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Keeping Up With The New World Order

dan-6

During a normal commercial flight, a pilot actually touches the controls of her plane for less than three minutes. The rest of the time, the computer called “autopilot” is actually flying that plane, yes, including landing the plane. Pilots have to undergo periodic training so that they will not forget how to fly. How many phone numbers, including your own, do you know by heart, that that we have smartphones to do it for you?

The other day my wife went to the post office with a package for our son. She had written the address in cursive (and she has excellent handwriting, not like yours truly) and, the young lady at the counter told her she could not read cursive.  So, my wife had to read the address to her to make sure the package would reach its destination.

There is an old joke about the reporter who was touring a new fully automated factory. Besides the person giving him the tour all they saw was a man and dog. When the reporter asked his host what their purpose was, the host said that the man was there to feed the dog, and when asked what the dog’s purpose was? The host told him to make sure that the man did not touch the equipment.

We are losing the ability to do things with our hands as more gadgets are invented to take care of our all of our needs. Siri or Alexa will play our favorite music, order us a pizza, and set the temperature in our house, or better yet our second home three thousand miles away. There is nothing computers will not do for us.

I was in our public library the other day. I had just finished one committee meeting, and was killing time until the next one started, when it occurred to me that I wished that I had remembered to bring my Kindle, so I would have something to read!

We are actually forgetting how to do things folks. We are losing our craftspeople, we are forgetting how a pencil works (think Outlook) and we are losing our spelling and vocabulary to Spell check. Fascinating!

But why am I bringing all of this up? It’s not because I think that the future is bad, no, not at all. I am not some luddite trying to stop the flow of progress. None of us can stop the flow of progress and that is exactly my point.

Technology rules the world, economics rules the world. We need to stop thinking that politicians can bring back 20th century jobs, they can’t. We need to stop thinking that politicians can change the flow of globalization, because they cannot. We need to stop thinking that maneuvers like tariffs and subsidies are going to change anything. They might delay things but will not change or permanently stop them.

China has already lost 30 million, that’s million jobs to automation, those jobs are not coming back. The coal industry has seen hundreds of thousands of jobs since the 50’s and they are not coming back. Those jobs were not lost by EPA rules, or one political philosophy or another, they were lost because of automation. Coal mining is now done by giant machines not by men with picks and shovels.

Foxconn’s CEO Terry Gou, who has been known to compare his million workers to animals, has said that he is going to replace as many of his workers as possible with robots, saying that robots cost $250,000 each, work 24 hours a day, and are never sick, and so are a much better investment than people. That, ladies, and gentlemen is the future. Except that it is today and if we want to survive we will have to adapt.

If you want to turn to our own industry for example. Whelan industries is making PCBs on a fully automated line. One of the largest PCB providers in the world is making plans to build a shop that will handle $40 million dollars of PCBs with less than 25 people.

Its all pretty scary isn’t it?  But as Tony Soprano used to say, “it is what it is.”

So where does that leave the small PCB supplier? We need to specialize, we need to provide the technology, and more importantly that service that only human beings can provide. If you want to know what I mean all, just walk into an Apple store and see the new genius of retail and l see true customer service. Check out Amazon for a great example of ease of doing business. Study the meticulousness of working with any great company that is not inly surviving but actually thriving in this new world order and you will get a good idea of the kinds of things your company should, nay has to be doing in order to survive into the next decade, never mind the next century. It’s only common sense.

 

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My 10 Principles Of Networking

In sales and in life for that matter you are only as good as the people you know, work with and are friends with. You are only as strong as your affiliations. You have to know and be willing to work with everyone if you are going to be successful life. So with that in mind embrace every bridge you have and never ever burn them.

“Allow me to be generous “is my philosophy and it has done me well. I believe that if you go out of your way to help people in general and your business associates specifically you will never go hungry. That if you “pay it forward” as the popular phrase goes good things will always come back to you.

