Hewlett Packard (HP) has a very famous set of guiding principles they refer to simply as “The HP Way.” You can search that term and find a couple of different variations. These guidelines help employees, managers, sales people, and administrators to have a common framework.
The HP Way is short and to the point. But it guides how people treat each other, the role of profit in decision making, morals, integrity, teamwork, and more. And, of course, the title of David Packard’s autobiography is The HP Way.
Early on in my first company (KPEnterprises), I started using the term The KPE Way. After all, there is a preferred way that I want employees to talk to each other and our clients. There’s an emphasis on working with clients we enjoy being around.
Yes, money and profit are on the list as well, but profit needs to come in the context of a broader business strategy. As you’ll see with the Unbreakable Rules of Service Delivery, our guidelines cover as much on the personal side of business as the practical side of service delivery.
There is also a connection between our “rules” and our standard operating procedures (SOPs). For example, we have an SOP on how to talk to a client on the first service call.
Your branding consists of everything you do. That means, the way you treat other employees is part of your brand; how you invoice is part of your brand; how you manage projects and work orders is part of your brand. Everything. Everything. Everything.
Here’s a story that makes this point.
Several years ago, I moved into a new-to-me old house. The electrical was definitely not up to twenty-first century standards. I knew I was bringing in several computers and other electronics, so I needed good, well-grounded electricity. I also wanted to install my hot tub, which requires a 50-amp dedicated 240-volt circuit.
So I called several electricians and got bids from three.
The first and second electricians were the two extremes with regard to branding. The first guy showed up in jeans. I told him what I wanted, which included two new 30-amp circuits plus the hot tub. He went around and inspected the circuit breaker box.
His recommendation: Well, the breaker box is completely full, but we can make it work. We’ll replace a bunch of full-size breakers with half-size breakers. The 50-amp circuit is a bit of a stretch, but we can make it work.
He started talking about a $1,200 price tag. But as we talked more, he talked himself down to a $900 price. And eventually he said he could do it all for $800. I never asked for a discount. He literally talked himself down.
I had already checked out his contractor’s license online so I knew he was licensed and bonded. In absence of any other information, I took his quote at face value.
Enter Electrician Two. Well, Electricians Two. Two guys showed up in uniforms. They put on booty covers to cover their feet as they entered the house. I told them what I wanted. They immediately demonstrated that they were miles ahead of the competition.
First, they took off some receptacle cover plates and looked inside to check out my assumptions about the grounding. They used a ground fault tester to verify that some outlets were not grounded properly. I had done this with a basic tester that simply said “ground fault.” But they found some grounding, which means that incomplete grounding was taking place due to the wiring practices of the 1960s. The outlets had three-wire Romex, could be grounded easily, but were not grounded.
Second, they looked at the breaker box and said that it needed to be replaced. They recommended a 125-amp box, which could be gotten at a reasonable price. BUT it meant that they had to patch the wall where the old one came out. AND they would need to upgrade the connection to the electrical utility.
Third, we had a lengthy discussion about the wiring options for the hot tub. They recommended setting it up so that any hot tub we bought could be connected legally and safely.
Fourth, they said that we didn’t have to add all the circuits I originally asked for. They recommended setting up three sets of outlets (as I wanted) but putting them all on one 20-amp circuit.
Fifth, they wanted to set up a ground system that brought the water heater and HVAC into alignment with modern code and safety standards.
Total estimate: $8,300. Yes. Ten times more than Electrician One.
The second electrical company got the bid simply because they started the engagement by doing everything the right way. I did talk them down about ten percent, but I had to do the talking.
Electrician One is very much like the consultant who starts with some false assumptions.
False Assumption One: It’s all about the money. I don’t want the house to burn down. I don’t want a half-baked job. I don’t know all the troubles that could come my way. And if the second quote was a few hundred dollars different, I might go with the $800 quote. But the difference was so dramatic that I had to take the higher quote seriously.
False Assumption Two: The buyer wants to make the old equipment last longer. If the old box had five open slots and was in great shape, things might be different. But it was already full and I didn’t know what he had in mind to make it expand to fit my needs.
False Assumption Three: The buyer knows what’s going on and what needs to be done. I knew enough to know what I think I wanted. But, on one hand, I was asking for more than I needed. And, on the other hand, I had no idea what I already had. The grounding issue turned out to be minor. But Electrician One didn’t do the simplest test to verify that I knew what I thought I knew.
Electrician One made this all about money. And left a potential $7,000 on the table.
Electricians Two were far more professional in every way. They worked from assumptions of success.
Successful Assumption One: We’re going to do the job right. There is a right way to do this. It’s in the client’s best interest to do it the right way. Avoid the discussion of “Can we do it cheaper?” until the client brings it up.
Successful Assumption Two: Know what you know. Unless your client is in your business, verify that what they tell you is accurate. It’s not that the client’s lying, but they simply don’t know. (And even if they’re in your business, it’s still good to verify.)
Successful Assumption Three: Deliver your pricing very matter-of-factly and without apologies. This company actually had a very good technique: They pre-printed several common tasks and listed a high/low range for each. Then they quoted the low end of that range.
Electricians Two also added an overall air of professionalism in how they presented themselves and their work. There was no talk about cutting corners. They didn’t say so, but I found myself comparing their professionalism to their competition.
I did get a third quote around $4,500, but decided to go with the more professional, higher-end contractor. In part, it’s because their overall approach is very much in line with mine. They can be passed over in favor of other contractors and still be okay. Why? They can get rejected for nine jobs at $800 each and still come out ahead with one job at $8,300.
They work from a mentality of abundance and not a mentality of scarcity.
So what’s the “Your Company Way” that defines your branding? What guiding principles do you use for employee onboarding, sales, service delivery, billing, and every other thing in your business?
In the next chapter we’ll talk about this with a focus on documentation. You might be tempted to say, “We have no SOPs,” or “We don’t have a consistent way of doing things.” But that’s rarely true. You do invoicing: How do you do it? You hire people: How do you go about it? You deliver services: How do you do it?
As you go through this book, I encourage you to start collecting ideas that reflect your way of doing things. Perhaps keep a folder or a document on your laptop or tablet. Start with my Absolutely Unbreakable Rules and work from there. Cross out what doesn’t apply, edit some, add others. Make it your own.
And it’s okay if some of these are aspirational. That is, you want them to be your rules even though you don’t follow them today.
My Absolutely Unbreakable Rules are included in the downloads that accompany the book. Go to www.absolutelyunbreakablerules.com for more information.
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