Brad Resler, President and COO at Brady Services Inc., talks with Sarah about three pillars Brad feels are critical to service transformation success.
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Sarah Nicastro: Welcome to the Future of Field Service podcast. I’m your host, Sarah Nicastro. Today, we’re going to be talking about three pillars of redefining service delivery. We talk a lot on this podcast about the different journeys that companies are on when it comes to transforming their businesses to better meet the needs of today’s customers. The reality is there is a lot of foundational work that goes into structuring a business to be able to evolve to meet those needs.

Sarah Nicastro: I’m excited to welcome to the podcast today, Brad Resler, president and COO of Brady Services to talk with us about Brady’s journey and the foundation that they’ve set in the business. Brad, welcome to the Future of Field Service podcast.

Brad Resler: Thank you for having me.

Sarah Nicastro: Thanks for being here. Before we dig into the topic, Brad, can you just tell our listeners a bit about yourself and your journey and Brady’s business?

Brad Resler: Sure. Well, let me start with Brady. We are a mechanical contractor, HVA service provider, and a building solutions organization that is headquartered in Greensboro, North Carolina. We were founded in 1962 by Mr. Don Brady, who left the train company and moved down to Greensboro from up north. Since then, our company has grown to almost 500 associates and we’ve diversified into parts sales service, building automation. We even have a large integrated security division, all in the commercial and industrial space. We do business throughout North and South Carolina.

Brad Resler: As far as my own journey is concerned, I’ve had the privilege of being here at Brady for about six years now, starting in a sales leader role, and for the last three years or so have had the opportunity to run our organization from an operational standpoint.

Sarah Nicastro: Great. Good. Well, thank you for that. I was obviously really excited to dig in. Brad, you and I connected not long ago and had a really in-depth discussion about Brady’s journey and the way the business is evolving based on the current landscape of what customers are looking for, and how that differs from how things may have been one or three or five years ago. We’ve talked about how you’re leading the company through this journey in an effort to find new and different ways to serve your customers.

Sarah Nicastro: One of the facets of that conversation is us discussing how building a strong foundation upon which to build that evolution, how important that is. That’s why I asked you to come and join us here, because I think that that foundational work that you’ve led Brady through is very, very important. Because I think sometimes it’s that foundational work that companies race past and then ultimately end up having to go back and fix. Based on the conversation you and I had, we broke the foundational work into these three pillars.

Sarah Nicastro: As we talk through those three pillars today, I want to talk about the foundational changes that you’ve made at Brady that have allowed you then to move past that foundational level and start building upon that. The first pillar we’re going to talk about is culture. That’s the first pillar of this idea of really redefining service delivery. Talk to our listeners about culture and how at Brady that needed to be evolved foundationally and how you’ve been able to build upon that.

Brad Resler: Yeah. At any organization, the foundation of success is its culture. Brady has long had a very strong family-friendly culture, a culture of performance excellence. Those are things that we certainly didn’t want to change as we looked at how we were going to continue to evolve our business. As strong as that culture was, it was also in some ways our biggest challenge, because as we’ve grown to the size that we are now, we’ve had to change. We’ve had to scale the business and it requires doing things a different way.

Brad Resler: Sometimes when you’ve been successful in doing things a certain way for a long time, it’s hard to understand why you’d need to do something a different way. We’ve really focused in the last several years on our culture and have been very intentional about how we wanted to preserve the good and evolve as we’ve needed to. It’s really come down to getting good leaders in place and having a culture that is very performance-based, very data-driven and very process-focused, and helping everybody understand that that’s not a bad thing.

Brad Resler: That’s a good thing and it’s going to help us continue to grow and continue to distinguish ourselves from our competitors in the marketplace. Sounds easy, but it’s a lot of work to take an organization in that direction.

Sarah Nicastro: Yeah. Yeah. I mean, there’s a couple of good points you made. The first and I think the most important I want to go back to is the way I asked that question I think set it up to sound that you had to build this culture. The reality is, to your point, you had a really good culture. This idea of evolving the culture isn’t an idea of going from a bad culture to a good culture. It’s about taking a good culture and making it even better. The reality is it’s human nature for both people and businesses to get comfortable doing what they’re doing if it’s working.

