Solomon Bruce Consulting Blog

Wednesday, April 18, 2012

Everything that Could Go Wrong Went Wrong!

   A business owner told me the title to this post a few days ago when I was in his business.  He was in the sports equipment marketing business and was having a "fire sale" on a wide variety of used types of sporting equipment!  I asked why he had such a "blowout" special on all of his equipment.  He stated that the equipment was used, consignment equipment and the owners wanted their money out of it.  He also said that the store owner did not want to remain in the used equipment consignment business any longer.
    When I asked what had happened, here is what he said.  Individuals who had consigned their equipment agreed to sign a consignment form.  Everyone did that.  However, when either the equipment was sold, or the owner can back to claim it, there was always an argument over whether the price was right, all of the guards, covers, etc were included, etc.  The bottom line was that the business owner had a challenge every time he took in a piece of consignment equipment-- to the point where he recognized that it was more productive NOT to participate in that marketing line.
      As I thought about the comments of the business owner, I realized that perhaps the "rules of engagement" were not clearly defined, some misunderstandings were developed or the folks who were consigning the equipment did not have a clear understanding of how the process worked.  In any case, it seemed like instead of a "Win-Win" situation, this particular matter turned out to a "Loose-Loose" situation for all involved.
      No matter what kind of a deal you might think about, make sure that all involved parties clearly understand all of the nuances and circumstances of any particular program.  We recommend that everything be clearly in writing, with simple, but detailed examples, addressing any thing that could possibly be misunderstood.  Simple picture charts, with numbers are best for matters such as these.  Although you may think that this is 3rd grade stuff, it is amazing how much 3rd grade material is actually very real and valuable!
       Always try to find the "Win-Win" situation in any business engagement.  It is there-- sometimes, however, you have to search long and hard to find it!  However, in a "Win-Win" environment, both parties should leave feeling satisfied and happy with whatever business transaction they elect to engage in.
        In case of our business owner here, he told me that everyone walked away unhappy and frustrated.  Not a good deal for anyone!

Friday, April 13, 2012

All Gift Cards Expire--"Yours" Are Expired!

   A client gave our firm some gift cards to a prestigious golf resort several years ago.  The gift cards were put in the vault and stored.  We knew the cards were stored in the vault, however, nothing more was thought about it.
    Last week, we were cleaning the vault and found the gift cards.  Thinking that we may wish to use them, I called the resort and asked about their validity.  Now, the receipt stated that the gift cards expired after 2 years-- something that I did not realize when we received the cards.  I called the golf resort and asked about using the gift cards.  The clerk said that the golf professional would have to address this matter.  I was placed on hold and a minute or so later, the golf professional came on the phone.  I explained that I had 4 gift cards, worth several hundred dollars, however, I recognized that they had expired-- was there anything that could be done to use them?
     Well, the golf professional stated that all gift cards were valid for 2 years, after which they expired.  OK, we got that figured out-- now what?  I pointed out that the resort had booked the revenue from the sale of the cards.  In fact, at this point, the resort, "made money."  The golf professional again pointed out that the cards had expired.  Politely, I pointed out that I understood all of that, but because of some circumstances, we were unable to use the gift cards until now-- was there anything that could be done?  The golf professional said he would call me back in 30 minutes, after which he would visit with his comptroller.
      Thirty minutes transpired and the golf professional called me back.  He asked if I was going to buy clubs, food or just wanted to play golf.  I told him that my intent was to play golf-- if we needed new clubs, clothes or food, we would pay for that separately.
       UMMM-- the professional said that "Yes, we can make this deal work!  We will honor the gift cards--even though the price of the card was less than the current price for a round of golf!"  He further stated that although green fees had increased, he wanted us to have the experience of the prestigious course!   Now, the truth of the matter is that prestigious golf courses have struggled in the past 3 to 5 years.  This course said that they had reduced their initiation fee from $5000 to $500--trying to gain more new members.  Interestingly, it has worked!  Less fees mean more members!
       Now, that was my way of thinking!!  We got what Covey defines as a "Win--Win" situation.  We got to use the cards to play golf, the professional got 4 folks on the course that will more than likely buy lunch, some balls or maybe even a monogrammed shirt of the prestigious course!  Everyone was happy!
       Recall in an earlier blog post I addressed the dirty glass at the watering hole and how that matter was handled.  Although this is different, there are some similarities as well.  In this case, the golf professional wanted recognized that there was business to be had, even with our expired gift cards.  He also recognized that the "bookkeeping" for 4 golf rounds would be less than for merchandise or food, a point that was not lost on me either.
       The key point to this post is that the Win-Win situation works for everyone.  I was happy, the Golf Professional was happy and we are looking forward to a great round of golf!

