Archive for October, 2016

Book Recommendation – Hard-Won Wisdom: True Stories From The Management Trenches

A book recommendation from Dan Beaulieu

10/26/16

Hard-Won Wisdom: True Stories from the Management Trenches

By Jathan Janove

Copyright 2017

Price $17.95

Pages: 221 and Index

A Management Book from a completely different perspective

Author Jathan Janove is a work place litigation lawyer. He has spent the bulk of his career litigating work place relationships which gives his book a completely fresh and different perspective to workplace management techniques.

Drawing from his own experiences and cases he has worked on during his career Mr. Janove uses real-life cases to show the reader what to do, what not to do, what to avoid and what to do when things are unavoidable when it comes to work place litigation.

Besides being very informative this book is also interesting and readable as it is filled with real stories rather than hypotheticals.

From how to fire an employee to how to properly document poor performance to how to deal with work place sexual harassment, this book is filled with true cases of things that have happened and how they were successfully and sometimes not so successfully handled.

I especially appreciated it when Mr. Janove talked about how to best avoid litigation in the first place by using several tools he has developed over the years.

His MIDAS touch apology program is priceless and should be known and used by everyone in business today:

When apologizing to an employee or peer for a real or perceived infraction the apologizer should use the following MIDAS touch apology method:

“M” is for “Mistake”: Acknowledge you made a mistake.

“I” is for “Injury”: Admit that you caused the person pain.

“D” is for “Differently”: Tell the person what you will do differently going forward.

“A” is for “Amends”: Do something to make amends. Something that will mean something.

“S” is for “Stop”: After you finish the first four parts, stop talking. Don’t say another word.

There are numerous other great guidelines such as this that the reader will learn from this book.

If you are a management position, or headed to a management position I would urge you to buy and read this book. And by the way get one for your HR department as well.

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Looking Good! How good is your company’s appearance?

It’s all of those little things that make a big difference

Seven ways to create a welcoming company

How good do you think your company is? How do you think you’re doing? What do you do well? What do you need to work on? What do you people think when they walk into your lobby?

These are questions you should be asking yourself at all times. You should be constantly thinking about your company how it presents itself to the outside world; what it looks like when you walk through it; what it sounds like when you call in. Does your company appear to be a well-run lucrative company or does it look like a company on its last legs ready to go out of business?

Then you have to consider what you want your company to be. What do you want to look like to your customers?

Walk into your lobby: What does that look like? Is it clean and welcoming? Is there a live person there waiting to help you? If you must have some sort on contact system make sure it is apparent, effective and easy to use. I have been in a couple of companies lately who are using an I-Pad on a stand to connect you with the person you want to see. If you’re going to have system instead of a person this is by far the least of all evils

Make sure the lobby is well lit and well painted and clean. It is after all the face of your company. Make sure your magazines are new. What do you think a ten your old copy of Circuitree says about your company?

The same with plaques and awards unless it’s the Noble Prize for Technology don’t display awards that are more than ten years old! No one will be impressed with an award for your work on The Minute Man Missile program,

You want your company to look good, sharp and up to date.

This is not a money thing; paint does not cost a fortune, clean floors look great and don’t cost anything but a little soap and elbow grease…and don’t get me going about those restrooms. I once talked to a Quality auditor for a large OEM who told me the first places he looked when he surveyed a company were the restrooms. He told me that was the most telling place in the factory when it came to indicating how the company was run… really!

So now here is a list of seven things you can do to make your company look fresh, modern and well run:

  1. The lobby of course we just talked about that. Make sure it is well lit, freshly painted, has modern comfortable furniture and up to date awards and samples of your product. Remember that your customers and your vendors will spend a lot of time with nothing to do but study your lobby.
  2. Those restrooms. They have to be spotless. Not just for your visitors but for your own employees as well. Sloppy restrooms indicate a lack of caring, that’s all there is to it, no argument.
  3. Hallways should always be clean, the floors should shine and you have windows that look into the various departments they should be as clean as that proverbial whistle.
  4. All departments from the drill room to lamination to inspection have to be neat and orderly. Everything in its place. Shelves and racks neat and well organized. They should reflect the look of a craftsman’s workshop.
  5. The same applies to the offices. Desks should be clean and organized and look like people who know what they’re doing work there. I don’t want to hear any excuses from that slob who says he knows where everything is despite the mess. Take my word for it he does not. Oh and make sure that the calendars are turned to the right month….never mind the right year! Or the right decade? I’ve seen that before.
  6. How about the front lawn? Let’s not forget that. Make sure that everything in front of your company looks great. That shrubs are shaped and the lawn is mowed. By the way things should look great all around the building especially shipping and receiving. I once visited a company that had four wet mattresses on the ground in front of the loading dock those mattresses completely destroyed that company’s image.
  7. Make sure all your lights work inside and out. You don’t want any dead light bulbs and forget that energy saving every other light bulb missing crap…you look like you’re going out of business.
  8. And one more. Always under promise and over deliver. Make sure your equipment is all up to date and taken care of. There is nothing that gives better impression than well-maintained equipment.

