You only know what you know.

Call it the Discovery Process or the Needs Evaluation, the danger is that you have spent too much time focusing on the software and not enough on the real needs. Vendors, Customers, and Employees are all impacted with a software implementation. You have to know the questions to ask and the way to ask them considering humans have various needs, wants, and knowledge.

The risk is that you are not willing to accept that you only know what you know. I know a fair amount about cars and in my younger years worked on them all the time. You know what? When I need a brake job, I take the car to a mechanic. He’s the expert. Takes him a fraction of the time it would me, and costs me a fraction of what it would cost if I did it. And he’s not going to screw it up. I probably will. Heck, If I tried it myself, I’d probably end up taking it to him to fix my mess.

Oh, and I can focus on what I really want to do and what I do best. I’m not putting my safety and the safety of those around me in the hands of an amateur – me.

So with an investment such as software, you’re dealing with the future of your business! Get the wrong match to your need and you’ve got a mess. Get the right match and you’ll be making lots of deposits in the bank account.

Bingo! Everyone’s happy and my banker and shareholders like what I’m doing.

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Extraordinary Customer Service Rules!

Everything we do in business results in some type of internal or external customer service event. The key is to make your customer care a memorable experience. The following sure supports that school of thought.

A little boy went into a drug store, reached for a soda carton and pulled it over to the telephone. He climbed onto the carton so that he could reach the buttons on the phone and proceeded to punch in ten-digits (phone numbers).

The store-owner observed and listened to the conversation:

Boy: ‘Lady, Can you give me the job of cutting your lawn?

Woman: (at the other end of the phone line): ‘I already have someone to cut my lawn.’

Boy: ‘Lady, I will cut your lawn for half the price of the person who cuts your lawn now.’

Woman: I’m very satisfied with the person who is presently cutting my lawn.

Boy: (with more perseverance): ‘I’ll even sweep your curb and your sidewalk, so on Sunday you will have the prettiest lawn in all of Palm beach, Florida.’

Woman: No, thank you.

With a smile on his face, the little boy replaced the receiver.

The store-owner, who was listening to all this, walked over to the boy.

Store Owner: ‘Son… I like your attitude; I like that positive spirit and would like to offer you a job.’

Boy: ‘No thanks’.

Store Owner: But you were really pleading for one.

Boy: No Sir, I was just checking my performance at the job I already have. I am the one who is working for that lady, I was talking to!’

Now THIS is what we call ‘Self Appraisal’ …

(by a reader of Kirsty’s e-zine.)

dan@beltechgroupinc.com

Got the cart before the horse?

Dan Belanger

Technology was meant to be a tool, a tool to help us make a real difference. A tool to make good things great. 

Take the story of the very talented roofer – we’ll call him Roofer-1-.

He uses a hammer and nail to attach the shingles on a house and he’s good at it. Takes him 2-days to do an average size roof with a considerable amount of physical labor. He’s got good backroom procedures and is organized. 

Compressor powered nail guns come along. Now it takes him 1-day to do the same work, however the level of effort is cut by at least three quarters.  He’s able to do twice as many roofs. Income goes up and expense stays the same. So he hires a salesperson. Income goes up again with a nominal increase in expense.

Profit being what it is he quotes projects for less than the competition all the while delivering high quality work. He becomes the largest and most profitable roofing company in his market area. He can take 12 weeks’ vacation and has more time available for family and other interests.

All his marketing expense goes down as word of mouth generates ample business. He sells the business for an attractive profit and retires to Tahiti including drinks with umbrellas in them.

Sound like you?

Along comes Roofer-2.

Same model as Roofer-1 but he has a bit of a mess behind the scenes. His procedures, inventory control, billing, A/R, and warehouse all need a major overall.

He employs the compressor nail gun. Relating to volume everything mirrors Roofer1. However using technology has simply allowed him to make three times the mess he already has. He goes out of business. 

The moral of the story? Just when you think you’ve got it figured out – you don’t. Get your house in order before applying technology. You’ll be much happier and the umbrella drinks will taste even better!

Keeping profit alive.

Dan Belanger

Businesses are always looking for ways to reduce expenses in order to maintain sustainable service levels and profits. But are you looking in the right place? Maybe not.

Here are some methods and reminders to increase income and reduce expenses without dramatic business changes…

Try allocating your staff in the most effective fashion and build on their knowledge base. Ok. So payroll costs are a substantial expense of doing business – I get it. It’s been like that for decades. However, placing focus on minimizing payroll often times will come back to haunt you. You lose the good ones for the benefit of your competitor. Take great care in simply adjusting payroll.

