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Do You Love Your Employees?

July 30, 2020 · 33 min read

BLOG GIP Ep5

Finding good employees is hard, keeping them happy is harder. On this episode of Green Industry Perspectives, Martha Woodward, the Pay for Performance Expert, shares all about the process of loving your employees well.

Do you feel like your employees hold you and your company hostage? Martha will share the changes your business can make to build a self-motivated, self-directed team.

 

You can tune in above on Apple Podcasts, Spotify, Stitcher, Google Play, or anywhere you get your podcasts.

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On this episode, you’ll learn:

  • The different pains that Martha experienced with her employees.
  • How to create a culture of transparency from the scratch. 
  • Incentivizing your employees based off of their performance. 
  • The importance of rewarding quality and consistent work. 

What to listen for:

[2:15] Martha’s path to becoming a small business owner
[6:05] The advantage of running a small business
[9:10] The problems Martha faced with her employees
[24:15] How to make data driven decision for your employees.
[27:30] Competition is a good thing
[30:05] Setting expectations during employee training
[55:15] How Martha can help you make quality decisions with your employees.

Links to love

Full Transcript:

Narrtor:
You are listening to The Green Industry Perspectives podcast, presented by SingleOps, a podcast created for green industry professionals looking for best practices, tactics and tips on running their tree care or landscape business. Martha, welcome to the show.

Martha Woodward:
HI, Sean. Thanks for having me.

Sean Adams:
Yeah, it’s our pleasure. I’m super excited to have you on. We’ve talked many times in the past. I was talking off air that when we get together, I’m going to try to limit our time so we’re not on the phone here for a three hour podcast for the poor audience because we get talking about culture and employees and we can really go down a rabbit hole. So, I’m really excited to pick your brain on a few of these topics here today.

Martha Woodward:
Let’s get at it.

Sean Adams:
Yeah. So, to kick us off, we like to start every episode with some immediate value. So, I like to ask all of my guests in your experience, your own business and I know you’ve worked with a ton of other service oriented companies, what are the top three skills or just common themes that you’ve seen that contribute to a service owner or service business’ success?

Martha Woodward:
So, knowing your numbers and honestly, financial was one of my weakest things early on and that brings me to number two. I should have outsourced so much earlier than I did. And number three I would say is investing in your people and that doesn’t mean necessarily throwing money at them. It means figuring out how to make a win-win situation for you and the employees and building systems around that.

Sean Adams:
Love it, love it. Yeah. One of the main reasons I wanted to have you on apart from all your knowledge in the culture world and being able to help companies turn around or establish really good culture, it’s really because you really epitomize the messages that you put out there, right? So, you have the business that you’re running basically remotely, you put these things into practice. So, let’s contextualize your background here. Tell us about the business you started and kind of what your role is today and how you’ve put a few of these things into place.

Martha Woodward:
So, I came from about 20-plus years in healthcare and I hate to say that because then you’re putting the numbers to how old I am but I’m old. And I got so tired of working in a corporate setting and I was a director and I was managing people but the joke was I would have to budget for toilet paper now for June. And anyway, so, I wanted to leave that setting and funny thing is I watched an infomercial on PBS one night—I will fully admit that—and one of the panel experts was how to save so much money on taxes by running your own business and I thought I think I’m going to do that. And so, I don’t know what in the world possessed me but I picked a maid service out of all of that. I think it was because myself and others, we could never find somebody reliable. So, I went into the service business world and I mistakenly thought it was going to be very similar to leading employees in the corporate world and I don’t know why. But anyway, went through years of struggle, had to really figure out. It was a sink or swim situation where it was horrible. I describe it as the pit of despair. I hated my business and luckily, I chose to swim and I chose to figure out how to fix those things that were broken that made me hate my business and not really like my employees. So, now I can tell you, I don’t want to say it runs smoothly every day without me but for the most part yeah, I mean I literally put in maybe five hours a month on that business.

Sean Adams:
Yeah. Those results speak for themselves, right? And everyone can relate to that pit of despair for sure and they’re going through that right now. People and systems and organization and finances and finding work. There’s so many different responsibilities that pull for our attention. One of the ones we want to focus on here today because it’s so relevant in the space, green industry, contracting, anything labor-based, we just hear about the labor crisis, the shortage of availability, how can we hold onto the staff that we have, how can we reinvest in adding to our current staff and it’s a massive question and there’s no simple answer. But that’s the one I wanted to try to unpack with you here today because apart from all the great things you’ve done in your business, you’ve also put a lot of great content and useful resources out there for the industry on how they can think about some of these things. So, you mentioned the difference between the corporate world and the service world. So, just from your experience, let’s start there. What are those differences? What is that shift? What is that gap between the two?