There you have it. Now it’s time for you to take that walk. Look around and see what your place looks like. What do you see? Does it look fresh and clean and new and well organized? Does it look like the people who work there care about what they do? More important does it look like the people who work there know what they’re doing? If the answer to these questions is yes then you’re on the right path to success. It’s only common sense.

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Catching Up With M&A Expert Tom Kastner

If you want to know what is going on in our industry when it comes to mergers and acquisitions, there is no better person to turn to than Tom Kastner. Whenever I hear a rumor of a company being bought or sold that I want to verify Tom is the first person I call and unless he is under a NDA he will fill be in. He is just about the most informed person when it comes to the subject of who is up who is down and who is for sale. This is why I like to check in with Tom every now and then to get his take on the industry. What follows is my latest talk with Tom. I hope you’ll enjoy it as much as I did.

Dan: It seems that there is a lot of activity going on right now when it comes to companies buying other companies. Is that real or just my perception?

Tom: There is definitely a lot of activity in the past 12 months. I count 10 deals in the PCB sector in the last 12 months, and there are at least 5 deals going on at present that I am aware of/working on. I am also working on several projects in the EMS/PCBA sector for buyers.

Dan: What types of sales are happening? Who is buying right now?

Tom: A few of the sales have been larger companies buying smaller ones, and there have been a few mergers such as KCA/Marcel (now called Summit Interconnect) and Dragon/Electro-Plate. Many of the buyers are larger companies that are private equity-backed or publicly traded, such as Advanced Circuits, FTG, APCT, OSI, etc. More than half of the recent deals have been consolidations (seller’s shop was merged into the buyer’s).

Dan: Who is selling at this time and why? What are the reasons people are selling at this particular time?

Tom: Most are selling in order to retire or to focus on other business. Several of the deals are due to under performance. Of the owners I speak with, most are interested in retiring, but some would like to find a buyer/investor who can take the company to the next level.

Dan: I’ve noticed that there have been several what I call “Roll ups” that have occurred since last we talked can you first of all explain to our readers what a roll up is and who gets involved in them and why?

Tom: Because many shops are running below capacity, the idea is that by combining two or more shops, the business will run more efficiently and profitably. Also, a larger shop may be more able to invest in new equipment and technologies. These deals can be tricky, and it requires at least one of the shops to close, and transferring customers may be difficult.

Dan: Who would you recommend a roll up deal to? Seller? Buyer?

Tom: It can be beneficial to both sellers and buyers. For the seller, the owner can retire, or perhaps focus on a role with the merged company that they enjoy the most, such as sales or operations. For the buyer, it can help fill a shop with more work, and it can bring new customers, products, people, reps, equipment, and technologies.

Dan: Are there any major trends that you are seeing out there?

Tom: Two major trends: customers are insisting more that shops invest in technology, such as direct imaging and laser drills. Also, foreign buyers would like a physical presence in the US.

Dan: And what do you think this means?

Tom: It will be increasingly difficult for smaller shops to keep up with larger shops that are investing in the newest technology. That being said, if they have survived this long, they probably have their costs down and have an interesting niche in the market. Regarding foreign buyers, we’ll probably see more foreign-owned shops in the US down the road. This may be part of their global strategy, and it allows them to make prototypes/quick turns in the US and volume production overseas.

Dan: What kind of deals have you been involved in since we last talked?

Tom: Since we last talked I closed the sale of Tech Circuits to APCT.

Dan: Without breaking any confidentialities what have you got on your plate at this time?

