By Bill Prosch
When you look back at some of mankind’s earliest advances in technology—things like learning to create fire and make paper—you realize they were pretty significant in their time.
Nowadays, I don’t believe anyone would argue the fact that significant changes in technology are coming at a feverish pace. The advances are huge and handle needs we didn’t even know we had twenty years ago!
For the sake of this discussion, “technology” isn’t just about cell phones, iPads, computers, Bluetooth, or Wi-Fi. You know, the “things” that help us do what we do. This discussion is also about the methods or the technology of how we do what we do. Kind of like creating fire—it’s more about how to do it than the equipment you use. Additionally, while I want you to consider incorporating new “things” and “methods” into your 2019 business plan, I also want you to understand that there’s a component we frequently overlook: accountability. More on this in a minute.
When I started my company in 1983, for all but a few pioneers (like Lloyd Weaver, who built air movers that resembled something out of a Mad Max movie) the restoration industry didn’t exist. As part of the initial equipment package I bought at the salesman’s recommendation, I received a couple of DriEaz’s original air movers, a moisture probe made of PVC pipe, and a Westinghouse household dehumidifier that, under perfect conditions, would capture a gallon of water per day. It would also freeze solid as a rock if the room temperature dropped below 68 degrees.
As for how we used the industry’s cutting-edge technology, the thinking was that if we got the carpet dry, our job was done. We never thought about wet subfloors, baseboards, or drywall, and we didn’t even know mold existed. We certainly didn’t know what grain depression was. Grain was simply something we fed the horses.
As time moved on, we learned there was more to drying than just taking care of the carpet. And as our understanding of drying sciences advanced, so did moisture detection tools, dehumidification equipment, and air movers. We started drying the entire building, not just the carpet. We measured temperature and relative humidity, and charted our drying progress. We began to understand what it took to really dry a structure. The equipment advanced, the methods advanced, and we built companies around our new-found capabilities.
To facilitate the growth of our companies, we hired people to help us dry more and more structures. And that’s when the real challenges surfaced.
As you know, your best technicians will follow your systems without being harangued. They will take moisture readings, enter job notes, and accurately record their time, whether it’s done the old-fashioned way with a pencil and paper (remember that stuff mankind created centuries ago?) or using the latest electronic gizmo and software. But, what about the other guys? Whether done the old way or the new way, they’ll get it right occasionally; they’ll do it wrong frequently; and other times they’ll just “forget.”
Today’s restorer should embrace proven new technology like paperless job documentation and contracts, GPS-enabled time cards, and equipment tracking systems. But you need to understand that buying a new software platform or iPad isn’t the entire answer. You must allocate the time to determine the methods that will be used to put that technology to use. For example, how many of you purchased a thermal imaging camera but never learned how to utilize its full functionality?
So, you’ve bought the technology and determined the methods that will be used to incorporate that technology into the operation, but there are still two more components you should consider to make your new technology workable.
First, allocate time and resources to train the staff on the methods that will be used to employ the new technology. Then, pre-determine how to enforce accountability, or compliance, with the methods you employ. This isn’t groundbreaking stuff. It applies to new technology and old alike. Here’s what I would recommend:
- Encourage compliance. Do this by constantly discussing the need to utilize the technology and methods.
- Monitor compliance. Don’t ever assume that your people are actually using the gizmo just because you bought it and trained them on it. Be like Ronald Regan—trust but verify.
- Reward good performance. A pat on the back from owners and managers goes a long way with the troops.
- Coach the non-compliant. If an employee is failing at using the technology, perhaps he/she needs more training.
- Employ progressive discipline for chronic abusers of the system.
Finally, we need to recognize the need to understand and embrace new technology. If we didn’t understand the benefits, many of us would still be detecting moisture with a PVC moisture probe and recording moisture readings by chiseling them onto stone tablets. If we didn’t embrace the technology of new methods, we would still be assuming the entire structure was free of moisture when the carpet was dry, rather than scientifically measuring grain depression and vapor pressure. Ultimately, none of that happens without properly training our people, monitoring their performance, and holding them accountable to that performance standard.
If you are discussing adopting new technology in 2019, whether it’s gizmos or methods, remember that planning for the implementation of that technology and monitoring its use are key factors—the secret, if you will—in determining the technology’s success or failure in your business.
Bill Prosch, CR, is a Business Development Adviser for Violand Management Associates (VMA), a highly-respected consulting company in the restoration and cleaning industries. Prosch is a leading expert in operations and a Certified Restorer. He has a deep understanding of entrepreneurial challenges having owned and operated a successful restoration company for more than 30 years. Through Violand, he works with companies to develop their people and their profits. To reach him, visit violand.com or call (800)360-3513.