Harry Truman once said. “It is amazing how much gets done when you don’t care who gets the credit”, and nothing could be truer. If we all look out for one another, remember one another and try to help one another, good things happen, they always have, they always will. It’s simply a matter as I said earlier

It’s interesting to me that although I have been living by this credo for more years than I care to remember, with the onset of social media, networking has become big business. What I always considered a nice, natural and normal thing to do has now become an art. Networking has become a formal subject that is being taught in business classes! There are all kinds of books and seminars covering the right way to network, whom to network with, how to participate in a network how to create a network and how to grow your network and how to get the most out of your network.

Now while I think this is all well and good and I encourage everyone to learn everything they can about being a great networker. I’m somewhat bemused at how what I always took for granted as the right thing to do has become a business strategy, nay more of a business tactic to get what you want out of people. To me this should only be common sense (sorry it just fit so well here). It should be something that we learned from our parents, something that has just always been the right thing to do.

I have to refer back to my old favorite book Reverend Robert Fulghum’s famous, In which he talks about all of the things we learned when we were five years old still apply today. In fact in terms of social behavior by the time we were six years old we had been taught everything we would need to know to successfully get by in life.

Look the new books are great, there is nothing wrong with picking up some new tools and tips. Social media is great, a wonderful way to put people together but really now is there really anything new? Is there anything that will change the way we interact or interact with people?

So just as a review I will list my simple rules for connecting and working with people or what we now call networking:

  1. Treat others as you want to be treated.
  2. Allow me to be generous. Let me help you in any way that I can.
  3. Let’s not keep score. I am happy to help you without limitations.
  4. Feel free to share especially ideas, people and opportunities.
  5. Trust people until they prove you wrong and then re-trust them if they express remorse for having been untrustworthy.
  6. Every time you meet a new person think about what you could do for them.
  7. Every time you meet a new person think about what they could do for someone you know.
  8. Never expect anything in return…except maybe the warm comfort of knowing that you did the right thing.
  9. Always be connecting people you know if they can help one another.
  10. Never look at life as a zero sum game instead look at it in this way. If someone you know wins, you all win.

And oh yes, one more in the spirit of under promising and over delivering.

11. And finally avoid having “enemies” and if you do for some reason find yourself with an “enemy” turn that “enemy” into a friend. Having enemies is counter-productive. A friend of mine gave me this quote the other day. If you find yourself with an enemy one day do something nice for that person, it will confuse the hell out of them and put a smile on your face.

So there you have them my rules to live by. What are your rules? What do you live by? You need to think about this…a lot.

It’s only common sense.Dan 8

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Great Vendors Ask Questions

dan-3Many of my exceptional clients, and they are all exceptional of course, are getting negative feedback from their customers because they ask too many questions. Questions, mind you, that are focused on making a better product for those customers in the end. Questions, that are meant to clarify some of the questionable data that the PCB vendors need to clarify, in order, to build those customers functional circuit boards.

Instead of getting impatient with PCB vendors who ask too many questions, our customers should be thanking them. They should be pleased that these vendors are making a conscientious effort to do things right, and build them good functional circuit boards

At an IPC meeting recently, one of our industry gurus stated that less than ten percent of the data packages received by PCB shops from their customers today are complete and many of those packages contain errors that are serious enough to lead to unusable PCBs. This means that ninety percent of the time, the customers should be receiving some clarification questions for their vendors. Ninety percent of the time!

And yet, board shops are continually criticized for asking too many questions. They are chastised for taking much too much time to submit their quotes. And yes, most of the time they lose the order for asking too many questions, and taking too much time. Now, it’s time for that adage, “Not enough time to do it right, but plenty of time to do it over.

What really is disconcerting being that some PCB shops don’t ask questions, they just make assumptions, hoping they are correct, whether they are or not, and then build the boards per the package, a package, I may add, that in their hearts they know has incorrect data. But heck, they are getting the quote to the customer within and couple of hours….and they did not bother the customer with any of those annoying questions!

