Experiencing successes, failures, and using the past to improve the future

Have you ever made a mistake at work? Whether it was insignificant or a little more consequential, you probably still carry the lesson you learned from it. Steve Shelton, VP Operations, Field Services at Xplor, remembers one such event that happened 20 years ago, when he was working in the air conditioning industry.

“I once convinced not only myself, but the entire finance team, that I was correct in my forecast to HQ that showed a $50M increase in material usage variance on pass-through sales. Long story short, one of the expensive metals used in this process was in my spreadsheet as .002 ounces, rather than .0002 ounces.” That little nugget was buried among thousands of lines of data that he didn’t notice until after he and the team agreed to hit submit. “That was 20 years ago, and I still remember it like yesterday.”

What he learned was not only to be thorough, but more importantly, to always tell the truth, and respond to and own up to mistakes. Ironically, even before this incident, Steve received a piece of foreshadowing advice, ‘you will learn more from a bad situation than a good one’. But when you’ve had a successful 25-year career like Steve across two vastly different field service management companies, you’ve likely experienced successes, failures, and everything in between. 

Before joining Xplor, Steve spent 16 years at Carrier Air Conditioning working in Finance and Operations, so he’s no stranger to the challenges that maintenance, HVAC, lawn care, pest control, and cleaning companies face when operating day-to-day. Whether scheduling teams of field operators, managing cash flow and invoicing, or delivering a consistently great customer experience, every field service management business needs tailored software to help them grow. So, joining Xplor was the easiest career decision he’s ever made, “It began with the product and ended with the people,” he said. “I entered an entirely new industry I was unfamiliar with, but the product sounded amazing… and it still is.”

However, just because he’s in a new role doesn’t mean he’s not using all the skills and industry experience he gained in the past – especially when presented with new challenges. “Just the other day, I used an old pricing tactic from a previous role to price a new service. I threw in some old school math that worked in the past along with an iterative approach to it, and voila! Decision made.”

When it comes to his work in operations, Steve said he’s found that the more you know about the struggles and wins in other company functions, the better you can perform at your own job. “Don’t be afraid to try new things and step out of your comfort zone. Take on a project that has nothing to do with your area. Try to ask more questions than you are answering, and then listen.” In fact, listening is a value Steve holds close. “I feel, in a large part, society has stopped listening to each other. We’ve been driven into divisive circles either through social media, algorithms, news preferences, or inner connections, which are ridiculously hard to break away from. We simply don’t want to hear the other side of the story. I used to love hearing the other side and debating it, learning along the way. We need to rekindle that spirit.”

In all his years working, Steve cherishes his relationships, both with Xplorers and customers – and even a mentor that hired and trained him 18 years ago. “We bounce things off one another constantly. Nobody does what they do alone, or at least they shouldn’t. Keep important people in your life close to you. It’s worth having that sage wisdom in your back pocket,” he said. In fact, creating lasting communities is the Xplor value that resonates most with Steve – mostly because he actively practices it. “I have lunch, still, with people I haven’t worked with in 10 years, and we talk regularly. I’ve also run into former customers from years ago and we have great conversations. This is what makes a business run and this is what makes life fun. We leave a legacy… together.”

In terms of Steve’s interests outside the office, it’s faith, family, music, golf, football, and fishing. And his side interests (in order) are politics, cooking, cars, and investing. “That pretty much sums up the lot my brain can hold. Anything else is dedicated to Netflix and Amazon streaming.” In fact, one of his favorite life mottos comes from The Office (but only because he hasn’t found his favorite Ted Lasso quote yet), which is: I wish there was a way to know you’re in the good ol’ days before you’ve actually left them.

“This resonates with me because so often I think back on times from my past fondly. And sometimes I vaguely remember those happening at the same time in my life where I wasn’t happy. It was the boss, the job, the situation, etc. but all those great memories came from the same time the ‘ugh’ stuff was happening. It’s a constant reminder for me. When things are tough, there are some cool things and great people in your life. Focus on that.”

Article by Xplor Technologies

First published: November 11 2022

Last updated: May 17 2024