When The Fick Bros. Roofing & Exterior Remodeling Co. in Baltimore held its first Total Quality Management (TQM) meeting in the fall of 1999, sales manager Jeffrey Fick expected sighs and shrugs. He got a few. But Fick bit the bullet and the following month made the meetings mandatory for all company employees.

Today Fick Bros. Roofing holds two monthly TQM meetings. The meetings, held at 4 p.m., are mandatory. “You have to have the discipline and desire to make it happen, to tell your foremen that they must be at the meeting or they'll be disciplined,” Fick says. One meeting reviews each job Fick Bros. Roofing has completed. The other discusses company procedures. The meetings last anywhere from one hour to two hours.

Bonuses For Profitable Jobs It took time, but what made the meetings and the TQM process attractive to employees at Fick Bros. was the prospect of sharing bonuses. Last year, for example, the average employee at Fick Bros. received $4,500 in bonus money. Fick explains that the system he set up made foremen responsible for the profitability of their jobs. The bonus would be based on whatever gross margin savings they achieved. So they now had a reason to manage labor and materials carefully to prevent gross margin slippage. “The beauty of it,” Fick says, “is in recognizing that if the same guy has jobs that run over-budget all the time, it's obvious that he needs management training — or can't do the job.”

As part of the TQM process, foremen began having pre-construction conferences with clients. They were also made responsible for collecting the final check, which would happen when they walked the client through at the end of the job with a customer satisfaction checklist.

New Culture The TQM meetings and the systems that Fick Bros. has since put in place changed the company, not only by eliminating management headaches, but by reducing the time devoted to calls or complaints and by lowering the number of service callbacks.

“We did $2.7 million the first six months of 2005,” Fick says, “with $2,100 in call-backs.” Now, he points out, problems that would have landed on his desk are handled on the jobsite. “I couldn't imagine trying to run this business the way we used to,” Fick says.