The Crew Talks About Janet

The 5 of them. Maggie, Michelle, Robb, Steve and Alex watched Janet drive away. Robb lit a cigarette, Maggie grabbed her water and Alex pulled out another sandwich. “Break time” said Steve.

“Janet is the first real boss I’ve ever had. I like working for her. How does she compare with other bosses you guys have had?” asked Michelle.

Robb started, “I like that she doesn’t swear, and yell and get all bent out of shape. My last boss thought that if he didn’t ride everyone, we would all slack off and rob him blind. He said that all the time, not about us, at least not to our faces, but it’s how he treated everyone. I like how Janet trusts us to do the job well and in good time. I don’t feel stressed here, and maybe it takes a little longer, but not by much. As a matter of fact, I don’t mind staying the extra hour to finish up a job, or hustling to get the work done when it’s needed. Sometimes I forget to add those extra hours, so it probably works out exactly the same, but the atmosphere here is way better.”

“I like that Janet cares about safety. My last boss, I swear all he did was figure out where the safety inspector was. He’d call and tell us to get our gear on and sure enough, the inspector would show up. He’d look at us with our hard hats and our harnesses, tick his report boxes and drive on. Most of the time he didn’t get out of the truck. I’ll bet that cost the boss a few bucks in kickbacks. It also cost him when Lennie fell that time and broke his back. Did you hear about that?” asked Steve and Robb nodded.

“He couldn’t run it through Workers’ Comp because they would have investigated. Janet doesn’t just say she cares, I feel safe working here.” Finished Steve.

“I like how Janet treats me like a real person. She’s talked to me about getting my high school equivalent and about money management. She cares about me as a person. Other bosses have been okay, but they only cared as far as me showing up ready to work hard for my minimum wage. Janet told me she feels bad paying me labourer’s wages, but I told her that was the job I do. She told me she would like to see me improve so she could pay me more.” Alex said.

“I like how Janet trusts me and is showing me how to take on more responsibility. We’ve talked and I feel like there are opportunities to advance here. I think I’d like to get into project management and Janet is helping me. I’m not getting younger and I need to think about the future.”added Maggie.

“Janet’s done a lot to make us all feel happy about working with her.” Michelle summed it up.

“I don’t know if I’d go all the way to happy. Next you’ll be saying we are ecstatic about it.” joked Robb as he put out his cigarette and stashed the butt in the tin he carried for that purpose.

They all thumped him, grabbed their gear, safety and otherwise, and went back to work.

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Janet Sees her Environment with New Eyes

Janet pulled into the job site just after lunch. She gathered up the papers that were strewn over the seat and stuffed them back into the file folder. She pushed them into the space behind her seat. She laughingly referred to it as her file cabinet. She kicked the water bottles, empty packaging and coffee cups away from the door so they wouldn’t fall out.

She was still wearing her business meeting clothes from her meeting at the bank. Maggie smiled at the juxtaposition of the contractor’s messy truck and the smart looking business woman. Then cocked her head and stopped smiling.

Michelle, :”Hey boss, when are you going to get a new truck, or at least clean that one?”

“Very funny!”

“I mean it, Janet. That’s your office, isn’t it? And it looks like a wreck. What do you think your customers think? What do potential customers think? Could there be jobs we didn’t get because of it? It’s the face of your business.” continued Michelle

“I’d have a hard time thinking in that kind of mess. I need a calm, serene place to do my best thinking.” Everyone was surprised to hear that from Alex. He was such a physical guy, the idea of him needing a serene place to think had them all pausing to think.

“I wouldn’t be comfortable wearing good clothes in there. It looks messy, so it seems grimey.” added Maggie.

“My last boss’s truck looked like that. He was forever losing receipts, forgetting to invoice people and not tracking our hours properly. Somehow he didn’t make the connection between his messy truck and not being able to run his business efficiently.” said, Robb.

Janet’s crew looked at her to see how she would react. She turned to look at her truck and saw it with new eyes. That was her office and it was the face of the Careful Roofers that others’ saw. Her truck didn’t project the concept of careful roofers.

She thought about how she did her best thinking on her back deck. She thought it was only because of the timing, but she now realized it was the environment as well. She thought of the nice places she liked to be in and how she felt in other places.

“You guys are right. If you are okay here, I’m going to fix that up right now. I’ll be back in a few hours.”

Janet Gets a Pep Talk

Knock knock!

Janet glanced at the clock. It was still only 7am. Who could it be at this hour? She tried to shake off the insecure thoughts as she walked to the front door so she could put a happy, public face on.