Martha Woodward:
Well, for me as a manager or director of a department, even though I had that title, I had really no authority. Anytime I wanted to fire somebody, they were too scared or make any changes, oh, let’s talk about that for three years. That drove me nuts. And so, that can be an awful thing and a blessing in the business when you run your own business because you are the one who can make the changes. So, when I was in that pit of despair, I at least had the self-realization to be able to step back and think all right, this sucks and perhaps it’s me and perhaps I can make changes whereas if it sucked in the corporate world, in a way I was just stuck. I had to operate under an umbrella. And yes, we have labor laws and yes, we definitely still have umbrellas to operate under but we have so much more freedom to make an impact and that’s what I like about being your own boss and running a business is that I have the ability to make an impact that I never really had in the corporate world.

Sean Adams:
Yeah. You’re touching on something that if I’m hearing you correctly, it sounds like a lot of people come from this perspective that they either worked for another contractor or another landscape or tree service, whatever it might have been, where they came from the corporate world and either one, they felt sort of entangled in the bureaucracy, the red tape, the steps and the process and it was just this very slow moving grinding machine in which they felt not only trapped but just kind of immobile. There was nowhere to go and every time they wanted to make change, it really just didn’t happen or it just kind of got swallowed up by this is how we do it and we’re going to keep going that way, the status quo. And so, I think a lot of people venture out into this self-ownership, like you mentioned, in this autonomy that I get to call my own shots. But it’s like the Wild West in a lot of ways. When you actually make that step, it’s like holy shit, well, I have to make every decision. Not only like here’s the structure, you can play within this, you make your own rules. Now it’s like everything is on me.

Martha Woodward:
Right.

Sean Adams:
And there’s a lot of overwhelm that comes with that freedom because there’s no structure at all. It’s like jumping off a bridge, right? There’s nothing there for you. And so, it gets very scary for people and without context or experiences, it would be extremely challenging to start to pull those resources out or find them or learn them yourself. So, one of the things that it sounded like you did a good job of maybe through all the pain and that despair is identifying that culture was so important because people were the core of your service business. So, let’s touch on maybe how you discovered that culture and why that was a thing and maybe defining kind of what the culture portion meant to you as you were learning it.

Martha Woodward:
Right. So, there was a time where I was pretty much it in the office and thankfully, there was that time or I don’t know if I would have fixed problems. But I had tons of employee problems and I jokingly say my attendance policy was did they show up? I mean literally I would come into the office in the morning and that was not my attendance policy in writing but in all practicality, I would be going oh, okay, Susie showed up, check. It was like roll call. Like you say, it was the Wild, Wild West of leading employees because they were leading me and I was not leading them. And I think so many of us do that because there’s a lot of fear. There’s a lot of fear behind we need people. And so, if I start cracking the whip and I start actually holding to the policies that I have in place, then I’m going to lose all my people and then what am I going to do? And I’m not going to sugarcoat. That’s a real fear. But you will never fix your problems unless you face that fear and figure out how to make it work.

So, it was that and then if the phone rang and it was a current client and I saw that on caller ID, I knew what did we screw up. I did not want to pick up that phone call. I was like oh, crap. You just knew what was coming down the pipe. Occasionally, I’d be pleasantly surprised and be like oh, they just want to change their schedule or something. But most of the time, it’s you sucked, this is what you messed up and I was having to apologize and grovel. So, I took those problems, the absenteeism and the quality problems and all of the problems and I just kind of backed it out on all right, how can I have people be more reliable, what can I change, what can I do, how can I improve our quality so I don’t have to dread when a client calls? And so, I just kind of reverse engineered here’s the problem, how do I fix that, how do I proactively prevent these things happening. And it sounds maybe more simple than it is but it’s absolutely doable. It is doable.

Sean Adams:
So, you reverse engineered those problems, those pain points, phone calls and you started to kind of aggregate what those issues were and then you tried to figure out how I can establish a process proactively to iron out what this would look like if it was done successfully so I could alleviate the phone calls, so I could make the customer happy.

Martha Woodward:
Right.

Sean Adams:
And so, when you went through that process, a lot of what you derived was employee-related issues? Is that what you’re getting at?