Sarah Nicastro: You can go on for a long stretch of time and have success and you just get in a good rhythm. When there’s market changes, technology changes, business changes that require significant change, it’s not a matter of making a bad culture good. It’s about making a good culture comfortable with evolving, right?

Brad Resler: That’s right.

Sarah Nicastro: I think that’s a really good point and I think the more you can acknowledge the good and make people feel appreciated for the good and not just drive change, the more open they’ll be to that. In terms of the foundational aspect of culture, you mentioned a couple of things related to being more process-based, being more metrics and performance-driven. Are those new things that you had to put in place and introduce, or are those aspects, again, that you just evolved?

Brad Resler: Well, both. It certainly evolved. We certainly had measures around our business. What we didn’t consistently do was apply those measures at the individual level and set really good expectations and communicate what good performance means, which for us, is tied to good outcomes for our customers and have a way of measuring that and rewarding people for that. Or, if it’s not working, correcting the course. One way that we’ve done that is a couple of years ago we revised our core values.

Brad Resler: One of our core values that as an organization now we talk about constantly is the value of continuous improvement. That really gave us a language and a structure to talk about how we get better without it indicting anybody for what’s happened in the past. It’s let us say, “Hey, it’s okay to be where we are. Let’s understand where we want to go and let’s figure out together how we want to get there.” That’s a different conversation than, “We’re not getting it done,” or, “You haven’t done it right,” or, “You’re not getting the job done.”

Brad Resler: A lot of that is really in how you frame the conversation and how you frame the goals. We, over the last couple of years since we’ve had those core values, have seen some pretty significant improvement in our engagement survey scores. It’s working in that we’re able to engage our associates, get voice of associate into the change that we’re driving and really have an organization that embraces getting better.

Sarah Nicastro: Yeah. Yeah. That’s a good point. I think there’s a couple of common things that come up when we talk about this idea of cultural shifts and change management, and you touched on a few. I mean, one is, people want to feel heard. To your point, they want to feel that you’re listening to their input and their insights. Another is, I think that the more you can explain what the driving forces are for the changes you’re making, and most importantly, how adapting to address those forces will help the individual.

Sarah Nicastro: To your point, setting up not only measurements to be able to measure performance, but tying that back to if we can, as a business, meet these needs, here’s how that will benefit you. I mean, it just makes it personal. The other is, to your point, I think that people like to know what’s expected of them. I think that when you have a lot of ambiguity and uncertainty, that doesn’t make employees feel comfortable. That’s stressful.

Sarah Nicastro: Even if some of these performance measurements and things are new and more structured than in the past, I think once employees can learn them, I think oftentimes we see uptick in engagement and satisfaction because it’s just the expectation is clear and they know what they need to do, and they can focus on doing it well. That tends to make people feel more comfortable.

Sarah Nicastro: With some of the foundation you’ve put in place, the core values, and some of the things that you’ve done around the idea of continuously improving the company culture, what do you see as the next steps in terms of continuing to build upon that and continuing to innovate?

Brad Resler: Well, in all the things we have been doing in terms of innovation is actually redefine what innovation is for our associates. We’ve learned this the hard way. Innovation isn’t always transformational or redefining your business. Innovation comes in a lot of little improvements as well, and little improvements that affect the day-to-day activities of our associates. We like to try to get innovative about how we complete our service paperwork in the field so it’s easier on our technicians, it’s more thorough, it gets processed faster to our customers, quicker.

Brad Resler: Those don’t seem like innovation in a grand sense, but for us, it has a very big impact on our productivity, on our customer satisfaction and on our ability to get onto the next job. Those types of things are very important innovative aspects of our business. Some of that recasting the perspective on innovation has really helped us zone in on what’s important. The other thing that we’ve had to do is really focus on and get discipline around creating standard work.

