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As a contractor and business owner, like most of us, you’ve probably struggled with finding dedicated technicians who truly contribute to your team. It’s such a challenge, in fact, that many contractors hold back from making necessary changes in their business for fear of losing the employees they rely on the most. What can you do to find solid employees? And how can you manage your fear of implementing changes when you have a good team already assembled?

One person who’s successfully overcome these hurdles is Don Hilderbrand, contractor and owner of PlumbSmart Technologies in Asheville, NC. Don joined us on the podcast to talk about how he overcame his fears and put some unique ideas into practice. His ideas can help you build a solid team that supports any changes you make and is incentivised to work together, making your company a success.

Set New Employees Up for Success


All contractors struggle with getting new people in the door. Don has found a practical way to find new employees and put them on the path to success. The PHCC Apprentice Program, for example, is an online academy that “allows those getting into the HVAC or plumbing field to get courses for apprentices who need a non-classroom based method of receiving their apprenticeship instruction. This program is recognized by the U.S. Department of Labor, Employment & Training Administration, Office of Apprenticeship, as a reasonable option for apprentice training.” Hiring individuals who enroll in the PHCC Apprentice Program has been a real aid to finding new employees. Programs like this one help new employees enter the field and allow contractors to check their progress and see where they need help to further their skills.

Even if your new employees aren’t currently working on an apprenticeship, Don recommends investing in each individual personally. That doesn’t mean babying a new employee or assigning them a “helper” role. Instead of making new technicians feel like they need an invitation to do something, Don lets them know he wants them to jump in and start working. This helps new workers get into the flow of things right away.


Retain Your Best Employees with Flexible Incentives


Creating an environment that attracts good employees is key. Employees should feel like part of a team rather than separate individuals whose only job is to take the boss’ orders. When employees are happy, other people will take notice and come looking for work. 

One way you can build a positive team environment is with a performance incentive pay plan. Don has a unique take on incentives, in that he bases them on each technician’s personal motivations. For example, if a technician prefers to make more money by being paid straight commission, Don will do that. Or if they prefer to have a reduced hourly wage with an increased bonus percentage, that works, too. Some employees even prefer a fixed bonus system with a fixed hourly wage. Don’s custom-built pay structure makes his technicians feel more comfortable, and this improves their performance.

Making sure your bonus and commission systems are clear is vital. When everyone understands the system and gets enthusiastic about it, you create two-way loyalty that can really benefit your business.

How to Get Your Team on Board with Changes


When changes become necessary, think of your company as a team. In the end, if maintaining a unified team means losing an employee or two over a change, don’t panic. It’s worth the sacrifice. The reality is, there are always new people coming into the area, and demand for contractors is on the rise. As Don says, “if you are busy today, you’ll be busy tomorrow.”

When Don decided to use our  menu pricing system, he worked hard to keep his team united while making the changes. He thought out of the box to incentivise his employees to implement the changes. He noted that the challenge is to figure out what each team member wants, whether that’s a bonus, paid-time off, or something else. But when you do, employees will sense that you care about them as an individual, and this will strengthen their loyalty. 

TNFR’s menu pricing system was a huge success for Don. He spent time with his technicians and explained the system to them. Also, he let them know that becoming comfortable with the script was the best way they could make more money. In addition, he helped them see that offering people several options dignifies the clients and lets them take control over what work is done and how much they spend. Nine times out of 10 he says, the customer surprises the technician by choosing a higher level of service. 

In the end, employees don’t leave because of money. The environment you create will help you find good help and retain your best employees.

Learn more about building teamwork and loyalty in your employees by listening to the full episode.



Show Notes

  • Introducing Don Hilderbrand [1:24]
  • How to find new employees [7:50]
  • Overcoming the fear of losing employees [13:50]
  • Thinking outside the box with TNFR [17:30]
  • How to implement changes [20:35]
  • Customizing performance incentives [25:11]
  • Giving options to clients [30:19]
  • Building a unified, loyalty team [35:45]


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