Thursday, April 12, 2012

We Hope To Sell the Business So that We Can Retire!

   A business owner and her husband told me the title to this blog the other day while in the grocery store.  I had asked how the business was doing and the owner said, "So-So.  We are keeping our heads above water."  The husband said, "We will continue to work a few more years and then sell the business to fund our retirement."
   I asked the business owner how old she and her husband were.  Both were almost 70 years of age-- with no thoughts of retirement anytime in the near future.
   This is, sadly, quite common with many business owners that we work with today.  Nobody has given any thought to the exit strategy or succession planning they have with their business.  We have addressed this subject before in some detail, however, the reason we come back to it is that exit strategy and succession planning are one of the most important points of business operation.
    This particular business owner thought that her son and daughter in law would come and operate the business after they retired from active military service.  Well, something happened and the son and daughter in law did not come operate the business.  Now, what happened is not my business.  However, as an active consultant, we want people to be successful with their business.  Succession planning is part of that program.
     If you don't have a succession plan/exit strategy, today is the day to begin that planning.  Any business or organization needs to have a succession plan for all owners and key individuals.  If this matter is not addressed, the day comes when either the business has failed, has done exceedingly well or is someplace in between and the leadership wants to retire/quit or change positions.  Knowing how change will occur prior to it happening precludes some nasty surprises that may be unforeseen.
     If you need help on succession planning, please call our office.  We can help make this challenge less daunting.  Phone-406-672-6387.

Wednesday, April 11, 2012

We Cannot Find Good People to Work For Us-- We Do Have Work!

    That comment is something that I hear continually when visiting with business owners.  Well, OK, let's explore why this appears to be the case.
    Do you have a good work environment?  Is it bright, well lit, airy, clean and fresh?  If not, then here is the first place to begin.  Today's employee wants a good work environment.  Even though you may be satisfied with the environment, does not mean that the new employee will be.
    Do you have modern technology?  Are your computers 6 or more years old, operating an operating system or having applications that are 3 or more generations old?  If so, nobody, absolutely nobody will want to come work for you.  Modern technology is the next step to fix if you are having employee attraction/retention issues.
    Do you have clear, complete and comprehensive job descriptions?  Do the job descriptions identify, in some detail what the job entails, what the responsibilities are, who/what is responsible for each job and how the incumbent will discharge those duties?  Today's employee wants to know what he/she is expected to do, how they are to do it and most importantly, why it is important to be done.  Now, this sounds onerous.  It is not.  Detail a good job description-- the work you do here will be paid back several times over in having the task completed correctly the first time, without a lot of rework.
    People are people.  It makes no difference what kind of job it is that you are trying to fill, people are people.  Respect them and they will do an awesome job for you.

Sunday, April 8, 2012

I Don't Have Any More Glasses of That Size!

  I was with a neighbor the other nite enjoying an adult beverage at a local watering hole.  The weather was nice, we sat on the patio enjoying the sun.  As I was about to take a sip of the beverage, my neighbor pointed out that there was something in/on my glass.  Interestingly, it appeared that the debris was on the inside of the glass and was not properly cleaned.  I called the wait staff over, identified the problem.  I was told, "No problem, we'll get you a new beverage."  A few minutes later, a second beverage appeared.  Again, as I was about to enjoy the beverage, my neighbor pointed out that, once again, the glass had some debris attached to it.
   Now, two glasses not cleaned?  Ummmm, what is going on.  I took the beverage into the bar, pointed out to the bartender that the glass was stained.  His comment was, "Well, that was a fresh glass-- I don't have any more of that size."  Now, was that my problem?  He seemed to intimate that it was.  The bartender found another glass, albeit larger, and made the beverage once again.  Interestingly, I think that there was more ice cubes and water in the 3rd beverage than either of the previous two!!
     OK, here is what is interesting--- was it MY fault that the glasses were not clean?  Was it MY fault that the bar was out of the proper size glasses?  Of course, you know the answer.  No, on both regards did I, the customer have anything to do with the supply chain challenges that I identified.  Are we going back anytime soon?  No, I don't think that will happen!
     Customer service is the key in the hospitality business.  The proper way that I would have handled this matter was to "comp" the first drink, maybe even the second one and make sure that the guest had a positive experience.  The hospitality literature is full of articles that always address the "guest experience" and how that experience can be enhanced.  Sadly, this particular establishment forgot to read the memo.

   Don't forget to read the memo.  Insure that customer service is first class in everything that your business does.  Sadly, the wait staff and the bartender did not seem to care what I felt or what experience that I had.  There is nothing hard or complicated here.  However, this time, this establishment failed on all accords.