Archive for category Leadership
…and avoiding getting the door shut in your face
We know it’s tough getting appointments. It’s even tougher getting people to answer the phone; and then once you do get that appointment or that phone call you run up against a stone wall made up completely of attitudes of people who do not want to be sold. People are not only terrified of sales pitches, they out and out hate them. If a sales person comes anywhere near trying to get someone to buy something the person he’s talking to will turn off his mental hearing aid in a snap!
This is not only happening in our business, it is happening everywhere. I just read a book called the End of Advertising: Why it had to die and the creative resurrection to come by Andrew Essex, in which the author, who is in advertising, by the way, talks about the death of advertising as we know it. He points out that with all the ways of watching our favorite television programs fewer and fewer people are sticking around for the commercials. He points out that even those Super Bowl commercials aren’t cutting it any longer. Did you know there was absolutely no uptick in sales from the advertisers in the last two Super Bowls? Those companies who advertised, spending a combined $30 million on one big game each year got literally nothing for their advertising dollars. Actually,the only company that made out was Budweiser because after winning Super Bowl Fifty, Peyton Manning said that he was going to drink a “whole lot of Budweiser.” And he meant it! He wasn’t even getting paid to say it, he just planned to drink a lot of beer,
So, if the big boys are facing diminishing returns from conventional sales and advertising, what are those of us carrying bags for our companies supposed to do? First of all, don’t give up because there is hope, there is always hope and secondly maybe things are not as bad as they seem because at least in our world people are still using what we sell. The key is to sell something they need rather than to try to get them to want what we sell.
In other words, focus on exactly what potential customers need. A good sales person will be adept at finding out what they want, exactly, A great company will provide it. For those of you in the PCB industry, here are some of the things that our customers need at this time. And, if you and your company can provide these things, they will take your phone calls. They will take you up on your request for a meeting and yes, they will notice and read and heed your ads.
Okay, let’s get to it. Here are some of the most important needs your customers have:
- To get the obvious out of the way they of course need high Quality PCBs on time all the time.
- They need worry-free service from their PCB vendors.
Now lets’ get to the good stuff:
- They need PCB expertise. It’s not like it was years ago when our customers (OEMs) were the ones who were the PCB experts and they could tell us what they needed. No, not at all, those days are gone and those experts are gone so most of the people we are dealing with don’t have a working knowledge of our products and technology. That’s something they need and it’s something we must provide if we want to sell them PCB’s. We need to invite them into our facilities and show them how a board is built.
- They also need our expertise. They have to know they can count on us to provide them with the technical knowledge in PCBs they are going to need to build their products both today and in the future. We can provide this to them with manuals, DFM guides, webinars and seminars and lunch and learns.
- They need partners. This is especially true of those companies who are building “products of the future” such as rocket ships and satellites. These companies are sometimes working with technologies that are immature at best and not even invented yet at worst and they need partners to help them get there. Partners, who are willing to share in their mission with time and energy and yes, passion.
- And finally, they need to work with companies they can trust, companies who are going to keep their information secret, companies who they will feel comfortable sharing their vision for the future without fear of exposure to the rest of the market until the time is right.
Selling printed circuit boards is no longer what it once was. It now requires a totally new level of cooperation, dedication, flexibility, passion and trust. The old sales model is broken, the new sales model is the only way we are going to succeed in this new world order. We have to give our customers what they need…not what we want to try to get them to want. It’s only common sense.
Boldness is behavior born out of belief Groeschel
When things get tough, the bold ones will always take action. They will forego the feelings of dread, the anxiety about what could go wrong if they took that action or any action for that matter. They will not be afraid of the possible dire consequences if they do something different from what they have ever done before. They will, instead, analyze the situation and make the move that feels right for them…even if they have never made that move before…even if no one in their industry has made that move before.
Well folks, things right now are tough. We have hit the summer doldrums and getting appointments, never mind getting new business is difficult at this time. My friends, in sales talk to me about how hard it is to sell. Sales managers tell me how hard it is to motivate their sales people. Owners, tell me how hard it is to grow their business. American companies tell me they are being eaten alive by offshore competition and the offshore companies complain to me that their margins are not at all what they used to be.