“Mike! Come in. Coffee? Why didn’t you just come around back?”

“Good morning. Yes, the usual, you always have good coffee. I wasn’t sure if you were dressed to receive, yet.”

Janet laughed at that and glanced down at her cut offs and baggy T. “You have a point there. At least I’m decent today. Let’s sit out back.”

“This really is a little piece of paradise you have here.” They both looked around at Janet’s garden. Janet smiled to herself thinking Mike didn’t know much about gardens if he couldn’t see the neglected plants that needed weeding and deadheading. Those delphiniums needed to be moved into a sunnier spot and the day lillies needed to be divided again.

Mike looked at the neglected plants and tried to remember the last time he had seen Janet’s garden look this bad. It was still beautiful and it was peaceful. “We haven’t talked in a few weeks, Janet, and I wanted to see how you were doing with your business growth.”

“Oh, you know, things take time.” Mike just looked at her. He wasn’t letting her off the hook that easily. “We have more work than we can handle and the two crews are going steady. Maggie is ready to step up to take over ordering the materials and maybe some of the team building. She has great ideas, but it feels like things are coming too fast. I haven’t had time to figure out what to do.”

Mike smiled. He knew exactly how she felt. “Change is hard. It means letting go of the way things were. Most people experience feelings of loss. Odd isn’t it. but true. People also have feelings of loss of control. It’s not unusual for people to go on binges of some kinds as a way to gain that control. Some people will pull back and try to make things the way they were, but you can’t go back. You are going to experience all kinds of strange feelings.”

“So, it’s not just me? I’m not unusual?” Janet joked.

“Oh, Janet, yes you are unique, but what you are feeling is not unusual.”

“Sometimes it feels like I haven’t done anything at the end of the day. I don’t always know what I should be doing. I should let Maggie do more. I should mentor her. But then what do I do? On the other hand, I know I should design systems to make the business run better, but I’ve never done that before. See what I mean. I can spend whole days trying to figure out what I should be doing, all the while doing busy work that I don’t need to do.”

Now Mike was outright laughing. He gave Janet a hug. “Congratulations, you have graduated from self-employed roofer to business owner. You can do this. I know you can. I know it, because you grasp what needs to happen. Running a business is pretty straightforward and it’s not rocket science to make a very good business. But it’s not easy and the hardest work will have to be done in your head. You do know what has to be done and you have the ability to do it and to learn how to do the parts you don’t know, yet. As many businesses as there are in the world and as many millions of roofing companies there are, yours is still unique because it’s yours. Even though all those businesses are similar, you can’t take their experiences and know for 100% certainty that you will get the same results and that is scary. Know this, Janet: you will get YOUR results. You will get out of it, what you put in. Your business will be awesome because it’s built by you. You need to square with the fact that you won’t always know how it will turn out, but you will always be able to manage it. Now, go and do what needs to be done.”

Janet wiped away tears. She took a deep breathe, squared her shoulders, looked Mike in the eyes and said, “Thank you. That is exactly what I needed to hear. I CAN do this. Have a great day, Mike. I have work to do.”

Janet Gets Scared

Janet rolled out of bed, grabbed her coffee and sat on her deck. Usually she was at her desk by now – checking email, reading the news and seeing what was happening with the world. Today she felt like she didn’t care, that she couldn’t take in any more information. She needed to think.

A lot was happening and happening fast. Sometimes she was scared. Her heart beat fast, her stomach churned and she just wanted to go home to bed. Other times she was thrilled, proud of herself and her team and happy with the way things were working out.

She felt like she was wobbling along on a tightrope. She felt dizzy, things were happening around her faster than she could deal with them.

She felt an underlying vague sense of unease, of not being in the right place all the time. She felt things weren’t right. She felt uncertain, that she wasn’t sure how things would work out in the end and she didn’t like feeling this way.

Was it worth it? She thought back to a year ago when it was just the three of them. They were doing all right. Wasn’t that enough?

 

Janet Gets Advice with Her Dinner

“Thank you for coming. The reason I invited all of you is that I need help turning my roofing venture into an effortless business and I think, no, I know that you can help me do that.”

“How could we refuse what with you buying us supper and all.” said Mike. Everyone smiled at that.

“It’s a pleasure to help you, Janet. Helping small business succeed is my passion.” said Susan.

“Let me introduce everyone. This is Maggie, she works with me and she is taking on some of the management now that our crew is growing. Karen works at the bank and is my oldest friend. I have listened to her advice all along. Susan is a business whiz and coach. Mike is a sales guy and another good friend. He taught me what little I know about sales and he’s a fun and funny guy.”

