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Creating a technician pay structure

Post in 'DIY and General non-hearth advice' started by smwilliamson, Jan 5, 2013.

  1. smwilliamson

    smwilliamson Minister of Fire

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    flame on, flame on...had no idea passions would be so

    I hear you all and thanks....I see webbie came on board with advice and no moderation...thanks craig...thought about postng in another forum but this is the only place I hang...got in a 745 tonight.

    While I was out, a family in town who is always doing benefits for their son with leukemia called in. I ran out of time tonight to get over there and comp them some heat, their son needs a bone marrow transplant or they'll lose him....make any problem I have pale in comparison....but did make me want to stay in tonight and hang with my two kiddos....gotta run and put them to bed. Thanks for all your kind words...even you naysayers...love ya.

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  2. Stevekng

    Stevekng Feeling the Heat

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    If you read my post, you'll see that I said I was probably breaking the forum rules, not you. I think you should consider selling the business and go into something less stressfull.
  3. ChandlerR

    ChandlerR Minister of Fire

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    This would be a dream job for me. After repairing cars for years, pellet stoves are pretty simple. I just had a knee replacement and kneeling is out of the question for a while...maybe when I retire I'll be ready. I would love to do that. I'm such a perfectionist, I'm sure there would be lot's of happy customers.
    DexterDay likes this.
  4. Harman Lover 007

    Harman Lover 007 Minister of Fire

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    No Scott....thank you!
  5. staplebox

    staplebox Member

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    You initially asked for advice on setting up a pay system that will incentivize your employees to do more/better work. However, as you post more about the problem, you clearly indicate that your problems are related to who you hire and how you train them. (You say that in 4 years you have never hired a good employee and that after you train them and turn them loose they "wither".) I don't mean this as a put down - because you seem to want to work hard and do well but - imagine that you had a boss - some imaginary person who set you up in this business. How would they grade you on the workforce you've developed here?

    Rather than look at different pay systems why don't you focus on your hiring practices and training? Maybe get some outside help.

    Related video clips from the book, "Good to Great" by Collins.

    http://www.jimcollins.com/media_topics/first-who.html#audio=95

    http://www.jimcollins.com/media_topics/first-who.html#audio=77
    Dinger likes this.
  6. billb3

    billb3 Minister of Fire

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    I don't know how many hats you're wearing, but at some point you have to hire someone to do the work under one (or more).
    Even if it is part time.


    Having been in the service industry since 1990 I can vouch for the difficulty finding really good help.
    Maybe it's time to open another home base office in the Leominster area.
  7. smwilliamson

    smwilliamson Minister of Fire

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    I have read that book a long time ago. The problem with my current guy is that I cannot count on him. He works well when he works but no pay system will change his stripes. I'm going to hire two more people this year so I'm planning out whether the system I have right now is working. I'm hoping to cut my service calls down to 2 days a week through next season...
  8. Coonskiner

    Coonskiner New Member

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    Scott

    Im a sales/ project manager for a fence com. in East Texas. Im 34 and im not the owner but I treat each project as I im because I care. Been doing this for 10 years same com. Most of my work is in the Petro Chem Plants and Pipeline where i can't use subs. I have the same problems with some of my hourly guys. On my commercial and new contruction jobs i use subs and pay them by the job. It works out great most of the time. In the fence industry most com. use subs 90% of the time. I found this forum because Im looking for answer to a soot problem with a Procom fire log set i installed in my woodburner fire place. I ran across this trend thinking i might get the samething you are looking for. Any way i give you lots of respect for doing what you are doing. Its not easy but people like you is what help build this country.

    As for being off topic. Im a member of other forums and we get off topic all time. If you post here a lot than its like seating around with a group of friends. You should be able to talk about anything with your friend. As long as your not hijacking another trend.
  9. begreen

    begreen Mooderator Staff Member

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    Not sure where to move this, but it's off topic for the pellet forum and more a general employer question. Hope this works out for you Scott. Please don't stop the dialog.
  10. jebatty

    jebatty Minister of Fire

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    Robots with a speed control. Speed 'em up when busy, slow 'em down when not. Fixed price, so the more they work, the less per hour paid.

    Seriously, motivate, incentives, and treat employees like living creature
  11. kinsmanstoves

    kinsmanstoves Minister of Fire

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    Good luck and when you find the answer let me know.

