Archive for category Leadership

Think Different

dan-7Remember when Steve Jobs came back to save Apple from the brink of disaster, and the first thing he did was launch an ad campaign that featured people who changed the world by thinking differently? He featured famous people from Bob Dylan to Albert Einstein to John Lennon and many others all of them bright, passionate, creative, and most importantly fearless when it came to pioneering a new way of approaching things.

Remember the quote? “Here’s to the crazy ones. The misfits. The rebels. The troublemakers. The round pegs in the square holds.

The ones who see things differently. They are not fond of rules. And they have no respect for status quo. You can quote them, disagree with them, glorify, or vilify them.

About the only thing you can’t do is ignore them. Because they change things. They invent. They imagine. They heal. They explore. They create. They inspire. They push the human race forward.

Maybe they have to be crazy”

What did you think when you heard this for the first time? Do you remember what it felt like to see some of your long-time heroes like Gandhi and Buckminster Fuller, Thomas Edison, Muhammad Ali, Ted Turner, Maria Callas, Mohandas Gandhi, Amelia Earhart, Alfred Hitchcock, Martha Graham, Jim Henson (with Kermit the Frog), Frank Lloyd Wright and others, all of them people who left their mark not only in their own profession but in the world as well?

So, what about those of us in sales? What can we do to think different? What can we do to go where no other sales person has ever gone before? Doing things that no other sales person has dared to do before. Yes, what about us? Why are we stuck in the same old rut when we could think different and fly higher than anyone before us ever has?

What is stopping us from daring to dream? From wanting to be the best there ever was?

Nothing, that’s what, nothing is stopping us, in fact most of us are in a position to exceed anything we have ever done before; and exceed what anyone else has ever done before. There is no better time to soar, there is no better time to be the best that you can be.

I can tell you from personal, hands on experience that you do not have to worry about your management, your company owners, and presidents, and sales managers standing in your way. In fact these people are dying to see their salespeople do something extraordinary. They would love to see their sales people come up with new, creative, and innovative ways to win more business. They would give their eye teeth to have even one of their sales people fired up enough to set sales records this year. They would be enthralled to have even one member of their sales team break through that self-created ceiling of “doing everything the way it has always been done” and do something new.

I know, because in my job I work with company leaders, and the biggest complaint of frustration I hear from all of them is that their sales people are just not excited about what they are doing. Instead of coming up with ways to think differently and finding new ways to gain new customers and increase their territory sales most sales are caught up in a quagmire of excuses of why they cannot make their numbers. most of the time they focus on what the company can do for them so that they could make their numbers rather than any creative ideas they could come up with on the road to success.

The sales managers I talk to are pulling their hair out at the lack of originality, creativity, and outright ambition many (not all mind you) but many of their sales people exemplify.

There is no good reason for this. So, what if we have been in the business for a long time? So, what if we feel we have tried everything and nothing has worked? So, what if the competition is unfair and our customers only want to buy on price? These are only a bunch of excuses. A great sales person will always find a way. A great sales person will look at the cards she has been dealt and find a way to transform them into a winning hand.

I want to challenge every sales person reading this column today to start thinking differently. To start looking at the world differently. I challenge you to start spending at least 30 minutes a day just sitting quietly, thinking up ways to do things better than anyone else is doing them.

Do I hear you say you need some stimulation? That’s easy, there is plenty to go around. Read a sales book. Watch a sales video on YouTube. Watch some videos of Steve Jobs, or Tom Peters, or Seth Godin and get inspired to greatness. There is only one person who can make you a great sales person and it’s that person that you see in the bathroom mirror every morning. Have a talk with that person tomorrow morning and convince him or her to think different. Its only common sense.

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There Is Only One Way To Succeed And That Is To Always Give It Your Best

Dan - another pathOne of my favorite sayings is “when you wake up in the morning if you are not ready to change the world, then don’t bother to get out of bed.” Do you ever think about changing the world? Do you ever think about being the best you can be…the best in the business? This kind of thinking represents the way champions think. People who are destined to greatness. People who don’t wait for luck to hit them in the head, but rather go out and work as hard as they can; and if luck meets up with them along the way, then all the better.

