Solomon Bruce Consulting Blog

Saturday, July 28, 2012

The Benefit of the Procedures Manual

     A client called the other day.  This particular client is the CEO of a $2MM company.  He has grown it from the bottom up, a true American success story.  Sadly, he became injured and required surgery to repair some problems in his back.  What was expected to be a 1 day operation turned into a 7 day hospital stay and 6 weeks of post operative, home based recovery.
    This client called our firm and expressed deep regret for not having a procedures manual.  His staff, about 12 individual contributors, were keeping the company operational and functional, however, there were many challenges that had to be addressed on a daily basis because of no standardized procedure.  This client wanted to know how to address the problem.
     Our consultant provided some ideas, however, there is no simple solution, especially now that there is a large number of individual contributors employed by the firm.
     The procedures manual needs to be developed in the very embryonic stages of the firm--  when there is only employee--you!  Document how you do everything.  As additional staff join the firm, continue to add to the manual, update and enrich it each and every week.  Soon, the manual will be thorough and complete.  This is the only way in which to have an accurate and complete manual.  This is not hard or complicated, however, doing it will save lots of time, frustration and energy later in the life cycle of the business.

Value Added Services Increase Profits

   When one of our consultants visited with a vendor the other day, he said that he had increased his business 33% in the past year, had to add additional staff and appeared that adding additional staff was imminent.  What business was he in and what was he doing?  This vendor is in the printing business-- a business that has decreased about 45% in the past 5 years due to the advent of laser digital printers at home.  OK, what has he done?
    He added "Value Added Services" to his suite of offerings.  In this particular case, he prints the material, then helps the client by placing address labels on the product and taking them to the post office!  He charges a fee for transporting the work to the delivery station for bulk mail, he charges a fee to print the labels and place on the mailing piece.  This vendor told our consultant that the work keeps coming!
     OK, what can you do in your business to add additional value to your client?  Who is doing something that your client needs that you could do?  How you can you make the client experience working with you "less painful", or said another way, how can you increase your value to your client?
      These are all questions that need to be asked so that you can increase your overall profitability.  Look at what you do for your clients, see how you can add increased value.  There is money waiting to be put in the bank-- your bank!

Sunday, July 15, 2012

Leadership Traits of Successful Business Owners

   Steve Wahrlick, principal of the Best Western Clocktower Inn recently spoke to a group of college business students about the key successes he has learned in the hospitality.  I have copied his list here:

  • People are very complex
  • Dollars are the common measurement
  • Relationships rule, “communication” drools (communication isn’t what it’s cracked up to be)
  • It is not about me (successful business people are not focused on themselves)
  • Leaders lead (leading is not the same thing as managing)
  • Follow your passion, don’t worry about the money
  • Have fun
  • Work for a large organization before a small organization
  • Ask for the business
  • Embrace change
  • Don’t be afraid of “smarter” people
  • Ask yourself, “how much better could can we do” (don’t settle for mediocrity)

  • What is important here is that these traits apply to any business and any industry.  If you are the owner of the business or General Manager, you really need to see how these traits apply to you.  If you are not embracing these traits, then probably, you are doing something wrong!

    This is simple-- it is made that way, however, the principles behind the comments are complex.  See how you can apply these ideas to your business.  If you do, you will see an increase in business as well as being a happier business leader.

    Friday, July 13, 2012

    This Is Really A Nice Place! I Like To Stay Here!

        I was touring the new Hilton Garden Inn Fort Worth Medical Center property the other morning with manager Jim Rickards.  A guest got on the elevator and told Mr. Rickards and I the title of the this blog!  The guest said that she had some medical procedures being performed at the nearby hospital and liked the new hotel.  Mr. Rickards beamed like a new daddy with pride and joy!
         How did this happen, you might wonder?  Well, Mr. Rickards tells me that his hotel has only been open 3 months, is ranked as the top Hilton Garden Inn in the franchise system.  However, the pride, enthusiasm and excitement were evident in everyone of the staff members that we encountered on our tour!  All of the people were excited to be part of a winning operation-- from the janitor to the chef and everyone in between.
          Engaged, excited employees who "make the brand POP" do so because they enjoy their job, enjoy their leadership and enjoy the place where they work.  We have written previously about work force environment, culture and position.  We were able to see that as we toured the hotel!  Staff were genuinely friendly, were empowered and wanted to insure that each guest has a positive guest experience.  Obviously, from the lady on the elevator, that was her experience.
           Does this happen in your business? Are your staff excited about their organization and willing to have clients, customers or guests share that same enthusiasm with you? If not, perhaps there is a challenge that you may wish to investigate!  Look hard to see what changes may be necessary so that your customers and clients tell you how they enjoy your business and the products or service which you provide.  In most cases, the changes that are needed are minor, but the results of the changes turn out to be major!  Check out your operation-- you want to hear the same things that Mr. Rickards heard on the elevator!

