Practice Makes Perfect

This time of year the NFL’s teams return to the practice field for training camp and preparation for another season.

Despite winning a Super Bowl, like the Pittsburgh Steelers, or going 0-16 the previous season, each team begins their practice regiment with the fundamentals of the game.

It should come as no surprise that a significant percentage of calls to the manufacturer’s technical support lines come from field personnel ill-equipped to conduct the installation or service they are performing.

When asked to conduct basic system or device tests the callers frequently lack the following:

  1. A basic fundamental knowledge of Ohms law and the relationship between voltage, current, resistance and power.
  2. A clear understanding of cabling and the impact that improperly sized wiring can have on systems operation.
  3. The ability to determine proper system power considerations, including transformer selection, power supply specifications/sizing and how to determine the correct standby battery.
  4. The proper tools/test equipment necessary to determine where or what the fault could be. Many of these callers lack even a basic multimeter, or the knowledge of how to operate it.

So the obvious question is: how do these individuals acquire this basic fundamental knowledge they clearly lack? The answer is that each company in this industry needs to adopt a roadmap for what is expected from each position in the company.

The basic roadmap would consist of four main components designed to accomplish the following:

  1. Identify core knowledge necessary for the position.
  2. Certify proficiency at the various levels.
  3. Supplement with manufacturer specific knowledge.
  4. Establish a path for continuing education.

For technicians this would include understanding Ohms law, national and local codes and regulations, workplace safety, proper use of tools and their applications, installation methods, power supply use/selection (including transformers and batteries) and customer service skills.

For sales personnel this would include many of the items listed above, along with time management, prospecting, lead generation and closing techniques.

Over the past 20 years certification in our industry has gone from virtually non-existent to today’s alphabet soup of acronyms. When identifying potential certifications for your personnel consider the following:

  1. Is the certification recognized as an industry standard?
  2. Is the certification only test based, or is educational and experience part of the accreditation process?
  3. Is the certification or education recognized in the licensing process of your state?
  4. Does the certification have a history, or is it “new” to the industry?

Continuing education is a wonderful means to broaden your core knowledge but it is not intended to replace the foundational training discussed earlier. Many individuals participate in the various 45-, 60- and 90-minute industry sessions offered, leaving with the feeling that they have now somehow mastered the given subject.

These sessions are typically offered as snippets of information on a given topic and generally do not cover the detail necessary to fully understand the topic. In reality they are designed to begin the education process, offering insights into a given topic, with the hope that the individual will seek out additional information on the topic, if interested.

Here is one of my favorite quotes: “If you think education is expensive, try ignorance.”-- Derek Bok, former president of Harvard University.

While you may not hoist the Lombardi Trophy at the end of the upcoming ‘season,’ I do believe you will find an overall improvement in your business by incorporating a roadmap of knowledge in your business model.

Dale R. Eller serves the NBFAA as their Director of Education and Standards.