Greatness in everything we do is intentional. Think about the top people in your field, and you’ll notice some distinct characteristics that you will see in all of them. Things that make them stand head and shoulders over the rest of the crowd.

I thought it might be fun and interesting to list some of the most prominent characteristics of the best people in their fields.

  1. Determination: The are determined to be great. The are always focused on being the best in everything they do.
  2. Focus: They can focus on the right things that have to be done. They are never distracted by “ground noise” but rather can always keep their eye on the prize.
  3. They stay in their lane: They don’t care what is going on around them. You will never catch them hanging around the proverbial water cooler whining about this or that that is “keeping them” from doing their job.
  4. They do not believe in excuses. Because they are so good at planning everything that they take into consideration anything that could go wrong. And most importantly if something does go wrong, they take full responsibility for it, solve it, and it move on.
  5. They play their own hand. They play with the cards they have in front of them and never spend time wishing they had been dealt better cards.
  6. They don’t waste time. Everything they do has a purpose. They are extremely efficient with their time making sure that they make every minute count.
  7. They never wing it. The realize the importance of planning. The plan well and then they follow the plan to the letter. They never adlib during a sales call but rather know what they are going to say as well as what they want to get out of that meeting.
  8. They don’t care about outside forces, from weather, to economy to natural disasters, they rise above all these distractions and focus on what needs to be done and most importantly what they can do and what they can control.
  9. They have confidence. They know that if they do everything, right they will win out in the end. They go around with this quiet confidence that all winners seem to have.
  10. They never worry about what people say about them, because they have the confidence of their convictions and will always be sure of themselves.
  11. The are dedicated to their craft and are always studying, reading, learning to improve themselves.
  12. They are not afraid of good old fashioned hard work, because they know if they work hard today the rewards will be great tomorrow.
  13. They are impeccably honest. Always telling the truth not matter how painful it is. They are not afraid to deliver bad news, and suffer the consequences because they know that in the end the customers will appreciate their honesty and truthfulness.
  14. They always take the long view; and are willing to sacrifice today for their reward tomorrow.
  15. They never speak poorly of their competition no matter how tempting it might be. They believe in always taking the high road always.
  16. They treat everyone as they themselves, would want to be treated…no exceptions.
  17. They are always extremely polite, and courteous, with impeccable manners. Making sure that they are remember for their kindness and regard for other people.
  18. They never take shortcuts. Always, instead, doing things the right way. The only way that will help them achieve their goals.
  19. They are always on time, believing that tardiness is the first sign of incompetence.
  20. They always turn in their reports, quotes, forecasts on time, and always perfectly executed.
  21. They are always willing to help others. Sometime even their competitors, if is for a good common cause.

And finally, they are just plain good people, people who are fun to be around. People who make other people feel safe and most importantly well cared for. So how do you rank? Did you see yourself in these characteristics? If you did then congratulation you are well on your way to an exemplary career in sales. If not, well, its not too late to mend your ways. Start doing it today. It’s only common sense.

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Remember Who Is Really Doing The Work

dan-6Those of us who have spent our lives in sales, sometimes forget who really matters. As we pursue those elusive orders or solve problems, meet challenges, and soothe angry customers, it is easy for us to forget those who are really doing the work. The ones who are back at the shop, sweating it out so that all of us on the team can make a living.

While we’re at lunch complaining that the air conditioning in this restaurant is always set too cold, we should think about the folks working in the plating department where it is over 100 degrees on this pleasant July day. While we’re playing customer golf later, they’ll be plating hundreds of panels and sweating their you-no-what’s off all day for a pay that is a fraction of ours. Always being extremely careful because if they miss something there will be hell to pay and we as the customer interface will be there to make sure that hell is in fact, paid!

While we sit impatiently waiting for that buyer who is always late, we should think about those Quality inspectors visually checking hundreds of square inches of board surface for hours on end, atop metal stools in back-breaking positions, squinting through scopes making sure that the products you’re selling will be perfect. Always being extremely careful because if they miss something there will be hell to pay and we as the customer interface will be there to make sure that hell is in fact, paid!

