A changing of the guard

Snow & Ice Supplement - Callahan’s Corner

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June 12, 2017
Mike Callahan

This past winter I hired my replacement.

It has been my dream to find a way to remove myself from the day-to-day operations of my company.

That dream started with me finally deciding to relinquish the control of my company and hire my operations coach.

With this changing of the guard, I have faced three specific challenges and learned a number of lessons along the way.

Lack of prior experience.

You probably wouldn’t believe me if I told you I hired someone with no prior experience in the snow removal business to run my entire snow operation, but that is exactly what I did. In fact, my replacement was a fertilization technician who was usually laid off each year come winter. He was looking for a company to grow with, so we worked collaboratively to achieve success.

First, we focused on learning storm scenarios. Role playing countless scenarios he would face during a snow and ice event was crucial to creating a great foundation for his ability to problem solve during future storms. In addition, he engaged in multiple ride-alongs with myself and key employees to learn first-hand how to handle different situations during storms from a management standpoint.

Next, we reviewed the properties in our portfolio. This included studying both residential and commercial plow routes online and in-person. During these visits, we focused on the layout of each property, the quality guidelines and possible problem areas that may present during a snow and ice event.

We also reviewed satellite images of each site and further discussed problem areas and where to stack snow. We then reviewed the priority level of each property (level A, B or C) during a snow and ice event.

Finally, we focused on how to manage the fleet and the team. Due to his lack of prior experience and know-how to operate several pieces of equipment, he did not immediately gravitate to fill gaps in labor when they existed like I had in the past. Instead, he was able focus on strategy and solve the problem from the office while managing the phones and monitoring the team and the weather.

His strategic decisions were based strictly on data from GPS, radar and forecasts online, and job completion reports through our CRM system. His ability to remove the emotion from his decisions led to better support for our team during a snow and ice event.

Letting go of the reins.

To focus solely on strategically planning to grow my company and its infrastructure, I needed to support and mentor my new operations coach 24 hours a day, seven days a week.

The hardest part about it for me was remembering to allow him to have wins and failures of his own that he could learn from.

I quickly learned micromanaging was not a great tactic. I discovered that the way in which the jobs are completed did not really matter as long as the desired end result was accomplished.

In fact, his approach in some cases was actually more effective because he did not have any preconceived notions about how things had been done in the past.

Self-reflection.

This year was not my first attempt to hire a manager. This year is just the first year I committed to hiring and ensuring a successful transition for my replacement. I had no one to blame but myself for my unsuccessful attempts.

I failed them by not providing them enough support for long enough. I also failed to provide a support staff to assist with monitoring weather and dispatching crews overnight.

To help provide support, we drove a back-up truck together and worked to manage the event from a laptop and our cell phones. We also created a rotating night crew that monitored the weather conditions by driving a predetermined geographic grid and submitting a mobile form that notified him when crews needed to be dispatched. This crew was a secret ingredient to success.

The next step.

My operations manager has been dubbed an operations coach for that reason.

Although he was hired to manage our team, he has become an integral part of our team by providing ongoing support and training for our employees. He is also committed to his own learning and continues to push me to learn how to continue letting go.