Finally, The DOD Gets It! But Is It Too Late?

dan-5Last week a friend of mine sent me this excerpt from the congregational record. Yes, That congregational record. If this doesn’t set your hair on fire then nothing will.

Read on:

“National Defense Authorization Act for Fiscal Year 2018”)…”

114/603

 “Executive agent for printed circuit board technology

The committee is aware of ongoing efforts through the Department

of Defense Executive Agent for Printed Circuit Board Technology

(PrCB EA) to develop and execute a strategy to address the

declining printed circuit board industrial base and gaps identified

in the 2015 Department of Defense Executive Agent for Printed

Circuit Board and Interconnect Technology Roadmap. According to

a PrCB EA industrial base capability assessment, between 1980

and 2014, the printed circuit board manufacturing base declined 86

percent from over 2,000 manufacturers to just 280. The committee

is concerned that what remains of the U.S. printed circuit board industrial

base is becoming less capable of sustaining the superiority

of Department of Defense systems and growing increasingly dependent

on foreign suppliers, particularly China. This poses a risk

to the Defense supply chain in terms of the quality and trustworthiness

of the products it acquires. The committee supports continued

execution of PrCB EA functions addressing trust, supply

chain, organic capability, and research activities, including the continued

development of a network of trusted suppliers and

leveraging the DoD Trusted Supplier Program to include PrCB designers,

manufacturers, and electronic assemblers.”

So, finally they get it. Now, they realize they should not have let those contract manufacturers play fast and loose with ITAR requirements sending a lot of their defense and aerospace printed circuit boards to Asia to be built.  Maybe those defense contractors should have thought twice before demanding that all of the components in their critical mission products be the cheapest that money could buy regardless of national security. Maybe the U.S. Government should have protected the PCB industry a little more rather than leave them to their own devices to sink or swim. Maybe, someone should have realized that it never was a “level playing field” that while our shops were left to fend for themselves they were competing with Chinese and Japanese government supported board shops. And yes, maybe they should have held those defense contractors more accountable when it came to where they were sourcing their components.

Look, I know that this is capitalism and I know that we believe in free market. I also realize and support the idea that commercial products from garage door openers to coffee machines to Blue Ray players should probably be built offshore. That is just a product of a flat-world global economy. But mission critical defense  products…are you kidding me?

For years now the largest CMs and yes OEMs, have been giving the DOD one specious argument after another for why they needed to buy their PCBs offshore. At first it was the line of bull that the PCB was too low on the technology supply chain to be an ITAR protected product.  And then when IPC finally convinced them that this was incorrect and that we should be on the ITAR list, those same companies told the DOD there were no longer enough qualified U.S. PCB suppliers to meet their needs (Thanks to them by the way) so that they were going to have to go offshore to meet their DOD component requirements.

Not that the State Department has been much help over the years when on one hand they hold our feet to the fire in terms of secrecy and the much needed, I admit, ITAR protection while on the other hand they sell their completed defense products ITAR protected circuit boards and all to our frenemies whomever they may be. By the way the care to guess who our largest Arms customer is?  Iraq! Yes they are number one! And our latest good arms customer is, coming in at number three are the Saudi Arabians the true founders of the feast we call 9/11!

All I can say is that it is not too late for our defense and aerospace contractors to act more like Americans than Capitalists and protect our technology and our industry with the same enthusiasm that they protect our borders. They need to stop buying mission-critical electronics from off shore companies; they need to stop trying to squeeze every last dollar out of our remaining board shops and they need to start truly partnering with those shops helping them to stay alive. And the State Department? Well, they need to stop selling our proprietary national security weaponry to the highest bidder regardless of their current status of friend or foe. Oh, and one last thing stop blaming the shops for not keeping up, the playing field has never been level for them, they have been fighting an uphill battle for years and they have been fighting it with no help from the parties mentioned above. It’s time to cut them a break, hell, it’s time to cut the U.S.A. a break and keep our weapons here in the U.S.A.  protecting United States citizens.