Martha Woodward:
It was. They were employee-related issues pretty much every one of them but pretty much every one of them stemmed from me and the kind of leader that I was at the time. And I was going against everything that I knew I should do but I also felt like I was a victim and it’s like well, I can’t do that because they’ll quit. But at some point in that pit of despair, I answered that statement and said well, so what? This sucks. And so, if they quit, how much worse is that really? So, I had to get to that point where I could do so what? This is miserable and I got to change something. And so, I did. I started enforcing my policies and realized that a lot of it was me just putting my head in the sand and saying okay, y’all just go do the best you can and follow those rules the best you can and we’re going to hope to survive and that didn’t do anybody any favors. The client suffered for it, myself and the business suffered for it and the employees who were actually there to try to do a good job absolutely suffered for it. So, I had to stop that.

Sean Adams:
Yeah. I want to underscore that because the first thing you said was you had this epiphany that what was happening in your business was actually a direct mirror of your leadership and what you were doing or lack thereof in the organization. That could be a really tough pill to swallow, to recognize and I always tell people the sentence it may not be your fault but it is your problem, right? So, you may not have directly made that employee not show up for work today but it is your problem to figure out.

Martha Woodward:
Absolutely. Right.

Sean Adams:
You have to take that level of ownership and take your ego out of it and say look, this isn’t my fault, I didn’t cause all these problems but I do have the responsibility to my good employees, to myself and to my organization’s survival to identify and put processes in place that are going to help us survive. You’re doing yourself a disservice by letting this kind of craziness ensue, the chaos. So, let’s talk about some tactical ways in which you put that in place. Because I have to imagine that when you start bringing processes in, it’s like a magnifying glass, right? It shows you good but more often shows you bad and where you’re missing things.

Martha Woodward:
Right.

Sean Adams:
So, I have to imagine of your existing staff at that point, there were some bad apples, there were some people that were getting away with things they shouldn’t have and there was no repercussion or accountability there. Talk about that process.

Martha Woodward:
Yeah. And I knew it. That’s the thing that ate at me every day is I knew that our culture was toxic. I knew that I was allowing people to stay that shouldn’t but I didn’t feel like I had a choice. Now I can go well, you absolutely had a choice for years but I didn’t think I had a choice. And so, when I came to that low point and I’m like you know what? Screw it. I mean if they leave or whatever, I mean really how much worse am I than sending these people that I cringe when they go out because I know we’re going to have problems, how much worse am I? So, when it came to that realization, that’s a little bit empowering in itself.

And so, what I did was step one I’m like okay, you have to have some policies and you actually have to follow them. They have to mean something. And so, I took my little turnkey policy and procedure book that I had purchased and I tore it apart. So, what I did is I thought of my best employees and I think I had two or three that I would consider my best employees at the time. I thought of them and I basically tweaked all of our policies based on these three people and if I wrote this absence policy this way, could they stay employed? If I wrote this quality policy this way, would they make it? And that is how I restructured my policies. And then we had a staff meeting and I’m sure I was like that parent. You’ve seen the parent that’s like you do that one more time and this is going to happen and you as a spectator in Walmart or wherever are going yeah, that isn’t going to happen. And that’s the way I behaved with my employees. So, when I went into a staff meeting, little did they know I was a new person. But I sat down, we went over all the policies and procedures, I had them sign, we did all the formal things and I am sure they left that staff meeting going yeah, what a waste of time. She’s not going to do that and I got her over a barrel and I’m sure all those thoughts were going through their heads.

But what changed is I actually did follow them. I had drawn the line in the sand and I’m like nothing’s going to get any better if I don’t change. And so, when I started actually letting some of those bad apples go, I call them sacrificial lambs, you know what? People started paying attention and people started believing that what I said was going to actually happen. And that’s oversimplifying but that’s how I dug out of that and now it’s so funny because now people just wouldn’t even contest that as far as you’ve done this, this is the next thing to happen, you’ve done this, this is the next thing to happen and it’s so procedural now that when people get fired, I didn’t fire them. They fire themselves. I didn’t make those choices all those times. They did and it’s just a no-brainer. And here’s the hard part. It’s a no-brainer when we’re really short-staffed or when we’ve got cushion. That’s where it gets very, very hard. But I’m telling you people are watching you all the time and when they see you bend your own rules when it’s not convenient, that’s when you get into trouble. It really is.

