Need advice on how to turn a negative service call into a positive referral? Having trouble drumming up new business? With nearly 32 years in the electrical service industry, Patrick Kennedy is ready to use that experience to help you.

Q.

Through a random drug test, I recently found that one of my best technicians uses drugs. I have a zero tolerance policy, but this particular tech is the best I've had in a long time - he's always on time, never had a complaint from a customer and knows his stuff. What should I do? Do I give him another chance? Tell him to pack his things?

This is always a difficult situation, and what makes it worse is that this guy is your top producer. I hope that you have taken action by this time because these are never the type of scenarios you want to leave unresolved. However, as I see it, you have two options.

First, is to uphold your policy. If you have a zero tolerance policy, then you must have a zero tolerance policy. I have a zero tolerance policy in place in my company, and I've been in your situation several times. In every instance, I've let the individual go. I absolutely hated doing it, but it has made our company stronger. If you don't enforce your policy, what message does that send to the rest of your team? They'll see that you don't do what you say and that you don't enforce your policies. What's worse, this technician will think he has preferential treatment.

Your second option is to amend your policy, but this may be even more damaging. Other policies I've heard of allow an employee who is caught using drugs to undergo mandatory drug classes and he would be required to pass recurring random drug tests for a given period of time. However, the rest of your team is respecting your policies. What message will you send if you change your policy now for this guy? That's not to mention the impression your clients will get if you had been publicizing a drug-free workplace (and you should.)

Overall, as much as it hurts to do it, I would say let this individual go and uphold your policies. You'll only improve your team's morale and work environment, and you'll eventually attract another superstar who will remain drug free.

Q.

We have been in business over 15 years in mostly the commercial field. We are now attempting entering the residential field with a stronger force. We have advertised in all the local newspapers with a fair response. Do you have any ideas or suggestions for making a more prominent campaign for marketing? Thank you for your input if you can help.

Allow me to start by saying welcome to the residential service field. There is an unlimited amount of potential in this industry just waiting to be tapped by those business owners wanting to go for it.

That being said, I don't truly think you're in the service field until you're in the yellow pages. That is where I would start with my marketing efforts. To get results here, you'll need the right ad. Don't let your Yellow Page sales rep design it for you, but rather you should craft an ad that delivers benefits to the consumer. When a homeowner needs service, they inevitably turn to the Yellow Pages, not the newspaper.

There are also numerous opportunities around your community to market your services. You can team up with other plumbing or HVAC contractors in your market that also do residential service. Have them recommend you to homeowners and you can do the same when you are on calls. You can even share the cost of a marketing piece that goes out to their client base.

If that's not enough to get you started, you can also make the most of the service opportunities you do have. Every time one of your technicians is on a service call, have them canvas the neighboring houses. Drop a door hanger on each of the houses on that street with a special “while we're in the neighborhood” offer.

Do whatever you can to build your service base. Once your marketing gets someone to call you the first time, your mission is to get them to call you again and again. That's the formula for profits in the residential service industry.

Got a question for Mister Sparky? Send it to askmistersparky@primediabusiness.com.