Archive for April, 2017

Book Review: Super Communicator

dan-2A book review from Dan Beaulieu:

Super Communicator: Explaining the Complicated So Anyone Can Understand

By: Frank J. Pietrucha

One of the greatest gifts anyone can have is the ability to communicate. This is especially true when it comes to subjects like technology. An Wang of Wang Computers said years ago, “A true genius is a person who can make difficult things seem easy.” The reason the late Carl Sagan of “billions and billions” fame was so successful is because he was able to take difficult and seemingly boring subjects and make them easy to understand and fascinating.

In this new book by Frank Pietrucha you can learn to do the same: Explain anything in an easy to understand manner.

Think how important and effective this can be to your business. If you are in sales, for example, and are able to describe your products and their benefits in a way that your customers are going to understand you will be that much more successful. Think about it…marketing is all about effective communication.

Through a number of very pertinent, real-life examples, the author demonstrates how you can take complicated things and make them seem easy. The first example he uses is how to explain Higgs Boson. It doesn’t get more complicated than that right? The author shows how by what he calls, “delivering meaning.” In other words, making your explanation meaningful to your audience. He was able to explain this complicated discovery so that everyone could understand not only what it was, but, more importantly, why it was so meaningful to all of us. So for those of us who did not understand the importance of this discovery, here’s his explination:

The discovery of the elusive Higgs boson confirms the theory that scientists have been using to understand how the universe works. Physicists are celebrating this breakthrough because it can lead to other significant findings like the discovery of quantum mechanics did almost a century ago. Quantum mechanics lead to the invention of many of the twentieth century’s most notable technologies…like cell phones, computers, and even the atomic bomb. The discovery of the Higgs boson could me equally important…if not more so. It can lead to innovations we can’t yet imagine.

Okay now I get it.

The book is filled with tools we can use to also become “Super Communicators.” The author shows us how to use his simple guidelines effectively. Here are a few basic guidelines:

  • Lead with the conclusion;
  • Use big words sparingly;
  • Combat jargon use;
  • Avoid acronyms;
  • Short sentences and short paragraphs;
  • Sync your message to your audience’s culture; and
  • Make it error free.

And the one guideline that is the most important: Humanize your message. In other words, make it relatable to your immediate audience.

I have yet to find a book on communications that addresses these very important issues in such an effective way. It provides all of us who have to communicat (which is all of us) with the tools we need to be better communicators.

Check this book out and start your journey to becoming a super communicator and successfully get your point across.

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Where Did All The PCB Salespeople Go?

dan-7Where are all the PCB salespeople?

A few years ago there were all kinds of sales people on the street. Good sales people; seasoned veterans with proven track records who had been victimized by first the stream of mergers that left them high and dry when the conquering company went with their sales force and let the victim company’s sales team go to avoid redundancy. Then we got hit with the great recession and shops went out of business and more sales people hit the street. But now business is back, people are investing in their companies again and now they are calling me looking for sales people because they’re having a hard time finding a few good men and women.

So where did they go these good and experienced sales people? Some have had it and have left our industry to find better and more stable positions. Others have just plain given up and settled for something in other fields altogether and then well some just got older and retired.

But for the rest of you out there and you know who you are; The ones who had a job once, were doing a pretty good job and still have the intoxicating thrill of the hunt flowing through your blood, where are you? The industry is looking for you to come home and start selling PCBs again. It’s time you looked up from whatever you’re doing and realize that the sound you hear is the whirring is that brand new Schmoll drill machine. The shops are running again and they need your help. They need you out there fighting for their company in this great new era of Board Wars.

Things are different now. Those company presidents and owners want you back, they are looking for you and they are ready to make some deals. Yes things have changed, companies are more flexible, they want more feet and the street and they are willing to make it work for you.

There are still the traditional deals. You go to work for a company and they give you a territory, a salary, some commission points and expenses and off you go, yes those jobs are out there right now. Then there are some more creative deals for those of you who want to me a little more independent. There are hybrid deals available. A hybrid deal is when a company is willing to pay a small retainer and reduced commissions to get you back in the field. They will do this for six months or a year depending on how long it will take you to get to a full annual revenue rate on your commissions alone. Now this is a pretty good deal for both parties. The company gets a seasoned sales professional at a reduced rate and they have more control over that person than if she were an independent rep. They can ask her to turn in reports, a forecast and attend meetings (at the company’s expense of course). It’s also a good deal for the hybrid sales person as he can represent other non-competing lines yes even other board shops if they complement one another rather than compete with one another. The sales person can even make several hybrid deals so that he has a pretty good monthly income coming in. In many cases this type of arrangement allows a sales person tom become a rep without going through his life savings in those first two years (assuming he has any life savings left). The hybrid deal works very well for sales people coming back into the industry as well as existing reps who want to take on new lines but need a little financial boost to help with that crucial first year of lead generation and prospecting.

