Solomon Bruce Consulting Blog

Sunday, June 17, 2012

"I Am The Last Guy"

   As I continue our tour of the country, we spent the weekend in Oklahoma City, Oklahoma.  For those of you who have never been there, it is a fun place.  I have been coming to Oklahoma City for the past 35 years!  I spent Friday with a faculty member at the University of Oklahoma.  OU is a great place to go to school, they have a beautiful campus and wonderful facilities.  Glad that I had the opportunity to attend there for my post doc program.  We toured the library, several engineering laboratories, as well as a couple of museums.  It was a great day to be on the campus!
    We had dinner at the Santa Fe Cattle Company on Father's Day.  This is a chain that is located in the South-- primarily in Louisiana and Florida, however, they have a couple of stores in Oklahoma.
     We were seated for dinner, a server came up and took our drink order.  Not more than 3 seconds later, a second server came up, introduced himself and said that he was going to be taking care of us.  We informed him that we already had a server, Ryan working on the drink order.  The second server said OK, not a problem.  3 minutes later, a third server came by to check to see that all was going well.  15 minutes later, Mike, the store manager came by to see that all was OK!!!
      All I have to say is "WOW"-- this is a place that know and understands customer service!  Mike, the manager, said that "I am the last guy," the title of today's blog to check on the guest.  Mike said that as the manager, he is the "last touch point" with the guest.  It is the manager's job to insure that guest has a positive experience.  I have to say that we had a wonderful experience!  Ryan, Mike and their colleagues clearly understood that great customer service is the key to any experience.
      Think about Ryan, Mike and all of their colleagues the next time you have any customer interaction.  The key is interest in the customer and insuring that the customer experience is the best.  Ryan, Mike and all of their colleagues clearly understood that.  If you are in Oklahoma City, Ryan, Mike and their whole team are located in the store in Midwest City, about 10 minutes East of downtown Oklahoma City.  Check it out-- you will NOT be disappointed.

Saturday, June 16, 2012

Always Use the Checklist!

   On my trip around the country, I stayed in a little Hotel the other nite in central Oklahoma.  This is basically a bed and breakfast place.  The place was fine.  However, when I came back to my room, the room was not totally made up.  I told the owner what happened.  She profusely apologized, fixed the problem and said, "I'll have to see if those items are on the checklist."
    Interesting, the next morning, she told me that items that were not completed were NOT on the checklist, however, she had modified the checklist and told the staff that the list had been changed to address the deficiencies that I encountered.  As we talked, the owner pointed out that labor was difficult to attract and retain in this part of the state and that using a checklist was one way in which to insure that all of the points of room maintenance were always addressed.
     We have addressed the checklist many times previously.  In any task, no matter how trivial, the checklist is a good tool to insure that all staff know exactly what is to be done, in what order or sequence the tasks need to be done and what the completed project will look like when finished.
      The checklist is a tool that allows for no interpretation of expectations, as there is one standard way of task accomplishment.  What I found interesting is that this business owner recognized that standardization is the key to business success.  Knowing that finding and retaining good labor support was difficult, she took all precautions to preclude any glitches.  If you have problems with any task, develop a detailed checklist for the task.  Insure that the staff knows exactly what is to be done, how it is to be done and what the outcome is supposed to be.  In this way, your chances of error are much reduced and higher customer satisfaction is achieved.

Tuesday, June 5, 2012

Integrity--The Key to Business

   A friend of mine was telling me about his home that he has currently rented in Omaha, Nebraska.  The home, a 4 bedroom family home is located in a nice area of suburban Omaha.  My friend was transferred with his company and elected to rent the house in Omaha, partially due to economic conditions, however, partially because they really liked the house and could envision going back to Nebraska at some time in the future.

    My friend and his wife conducted a thorough background check, credit check, reference check on their potential client and found no red flags.  Everyone agreed that all was perfect, a lease was consummated and then..........................................................................................  things went down hill.
The house had an odor, the basement rooms were musty, the carpet had pet odors, etc.  My friend, having not transferred to his new location engaged the services of a property manager to resolve the challenges.  Well, after a couple of weeks of hard core challenges, the lease client was released from the contract and my friend was once again, seeking a new tenant.

     The interesting part of this post is that in the 4 years that my friend owned and lived in the house, he and his family (3 small children) never used more than 50,000 gallons of water per month.  The one month that this client was in the house, the house used over 100,000 gallons of water!!  Why?  The property manager ascertained that the client was trying to cause foundation settlement so that they could be released from the lease. My friend said he had never experienced such a challenge before!
      The new client that he found had a foreclosure on his record, was trying mightily to build his credit back up and has never been late with a payment or complained about anything.  My friend said that he wanted to help someone who had a financial misfortune and everyone is happier!

      The original client who initially rented the house had an integrity issue.  What actually happened was that the original client had found another house after they had rented my friends house and did not know how, gracefully, to get out of the lease.  I think that asking is probably the best way.  Now there may be some costs involved, however, they did sign a lease, however, if things did not work out, there is always a way out--honestly.  It may cost money, but it can be done.

       Integrity is the key to any business relationship.  There was no real reason to flood the foundation, hoping for settlement and then trying to cry fowl.  Some of this is common sense, however, the Golden Rule, i.e, "Do Unto Others As You Would Have Them Do Unto You" is paramount in any business relationship!  Think about it the next time that you find yourself in a box.  The Golden Rule does work.

Saturday, June 2, 2012

We were in the Top 4 Best Producing Units again this year!

    I toured a national soft drink beverage bottler last week while on an engagement in Florida.  Our client wanted us to tour this facility to gain some ideas for their organization.
    The facility that we toured produces a nationally known soft drink suite of products-- products that you see at many restaurants and grocery stores.  They have advertisements on TV, radio, computer in addition to print advertising.
     The manager that took us through the facility said that this facility, although severely dated, was one of the top producing facilities in the company.  Why was the question that we asked?  Well, surprisingly the answer is one that we have addressed many times before-- people management.
      The people that worked at the plant were long term employees, thankful for a good job, with benefits that the firm provided.  Many people had been with the firm more than 30 years.  These employees were pictured on the wall in the lobby of the building-- the door that everyone uses to enter the plant-- the president of the company as well as the janitor.  Everybody entered and left the building by the same door.  Long time employees were recognized.  Another thing that I noticed was performance standards-- what are the company goals-- how is the company doing and how is our shift doing?
      The manager told us that employee empowerment was the key to success in this business.  Employees were told what the goals were, how the plant compared to other like company plants and what was needed to be done to achieve/exceed goal.  If the goal was exceeded each quarter, each employee received a bonus--- about 6-7% of their annual salary.  For many of these hourly employees who were making between $15-22/per hour, this was a huge sum of money.
        Employees wanted to know what they had to do to make goal!!  Teamwork, cooperation and communication were the key critical elements that the manager told us allowed his team to consistently be one of the top performing units in the company.
        The key here is are you using teamwork cooperation and communication with your staff?  Do your people know what the goals are-- sales goals, production goals, manufacturing goals-- whatever type of goal it is?  Are these goals reviewed daily, weekly, monthly?  Are employees empowered to make changes if necessary?  If not, you may wish to review how you do this.  You may find that your most valuable resource, your staff, is not as empowered as you had envisioned.  With full staff empowerment, you may find that your profits increase and your headaches decrease.  An idea to consider!