Tom: I am representing a $4.5 million PCB shop that is focused on mil-aero prototypes and quick turns, and I am representing a few buyers in the EMS space (1 in PCBA, 1 in wire-harness/assemblies).

Dan: I know that you have made some additions to your own firm since we last talked, can you tell us about those?

Tom: We added 3 people: 2 professionals and one assistant/researcher in the US. That brings us up to 5 total, 4 in the Chicago area and one in Tokyo. We are still focused on the electronics and tech fields, both sell-side and buy-side advisory services. We also offer grooming services, in which we help sellers get ready to go to market.

Dan: Sounds like you are prepping for the future. What do you think that is going to look like?

Tom: We are pretty busy already, but we think that baby boomer owners will be retiring in droves over the next few years. Also, there is a tremendous amount of strategic capital and private equity capital in the world that is seeking companies to buy, in a wide variety of sectors. I believe that the number of PCB and EMS shops will continue to drop, but the shops that remain and invest in equipment and technology will be stronger than ever.

Dan: Any final comments?

Tom: I am always glad to talk with owners or their advisors on how the M&A process works, potential buyers or sellers, valuations/terms, and how to prepare a business for sale.

Dan: Tom, it’s always a pleasure talking with you. Thanks for taking the time today.

Tom: My pleasure.

For more information about Tom and his company go to www.gp-ventures.com or you can reach Tom at tomk@gp-ventures.com. And if I may say so if you are ready to make a move and want to talk to someone about it there is no better person in our industry than Tom Kastner.

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Why Best Buy Will Go Out Of Business

And why they don’t have to

Have you been to Best Buy lately? If you have you’ll see a store that is going to go out of business, sooner than later. And the shame of it there is no need to.

Last Saturday I dropped off a computer because the “J” key had come off and I could not get it back on. Not their problem not their issue. But what was the issue is that I had to go on line to make an appointment to drop the computer off. They were very clear about the 15-minute window I had to drop the computer. I also made it clear that it was spare computer, I was not going to wait for it but just drop it off. It didn’t matter. So between 2:30 and 2:45 PM last Saturday I dutifully dropped the computer off. I did so with a solemn promise to my dear wife who was with me that I would stay calm and not get mad and cause a scene. And yes, I kept that promise. Even when the “Geek” that’s not a pejorative expression that’s what they call themselves. Took the computer, processed some paperwork and then told me it would be two weeks because they will be sending the computer out for a new keyboard! What do these Geeks do anyway? This guy could not even fix a key that had fallen off? Really?

Then last night (sorry I’m a glutton for punishment). I went to anther Best Buy looking for something. I was not even sure what I wanted but I wanted to talk to someone and get some advice. I waited ten minutes in the Apple Products department while I watched a number of blue shirted employees hanging out with one another like it was some kind of party and I was crashing. When I did finally crash their party, they told me that “Apple” was not their department and the person should be back soon, he was probably at lunch,

That’s when I left. Enough was enough and yes that being why Best Buy is going out of business, or at least one of the reasons.

The things is when they do go out of business there will be cries of injustice as people lose their jobs. There will be complaints about the internet killing live retail and there will be much tearing of clothes and gnashing of teeth.

But it does not have to be. They do not have to go out of business. They have seen the Apple stores which are now the highest revenue yielding per square foot retail stores in the world. Yes, that’s right all Best Buy would have to do is take a page out of that book.

First of all, they could train their people in the basic art of customer service. Then they could train them to be “experts” in their areas whether the area is computers or washing machines or TVs the people could be trained to become “trusted advisors” to customers coming to learn more about what they are interested in buying. Just think how refreshing that would be?

Then once the customer is expertly guided to the buying choice that is perfect for her she can get the product she wants and also be able to say why it is perfect for her.

And then here is the best part. Because they cannot possibly have everything they sell in stock on the premises they should be set up to sit down comfortably with the customer at a computer and order with them whatever it is they want to buy. By the way this would be a great opportunity to upsell as well. They could make this customer experience so pleasant, informative and memorable that the customer would want to come into to the store to order their product rather than just skip the store all together and buy directly on line.

Oh, and another thing, besides the wonderful experience of buying the product on line while being advised by an expert, the buyer would be rewarded with bonuses like free overnight shipping and yes some sort of discount on a future and related product. A product, that Best Buy knows would be great for her based on the all the information that was learned by the friendly and accommodating Best Buy Expert.