It’s only common sense

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Book Recommendation – The Inspiration Code: How the Best Leaders Energize People Every Day

Dan 8A book recommendation from Dan Beaulieu

The Inspiration Code: How the Best Leaders Energize People Every Day

By Kristi Hedges

Copyright 2017Amacom

Price $24.95

Pages: 261 with Appendix and Index

How to be a better leader over all, as well as one who inspires

No matter who you are, no matter what you have done, no matter where you have been or where you are in your life journey, this book can help you to be inspirational. Look not all of us are inspirational by nature. Most of us are well, just regular people how have lead regular lives. For the most part, we have done nothing dramatic enough to be inspirational just by our very existence. We did no save lives like the pilot Sully. R change the world like Steve Jobs, or walk on the moon like Armstrong. Now we have just lead our lives the best we could trying to help people along the way. If you agree that you are one of the regular people, that you are one of us, then this book is for you. One of the regular people who want to inspire those around us to greatness.

This book is literally a systematic manual on how to be inspirational from showing people how much we care, to intentional listening to encouraging dialoguing this book provides everything a person needs to be an inspiration to those around her.

Ms. Hedges makes the case that to be inspiration is to energize those around us to do things far beyond what they thought they could do. She focuses on honestly in conversation, authenticity in what we say and even how we say it.

Here are the four steps that take people up the “inspire path” as Ms. Hedges calls it. Inspirational leaders are:

Present: Focused on the person in front of them, not distracted, visibly stressed, or beholden to an agenda. They’re open minded and let conversation flow.

Personal: Authentic and real, and listen generously. They know how to find and expand potential.

Passionate: They infuse energy, calibrate it, and manage it as one of their greatest skills.

Purposeful: They are intentional and willing to have courageous discussions about purpose, and role model how to live into their own.

There is even a focused on how to apply these four steps in different situations from a one on one conversation to giving a presentation to a room full of people.

Frankly, I think this is a book about leadership in general, good leadership which in the end does lead to inspirational leadership.

If you are serious about your role as a leader, or even a team member who strives to get the best from your team this is book is a great way to start.

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Companies That Buy Cheap PCBs Get What They Deserve

dan-6This column is meant for those customers who need printed circuit boards but don’t want to communicate with the PCB shops directly. It’s meant for those customers who believe that a PCB is just a thin piece of green plastic that anyone can build. This is for those companies who feel that the board shops are just job shops and that they should just shut up and build what they’re told to build. If you see yourself here, then read on because it is going to get worse…you’re going to get exactly what you deserve.

If you don’t want your PCB vendor calling with questions, then you’re going to get what you deserve. Here’s the deal; the PCB engineers are calling up to get all their data right and to make sure they deliver the best product possible. They are also calling you to suggest a better way since they have built thousands of PCBs and you have built none. I would warn you to beware of those vendors who never ask you a question because in the end, sooner or later your boards are going to fail and you will get what you deserve.

If you don’t even want to visit a PCB shop because you have no interest, because you feel that you know everything there is to know about PCBs, if you are thinking, “how complicated could it be putting out these little pieces of green plastic?” then you are going to get what you deserve. The more you know about the PCB fabrication process the better you will be able to design your boards. And by the same token, if you think there is nothing to learn, then of course, you are going to get what you deserve.

If you think that all PCB suppliers are the same, that PCBs are a commodity and that it doesn’t really matter where you get them…you are going to get what you deserve.

If you think that PCB fabricators make way too much money and they should let you show them how to really price their boards…you’ll get what you deserve.

If you think that a 28-layer blind and buried via board is a commodity…keep thinking that and yes, you’ll get what you deserve.

If you think that all that matters is price and that your purpose in life is to find the cheapest, lowest-priced PCBs you can get your hands on…you are going to get what you deserve. And I challenge you to go out in front of your customers and let them know how proud you are that your product is made up of the cheapest, lowest priced PCBs you could get your hands on…you will get what you deserve and if those customers buy from you, they will get what they deserve.

If you think that you can buy cheap boards from people who break the rules, people who have no social conscience, companies who bear no ecological responsibilities, or from countries who have no interest in human rights, then you are going to get what you deserve—and good luck looking your kids in the eye when they ask you what you did to help save the world.

But if on the other hand you take great pride in your relationships with your board vendors, if you take their advice when it comes to helping you to design your PCBs, or you ask them for help in providing you with the best possible PCBs to make your end products that much better, if you rely on your PCB vendors to help you with your impedance measurements, your CTE management materials, your thermal controls and all of the other parameters that go into making you products that best they can be, if you make sure that your vendors are following all of the rules when it comes to meeting their specs and qualifications, in meeting ITAR requirements, in meeting EPA requirements, in treating their people fairly and with respect….you will get what you deserve and that will be a good thing…a very good thing. Support your PCB fabricators, look out for them, listen to them, and yes respect them. Look at them as your PCB experts…because after all they are.