Some companies are willing to turn over existing accounts. This is something that I highly recommend. Many reps wills and hybrid sales people are will to take a reduced commission rate to take over those current accounts. This only makes sense. When I’m working with companies helping them with their sales effort I always urge them to make this arrangement. First of all a real live sales person calling on an account is always better than one doing it over the phone and secondly the chances are growing that account beyond the current sales rate is far greater with a sales person, with skin in the game, trying to grow that account. It only makes sense.

So yes calling all sales people, come on back, there are good opportunities out there for the right experienced sales professionals…if you’re willing to put in the time and work you’re you know what off. Get out there and start looking, I know you want to, I know you can’t stay away, I know you just love the smell of solder mask in the morning. It’s only common sense.

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Don’t Be Afraid, Have Courage!

dan-5They say that courage is the number one quality of all successful companies. You have to have courage to get anything done. Because it is a big scary world out there and if you don’t have the guts, think courage, to face it you will not survive.

The more I work with companies the more I realize that all this talk about having courage and not being afraid to do the right thing when it needs to be done is true. From when it’s time to hire someone, or to reprimand someone or yes, the worst one of all to fire some many of us will do anything we can do avoid doing the right thing

The best run companies are run by managers who are not afraid do what they need to do. Conversely poorly run companies are managed by people who cannot make a decision if their life depended on it. They procrastinate until it’s too late participating in analysis paralysis and using that to fool themselves into thinking that’s doing something

Great managers act. Great managers are not afraid of anything, they are:

  • Not afraid to get involved in that new technology even if buying that equipment is risky.
  • Not afraid to hire that new process engineer, even if he is very expensive.
  • Not afraid to have a hard talk with someone who is not doing his job.
  • Not afraid to change the direction of the company.
  • Not afraid to take the time to learn new things.
  • Not Afraid to change their minds.
  • Not afraid to fire that person who needs to be fired.
  • Not afraid to do the right thing for their customer even if it hurts the company.
  • Not afraid to put the customer first, whatever it takes.
  • Not afraid to say she was wrong.
  • Not afraid to build that addition.
  • Not Afraid of handling cash flow issues head on.
  • Not afraid to say “no” no matter how hard it is.
  • Not afraid to make that decision when it has to be made, even if he doesn’t have all the facts.
  • Not afraid to stand up against conventional wisdom.
  • Not afraid to face his own flaws and do something to fix them
  • Not afraid to hire people smarter than she is.

Years ago, I was working with a company that had cornered the market on the ability to fabricate high tech PCBs from a material called LMR Kevlar. I say “cornered the market” because they were literally the only shop in the industry that had managed to learn to build MLBs with this very quirky laminate. Every year for five years we could count on at least three million dollars of business from two customers, two of the defense and aerospace industry’s OEM’s. Our relationship with them was very good and the business was just about guaranteed. Then one day we were faced with a very difficult decision. We had been working with several laminate suppliers and had helped them develop a new product called Thermount. The thing about this new Thermount material was that it had all of the characteristics of LMR Kevlar but it was much easier to work with and was only one fourth the price. This meant that just about any good board shop could now build boards that had the need for LMR Kevlar; so we would lose our edge over our competitors plus the price of the over-all program would go down because the material was now much less expensive.

“So, what do we do?” We asked ourselves. Do we tell our customers about Thermount and stand a chance of losing the business? Or, best case keeping the business but at a much lower price, or do just stay mum about it? In this case, the best and the right thing to do as good vendors… and good people was to tell our customers about this better solution. It was an easy decision but a hard pill to swallow in the end. And yes, they used LMR Kevlar for only one more year and then switched to Thermount which of course opened the program up to a much more competitive environment. We ended up losing the program a couple of years later. But, telling them was the right thing to do and we were not afraid to do it. It did take courage to face the fact that we were going to hurt our sales by a few million dollars of very profitable business a year. Now, looking back on this incident over twenty years later it is a decision that we are proud we made.

Never be afraid to do the right thing, even though sometimes it will hurt, it will pay off in the end. By the way even though we lost that particular program we did have a good ongoing relationship with those customers for years to come. Its only common sense.

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Book Review – Brian Tracy’s Business Strategy

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A book review from Dan Beaulieu:

Business Strategy by Brian Tracy

Price: $9.95

Pages: 107 with Index

This is the very best book of this series so far. And I found it at just the right time.

