Monthly Archives: December 2011

Management – I love the smell of GANNTS in the morning……..

A New Year coming – and time to forget all that tosh and avoid the trap of seeing it as a “new beginning” or the opportunity to fail, again, to lose weight/stop smoking/stop drinking/change jobs/vacate whatever dreadful corner you have found yourself in at the end of 2011. Yes, my friends, it is time to reflect on bathrooms…………

We have recently used two different firms to re-model our shower room and our bathroom respectively. It was a fascinating opportunity to compare and contrast and learn a few lessons on the way – we used two firms because the first one was, shall we say, disappointing.

Based on a recommendation from a forum I frequent we commissioned Firm A to re-model the shower room. As we already had the tiles, bought especially, (yes, we are home decor tarts) it was a simple job. You’d think. I met with the guys, who were charming. A date and time were set for starting and on that day I worked from home in order to settle them in, having called them a day or two before to re-confirm – yes, I am seriously organised and expect other professionals to be the same. Start time of 08.30 came and went, I began to become irritated by 09.00 and called them around 09.15 when there was no word from them. Apparently they had genuinely been meaning to call me, were short of staff, couldn’t find the paperwork…… began to sound ominous. Promising to arrive soon they rang off. No sign of them by 11.00, no calls either. Surely these charming chappies can’t be inefficient….? Discourteous? Lunchtime, and another call from me to them. Yes indeed, they would be over soon, they were very busy. Hmmmmm……..As a “valued customer”  and someone who is a little busy herself, and is incidentally putting some thousands of pounds their way, I might have expected a call to explain and excuse their lack of presence………

When someone did finally arrive he was armed with the excuses that it was soon after a bank holiday and they were short of staff and their secretary had left them and they didn’t know how to work the admin system and hadn’t realised what a difference that would make. I wondered aloud why then he had agreed to this date if it was going to be such a challenge? He was, sadly, not also armed with all the tools he needed for the job and had to call a mate to bring them over. I won’t bore you with the rest of the nearly two weeks it took to do a really simple job. I will bring you the edited highlights:

  • Absolutely no contact initiated by the firm regarding lateness, arrival of parts, start times changing. All contact initiated by me.
  • Long lunch breaks during which everyone disappeared, no work done, leading to a longer period of inconvenience.
  • The guy who was fitting the easy-fit shower took all day (minus long lunch break…) into the late evening to do it, and spent most of that time on the phone to a mate asking him how to do it.
  • Rubble and rubbish left lying around contrary to the agreement the firm had made to dispose as they went along – eventually we decided we could not wait any longer and arranged for and paid for it to be disposed of as it was an eyesore on the drive.
  • Liberal use of my forename as a substitute for charm and courtesy. As an attempt to foster a positive relationship it backfired.
  • I had to call them back to finish the job by sealing the tiles and fitting the bottom of the shower tray.
  • One guy using my garden as his office for periods that were too long for courtesy, being terribly important on his mobile with my back door open and my shower not yet fitted.
  • In desperation for some information and a conclusion to the Shower Fitting Episode as soon as possible I visited their new showroom/shop close by in an attempt to get someone to the house as promised. It was full of guys reading tabloids and drinking tea…….
  • I had to call them back again to correct a simple tapwasher fitting that didn’t work.
  • I had to call them back when I found that the shower didn’t actually work………..

When we decided soon afterwards to have the bathroom re-modelled we used someone recommended by a friend, Firm B. He intelligently discussed what we wanted, clearly appreciated older houses and understood what we wanted, made subtle but knowledgable suggestions, and was charming. Start date and time was arranged, confirmed near to the day – by them calling us – and the guys arrived just a smidge before time and got stuck in. Edited highlights again:

  • Before the start date we were told there was some difficulty getting the bath feet we wanted – the guy visited us in the evenings armed with catalogues and good suggestions which respected the house and our views and we got what I now think are better feet than we originally asked for.
  • They started on the right day at the right time. This was appreciated.
  • They cleared up after themselves at the end of each day.
  • They arrived on time and worked all day with reasonable breaks – offered refreshments they said they had brought their own and would be no “bother”
  • Any delays were communicated before the event, initiated by them
  • They finished on time, cleared up, checked that we were happy.
  • The guy re-visited to make sure we were happy.

Spot the crucial differences? And this was a major reconstruction of an entire room involving floors, pipes, electrics, lighting, as well as bathroom fittings.

When it all started to go wrong with Firm A I tried to make a few gentle suggestions that would help – we genuinely like to support local small businesses and it was clear that, if Firm A carried on as they were they would not last long and word of mouth matters in small towns. But it was clear that this was not welcomed, despite that fact that what I successfully do for a living includes upskilling small businesses and delivering management advice, and the attempt to advise was sensitively made……..

The experience made me re-visit some old and trusted pointers in the management of projects:

  1. Never underestimate the value of strong admin support. In every single project I have completed successfully the admin support has been a crucial part. Without the strong and intelligent support in  my current project it would be chaos! It would be unthinkable!
  2. Communicate, communicate, communicate!!! Just because your strength is in plumbing doesn’t mean you can avoid interacting with customers – this will make or break your business.
  3. Never over-promise. If you think you will have trouble starting/completing/meeting targets do not promise that you can do it, promise realistically. If you promise realistically and then happen to deliver more or more quickly this will be a bonus and will leave a good impression behind you. This can enhance your reputation.
  4. Plan effectively – remember when the bank holidays fall and when your staff are on holiday, remember if you need to order products and if they may be delayed. Write down all possible factors and include them in your planning. Plan the details and the bigger picture is more secure.
  5. Respect your customers environment – whether that is a physical environment or a professional  boundary – and respect your customers dignity. Never presume use of forenames, garden (that still irritates me!), property or time.
  6. Know what you can and can’t offer. Stick to it.
  7. Never, ever, veer from courtesy or flannel your customer – and that includes keeping the customer up to date with information and not making clearly on the hoof excuses, as well as the manner in which you communicate.
  10. COMMUNICATE!!!!!

Firm B will have all our future building business and we will recommend them to our circle. I have already posted on some forums and websites recommending them. I will, clearly, not diss Firm A in public, but if asked I will be guardedly honest and will never, ever recommend them. It was all rather curious and made me appreciate the good practice I see at work, and indeed, to value my own good practice. Dammit, I have got to that stage when everything I see and do prompts a reflection about management……………..what a bit of luck I love what I do!

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