All in all, a win/win. Best Buy would stay in business. Their associates would keep their jobs and probably be a lot happier with the happiness of doing something worthwhile and yes the customer would be delighted.

And by the way, this type of hybrid customer service could be applied to just about any brick and mortar retailer who is in danger of going out of business; from Barnes and Noble to Dick’s Sporting Goods. Any company in fact who is willing to go to any length to truly enhance the overall customer experience. Actually anyone who strives to treat the customer as number one no matter what kind of change or adaptation they have to make to elevate their customer to where she should be. It’s only common sense

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Book Recommendation – Learning to Succeed: Rethinking Corporate Education in a World of Unrelenting Change

A book recommendation from Dan Beaulieu.

Learning to Succeed: Rethinking Corporate Education in a World of Unrelenting Change

By: Jason Wingard

Copyright 2015Amacom

Price $29.95

Pages: 220 with Notes and Index

You can never stop learning

It’s time we took learning seriously. For many years things in business were static enough or at least much more static that they are today so that you could go to college, get your MBA and then be set for life. When I was younger I remember being the only one in my sales staff who even read business books. Hell, I remember when business books were a rarity taking up about a foot of the book store’s shelf. Now of course we are all learning or should be.

In this new and important book by Jason Wingard he rightfully describes what it is going to take to succeed from now on. Our market places are now so dynamic that we have to institute formal learning programs to stay head of the game.

In fact the author himself is the Chief Learning Officer at Goldman Sachs one of the few companies that has adapted this new way of thinking.

Now Mr. Wingard shares with us what it is going to take to create and implement a true Learning to Succeed program in our own companies.

He takes us through a step by step chapter by chapter journey to make sure that we not only completely understand the need for an educational plan but also how it should be made up, who should run it, who should benefit by it and how to keep it going.

This is a book that is ahead of its’ time (just barely) but is providing a great blueprint for the future of doing business in this fast growing, fast changing cross cultural global economy.

I really like the way he incorporates actual cases from a number of companies from Proctor and Gamble to Sears Holdings to Comcast explaining how each of these companies handled their learning program, from implementation to sustenance and how they are faring today allowing us to learn from their challenges and successes.

This is a great book to use as a primer for developing your company’s own learning program, not s subject to be taken lightly.

Please read this book and pass it on the other leaders in your company and then get to work on your own Learning to Succeed program,

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What The Heck Is Wrong With Making Money?

In a recent column I talked about board shops making money and how upset our customers were at the very thought of their board shop vendors making money? Many times over the years I have heard our customers complaining bitterly about how much money we make. They seem to think that all the shops in American are making money hand over fist and that seems to bother them. I have to wonder why that is. When we hear that Apple and Microsoft make a lot of money we’re thrilled for them. We not only think that’s fantastic but we often line up all night to buy more of their products all the time knowing that their products are so well priced (for them) that they will make a fortune at the end of the year. We think Amazon is a great company and we love using them and yes we stay up nights worrying about them, worrying because they are not making any money.

We just love the idea of the hundred thousand dollar car and wish we could buy one. We love to over spend on jewelry and cruises and clothing and watches and yes colleges. Don’t get me started on private colleges. The more our kid’s college cost the more we like it! The more we spend for college the more we brag about it because the prouder we are and we’re all killing ourselves to get our kids into these colleges so we can pay even more. We cheer when Harvard raises their tuition to astronomical amounts and we’re mad if our kid’s college isn’t the most expensive in the country.

Great chefs go out of their way to spend top dollar for the best produce and meats that money can buy. Have you priced a pound of truffles lately?

Cabinet makers search the world for the best and most expensive materials and woods that money can buy.

Artist spend small fortunes on the best paints and brushes they can get their hands on

Designers and architects look for the very best materials to build their products

Carpenters, true artisans go out and buy the very best equipment and tools they can wrap their hands around.

How about athletes they look for any, equipment that will give them an edge no matter what the price… that’s simply not an issue.

The same with Doctors with their medicines and medical equipment.

But what’s the deal when it comes to printed circuit boards? What do our customer think that we’re supposed to be non-profit organizations?

One of my clients ran a promotion recently trying to bring in new business. His plan was to offer ten percent off an order from a new customer. He felt that the trade-off for getting a new customer would be worth it. Sure enough he got a call from one of his customers saying,” I always suspected that you were making too much money and now you’ve proven it, I want that ten percent discount too.”