This problem exists today and is only going to get worse. Many of today’s PCB designers have no idea as to how a board is built, because they have never set foot in a board shop. In many cases, they have not even spoken with anyone who works in a shop. They have simply designed the board with their limited knowledge of how that board is built, what processes it goes through and what kind of testing it sees. Instead, they complete the design as quickly as they possibly can and send it to the buyer, so he can place the order with the very lowest PCB supplier, especially the one who gets the quote to him as fast as possible. And the PCB vendor who does not slow down the process by asking annoying time-consuming questions will get the business.

Think about that for a minute, or think about it for more than a minute, scary isn’t it? Think about it the next time you are on a plane, or in an operating room, or have a pacemaker inserted. Think about who built the boards that are in those pieces of equipment. And then pray hard that by sheer luck the lowest bidder with the fastest quote, was just lucky enough to build the boards the way they should be built to function properly. Because, in the end how will we know they did in fact build them right, or wrong, until it’s too late…and who wants to see that happen?

Look, there is a way to solve this dilemma and its very simple. Ready for this? Talk to each other for heaven’s sake. Designers, learn everything you can about how a board is built. Call up one of your PCB vendors or all of them for that matter and take a ride over to their shop. Take a tour, talk to people, find out how boards are built.

Then, visit with the inside sales people or whoever is quoting your boards, talk to the people in CAM and learn from them what a perfect data package looks like and then work on providing that perfect package to all your PCB vendors.

Years ago, when OEMs had their own in-house board shops, designers knew how a board was built. They knew what kind of perfect data packages the CAM department needed, and they provided those perfect packages… or else right? Now, things have changed. It’s pretty common for an engineer or a PCB designer to come straight from university to a company and start designing boards without ever having seen a plating line, or a drill room, or a photo department, or an etcher. They have no clear understanding of how a board is built, and thus, how a board should be designed for maximum efficiency and producibility. It’s time that changes for the better.

So now, I’ll say it once again; if you’re a PCB designer or an engineer or anyone in a company that buys boards, the board shops would love to have you come visit their facility, and they would love to show you how a board is built more importantly they would love to talk to you and yes maybe even ask you a few questions. It’s only common sense.

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PCB Vendors vs Customers: This Is What We Do About It

dan-5

Two weeks ago, we talked about PCB customers who were not happy with their vendor’s performance and last week we talked took things from the other side of the issue and talked about why PCB fabricators have a hard time being good and productive suppliers (both articles can be accessed by scrolling to the bottom of this page). Both sides had a lot of complaints about the other side and not much good or productive to say about each other. So, this week in the interested of seeing a problem and solving it, we are going to talk about what we should do about it. What needs to be done.

Here are seven things that we have to do to improve the PCB vendor / customer relationship to make it as productive and yes as rewarding as possible:

  1. Choose suppliers you trust: and the only way to trust them is to know them personally. Get off line right now and get your top PCB supplier on the phone and talk to her.
  2. Visit that supplier. Go and see the people who are making your boards. See what their facility looks like, see for yourself how difficult it is to build boards, your boards, and most importantly talk to the people. Learn everything you can about their company and the way they work and ask them what you can do to make sure they have everything they need to build your boards correctly.
  3. Create a co-company team. This is the most important advice I can give you. Vendors and customers need to create partnership teams where they openly discuss the projects they are working on today and the projects they will be working on in the future. Get all those NDA’s signed in preparation for good open and productive discussions about your products and how as a team you can work together to a successful end.
  4. Bring in key people: Make sure key people from each company are on these teams, including engineers, pcb designers, operations, and quality people.
  5. Use fewer vendors: Because this takes time and effort on both sides, maybe a little more on the vendors’ side, at least more effort than is being expended now it is important to choose your venders carefully, if you follow these guidelines you will need fewer vendors because through these concerted efforts you will be investing time and money into developing a vendor base of key board fabricators who will be able to handle all your needs. The pcb fabricator will be able to develop special and unique processes just for you. And with your cooperation they will become the supplier you have always wanted to work with.
  6. Talk about the future: Once you have found the right pcb vendors and have created partnerships with those vendors, you will have the comfort and trust in them to be able to share key information about your company and some of the products of the future you are going to be building. By having the trusted pcb manufacturer as your partner you will gain valuable inside into his perspective that in the end will help you design the best and most economical PCBs possible. Your PCB partner will be able to advise you in laminate selections and design for manufacturability. This will save you literally thousands if not hundreds of thousands of dollars in the long run.
  7. Fabricators: trust your customers: Get rid of that “we have met the enemy and it’s our customers mentality”. A good and effective and open partnership with your key customers will make you a much better fabricator in the end. Your customer will actually drive your technology to a higher level. Just by listening to what your customers need you will be able to implement technologies and services that will make you a much better supplier not only to that particular customer, but other similar customers as well. You will be raising your overall level of excellence as a great PCB supplier