Its only common sense.

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Salespeople Are The Voice Of The Customer

dan-2So as that voice, make sure you get it right!

One of the greatest responsibilities we have as sales people is being the voice of the customer. This means that we must strive to always relay the customer’s message truthfully and most importantly accurately, because, very often the future of the relationship between your company and their customer is in your hands.

This means that you are the one person in the company who has the be the customer expert. It is your duty to learn everything about your customers and make sure that you convey that information accurately to the rest of your organization. Be careful to speak without bias so that you never put your “spin” on what the customer is thinking, or doing, for your own self-serving reasons.

Here are nine things to keep in mind when acting as the relationship manager between your company and the customer.

  1. Knowledge: Know everything you can about your customers, including the business they are in, the amount of your kind of products they buy, what their hot buttons are, and what their needs are both today and in the future.
  2. How to win the business: Learn what it takes to win their business. Find out who they are dealing with, who your competition is, and why that competition is successful. Learn what your customer thinks it takes to be a great supplier and then pass this on to your company.
  3. Be the news reporter: Keep your company up to date on any changes in the status of your customers all the times. Are they in trouble financially? Are they buying someone? Are they going to be introducing a new product? Are they going to be sold.? All this information is vital to the customer/ company relationship and it is up to you as the sales person to make sure your company knows everything and I mean everything.
  4. Mediator: When problems occur, it is up to the sales person to help solve those problems. This is when she really earns her money and this is when accuracy in communications is especially important. This is particularly true when things heat up, when the relationship hits the skids. The sales person is the one who must cool things down. She is the one who must do everything possible to sustain the relationship at all costs. She is the one who makes sure that the company does not win the battle but in the end, lose the war.
  5. Bearer of bad news: As they said in the Godfather, management needs to hear the bad news immediately! No matter how painful it is to hear, bad news should be communicated right away.
  6. Be an Armadillo: Yes, a true sales person must have skin as tough as an armadillo because there are times, especially hard times, when the company is going to want to shoot the messenger because they are so angry and frustrated about the news they are hearing. This means the sales person has to hang tough. He should be able to relay the customer’s negative message with clarity and without exaggeration. He cannot let his own feelings get in the way of conveying the customer’s sometimes insulting message, in a way that will get the point across but at the same time will not pour gasoline on the fire. This is a tough, but important one.
  7. Provide a live butt to kick: When the customer is particularly irate it is up to the sales person to go directly to that customer an offer himself up as the sacrificial lamb, to provide that fresh live butt for the customer to have the satisfaction of kicking. You’d be surprised at how often this works and how often it serves to diffuse the situation.  A great sales person will show up and provide the customers the opportunity to vent. Believe it or not, the sales people who do this are the most respected in the business on their industry.
  8. Accurate and complete conveyer of all news: Sales people should make sure they know all the facts in any critical situation. They need to be able to correctly report any problems a customer is having with their company. If it is a technical problem they need to know all facets of the problem so they can convey it accurately to the people at their own company. They need to be able to anticipate the questions that their engineers and Quality people will ask to be able to develop the right solution to the problem as quickly as possible.
  9. Number one customer advocate: Always, the sales person has to put the customer first; and she has to make sure that everyone at the company does the same.

And finally, there is one more, under promise and over deliver, and that one is to never over promise and under deliver something that is often the case when it comes to sales people. Look, we know that a good sales person must be optimistic, but try to keep your rosy outlook in check. You are not helping your company out if you over forecast or if you let them know that everything is all good with that large customer, when it is not. No one likes surprises, especially negative ones, so no matter how much you would love to forecast that huge million-dollar order for this year. Make sure it’s in the bag before you do. It’s only common sense.

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Book Recommendation – UPSIDE: Profiting from the Profound Demographic Shifts Ahead

dan-3A book recommendation from Dan Beaulieu.