Brad Resler: We’ve got a lot of folks who have grown up and worked in this organization for a long time, do great work, but they may do it differently than one of their counterparts. The result of that is a different service outcome to our customers. If we’ve got a customer in Raleigh, we want them to have the same excellent experience as a customer may have in Greensboro or a customer may have in Wilmington. It’s really important that we have systems and processes in place that guide that standard work. We’re now in the midst of becoming ISO certified, which is the benchmark of having good standard work.

Brad Resler: That’s helped continue to drive that process, but it’s just so important, especially as you continue to grow geographically that you have that strong standard work in place. We spend a lot of time on that.

Sarah Nicastro: Yeah. You’re actually giving me a really nice natural segue into the second pillar, which is around process standardization and optimization. That’s the next foundational aspect of this service delivery evolution, is making sure that you do the work of standardizing and optimizing the processes. What’s interesting is I think the reason it comes up on an answer around culture is there’s a huge intersection between those two things.

Sarah Nicastro: If you have that employee that is used to doing things their own way, you have to balance the desire and business benefit of standardizing without making them feel too unappreciated for their own way of doing things. Does that make sense?

Brad Resler: It does. Yeah.

Sarah Nicastro: Yeah. Tell us a bit around what some of the work is you’ve had to do in terms of process standardization and optimization and how that sets you up for the future.

Brad Resler: Yeah. A couple of years ago when we started the journey of transitioning to IFS, that was a natural time for us to start thinking about how we look at our standard work in the field. We certainly want to do the work that our customers expect of us, and we have customers that have a wide range of requirements. If we’re working in a pharmaceutical company facility then we have to meet certain FDA standards. If we’re working with a customer who makes aircraft, then we have FAA standards we have to meet.

Brad Resler: It’s difficult to have consistency from job to job, so we had to figure out how we create some broad processes that let us get on the job and get off the job and deliver paperwork and be safe, and fulfill whatever the scope is in a consistent manner. There was a lot of work done to think through that and create boilerplate scope where we could, and also build a system that allows us to meet the needs of our customers. That’s a unique challenge that we, and a lot of our competitors in our industry have. The other thing that’s really important is the consistency aspect of it.

Brad Resler: This isn’t a flash in the pan, or a focus that’s going to wane. This is who we are and how we’re going to do business for now and ever more. It’s really making sure that, again, you have local field leaders who understand that, buy into that and help drive that into the field through their quality assurance and oversight. Leadership development has been a huge part of how we’ve come at this because that’s ultimately what is going to win, is having good leaders. We’ve also put a lot of investment and time into organizing our data and creating internal dashboards.

Brad Resler: We use Power BI, and how do you take an enormous amount of data and structure it, summarize it, make it available in a usable, actionable way? That has evolved significantly in the last two years and will continue to evolve significantly as we go forward. If you’re a database, data-driven organization, you’ve got to figure out how to use your data as effectively as you can. That’s been a challenge for us.

Sarah Nicastro: Yeah. I mean, the reality is, every business is a data-driven business today. I mean, or should be. It’s like you said earlier, these are things that sound simple, but are not at all simple when you have to actually do them. That’s why some of these areas are the areas where companies fall down the most because they try and race past this foundational work and then have to come back. It’s the same thing with the standardization and structure of processes. I mean, you’re not going to automate a poor process and get a result from it.

Sarah Nicastro: I mean, you have to do that examination and that refinement before you can really build upon that. It makes sense. The third pillar is around technology. You alluded to your use of IFS. Talk a bit about the idea of putting foundational technology in place and what that process looks like at first, and then how you can build upon that.

Brad Resler: Yes. Technology comes in a lot of different forms, obviously. For us, we view technology as impacting how we work, how we demonstrate our performance and how we train our associates. If we start with how we work, as a service provider, in the old world a lot of times we would wait for the phone to ring. The phone would ring and somebody would say they’re hot in the building and we would dispatch a service technician to the site. Hopefully, that service technician knew what to do and fixed the problem and then hopefully we got paid for it.