And yes, one more, under promise and over deliver. Customers…Vendors… treat each other with respect. Create an atmosphere of regard from one another. Face facts your need each other to make this all work do the sooner you understand and undertake this attitude the sooner everything will get better.

Many of you (customers) are building products of the future. Products that require PCB technology far beyond the normal technology of today; and you are heading in a direction that is going to require PCB technology that we could only dream about just a few years ago. PCBs of this technology level cannot be bought inconspicuously on line. They cannot be bought from a faceless unknown source. They can only be bought from people you know. People whose capabilities you understand and people who in turn completely understand your specific high tech needs both today and in the future. So for heaven’s sake, start talking to each other! Its only common sense.

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Get Ready For 2018: It’s Not Too Early To Start Planning

dan 24No, I’m not crazy or obsessive, this is really the time you should start preparing for next year. September is just around the corner and September is when you should start planning for the following year. It’s time for you to get your sales team aligned and working on their forecast for 2018

Look, I know many of you out there don’t do this, but you should. I have worked with countless companies whose sales people have not made a forecast, or worse yet, the company has not made one. Or even worse than that, upper management has developed a forecast but not shared it with the rest of the organization, especially the sales people. Think about this, just for minute. It’s senseless. It’s as senseless as playing a baseball or basketball game without using a scoreboard. It’s as senseless as hoping to get somewhere but not knowing where it is you are supposed to go. It’s a senseless as…oh, never mind, you get the point. You need a forecast to plan where you are going to be in 2018. You not only need it for your sales effort, but you need it so that the rest of the organization can plan their resources for the following year as well.

So once again, and I know I’ve done this before, but too bad, I am going to keep doing it year after year until everybody I know does it.

Whether you are a VP of Sales, a Director of Sales or a Sales Manager, here is what you and your sales force must do to prepare for next year.

Account plans: everything begins with account plans:

  1. Create account plans for your top customers. Following the eighty-twenty rule develop an account plan for each of your top accounts. These account plans will include information such as:
  2. The customer’s technology
  3. How much of your type of business do they buy a year?
  4. How much of that business do you currently get?
  5. What do you have to do get more of their business?
  6. You don’t have to create account plans for all your accounts, just the top ones and the ones with the greatest potential. You should also include any what I call “investment accounts”, which are start-ups with great promise. I like to keep it at no more than ten accounts per sales person. But don’t forget the house accounts as well. There are many reasons for producing these account plans:
  7. It makes the sales person re-evaluate that account and update it based on what has happened in the past year.
  8. It educates the rest of the team on how that account is doing if it’s a legacy account and introduces them to the account if it’s a new one.
  9. And finally, it gets everyone’s sign in to either work with that account or not. This is especially helpful for new accounts. The old saying goes that you sell a customer twice and the second time is when you sell your own company on taking on that account. This is what you are doing now. One time, so that everyone on the team agrees that this will be a target account they are willing to work with.
  10. The account plan will also contain the month-by month forecast each account. This is key, because from this account forecast, the sales person will derive her complete annual forecast.

