are incredibly busy
I’m asking you for more hours and if you’re a quick reader two hour of your life. OK. Because it changed my life and it will change your life. Not because I wrote it and I had a good editor that helped me do it. We really worked hard to make it less. It’s easy to make it fat. It’s way hard to make it thin and effective.
I know it’s amazing isn’t it. Yes. I created a 39 second video. And that’s what I call that thirty-nine second video. It took me two hours to create it.
Oh yeah. I know that. I know that. Exactly. And the other thing is I am feeling starting
It’s really the best thing that you can do to get the systems in place because without it you’re going to be stuck in a. You know it’s because of trying to write it on your own. If you could take your chances of getting it in the right way and getting buying. I’ve been up the mountain. What I see myself is a trivial guy.
Yeah and you’ve done it. You know what it takes and I think that for the most part most people are. All right let me buy fill in the blanks and we’ll go from there. Well you know to a certain point. You always have to put in you know what’s apropos to what’s your complete system is.
But for the most part it’s you know it’s cutting time out is what it’s doing. The military cannot possibly know what are the books that they’re holding out and more that we spoke about way back when they told me you got to read this book, and it was in the 90’s it was Michael Gerber’s E-Myth.
Yeah that book told me why things weren’t working and what to do. He didn’t tell me how, but it was the first time that I heard that you go if you’re only working in the business and never working on it nothing is going to change.
And that was what I set about in creating this system. Now that really the catalyst for the manuals that you describe this hotel that work like all automatically and he said that’s where I want my business be. Right. So that’s what I set off to do. So, it was one of those books that really changed me. That’s really kind of the essence of it but it wasn’t out there so I had to create it. And the good news is I hired somebody to help me and its way better than it was 15 years ago. What I left on was it not those it was on a thousand dollars all the hours we paid all of that back in two years.
In my company. Oh, I’m sure just in two years. Yeah. That’s amazing.
So whole activity then will call backs, insurance claims. All of the things are now getting better.
So, we started to build on top of it with the organizations and better meetings a lot with things that go into it. But that’s really kind of back bone essential that you want. Cool.
That’s awesome. This has really been awesome. I think we’re going to put all of your contact information on our Web page when you want to write off. Must have been great. It was really fun talking with you about everything and will look forward to getting you back.
You can a copy of his book click here to go to his website https://www.appleseedbusiness.com/
You can contact Al https://www.appleseedbusiness.com/contact/
- Phone: 480-205-5164
- Fax: 212-202-6275
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