    Tuesday, July 10, 2012

    Energy Savings Increase Corporate Profitability

        The Ashton Hotel in Fort Worth, Texas had a new air conditioning compressor installed on the roof of the building the other day.  As I watched the crane operator delicately move the new compressor from the truck to the roof and remove the old one, I was impressed with the skill of the operator.
          After the old compressor was put on the truck, I visited with crew leader, Randy Farrar from RuchCo Energy Specialists in Euless, Texas.  Randy told me that the new compressor was hand built in LaCrosse, Wisconsin.  He told me that the old one would be sent back for rebuild, if the unit was in such condition that it could be rebuilt.
           As we talked, Randy told me about a new business line his firm had developed regarding microprocessor controls for air conditioning systems.  He said that there are major firms that make controls for air conditioning systems.  Once you have one of those systems, you are normally beholden to the manufacturer for repair and service.  In this particular case, his firm was able to design and engineer a new system, using common parts that were no more expensive than the company proprietary system that was initially installed when the air conditioning system was new. 
           Another point that Randy made was that the biggest source of energy usage in a building is lighting.  Lighting--UMMM.  This looks like an area where an analysis can be done by the power company to identify new types of lighting that will be less costly and much more efficient!  With new microprocessor controls for air conditioning systems and more efficient lighting in your facility, there is money to be captured that you may not have previously considered.
           Call Randy at RushCo Energy Specialists at 817-267-5155 to discuss how he can help you improve your air conditioning needs.  His expertise and that of his team will help you save money and increase your corporate profitability in areas where you did not realize savings existed.

    Monday, July 9, 2012

    Do You Really Want To Sell Something?

        We are currently searching for some printing services for our new office in Fort Worth, Texas.  Our staff has visited with several printers and shown/explained what we need to have completed.  In many, but not all instances, we continue to be surprised at the answers and responses we have received.  Before I go any further, let me be clear-- I am sure what my experience has been so far is not unique to Fort Worth, Texas.
          When we explain/show what our current product is and how we want it to be reproduced, it has been interesting to hear how it either cannot be done the way we want it done, the process is no longer viable or we just don't do that kind of work.
           OK, we get "we don't do that kind of work."  That is totally fair.  Some places do one kind of work, some do another.  If you don't do what we are seeking, no problem, we'll go find a firm that does.

           What becomes more interesting is being told what we want is not possible with today's technology, the colors will not reproduce accurately, the size is not standard or a whole host of other excuses on why what we are seeking is impossible to do.  I clearly get "we don't do that."  That is simple.  However, because I have had this work done before, in large quantities, I know that it can be done and has been done before.
            The point of this post is to successfully address the problem that the customer presents.  If you cannot or do not do this work, OK.  Who does?  Where should I go?  Do you have a better idea that would present our material in a more favorable light?  Are there new technologies that will enhance what we are trying to accomplish?  These are all questions that I want to know and your customer wants to know.  After all, I need to have the work done.  Where do I need to go to get it done?  I did not address cost, having your firm outsource it or anything like that.  Those are all viable options--however, I need someone to give me those options.  Sadly, what I have heard most times is "we don't do that."  I always ask, "Well, who does or who do you suggest?"  The answer normally is, "I don't know!"
             Now, if this was specialized brain surgery I would understand!  However, that is not the case!  This is basic, simple 4 color printing-- without anything special.
             The next time that a client comes and asks you to do something that you don't do, your chances of making a sale are far greater if you provide other options that may not have been considered or suggest a competitor who may be able to accomplish what the client needs or wants.  In many cases, you will be able to "up sale" the client on a format or process that he/she may not have considered or was aware of that will enhance the product that he originally came to see you about.
              At the end of the day, I found a printer who knows exactly what I want and is excited about doing the work.  The price is the price, that I know.  Can it be done less expensively.  YES, however, the format in which this particular printer uses is what we were seeking.  Think about this the next time a client asks for something that you don't do!  You could make a sale that you did not expect to make!

