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Do what the FDNY Does – Part 1

September 26, 2007

Do what the FDNY does
Part 1

As a 9/11 survivor, I felt compelled to pay it forward and so became a Board member of a charity helping injured firefighters receive the care they and their families needed. As a result, I got to meet some very brave people, and learned how the FDNY teaches new firefighters this very complex subject. Their training methods are applicable to our worlds as well.

Trainee firefighters go to the FDNY training center at ‘The Rock’ where they are thoroughly drilled in technique and science. World class training in a top facility, with highly experienced instructors. Upon graduation, these newbie’s are sent to various fire houses, where the old-timers (with apologies to my friends) take them under their wings and teach them, hands-on, how to read a fire, how to put it out, protect themselves and their fellow firefighters, etc. Experience is passed down from ‘generation’ to ‘generation’. A Probie (Probationary firefighter) is seen as a training exercise and not a full firefighter.

In our business world, the applicable lesson is to always formally attach a new customer-facing employee to a proven old-hand. From my experience, it takes a minimum of 6 months hands-on experience for a new employee to be credible in front of a customer. Adjust your revenue and profitability projections accordingly, as well as your recruiting cycle.

Let me provide two examples from the business world:

A Consumer Packaged Goods company, selling mainly to the Big Box stores, had a large national field sales force with high turnover. Due to custom, lack of systems , and inexperience, their standard response to a customer question was frequently “I’ll get back to you”. Not much value-add here. When they teamed new reps with highly experienced reps, customer satisfaction indicators nearly doubled.

A technology company won the rights to implement a sophisticated software package. They trained their staff and sold first engagements. Customers soon complained that they were paying market rates for inexperienced personnel. Rookie mistakes were made, causing delays and embarrassment. They should have figured out how to provide a 50/50 mix between deeply experienced personnel and their own newly trained employees.

Rule of thumb – make sure each account has at least 50% highly-trained and deeply experienced staff in front of the customer or your competitor will. Avoid the temptation to sell like crazy and have more simultaneous situations than you can 50% staff with high-experienced employees. If you maintain the 50% ratio, you can bring in sufficient ‘Probies’ to grow your business while maintaining customer satisfaction.

Rich Eichen is the Founder and a Managing Principal of Return on Efficiency, LLC, who’s website is and is one of their senior turnaround leaders/CROs, Program and Interim Executives with over 25 years’ experience reshaping companies, Operations, IT and key initiatives. He can be reached


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