I was getting started on a new project where, as luck would have it, I was working with a client on developing a new strategy. There I sat, surrounded by stacks of books on developing a business strategy, when I spotted this small blue volume.

Knowing how valuable I’ve found the other books in Brian Tracy’s Success Library, I chose to pick this one up and read it first. It was a good thing I did because this had just about everything I needed to develop my client’s new strategy. From the first chapter where he talks about how young Alexander the Great destroyed Darius’ much larger army and became the leader of the world at 23, to the chapter on how to define your company in terms of where you are today and where you want to be in five years, I literally found everything I needed to write a business strategy. This book contained everything I needed to lead my client’s team on their search for a new, effective and comprehensive strategy that we could all agree on as well.

From the book:

How to re-invent your company:

  • Let go of the past
  • Encourage courage
  • Embrace failure
  • Do the opposite
  • Imagine the possibilities
  • Put yourself out of business
  • Reject limits
  • Aim beyond

I love the set-up scenario he uses to re-invent your company:

Imagine that you arrive at work one morning and your company has burned own overnight. Luckily, none of your staff members were in the building, but everything else is gone. You must now start the business from scratch. What are you going to do?

And he goes on to give you the right questions you need to ask at that point:

  1. Which products and services do want to start making…and would you decide not to produce?
  2. Which customers would you try to reach…and which would you decide not to win back?
  3. Which employees would you take with you and which employees would you decline to keep?

Think about that and apply it to your company.

And finally, five reasons to develop a strategic plan:

  • To increase your return on equity
  • To reposition your company
  • To maximize your strengths and opportunities
  • To form the basis for making action decisions now

If you’re serious about your company’s strategic planning, this book is for you. And if you’re not serious, then you won’t be around much longer anyway. Pick up this little volume, the latest from The Brian Tracy Success Library.

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Do You Tell Your Customers You Buy The Cheapest Parts Possible?

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It always amazes me that the same people who claim to be building the best products on the market today are also the ones who want to buy the cheapest ingredients they can.

Think of your customers, how many of them have told you this…

“We are building the best Missile, MRI, Automobile, Computer than money can buy and in order to do this we have to have the very best components that money can buy. If you can give us the best there is, the highest Quality there is, we will happily pay for it.”

You have never heard this from any of your customers? Really, no one has ever told you that? I’m shocked. I thought all of your customers, or at least the ones who claim they build the best products in the world would be wanting the best. You would think so wouldn’t you?

Instead our PCB customers like to tell us that they need the best price possible or else. If we do not provide them with the best price possible they will find someone who will, even if that means going yo another country, to find that price that they want.

In other words do whatever you need to do to give them the cheapest boards that money can buy or else. They want us to do whatever we have to do, cut whatever corners we can, do anything we can do, to give them the cheapest products under the sun.

I am amazed at this because sorry, it is just not common sense. When a great chef creates he wants to use the best ingredients that money can buy. If a great artist is creating great art he wants to use the best materials that money can buy. When a craftsman builds a beautiful cabinet he wants to buy the best wood that money can buy. All of these people want to use the very best materials or ingredients that they can.

So how can many of our customers claim that they need the cheapest materials they can get their hands and then turn around and tell their customers that they are building the best products in the world? Sorry it does not add up. You cannot make a great product out of crummy materials, that’s all there is to it.

I know, I know, when I challenge my friends on the buying end of the business about this they tell me that all PC shops are the same, the Quality is exactly the same, the technology is the same. The company has done its homework and they know their suppliers and they know that it will all get down to the price. They actually believe that they can buy the cheapest products possible and still be covered enough to put out the best products in the world.

How is that? How does that work? I can tell you the answer to that question, it doesn’t. You just cannot build the best products in the world by buying the cheapest products in the world.

Think about this:

Do you really want to have a pacemaker that is built from the cheapest components that money can buy?

Do you really want that nuclear reactor to be made up of the cheapest products that money can buy?

Or how about that missile, or that automobile, or that airliner, or that Space Shuttle, or that surgical laser?

Sure you would be really happy if all of these things are built from the cheapest parts possible.

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Putting Together Your Team

dan-6What do the Boston Red Sox, The New England Patriots, and the Chicago Cubs all have in common? Besides all being winners (and my three favorite teams) they have won by building teams synergistically. By that I mean they build teams by putting the team in front of individual players that way making the team much stronger. When Theo Epstein, President of baseball operations for the Cubs sought and won pitching ace John Lester for a cool $155 Million he also sought his battery mate aging catcher Dave Ross with a sub 200 batting average for a measly $5 Million. Why because he knew from watching them in Boston that they were a perfect pitcher-catcher duo and that Lester always did better when Ross was catching him. You might even say he “completed him”, sorry. That was the way it had been for them in Boston and in Chicago, well in Chicago, let’s just say they both picked up their World Series rings last week.

