Volume 12, Issue 2 - March/April 2010

Customer Servicey
tips for quality service

So, What’s That Cost?
by Carl Tompkins

Traveling through AGRR land during the first couple months this year has led me to hear many comments revolving around money, and, with the state of our economy, for good reason. Some of the more common quotes are, “I can’t afford that,” “I sure need to reduce expenses,” “We’re cutting back” and even, “I’m certainly not going to buy that.”

No doubt that a tough economy causes businesses to be very careful in how money is spent, but I sometimes wonder if companies truly understand what things really cost. More to the point, I wonder if the thoughts and actions taken by many during this test of tough times are going to help.

The best way that I can cause readers to reconsider their current positions in running their businesses is to share a story with you.

The Hamburger Guy
A man once lived by the side of the road and sold hamburgers. He couldn’t see or hear very well and he didn’t have much, but he sold good hamburgers.

He put up a sign, telling the world how good they were. He’d stand on the side of the road and encourage people to buy his hamburgers—which they did.

He started buying his meat and ketchup in bulk, and he even upgraded his kitchen appliances. But then one day, his daughter, who helped him with the business, came home and advised him the Great Depression had begun.

This made the father think, “Well, my daughter is a smart, college-educated girl. She is up on current events.” So, he cut back on his ground beef and ketchup orders and no longer bothered to stand outside encouraging people to buy his hamburgers.

His business started to fail, and he thought his daughter must have been right about the Great Depression.

“Do not be one who merely floats along with the current of the time and economy. Start paddling
hard and making some waves due to your own current!”

The Right Attitude
I truly hope that the moral of the story rings loud and clear for everyone. The right attitude and supporting activities is important at all times, but especially when times get tough. You must maximize productivity and sales to help offset thinner margins and reduced demand.

Productivity is based upon well-trained people following effective and efficient policies using quality products. To maximize sales is to interface with potential customers as much as possible through as many mediums possible. Investments are critical to support sales. Those business leaders possessing the greatest wisdom are those who are expanding their businesses at this point in time. One distributor of products within our own industry is buying a company and adding salespeople. Why? Because all good salespeople return ten times what they’re paid in the form of additional revenue, and when each territory is yielding fewer potential dollars, you must add new territories to offset the losses. Hey, didn’t Warren Buffet just buy a railroad company? Hmmm …

Finishing up on the “attitude” side of things, don’t fall prey to excuses! Typical excuses I hear are, “Well, we certainly haven’t had the winter we need to drive our sales,” “Boy, the only guys doing any work are those who are giving it away,” and “I’ve never seen it so bad.” Now, when I refer to “not falling prey” to such excuses, this does not imply that we don’t have problems and that the weather, cheap prices and a bad economy don’t affect our industry. These are, in fact, hurdles, but they are not dead-ends. Instead, don’t allow such excuses to become a call to sit back and do nothing. While many will whine and conduct layoffs, you get out there and hustle-up some new business. Do some new things with your time and efforts and get everyone involved. A technician without an installation is someone who should be out looking for one. Do not be one who merely floats along with the current of the time and economy. Start paddling hard and making some waves due to your own current! There is no better way to avoid the waterfall ahead.

(By the way, the man by the side of the road is putting back up his sign, having now added two new products to his menu that are being advertised in four colors instead of two. The hamburger was great and the fries and peach-iced tea were even better!)

Carl Tompkins is the Western states area manager for SIKA Corp. in Madison Heights, Mich. He is based in Spokane, Wash.
Mr. Tompkins’ opinions are solely his own and not necessarily those of this magazine.

© Copyright 2010 Key Communications Inc. All rights reserved.
No reproduction of any type without expressed written permission.