“That’s who we are and I hope we can meet every quarter so you can give me some advice and keep me moving forward with growing my business. The topic for this quarter is managing growth. The phone hasn’t stopped ringing after the Boat Club job. Thank you for the idea of putting a business card holder on the truck, Mike. I had to refill it twice over that week and a half.”

“I could put together two more crews to handle all the work coming, but I’m not sure I can manage that much growth that fast.”

“First of all, put up your prices. When you have more work than you can handle, put your prices up. Don’t forget, you are getting this work because you are the Roofers Who Care. That means you have to be very careful with your hiring. Your roofers have to care, too, which means you have to care about your roofers.” Karen shared her expertise.

“Oh, she cares about us all right. We were very lucky finding Robb, Steve and Alex. They are working out really well. I know you weren’t sure about them, but I learned enough about them working on the Boat Club job to know they will do us proud.” Maggie beamed.

“How did you find them?” asked Susan

“They were people we met along the way. Different roofers ask Michelle and I about openings, and we can talk to the Building Supply drivers, too. They see and hear a lot.”

“Recruiting isn’t something you turn on and off. It’s an ongoing part of running your business and you should have a process in place for identifying good candidates and bringing them into the culture of your business.” Susan knew what she was talking about. She had seen many businesses ruined by bad hires.

“Janet made up a process, what did you call it?” “An Induction check list” “Induction check list .that takes ½ a day and covers everything. By the time we take them through it, they are clear about how we expect them to work and act.”

It was Mike’s turn,”The reason you are getting all this business is because you really do care and the way you work shows it. There are many good roofing crews around who could not have done that Boat Club job and made them as happy. It is much more than just hammering nails, it’s about deportment, demeanour and attitude. Your new crews will continue to grow your sales or they will not. No pressure, Janet, but you better hire, train and treat your new people carefully.”

When Janet paid the bill, she knew she just got a huge bargain. It’s a great feeling knowing others’ care about how she was doing.

Janet Builds Her Team

“How are Robb and Steve working out?”

‘”They are a little faster than you guys, but not as careful.” Michelle frowned. She was competitive and Janet could see her thinking about speeding up her work. “I couldn’t imagine putting them anywhere near Mr Wilson’s roses.” That eased the competitive spirit a little.

“We don’t get to see them very often.” prompted Maggie.

“I have a surprise for you. We got the contract to reroof the Boat Club.”

“Holy cow, that’s huge.” “Isn’t that a heritage building?”

“Yes, Maggie, it is a Heritage building, but as long as all we do is replace the cedar shakes, we’ll be in keeping. We’ll all be working on that one together. We’ll also have to hire some grunts to get the materials to the roof. The gardens surrounding the Club House mean we won’t be able to boom the materials onto the roof this time.”

“Do we have to wear gowns to work there?” They laughed. The Boat Club is considered the ritziest place in Town and it is no stranger to Gowns and Tuxes.

“We will have to be on our best behaviour. This will be a great chance to instill more of our “Roofers Who Care” culture with the new crew.” Janet felt Robb and Steve didn’t listen to everything she said and take it all the way to heart. They were too experienced for her to need to train them, but that also meant they had their own bad habits. Without hovering, she hadn’t been able to see how they acted.

Another hot and sunny day working at the Boat Club. There were six of them working, because they needed two young grunts to keep the roofers in shingles. One of them was a great worker and he was interested in the work. Janet was already trying to figure out how to add him to the team. But the other….

“Fuck!”

Janet’s face flamed red and she looked around the patio to see who else had heard that. No one seemed to react, maybe they were too far away, but this would never do.

She gave the new guy a stern talking to about appropriate language and sent him back to work. Later she came across him sitting on a chair on the patio, he said he was on break. Janet told him to take his break somewhere else.

Later six of them were cleaning up the tools and packing the truck. Maggie said, “The new guy isn’t working out.”

“Which one?”, asked Janet. Everyone else looked at each other and Janet noticed that one of the crew wasn’t there helping out. It was the one she had spoken to earlier. “Where is he?”

“Must be break time. Again.” said Robb.

“I have to fire him, don’t I? I’ll see about getting us another helper tomorrow.

“I can keep up. I pretty much did it on my own today.” said Alex, now a part of the crew.

“We can pitch in by bringing up a bundle every time we go up on the roof.” Steve was a big guy.

The next day the Commodore approached Janet, “You seem to be short a crew member.”