Sean Adams:
There’s a freedom in that integrity too, sticking to your guns. It’s sort of like taking that job, that customer that you had a bad feeling of, you knew it wasn’t going to go well but you’re looking at your bank account and you’re like I got to do this job because they need work next week and I’ve got to make this payment and all that sort of stuff. And so, in your gut, you know it’s not a good thing to move forward on but you do it anyway and you kind of go against that. It never works out, right?

Martha Woodward:
Right. Yeah. And what I really realized is I am a very trusting person. I want to believe the best in people and I want to not have to micromanage people and like check behind their back kind of thing. And when we had that toxic culture I didn’t trust them for a second and they didn’t trust me either. And so, you get to move out of that awful feeling in my opinion to a state where even though my employees know that I travel and I do this, I still don’t feel like there’s resentment against me because you know what? I’m always going to treat them fairly and there’s no favoritism. It is just clearly laid out and I feel the same. Nobody is at the company now that I don’t have a lot of respect for and that I don’t trust and I mean we’re sending people to people’s homes and in my case, inside their homes. So, it was kind of a crime that I had people I didn’t trust. But live and learn, live and learn.

Sean Adams:
Sure, sure. And respect is the right word, respect and trust for sure. And back to that Wild West analogy, we all think that people want this unlimited freedom and there’s no rules. Just like how suffocating it is when you were first starting your business and in that Wild West where you didn’t know what decision, what step to make next, that’s how your employees feel when there’s no rules and there’s no structure and you just throw them out there and then they just kind of have to figure it out on their own because there’s nothing set in stone. They don’t have a play-by-play. And going back to the same sort of thinking here, the discipline in here’s the structure, here’s the plan, here’s my outline, you get to make that your own but it moves you as the owner away from being the disciplinarian and much more focused on being sort of the architect of this system. And that’s much easier to respect, right? Somebody pointing a finger telling you that you can’t do that, this is what you have to do, nobody responds well to that, right?

But building a system, an architect of these structures and this is how we’re going to check these set of things and this is how we can ensure that we’re going to grow, this is how I can compensate you, this is how I can help you with your career but it has to live within these confines and how we can all be accountable for that. That automatically breads this respect. Like okay, well, Martha put the time in and the discipline to put that structure in place. It’s much easier to respect somebody that way versus everybody hates their boss because their boss is always on their back, right? It’s a totally different shift in the way you think about that. And so, I want to talk about how you kind of moved yourself away from the disciplinarian because you didn’t need to be that. Most of us hate the idea we have to fire somebody. I contest that nobody likes to fire people except for very small selections of the population. And so, we want to make the system, make it easy to identify when someone’s missing the mark or making the mark. So, let’s talk about really tactfully, how did this—I know you do things like pay for performance and you’re checking the quality. Talk through that so that you can let the numbers and the process make those decisions unemotional.

Martha Woodward:
Right. I don’t remember what point in my journey I read the book Three Signs of a Miserable Job and the title has actually changed now because that title wasn’t that appealing for people. And so, I think it’s called The Truth about Employee Engagement now, same book. But I remember reading that book early on and they talked a lot about measurement and how people really need to know how they’re doing and that we all as human beings have a need to know how we’re doing. So, I came to the realization that I really wasn’t providing data for myself or the employees to know how they were doing. And I’ve always been, long ago, but very big into sports and in sports, it’s all about data whether it’s a time or a score or whatever and I think that’s partly why we love sports is it’s easy to see who’s winning and who’s not winning. And I realized that in my company, it was not very easy to see who was winning and especially when it comes to quality. I mean how many complaints are too many or if we don’t hear from clients, does that really mean they’re happy? I mean no.

So, I looked for ways that we could create a scoreboard and attendance is a super easy one because it’s like you’re allowed this many times to have an unplanned absence within this time frame. That’s a scoreboard and for quality, what we started doing is a one question survey after every service and I know, I know people are like ah, there’s no way I’d survey them after every service. But listen, my clients want to be happy and I can easily convince them to spend 30 seconds to let me know if everything went okay or not and then that data has really driven our company. So, making that data available to just some managers only does part of it and initially, that’s what we did. The system we were using, we got all that data in via email and then we put it on Excel spreadsheets and if we weren’t too busy, we would print it out so they could see it and then there was their scoreboard. They could kind of see the scores that came in. But then we went to a way that they could log in themselves and see all the feedback from the jobs they were on and that really was a turning point because I mean they were already better knowing there was some accountability and knowing that those Excel spreadsheets would go up there. That definitely made things better. But when you can log in and see how you are performing and it’s compared to like company overall and in my case, they can even see their peers’ scores and how they’re doing, that really raises the bar.

