Tuesday, July 31, 2012

Organizational Spirituality is alive and well with Michael and Son

I recently had the opportunity to sit down with Michael and Son owner Basim Mansour and get to know a little more about the company and the leader who leads this great company. In an industry suffering from volatility in consumer spending trends, construction subcontracting of electrical trade work , material cost volatility in copper or other manufactured residential products, shortage of credit, equity and capital among homeowners, many trade contractors have not figured out how to stay in business, let alone grow. Mansour's company has grown from $250k in annual sales in 1990 to close to $100 million and 400 trucks in multiple cities from Philadelphia to Raleigh, NC without outside funding.  In the last four years, Mansour has grown the company by almost 100% during one of the worst economic conditions ever faced.  In less than 23 years Mansour has attributed the company’s success to staying customer focused and team oriented.  Mansour was forced to drop out of college with 6 credits of formal college education under his belt before he left college to support his family and run his father's business in 1990 after his father passed away suddenly leaving him to support his mother and younger sister.

Mansour was taught a strong work ethic and technical skills by his father, but the business growth has been all his determination, effort and force of will.  He uses the analogy of pushing a sled in football practice to being an entrepreneur and forcing success.  He means to tell entrepreneurs that they have to put everything they have into their business endeavor to make a business succeed.  Really digging your toes in and pushing with everything you've got to be successful.   He was 19 and his family had just lost their primary bread winner in a family business.  His family was left with little money.  They had to borrow money just to bury his father.  He has lived through the hardships facing utility cut offs and struggling to make ends meet.    He however was no stranger to hard work and survival.  His breakthrough came when he was so stressed and frustrated with a pounding head from the pressure of trying to make ends meet that he said to himself, "So What! What can anyone really do to me now?" He likens the self-realization to death row inmates who have certainty of their fate and embrace acceptance.  He bootstrapped this business from that position with a contract from Pulte Homes to provide services to a new home subdivision going up and leveraged that starting cash flow to continue growing.  He instilled teamwork at the core of the business philosophy and remaining focused on servicing and pleasing the customer with a passion.  His story is not typical of most trade contractors you might meet, but is often the formula of the great entrepreneurs.

Where Mansour is unique from other small business owners is that he cites no proprietary formula, genius or patents that are the secret to success.   No formal business school training.  No government grants or hand-outs.  No outside consultants.  No outside angel investors or venture capital funding to get his business off the ground.  He cites plain old hard work and teamwork.  He formed an advisory team of subject matter experts on everything from electrical, mechanical and plumbing to make up his core advisory team to help him evaluate products and services.  They developed a team sales approach and brought in a sales training expert to educate his technicians on creating a balance between sales, service, educating the customer, and cross-selling add on services through traditional marketing.  The simplest form of marketing:  slapping a label on all the appliances they can service when in the home was a tried and proven strategy that works for many trades contractors, but the difference for Michael & Son was an in house state of the art call center and enterprise system handling the call volume and dispatching service and access to the owner for every customer or employee.   This approach, along with tight cost controls, instilling disciplined values of teamwork to every employee has created a unique service organization.   Even master electricians with years of experience hired into the company spend weeks in training to learn Michael and Son systems to include HVAC or plumbing capabilities to explain other areas of the company's offering and capabilities before they step foot in front of a customer to install a generator or complete another electrical repair.  The same goes for those who answer phones and talk to a customer with a problem.

The company remains more than relevant with state of the art technology like tablets that technicians carry to educate customers with product videos.  Customers sign and pay for orders with a mobile commerce solution tied to their enterprise system tracking key performance metrics that tie behaviors to incentive pay for employees resulting in 20% to 30% higher pay for employees.  In an industry which is highly fragmented with over 80% made up by independents and just 20% concentrated in giant international conglomerates who focus primarily on government and commercial services in the electrical trade space (like large national giant MC Dean).  Michael and Son focuses on residential consumers, and have achieved a leading geographic presence in the markets they serve and are on their way to becoming a national organization (again without any outside funding or Wall Street investors).   The company now offers franchising opportunities and partnerships to experienced trade professionals to offer them a great work environment and company to work for and offer support.   The company has demonstrated the basics of building a business making the transition to becoming a great organization.  A state of the art training program for all employees, a fundamental belief in customer service with basic tenets of competent technicians who arrive on time, in clean logo'd uniforms, driving immaculately clean vans (seen as rolling billboards), labels that are slapped on every appliance they can service from the hot water heater, to the electrical load center and central air conditioner and furnace are the foundational  business techniques that have delivered their outstanding results.   
The company also promotes their “Helping Hands” program where the company’s and Mansour’s charitable work is highlighted on local broadcast channel infomercials along with the Youtube video series (as featured in this post) that provides an audience with the opportunity to share and profile their charitable projects while also promoting the company's capabilities.   I was genuinely impressed with the company's owner and the employees I met including the young technician who came to service my Sears Central Air Conditioner last summer and all the good hearted people working for Michael and Son Services on the phones.  I would highly recommend buying from Michael and Son over their competition like Sears Home Central, Lowes, Home Depot, United Air Temp, or an independent operator (unless I knew the local independent operator personally or he came highly recommended by someone else I knew personally).   To learn more about Michael and Son Services, Inc. capabilities, visit www.michaelandson.com or call 703-658-3998. 

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