Volume 44, Issue 1 - January 2009

Buyerís Block

Keep Your Eye on Your Business
Tips for Getting through Recessionary Times
by Paul Bieber 

It doesnít matter what you call the current economic times, or which party won the election. What counts is what we do in running our glass businesses now. In your business, the buck stops with you. Hereís some ways to help a glass business through recessionary times.

Buy less. Donít keep your racks filled. Let your distributors and fabricators keep their racks filled. Meet with your vendors and work on your established pricing, trying to get smaller quantity price breaks for your current pricing. Look at your glass and metal purchases. Are you ordering goods because you sold them twice last year and put it on your inventory sheet? Buy only what you have a firm order for. Donít buy on speculation. It is better to have a small paid-for inventory than a large, hope-I-sell-it inventory. Bunch your purchase orders together, so you get fewer deliveries, meaning less delivery charges.

Before you buy new material, get job deposits. Even if you give the customer a 2-percent cash discount, being paid at least the cost of materials up front is worth it. Put disclaimers on your quote forms stating that you cannot order custom raw materials until a deposit is received. 

Keep your people, not the people at your vendors, working. If you buy metal cut-to-size or can order in stock lengthsódo your own cutting. Have you got a good belt sander? Then grind your own edges. You may want to make your own simple insulating glass units. Cut and polish your own 3⁄8-inch float for shower doors and send out for tempering.

Stop all over-time hours immediately. Spread the work around. The worker who comes in early to set up a machine should then go home early. It is okay to have a program that everyone with two weeks or more of vacation takes one week during a slow period. Some companies pay employees for unused vacation or sick time. When times are rough, you do not need 53 weeks of payroll in a 52-week year. If you do have this policy, you should formally suspend this option as quickly as possible.

Bracing for Lay-offs
If the time comes when the answer is reducing your work staff, follow these guidelines:

  • Discuss in advance with as few people as possible. Rumors always leak out, and rumors destroy workforce moral and productivity.
  • Decide how much salary you need to reduce first and then select the people who will go.
  • Tell each manager and person face-to-face. Donít say it is harder on you than them. They are going home without a job. Have a firm plan in place about rehiring. This is not a promise, but at least a hope that you can share.
  • Do all the layoffs on one day. Donít plan a second set of lay-offs. Lay-off all the people to get you through three to six months of slow business. Contact your state unemployment office so you know the benefits your people will receive.
  • Prepare a check for all laid-off people giving their accrued vacation or sick days. Try to carry all layoffs on your medical plan for as long as you financially can, hopefully up to 90 days. Let the people who remain know their jobs are secure.
  • Donít lay-off on the Friday before a holiday. Yes, you will have the holiday pay next week. It is not worth saving a couple bucks to leave the impression with the rest of your workforce that you are a Grinch.
  • If you have an employee manual with a lay-off section, follow it exactly. If you donít have to lay-off in reverse order of hiring, look at the people who donít pull their weight. Itís hard, but donít confuse personality with performance.
    Remember, if you donít do a needed lay-off, you are putting the whole company in danger. 

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. Bieberís opinions are solely his own and do not necessarily reflect the views of this magazine.

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