But, meanwhile the PCB market continues to grow, with predictions of it hitting $70 Billion globally in the next few years; which only stands to reason when you look around and see electronics every. It only makes sense that the business is growing, but where is it all going? Who is making all this money? Who is growing these days.
What you can do or dream, you can begin it, boldness has genius, power, and magic in it. Goethe
It’s the bold ones who are thriving, the ones who are taking steps forward regardless of the possible dangers that lie ahead; without concern for delving into that great unknown.
We all have to face forward and play the cards we are dealt with a fearlessness that will drive us to success.
Here are a few examples of “risky moves” we are often faced with. I ask you to read these and ask yourself what you would do? I think the results will be indicative of where you stand in terms of boldness:
You hear of a small board shop in your area that is about to go out of business, do you approach them about buying their book of business and hiring some of their key people? Or do you worry about what could go wrong and keep doing what you’ve always done?
One of your sales people starts talking to a new customer, a customer with very high-tech requirements. Requirements that you will not be able to meet unless you buy a new expensive piece of equipment. This potential customer needs these technology boards so badly that he offers to go into partnership with you. He will even fund that new piece of equipment if you agree. What do you do? Do you take him up on his offer and go full speed ahead? Or do you worry about what could go wrong and keep doing what you’ve always done?
You have the opportunity to hire one of the top technical people in the industry. This person could take your company to the next level. But, he is a bit difficult to work with and he is very expensive. Do you take the risk and hire that person investing in the future of your company? Or do you worry about what could go wrong and keep doing what you’ve always done?
There is a billion-dollar contract manufacturer in China. You have a small contract manufacturing company in the Midwest. The large Chinese company approaches you about a partnership where you assemble the smaller quantities of part numbers and then use them to build the mega-volume in their facility. If this works everything about your company will grow from top-line to bottom-line. Do you shake hands and make the deal? Or do you worry about what could go wrong and keep doing what you’ve always done?
Another board shop approaches you about a synergistic partnership. You build rigid boards and they build flex and rigid-flex boards. They want both of your sales teams to sell one another’s products. It’s possibly a very good thing. Your sales people are always coming across flex and rigid-flex requirements that you have to no-bid, while on the other hand it would be good to have additional sales feet on the street selling your products. What do you do? Do you shake hands with your new partner? Or do you worry about what could go wrong and keep doing what you’ve always done?
You have just met someone, an IT guru who can set you up with web site that will offer “no-touch” sales. You have been selling the traditional way with live sales people visiting live customers in real time. You are suspicious of this new kind of selling. You know that some companies are very successful at it. But it is just not the way you are comfortable doing business. Do you hire the IT Guru and go for it? Or do you worry about what could go wrong and keep doing what you’ve always done?
So how did you do? What would you do in these situations. I know what I would do and I know that those bold ones who are succeeding in business today have done. They have made that bold move, that game changer that was a little bit scary at the beginning but has paid off in the in. They dared to be great. Its only common sense.
If you have the courage to begin, you have the courage to succeed. Kushandwizdom
Getting your direct sales people to act as a team
For the most part sales people are lone wolves. One of the reasons they choose to be sales people is the independence, they like to run their own race. I have found that the best sales people are truly the loners. Think of Ricky Roma in Glengarry Glenn Ross. While all the other sales people were drinking together and figuring out how to screw the company to make their numbers, old Ricky just quietly went his own way always making those numbers and claiming his Cadillacs.
No matter how much your sales people prefer working on their own, it is not good for the overall company. We should find some ways to get everyone to work together. We are still sales managers and we still manage sales teams. Not Individuals. Here then are some ideas to get your sales team working together, cooperating, and helping one another so that they all make their numbers and yes, in the end, the company prospers.
Here are ten tips to help you unite your sales individuals into a strong industry leading sales force: (Please note these tips are designed for a sales force made up of direct sales people who reside in their individual territories)
- Hold weekly sales meeting. These meetings should be about an hour long and should have a strong and clear agenda covering not only what is happening at the company but also what is happening in each territory. This will give your sales team a chance to talk to one another, talk about their successes and challenges and exchange ideas for winning more business. This is also a great time for them to communicate with your operations and quality people and find out what is going on in the shop.
