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Ep 19: Leading through themes – Coach’s Corner with Ashley Ennis

How to communicate using themes when it seems your team ‘doesn’t get it’
How it’s possible to transform your team’s weakest point into its strength
Why the most effective teams are not the ones that do the most
The reason it can be dangerous to be the ‘ideas person’ especially if you are the leader
How to ‘layer’ themes in the right order so their results compound
What common mistakes owners often make when they implement their first theme

Watch Episode 19 of the Contractor Evolution ShoW

Listen to Episode 19

Read a Summary of Episode 19

Are you stuck in the Twilight Zone of disconnect between you and your team? Are you constantly communicating with your team about what needs to be done, only for nothing to happen the way you want (or specified)? Frustrating, right?

What are you missing?

It’s a tough pill for many leaders to swallow, but the answer is that the way in which you are communicating may not be as effective as you think.

So how do you address that?

BTA’s business coach, Ashley Ennis (who previously ran a window cleaning franchise that spanned 7 states and provinces and the guest on this episode) uses a very simple and powerful leadership communication tool that she calls “themes.”

What’s a Theme?

As Ashley explains: “A theme is a method of centralizing and communicating a business’s priorities across a team.” In short, it’s a process that helps you filter the bajillion moving parts of your business and determine (and then communicate with your team) what you should focus your energy on.

“A theme is a method of centralizing and communicating a business’s priorities across a team.”

How Do Themes Work?

When Ashley started working with BTA member Mason Marquis, owner of Spray Tex Painting in Texas, he was enjoying explosive growth, but was also being bombarded by negative customer feedback.

Under Ashley’s guidance, Mason shifted the core focus of his business from being a production company to one that delivered exceptional customer service. Mason’s theme (Customer Service) had been identified! Initiatives that would advance that focus were quickly developed, such as a focus on customer service as the first point of every meeting. Consequently, today Spraytex is known for it’s amazing customer service.

To cite another example, Chris Nelson, owner of ProClean, a window cleaning business owner in Washington state, had a stark realization after being injured on the job. Without him, the company couldn’t function. He had made the mistake, as so many leaders do, of trying to wear all the hats, “So Chris instituted a theme of the Year of the Employee,” Ashley says.

Chris rebranded his company from ProClean Windows and Gutters to The ProClean Team and began hiring people who wanted a career, rather than just a job. He implemented training, benefits and other initiatives that improved his staff retention triple-fold. Today, The ProClean Team is enjoying incredible growth.

You see, identifying your “theme” is important to ensure clear communication throughout your company and keep the wheels rolling in the same direction.

So when it comes to identifying your “theme,” where do you start?


Here are Ashley’s 4 Top Tips:

1. Keep Your Messaging Simple

Years ago, Ashley needed to implement a succession plan for her business. Instead of getting caught up in complexities she came up with a two word theme: Extreme Performance. “Every single thing we did was about extreme performance: the terms of profitability metrics, the level of training, and so forth,” she says. “Everyone could take a look at that theme and say, ‘Okay, I see how that impacts my job.’”

2. Have patience

Nothing happens overnight. In taking the appropriate steps to solve an issue, Ashley explains that it might be as long as six months down the road until you understand the problem better, but, she adds, “it’s important to keep your finger on that button for as long as possible, to chase the solution until you reach it.”

3. Accept Neglect

If you really lean into a theme and commit your business to it for a period of time, you will need to accept that other areas won’t get as much attention. “What’s important is that you keep your energy and enthusiasm on the theme until you see it through. It’s okay when other areas of the business aren’t necessarily thriving,” says Ashley.

4. Celebrate Your Results

It’s OK to celebrate the wins! “Recognize the performance when it happens,” Ashley says. “If you’re starting to see some things happen, it’s critical you celebrate that performance. It’ll create momentum.”

As a leader it’s your job to communicate simple and effective strategies to your employees, and themes can ensure that your values and goals align with your company’s actual performance.

Ashley has many more insights to share on this topic, so sit back and enjoy this episode of Contractor Evolution!

Igor Trninic

Igor Trninic

Igor moved to Canada at a young age, where he learned the value of hard work as he watched his family rebuild a thriving life in a new world with extreme change. Most of Igor’s early learning came from competitive sports, where he learned how to hustle and lead. This learning transferred well to business, when he started running a College Pro Painters franchise at 18 and quickly grew it to one of the top franchises in Canada. After finishing an honours degree in Accounting and HR at the SFU Beedie School of Business, he decided to leave the dull world of numbers and followed his passion of developing people and businesses. He fell in love with leading great people and growing companies to their potential.

Working at College Pro as a General Manager for the franchisor, he tripled the revenue of his division in three years by hiring and leading great managers. Here, Igor saw the power of combining amazing people with strong systems to drive scalability. After College Pro, he chose to test these principles on a new venture with the launch of Shack Shine, and together with the guidance of a highly experienced trades entrepreneur, they grew the company to a full scale franchisor within a year and a half. Shack Shine was eventually acquired by 1-800-GOT-JUNK to be scaled across North America and Igor launched the Breakthrough Academy to guide trades and home service entrepreneurs grow their businesses through proven principles. Igor has a passion and true care for developing people and their businesses, which has formed the foundation of Breakthrough Academy. His work in developing BTA has recently been highlighted in Igor’s Top 30 Under 30 selection by BC Business Magazine.

Igor resides in Vancouver, British Columbia and loves to take on all the adventure that BC can offer. From hunting to skiing to downhill mountain biking, any outdoor adventure is up his alley.

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Welcome to Contractor Evolution, a show created for high-performing contractors that are focused on scaling up, working less and increasing profitability.

While a lot of other shows focus on early stage growth challenges, we focus on real life scenarios faced by contractors that are scaling at a rapid rate, and how they keep everything dialed in without losing sight of work/life balance.

If you’re ready to evolve from a contractor into a better business owner, you’re in the right place.

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