Really, you can’t make this up. It goes right back to the fact that our industry commands absolutely no respect and our products command no respect either.

First of all why do our customers think we are making so much money? Do we look rich to them? Do we look like a thriving industry? There are only a couple of hundred board shops left in this country is it going to take all of them going out of business before someone gets the idea that it might be a good thing if his board shop vendors made a buck once in a while?

And what is this suspicion anyway? Why do they think we are making so much money? One time a company I worked with had a vendor offer to come into their shop and show them how to not only price boards more competitively but show them how to build them more cheaply as well. This was a contract manufacturer…of course. Why did this guy think that he could do it better? Why did he think he could come into my client’s shop and show them how to build boards more economically? Talk about not knowing what you don’t know; talk about a lack of respect!

Could it be that these customers who think they are paying too much for boards don’t think that boards are important enough, not critical enough for their end-products. Or maybe they just don’t think that their end products are important enough to warrant the best that money can buy? Hmm maybe they’re right; after all they are only building, missiles, and anti-missile systems and aerospace products and security devices and oh yes life supporting medical devices. Yes that must be it they feel that the products their producing are not important enough to use the best that money can buy. Ya think?

It’s only common sense

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Are Your Customers Speaking For You?

Most people will tune out when you tell them how great your company is. The will even turn you off if you spend too much time talking about all of the great things your company can do for them. And they will practically throw you out of their office when you start to pull the dreaded Power Point presentation out of your bag! They expect you to tell them how great your company is, you are after all there to sell them on your company and its’ services they would be shocked if you did anything but that and that’s the problem. They don’t really care what you say when it comes to talking about your company to the point where it only becomes a bunch of blah, blah, blah, yada, yada, yada to them sort of like the parent talk in Peanuts.

So what are you supposed to do about it? How do you get your message across to them if they tune you out when you even come near talking about your company? Simple you get other people to talk about your company. You get your best customers to tell potential customers about your products and services. There is nothing more powerful that a customer’s testimonial or a customer’s service story.

Look, it’s pretty simple people like to hear what other people have to say about a product they are thinking of buying. We all do it right?

When you’re looking towards buying a new car you are going to talk to people who have the same brand and model of that car. Hell you’ll even stop a person in a super market parking lot and ask her about her new Lexus if you are thinking of buying one for yourself. And most importantly you could actually base your buying decision on what that person says to you in the three-minute conversation. You will take that person’s opinion much more seriously than all of the millions of dollars of advertising that Lexus has spent promoting their new model.

You’ll do the same thing with just about any other major purchase you are currently considering. We put much more weight on what the person who has used the product says that anything the manufacturer of that product has to say.

The same applies in our business today. We can tell our customers until we are blue in the face what a great product we have but it is not going to amount to a proverbial hill of beans when compared with what our current customers say about us.

Now I hope we all have some happy and satisfied customers…some “best customers.” If you don’t, or if you feel that none of your customers will want to say nice things about you then you have much more serious problems and you should go take care of those problems before you try to sell anything to anyone. The old “we’re no worse than anyone else” justification has no place in business and no place in the referral business.

Okay not that this is out of the way let’s get back to asking your good and satisfied customers for referrals. In his new book High Profit Prospecting, Mark Hunter gives is a four step plan for getting referrals from customers:

  1. Ask for referrals. Every time the customer sees value in what you’re selling is a time when you should ask for a referral.
  2. Connect with the referral. Ideally the person who gives you the name will connect the two of you through an email or phone call. Even if that is not the case, following up as soon as possible is showing respect to the person who referred you.
  3. Keep the person who gave you the referral in the loop. Don’t keep the person who gave you the referral in the dark. By keeping them in the loop you will encourage them to provide you with more referrals.
  4. Be appreciative each step along the way. Nothing you do will create more referrals along the way than showing appreciation to each person in the process.

Once again there is no better way to get new business than to have your current satisfied customers tell other customers about your products and services.

One final thing to remember and that is that good referrals are based on good service, actually outstanding service. You have to be good enough that your customers will be proud and happy to be giving out your contact information to others. You have to be good enough so that you’re customer actually feel so smart for using you products and services that they want to tell everyone about you and your company. Its only common sense.

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