UPSIDE: Profiting from the Profound Demographic Shifts Ahead

By Kenneth W. Gronbach with M.J. Moye

Copyright: Amacon 2017

Pages: 278 with Index

Price: $27.95

Predicting the future through demographics

If you want to know what is going to happen in the future, you can forget the crystal ball and the Tarot cards because all you need is this new book by generational researcher Kenneth Gronbach. The first thing I want to say about this book is that it is readable and interesting. I say that because I was almost turned off to the point of not wanting to read it because of the subject matter which sounded as dry as the Arizona desert, but au contraire mon frere as they say in my culture, this book is actually a page turner. The author takes you through six generations of demographics from the “Silents” those who survived world war two to the baby boomers to generation Xer’s the millennials and beyond. He describes in detail the make-up of these six generations and how they are made up and what their effect is on business both today and in the future.

Beyond that he writes about the various areas of the country showing growth slow-down in the North east and super growth in the south especially North Carolina…and why.

Which what we all want to know isn’t it? We not only want to know the what but also the why.

Probably the best part of this book is when the author shows us the future; like how generation Xer’s are turning the housing market around and how boomers are responsible for the health care issues we are having today because there are so many of them living for so long and needing so much health care.

As a bonus, the author includes brief studies of the rest of the world including Europe, Africa and of course Asia including the projected growth rate of each region.

Honestly, I went from wondering if I should even read this book, to feeling I had to read this book to learn about demographics and how to use them in my business, to my considering this book only the beginning of my study of this all-important subject. If you are serious about the fate of your business, nay the fate of your world then you have to reads this excellent and don’t forget readable book

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To Charge The Most You Have To Be The Best

dan-7Being the best will get you the best prices. You have to be better than everyone else.

You have to be better than everyone else to win the business; not only win it, but keep it. If you are good, very good, you can be good enough to get past the price issue. If your products and your services are better than everyone else’s you can get by the price issue. If your treatment of your customers is so special that they feel they cannot live without you, you can get by the price issue.

Now, I’m not claiming that it is going to be easy nor am I saying that it will happen every time but what I can tell you is that if you are the best in class you will more often than not get your price.

“But, how,” you ask, “can you be better than everyone else? What will that take and in the end is it worth it?” Good questions. I can start off by saying yes, it is worth it. Let me ask you in return, is it worth it keeping customers for life? Is it worth it making a profit? Is it worth it running the best performing company in the industry? Because you see, to be so good that your customers will pay you a better price than they pay anyone else is also being so good that you are performing at the top of your game. You are delivering all of your products on time and you are as close to zero defects as possible.

The road to great customer service is also the road to being a great company, they go hand in hand. And, if you can do everything better than everyone else then you will become a great company.

To be a great company you have to be valuable to your customers. You have to be so valuable that when their nasty bean counter, you know the guy with the green visor and sleeve garters complains that their company is spending five or even ten percent more on your products and services than they pay for your competitors; the people in the company using your boards will yell at him to, “shut up!” Your fans and yes they will be fans will be so in love with your products that they will point out all of the benefits they get from using your products, benefits so far superior to the products they get from you competitors that they refuse, yes they refuse to live without your products and services.

Look, in the real world this is not going to happen in every case. There are still the cheap so and so’s out there who only care about price. You know who they are the ones who know the price of everything and the value of nothing; the ones who claim they are building the best products in the world…by building them with the very cheapest parts that money can buy. You are never going to change those people so why try.

But those customers, the ones who understand Quality; the ones who understand what a good product is; the ones who appreciate great service and most importantly the ones who appreciate all of the little extras you do for them. The help with engineering, the flexible delivery dates, the manufacturability advise, the ship to stock and just in time services you provide, the special way you package the boards the immaculate always perfect documentation you include with the products, the constant availability of your management team, the way you drop everything to help them solve their problems (even if those problems come from your competitors cheap products), the way you look out for them and act s their personal experts and consultants when it comes to your industry, the way you are always looking out for them and yes, the way you put their interests first making sure that they have everything from you that they need to be successful. Those customers are the ones you invest in. They are the ones you target, win, service, and then keep for life.

And you know what? These are the companies who will make you better. These companies, the customers who appreciate and value what you do to the point where they are willing to pay your for what you do well. These are the companies who succeed in business because they treat their suppliers like thy want to be treated and most importantly they are making the truly best products in their market today because they are building them from the best parts money can buy from the best vendors they can find. And that’s because they are buying from you…the best supplier on the market today. It’s only common sense.

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Team! It’s All About The Team!

dan-5Getting 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)

  1. 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.
  2. 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
  3. 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.
  4. 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.
  5. 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.
  6. 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.
  7. 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.
  8. 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.
  9. 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.
  10. 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.

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