- Require weekly written comprehensive sales reports: These reports should be distributed to each member of the management team, inside sales; and, each sales person so everyone can see what each of them is doing. It will also provide everyone with an overview of what is happening with key customers
- Develop and keep an approved vendor list: This is a list of the multi-location customer you are approved to work with. Make sure that each sales person has access to it. If the company is approved at Raytheon in Andover then everyone on the sales team needs to know this and use it to win business at their own local Raytheon location.
- Share good tools: If a sales person finds a sales tool, albeit CRM or data base or research tool that they find useful it should be required that they share it with the rest of the sales team.
- Share good ideas: If a sales person has found an effective way to penetrate a customer, then they should be required to share that with the rest of the sales team.
- Sales is not a zero-sum game: Always be reminding the sales team that sales is not a zero-sum game. Everyone can win and everyone should be working as hard as possible to help everyone on the team win. The better the entire sales team does the better it will be for everyone.
- Discourage sales xenophobia: Don’t allow your sales team to hold their cards too closely, as stated earlier this is a team sport and sharing is a key to your team’s success. Yes, there is going to be some competition and yes, the sales people are going to have to fight to get their customers in line to make delivery dates when the shop is full. But you, as sales manager must demonstrate that at all times the company, and the overall health of the company comes first.
- Hold salesperson-only phone meetings: Encourage your sales team to hold phone meetings one their own. Invite them to use the company conference calls to have team meetings without you. This way they can share leads and solutions to problems they are having. This will go a long way in creating good team spirit.
- Take one for the team: Show them that sometimes they are going to have to take one for the team. Because they are direct sales people and thus employees of the company, their base salary is the compensation for doing work for the company. This means that things like covering house accounts and doing something to support a fellow sales person are part of their job and the reason they get a base salary.
- Create team incentives. Of course, each sales person has is or her own individual compensation plan but create some incentives that are based on the entire team making a certain goal. Nothing will create team spirit more than this.
And finally, one more, always under promise and over deliver, have an annual sales meeting at the company and I urge at the company. Don’t spend money going somewhere cool because that is a complete waste of money and a distraction as well. Once a year bring all the sales people in for a sales meeting. It will give them the chance to meet and talk with one another. To visit with the people in the plant, to take plant tours and check out the new equipment and improvements and to get briefed in new capabilities and technologies. It will also give the sales team and the management team the chance to review the company strategy and plan for the coming year. It will be beneficial and it will go a long way towards creating a strong bond between the sales people and the management team as well. Bring everyone together at least once a year and it will money the best money you spend all year. It’s only common sense.
I don’t know about you but this drives me absolutely nuts. You’re in a meeting, you come up with a good idea but before you finish getting your idea out there, this guy across from you. You know the one, he graduated from the Dilbert School of discouraging new ideas jumps in with that smart smirk on his face and starts listing the reasons why it won’t work. And he has a great time doing it. After all your company hasn’t tried anything new since Nixon was president so why start now? Now this guy doesn’t deal in specifics, he doesn’t deal in what the general populace, the bulk of your customers, would think no he goes right to the exceptions, those few people who are not going to like your idea for that new product offering, a group that chances are make up about three percent of your customer base. Then he sits back and folds his arms and with that smug look of glee on his face as if thinking, “Great strike one for the great status quo!”
Or you get passed this guy, this objector this champion user of the word “but” and your idea is going to be tried, you are going ahead with it. Oh there are a lot of worried people around after all its not every day that your company tries something new and dar…well almost daring. Finally you are going to get a chance to see if you can bring you company into the 20th century (no that’s not a misprint I meant to say 20th century, heaven forbid you would be in the 21st. So you try your idea, you send out a mailing describing your offer and lo and behold it’s a hit! The majority of your customer love it; a whopping twenty percent take advantage of your offer and try it out right away. It’s all a great success right, it’s all good right? Well unfortunately two customers called in to complain. Yes two customers you sent the offer out to one hundred and twenty five customers but your company has doubts about ever doing it again because two customers complained. And here is what their complaint was, “if you can afford to make this offer then you are making much too much money and I want you to lower your prices to me.”
Well guess what? Deal with it. Handle that objection because there is always and this I can guarantee always someone who is going to say something like this. That’s just the way it is. There are always going to be some customers who are unhappy with anything you put out there. They are simply the corporate version of that guy sitting across the table from you with his arms folded and that smirk on his face, just looking for a reason to be unhappy.