“We had to let one of them go. We will carry on with five for now.”

“Putting together a crew that pulls together isn’t easy. You know what they say, ‘hire slow and fire fast’. Good for you. I’ve had to fire a good number of men in my time and it’s never easy, but it comes with leadership. I wasn’t sure if I should talk to you about him, but I see you had his number.”

“I’m sorry, did he disturb your guests?” Janet thought of that word ringing out over the patio.

“No, not at all. We want you to succeed and he was making for choppy waters. Very good Corporal, er, Janet”

Janet liked the idea that even her customers wanted her to succeed.

Maggie and Michelle Want Company

Janet couldn’t put it off any longer. She was afraid the girls wouldn’t like her news.“Maggie and Michelle, we need to hire another crew.”

“My friend, Robb would love to work here.” said Michelle.

“Remember that guy, Steve? He seemed like he’d fit in well and Gary says he’s a good worker.”

“Who’s Gary?” asked Janet and she saw Maggie blush. “Michelle supplied the answer, “He drives the delivery truck for the Building Supply Company. That’s why we always get our materials on time.”

“You guys wouldn’t mind if we had another crew?”

“We’re pretty busy and it would be fun to have more people. We could get together for beers after work and have company parties. People are always asking us if there are ever openings.”

“What do you say?”

“Depends if we like them. Sometimes we say no and others we say, not yet.”

For the first time, Janet thought this might work. She smiled at the girls. They were right, it would be fun to have a bigger group all working together. “I wrote up a training and orientation program for new hires. I’d like you two to go through it and give me feedback.”

“Great! Maybe next time I can give it.” said Maggie. Janet could see a manager in the making and she smiled to herself.

What Kind of Business Does Janet Have?

Janet slid breathlessly into the chair opposite Susan. Susan smiled and slid a steaming mug across to her.

“I don’t get it, Susan. A few weeks ago we were on a path to an effortless business. This week, it seems like one step forward, two back.”

“Take a breath, honey. You are making progress, you are shaking things up. That means you are fighting inertia, habit, fear of change and you are learning as you go. That’s a tall order and it will take longer than a few weeks. What would you say is your biggest challenge right now.”

Janet sipped at her mug and looked far away. She seemed to be sifting ideas to see which were the most pressing. “There are a few things and they seem to be fundamental, like how we work with our homeowners – how we present ourselves and how we maintain safety measures and even how we lay out our gear. I feel like I should have all this figured out, but it feels like it’s about time that I finally figure this out.”

Susan beamed at her.”Look at you, looking at your business, not just doing it. Too many business owners are too busy doing the work of the business, they don’t think about how what they are doing projects the right image to customers, staff, even regulatory bodies.”

“You’re right, I guess it really is working.”

“That doesn’t seem like that big a problem. Certainly not hard to work through.”

“No, no, the biggest problem is that we have so much work on that we need a new crew. I’m not sure how to find them or how to train them. Michelle and Maggie have been with me for ages. They are very keen and I can count on them to think things through and do the right things. That’s why I’m thinking about how we do things, so I can figure out how to train people if I bring on a new crew.”

“If? You have more work than you can do, why wouldn’t you bring on a new crew?”

“We could just turn down work. I like the size of our business. We are making pretty good money, we are working comfortably, why change things?”

“Those are big questions, Janet. What kind of business are you making? What do you want to have happen at the end?” Janet’s blank look told Susan this was a discussion they needed to have.

“You have to know how you want it to end in order to make it that way.”

“I’m so focused on getting things working, I haven’t thought too much about later. I can’t imagine doing anything but this.”

“You want to be climbing on roofs and chasing people for cheques in 20 years?”

“Well, no. I guess I figured that after 20 years I’d have things working smoothly. I’d just be doing estimates and managing the jobs.”

“What about travel, family, enjoying life?” This question was greeted by another blank stare. Susan knew that many people who start businesses do it to share their skills and gifts with the world in the way they want to do it. They focus on doing the work, rather than on building a business.

“Your roofing business can be whatever you want it to be. It can be a way for you to make a living, in essence a job that you control. It can be a way for you to give to the world; it can be a separate entity you build that doesn’t need your input, yet pays you; or it can be your legacy. You need to do some imagining about what you want to do when you grow up. You can make this into whatever you want it to be. You just have to decide.”

Janet stared out the window, her coffee forgotten. “A whole world of possibility just opened before my eyes. How do I do that while my days are full of just keeping things going and above water.”

