by Michael Shebek, Automatic Pool Covers Inc., Westfield, Indiana
Most business owners in the pool and spa industry know, formally or informally, what their business goals are for every season. However, it is challenging to make sure every employee at their company can state those goals at a moments notice. It is also challenging to create measurable sub-goals that allow your employees to actively contribute to and accomplish companywide goals. And the hardest part of all, how do you motivate your employees to work toward reaching those goals?
Our industry is extremely seasonal. And when the season gets going, we all work like crazy. So, it becomes difficult to keep everyone on-target with top-level goals. But if you get creative, you can find a way. It took our company five months to create a system that has worked incredibly well. Even if you aren’t able to create a detailed plan before the season kicks into high-gear, consider starting the process to keep your business focused on ‘the goals’ when things get busy this summer.
First and foremost, it’s important to be able to define your company’s three top-level goals. Then you need to articulate these goals to all your employees. Whether you have five or 50 employees, it surprising how empowering it can be for every employee to be aware of the top company goals. Consider a short, once-a-month, companywide meeting as a starting point. Begin the first meeting by asking everyone if they can state the company’s top three or four goals. It is likely that they cannot. But within three of these meetings, your team will have memorized these goals and can start to figure out ways to measure and attain them.
Once everyone knows the goals, then it’s time to create sub-goals that allow each department to help reach companywide targets. These sub-goals should be tangible and attainable on a day-to-day basis to each team member. Prioritize the sub-goals and come up with a system to keep these sub-goals at the forefront of everyone’s minds. Our company created what we call The Puzzle and use it motivate, measure, attain and reward the accomplishing of our sub-goals.
Consider creating an actual, oversized puzzle. Our team created a puzzle board that is 5-by-10 feet and put it on wheels to move it around our building giving every employee the opportunity and motivation to directly contribute to the company’s corporate goals. Its physical presence is a constant visual reminder of what we are trying to achieve while we are all extremely busy throughout the season.
We created and assembled our 32 sub-goals into a puzzle that fits together and when all sub-goals are completed, the companywide goals will have also been achieved. To motivate everyone and keep the goals top-of-mind-throughout the busy season, we decided there should be prizes for each goal achieved, which allows us to reward employees every month throughout the season as we make our way toward achieving all 32 goals.
To make the process easier, we assigned an owner to each sub-goal. This person tracked the goal’s progress. Once the goal was achieved, the owner was in charge of presenting at our monthly meeting how the goal was achieved, what means were used to track it and then had the pleasure of pulling off the sub-goal-puzzle-piece and replacing that piece with a prize piece that has a value worthy of the accomplishment.
Not only did we create business goals that revolved around sales and becoming more lean, but we also created goals that fall under the employee enjoyment category. These are fun goals, such as making sure that everyone is able to successfully toss a beanbag through a corn-hole board. The prize for this particular sub-goal was the chance to have your name pulled from a hat so that a personalized corn-hole board would be created with the employees photo. Our finance department suggested some rewards for achieving one of our sub-goals, but they made it more fun by stuffing the prizes in blown-up balloons, which required employees to pop the balloons to get their prize.
In the end, we were able to pull nearly all of our 32-puzzle pieces in the first year and, in the process, accomplished all of our top-level goals. Our company took on the challenge because we realize that everyone employed at Automatic Pool Covers, Inc. is vital to achieving our company goals. It wasn’t easy at first, but once we put a system in place and empowered every sector of our company, not only did we achieve most of our goals for the season, but we had fun doing so and found ourselves working better as a team along the way.
The Puzzle provides a practical framework that motivates employees to actively engage in achieving the company’s top goals for the season. It worked for us, and I hope it works for other pool and spa businesses to achieve their goals while they work hard this season.
This next year our team is really excited to achieve all our company goals — we agreed that if we accomplish the sub-goals, the last puzzle piece prize will be spectacular.
Mike Shebek is president and owner of Automatic Pool Covers Inc. based in Westfield, Indiana. Mr. Shebek’s company started in 1979 as an installer and service company of automatic pool covers. Mr. Shebek has performed over 20,000 hours of infield pool cover service. Today the company manufactures innovative pool cover products, including the APC 365 a complete vinyl lined pool cover system.