Or when we’re stuck in traffic with nothing to do but turn up the radio and listen to the ball game for hours on end, furious about something we can do nothing about, remember those people in the drill department watching and monitoring as those drills pound out thousands even hundreds of thousands of holes making sure they are all perfectly round and in dimension and making sure they are all there, because if even one is missing, there will be hell to pay, and we as the customer interface will be there to make sure that hell is in fact, paid!

Or when you’re trying to relax at home around your pool in the late afternoon, you should remember those who have just come onto second shift, getting briefed to make sure they work on all of the right stuff for the next eight hours, before handing the work off to the graveyard shift that comes in at eleven, ready for the hand off to make sure that everything runs smoothly so that boards will be delivered on time and you won’t receive any grief when you meet with the customer the next day. Because if you do, there will be hell to pay and we as the customer interface will be there to make sure that hell is in fact, paid!

Or when you’re catching up with your Facebook friends late in the evening and a message comes up letting you know that your largest customer’s hot boards are going to be delivered at five tomorrow morning a few hours ahead of schedule. You should remember the people that made that happen. All those nameless, faceless, people who we never take the time to acknowledge, or even get to know, until something goes wrong. Because if it does, there will be hell to pay and we as the customer interface will be there to make sure that hell is in fact, paid!

Or when you’re calling your boss to complain that once again that quote to your customer, the one they sent in almost four hours ago, is almost a half hour late; telling him that you cannot possible succeed out here in the field if this is the kind of support you’re going to get from inside sales, regardless of how many complicated quotes they are trying to get done that day, for not only for other customers but the rest of the sales team’s customers as well. Remember the time you tried to do a quote to find out “just how hard this could be?” and gave up after fifteen minutes, because it was too boring and much too complicated. Remember that?

And then, when you’re booking that huge order, the one that is going to put you over the top. The one that is going to earn you that five-thousand-dollar bonus. Before, you decide to celebrate by singing “I Did It My Way” into your soap on a rope in front of your bathroom mirror, try to remember that no, you did not do it your way. That it took many people working in the shadows of the shop, in cold and in heat in all conditions both at home and at work to get that order. You were just the one privileged enough to be carrying the bag for your company. That company that has done everything they could to guarantee your success. The entire company won that order and that’s what you should be celebrating as you bask in the glory of victory. Because without those people back at the shop working tirelessly hour after hour, day after day, we in sales would have nothing to sell. Everything we do in sales is dependent on those people working so unglamorously back at the shop. Never ever forget that. It’s only common sense

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What Makes A Great Leader?

dan-5There is an old axiom that goes behind every messed-up company is a messed-up leader, the real version is somewhat more graphic, but this is a g-rated rated publication and I respect that, heck you never know when a six your old might want to read this column. Anyway, any version you use of this saying it’s true. So many times, over the years I have dealt with owners who called me in to help them with the problems they were having with their teams, only to have to hear from me that they are in fact, the problem with their organization.

I have seen all types of leaders and I am happy to say that many of them are very good and in the end they lead their companies to a successful future. Others though, not so much.

I have worked with company owners who:

  • Like to have the new plan of the month. They do not realize that a plan is only as good as its’ implementation. They hate the boring meat and potatoes implementation part, get bored and after a few weeks claim that the plan is not working and its time for a new one. I remember one guy who literally had a plan a month. I would visit him monthly, leave with a sold plan, work on it, and begin implementation, only to have him tell me to throw it and he had a new idea, the minute I walked into his building the next month.
  • Then there was the guy who I had to argue with month after month because he did not believe that delivering product on time was important. He told me that he had not heard any complaints from his customers, so he did not understand what the problem was. Even after he lost all thirty-three new customers that a new sales team he had hired brought in. He lost all of them for poor performance and then blamed the new sales team for being ineffective.
  • And, just one more because I am making myself sick and probably you as well. This guy, and you’ve heard about this guy before (he’s an avatar for all the owners who have this problem) would not spend on penny on sales or marketing, not one red cent. Always told me that he did not have the budget for it. Usually he would tell me this as we were walking into his shop to see the new laser drill or LDI he had just bought. But no, there was never any money for a sales effort of any kind…and of course the reason I was there talking to him was that he did not have enough customers and orders coming in!