Brad Resler: In today’s world, we often know, or have the ability to know about problems before a building owner even does. We’re connected to hundreds of buildings and have all of the building data from their automation system at our disposal, and receive thousands of alarms a day that we have to sort through, decipher, and again, make actionable, and oftentimes can respond without even sending a truck to the site. Just a massive transition or difference in how the industry works and therefore what our customer’s expectations of us are.

Brad Resler: Technology has been a big element of how we manage that, how we offer service around that, and how we track our activity around that. Certainly, a service software platform is important, a building automation system is important. We look at those almost in sync to determine how we can take data out of a building, make it actionable, understand what the problem is, get it into our service platforms so we can dispatch and provide a technician with actual data before they get to the site so they know where to go, or they know what piece of equipment to start troubleshooting.

Brad Resler: Again, a big efficiency time-saver and opportunity to provide a differentiated service to our customers. That’s how we work. How we demonstrate performance is a big part of what we do as a service provider. Oftentimes, since we’re working on very large and complex machines in industrial and hospital or other complex environments, it’s difficult for our customers to even understand exactly what we did. We certainly try to convey that in a written service report, but we’ve also adopted video recaps of our service events.

Brad Resler: Our technicians, when they complete an event … and they may get some before footage and then show some after footage and can describe exactly what it is that they did so a customer has a better understanding of what happened and what they’re paying for. Every one of our service reports and our invoices as well, contains a link to a video recap of that service event. It’s a pretty simple piece of technology, but it’s been very effective to convey to our customers what it is we do.

Brad Resler: Then in terms of our training, really at the end of the day, what we sell is the expertise of our people, so training is a huge area of focus for us. Being spread out all over the southeast, we’ve really turned to technology to up our training game when it comes to providing virtual training events, different ways of making content available upon demand, even in the course of a service event, that can help our staff be more effective. Technology is really embedded in every aspect of what we do. Some big, some more so.

Sarah Nicastro: Again, looking at the building upon what you have in place, from a technology perspective, what do you think are some of the next iterations or next steps for Brady?

Brad Resler: Well, some of it is what I described. It’s how do we respond more effectively to what buildings are telling us and working with our customers more as a business partner than a contractor to help them solve their problems. Just even having a good technical understanding of the data and of what’s happening, is only part of the picture. We need to understand our customer’s business objectives. How they want to operate that plant or that facility, what exactly an operating room needs to be set up as in order to do those procedures.

Brad Resler: We have to know those requirements of our customers and marry those with our expertise to provide them proactive service. That’s really the future of our organization. That’s how we’re trying to differentiate. That’s how we evaluate technology in order to make good investments and implement it appropriately in our business. That’s what we’ll continue to do as we go forward.

Sarah Nicastro: Yeah. Yeah. It’s interesting because on one hand I see that customers really want simplicity. They want you to take on the complexity of doing all of those things on the backend that makes the service to them seem simple. It’s just things are working the way they should without a lot of complexity on their behalf, but on the other hand it’s interesting what you mentioned about while that is true in terms of wanting the service to be executed with simplicity on their behalf, they also want the insights.

Sarah Nicastro: In that sense, they want more information than maybe you were giving in the past. It’s not just, “Hey, yep. We were here, we did the job. You’re welcome.” It’s, “We were here. Here’s what we did and here’s a video of it.” They want that reassurance that they are getting their money’s worth or what have you. It’s interesting that on one hand they want super simplicity and on the other hand, they want more context maybe than they’ve had in the past. There’s a ton of opportunity in terms of the move to more predictive and how you expand to meet more of their needs and all of that.

Sarah Nicastro: One of the things that I also find interesting is, a lot of the steps you’ve taken within these three areas or these three pillars has given Brady progress in improving the customer experience and providing better service to the customers, but also improving efficiency and productivity for the business. Is that a correct understanding? It’s a lot of these areas of focus or areas of investment are double-focused?