And I think too many times we lower our expectations. I think we tell ourselves these damn employees, they—and it’s like we lower expectations and then that’s what we get. And once I figured out that you know what? This is what this top group of employees are doing. And so, if they can do it, I know it’s attainable and I kind of shifted my culture around all right, if you want the best of the best and pay days off, the different things that we do, then you need to do this level of work. So, we put in measures around productivity and quality and attendance and have different programs around that and that’s our pay for performance system.

Sean Adams:
Okay. Yeah. I love that concept and we’ll definitely dive into some of the deeper process side. So, I wanted to touch on the topic that comes up all the time which is the net new unexperienced employee or candidate that we want to bring in. You’ve talked to me before about this great trajectory that you have from a training perspective and how it’s not a duration, it’s not a time time-sensitive matter but it’s merit and skill sets that they’re going to acquire from being here. Talk to me about how you think about and how you’ve helped some other companies with taking a net new hire, showing them this road map and the way in which you’re capturing data to show them what is expected and how that benchmark can help them achieve what’s expected of them.

Martha Woodward:
So, like everything that I had to fix, we had a problem. So, when we had started measuring and things were much better by this point but I remember we had kind of a higher level problem is I felt like we had our systems down. But what would happen is I had a dedicated trainer with a trainee and they were like extra help in these homes and I felt like I had absolutely devoted time and energy to provide good training. But they would go through training which was two weeks at the time and almost immediately these quality scores would come in from those surveys we were doing and I would see that their scores were—they might not have been complaints but they weren’t getting any goods or excellence. It was kind of satisfied which is a problem. And so, I went to my trainer and I said what’s going on? I mean training is expensive and why in the world are we eventually losing all of these employees that we spent time and money training because turns out, they can’t do a quality job or won’t and then there were other reasons that we were having to let them go. But I felt like these things should be caught in training.

And so, I identified that our training was not accomplishing what it needed to accomplish. I mean sure, we were doing like a rubber stamp, going yep, they had two weeks of training but it was a crap shoot. It was like you would watch and go okay, are they going to make it, are they not going to make it? And I mean I do a little bit of that now but the probability in their success is so much higher now than it was. So, again, what I found, I broke down the training logs. I looked at those training logs and here’s just an example of what I found. At the time, we were requiring three perfects in a job. So, let’s just say for mowing, we work with a lot of lawn care companies. So, edging, that’s a better one. Let’s say that they had to be able to edge a lawn perfectly three different times. But here’s what I identified is that trainee had been to 20 yards and out of the 20, they had three perfects and that meant that 17 times, they had an error. And mine was in the maid service world but you can apply it to anything.

And so, that made me look at our training program and I remember turning to my trainer and saying they have to be consecutive. It can no longer be let’s see if you can get it in umpteen million times but I need some consistency. So, we went to saying that it needed to be consecutive and I remember she was like nobody’s ever going to get out of training. We will never have anyone be able to do this. And I said well, what we haven’t tried, we don’t know and I was like we’re lowering the bar and not expecting much and I think that if we expect more, we’re going to get more. And so, you’re going to have to go in and train like absolutely. It’s kind of like when you start asking for credit cards and you’re like oh they’re not going to give me credit cards. But when you go and say yep, that’s just part of our business, everyone gives a credit—when it’s just a way of how you do business, then things happen. And that’s what we found about our training program. There were several changes that we made. Okay, here’s the problem so consistency is a problem. How do I build in consistency? You just figure out how you’re going to get that problem solved, put it in this case the training program and then you reduce a lot of those variables and the success rate’s a lot higher.

So, making the change to our training program was right up there with the paper performance change. It really made a difference. I didn’t like firing people based on quality and not really knowing if I had done—I didn’t like knowing that maybe we hadn’t done our job as a company, giving them the right training. And now when we have to let people go because of quality, we can absolutely say yep, they knew how to do it, they just are choosing not to do it.

Sean Adams:
I love that, I love that. Giving them all the resources and starting to iron out all those exceptions and where you’re just inviting in that chaos, right? Where you’re just oh, well, it’s just three out of 20 or whatever it might be, you’re just asking for it. So, you get that green employee in and you train them up and they become part of the team, they make it through the scoring system. Let’s weave in the pay for performance portion of this. And so, a question we get asked a lot, the tree care industry, the landscape industry, we bring a guy on as a groundsman, we bring a guy on as a weed whacker, kind of low totem pole type tasks and anytime you ever interview one of those employees, they always say I don’t see myself doing this as a career, right? If they can’t see it, they want to see the upward trajectory of where they could go if all things were equal and there was actually a path for them. Speak to how you built that sort of ramp as a career and how did pay for performance help them see how they could continuously level up to where your top performing employees were where I imagine were being the top as far as compensation as well?

