Solomon Bruce Consulting Blog

Monday, November 29, 2010

Buy :Local-- Keep the money here in town!

  Now that the holiday season has arrived, everyone is in the market for gifts!  Black Friday and Cyber Monday have come and gone!  Buy Local Saturday has also come and gone-- with, unfortunately, not much press by American Express, the firm who created Buy Local Saturday.
   When you buy local, you help a fellow business owner with his/her own business.  You normally get much better service, greater reliability and a much more knowledgeable staffer who knows how to help make the item work, fit your application, or improve what ever it is that you have just purchased.
    National studies consistently show that approximately 67 cents of every retail dollar spent a a local business stays in the community.  This is contrasted with only 40 cents of every retail dollar spent at a national chain.
    Local vendors are normally much more caring and giving back to the local community.  After all, it is you and I that live, work, support and recreate in the local community!
    We recently upgraded all of our information technology equipment firm wide.  There was never any thought of going anyplace other than local vendors.  In fact, we received quotations from a couple of vendors.  We ended up using a local vendor who we had a previous relationship with and knew the quality of service which was provided.  Yes, the service was exactly as advertised and the price, the same as most other places out of town and out of state!
    I have written previously about not giving your local business owners an opportunity to fulfill your needs.  Yes, in some instances, the cost may purportedly appear higher.  However, if indeed you have any problem with service and have to call India or the Phillipines, be placed on indefinite hold and then have to send the product to Timbuktoo for service, whatever money initially saved has been spent on time wasted, excessive downtime and increased frustration!
    Give the local business a good hard chance at your business this holiday season!  As a business owner, go after the local business.  This may mean adjusting your hours of operation, being open later during the shopping time of the holidays, even open on Sunday when you normally are not open on Sunday.  Now is retail harvest time.  At harvest time, all hands need to be on deck and do whatever it takes to bring the crop in.  In the business world, this is selling as much product as possible and adapting to the terms and conditions of the buyers.  Don't get caught short now.  This is the time to go "full steam ahead" for the next 29 days.  Adapt to what your local buyer needs-- you may be amazed at how your business increases because of your changes.

Wednesday, November 24, 2010

Where is the Checklist?

   One of the key elements in insuring that all of the tasks are completed in a timely manner is the use of the checklist!  I was out of state last week and spent several nites in hotels.  Interestingly, every hotel desk clerk had a checklist to use to complete/insure completion of all of their assigned tasks.  I was in a coffee shop the other day and the staff there also had a checklist to insure that all of the tasks were being completed.
   Do you have a checklist for all of your folks?  This is a simple idea that pays handsome dividends and insures that all of the tasks are done.  Let's review why a checklist is important, not only for the staff member, but also someone like you, the leader of the organization.
   Check lists detail and identify all of the tasks that the employee is expected to do during his/her shift.  When created in a manner which identifies the task, what and how it is to be accomplished and then signed off on by the employee, you know that the task is done.  If the checklist is signed off and the task is either not done, or done improperly, you then have the written documentation to use with staff to improve performance.
    Pilots fly airplanes with checklists.  Each and every take off and landing, a checklist is used to insure that all of the steps, controls, levers are set and positioned in the correct position so that the take off or landing can be uneventful.  It makes no difference if the pilot is flying his/her first ride or has been flying for 44 years, a checklist is the key to safe operational procedure.
    No matter what business you are in, developing and using a checklist is the key to smooth operational procedures!  We have worked with clients that have spent considerable time developing checklists from opening in the morning to closing at night, with each and every process in-between identified and checklisted.  The initial workload is quite significant, however, once completed, the use of the checklist provides a significant return on investment (ROI) for the time that you spent.  If you want to insure a smoother overall operation, less snags and greater profitability, the development and use of checklists by all of your staff is a "no-brainer!"
    Think about the pilot and the checklist.  If it works to fly an airplane, it will work in your business as well.

Tuesday, November 9, 2010

It costs $75 more, do you want me to add that to the bill?

   The blog title was what I heard as I attended a meeting at a hotel the other day and the sponsor asked for a wireless microphone.  The sponsor asked if there were any other options.  Yes, there was a portable speaker that was available for free.  The microphone was to be used to amplify the sound coming out of the computer's speakers.  The big speaker was to hook into the computer and replace the computer speakers.
   The sponsor said that the speaker idea would work fine.  Hotel staff went and got the speaker unit, was not sure how to hook it up, however thought that they had it wired correctly.  The guest speaker was not sure of his equipment, however hooked it up, believing that the speaker would work.  Well, of course, you know where I am going-- the speaker did not work, we used the computer speakers and all was well.
    As I thought about this interaction, I wondered how both the sponsor and the hotel found themselves in this situation?  The sponsor told me that she had ordered a microphone-- nobody had told her about "free" speakers to be used with computers.  The hotel employee, obviously having been "beat" on previously, was sure to want an additional charge for something that should be provided with a rental room
    When you provide a service or benefit, are you clear what is included in the basic price of the quotation?  Do you "low ball" the estimate and then try and add on every little additional request?  Perhaps you make a bid and then expect to add some additional needs, if requested.
     Here is what I thought as I watched this event transpire.  The hotel is going into the dead season for this property.  The hotel was at best about 20% filled.  No other banquet rooms were being used and by the way that the staff talked, that was probably going to be the way it was for the rest of the month.  Now, looks to me that I would have not mentioned the microphone cost, just gotten it and given it to the event sponsor and thought no more.  However, I cannot fault the employee either.  I am sure that he "forgot" a couple of times and got a "whipping", so he was real "gun shy" to become empowered and help the client.
    Research has shown that empowered employees are ones that always are able to increase your bottom line, increase sales and create great customer satisfaction no matter what business or industry they work in.  If your employees are not empowered, you should think hard about empowering each of them.  Give them the authority and responsibility to make decisions and then be held accountable for those decisions.
    Now, there is some education and teaching necessary prior to employee empowerment.  You need to show, demonstrate and teach your employees what you expect, how you want matters handled and what complications might arise.  There will be complications that will arise-- however, in most cases, nothing is insurmountable!!
    In this case, I would have had the employee get the microphone, point out that normally there is a $75 cost associated with the microphone, however, today, it was included, complimentary, with the room.  Will I go back to this hotel if I am responsible for another event?  Probably, however, we would insure that all of the details are ironed out before the event.  Something to think about in your business!