Oh and another thing about those two customers’ objections, just a side bar here, but there are companies out there particularly in our industry who are absolutely petrified that circuit shops are making too much money, hell they are petrified at the mere thought of us making any money at all. Ours is one of the few industries where our customers hate it if we make a buck. Why is that… anyway that’s a column for another day.
But back to the point. If you want to be daring, if you want to try new things, if you want to do things differently from the way you have been doing them or even differently from the way the rest of your industry is doing things then you’d better be prepared to take some heat. You’d better be prepared to hear some objections. People hate change and people hate to try new things so if you’re trying something new you will have people hating you for it.
Remember a few years ago when a bright young man from Colorado got the idea to start doing some marketing so he started sending out postcards for follow-on orders and then he started sending out popcorn and coupons for pizza for his engineering and design customers? Remember that? Remember the brouhaha that caused? Critics jumped, jumped hell leapt out of their chairs screaming about all the reasons this was unfair, waving long lists of reasons why this would not work? Well that company is still going strong today and they are still giving away pizza and popcorn.
Then there’s my personal favorite, nesting, the art of putting multiple part numbers on one panel. Try this sometime. If you’re sitting around a table with a bunch of bored PCB executives at some boring industry event throw out the subject of nesting panels and you’ll see that table come alive faster than you can say “controlled impedance” You’ll be barraged with all kinds of derisive comments covering every negative aspect of that subject from one hundred and fifty reasons why it can’t work to why it can’t work in their company to accusations that the people who are doing it are out and out cheaters! I warn you that if you decide to bring this subject up you’re better be prepared to take some serious heat; and if you decide to defend the fact that nesting makes sense you’d better be wearing your worst suits because it’s going to be covered with pasty mashed potatoes and rubber chicken before the night is over.
But nevertheless keep those ideas, inventions and innovations coming because we need them now more than ever it’s high time that the companies in our industry start thinking about how they are going to grow their business instead of how they are going to stay in business. It’s only common sense
Ali Baba Founder always puts the customer first
Watching the Bloomberg Station last Friday, I caught Charlie Rose interviewing Ali Baba’s founder and Chairman Jack Ma. What Mr. Ma had to say was fascinating not only for his wisdom but yes for his common sense as well.
Mr. Ma stated the reason for the phenomenal success of his company was that the customer is always number one. He listed in order of importance: customers, number one, employees, number two and shareholders number three. That’s right in terms of importance Ali Baba considers shareholders last!
When Charlie called him on that, asking if that had hurt him in terms of finding investors, Mr. Ma said that he did not care. He said that he had told this to his investors and potential investors from the very beginning and if they did not agree with this philosophy they should invest their money elsewhere. Since this company has gone from zero just twenty years ago to $550 Billion in sales this year – and headed to a Trillion in sales by 2020 – maybe Mr. Ma just might have the right idea.
Mr. Ma elaborated on his unique company vision by saying that it is always about the customer, that the number one mission of any company is to make it as easy for the customer to do business with them. He said that his company will always do whatever it takes to make their customers happy by providing them with whatever they need to be successful. Right now, for example they do not stock any inventory, but when Charlie asked him if they would in the future, Mr. Ma answered without hesitation, that if his customers wanted inventory stocking, then Ali Baba would provide it. And, he then went on to say that their job is to make their customers successful, that they are in the customer business and will do whatever they can to help their customers keep theircustomers happy.
Seems simple, enough doesn’t it? If you keep your customers happy, if you focus on helping your customers and do whatever you must do to make them successful obviously you will be on the right track to success.
So why don’t we do this? In our industry, there have been many key mergers where large companies playing Pac Man with each other have created huge and dare I say non-customer focused conglomerates. Conglomerates, that customers hate dealing with. The reason being that these companies are more focused on Wall Street than their customers. These companies are putting their shareholders first. They are more focused on getting Wall Street excited than their customers. And the employees? Well forget them, they are in last place by a long margin.
The problem with this kind of inorganic growth is that many small companies have been eaten up and their customer-focused visions blurred by the companies that buy them. These small companies lost their original cultures in these mergers. Many of us can name once- great smaller companies whom we loved doing business with that have now been buried in the folds of a much larger Wall Street driven conglomerate and that is a shame, a real shame.
