Solomon Bruce Consulting Blog

Tuesday, June 29, 2010

July 4th is here-- where has the time gone? Did you achieve your goals?

  The first six months of 2010 have come and gone!  Where have they gone, you ask?  Gosh, I don't know is the answer, however, gone they are-- never to be back again.  OK, now what?  What do you need to do in the second half of the year that perhaps, was not done in the first half?
   First, let's review the goals that we discussed in December-January?  Oops, you mean that even though we addressed goals for the new year, you forgot to write any of them down?  Well, OK, that has happened before.  However, this is a good time to make goals for the next six months, culminating with the end of the year.  At that time, you should have a great foundation in which to develop new goals for 2011.
   Goals need to be SMART-- Specific, Measurable, Attainable, Realistic and Timely (SMART).  Each goal needs to be specific; well defined and identified and understood.  The goal must be measurable-- what goal characteristics can be specifically measured.  For example, increase in sales, decrease in safety violations, decrease in damaged packages, etc.  No goal is valid if it is not attainable.  There is nothing wrong with a "Stretch" goal, however, if your sales were only $450,000 for the second half of last year, to set a goal of $4.5 Million for the remaining six months of this year may be unattainable.  A much more realistic goal might be to set the remaining six month goal at $600,000.  This would be an increase of 33% over last year, which, is probably also unattainable.  A much more realistic goal may be to have a goal of $495,000 for the last 6 months of the year.  This yields a 10% increase in sales over same period last year--which is actually very, very robust!  Timeliness is another factor which must be addressed in the goal setting phase.  If indeed the bulk of your sales are achieved in the first quarter of the year, to set a super high goal for the last six months would be considered to be untimely.
   Goal setting is not a complicated or difficult task.  Having good goals allows you to maintain focus on your business, as well as provide strategic direction for your firm.  Additionally, establishing the goals, posting them throughout the workplace along with specific measurement criterion allows you to inform all of your staff on how the business is performing.
   Most employees want to know how the business is performing--establishing goals and measuring the companies performance against the goals shows how the company is doing.  Interestingly, if goal attainment is difficult, not well understood or does not make sense to the employees, what you have learned is that there is a communications error between you and your staff.
    Think about what goals you wish to achieve between now and the end of the year.  Develop/Establish 3-5 goals, use the SMART criterion and post these goals throughout the workplace.  Measure the goals constantly and see how your firm is performing.  If nothing else, you will have a much better idea of what goals to set and establish for year 2011.

Friday, June 11, 2010

Government Contracts-- A Great Way to Increase Your Business Presence

  The Stimulus funds that the government has issued have provided the opportunity for many businesses to increase their presence in the marketplace, as well as provide some great work that may not have been available previously!  Government contract work is very exciting and challenging, however, before a business decides to become a government contractor, some careful analysis and consideration of the work required is in order.
   We will assume that you are already registered in the Central Contract Registry (CCR), have your DUNS number, as well as know your North American Industry Classification System (NAICS) code when you consider bidding for a government contract.  Being registered at the local Procurement Technical Assistance Center (PTAC) is beneficial as well.  Go to to find the location and phone number of your PTAC Center.  The PTAC center is funded by a combination of local and Department of Defense funds and provides assistance to you with attempting to secure a government contract.  The PTAC staff cannot actually do the work for you, however, they are able to provide insight and counsel on the many varied nuances of government contracting.
    One of the key points in reviewing a government solicitation is to be real sure of exactly what is being required, as well as having a real clear understanding of what your particular business capabilities are BEFORE you elect to submit a bid.
     We strongly suggest that you review the solicitation at least 4 times before you elect to do anything.  Our experience is that each time that you review the solicitation, you will discover another factor or element that was not clear the previous review time.  We also suggest that you have several of your key employees review the solicitation to identify any areas where questions may arise as well as develop a clear understanding of the task that you are being requested to perform.  This may seem like an arduous method of solicitation review, however, in the initial stages of government contract work, this is the one way in which to insure that you not only understand what is being requested, but also what tasks your firm will have to perform in order to satisfactorily complete the contract.
     In many cases, it may be most beneficial to have a firm such as ours review your final submission before you submit it to the government agency.  Our review, commonly called a "Red Team" review, will analyze all facets of the solicitation and how your response addresses and answers the solicitation requirements.  A Red Team review is designed to identify any discrepancies or omissions that are required by the government agency, but you forgot to include in your bid proposal.
    Having a real clear understanding of your cost structure is another salient component of government contracting.  Depending upon the government agency and the type of solicitation, you may be requested to only provide a "lump sum" bid for labor, materials, construction, general and administrative expenses, overhead and profit.  Not knowing or fully understanding any one of these elements can spell disaster before you ever begin performing the contract work.  If you don't understand all of these elements, now is the time to understand how each element is integrated into your overall business structure, irrespective of whether or not you elect to pursue government contracting.
    Government contracting can be a very profitable and successful way to increase your overall business presence and marketshare.  If you have any questions, please feel free to contact us.  We can help you become a successful government contractor.

