“We also do John Maxwell leadership classes,” John continues. “Training is nonstop. We budget easily $90,000 per year for training. This is in addition to our participation in all the manufacturer factory training, association classes, and more. It is a lot of time and money. But it pays us back tenfold.”
He says they recently invested in a Virtual Reality (VR) system, for when younger techs struggle with things like wiring or diagnostics.
“Sometimes VR helps our installers who are great at installation work but get stuck if the equipment doesn’t fire up perfectly. We bought a subscription-based VR system that works like a video game. It teaches our guys how to do the algorithms of diagnostics. So far, it’s been a good investment and a good tool.
Mission Accomplished, Yet Ongoing
“Back in 2014, one of my goals was to have all my techs certified in air balancing and CO. Today I can say that we’ve accomplished that and more,” John says.
Since accomplishing certification across the board and keeping the techs engaged with system performance testing and diagnostics, John says he has seen higher levels of service and satisfaction.
“It’s hard to quantify it, though,” he says. “Training and certification are just some of the ingredients that make the cake. The one thing I can say is that problems we once couldn’t figure out are now very visible to us. We’re at a point now where we test static pressure on every job and if a tech gets stumped, he or she can call in with their measurement data and we can easily see whether the problem is with the equipment or the ductwork.
“And we can prove it. Customers understand the numbers when you show them data. Today it’s just a part of our culture.
“It was almost 10 years ago that we started doing NCI onsite training for the entire team to get them certified at the same time. We began by doing onsite training just once per year, and now we do it twice per year – airflow training in the spring and combustion and CO training in the fall,” John explains.
“A direct result of this is that we install better systems than our competition. Our customers are willing to pay more money for what we do, and I can’t think of anything better than that.”
John says that his sales staff knows that their installation, service, and maintenance technicians are a cut above the rest. The result, he adds, is that Lakeside provides customers more thorough maintenance than they’d get from competitors’ standard tune-ups.
“That is one reason why our technicians love the training we provide. The direct result is that our employee (tech) retention is super high. And THAT provides a direct monetary impact on the company.
“My philosophy is that at Lakeside, if there is a right way to do something, everyone does it. This is what fires our team up and gets them excited. They look forward to training. If we have a new hire who hasn’t yet been to any training, I’ve heard our senior techs telling them how much they are going to love it.
“I wouldn’t spend this kind of money on something, or have the kind of relationship like I do with NCI, if there wasn’t significant value to Lakeside and myself,” John says.
On-Going In-House Training
In 2014 Lakeside was doing a lot of in-house training in their own training center. Eight years later that internal training has expanded. John says in that time, they’ve doubled the size of their training center by taking over an additional 2500 sq. ft. of the building they own after losing a tenant.
He says they converted part of that space into a front office with a conference room and then the rest became the training center. Work on the expansion was completed in the fall of 2021. The new center has updated technology that, in John’s words, make it a professional training center.
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