    Friday, July 6, 2012

    It Took Me 8 Years, But I Paid Everyone Off!

       I was in a jewelry store the other day in Fort Worth, Texas.  Fort Worth has become our new office location.  As I talked with the jeweler, he told me that had been a jeweler for almost 40 years, in both big chain stores as well as small town stores.
        As we talked, this jeweler told me that that in the mid 1980's, he owned a jewelery store in Eastern New Mexico.  If you don't know, Eastern New Mexico, in the 1980's was a very prosperous area for oil drilling.  The jeweler told me that his store was right in the middle of the oil boom.  This particular jeweler had been with a large national chain prior to opening up his own business.  The oil business has a pattern of bust and boom.  A few years of boom are followed by many years of bust.  That was the case here.  The jeweler said that his first couple years of business were very successful, however, the next 3 were horrible, to the point where he had to go out of business.  The jeweler told me that he was under capitalized, however, when things were good, they were real good and he thought that  he could sustain the lower sales periods without additional capital.  Unfortunately, that was not the case and he had to close down.
         The jeweler told me that 30 years ago, in West Texas and Eastern New Mexico, your word was your bond.  He told me that his inventory was placed on a "handshake", with no credit flooring or anything else.  If you said you were good for it, you were assumed to be good for it and the vendors were willing to send you the merchandise to sell, with payments to be made following the sale of the merchandise.
         When the jewelry store closed, the jeweler told me that he did not have enough money to pay off all of the remaining inventory.  Vendors did not want the merchandise back-- he was stuck with it.  The jeweler told me that it took him 8 years to pay off all of the vendors for the jewelery that he had acquired, however, not one vendor got "stuck" by this individual.
         In a prior post, we talked about integrity in business.  In this instance, this individuals integrity ensured that all vendors finally got paid.  Think about what you would do if you were in this situation.  Would you pay all of the vendors off?  Would you file bankruptcy?  Would you have the vendors take you to court to seek what you owe them?  There is no right answer.  Each individual has to answer this question personally.  However, for the jeweler I met, he elected to pay off his debt.  Yes, it took a while, however, it all got paid!  Something to think about!

    Tuesday, July 3, 2012

    Nobody Told Us They Were Coming

       I was in a business the other day and one of the senior managers told me the title of today's blog, Nobody Told Us They Were Coming!  Now, what was she talking about?  Well, the firm decided to get new copiers for all of the staff--  this is not a big firm, however, there were 4 or 5 new copiers that were being installed.
        The copy company was told to go ahead and send the products over and have staff install the copiers.  Well, that was all right-- however, the impacted employees at the firm had no idea that this was even supposed to happen.  Well, you see where this is leading.  The copier guys get there, uncrate the new copiers and then ask, "Where is this supposed to go?"  Well, the staff does not know if the new copiers are replacements for the old ones-- they were, however, nobody told them.
         Interesting, it was probably 45 minutes before the copier guy knew what to do-- and another 45 minutes before the staff was calm and collected.  In both cases, people were frustrated and angry when there was no reason to be.
         Do you tell your staff when major events are going to occur which may impact their work environment?  Do you allow the staff to have input on when actions that may impact their work environment would be be accomplished or completed?  If you don't-- you may wish to consider doing so.  There is no reason to have everyone, both your staff and the vendor's staff, flummoxed and frustrated about some matter that could be handled with a little back and forth communication!  Tell everyone who might be impacted what the game plan is, what impact, if any, each employee/team member/associate may experience.  Make sure that you answer all of the concerns and questions of everyone involved.  In most cases, there will be some matters that will arise that were not addressed previously.  This is a  good time to make sure that everyone knows what is going to happen.  In some major cases, it may be worthwhile to have a "party" when the action is completed.  The party may be something simple like pizza and soda, or something more robust like a cocktail party.  In either case, the key is to recognize the new work completed and the support of your team members to insure a successful transition/implementation/operation.