Success is a Team Sport

Let’s talk about building a good team. You need good cleaners, pressers, drivers, stain removal experts, counter people – you need a lot of good people to succeed.

They need to be committed to quality work and to you. You need to train them and keep them working together. You need to care for each of them. They are your internal team.

External Team

But you also have an external team. People who are not employees but are just as critical to the success of your business. (Hopefully we are part of that team.) Your external team falls into several categories.

  • Trades: plumber, electrician, welder, boiler tech, refrigeration tech and equipment tech
  • (including for the sewing machine, HVAC, truck mechanic). You may also need a painter, janitor, drain cleaner and general handyman.
  • Professional team: lawyer, accountant, payroll, marketing, social media, computer/it tech, trainers.

You can make your own list.

Gone are the days of being able to do everything yourself. There is too much information, experience and training required for you to be an expert in every field. You may be able to do some of each of these things but you do need access to an expert in each of these fields in order to do them well.

Every week we spend time training our techs on boilers. We talk about recent problems, new code requirements, new parts and procedures. Sure you could probably do a boiler inspection yourself, but it might end up costing you a lot more in the end.

Do you do your own taxes and accounting? Do you do your own brain surgery? There are people who spend their entire lives studying, learning and practising those careers. How can you keep up with them? You need to focus on what you do best and pay them for being experts in their fields.

Building Your Team

Do you actually manage your external team or do you just wait for an emergency and call the first name that pops up on Google? Do you have a list of the experts that you depend on?

Start looking now for the people you know you will need in the future. Sooner or later you will need an electrician. Start asking around to find out who is the best. Invite them over so you can meet them and discuss your plant and equipment. That will give you the opportunity to ‘interview’ them and make a decision when it is not an emergency.

Sometimes you have to change team members. Relationships and companies change and you have to make an adjustment. Do it when you have spare time, not when the whole plant is shut down and you are willing to take anyone who will answer the phone. Our work is somewhat specialized. We need team members who understand the value of garments and the urgency of the work that we do.

Managing Your Team

How do you rally your internal team? Matching T-shirts or hats, staff meetings, barbecues or Christmas parties, and lots of training.

How do you rally your external team? Give them the big picture of what you do. Explain your WHY. When they understand what you are trying to accomplish and the constraints you have to work under, they will do a better job for you.

There are two things that you can do that will make them better team members: Use them regularly and pay them right away.

Our electrician knows he will be paid within days of doing the job. Paula is often bugging him for the invoice so we can pay it. If he is busy and has to choose between me and someone who is slow to pay, he will choose me. When I phone on a Friday afternoon, I know that he will respond and will do whatever we need. You are going to pay him sooner or later – pay him sooner and make him happy to work for you.

So how do you ‘use them regularly’ if you don’t have much work? If you use a contractor once a year, he is not part of your team. You can’t expect much from him. Sometimes there are jobs that you could probably do yourself. If you want to develop the relationship, then give him the work. Schedule regular maintenance and work with him so he’s eager to come to your plant.

Yes it will cost you more, but the relationship is more valuable than the money you might spend. We have seen many times where someone goes looking for a favour and doesn’t get it because they haven’t got a relationship with their contractor/plumber/technician.

Another way you can ‘use them’ is to recommend them to other people. “Hey, I found a great plumber. You should try him. Tell him I sent you.” If you can help keep them busy, they will think of you more kindly when you are in trouble. If they are good enough to be on your team then share them with friendly competitors.

You probably don’t call the drain cleaner often enough to develop a relationship with the tech, but if their office at least knows who you are it might help when you’re ankle-deep in … whatever.

Build a Relationship based on expertise and trust

What is the basis of your relationship with your external team members? When you have a problem and call a team member, what do you say? “How much for you to change this part?” Or do you say, “I have a problem, what do you recommend?”

In the second approach, they are coming to solve your problem. They are not just coming to install one part and take some money. Get them invested in providing a solution to your problem. Do they do exactly what your quotation requires or do they help you to succeed? They are the experts, and if you allow them to solve the problem, you might be surprised how creative and permanent the fix they come up with really is.

Do you really want to get their attention? Call them after they have done a job and say the machine is running great – thanks for your help.

The teams you work with internally and externally are critical to your success. Be proactive. Manage them well. Then relax and let them do their job.

Integrity Mechanical team — L-R Tige Short, Kevin Marois, Steven Cowie, Paula Marois, Ian Grant.

Kevin Marois founded Calgary-based Integrity Mechanical in 2003 to service plants in western Canada. He writes on issues related to equipment, its purchase, maintenance and use. You can reach Kevin at or via his website

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