For example, if your warehouse operating expense is high, and your income/sales are eroding, consider finding someone in the warehouse that would do a great job in customer service or sales and try them in those areas. Then income may increase while your warehouse expense decreases.

Yes I know … sales operating expense would increase but we’re talking ideas here. Maybe sales income increases four times more than the sales operating expense does. I’m simply saying don’t just take the easy way out. It’s bad for business.

Review your in-house employee mix. I’ve seen companies that have three people in the finance department and one in customer service. Remember that the customer often cares more about what they see rather than the back room activities.

Your current customers will always be one of the best ways to increase income and minimize expenses. Contact them on a regular basis and ensure they are pleased with the results of working with you. Ask them how you can help them succeed; don’t just sell to them. Do this with online surveys, phone calls, and face-to-face meetings. Provide training programs for them. Ask them what is most memorable about doing business with you. Customer referrals are gold.

Ask your vendors what you can do to help them. You may find that what you do today has a negative impact on timely delivery of product, and that the vendor is apprehensive about telling you because they fear losing your business.

Contact your vendors and discuss what they can do for you. Setting expectations of your vendors is good business. Monitor the success of those expectations. Keep in contact with all of your suppliers.

Review both your technical (software) and procedural systems. Take action and make adjustments where necessary. Use technology to your advantage. Estimates reveal that a company only uses 30% of their software capabilities and they only use those features that relate to specific job duties. Get some training in the features of the software and be sure to keep up on the new releases. You only know what you know.

Spend some time where the work actually takes place. Ask questions of those doing the work. Discuss what could be done to help them do their job more efficiently. You’ll be surprised what you find out.

Keep your second major asset – inventory mix and levels where they should be. Keep your inventory accurate. Work your entire line of credit and not just the top. Be sure and process warranty and returns on a timely basis. We’re talking major interest charges and lost opportunity costs here. Oh, and EVERY storage facility should have some type of bin location system.

Do a noteworthy job managing your third major asset – your facilities. No doubt if your facility is unorganized, it will certainly have a negative impact on timely and accurate shipments. Unorganized facilities impact damaged product levels, safety goals, and overtime hours.

Well the list goes on and on, and not one of these ideas need involve staff reductions and you just might enjoy a positive impact on your sales and expense. Take ownership of what goes on in your business. Drop me a note or call if you would like to discuss.

Wishing you a successful 2012!

Dan Belanger is the President of Beltech Group. He is experienced in all aspects of running a profitable business. He works with manufacturers, distributors, and service groups in both the public and private sectors. Helping companies to solve those unique business problems, Dan helps move them to the next level. Dan is an advocate of the yes you can attitude and is known as an idea man. 

For more information, call 702-785-7331 or contact him by e-mail at dan@beltechgroupinc.com. Also visit his website at www.beltechgroupinc.com.

QUICK RESPONSE CODES ROCK!

WHAT IS A QR CODE?

Beltech Website URL QR CodeThe textbook definition of a QR Code is “A two-dimensional bar code created by Japanese corporation Denso-Wave in 1994.

The “QR” is derived from “Quick Response.” A type of Matrix or Two Dimensional bar-code. Rather than use a linear or laser type reader you use an imager – like the camera of an iPhone or a bar-code scanner that will scan linear and also has an imager.

My definition? Another existing technology that will solve many business problems. There are several QR code versions all of which allow varying amounts of information. The size of the QR code has little impact. In fact, if you have a QR code displayed on a screen during a presentation, it’s likely that someone in the audience could use their iPhone or AnDroid to take a photo of the code and if they have the app on their phone then action could be taken concerning the contents of the code. It’s very common to imbed a url in the QR code which directs you to a website.

Now I really don’t care who developed the code or the specifics of how it’s constructed, but I do care about what it can do for us in both our personal and business lives. Being able to look past the technology, and imagine the use, is the key to using it to the fullest.

Hey linear bar-codes .. you’d better look out! QR codes could ultimatley replace you!

QR CODES: A CASE IN POINT

Beltech Website URL QR Code
The Case: A company servicing the Oil and Gas industry has a substantial vehicle fleet worth tens of thousands of dollars.

They use a robust web hosted software solution to manage the maintenance and other information regarding each of the fleet assets.

The fleet being mobile, they struggle to keep timely and accurate maintenance schedules and physical locations of each asset. They also find it difficult to gain a mobile-in the field view of any given asset.

When vehicles are not in the field they are not generating new business or income.

The Solution: QR codes were placed on each vehicle. Fleet managers capture the code on an iPhone, iPad, or other imaging device and they are taken directly to that asset in their software solution.

This can be done not only at their facility but anywhere they have phone coverage – like in a corn field. Information can then be viewed or updated regarding that asset. In fact we also placed the QR code on a key chain so if you have the keys to any vehicle you can also access that assets information.