Martha Woodward:
Right. Transparency. So, we have on the walls of our office which I have to say well, even before COVID hit, we were pretty remote. Like I don’t have a single manager in the office anymore. My office manager moved to Georgia and I was like okay, let’s see how it goes. But back in the day where we used our office every day, we had and still have on the walls how you can earn bonuses. So, we have the weekly productivity bonuses and the various ways they can earn more money. I had them made into those foam poster boards and it basically said you generate this much revenue, quality score of this, then you earn two dollars more an hour. And so, everything in my company is you have a base rate and you could really do it whether it’s percentage or hourly but you have a base rate and then if you do this, you can earn this much more.

And then the other thing that we have very transparent is we have a career ladder that’s on the wall. We have a couple of different places in the office and it shows them all right, at this level you’re trainee, at this level you’re team member, at this level you’re team lead, at this level you’re trainer. And we try to make it very specific. There’s a little bit of time elements involved but it’s more about merit. I want it to be objective. So, it’s not something that like Johnny and I promoted him. It’s oh, yeah, you qualified. Also, when they come to me and say hey, I think I’m eligible for such and such, I can easily go yep, check that box, yep, oh, I’m so sorry. We should have come to you and whatever. But that’s very transparent. And then the third thing is we do bi-annual performance reviews and they’re very objective. They get a copy. They know what they’re going to be evaluated on.

And so, their base rate will change based on performance. I don’t even give vacation days away. I don’t give a single vacation day away. They earn them and I don’t want to feel bitter about if somebody is getting X amount of vacation. I don’t want to feel bitter about that. I want to feel like yeah, yep, you earned it. You absolutely deserve it. Because there was a time where that wasn’t true. Vacation days were very much time based and at the time, I kept people that I would probably never keep now. But it’s painful to write a payroll check for somebody’s week vacation when they barely skirt by whereas sure, I mean cash flow, you don’t like writing that check but I can feel like okay, they earned it. I’m happy for them and that’s why I want to not feel resentful or bitter and I want my employees to feel very empowered and if they’re going to argue with me about pay, I can say that’s in your hands. You can absolutely earn that and there are no secrets in my company about what people make. I don’t care if they discuss them because you can do that too. You just have to put in the work and that is my philosophy on putting pay out there and so forth. It’s all about transparency for me.

Sean Adams:
That’s a beautiful thing. When you say transparency, do you even do the base rates of your employees? Does everyone know what everyone else makes as well?

Martha Woodward:
Um-hmm. So, on that phone poster board, it will say training at this amount, team member at this amount and it is a range because they can stay at that level but get performance raises in that time. I’ve had people who don’t qualify to move up to team lead but they are earning some raises in that period of time, not top raised or else they probably would be going to team lead but they are earning some. I just like it that way. I mean I’ve been in environments where it’s like don’t tell so and so that I gave you a raise. And I’m like what’s that about? I mean why is that a secret? Are you doing something unethical? That’s what I think when things have to be a secret.

Sean Adams:
Yeah. We hear it all the time in the green industry. I want to put this work order together but I don’t want to give this groundsman access to the documents and the data because I don’t want him to know what everybody else is making and that leads to that integrity question of like well, are you skimping on someone else just because? Like what is the back alley deal you’ve made with these other employees, right? Just inherently you’re asking for problems because you’re not being transparent with even how you pay people. When you’re not describing it to everyone, you’re making exceptions for every rule that you set and that is not scalable. It leads to just like we do with our customers, we get beholden to employees because oh, this guy, again to your negative mindset or you’re having this scarcity mindset of like Martha, I’ve got to do whatever I can because the market’s so tight. If this employee wants $32 an hour, my hands are tied and I’ve got to give it to him. He’s a climber, he has this skill set, that’s what I have to do. I don’t want anybody else to know that because then they’ll want that much money, right? And it’s looking at it the wrong way because that is being reactive, being in that pit where we’re just moving to the closest person. Whoever yells the loudest, we go and pay that person.