Okay enough of that, let’s get on to some good stuff, like what the characteristics of a great business leader are. This is from a book a new book by Susan Solovic that is coming out in March called The One Percent Edge It’s a pretty good little book, I’d recommend it highly. It would make a great birthday present for your boss. So, from the book, here are the qualities of a good business leader:

  • Demonstrates a consistent attitude and actions
  • Follows through on commitments
  • Is loyal to others
  • Is readily available
  • Gives praise
  • Plans
  • Accepts responsibility for business decisions
  • Delegates well
  • Knows the difference between the important issues and small details
  • Is a good listener
  • Treats people fairly and honestly
  • Is an idea/vision person
  • Is willing to go to turn to people for advice
  • Isn’t afraid to get advice from others
  • Enjoys new projects
  • Possesses a high EQ (emotional quotient

And now I here am a few more from my experiences: A good leader:

  • Is fair to everyone and doesn’t play one against the other
  • Is happy when someone under him does well
  • Encourages everyone under her to do well
  • Gives credit where credit is due
  • Does not succumb to flattery
  • Stands on the highest moral ground of anyone in the company
  • Walks the talk
  • Is self-deprecating (yes please, man we sorely need that with all our leaders in this country right now)
  • Is the number one customer service person in the company
  • Is a role model for everyone in the company
  • Is an overall good person
  • Is deeply involved in the company but does not micro-manage
  • Does not waste her peoples’ time wanting reports that are not needed for the company’s success
  • Not only embraces change but is himself a game-changer

There is no doubt that if a person possesses all of these characteristics she will not only be a good leader, she will be a great leader and people will love following her lead. It’s only common sense.

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Quality Is Everything

dan-6Yes, Quality is everything, and actually, it is in everything a company does. From the way you answer the phone, to the way you present your quotes, to the way you package your product, to the way your sales person looks and acts, to every single thing large, or small, that your company does for the customer.

A good and astute customer will be looking for quality in everything you do all the time. He will notice everything about your company from the look of your parking lot, the outside of the building, to your lobby, to you conference room, to your entire facility, all of it adds up to your overall quality picture.

Let me give you a few bad examples:

I once visited a company whose offices were a mess. There was coating of dust on everything, there were ashtrays, actual ashtrays, filled with cigarette butts, who knew how old those were? And the calendars on the wall were of scantily clad women! But that wasn’t the worst part…the calendars were at least five years old.

And, this was at that time a working board shop in western Florida, whose owner wanted my help selling that shop. I did not sell it, obviously, and they went out of business a few months later. What were they thinking? Did they really think someone would buy them? Were they really wondering why they weren’t getting orders anymore?

I visited a shop whose restroom, the public one, mind you, the one that customers were using, was a complete disaster. There were six urinals and three were broken and had been broken for so long that the plastic that they had duct taped over them was yellowed with age. There were no paper towels in the paper towel holders, and the room smelled just horrible. When I asked the owner about it he gave me a blank look and asked me, “what does have got to do with us making boards?” Gee I wonder.

Then, I went to shop once that had an ugly soggy sodden queen-sized mattress on the ground just below  the loading dock. When I pointed that out to the owner he looked at me like I had two heads.

By the way, you don’t have to worry, I’m not talking about your shop, these companies wentl out of business a long time ago. Not a surprise, that.

Okay, so those were the worst cases I’ve seen in my too long career in this crazy industry, but there is still a strong message here about quality to get back to my original point and that is that quality is everywhere and in everything you do.

One of the issues that has come up the past few months is that of documentation. As boards get more sophisticated, so does the paperwork, which in turn means that the quality of the paperwork is now as important as the quality of the board. A board shipped with the wrong documentation, is as unusable as a board that is delaminated, or a board that is late. The paperwork, just like the board itself, must be perfect.

The problem is that many people don’t get this. They build an extremely difficult board, practically kill themselves to get it out on time, get it to shipping with moments to spare, get it boxed up just in time for that hugely expensive Fed Ex overnight delivery, and then breath a huge sigh of relief as they watch the truck drive away with their hot, high tech very expensive, board.

