The following excerpts are from an interview with Ed Ducote, Own and General Manager of ServiceMaster Professional Building Maintenance for submission to Franchise Magazine.
Bio: Ed Ducote has been in business for 26 years, married for 25 years, and has three children. Ed attributes Christian formative influences that encouraged devotion to daily work and faith as his foundation and which has helped him find success in business.
What’s your passion in business? I am passionate about customer satisfaction. If our customers are happy with our performance, then we are doing something right and responding to their needs. Even then, there is room to improve and go beyond what they expect. Going Above and Beyond™ is a ServiceMaster value.
How do you balance life and work? I can make a habit of doing the urgent or the important things. If I only respond to the urgent, I will never touch on the important. I always try to prioritize the important things first, so that the urgent events occur less frequently and I know how to respond optimally when they do. For example, the way I start my day, my daily habits, influence the wisdom and patience I have at my disposal to deal effectively with my employees and my customers and the inevitable challenges that we face.
What is your business philosophy? I value consistency in service with integrity by following through and doing what I say I am going to do.
If a businessman or businesswoman is not consistent, they will be all over the place. If they don’t do what they say they are going to do, they will lose business and their reputation becomes a casualty, thrown into the trash heap of broken promises. At ServiceMaster Professional Building Maintenance, we clean up trash, not create more.
How would you describe your management method or style? I like the Golden Rule: Treat other people, as you would like to be treated. I reference this with employees and strive to function this way as I make decisions that affect the people in my business. I delegate but verify as well, and get clarity into situations by actively listening. I would define my management style as goal oriented and relational.
Have you changed your marketing strategy in response to the economy? Yes! In September of 2014, I hired a Business Development/Marketing Manager. We have a new and improved website which defines us on a more local level. Using social media and email marketing anchored by our website, we anticipate a better digital presence than we have ever had. We are also embarking upon regional collaborative marketing with other franchise owners.
Are you involved in any charitable organizations or causes? Yes. ServiceMaster Professional Building Maintenance supports Young Life of Harford County, Marriage Works, SERVEFEST, and the Global Day of Prayer.
How do you deal with problem employees?
Our supervisors work directly with employees in the field, where the cleaning is done, to identify problems. The goal is to find a solution and a resolution to the problem. Most of the time it can be solved because we are very selective in whom we hire and find that our employees are open to direction and correction when it is given. Occasionally, we cannot resolve a reoccurring problem with an employee and we terminate them with the goal to mitigate any distractions to our customers in the process.
How do you reward/recognize top-performing employees? We provide our supervisors with bonuses based upon customer satisfaction, retention, and growth. We also provide bonuses throughout the year for perfect attendance. We give referral bonuses for employees who send an applicant our way whom we hire and retain for three months.
How is the current economy affecting you, your employees, and your customers? The negative business climate is not what we want and we would like to give increases to employees and that can be a challenge. On the upside, there are opportunities to become more efficient when the economy is troubled. In sailing, the sailor uses a technique referred to as “tacking”. Tacking uses the force of the wind coming against you to propel your boat forward, not in a direct forward line, but a zigzag motion. I reflect upon that as an overarching theme to keep in mind as I navigate the waters of business. For example, if a customer is looking for continued quality services for less cost, I am forced to focus on strategies to manage accounts for retention and profitability with results that benefit both our customer and Professional Building Maintenance.
How do you forecast for your business? It is important to have a Business Plan as well as a Marketing Plan. These plans should be subject to periodic review and revision because in business you have to be flexible and ready for the constant changes that the markets and innovation demand. ServiceMaster says that high-performing businesses “continually monitor, assess and articulate solutions”. Having a plan for how we do this at multiple levels and recording it for the next generation owner and manager is our goal.