Martha Woodward:
Yeah, yeah. I don’t react well to that. I’ve been there. I mean I had that period of time but I was pretty—well, not pretty. I was miserable and it was just like you say, the Wild, Wild West. There was just no rhyme or reason to anything and I was just kind of like okay, you’re mad, okay, I’ll patch this, you’re mad, I’ll patch this and it was just a mess. And so, now I like peace in my life and I like knowing that I take the high road. And so, when somebody comes to me and honestly, I probably have the wrong people if they’re doing this anyway but if somebody comes to me and is like you need to pay me more and I’ll be like, I mean for one thing, I just kind of pull out our rules but I will say unless I’m willing to shift everyone, I can’t do that. That would not be fair to so and so and I understand what you’re saying and we go through the whole dialogue. But at the end of the day, I’m like unless I can afford to shift everyone, no, you can’t get a raise and other people don’t.

And we recently had—so, for a little while I did freeze raises. I had to freeze raises for a little bit. And so, we have a monthly staff meeting and at the staff meeting, I had one of my longest term people, she’s been with me 7-8 years. We have very open dialogue and she’s like we need a raise and I’m like I know. You really do. I said but here’s the thing and I had heard grumbling so I was ready. I came to them and I said so, here’s the thing. Here’s how many days or hours that we’ve lost due to availability. So, in my company, we have a pretty generous planned time off policy. Unplanned is another thing. But planned, we’re pretty generous. So, I was having a problem with people asking for too much time off. So, I came to them and I said okay, so, here’s the dollar amount of revenue we have lost in the last six months with people asking for time off and that was very good for them to hear. Because I said so, if I’m losing this much revenue because I’m trying to be generous and I’m working with your planned time off—and I’m not talking vacation days, I’m talking I need two hours off to go to the doctor or this or that. I said so, if I’m losing this money, how am I going to give you more money?

And so, I said okay, so, here’s what I will do. And so, that’s when I instituted, it’s a weekly thing, I will actually add 75 cents to their check per hour if they had zero planned or unplanned time off. The only thing that I exclude from that is a planned vacation day because they earn their vacation days and I don’t want to penalize them. But if they take off early, come in late, they’re sick, whatever, then they don’t get the pay bump. But if they are there just like they’re supposed to be, then I pay more. And I know many people will say well, they should just be there. I’m not paying somebody to do their job. I hear that all the time and I structure my company where I have—it’s like a budget. I have the budget to come in low but you can earn more but you’re going to earn it. And so, when people say that, I’m not going to reward them for being there, I’m kind of like well, so, how’s that working for you? Because it wasn’t working very well for me. So, I figured out a win-win way for both of us and that’s just how I approach those problems.

Sean Adams:
And back to your sports analogy, this gamification that you’ve just weaved into your organization, people just respond well to that and it’s just inherent. I know why I’ve always flocked to sales and everything I’ve ever done because it’s so measurable. There’s a satisfaction towards a close rate or quota, a goal. There’s something very satisfying about that and I think a lot of people just gravitate towards knowing where they stand, like you said, knowing where they can get to and now all of a sudden, hard work becomes very incremental versus like gosh, I can’t even fathom the idea of making X amount more per week. Like what would I even have to do? What job would I need to get? As a service industry, we’ve done a horrific job of making careers even possible, right? We just you’re going to go clean floors, you’re going to go weed whack, you’re going to go drag brush and that’s your job. No particular end date, no ceiling, no ladder. And so, you wonder why people leave, you wonder why people get fed up and pissed off. I mean that’s the logic here, right? You’re saying Martha has thought of all the different things, right? I have every little bonus and thing I can get in. So, as an employee, I’ve got to imagine your team 1) sticks around, right? And 2) you’re getting I imagine some referrals of other customers. So, that’s got to be a huge part of this because I can just see the light bulb for an employee seeing how gamified and how visual it is for them to succeed in your organization. So, can you just kind of quantify your results? I mean what is that done for your organization and some of maybe the retention or just how you’re able to get people in and have the confidence to stand behind a program like this?

Martha Woodward:
Right. So, I mentioned our training program now is very structured, systematic and it does weed out people that we weren’t able to weed out in recruiting. But if they get through training, if they get their training, then for the most part, employees stay with us at least a year and usually several years which in our industry is a lifetime. And quite honestly, once they’ve been with us 7-8 years, I haven’t figured out exactly how that works for both of us. I’m going to tell you the truth. And because we get into a little bit of an entitled and that kind of thing. But I mean that’s a good problem to have, right? Because my problem used to be how can I get people to stay at least six months or at least a year that I want. And so, what it does is yes, absolutely, other than the loss that we experience in training, our turnover is low and I spend very, very little on marketing because in my mind, our pay for performance program really is our marketing program. Our systems are set such that if you’re going to be successful in our company and you’re earning these things which truthfully if people aren’t earning those things, they don’t want to stay with our company because they’re very singled out and it is very apparent that they’re here and the rest of the pack is here. And so, they self-exit and that will happen early on.

