Volume 50, Issue 4 - April 2015


No Dollar Left Behind

by Lyle R. Hill

As I have said on many an occasion, and will herein repeat yet again, I do not like to give advice. For all kinds of reasons, giving advice usually leads to doing more harm than good … for the giver of advice, that is. Yet once again, I find myself not following my natural inclinations and venturing into the world of “advice-giving,” which no doubt will bring more harm than good to me. But I am only human, and several perplexed readers have recently approached me looking for direction. Perhaps ego, more than a kind heart, has led me to respond, but regardless of motivation, here we go …

Tom (from Ohio):
I recently read that your son has gone into (the glass) business for himself and that you encouraged him to do so. How can this be? You have always made fun of the people in the glass industry and yet you let your own son dive in. What gives?

—Response: Tom, I did not exactly encourage my son, but I did not discourage him either, because I knew it would do no good. It is because of genetic flawtification. I have written about this malady in the past. You bring a kid up in the glass business and somehow it gets embedded in his genetic code. I take full responsibility for my son. I introduced him to the business at an early age. If you want to save your children, never, ever bring them to your place of business and never talk about the business in front of them. Talk to them about dentistry or working for the IRS or something. With a little luck, you can re-align their genes, but you must start when they are young.

Larry (from New Mexico):
What is the secret of estimating? It seems like I am too high or too low, never right where I need to be. Is there one guiding principle that you can share?

Larry, estimating is the most underrated and underappreciated job in the industry. You need to devote much energy and study to the art of estimating. And when you find a good estimator, pay them what they are worth! As for a single guiding principle, I long ago developed what I refer to as the “No Dollar Left Behind” approach. Worst thing you can do is leave something out … money left on the table will never find its way into your bank account.

Mary (from California):
How do you find, hire and keep good people? This is a real dilemma these days. It’s driving me crazy and my business is suffering.

—Response: Mary, you are not the only one with this problem. The industry is in great need of fresh talent, and I regularly get calls from owners and managers asking me for leads—mostly for project managers these days. I am not a recruiter, so I typically don’t get involved with these things, but I do believe that finding a good employee is the hard part. Once you’ve got one, treat them fairly, train them well and pay them what they are worth … and hope they don’t get picked off by one of your competitors.

Bob (from New Jersey):
I have reached a critical point in my career. I need to decide if I should continue to grow or stay where I am. I have done very well these past few years but have an opportunity to really expand and grow if I want to do so. But it will require a bigger facility, more people, additional equipment, more financing and so on. I have seen others grow like crazy and then go bust, and I don’t want to be one of them. Others have expanded and seemingly done quite well. How do I know what’s right for me?

Bob, this is a very difficult question and not one I could even attempt to answer without a whole lot of additional information. I am not one of those “bigger is always better” people, so I think the fact that you are questioning yourself is good. Take your time, weigh the good and bad of growth, and remember that you, like everyone else, have limitations. I wish you luck!

Buddy (from Texas):
I have a hard time understanding the word “synergy,” which I seem to hear somewhat regularly of late. A friend of mine said that you once wrote about this and explained it pretty well. Can you help me out here?

Buddy, this is one of those words that gets used improperly a lot – usually by people trying to talk you into doing some kind of a deal with them. My explanation goes like this … suppose I am quite hungry and have a big can of chili but no can opener. And suppose that at the same time, you, too, are hungry and have a can opener but nothing to use it on. You see, by merging our resources, we can both benefit. So we make a deal, sell the chili and opener as a package arrangement to a hungry guy from Oklahoma and then order a nice pizza for ourselves. I hope this helps.

That’s it … no more free advice for now. I’m starting to feel like I have left money on the table and besides, all that talk about chili and pizza has made me hungry!

the author
Lyle R. Hill is the managing director of Keytech North America, a company providing research and technical services for the glass and metal industry. Hill has more than 40 years of experience in the glass and metal industry and can be reached at lhill@glass.com. You can read his blog on Wednesdays at lyleblog.usglassmag.com.

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