Doug Tozour firmly believes that if you’re not really good at something, you shouldn’t futilely bang your head against the wall trying to do it out of sheer pride or a refusal to accept defeat.
It’s a lesson he learned after 10 years of unsuccessfully trying to build a new business unit at Tozour Energy Systems.
“I got into the residential air conditioning distribution business and tried all kinds of things to build that business,” says Tozour, the company’s founder and CEO. “By distribution, I mean you buy product from a supplier and you inventory it and then resell it. For 10 years, I bled trying to make it work. And in the end, I realized I’m not a distribution guy.”
Tozour Energy Systems was launched in 1979 and is now a leader in the heating and air conditioning industry for customers who have large buildings to maintain. The 190-employee company has done work for such clients as Comcast Center in Philadelphia, Ocean County College in Toms River, N.J., and Petway Elementary School in Vineland, N.J.
Tozour Energy has built a strong reputation by understanding its strengths and routinely devising innovative solutions to help customers solve their heating and cooling needs. Tozour’s past experience helped him understand the value of finding something that you’re really good at and then focusing on providing the best experience you can to every customer in that realm.
“When we leave a job and call the client or anybody asks the client how we did, if they say anything other than I want Tozour Energy Systems on my next job, we failed,” Tozour says. “That’s the ultimate measure of the job we did.”
Here’s a look at how Tozour built a culture that empowers employees to do great work and provides the motivation to continue reaching higher.
Get involved in hiring
You need to take a lead role in identifying and hiring the right employees to represent your company and provide exemplary service to your customers.
“You don’t delegate to your B and C players,” Tozour says. “You really make sure your A players are in the search, doing the search, talking to people. The minute you delegate hiring down below the top performers, you really do risk hiring more of what the interviewee is. The key is to get your best people involved in the process.”
Tozour works very closely with Kevin Duffy, the company’s president, to find those employees.
“We spend a lot of time trying to figure out what people are really good at and trying to get them to do more of that and then building teams around that,” Duffy says. “That helps us a lot organizationally.”
Testing is an important of the hiring process along with interviewing and feedback from references and referrals.
“If we’re hiring for a sales role, they go through the Sandler sales aptitude testing,” Duffy says. “We do testing of personalities to see how they will work in a team environment. We work hard to understand what their core personality is like. Do they have a tendency to make excuses? Do they step up and take ownership? It gives us perspective on what kinds of questions we should ask so that when they do come on board, we have a sense of what they are all about.”
Tozour says hiring the right people is about a lot more than just finding someone who can do a particular skill.
“People come in many stripes,” Tozour says. “The people we want are the people who in their heart, really want to be exceptional. Those folks live on challenge. They want change. You hear the cliché, ‘Don’t change. Leave it the way it is.’ That’s not who we hire.
“We tell them day one when they come into the orientation that we promise two things: Challenge and change. The day we don’t deliver on that challenge, you come see me because either we’re screwing up or you’re in the wrong place.”
In order to stay on top of your hiring, you need a strong HR department that can help you by understanding the kind of people you want to hire.
“We have a full-time human resources person whose main role in life is sourcing, finding, interviewing and developing great people,” Tozour says. “We want people who are creative, inquisitive and always questioning how we can do it better.”
You can also use your PR or marketing team to help make your hiring efforts more fruitful.
“One of the great things we’ve done in the last few years is get our PR engine working to get the word out about some of the great things we’re doing in our community and some of the great innovations we’ve got in the marketplace,” Duffy says. “We’ve got people knocking on our door constantly and the best compliment is we’ve got our employees inside that are constantly recommending and referring really smart people because they know we set the bar high.”
Be a leader
There is a big difference between management and leadership and those who fail to understand the difference will find it tough to grow their business.
“Management is the cold, hard facts,” Tozour says. “Here’s how many visits we made, how many proposals we made, how many orders we sold and how many solutions we provided.
“Leadership is the ability to inspire people to do stuff they might not do if left alone. Management is important because it’s all about measuring, quantifying and evaluating the results. But if you’re going to be a great company, it’s all about leadership.”
