Stories We Tell: Learning From the History of Buffalo — and Your Own Hometown


Dave Thiemecke
VP of Learning & Development
July 16, 2019
minutes to read

Get to the Point: 

  1. Two Videos Tell Us Much About the Story of Buffalo — Both show the way we view our history, our present and our future.
  2. Big Chunks of the Home Service Industry Grew From Buffalo — The plumbing, heating and cooling, and electrical fields are still here, and still flourishing.
  3. Think About What You Teach to Your Team and Your Homeowners — That may make all the difference in who you hire to serve.

Drop what you are doing and watch these two videos — both well-made considerations about Buffalo, NY. The titles tell you a lot. The first, from VOA News, is titled “Buffalo: City With a Magnificent Past Fallen on Hard Times.” The title of the second, by a local filmmaker named John Paget, is “Next Things Now.”

Both videos recite facts. One accepts the challenges as they are, and sees them as likely to continue. The other views those setbacks as life lessons paving the way to a fertile future. At Pointman, our POV aligns with the second video. Big-time. 

The videos both play with some key questions: How do you tell the story of your hometown? And what does it say about the way you view your history, your present and your future?

We ponder these questions quite a bit in Buffalo. That’s the hometown of Pointman, a city that both stresses over and celebrates its past. Today, July 16, is all about the latter. It’s “716 Day,” a date chosen due to Buffalo’s area code — 716. (WKBW-TV discussed the unique history behind that area code back in 2016.)

Buffalo, of course, is a Rust Belt city, the No. 2 city in New York state, not the snowiest city in New York (seriously), but certainly the best flavor a wing could have. It’s a city that smells like Cheerios, has suffered through notable Super Bowl defeats and is a gateway to Canada. 

If you’ve never been here before, you probably have an idea of what Buffalo is — and some of that is accurate. Much of it is not. 

OK, so what does all of this have to do with your hometown, and home services? A lot, actually. 

Wherever you live, and whatever your industry, you face the question of how to tell your hometown’s story. Which way do you choose — the one that draws the same line, or the one that says we can draw a new line starting today?

Personally, I feel both. I see generations of my family bound-up in the story of Buffalo. My grandparents told me what it felt like to live when the decline was not a forgone conclusion, and to see it lost. As a father myself, my viewpoint is about what’s been found, and where we’re going. 

At Pointman, we tell our children how big chunks of the home service industry grew from Buffalo at the turn of the 20th century, and what that means to the world today. Yes, more than a century later, these fields — plumbing, heating and cooling, electrical — are still here, and still flourishing. Just like in your town. 

Yet there is a problem, and that’s attracting the next generation of blue collar workers. We look closely at this issue at Pointman, and it impacts how we tell our own story and the story of Buffalo. 

Pointman itself is a story of people who stayed and convinced more to join. We took knocks and setbacks that taught us the most important things to attend to. We give that back to you as our highest calling every day.

How do you live your story every day? In your business, what do you teach to your team and your homeowners? That may make all the difference in who you hire to serve. We hear all the time about the struggles in attracting employees. If that’s your biggest problem as a business owner, it might come down to how you’re telling your company’s story. 

Think back to your children. When you tell them the story of their hometown, do you frame it as one of negativity or positivity? My own dad told me not to go into his business. In some ways I'm still catching up to him.

Interestingly, the Buffalo of today has not forgotten the history of the home services industry. Just a few weeks ago the new Explore & More — The Ralph C. Wilson, Jr. Children’s Museum opened its doors, and it highlights the city’s early use of electric street lights, Nikola Tesla’s alternating current and the birth of the air conditioner.

The spirit of always forward lives on, and it drives us here at Pointman. Do you have big dreams for your business? We’d love to show you our software in action, learn more about your business and help you tell your own story — the right way for you.

Look at Pricing

The start of the year is a great time to look at pricing. Usually, you have an idea of how your company fared the year prior, and you want to ensure you will continue to grow in the months to come. Many of us make New Year’s resolutions with respect to spending or saving in our personal lives, and it’s no different for business owners. Making sure your pricing is in line with where it should be is one of the strongest ways to start the year the right way.

Part of looking at your price book is finding where the issues are, and that can take time. An HVAC company in January is going to be very busy, so it’s a difficult time for a close look. However, a plumbing company might not be as busy. Whenever you tackle this job, your best bet is to look at what your labor rates are. Start there, and let it trickle down across the board. Ask yourself, “Are my labor rates helping my business stay profitable?”

Remember, there are many different services out there and many different groups or communities that you can engage. Never hesitate to say, “Hey, I’m a business owner in Florida. What should my labor rates be?” You can build your price from there. There are also some great billable hour calculators available.

Set Goals

There is no better time of year for looking inward than January. Set your personal goals and company goals for the following 12 months. If you can break those down into departmental goals, even better! Perhaps that means a CSR booking closing rates a little better, or a truck doing 250,000 a year rather than 200,000.

Many companies have found that using an Objectives and Key Results (OKRs) goal-setting system pays off. Looking for a guidebook when it comes to OKRs? Check out Measure What Matters: How Google, Bono, and the Gates Foundation Rock the World with OKRs by John Doerr. 

One key question is the best way to handle setting goals: Is it smarter for business owners to handle this solo, together with staff, or to delegate completely? 

The best approach is to set goals at the department level. As an owner, you need to take the time to understand what the goals are in each department, and make sure they are in line with your goals for the company. No one likes to set unattainable goals for themselves, so make sure you push your departments to set goals that are lofty, rather than simple ones to feel good about hitting. Entrust your staff to aim higher, and watch how they respond.

Pass Along these Points

There's more where that came from.