Brad Resler: Yeah. If you’re doing it well, they certainly go hand in hand. You’re streamlining your operations to only provide the outcomes that are important to customers, that makes you more efficient, that makes you more valuable to your customers when you can deliver on a consistent basis exactly what they’re looking for. Even the next level is really justifying the value of what you provide customers. Customers are increasingly looking to us to help with energy modeling and helping with ROI type of data on either replace or repair machines or just overall operation of their facilities.

Brad Resler: Again, that’s how we become a business partner and a trusted advisor rather than just a service dispatch operation. A lot of that’s driven through technology, but it’s understanding that at the end of the day, it’s about expertise, it’s about speed, and it’s about doing business in a way that the customer wants to do business with you. All of those things are part of how we evaluate and implement any technology that we would adopt.

Sarah Nicastro: Yeah. That makes sense. Good. You’ve shared what you see as the future for Brady coming up. Anything you would add in terms of what you expect on Brady’s journey over the next 12 or 18 months?

Brad Resler: Well, the next 12 or 18 months are going to bring a lot of change, just like the last 12 or 18 months. Certainly, in the age of COVID our customers’ needs in the last four months have changed significantly. They’ve got, in some cases, less people in the building, or they need to get a better understanding of who’s in the building, where they are. They need to introduce fresh air into the building more often when it’s occupied. They need better ventilation and air quality.

Brad Resler: Change is just really coming at us very rapidly, but through all of that, we’ve got to remain focused on the fundamentals, because while you’ve got a lot of change happening and a lot of change in the world, our fundamentals won’t change. Our fundamentals are providing a good, fast service that our customers can rely on. We’ve got to be able to continue to do that as we deal with the rest of the change. We never try to stray too far from the fundamentals.

Sarah Nicastro: Yeah. Would you say that the foundational work you’ve done in the three areas we talked about today, so culture, processes and technology, helped you be more adept in how you’ve responded to COVID and the changes that it has brought?

Brad Resler: Yeah. I really think it has. Yeah. Focusing in those areas that has allowed us to develop some great customer relationships and communication now is more important than ever because we’ve had to navigate with, when can we be onsite? How do we go onsite? How long can we stay onsite? Are we restricted to work in certain areas? It’s just introduced a lot of friction in our operations that without having those good relationships and those good fundamentals in place, would be even more disruptive than they are.

Brad Resler: I think it’s certainly been helpful. We certainly learned a lot and we fully expect to come out of COVID with a better understanding of how we can do those things than when we went in. We try to look at that as an opportunity as well.

Sarah Nicastro: Yeah. Last question, Brad, and I like to ask most of our guests this question, I just find it very interesting, is, as you’ve led Brady through all of this foundational work or fundamental work to be able to adapt and evolve and innovate, what is the biggest lesson you’ve learned?

Brad Resler: The biggest lesson I’ve learned. Probably that faster isn’t always better. I like to do things fast and check things off the list and accomplish something, and pace is just so critical when it comes to managing change and evolving culture and adopting new technology. You certainly don’t want to go too slow or you’ll miss the boat, but you definitely can go too fast. That’s been an adjustment for me. That’s something that leaders of the business that have helped me with, leaders in the field have helped me with in perspective of everybody involved.

Brad Resler: It’s just something you have to learn as you go in some cases, but I definitely have a different perspective on that. It just requires more planning, more discipline and a better thought out strategy than maybe you would otherwise. That’s been a real eye-opener for many of these last several years.

Sarah Nicastro: Yeah. That’s a very, very good point. I’m like you, it sounds. I’m a little bit … I like to move fast and I’m not the most patient person so that discipline is important and that’s a very good point. Well, Brad, I really appreciate you joining us today and sharing your story and Brady’s story, and look forward to staying connected and having you back at some point and seeing how things are progressing. Thank you for being here.

Brad Resler: That sounds great. Thank you Sarah.

Sarah Nicastro: You can find more content by visiting us at www.futureoffieldservice.com. You can also find us on LinkedIn as well as Twitter, @TheFutureOfFS. The Future of Field Service podcast is published in partnership with IFS. You can learn more about IFS Service Management by visiting www.ifs.com. As always, thank you for listening.