Then the next day get an irate call from the customer, the one who paid premium quick turn money, the one who paid for that expensive overnight delivery, and now, alas the one who cannot use the boards, because they cannot be received because…well you choose: the packing slip does not match the invoice; the board count is wrong, there is no C of C, there are no coupons, the boards were sent to the wrong receiving dock, the mil-prf-31032 documentation is wrong or missing, and guess what? That customer is going to have to hold up the boards and hold up that assembly line until the you can send them the right paperwork, and the boards can be properly received into his system. And, all of that is for a normal weekday delivery date. You can just imagine how ugly it gets if the customer has brought in a crew on a Saturday specifically to work on those boards! And of course, because it is Saturday, your shop is closed so he is not going to be able to have you fix the issues until Monday. And to make matters even worse he still has to pay that very expensive crew for at least our hours of their time. That can get very ugly. And we wonder why people ask me why board shops suck?

Everything, and I mean everything, is important including the documentation that goes with your boards. Its all part of good customer service and good business practices. Now, more than ever your shipping department is as important as every other department in the company if not more so. Remember that, and take it seriously, very seriously. It’s only common sense.

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10 Things Great Electronic Manufacturing Services (EMS) Companies Do

dan-5The most important space in electronics these days is contract manufacturing. As more of our OEM’s become innovation, and marketing companies, they look to the contract manufacturers to build their products. Just about every company from Apple, to Intel, has yielded the manufacturing of their products to contract manufacturers. And, it is often the company with the best price who wins the order, thus creating a very competitive marketplace.

With CM’s, or to be more specific, in this case EMS companies, who deal with electronic manufacturing, its becomes more important than ever to be able to stand out from the rest of the crowd. In fact, it is vital that with so many EMS companies out there vying for business that if a company wants to be truly successful it has to come up with ways to distinguish itself from the rest of the pack. The question becomes how to do this. How to represent your company as a truly outstanding company, the company of choice, when OEMs are deciding who to partner with.

With that in mind here are ten things that EMS companies can do to be truly outstanding in their market place.

  1. Get your name out there: There are over one thousand contract manufacturers in North America alone, and all but a handful of them are unknown. There are literally hundreds of companies with annual revenues under ten million dollars. If you want to stand out and be noticed, you have to develop a marketing and branding plan. You must create your own unique story and get it out to your market place. It is very difficult for people to buy from you if they cannot find you. Develop and implement and good marketing and branding plan. It will be your first step to success
  2. Be an expert: Decide what you are good at. Determine your niche market, and then sell to that market. Analyze what you do best. What types of companies do you serve best? Why are you so successful serving these companies? List the qualities that make you successful in this market and then build your marketing are that area of expertise.
  3. Get the quote out fast: I know it is not always necessary, but, more often than not, it is vital to get your quote to the customer as quickly as possible. Your quote package is the first product your customers see. That quote package reflects directly on how you do business, so make sure it is perfect and ahead of schedule.
  4. Be flexible: Be easy to work with. Do what your customer requires. Always keep in mind that as a CM you do not have your own products, so you are in the business of delighting your customers…whatever that takes!
  5. Be customer focused: Everything you do is for that customer. You would not be in business without that customer. So, make sure that the customer is in the forefront of everything you do in your own company.
  6. Know your customer: You are getting married to these customers, and you are delivering their baby, their product, so you must know everything about them, their product, and their market and what it takes for them to be successful. Much more than a vendor customer relationship, as their CM you are their partner in business, so you need to use this premise as a baseline for everything you do.
  7. Listen to your customer: Part of being customer focused and knowing everything you can about your customer, is listening to that customer. You are building her product the way she wants it done and the only way to do that is to listen to her when she tells you the way she wants it done. This is “the customer is always right” on steroids.
  8. Create cooperative teams: To have an ongoing, successful relationship with your customers you have to create cooperative teams between your two companies. Each team should have matching key people from both companies, including quality, engineering, production as well as sales and purchasing and program management. To be successful insist on bi-company teams leading both your companies to success.
  9. Be ready to partner: Partnership is key. Not only a partnership with your customers but also with your vendors and in some cases a partnership with companies that can do what yours cannot such as an offshore company that can handle much larger volume at a much more competitive price. Or a company that can do quick turn prototypes while you only do production.
  10. Let your customer speak for you: That’s right, a happy customer is your best sales tool. Nobody has more credibility than one of you customers. Work on getting testimonials, success stories and references from your happy customers. Of course, you have to make them happy first!