So, I don’t have to market much because we do have a very good reputation and in the world of going into people’s houses, I just feel like I mean we have to and it just takes a lot of stress off of a lot of things. And yes, we’ll get employees refer other employees. There’s just a ton of benefits to it. But I probably would tell you the biggest benefit is that I can be 100 miles away like I am every single day and have peace of mind that I have the right people and I know that I have the right people because of all of the measurements that we have in place. It’s great for the employees, it’s great for the clients but so much less stress as a business owner too.

Sean Adams:
Yeah. Couldn’t agree more. The last point I was going to make is just Reid Hoffman who founded LinkedIn, he had this concept of tours of duty in the software, in the corporate world, looking at Millennials and younger people and all the frustration and the information out there about how they don’t like to work and that’s a whole separate two-hour conversation. But the logic is we try to sell this dream, this 30-year dream to somebody that is looking in six-month and 12-month increments, right? It’s really hard to sell an 18 year old, a 24 year old what they’re going to be doing when they’re 50, when they’re 60, right? It’s just not even in their wheelhouse. So, what you’ve done in this crystallizing of their futures, you’re saying okay, well, if I wanted to stay here like two or three years and I want to go backpack through Europe for a year and I need this much money, I can look on the board and see my path using your business as a vehicle with these checkpoints. It doesn’t get any clearer than that, right? So, we can do this in all of our businesses and stop looking at oh, these employees aren’t bought in. Well, no shit, like they don’t have $200,000 in equipment on the street. They don’t have that level of accountability. So, give them more of what they want whether that is a structure like this, something they can work within that is focused on them and not your P&L sheet, right? It’s got to be that clear for them.

So, Martha, you’ve done an awesome job of breaking down that process. I know there’s so much more that you and I could cover here. We’re going to talk a little further in a bonus section for those that are going to join us in our pro section. Subscribe and you’re going to be able to get access to that. Martha, as we wrap up here, people who want to learn more about your pay for performance, I know that you’ve sort of templatized this into some ways that people can speed up that process and not have to build it themselves. Talk about how you are helping the service industry in that way.

Martha Woodward:
Well, because of my pains, as you know, I have quality driven software which is a software that I developed—well, not me personally, I’m not a developer—but I was the architect along with my co-founder. We built something that would measure the data. So, that is one way and that’s QualityDrivenSoftware.com if you want to take a look at it. But because of the software, I ended up talking to a lot of people about how to put in these programs and it started with pay for performance programs because that’s what they use the software for. But it really evolved into the program I have now. It’s called Level Up: Build Teams That Give a Shit. And when I was coming up with the name and working with somebody, she’s like you just want people to give a shit and I’m like yes, yeah, absolutely. You want them to care about their job, about the work that they do, about showing up. And so, I have a 10-week course that kind of takes through all the components and that is at ThePayForPerformanceExpert.com. I hate that URL. It’ll change one of these days but it’ll redirect. So, you’re fine.

Sean Adams:
Awesome, awesome. Well, we will link to all of that information. Guys, I’d highly, highly recommend looking into the course and specifically the software as well. Martha’s done an awesome job of just crystallizing all these ideas that she’s touching on and making them in the consumable tools like quality driven to get a grasp on where you are now, help you measure where you need to go and something you can leverage to actually level up as she says in a pretty simple way. So, Martha, with all that said, I think you’ve covered a ton of really useful stuff. We’d love to have you back on to dive in deeper in other points. Follow Martha online too. We’ll link to all of her social platforms here too. She does a great job of sharing her wisdom with The Fight Club as well as all of our other pages. So, I just want to thank you again for being here. It means the world to us.

Martha Woodward:
Yeah, thank you, Sean.

Sean Adams:
All right. Take care.

Narrator:
Thanks for listening to this episode of Green Industry Perspectives presented by SingleOps. If you got some value out of this episode, drop us a five star review on your favorite streaming platform and don’t forget to become a pro member of the podcast at SingleOps.com/podcast. As a pro member, you’ll get notified of each new episode, access to exclusive bonus content and be entered in to win some great prizes. Thanks for listening and don’t forget to tune in next week.