“The best advice I give people, is to start every day by spending the first hour on the fun projects.”

“Fun projects?”

“You know the ones that get shoved to the back burner ready for when you get a bit of time and can work on them. Everyone has them. If you had an extra week, what would you work on?”

“A training program for new crews. Hmm. I guess that means I do intend to build this into a business that can run without me.”

“Spend the first hour every day working on it.”

Be Awesome, Let People Know

Michelle and Maggie giggled with delight when Janet gave them the business cards with their names on them. They had oohed and aahed over the the new name and logo on the truck. Janet’s Roofing. The Careful Roofers.

They got to the new job and Janet put their sign on the lawn making the girls giggle again.

“Have you got everything you need?” asked Janet preparing to leave the girls.

Maggie had a look at the delivery. “We’re short a piece of starter strip.” She picked up the packing slip and had a look. Janet smiled to herself to see Maggie taking control of ‘her’ site,

“Janet, how do you order the materials for each job? You are very good at it. We almost always have just the right amount of everything.”

“I picture the job as I call it in.”

“Don’t you do a take-off when you do the estimate? Do you do it twice?”

“Sort of, I guess. This is pretty easy for me.”

“What if you do the estimate and give me a copy and I’ll call in the order. It’ll save you a step and I’ll get to learn more about how to estimate and manage.”

As they were driving home at the end of the day, they chatted about where to drive the truck and where to park it to get more exposure, now that they had the logo on the door.

“I’ll be at the Habitat for Humanity building site Friday and Saturday. I’ve decided to make it our official charity. I like giving back and now that we are getting paid better for our work, I can help out this way.”

“Me too!” they both called out.

“We want to help, too. I love Habitat for Humanity”

“It’s fun to teach other people, especially if there are kids there.” said Michelle.

What Kind of Roofer is Janet?

“Janet. This is my friend Mark. He’s the one who made your proposals look so great.”
“Thank you Mark, I hardly recognized myself.” Mark chuckled.
“No problem, Janet. Mike says you have a great business, but you may need some help with your branding and marketing.”
“Branding! Isn’t that for much bigger companies than mine?”

“Every business has a brand. Your brand is how people perceive you. Without any other clues, people will think about you based on their experience with others like you. From what Mike says, you are different than the others and there are distinct people you like to work with. Consciously working with your brand, helps people see you for who you are. You’ve been in business for 8 years, right? You have many happy customers?”

“They call us back when they need more work done, but of course that doesn’t happen often.”

“Do they refer you?”

“Sometimes, I think.”

“Do you ask people how they heard about you when they first call you?”

“No.”

“That’s a start. You need to know how people are coming across you. Secondly, you need to make it easy for happy customers to refer you. But these are tactical questions. First, we need to figure out what kind of roofing company you are and who you like to work with.”

“My favourite is helping people who are having a tough go of it to get a warm safe home.”

Mike and Mark looked at each other. “Janet, it’s awesome that you want to help people, but you can’t build a business helping people who are not able to pay. That doesn’t mean you can’t help them, only that your business needs customers who can pay. Maybe you could get involved with Habitat for Humanity.  They need skilled people with tools to help. Your business can support them; but it needs to be a business making money, first.”

Janet looked at Mark and Mike. She had been giving this a lot of thought and had come to some conclusions. Should she share them? She took a deep breath and plunged in “I think I’ve realized that I need to hear people appreciate the work we do as well as pay for it.”

Mike smiled. “Everyone needs to feel appreciated. Recognize that and work with it.”

“Mike, you really listened to people and made sure we addressed their specific concerns.I feel really good about the work we’ve been doing lately and it’s great having more money, too.”

“What do you think, Mark? The Roofer who listens? Your Roof, your way?”

“The Careful Roofers”

“I like that. We are careful.”

“And you care for your staff and the community.” Mike added.

“What name are you using now? It just says Roofer on your truck.”

“Some people are uncomfortable with women as roofers.”

“But you don’t want to work for them, do you?”

“I don’t want to exclude people. I will work for anyone who needs us.”

“Be who you are and let people chose you because of who you are instead of who they think you are. I would think being a crew of women and calling yourself the Careful Roofers would attract certain people.”

“But not everyone.”

“Exactly. Why would you want to work for someone who is not happy having you working for them”

“Mike said you wanted to see a bunch of my estimates.”

“Yes, I would like to put together a branding package for you.”

Mark showed Janet some branding projects he had done for other clients. Among them was various pieces for a Ed’s Garage: blank estimate form, invoice and flyer, all with the same logo and colours.