The forecast: The Key to success, heck the key to everything

If you are serious about running any successful business you must have a forecast. You must know how much business you are going to win next year. Operations needs to know not only what customers they are going to be dealing with? What technology they are going to have to be prepared to produce? What equipment they are going to need, and how many people they are going to need to build the enough products to meet that sales forecast.

To develop a successful forecast, you should do four things:

  1. Know what you did this year per customer
  2. Know if each customer is on an upward trend, and downward trend or staying the same.
  3. You should know timing of when the orders will be placed. This is critical
  4. And consolidate all your smaller accounts, the ones that do not have account plans into a category called miscellaneous, which can be forecasted as a single entity.

Once you know these facts you will be able to develop an accurate forecast. A forecast that will serve you well to manage your business in the following twelve months.

The sales manager should work with each sales person helping him to develop his own territory forecast. Then, the sales manager must consolidate everyone’s forecast into the company’s complete annual forecast, which he then turns over to the rest of the management team to make sure they have everything they need to do their planning.

Each company is a little different, so that the way you develop your account plans and forecast might vary a little bit. But if you follow these basic guidelines you will have a great set of account plans, an accurate forecast and a team with common goals on how to make 2018 a success, it’s only common sense.

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Give The Customer What They Want, Not What You Want

Dan - another pathWalk with the customer. Care about him. Make sure that you know what she needs and give it to her. Make sure that he knows that you care about what will make his life easier and provide it.

Look the hard sell is dead, if it ever was alive in the first place. Now we have to work to gain the customer’s trust. We have to work at making the customer comfortable with us personally, not just our products, but the way we deliver our products, the way we conform our products to the customer’s specific needs.

You have to give the customer what he wants not what you want to give him. Let me ask you, does it make sense to sell pork chops in a synagogue? Does it make sense to sell guns in a mental institution? Does it make sense to sell airplane tickets to a person who is agoraphobic? No of course not, what nonsense to even think of these things. Then why let me ask you, would you want to sell high technology HDI Microvia boards to a garage door opener manufacturer? Or sell single sided boards to a super computer company? That doesn’t make a no sense either does it? But we still do it all the time. Why is that?

I think it’s because we want to see some activity, we are sometimes so desperate for business that we’ll try anything. We just want to do something and so we substitute activity for accomplishment. We feel mistakenly that if we do something, anything, then something will happen. But it won’t, in our hearts we know that it won’t that we are really just wasting time, time that could have been spent more productively selling something that will work, something that we can sell and that the right customers will want.

Ah, that’s the big secret isn’t it? Yes let’s figure out what we do best, what we can do better than anyone else; and then find the customers who want to buy that thing. It is far better to do your homework and target the right companies that could be customers than to just go out there and with your head down fire in any direction that might hit a target.

No, the first thing you have to do is figure out what the target is and then and only then can you hit it.

If you are not having any luck selling to the market you’re selling to then change markets, find the right market for you and sell to that one.

If you’re ads and letters and solicitations are not getting you anywhere, change them. Don’t blame the customers and say that they are stupid and just don’t get it. Change your message so that it will appeal to the right customers.

Look in many cases customers are not logical. In many instances they do no care that you have the best product, the best delivery or the best quality, or the best value. Often what they really care about is what people around them are thinking. In many cases they are surrounded by pressures that have nothing to do with your product and how you present it.

He could be absorbed with office politics. His boss could like one of your competitors and your guy is not willing to go up against him. There could be some internal issues that have nothing to do with you. It could be as simple as location where they simply do not want to buy anything from the east coast or the west coast or wherever you are located. It could be a hundred little things and your job as a sales person is to find out what the obstacles are and figure out if you can overcome them. And you know, sometimes you can’t and that’s all there is to it. But if you can then figure out what that customer needs to change his mind and provide it.