    Eric
  12. ironpony

    ironpony Minister of Fire

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    Scott, I have been thinking long and hard how to reply to this. My background is probably similiar to your experience.I found something I enjoy, challenges me and I am good at it. Started out by myself grew to needing a helper continued growing to 8-9 guys, drove myself crazy managing them wanting them to do the work the same as I would do. Went back to myself and a helper for several more years, had to turn down work made the same money with less headaches.

    Fast foward several years have a 27000 sq ft building have 15 full time techs 2 office staff 2 sales and myself along with a pool of techs we draw from on larger projects some of which are running 100 guys. we do environmental work which means we also deal with every govt regulatory agency in Ohio adding more paperwork and rules to comply with. you have to teach yourself to delegate responsibility and trust it is getting done correctly. hiring people to do the work, well if you figure that out you will be rich teaching othews to do it. people are the wild card in business

    I guess where I am going with this is some people are not cut out to run a business and if it is frustrating you ths badly you might want to go back to being a smaller entity.It does not mean you do not know what you are doing, and that is not what I am saying, but being a great stovetech in your case does not mean being a great business owner. I have been blessed with a man who manges the financials and if it were not for him we would not be where we are today. You have to figure out and KNOW how much you are actually making and proceed from there with hiring office staff for scheduling, paperwork etc. and maybe more techs to cover the field work. Expecting some one to put in the hours you do and have the same pride of workmanship is not going to happern, because if you find them they will be running thier own business next year.

    And back to financials, I have found over the years that most small business owners do not know what thier bottom line / margins are. you said you have a stack of data to be entered, so that tells me you do not know where you stand on margins you might be slowly sinking this time of year even though you are busy, I learned this the hard way also. Right now I can tell you to the penny what we made, what we spent and everthing in between. Do you know what it costs you everday to unlock the door?? what your fixed costs are to operate the business whether or not there is work??

    really I am only trying to help, please do not see this as an attack on you or your business, be open minded and try to learn from other experience. Hopefull something I have said will help you go in the right direction.
  13. brian89gp

    brian89gp Feeling the Heat

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    First, you got to start with good people as no amount of squeezing a lemon will give you an orange. That part is on you.

    Culture has changed yes. Workers aren't necessairly less motivated or don't work as hard, they just now require different reasons to be motivated and to work harder. As a younger person of the mindset that you are complaining about, I can speak from experience that if motivated wrong I can be that type of employee that does what is required and not go out of my way to do more. If you don't care about me, I won't care about you, simple as that. Does that make me a bad worker? To some people undoubtely so but to others I am the employee that you throw money at to keep (not that money was the reason I was staying or working hard anyways...) I have worked those 48+ hour shifts for no extra pay and refused to go home when offered the chance all because I wanted to stay and fix the problem. My employer treats me well (beyond monetary things) so I will do the same for them.

    The automatic sense of loyality is pretty much gone, love it or hate it. Previous generations had reasons to be loyal (pensions, unions, raises, and a more stable economy) so even as those reasons have dissapeared the loyality has remained somewhat ingrained. Many people in my generation do not have the loyality unless the employer does something to warrant it because by and large there are fewer reasons to be loyal these days.

    So the question is, are you bad at hiring and only hiring lemons? Or have you had good people over the years but due to the job environment they just acted like lemons? Its an honest question as nobody here other then you knows.
    kinsmanstoves and ironpony like this.
  14. Jags

    Jags Moderate Moderator Staff Member

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    In a service industry (as my company is in), your ground pounding work force is going to make you or break you. If you have questionable employees (and you know who they are) get rid of them. Hire someone better. At my company, if we have a position open up, we hire someone better than the last one. It is not easy or fun, but it is YOUR business. Leadership starts at the top and works down. A bad employee can be a poison pill for the rest. Get good employees and then SHOW them that you care.
    Also, a little business education can go a long ways with employees. Gather them up and inform them. Explain why a callback costs you double.....etc. You might be amazed at how they will react to them being part of the team.
    Good luck and I hope things work out for the better.
  15. If you have more work than you and your techs can comfortably handle it sounds like you need to raise your rates. Make more per transaction, be less hectic and be able to pay for better techs. 12.50 an hour is not going to get you dependable employees. Day laborers get about that here in Maine (through temp agencies)
  16. Don't move this thread, are you kidding? It's the best one we've had in weeks around here. Look at all of the great dialog it has fostered amongst the members! There is PLENTY of room for this thread to exist in The Pellet Mill.
    People need to realize that what we're seeing with this thread of discussion is the struggles of a business owner within the world of the wood pellet heating industry.