The Benefits: Vehicles no longer sit unused. Timely updates of where the vehicles are, the maintenance history, and what the vehicles are doing is now updated visible in the system.

Asset number entry is now accurate resulting in credible historical data. Management and staff are now able to focus on income generating and customer care events.

The result? You guessed it … PROFIT!

Little Bo Peep has Lost Her Sheep …

Dan Belanger

So my guess is that right now there are a number of businesses that have heard of RFID tags and either don’t fully understand the possibilities or believe it is to expensive or complex to implement.

Well let’s bring clarity to the very foundation of the technology. Most automated data processing techniques; such as scanning UPC codes, or capturing QR codes require “line of sight.” This means that you must see the code and be close enough to capture the code in order to use the codes value. You initiate the conversation. Not true with RFID.

Radio Frequency Identification or RFID as it’s called does not require line of sight. Remember when you tried to get that $200 leather jacket out of the store and the buzzer went off? Think RFID. RFID tags can talk to you without you knowing a conversation needs to take place.

Now if you open your mind you should be able to see the possibilities. Product in Ocean containers, product hidden from view, product that is walking out the door or “on the move”, and the list goes on and on.

Case in point …

The Problem:

A company located in Louisiana, involved in servicing the Oil and Natural Gas industry. This company uses a product out in the field that could have a purchase price from $500 – $15,000 and has a lifecycle of over a year if maintained well. They have over 250 of these items. So they REALLY want and need to control/track these items.

The challenge being that due to weather and other environmental concerns, it is difficult at best to “tag” the items. In addition, multiple units are packed on a trailer to be transported back and forth from the work sites and if there were some identification present, a human would not see it.

The Solution:

The assets are constructed of a poly material. So we used a plastic seal gun to seal the RFID tags in the walls of the asset. The tags are hidden from view, and are not impacted by water, heat, humidity, or any other damaging environment. You can drive over the tags and they’ll keep on performing. 

The Benefit:

Now they have full visibility as to the location of each asset. Entry errors into their software have been eliminated. Efficiencies and cost control have greatly improved. That huge investment in assets is  protected. The net result? PROFIT!

As a possibility thinker, I can tell you the applications of RFID technologies are everywhere. Truth is that Little Bo Peep should have placed RFID tags in those sheep!

Dan Belanger

“Possibility and Yes you Can Thinker”

MAKING TRAINING AND EDUCATION COUNT

Dan Belanger

You know the drill. The owner of the business says: “Gosh, we paid all that money for training and I can’t see what it has done for us. Never again!” Consider the thoughts below and perhaps they will ease your pain.

Start at the top. Executive management must make it clear that they support education. It never hurts for an executive to attend some of the sessions with their respective staff. Demonstrate that you have a genuine interest in their success.

Identify how your audience learns. Some people like graphics; such as pie charts and the like, some like lots of text; so they can highlight points of interest, and some like visual; like pictures. Some like humor and some are more serious and some like example based; “show me” rather than place me in a classroom environment. Some like an instructor that uses a lot of non-verbal communication such as facial expressions and the like. The important fact is that we are people and not clones.

There must be a tangible reason for training and the audience needs to fully understand this. Many people will attend educational sessions with the “My boss told me I had to be here” or “Why am I here? attitude. Let them know the why and the potential results.

Document what the employee will accomplish and work with them to ensure the improvements actually take place. Before attending the training program, the employee should document what they hope to take away from the session and you should help them with this. Then when the session is over, you need to meet with the person and review the results. Then the two of you should set objectives and as part of their performance review (I call it their success review), be sure and refer to the plans you made. Sorry, but you MUST take an interest.

Acknowledge that education should be given in manageable segments.Don’t expect a person to retain all the material presented in an eight hour session. Make the sessions smaller and let those in attendance absorb and put into practice the information presented. When I attend a conference, my objective is to walk away with three essential ideas that I can begin to implement when I return to work.

Allow your employee base to continue to attend webinars and other training programs. Abe Lincoln once said “If I had 8 hours to fell a tree, I’d spend 7 sharpening my axe.” On average a person must hear new information three times (some say seven) before it registers in their mind for immediate recollection. We all have varying levels and methods of learning and remembering. Training and Education are a never ending process and even though it takes them away from the work the long term benefit should be remarkable.

Vary the type of training you provide. Mix it up between classroom and where the work actually takes place. Train one-on-one and train in small and larger groups.

Have your staff work at other jobs in the company. Allow them to experience first hand how the quality of their work impacts their team members and the customer. Gosh, why not let the pick and pack group sit in the customer service rep’s chair for a day. That will wake them up.