Look, I have no problem with large companies. There are many large companies who are customer- focused no matter how much they’ve grown, and no matter how big they are. But they do it with culture. Everyone has the same vision and are all on the same mission. Referring once again to Mr. Ma, he said repeatedly during the interview with Charlie Rose that his company’s success was all about his company’s culture. From the very beginning when there were eighteen people all living and working out of one little apartment, to today when Ali Baba employs thousands and thousands of people, they are all marching to the same drummer when it comes to the way they treat their customers.
And if a company with sales of over half a Trillion dollars can do that, there is no reason why a five million or ten million or a hundred-million-dollar company can’t do it as well.
If your company is not putting your customers first. If you are not bringing your customers to the table, if your employees don’t know what your company’s vision is when it comes to your customers, then get going and change that today. And by the way, look at your company leaders, your managers and yes, yourself, if you are not completely customer-focused, you are not doing your job.
Develop your company customer-focused mission today and make sure that you communicate it the rest of your team, and then communicate it again, and again until everyone, not only gets it but can repeat it as well and I will guarantee that you will have a successful company. It’s only common sense.
I have written in the past about the pride some of our customers have in buying the cheapest products available on the market today, and we talked about how for some reason some companies feel that they can buy the cheapest parts they can get their hands on and then turn around and tell their customers that their products are the best in the world. Now we all know how impossible that is, no matter how much you try, no matter how much hype you try to give it, you just can’t make filet mignon out of chuck steak it just doesn’t work, why, you should just as soon try to make a first in class MRI using the cheapest parts you can find.
Look anyway you cut it, cheap is cheap and cheap is inferior and no amount of spin is going to change that. With that in mind I thought it would be interesting as well as informative to remind you what you get when you go cheap, when good enough is good enough. I thought it would be beneficial to describe the true costs of buying cheap. So I have listed below the true costs that occurs when a board is late; or when it is rejected and returned to you by the customer; or what it costs to remake a board or worst of all the true costs of a field failure.
For those of you who like to bury your head in the sand when buying as cheap as possible I would warn you to turn away, this is not going to be pretty.
What does a late board cost?
Customers who buy quick turn PCB’s do so for a reason. They need their boards on time they need them when they need them and they are willing to pay a premium for that service
If a QTA board is late to the customer:
- The customer’s schedule is also late
- He misses his date to his customer
- He can miss his revenue projections
- He can spend more money on overtime to get the boards assembled on the weekend
- She has to make other plans and pay twice for the boards
- She could miss product introduction
- He could miss having the product at a trade show
- She could miss time to market and lose out to her competitors
- He can hold up a million dollar shipment for few thousand dollar circuit boards on which he saved a few hundred dollars…was it worth it?
- The buyer loses credibility with his team
- The customer loses credibility with their customer
If a board is rejected and returned by the customer
All of the above issues apply, but on steroids, everything is worse
- It takes additional time to get deposition. That’s why getting CARS in time is so important
- You Lose all the time to make new boards
- You customer Increases chances of missing time to market goals
- There are increased problems for you as well. You lose credibility
- You have to replace the boards faster than ever and for free
- You have increased chances of screwing them up again because you are building them under duress
- It hurts your reputation
- It hurts your chances of getting more business from that customer.
- It hurts your customers chances of getting more business
What does a remake costs?
If you think about the repercussions of losing a part number and having to rebuild it the cost can be exponential. Especially when you specialize in Quick turn PCBs. Think about it:
- The cost of that lot to begin with. The materials, labor and time
- The cost of the rebuild, the materials, labor and time
- The opportunity costs. This remake is taking up a slot that could have been used for another customer.
- If the boards are late or you can’t build them in time to meet the delivery date then:
- There is loss of premium dollars.
- You’ll be paying more for shipping the late boards
- You’ll lose the customers good will and possibly lose the customer
- The loss of your reputation as a great QTA company which can be discouraging to your associates.
- The loss of the ability of your sales people to get more business from that customer.
- The loss of customer confidence in us
- Then there is the customer, what is the loss to him for us not giving him his product on time. His loss can be huge:
- Loss of revenue because the customer cannot ship then end product which is often worth thousands of dollars more than our boards
- The possible loss of premium dollars he paid to get components and other commodities in quickly to make deadline
- The loss of labor time as he brings in people to work on the PCBs which are not there.