    Now, if you'll excuse me, I have a burn pot to scrape.
  17. seige101

    seige101 Minister of Fire

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    Speaking as an electrician as to what various employers have done over the years.

    I hated starting to pack up the van at 3pm only to be told we have to finish this non time sensitive job. I have a life outside of work, i have plans to do things with the significant other when i get home. You knew about this job at least a day in advance, just give me a heads up and say we are busy and may need to stay an hour or 2 later a few days this week. Do not tell me on a Friday at 3:30 pm when i am getting in my truck that we are working on Saturday. Again you knew all week you wanted to work Saturday. Ask me if i want to work over time, most of the time i love the extra $$ in my pocket. However understand we employees get burnt out after doing 50-60 hours a week for 3 weeks in a row. Especially in summer!

    I asked numerous times if we could do 4 10 hour days and then a half a day on Fridays during the summer. We get more done and a few extra hours to catch up, as a bonus semi longer weekend!

    Suggested the same at another company when we got busy in the summer. Owner was an alcoholic and had to be home at 3:30 every day to start drinking then wanted us to work Saturdays. We said no we are happy to stay a few hours extra each day.

    Incentives, worked for a company that offered us $50 cash bonus if we finished the rough in electric in 1 day(16 man hours). (normal time was 2 guys 18-20 man hours) It was do able if we busted our asses and skipped breaks and only took a 10 minute lunch break.

    We like the above the best because it rewarded us for busting our ass. The other crews who would goof off or do the minimum were jealous after we were getting an extra $150-200 in cash a week!

    Talk to your guys, find out what motivates them. It could be a simple bonus day off (not to be used during busy season).

    Like someone else mentioned, maybe a small cash incentive after a set number of installs or service calls without having a call back. For example 10 installs with no call backs is a $25 gas card. Every 15 service calls without a call back is a $25 gas card. Etc etc.

    Make it company wide, every 20 installs the company does without a call back everyone gets a small incentive. This will put the pressure on the guys who Fark it up. Their peers will start getting on their case because thats cash out of their own pocket. They will start double checking each other.

    Another company we were retrofitting some HVAC controls in 308 apartments in a high rise building. After the 1st week on the project the boss told us if we were able to do 10 apartments in 1 day we could take the rest of the day off but still get paid for 8hours. After getting the hang of it over the course of 2 weeks we were able to be done consistently by 1:30 every day. We would usually do an extra 2 on thursday and he would take us out to lunch on fridays on his dime while still paying us our 8 hours. He didn't mind paying us when we were at home because he bid the job thinking we would be able to do only 6 units each day. He made extra $$ and we got a nice bonus with free time.

    Loved that job in the summer as we were able to enjoy those nice summer days. I usually went out with a buddy on his boat on the river, made for a nice summer. We did a similar job for the same company at a different property in winter. It was another great incentive getting out a few hours in the winter and still having day light.


    Some great perks when you do have a good staff can be very minor but go a long way with your guys. Randomly buy coffee for the crew during the busy times. Randomly buy lunch on a Friday, even a simple pizza and a 2 liter bottle of soda means a lot.

    If people are slacking off can them and get someone else. With this economy people should be lucky to have a decent job. $12.50 to start is decent, $15 and all the others you mentioned is pretty good entry level and the other incentives you mentioned.

    If you were closer to western ma i would consider a career change!
  18. btuser

    btuser Minister of Fire

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    Sounds like you're being fair. It's hard to find the right people. I've got no answers when it comes to that.

    I just hired a kid who was working for Direct TV. Near as I can figure it he was working 60hrs/week to net about $4/hr (after his truck, tools, gas ect). He whined about $12.50/hr for 90 days, until I explained (had to use a white board) that I was in effect tripling his salary. It's got to be the new math people are teaching kids today. They don't know a good thing when its put in their lap.
  19. smwilliamson

    smwilliamson Minister of Fire

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    Something that I have seriously been trying to wrangle all year. This is the first year that we actually went into it with a budget, so I was able to figure out my true operating costs but from Oct-Dec, most of it is a blur as I'm not able to be in the office to manage anything whatsoever.
  20. Lousyweather