And one more…always under promise, and over deliver, make your customers, customers for life. Don’t look at their worth as one project at a time but rather look at lifetime worth of business. It is much easier to retain and grow current customers than to keep finding new ones. It’s only common sense.

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A Frustrated PCB Customer Speaks Out

dan-6I recently got an e-mail from a good friend of mine. He has been in the industry even longer than I have, and that’s a really long time. He works for one of the most high-end defense and aerospace companies in the world. His company has also used their technology base to branch out and get involved in other high-tech marketplaces such as very sophisticated medical electronics.

He writes, and I quote:

“I hesitate (slightly) to complain but here goes on two fronts.

My company has to use domestic suppliers for a lot of our products and that is getting more difficult all the time. Our technology is getting so sophisticated that we can no longer use domestic suppliers.

Many people still think that PCBs for defense and aerospace products are simple technology with fat lines and thick boards, but that is no longer the case. New defense and aerospace products require higher technology, not to mention the fact that we have also branched out to bio-medical, chip-scale interposers, and a lot of other technologies, albeit in small volumes. All requirements we cannot get here domestically. Or we can get it domestically but not in a reasonable time frame. Nowadays we have 25-micron lines and spaces. Our target is 75-micron laser vias, thin dielectrics, and other small features. Swiss operations have supplied us with interposers and that will increase. We are NOT designing our own components but we are using commercially available fine-pitch devices. BGAs down to .5mm are now common for us, .3 mm pitch more so, and we are approaching much finer design pitches. But that all-important board on which that finer pitch BGA must be mounted will not come from this country… sadly.

What has happened to common sense?  I have tried to treat others as I want to be treated and I know that the board industry is suffering, but for pity’s sake, why do I have to call and ask, “where is my stuff?”. If it were just one board shop, I would say good riddance, and move on.  But, it is almost universal among our supplier base, that late deliveries only get discovered when we ask. Again, what the heck?? With the continued decline of the supplier base, one would think that customer service would get better. So, why not?

One former supplier’s rep was not even allowed to attend daily production meetings so she was rarely informed about part status causing delays in responses. What?? The work that our company now undertakes is not the long lead stuff of the past. We need 5 days turns on 10 layers, we need 20 days on 12 layers with Microvias with buried vias. Our domestic suppliers are happy to quote these requirements, but once we place the order, we almost never get the boards on time…if at all, thus leaving us with loaded pick and place machines and people standing by wasting time and money.

I am a little sad that the industry is where it is. It could improve but I’m not seeing it; and just keeping on the same path is not a long-term proposition for success. Being an optimist, I have some hope with some newly discovered suppliers and I’m keeping my fingers crossed that communications with them will not turn adversarial as they often have with our long-term suppliers adversarial.”

Just to be clear, this friend is part of a very good company, a well-known company, one that all high-tech board shops would be thrilled to count as their customer. He has been in the industry a very long time and is now ready to retire or as he calls it “re-purpose” his life. It’s sad that he will leave with this impression of our industry, an industry he has been an integral part of most of his life.

Please note that much of what he is complaining is the lack of good business practices, like open communications, telling the truth when making a commitment and then sticking to that commitment. Letting him know when a board is going to be late. These are things we have been talking about for years and yet we still have not learned how to do them right.

Personally, I still find myself arguing with some of the companies I work with about these things. I once had an ongoing argument with one of my clients about the importance of on-time delivery. He did not see the importance on delivering his boards on time. He even went so far as to tell me that his customers were not complaining so it wasn’t hurting his business, He was right for a while, the customers did not complain…they just walked away quietly without making a fuss. Apparently, they did complain, but with their feet, not their voice.

And sad to say, my friend and his company are not alone. I hear these kinds of stories of frustration about our board shops all the time. I was once invited to a meeting of designers working for another famous high-tech company building products of the future. Once everyone had been seated and the introductions done, the first question from the design department manager to me was. “Dan, can you tell us why all board shops suck?” Next week we’ll talk about what I told him, because like every other story this one has two sides. It’s only common sense.

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