Volume 39, Issue 8, August  2004

LogisticallySpeaking

Are You Ready?
Getting Prepared and Ready for Action
by Bill Rochon

I think I am ready. 

We’re almost ready. 

We are about 90 percent ready. 

How many times have we heard or said those things? Those states simply do not exist. The fact is that there are only two possible states of readiness: either we are ready or we’re not. 

The dictionary defines the word ready as: “prepared or available for use or action.” I will later focus on my two favorite words from that definition, “prepared” and “action.” First, let’s pick up where we left off in the last column.

Areas of Improvement 
In June I challenged everyone to identify areas of needed improvement within their businesses. I waited a week or two after the issue was distributed and then called friends and colleagues in the glass industry to ask for their opinions and feedback. Of those with whom I spoke, most were fixated on the pricing issue rather than the areas for improvement. This is understandable. We will have to address this issue frequently as we talk about all areas of improvement. There is a solution, but there are many more facets to be addressed before proper (I mean profitable) pricing can be set. I will try to stay in order.

Of the rest of the folks with whom I spoke, some admitted they felt they needed improvement, but had not yet found the time to seek out their inefficiencies. Remember the word action? It is paramount. Not one person of the 13 who I interviewed had physically prepared a list of improvements needed. Here lies the hard part: you either run your business or your business runs you. According to Michael Gerber, author of the book “The E Myth,” the first change that all business owners and managers must make is to work on their business and not in their business. The truly successful ones know this, preach this and, most importantly, practice it. The E stands for entrepreneurial, by the way. 

I have met and worked with many glass shop and fabrication plant owners who are active in the day-to-day operations of their companies, not as managers, but as workers. All are convinced they are helping their businesses this way because they believe that if it’s to be done right, they have to do it themselves. Sound familiar? If you are on the phone all day entering orders or out in the shop cutting glass, who is building, running and improving the business? Who is truly responsible for the ailments of your business? I do not recall seeing footage of Eisenhower jumping out of a plane on D-day, nor do I believe that Ray Kroc took orders for hamburgers. Yet both are some of history’s most successful and influential people. 

The Elements
One of the first questions I ask people is “What is the most important element of your company?” The three most popular responses are good people, good equipment and good sales or customers. Then I ask, “Most importantly, why does your company have the problems that you’ve called me about?” The blame is almost always put on the employees, “I can’t find good people” or “The inmates are running the asylum” and so on. Other popular answers are lack of equipment, lack of sales, bad margins and blaming the competitor. Yes, these are important issues, but I said most important. So what is it? The most important element of every successful business is a system. That’s right, a system. Consequently, the lack of a system is the cause of many of our ailments. This reminds me of a meeting I had with Robert Tunmire, president of Glass Doctor. I was very impressed with how detailed the company’s system is. Nothing is left to chance or up for interpretation. Every single detail involving the business is in writing and the training program is definitive and comprehensive. Glass Doctor is now the largest retail glass company in the country, by the way. I looked at its business model and low prices are not a part of it; quality and service are. Robert told me that there are only three basic elements to offer the customer: quality, service and pricing. 

“Truly successful companies can only offer one or two of these elements and remain successful. If you try to do all three, the end is near. We choose quality and service and then set pricing accordingly,” he said. I thought about it, and he’s right. Think about fast food joints—cheap prices, yes; good service, sometimes; good quality, rarely. Now think about your favorite expensive restaurant. Great food, definitely; good service, yes; cheap prices, never. The prices are high and people are waiting around the parking lot to get seated. These principles apply to all businesses, whether they are luxury car dealerships, retail glass shops, restaurants or glass fabricators. True, you will always have a certain percentage of the customers who are influenced strictly by price. I choose to ignore them.

To recap, in June we talked about preparing to improve our factories and shops, and now creating a system. These are the two main avenues we will focus on in the upcoming months. Both require paradigm shifts and constant change or should I say, constant improvement, in the back as well as with everyone up front, including owners. Whenever I discuss putting plans into action with someone I ask this question: “Are you ready?” So, are you?


USG

© Copyright Key Communications Inc. All rights reserved. No reproduction of any type without expressed written permission.