Effective leaders are proactively searching for both the good and the bad about how their organization works. Duffy says Tozour Energy spent time last year developing a dashboard system to help people understand how certain activities led to certain outcomes.
“Each of the business units developed a set of about five dashboard activities that we then meet about and discuss every Monday morning,” Duffy says. “We meet for a half hour to review how what we are doing will lead to results. Those activities on average resulted in close to 15 to 20 percent business growth in each of the business units for those who implemented it and followed it.”
One thing a dashboard does is provide tangible proof that people are responding to your leadership.
“Doug always says to me, ‘Look over your shoulder to make sure somebody is actually following you when you start these innovations,’” Duffy says. “It’s something we challenge all our leaders to do. Make sure it’s not just you, but that your team is following.
“This dashboarding activity was transformational for the organization. It takes everybody at every level to actually be implementing and doing it and utilizing the process to drive the results.”
There is another difference between leadership and management that effective presidents and CEOs need to keep in mind.
“I paint the picture,” Tozour says. “I paint it as clearly as I can about where we want to go, where we’re headed and a little bit about how we’re going to get there. Then I try to get out of the way. Kevin’s job is to get us there. Unlike a lot of companies, I’m trying not to reach down through the organization too much.
“I’m going to tell you where we want to be. Then I’m going to expect you to staff it properly and to be the one responsible for motivating and inspiring people to do the day-to-day things that need to be done if we’re going to get to this vision.”
Broaden your view
Tozour and Duffy value what their employees do on the job, but they encourage those employees to pursue opportunities outside the business that bolster their skills.
“About four years ago, we started reimbursing for MBAs and encouraging everyone on our senior leadership team to go back to school and start on an MBA,” Duffy says. “We put our money where our mouth is. What we started to see are people who were focused perhaps in a sales role then understood how they fit into marketing and all the business functions and the financial side.”
Tozour wants people who have the tenacity to pursue further education and training and the desire to get involved in leadership opportunities outside of the company.
“We’ve got guys who are coaching semi-pro teams and we’ve got people who are working in all kinds of nonprofits,” Tozour says. “It’s really exciting to see the involvement that you would never know about if you just met the person. You’d say, ‘Yeah, he is a salesman or a service guy.’ They are coaching teams and making stuff happen. Life is much broader than where you work.”
The lesson is that in order to get people to really give their all for your business, you have to be willing to do the same for them.
“If our individuals don’t have an opportunity to grow and develop, the company is going to be stymied,” Tozour says. “That’s going to go all the way through the company.”
How to reach: Tozour Energy Systems, (855) 486-9687 or www.tozourenergy.com
The Tozour and Duffy Files
Doug Tozour, founder and CEO
Kevin Duffy, president
Tozour Energy Systems
What has been your biggest leadership challenge?
Tozour: The biggest challenge, and it’s always the challenge, is finding really good people who can carry out the vision or can lead the charge. Everybody wants to claim that they have got expertise and what not. But finding expertise with leadership capabilities, that’s always a challenge.
What is your definition of success?
Duffy: There’s a quote that I live by: What we do for ourselves dies with us. What we do for others remains immortal. That’s a real focus. When we can deliver financial success, it gives us the flexibility to do great things for other people.
Tozour: What is success to me? First of all, it’s being able to look back and see the results of our labor. To have the financial wherewithal to do whatever I choose to do going forward. To absolutely improve the life of others by giving back. And to have grown enough that I have wisdom that I never thought I’d be answering the questions you’re asking me.
How do you help your leaders grow?
Duffy: It’s common for companies to develop their vision for five years out. But we took it a step further. We analyzed what does that organization look like? What are the gaps? What are the leadership elements we’re going to need in 2015 to be that company? We went to about five different people in the organization and said we see you as a future leader here. We’re going to start challenging you with specific assignments to broaden your development.
As we grow, we have organizational leaders we’ve brought up and trained and developed so that they are ready to assume a leadership role.
Don’t delegate hiring.
Inspire people to do more.
Encourage continuous development.