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Book Review: Leading Through Relationships by Alan Davis with Amy Loury

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Alan Davis sort of fell into his career as a young man when he was introduced by a friend’s mother to the owner of an HVAC company. He was hired by the owner as a mechanic’s helper, and from there, he worked his way through various positions in the company until today, thirty-seven years later, he is a vice-president of the company. Not only did Alan learn a lot about HVAC during all those years — and he is still learning — but he gained valuable knowledge about what makes a business strong and how a company’s success largely depends on the people you employ and the relationships you develop with those employees.

While Davis draws heavily on his experiences at an HVAC company for his examples, no matter what business you are in, or whether you are the owner, CEO, a CSR, a tech, or a new hire just getting your feet wet, you will find plenty of valuable insight in this book about working with others and developing key relationships both internally and with your customers to build a successful business.

Each chapter of Leading Through Relationships focuses on a different role within a company, including the mechanic, tech, CSR, biller, parts person, warranty person, sales, vice president, and president. Davis discusses what he learned from each of these roles — in many cases, he held the position himself, and at other times, he managed the employees in those roles, was responsible for hiring the person, or even helped to create the position.

Each chapter begins with a job description for the individual position, not just listing the skills required, but what would be the good, the better, and the best employee in each role. While some of these requirements are givens, such as building customer relationships, having appropriate licenses for the job, or in specific cases, being able to read blueprints or stay up-to-date on warranties, others are more personality-based, such as not taking no for an answer and having a rich private life.

I mention the rich private life because Davis is definitely a people person as evidenced by his book’s title. He not only talks about what an employee should do on the job, but how to help employees perform to the best of their abilities, how to interview to make sure you hire the right employee, how to build morale by hiring from within, and how to make employees feel valuable by placing them in positions where they will grow, be challenged, and can own their work so they find their jobs rewarding beyond just the paycheck. He not only believes in supporting the employee but also in thanking the employee’s family for its support. And he doesn’t forget the importance of teaching the employee to provide excellent customer service.

A major part of Leading Through Relationships is also devoted to building customer relationships. Davis discusses the Circle of Sales and how good customer relationships not only result in repeat business but regular repair and maintenance work and new sales for the company. He does not discuss marketing gimmicks but instead focuses on building up a reputation for being trustworthy, responding to customers’ needs quickly, and providing quality service. Davis and his coworkers must be doing something right since they often have third generation customers.

Interspersed among the chapters are various short stories to illustrate a point. Davis is not above poking fun at himself in some of these stories and in others simply showing how to solve a problem. From injured workers to encounters with possums in crawl spaces and dealing with bad weather, these short stories not only made me smile but they made Davis’ points hit home.

Many a CEO and business owner has written a book about all the great things he has accomplished as a leader. Alan Davis is different. In Leading Through Relationships, he explores the various positions within a company and what makes each role vital to a company’s success. In the process, he reveals, unintentionally, what an astute businessman and goodhearted human being he is. I suspect Davis makes his employees feel appreciated so they love coming to work. How does he do it? Read this book.

For more information about Alan Davis and Leading Through Relationships, visit the author’s website.

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