    Lousyweather Guest

    Scott-
    Take it from another "many hat wearer"......you have to look long and hard for "good" employees. Sometimes they are like milk.....they start out good, but sour quickly. Part of your "job", I guess is determining when something just isnt working, and acting accordingly (give em the axe). Someone who is unreliable is worse that noone at all. You make appointments for both of you, then, when he doesnt come in because he has a headache, your scheduled is messed up. Dont expect ANY of them to have the same work ethic as you do....its just not going to happen.
    As for motivation, some you cant motivate. You can maybe minimze your risk by looking for people who actually NEED the money. Folks with families, kids, DEBT. Unfortunately, anyone who is motivated by money will never be happy. You will constantly have to "up the ante" to keep them happy. Key here is to pay them enough that they cant jump ship easily....they wont get the same money anywhere else. And to be honest, I think in the state of MA $12.50 is somewhat low. I know, I know, all the bennnies you are giving them have value, and they certainly do, but the cold hard fact is that MOST people DO NOT PUT A VALUE ON BENNIES! Health insurance, a vehicle, a phone, matching 401K (or SIMPLE plan, if youre small),etc....as a business owner, we can enumerate their value, but, well, until its needed, it has no value to the employee.
    How else to motivate? Well, donuses are good, but they all too often arent looked at as a bonus by the employee. Hand him $2000, you'll get a thanks, but likely wont build any real thanks. Gosh, I am so cynical.
    Beware the money guy tho.....first chance he gets, because he can get 50 cents more an hour, he's gonzo......dont fall into that trap. Only thing I can say there is pay them well, toward the high end of the scale, and they wont EASILY be able to go anywhere. Also, dont overlook a major part of the workforce- women, older folks. Hate to say it, but both are generally more reliable than the guy who lives in an apartment and just works for food, cable, and jeans. Ive met some exceedingly capable semi-retired folks who are just looking for something to do.....maybe you only work them 20 hours per week, but evenso, its still 20 hours per week of help. Women? Again, a great choice....they arent as itinerant, often have a better rapport with customers, and female customers SOMETIMES prefer them! Oddly, its funny that sometimes those same female cstomers seem to have a bias when it comes to men and women and equipment.....they seem much more likely to "ask for a man"....weird......

    I feel for you pal, as I can sense that you are "right there" with that next growth step. Frankly, I always wondered how you did all that travelling. The thing is, you also need to learn to enjoy life....its not all work!

    Bon Chance!
    DexterDay likes this.
  21. MasterMech

    MasterMech Guest

    My wife is a firm believer that women are far more task-oriented and work harder than any of the men they have had work for them (She manages a kennel.).
  22. firefighterjake

    firefighterjake Minister of Fire

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    WHAT? Women working for a paycheck and not staying home cleaning the home and making dinner for the hard working man of the house? This is crazy talk . . . next thing you know folks will be talking about women who cut firewood and load the woodstove. ;) :)

    One thing my wife and I have discussed is how women as a rule tend to be quite good at multi-tasking . . . I know my wife's mind is like a super computer and can do many things at once . . . whereas my mind is like an old Pong game.
  23. Flatbedford

    Flatbedford Minister of Fire

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    I think that you will have a hard time finding a guy that is worth $20+ an hour if you only offer him $12.50 to start. That guy is already making $20+ where he is now. Why would he come to you for $12.50? The people that you send out are your most valuable assets. Be ready to treat them that way and they will come to you.
    mikefrommaine likes this.
  24. raybonz

    raybonz Minister of Fire

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    $12.50 per hour in Mass. is peanuts especially if you're dealing with people that need some skill to do their job. What you need to do is pay a decent wage and figure out a way to assess potential techs when hiring them. Good pay will attract good people but also everyone else too. Set a probationary period which allows you to release them if they are not up to snuff and tell this up front and what your expectations are. Create a way to measure performance and make them feel like they have a say in your business. Employees that feel ownership are more likely to have integrity and do what's best for the business. Scott it is up to you make your employees feel like leaders and this in turn will lessen your burden. Create a mission statement then define ways to live up to this statement.. OK done carrying on for now ;)

    Ray
  25. smwilliamson

    smwilliamson Minister of Fire

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    Thanks for all the input. Creating the pay structure is all part of the larger plan and why I started the thread. I pay 12.50 for someone with absolutely no experience. People in this pay rate are often without a job already. I'm seeing that what I really need to do is network more and find better qualified people to pay higher wages. Working it out. My problems as of late really stem from an employee that needs to be replaced. More to come I'm sure.

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