Last month, I attended NAHB’s midyear meeting in Miami and had the pleasure of sitting in on a presentation by Daniel Swift, president and CEO of Des Moines-based architecture group BSB Design.
Mercedes' Training Pays Off
No company ever worked harder to achieve an NHQ Award than Melbourne, Fla.-based Mercedes Homes.
No company ever worked harder to achieve an NHQ Award than Melbourne, Fla.-based Mercedes Homes. The firm entered three straight years before finally winning in 1996, setting a benchmark for the quality of its training programs in the process.
|Mercedes brings its vendors together in a trade fair to educate its employees and trade contractors.|
Among Mercedes’ breakthroughs were such innovations as a "construction college," offering supers an intense three days of training bimonthly, and the most unusual training innovation of all -- a trade fair, where Mercedes brought in many of its vendors to exhibit products and conduct training for employees and trade contractors.
"Training is now imbedded in our culture," says operations vice president Scott Buescher. "Right now, we’re really working hard to improve our construction scheduling, which is a whole new ballgame with skilled labor in such short supply."
"We haven’t done a trade fair in a couple of years, but it’s time to do one again because a lot of the people and some of the products have changed. Bringing the manufacturers’ reps together with all of our field construction people and trade contractors is a great way to get a dialogue going. It communicates to our people exactly how products should be installed, and for manufacturers, it’s an opportunity to learn of any warranty issues that they may not have seen elsewhere.
"It’s also a great way to give our salespeople a lot more product knowledge," says Buescher.
The last time Mercedes held such a fair, Buescher also brought in one satisfied customer and one very dissatisfied one to share their experiences with people throughout the company and others in the production system.
Buescher says measurement is key even to getting training systems right: "Without data, you’re shooting in the dark on everything, including training. We chart and graph everything relating to customers, construction and business processes."
"Today, we’re even starting to track customer satisfaction individually for sales and construction people, rather than by division or even team. If any of our salespeople or builders fall below an 85% customer satisfaction rating, we are going to send them to special training on how to relate to customers."
Mercedes had $117 million in home building revenue in 1995 and expects to hit $300 million this year.