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Is your salesmanship worthy of your craftsmanship? Q&A with Matthew Smith, Elite Service Class


aster trainer Matthew Smith’s Elite Service Class (

) is the industry standard for flat-rate service training and development, which means that technicians can count on ESC to provide them with the skills, ability and knowledge to produce better sales and profits. Perfect for managers and their technicians, the flat-rate service training programs are what technicians need to reach their sales goals. Smith’s goal is trying to help contractors meet theirs. Smith recently helped spearhead

Michael & Son™ franchises, a family owned and run business. They have a long, rich history of providing superior home services in the electrical, plumbing, HVAC and duct


When the economy isn’t good, you’d better be doing the right things. When you emerge from the bad economy already doing the right things, your momentum is unstoppable.

cleaning industries to customers throughout Maryland, Virginia and Washington, D.C. since 1976 and, most recently, in North Carolina and Pennsylvania.

Phc: How did you get involved in the industry?

Smith: Weird story. I am not a tradesman myself, but was booked to do C2000 gigs by my old company, the retail consultants The Friedman Group. I noticed immediately that there might be a new game for me in the flat-rate service trades, so I started The Contractor’s Friend in the year 2000. What we’ve done since then has been an amazing ride. Phc: What is your official title and what are your general duties?

Smith: I am primarily concerned with filling our workshops at ESC, as my duties of trainer and also as marketing and sales converge there. My official title is national sales director. But the fun job is always going to be in the front of the room, watching the light bulbs come on. Phc: What is a “typical” day like for you?

Smith: There is no typical day. Even the workshops I’ve done countless times depend so much on the

the techs and the accountability side to the managers, and we do it better than anyone.

Phc: Motivating people can be especially tough in this economy and very rewarding when you see results. What are some key motivational tactics you use for contractors?

Smith: For me, it’s the need to

diversify or partner up. How are they going to reach their income goals? If they are so specialized that they couldn’t add other trades, shouldn’t they find qualified partners in the other disciplines to exchange leads? We do these things as a matter of efficient practice and teach others how.

Phc: Who are some of your mentors?

Smith: Who doesn’t learn a ton from Ellen Rohr? She’s my favorite. The only other industry guru I’ve been influenced by is Harry J. Friedman. I do have some hallowed clients, however, who I would be remiss in not mentioning, such as Bob Minkert in Atlanta, Matt Morse in Chicago, Bill Raymond and Ed Wolfe in New York and, of course, Basim in Washington. Phc: What do you find most rewarding about your job?

Smith: The permanent improvement

personalities present that they never duplicate themselves. Usually, I am on the phone with contractors about their businesses or training them or their techs.

Phc: Do you do consulting work/training for the franchises?

Smith: We do. We do a startup training that consists of a minimum of 80 hours, just with me and our senior level people with nuts and bolts experience. Plus, we have top-shelf leadership and coaching that the franchisees depend on. They also depend on each other a lot, which is nice. Phc: Tell me about your Elite Service Class training.

Smith: ESC has the simple mission of helping its clients raise the perceived and actual value of their hard-earned craftsmanship. Everything we do is centered on teaching the value side to

in skills that I make possible. When you train retailers, you get the sense that nobody thinks it’s really their career. They’re all just passing through. In contracting, it’s different: This is their job. They know it, and they take the lessons more easily to heart. Phc: Briefly describe the two franchises — Philly and DC; what services are offered and how are they doing?

Smith: DC is the flagship, so it’s really the corporate mothership. The satellites in Richmond, Norfolk, Baltimore and Raleigh are closer analogues to our Philly franchise. They offer all four of our disciplines (P, HVAC, E, Duct Cleaning) plus Handyman. They are fighting a tough market as new startups and are going through the expected growing pains. But we are growing every day. Phc: What was your involvement with the franchise? How did you get involved?

Smith: I’ve been training here since

2007. In that time, this business has grown 400%. When Basim said he wanted to franchise Michael & Son, I tried to talk him out of it. “You’re not ready,” I told him. The written resources weren’t in a “franchisable” condition; plus, running a franchisor isn’t opening a lemonade stand. He didn’t listen; now I have another job besides training.

Phc: Building a franchise: What are some of the building blocks to create that foundation of success?

Smith: It comes down to three things: The money, the market and the man (or woman). Of all three, it’s mostly the man or the woman. In markets resembling DC, we have a particular type of operation and operator in mind. Where the market resembles Everytown, or Peoria, perhaps, the model tends to be a bit different. Phc: What are the keys to building and maintaining a successful franchise?

Smith: There are only two reasons anyone would become a franchisee: The systems are solid and/or simplified for operational and sales efficiency or the branding is strong. What we are doing is both. You won’t find another

e Continued on p 104

phc december 2011

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