Wednesday, June 9, 2010

No Worries-- We Did Not Do As You Asked!

   Many of my blog posts address the need for outstanding service, especially in these turbulent economic times when customers have many options on where to spend their hard earned dollars.
   I was in rural Western Montana the other day working for a client.  I had checked into the motel and asked where a good place was to eat.  The desk clerk said that there were several "Mom and Pop" type places, however, she had one which she highly recommended.  I said, "Great",  she gave me directions and off I went.
   I found the little cafe, there were lots of cars and trucks around, a "cowboy" indication that I must have found something good!  I had driven most of the afternoon, about 7 hours to arrive here, was tired and was hungry.
   Walking in the door, the water was on the table, the waiter mentioned the specials.  I took a minute and then ordered a steak sandwich-- it just sounded good, it was getting late and I did not need a big meal.  He asked how I wanted the steak cooked-- I said Medium to Rare, more on the rare side.  OK, no problem.
    Well, the meal was served and the steak was at best well, well done!  I was hungry and ate the meal.  At the end of the meal, the waiter appeared and asked if everything was satisfactorily prepared.  I told him that I had asked for a Medium to Rare steak, however, ended up with a Well- Well Done steak.  His comment was that small steaks are hard to cook!! 
     Wellllll-- OK, guess that is the case, it kind of reminded me of Henry Ford and the Model T-- you could have any color you wanted, as long as it was Black!
     The waiter presented the bill and said, "I took $2 off the bill, we did not prepare your steak as requested."  Wow, was I surprised!!  This happened in rural North Western Montana.  I was certainly willing to pay the full bill, did not ask for any recompense, however, did not get what I ordered!
     Now my curiosity was piqued-- I asked the waiter if he was the owner-- he said No, that his mother in law owned the cafe-- she had cooked in the morning shift!
     The actions of this waiter are the characteristics that we have discussed in many previous blog articles.  This was a seemingly empowered employee, identified a customer complaint and took the necessary action to try and remedy the action so that the customer was happy.  He did NOT tell me that there was any policy against fixing a customer complaint, he did not try and argue about what my customer dissatisfaction was, he just solved the problem!  Needless to say, I was not only impressed, but am willing to tell everyone else how good the food and service was.
     Now, do your employees have the same empowerment and skill to address customer complaints?  Do they know what to do when someone is unhappy with the product and identified their complaint?  If not, you may wish to explore how to insure that your employees can address customer satisfaction in a manner which Covey cites as "Win-Win".
      Yes, I left a big tip!  I was impressed with how the waiter handled the matter.  He obviously knew what to do and he did it without me doing any more than telling the truth when I was asked how the meal was.
      The name of the cafe-- The C & L Cafe, Cut Bank, Montana.

Friday, June 4, 2010

Electronic Voice Customer Service-- BE CAREFUL!

  One of the most frustrating things that I deal with is "Electronic Voice Customer Service".  My telephone service is at best, mediocre!  This causes several calls to the service, trying to resolve customer service issues.  Although many may believe that "Electronic Voice Customer Service" is a cost saving, higher efficiency service, if you look at it from the customer perspective, you will probably find that it is not what it is advertised.
   Before you decide to invest in an "Electronic Secretary", think real hard how your customer's will react to not talking to a live human being.  In most cases, people like to talk to a live human being, who can be helpful and courteous and help resolve customer service problems.  The issue becomes one of cost-- with the electronic secretary, you pay once and the system works 24/7/365 with no need for breaks, vacation, etc.  HOWEVER, the frustration of having to go through multi layers of prompts, questions and repeated information is very, very frustrating for many people.
   Perform a thorough cost analysis before buying an electronic secretary.  The costs of retaining a human being will be more than buying an electronic device--that is for sure.  However, what is much less quantifiable, but equally important is how your customers react.  Our recommendation is to always have a live voice answer the phone and direct the calls.  Our experience is that although this may appear to be a greater cost expense than an electronic secretary, the increased value of customer service along with talking to one of your staff members will return greater dividends than the cost of the electronic switching system.