It always bothers me that we try so hard at times to complicate this process. It should not be difficult to figure out. The customer knows what he needs and knows what he wants from you. If you cannot provide her that, then any kinds of sales pitch you try to use will not work.

One of the things I recommend to my clients is that they train their sales people to learn how to listen. The old cliché that you learn more by listening than by talking is solidly true. No matter how great a product you think you have it is worthless to the customer if it does not solve his problem, meet his challenges or make him better by buying it.

Once again this all boils down to just one thing and that is caring about your customer. Caring so much that you put her needs ahead of your need to tell about and sell your product. That’s what’s important. When you walk in to your customer’s office be prepared, ask the right questions and then offer a suitable solution. If you do that, you will make the sale and you will be successful in the long run. The better you listen, the more you will understand what your customer needs and the better your chances are of giving it to him. It’s only common sense

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Figure Out What Your Customers Want And Give It To Them

dan-6To succeed in business today especially a custom business where you’re making products based on not your designs but the customers’ designs you have to be flexible. You have to listen to what your customers want today and what they are going to need tomorrow and customize your offerings to meet those needs.

This concept is pretty straight forward you are in the business of providing your customers with the products they need, with the products that they have designed so that they can produce their end products. It’s not rocket science…er well in some cases it is when you consider our business. So its Important we don’t niche ourselves out of the market.

Winning new customers is a long, time consuming and expensive process. You have to invest lietrally thousands of dollars on every new customer you attain. So once you have that customer you have to do everything to nurture your relationship with him, you have to do everything in your power to keep that customer. The better you are at this the better your company will do. The more long lasting customer relationships you have the longer you will successfully stay in business.

So then why would you not grow with your customers? Why would you not do everything in your power to provide these good hopefully customers for life with everything they need to stay your customers for life?

And once again we get back to understanding what your customers’ needs are today and what they are going to be in the future and then adapting your company’s offerings accordingly.

This means asking them to share their technology road map with you. This means asking them to share their future plans for their future products with you. This means asking them what they are going to be looking for from you as a supplier in terms of Quality, Technology and other special capabilities in the future. If you are willing to do this and if with great honesty, sincerity and credibility you can express to your customers that you are in fact willing to do this, they will be happy to work with you helping you to set up your company to work with their company in the future.

This means that if whatever direction they are heading in you will be there for them

If in the future they are going to need boards with very fine lines you are going to be there for them.

If in the future they are going to need flex and rigid flex boards you are going to be there for them.

If in the future they are going to need boards with CTE materials you will be there for them

And if they are going to need something that is impossible for you to provide say for example large volume orders at the best value possible you, as their PCB expert provider will find a source for them and if you have a been a true partner they will want you to handle that source. Since you’re selling service, credibility and trust and solutions there is nothing wrong in fact there is everything right in your providing your customers with all the solutions they need even if you have to sub out the ones you do not directly provide yourself.

If you can do all of these things. If you can offer your very good customer partners on complete one source solution you will succeed, you will have customer for life and you will become your industry’s “go to” supplier for all of their PCB needs.

And here’s an added bonus, just a little secret here for you to consider; no one is doing this at this time. We are all so niched out that we are limiting ourselves in terms of what we can provide or should I say allow ourselves to provide to our customers. There are many cases right now where the customers particularly the high end customers are looking for some to handle all of their PCB needs. They just want someone they can rely on to handle our product for them. Now I warn you these high end customers and the current world game changers to they are very demanding and their needs hard to keep up with. In some cases their board requirements can be beyond what most board shops can handle but I don’t look at this as a stopper but rather an opportunity for a good open minded board provider to instill itself as their board supplier, to act as their true partner into the future and with great patience, deliberation and endurance find a way to meet their needs and help them to create the products that are yes in fact actually putting a dent in the universe.

Those PCB companies who are willing to do that are the companies who are going to be around for a while joining these companies of the future in that future. Its only common sense

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