What sets you apart from your competition? As the end of 2021 nears, now would be a good time to evaluate how you can maintain what I call your “success differentiators” in the future.
The first differentiator should always be keeping your standards high and ensuring that all your technicians meet those standards. If you are lucky, you have a star technician (or two!) who sets a high bar. But what happens if that star player leaves early on a project and cuts corners to do so? Will the technicians who look up to that person notice? Will you? Will other technicians change their attitude to that displayed by the star player? Most definitely.
If you want your standards to remain high, you should not allow this inappropriate behavior to continue. Communicate immediately with everyone, including the star player, that cutting corners to get home early is not acceptable. However, you should be prepared to offer acceptable alternatives to allow an early departure based on need so you don’t encourage technicians’ bad behaviors. Do not change the rules for anyone. In other words, always be consistent.
In addition to a strong work ethic, ensure your technicians are knowledgeable about applicable codes and standards as they install fire alarm systems. You should provide them with copies of the applicable codes and provide consistent training in their importance and use.
I just provided the first two points of differentiation about why you are better than the competition for your advertising literature. You could also point out that your response time for troubleshooting fire alarm systems and maintaining their reliability leads the competition. For example, you may respond to all maintenance calls within 15 minutes. Even if that is what everyone else does, it is important to let your customer know you are consistently meeting that goal. In most cases, the competition is not telling their customers their response time because they think it’s not important.
Do you explain to customers that one of your goals is to reduce the time they need to devote to fire alarm system installation or systems maintenance? Do you explain to them that you have their best interests at heart and will be the intermediary with the authority having jurisdiction for any questions arising regarding the installation?
Lead by example
Being better than the competition starts with you. Lead by example—make sure your employees know that you demand the best from yourself and them. Establish your own high standards and then communicate those to everyone in contact with your customers. Show them you have pride of accomplishment.
Inspirational business author Harvey Mackay stated in a recent article, “When people know they are performing at their best, the entire organization benefits.” He also stated in that same article, “Demanding the best from yourself is a perfect … start.”
Be honest. Tell your customers what you can deliver on a project, not what you think they want to hear.
One of my own business mantras is, “No surprises, for me or the customer.” I encourage engineers to always come to me when they see we have made a mistake. We can fix mistakes more easily when we know about them early and when they are small.
No surprises for the customer is basically the same thing. We never wait to tell the customer about a problem until it is a big one or in the hope they will not notice. Once we are aware of a problem, we immediately go to the customer and relate the issue (even if we caused it) so we can show them how we plan to address it and get back on track with finishing the project correctly, efficiently and on time.
Finally, ensure you and your technicians know the applicable requirements of the National Fire Alarm and Signaling Code, the National Electrical Code’s applicable fire alarm system installation requirements and your local building code.
Know your success differentiators and why you are better than the competition—and then make sure your customer knows all the reasons why you stand out from the pack!
About The Author
MOORE, a licensed fire protection engineer, was a principal member and chair of NFPA 72, Chapter 24, NFPA 909 and NFPA 914. He is president of the Fire Protection Alliance in Jamestown, R.I. Reach him at [email protected].