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

Posted by | December 09, 2014 | Small Biz Talk | No Comments

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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