Keep Your Career Out of the Cold

I spent some time with an old friend, Joseph, yesterday. We met at a restaurant between our two offices for lunch. The food was good and the conversation even better. I asked Joseph to catch me up on everything that has been going on; the last I’d heard he was taking over as CEO of a company that had just issued a recall for a defective product. Joseph was hired with the expectation that he would handle the whole thing and save the company. This defect had led to a few injuries, and although they were only minor, the previous CEO had resigned in disgrace. While this does not sound in any way like a job I would take at that particular point, I admired Joseph’s ability to walk straight into a problem and calmly lead the company out of a PR disaster. I asked him how he did it because I thought that my readers might appreciate it and possibly learn something new.

First, nice guy that he is, Joseph said that he had a good team around him. Everyone at the company was ready with suggestions and a positive attitude, which goes a long way toward showing a united front and actually solving the problem. After the company did some research, it turned out the defect didn’t actually come from the design or manufacture process; it was a problem with a specific part that they ordered from somewhere else. He pointed out that the key to winning the public back over was to own up to the mistake immediately. With a recall, there weren’t many places to hide, so he didn’t try. When the company contacted people to notify them of the recall, the notice explained exactly what was wrong. He also assured consumers that they would no longer do business with the company who made the faulty part and that they would now be making it in-house. With a clear solution in hand, consumer confidence was bolstered and they were able to recover.

It took a total of about two years to get the company back up to where they had been. Once that happened, he received an offer to work for another company, this time one who manufactures space heaters. The first thing he did when he got there was to bring the design team back to revisit their best-selling item, a bathroom heater. He asked them to review everything about it to make sure that it outmatched competitors in safety, features, and values. He focused most of the company’s media efforts on the relaunch of this new heater, marketing it as the best bathroom heater available. They made the design more appealing and sleek, added features like a timer to have it go on at a set time, and packed it with the most up-to-date safety features. They also revisited the price, and since the new heater was actually slightly smaller and lighter, it used less in plastic and cost less to ship. They lowered the price to pass these savings directly to the consumers. The strategy worked and sales increased.

I sincerely hope that Joseph has nothing but success from here on out and that you found it interesting to read about.

Find Your Customers

Hello again, readers! Thanks for coming back to my blog. Today I wanted to share a success story with you. I have a friend named Geoff who went to school for graphic design. The graphic design field is incredibly competitive, and he was having a really hard time finding a good job. Instead of giving up and taking something that would work “in the meantime,” Geoff borrowed some money from his parents and bought a paint sprayer, an air compressor, and posted to some websites that he was available to do custom paint jobs on cars, murals, and similar projects. He got a few jobs this way, but nothing close to making a living even though his work was high quality and his customers were happy. This is where a lot of startup companies fail: they have a good product and do high-quality work, but in a market where it might be hard to distinguish yourself, it is hard to really get your name out there.

But Geoff knew all this already. He developed a new plan, deciding that what he really needed to do was expand his customer base. There had to be people out there who were looking for someone with his skills, he just couldn’t find them. Geoff didn’t know it yet, but he was thinking EXACTLY like a CEO—he identified a problem with his business model and was determined to come up with a solution. He talked with fellow classmates, several of which were also having no luck finding employment. Nobody had any actionable ideas other than things Geoff had already tried. According to Geoff, that was when he realized that he needed to set himself apart from the competition and try harder to meet his future customers. He decided to narrow his focus to the thing he liked best, custom paint jobs on cars. So he went to some car dealers and they took his business cards but it didn’t seem promising. Then he went to a local auto parts store. They weren’t interested, but they mentioned car shows that a lot of their customers attend—aha! A real lead! He also went to a few service stations that offered routine maintenance but didn’t have their own body shop. Some of them definitely wanted his name so that they could direct clients to him if they needed paint work done. Geoff went to a few car and bike shows and got to talking with many of the people there. It was frustrating to do so much legwork and not be getting paid, but it was groundwork to get his name out there. He decided not to stop there, either. He went to boat shows, too! If you could drive or ride it and there was a show for it, Geoff was there with his business cards in hand.

Weeks went by. Geoff continued to attend vehicle shows and would show off designs on his own car to potential clients. The slow trickle of customers he was getting turned into a few more, and then a few more, and as word of mouth—and Geoff’s integration in with the motorheads of his area started to stick—he eventually got enough clients to support himself. Yes, it was discouraging at first when he couldn’t find a job, and it was difficult to gain momentum for himself, but he did it. He got there because he did what the other guy wouldn’t: he went searching for his customers rather than waiting for them to find him.

Now he has his own shop with several employees. He is his own boss and does what he loves. He was able to upgrade all of his equipment and now has the best paint spray gun money can buy to put out high-quality work to keep his business going strong.

So if you are just starting out, remember my friend Geoff. All he had was a paint sprayer and an idea, and now he’s a CEO. Find something you are passionate about and don’t get discouraged if it isn’t a slam-dunk right from the get-go!

Outfit Your Team for Success

desk-stapler-featuresOffice managers, listen up. People have to have the right tools for their jobs, whatever they may be. They expect them to be at hand in the workspace, and to be in good working condition. You can’t skimp when it comes to resources if you want to maintain your reputation as officials of a sound company that cares. You have a lot of say in the matter and your input is important. What this means is that you don’t give a two dollar stapler to an employee to collate and bind a fifty-page document! Cheaping out on office supplies costs more in the long run in unhappy campers and a lot of moping and grumping around.

It is all about productivity in an office. This is the major buzz word. Sometimes it takes a little extra funding to achieve and even maximize it. You want people to accomplish their tasks efficiently and effectively. We all give lip service to this truism, but do we really know what it means, and do we apply it in reality to satisfaction. People take supplies for granted and they don’t even notice them until they are practically in use. Then it is too late if the items are old, broken, or useless. Quality matters and whether there is enough stuff to go around. Every employee needs his or her own stapler, for example. This is a minimum requirement like a desk and a chair. It is just as important as having paper clips and pens. A stapler, for example, is a tool to grab quickly as needed without searching around. Plus, we all hate that individual who uses up the very last staple and places the item back on the shelf—empty!

It is all about outfitting your team for success at the office. Those who order supplies are in charge of prevailing positive, can do attitudes. They have the ultimate power when it comes to devices. If you think your office manager has been rather lax, let him or her know—politely. If they don’t use certain supplies, they won’t have a clue. Let them in on the workings of the environment and what a difference a heavy duty stapler can make. Tip them about brands, models, and sizes.

It may seem trivial to some, but trust me it is not. When supplies are allowed to run low because of budget cuts, it hurts everyone. It is really symbolic of an entire corporate culture to shirk responsibilities in the area of supplies. Do these companies expect people to bring their own! If they are chintzy with tools, what else is unimportant? Will there be coffee in the morning or tea in the afternoon? Is toilet paper about to disappear or paper towels in the kitchen? This lack can go on and on to infinity. It can never be good.

So office managers, take heed. Use this blog as mindful advice to watch the pennies, yes, but not at the expense of productive work. We are all still old-fashioned enough to need supplies on a daily basis. Be generous where it counts. The company will reap the reward in the long run.