The New England Patriots have one star and he wears number 12 and even he is a kind of “anti-star”. Brady has had dozens of receivers over the years while breaking every passing record there is and he did it with a bunch of non-stars (expect for bad boy Randy Moss who was much better behaved as a Patriot than ever before).

On the other hand, as an example of a great player, maybe the player with the greatest God-given talent who never really helped any team he played for even the Yankees. Think Alex Rodriguez. No one needs an Alex Rodriguez on their team, no matter how tempting it is to hire one.

Why is this? Why are these teams so successful? If you want one more example of how putting a team together instead of hiring a bunch if great players works, then check out the movie Moneyball starring Brad Pitt playing Billie Bean and you’ll see how it all works. No, I mean it, check it out and it will teach you by example how to build your own team.

Teams are built together with each member being considered in terms of their fit with the other members. A true team is really bigger, than all of its’ parts. A true team is made up of people who meld together, people who are willing to leave their own egos at the door for the good of the team. A true team has a certain chemistry that drives them to do things they should not be able to do. A true team makes all its’ players better than they are and better then they should be.

So, what does this have to do with you as a manager in a PCB shop? Everything, it has everything to do with you because you must be building a team, not hiring individuals but building a team. When you are ready to hire someone for your team, let’s say your top line management team, here are ten things that you should take into consideration during your evaluation:

  1. What additional skills does this person bring to our team?
  2. How will this person fit in with the rest of the team?
  3. Does he have the right chemistry with what we are trying to do here at this company?
  4. Does this person have the humility it takes to be part of a team rather than an individual star? (you don’t need an Alex Rodriguez, sorry Alex but I just don’t like you.)
  5. Will this person be willing to take one for the team when the time comes?
  6. Will this person be able to think of himself as a part of something bigger or is she truly an individual?
  7. Did this person “get” the vision when we explained it to him? And buys into it?
  8. Does this person have the passion for the industry we are part of? Or is this just a paycheck for her?
  9. Will this person have so much passion that he will be willing to pick up the ball when others drop it?
  10. Does this person have the skills and talents and abilities that our team needs right now? In other words, is the time right for this person to come onto the team?

And one more, there is always one more. Will this person have the passion to so love the team that he will be willing and able to take over the leadership of the team (if and when that day comes) and not only lead the time but also carry on with the vision and mission of the that team?

These are the things we should all be considering a bringing on a new teammate. Not what her individual skills are but rather how well she and her skills and her attitude will fit in with the rest of the team, thus making it stronger with her presence. Its only common sense.

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Book Review – We Are Market Basket: The story of the unlikely grassroots movement that saved a beloved business

dan-1A book review from Dan Beaulieu:

We Are Market Basket: The story of the unlikely grassroots movement that saved a beloved business

By: Daniel Korschun and Grant Welker

A business book that reads like a novel

How many times does a business book read like a novel? Actually it read more like an adventure story. The kind you can’t put down so you stay up all night to read and that’s exactly what happened to me. I literally could not put this book down and read it at one sitting. By the way, those of us who live in New England and shop at Market Basket enjoyed watching this story unfold over the last few years; and to us, this book is just icing on that cake.

This story of a billionaire supermarket chain-owning family feud between two battling cousins–two factions of the same family–is also the story of two types of business owners. The first is Arthur T. Demoulas’ family or you might call them the “good guys” who run a business the way it should be run, based on people: the customers they serve, the people who work for them and the companies who sell to them. And how they should be treated. Theirs is a philosophy of growing a business the right way – by reinvestment. The other cousin, Arthur S., wants to run the company in the old tradition of the robber barons. His philosophy is to take every red cent out of the company and give it to the share-holders (of which there are only nine) and then sell the company to an international conglomerate.

Talk about a good guy white hat, bad guy black hat scenario!

Arthur S. wins at first and ousts Arthur T. who is so beloved by the people who worked for him, bought from him and sold to him that they all go on strike and bring the company to a screeching halt until Arthur S. backs down and sells out to his white-hatted cousin.

But hold on; this is not just a great story, it is also a parable of sorts filled with great examples of the way to run and grow a successful business… and yes, alas, how not to. This is the best and, yes, most exciting (how often can you say that?) business book that I’ve read in a long time.

I can’t wait to see the movie!

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