How Do You Motivate Your Team? An Interview with Kevin Nolan

Posted by David Chism | Wed, Dec 10, 2014

 How Do You Motivate Your Team? An Interview with Kevin Nolan

Explor­ing the Ideas of Account­abil­i­ty, Reward, and Response

We as human beings respond to things. I know. That sounds like an incred­i­bly sim­plis­tic state­ment, but when you slow down and think about it, it’s also incred­i­bly pow­er­ful. As busi­ness own­ers and man­agers, you have an oppor­tu­ni­ty to draw spe­cif­ic respons­es from your team by the way you lead, man­age, del­e­gate, and encour­age. As mar­keters (and we are all mar­keters in a way!), we strive to elic­it a cer­tain response from those who read our mate­ri­als, find our web­sites, or explore our rep­u­ta­tions. The trick is to find just the right key to unlock the response you’re look­ing for.

Lead in a Way that Calls for a Cer­tain Response

When you think of incen­tives” and moti­va­tion”, one of the go-to strate­gies is to involve some sort of raise in pay, or bonus. That cer­tain­ly has its place, but let’s dig a lit­tle deep­er. The response of increased involve­ment, moti­va­tion, and pro­duc­tiv­i­ty is not inex­tri­ca­bly tan­gled up in your pay scale alone, but also comes as a direct result of your lead­er­ship and man­age­ment style. Do not be afraid to ask for more, and to let your team take own­er­ship of their own work. And, most impor­tant­ly, pro­vide encour­age­ment, focus, goals, vision, and follow-through. A well-known say­ing tells us: You get what you inspect, not what you expect.” Set­ting up a sys­tem of account­abil­i­ty and encour­age­ment will go a long way to draw a pos­i­tive response.

kevin-nolanHow Kevin Nolan Built a Cus­tom Home in Few­er than 5 Months

Last month, I had the chance to spend a day with Kevin Nolan, own­er of one of the largest and most high­ly-respect­ed res­i­den­tial paint com­pa­nies in the U.S. A cou­ple of years ago, I heard he bought a piece of prop­er­ty and was going to build a cus­tom wood home in record time. If there is any­one who jumps to mind when it comes to meet­ing goals, it is Kevin. Because of this I knew it could be done, but I won­dered how he would accom­plish such a daunt­ing task. He was kind enough to talk with me about how he did what was said to be impos­si­ble: build­ing his dream home from start to fin­ish in just under 5 months! It’s a study of not just con­struc­tion, but of how to grab a process by the horns and draw the response he need­ed from every­one involved. By the way, I final­ly got to vis­it the fin­ished (and beau­ti­ful) home and have includ­ed a few of the before, dur­ing and after pho­tos in this post below.
Kevin: I decid­ed to be my own gen­er­al con­trac­tor (GC) so I could have con­trol over how quick­ly I could build my house. I did hire a GC to act as a con­sul­tant. We met once a week and we decid­ed what had to hap­pen next. I used some of his con­trac­tors to per­form some func­tions and some of my own con­trac­tors to per­form oth­ers. Nat­u­ral­ly it took a lot of plan­ning.We had to order mate­ri­als in a time­ly man­ner and make quick deci­sions on things. David: How long did it take to build your home? Kevin: Tech­ni­cal­ly 4 months, 3 weeks from ground­break­ing to move in. David: How did you come up with that time­frame and why did you think it could be done? Kevin: We were in a race to get in before the hol­i­days. We had our two sons com­ing home from col­lege and no place for them to stay. We were liv­ing in a dilap­i­dat­ed old house on the prop­er­ty that had no heat and no water. Lat­er we demol­ished the old house. David: How did you get the trades to work for you and get the job done on time? How did you moti­vate them? Kevin: I told them upfront that I would pay them imme­di­ate­ly after they gave me an invoice. I also made deci­sions fast. I offered them bonus­es for meet­ing or beat­ing the sched­ule. They all took advan­tage of it. My gen­er­al con­trac­tor friend said I could nev­er build it in 5 months, but we beat that by a week. Late nights and week­ends allowed the project to move dou­ble-time. David: In your opin­ion, how can a paint­ing com­pa­ny or builder moti­vate his/​her employ­ees to hit or exceed goals? You had men­tioned to me about your son and how pro­duc­tive he has been work­ing at Nolan Paint­ing. Kevin: I am a big believ­er in lay­ing out clear goals and time­lines and offer­ing bonus­es to peo­ple to hit them. We call it Pay For Per­for­mance (PFP). As long as a goal is rea­son­able and there is an incen­tive to hit the goal on time or ear­ly, most peo­ple will put in the extra effort. It is in everybody’s best inter­est to hit the goal. We PFP for our man­age­ment team, office staff and field super­nal. It dri­ves a cul­ture of account­abil­i­ty and reward.
By the way, I will men­tion that not only did Kevin build his home in 4 months and 3 weeks, but he also still man­aged the affairs at Nolan Paint­ing on a dai­ly basis with­out miss­ing a beat. It is tru­ly amaz­ing to walk through Nolan’s office and observe his hard­work­ing staff.

Tak­ing a Gen­uine Inter­est in Your Team Builds a Cul­ture of Success

I hope the brief inter­view above has stirred up a few ideas about how you can encour­age and moti­vate your team in 2015. I sure was inspired this fall by my vis­it to Nolan Paint­ing. Kevin is tru­ly a remark­able busi­ness­man who gets things done. Yet there was one key take­away I learned this time around after my dis­cus­sion about his home and the crews work­ing for him: he is gen­uine­ly inter­est­ed in their suc­cess. Kevin moti­vates, push­es hard, and sets high expec­ta­tions because he believes that he has great peo­ple work­ing for him that can meet and exceed those expec­ta­tions. I can tell he tru­ly has a heart and pas­sion for peo­ple and wants to see Nolan Paint­ing suc­ceed with­out his ongo­ing involve­ment. Kevin, thank you again for allow­ing me to write this blog and spend­ing a bit of your busy Wednes­day with me. Since I first met you almost 15 years ago, I have always come away learn­ing some­thing new that chal­lenges me! ]

About David Chism

David Chism started his business out of a passion for helping small contracting businesses grow, be more profitable and become better known to their target clients. One lifelong hobby of David is using techie gadgets. So this blog is a place where he writes about technology, marketing ideas, just for fun (humor), personal thoughts on small business and more.


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