Volume 43, Issue 3 - March 2008

Buyer’s Block

The More You Know 
Opportunities to Enhance Your Education Abound
by Paul Bieber 

This column regularly offers information about obtaining products for your company; some bought by size, some by weight. By far, though, the most important product you can use to manage and improve your business has no dimensions. It is KNOWLEDGE.

This is what drives every successful company. First, you have to gain knowledge and then, even more importantly, you have to pass this knowledge to your coworkers and employees. If you know it all, your business will never be more than a one-person shop. If you share your knowledge, there are no limits.

How much knowledge do you need? As much as you can get! Glass shop owners should invest five percent of their time in education, half of that gaining new knowledge and half teaching, about two and a half to three hours a week. You may not have the time some weeks, but, in another week, you take a course at the community college for a full evening. Look to gain specific knowledge on a topic that will help your business; if you are going back to school for non-business related courses, don’t count that time towards the five percent.

When you learn, make a commitment to teach your new skill to people down the line in your firm. Then they teach down the next level. If you are in the middle, plan to teach up and down. Knowledge is wonderful in that if you have it, you can give it to me and then we both have it. 

Continuing Education 
If you work for a company that has a tuition reimbursement plan—use it. If you are the owner, set one up. A basic plan would be: an employee is eligible for the plan after one year of continuous employment, the course is business related and the employee has to teach to other employees what they have learned. The owner should pre-approve the course so there is no misunderstanding. Also, scale the reimbursement—100 percent for an A, 75 percent for a B, 50 percent for a C and nothing for any lower grade. Some companies may also pay for books and supplies. We are not talking Ivy League schools here … a local community college or state university is just perfect. 

Read magazines like this one and read vendor’s brochures to gain knowledge in depth. When you go to trade shows, get up early and go to the seminars. Ask your vendors to sponsor a trip for you to their headquarters and research centers. Get involved in your local glass association … they all offer knowledge sharing. Join the Glass Association of North America (GANA) or one of the other associations. Go to the public library—ask a librarian to create a book list on architecture and building. In addition to glass industry journals there are a hundred magazines that reference business, architecture, energy savings or construction. See what trends and products are growing in industries similar to ours.

Browse the web following links mentioned in news stories. We live in the information age … take advantage of it.

Outside the Box
Schedule a half-day twice a year for company education and ask your vendors to come in and teach. Have a speaker from one of the floaters … they will really relish the opportunity to speak. Ask your lami supplier to bring someone from Solutia or DuPont. See if your attorney will come in to discuss topics like discrimination or harassment in the work place. Bring in the phone company to talk about customer service. Ask your insurance carrier to make a presentation on company benefits and retirement plan options, ask your utility to speak on energy conservation. Have your metal supplier teach about the different systems available. I’m sure many fabricators would be glad to come in and teach information about commercial or shower doors. Ask a key employee to create fifteen minutes on jobsite safety and decorum. 

The more you teach, the more you learn and the better your company will be. 

Paul Bieber has 30 years in the glass industry, including nine years with C.R. Laurence Co. Inc., and 21 years as the executive vice president of Floral Glass in Hauppauge, N.Y., from which he retired in 2005. Mr. Bieber’s opinions are solely his own and do not necessarily reflect the views of this magazine.

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