- The loss of his reputation
- The loss of time to market which is so important in new product development
- The possible loss of marketing expenses. Marketing that claimed that his product would be delivered on a set date.
To miss a delivery date is a very big deal at any price Customers pay premium dollars for a reason and often that reason is all about time.
What field failures cost?
- All of the above on double steroids
- Extremely high visibility (Challenger/ New Boeing Dreamliner)
- Lives possibly lost. It can be life or death literally!
- Medical? Think about it do you want field failures of medical devices
- Can literally destroy your company’s reputation and put you out of business
So think about these things the next time you are tempted by price, the next time you feel that buying that cheap board from Asia, you know the one, the one built buy the cheapest labor money can buy and still not be slavery and ask yourself if this is really the only price you’ll be paying; or if you’ll be paying a much higher price in the end. And then ask yourself if you’re really proud that you were able to use the cheapest parts that money can buy to put into your great product. Are you really proud of that?
It’s only common sense
To be great leader, you have to have courage. The courage to do what needs to be done. The courage to take that giant leap forward when you know the time is right. The courage to fire someone when that person is no longer right for the job. The courage to sacrifice one person for the good of the rest and for the good of the company. The courage to stick to the company’s values even when it hurts. The courage to put the customer first even when it hurts. The courage to invest in the future even when you don’t have all the resources you need. The courage to do the unpopular thing, when no one else will do it. The courage to stand up for what is right even when it is unpopular. The courage to put the good of the company above all else. The courage to admit when you are wrong. The courage to be different. And finally, yes, the courage to leave the company when you know it is time for someone else to take over.
Courage is an easy word to say but a very difficult quality to have. If you have the courage and the energy to execute that courage then you will be a great leader. Because courage takes energy. It takes energy to get out there and fight for what is right every single day of your life. It takes energy to work with your team and tell them over and over again what they need to do.
Leaders who exemplify courage are leaders who inspire. They inspire their own people to be brave and to be courageous. They encourage their teams to do what is right. The adage that goes: you have to talk the talk and walk the walk is never truer than when a leader wants to instill his team with the courage to do what is right
If you strive to be a great leader, one who exemplifies courage and exudes inspiration, here are a few questions you need to ask yourself.
- Do I listen to other people? Do I listen intentionally and try to really understand what they are saying?
- If I think that I already have a solution to a problem, will I listen to my team just to make sure it is the best solution?
- If they come up with a better solution, will I have the courage to change my mind and go with their solution?
- Am I open to having honest conversations with my associates, encouraging them to speak their minds, even to the point where it hurts?
- Do I have the courage to stick to my guns when it comes to making a decision that is right for the customer and is ethically right as well, but in the end, could hurt our company?
- Am I willing to do difficult things for the sake of the company?
- Do I have the courage to fire a once valuable employee who is no longer cutting it? Even if he is a friend?
- Do I have the courage to stand up for what is right? To stand up and speak out and try to do something about it, even though my stance is tremendously unpopular?
- Do I have the courage and the energy to work day after day, saying the same things over and over again until the right kind of change comes to the company?
- Do I have the courage, to stop a project and admit we made a mistake when it becomes evident that the project is not going anywhere?
- Do I have the courage to reach out to the fellow company owners in my industry when I feel that a partnership could be for the good of the industry?
- Do I have the courage to take my pretty good, pretty well-run company and change it to make it great?
- Am I willing to accept someone else’s idea even if it is diametrically opposite of my own, but if it has merit?
Please read these questions carefully and then answer them honestly. What do you think? Do you have the courage that you need to be a good and inspirational leader?
Here is a quote from Kristi Hedges’ excellent new book, The Inspiration Code: How the Best Leaders Energize people every day.
“Courage isn’t an abstraction but a series of discrete, smaller choices one makes that build courage. We can try courage, trust courage, and tell courage… Courageous leadership requires clear choices, saying no to some opportunities to be able to say yes to some others….Courageous moves that are desired from leaders include the courage to have honest conversations, prioritize purposes, be real, lead by values, jump, and let go.”
Certainly, there are other values that contribute to the make-up of a great leader, but without courage there can be no great leadership. It’s Only Common Sense.