Bob Deweese is known throughout the flooring maintenance industry as an innovator and master technician. Currently employed by Rite Rug in Columbus, Ohio as Operations Manager, he has also worked with Dupont, Millicare and Starnet and he’s seen issues sweeping the full spectrum of floor care in his nearly 30 year career. Bob has trained hundreds of technicians over that time and his unique abilities to demonstrate proper procedures and explain the science behind them leave many in the industry insisting that if you learned from Bob, you’ve simply learned from the best. His knowledge, however, goes beyond chemistry and process. His matter of fact approach to the operations side of the flooring business is an invaluable resource and he offers sage advice to anyone looking to expand into the arena of flooring maintenance.
Bob notes, “No matter how big your company is, every company has limited resources. Whether it’s cash, whether it’s people, equipment or space, everything has limits.” Labor, he points out, definitely has a limit and while many business owners choose to wear different hats and take on multiple positions within the company, being a jack-of-all-trades may not be the most productive use of your time and ability.
“You can be the best person in every function, but you’re doing the business a disservice if you’re not spending your time in the most productive way for the organization.”
Bob explains finding the most profitable and constructive use of your time is where you get the most bang for your buck.
As for the other business roles that you dabble in, Bob says to fill those positions with the right people. Identify where your employees make the most positive impact on the organization. Bob believes that assembling the right team – and working as a team – is a solid business practice.
And while he’s not a sports fan per se, Bob does study sports and uses a football analogy to further explain the importance of teamwork. “Everyone would agree that the quarterback is probably the most important position on the team, but that doesn’t mean that the linemen, receivers and running backs don’t have a critical role to play. The quarterback might also be a good receiver – he might be the best receiver – but he’s more important in the role of quarterback. Others are found to fill those crucial roles.”
At his previous position with Dupont, Bob was fortunate enough to travel across much of the U.S. and Canada. He’s seen flooring markets in metropolises, suburbs and small towns and he’ll tell you that the challenges, despite the population, climate or economy, are the same. “Everybody thinks that their city is unique in the problems that it has, and I’m here to tell you that it’s not true,” Bob notes. Your problem may be on a different level than someone in another city, but Bob believes we’re all tackling the same challenge – labor.
Bob openly admits that flooring is a demanding industry in which hiring qualified, competent, long-term employees can be a challenge. Most companies require a background check, a clean driving record, drug testing for insurance discounts and professional appearance. In especially competitive marketplaces, like Columbus, where unemployment is below 5%, Bob acknowledges that making the position extremely attractive is crucial. “What can you offer to that potential employee that these other companies around town can’t?” His first suggestion is to consider a change in the workweek.
Bob notes, “Most people look forward to holidays because they have that extra day off.” He implements a 4-day workweek with 10-hour shifts. His techs work 40 hours each week, but with three days off. Not only does it improve employee morale and retention, but also it helps with asset costs and allocation. “That frees up 20% of my assets. I don’t have to go out and buy more equipment for another guy to use on what would have been the first tech’s fifth day. That asset is freed up for somebody else to use.” Because Bob’s business is 7 days a week, and shifts are staggered, he gets more hours out of his equipment. He frequently sees asset use of 16-20 hours a day.
He also suggests utilizing bonuses for employee encouragement and motivation. “It’s an incentive for everyone to be pulling the boat in the same direction,” he explains.
Often Bob finds himself post-walking jobs in the early morning hours. This is a conscious choice.
He notes, “If you expect out of people what you’re going to get, you’re going to be disappointed. But, if you inspect, you’ll never be disappointed.”
In other words, trust but verify.
Bob points out that everyone can make a mistake, leave something behind or forget a task. Walking the jobs after his techs have done the work and before the client returns, Bob believes, is an added incentive for his technicians to work harder and smarter. “It gives them more keen awareness, knowing that someone else will be walking through to make sure the job has been done properly,” he notes. It also puts Bob in a position to confidently communicate with the customer about any issues.
He states, “If you tell the customer in advance about the problem, it’s an education. If you’re called out to come look at it, it’s an excuse.”
While Bob doesn’t check on every Rite Rug maintenance job, one of his supervisors does. It’s his way of insuring that he doesn’t jeopardize his customer accounts. “I don’t want any customer to feel like they are being taken for granted,” he says. In his opinion, communication with customers is crucial. Document everything – floor plans, blueprints, before and after photos – and pass it on to the customer. Over communicate, if needed. “If they don’t want to look at it, that’s fine. They can hit the delete button,” Bob explains, “but at least they have some type of documentation and trail that they can go back to.”
Stay tuned for the second part of our interview with Bob Deweese, where he’ll discuss training technicians, pricing jobs, purchasing chemistry, and asset allocation.