Who Is Your Customer?

In Business – Why are you here?

WHO is your CUSTOMER?

I had an interesting conversation with Caroline, my daughter, yesterday. Caroline is a teacher, and a very good one. Of course, I am going to say that but it is very true. She teaches in an extremely underprivileged community where a very large percentage of the student body who are English Learners. Further, as with the majority of the students in our region, they rely heavily on the food programs available through schools to be able to have a meal each day. With many agricultural jobs, we see very hard-working families who still need the extra resources. A difficult situation to say the least.

We were talking about education and how this current situation, with the country closed down, is going to affect the future of education. My granddaughter goes to University, it is closed and her classes are all being conducted virtually: even the labs, as she is in the sciences. My grandson is in High School and all his classes are done virtually. My daughter teaches High School and she teaches all day, every day, virtually. Imagine that, would you? They are all in school and no one leaves home.

This is what I have been talking about since the early 2000’s. From the Khan Academy, to every major University, to IT training, most everything that anyone wants to learn is available on line. AND for the most part it is free. At Learning Without Scars we have provided a learning platform for individuals who want to improve their skills and knowledge. Unfortunately, that is not everyone. Being optimistic I believe that more people, particularly the younger generations will change that and that they will constantly be striving to make themselves better. Of course, the world has to catch up. In order for online education to succeed, our students need to have access to a decent connection to the online world. That is still not true in many parts of our country today.

Which brings me to the customer and my conversation with Caroline. The end customer of education is society. School is the vehicle which every community uses to develop the people that will create the social and economic activity that will better society. BUT, the primary customer of the school systems, of education, is the student and their family. Too often that fact gets lost in the bureaucracies of the education community: the Federal Government, which does not have a role in education enumerated in the Constitution; the State Governments, who have primary responsibility, the School Boards with elected Administrators, many of whom have never taught in a classroom in their lives, municipal governments, who receive the taxes to pay for schools and on and on. Who is thinking about the customer here? Of course, it is the teacher. But who supports that teacher?

Now look at your business. WHO is YOUR customer? That should be a very easy question to answer. I would like you to think about that for when we come out of this economic shutdown. WHO is YOUR customer? Is it the person coming in to order parts? Is it the person who calls to schedule maintenance or a repair on a machine? WHO is it? In many of these cases it is an employee of a business who uses equipment. But one more time please – WHO is the CUSTOMER?

I am hopeful that every distributor and dealer will come to a different conclusion than what has been true the past three to four decades. I am hopeful that they will begin to operate in a radically different manner than they have recently. I am hopeful that the employees will be given more and better tools to serve the machine owners. But then again, I am an optimistic person.

Things won’t be any different coming out of this economic shutdown unless we make them different. And that means some serious thinking about WHO that CUSTOMER really is that you are serving.

The Time is Now.

Dollar Time

Dollar Time

We are all on “lock down” today. Some of us are working from home, using communications and virtual software tools, while some of us are going into the office or workplace. Let’s use this time as effectively as possible. So, if you have time think about your job. What can you do, should you do, to make it better? What do we do to eliminate duplications, minimize mistakes, decrease expenses, increase sales? Make a list, talk with your coworkers about it. Let’s do something different this time. Send me your ideas. Send it to ron@learningwithoutscars.com. After a week or so I will consolidate all these ideas and put them in a table and send them back to you. Then you can look into making the necessary changes that you identified or someone else suggested. Let’s make time as effective as we can.

The Time is Now.

The Other Side

The Other Side

We have learned and we need to act. We need strong positive leadership now more than ever: clarity of message, cascading and direct communication, basic management methods, understanding, acceptance and commitment.

There is very little we can control at this point. That is creating problems for everyone. Fear is everywhere. People don’t respond well to fear. We have to provide confident leadership. This too will pass.

The Time is Now.

We Have Been Here Before

We Have Been Here Before

Over the past two decades we have confronted three separate events that changed how we looked at our businesses.

In 1999/2000 we faced the Y2K problem. Our business systems were designed without sufficient foresight and we needed to make comprehensive changes swiftly and effectively. We did.

In 2008 we dealt with the Financial Crisis. Our markets for equipment dropped, depending on location, up to 50%. We had to adapt our businesses to survive in this harsh new reality. We did.

Now in 2020 we are confronted with a Worldwide Health Crisis. The Covid-19 problem. I have no doubt we will overcome this crisis as well.

The leadership in the USA, federal, state and local, have acted decisively and comprehensively. Think about everything that has been done.

  • We shut our borders down, first to China and now to the European Union. This kept out people who, unknowingly or not, carried the virus. We kept them out.
  • We identified the high-risk individuals. We quarantined them.
  • We designed a test for this specific virus once we received the biology from China.
  • We modified lab testing and established a nation-wide testing protocol.
  • We created drive through capabilities to conduct this testing in convenient locations.
  • We now are testing dozens of drugs to find a cure for the virus.
  • We have passed emergency legislation in the senate to assist affected people and businesses.
  • We have declared a state of emergency in nearly ten different states.

Private and public businesses have acted as well. This situation is extremely fluid and changes daily nearly everywhere, if not hourly. This is when we need sensible, thoughtful, calm and strong leadership. Can we count you in that group?

The Time is Now.

What Will We Learn from this Crisis?

What Will We Learn from this Crisis?

There is a Persian Proverb I am reminded of this week.

The man who knows not, but knows not that he knows not, is a fool. Shun him.

The man who knows not, and knows that he knows not, is a student. Teach him.

The man who knows, but knows not that he knows, is asleep. Awaken him.

The man who knows, and knows that he knows, is a teacher. Learn from him.

I wonder: am I a fool or a student? Am I asleep or am I a teacher? What are you?

When we return to a normal life again, as we will, I wonder what we will do differently from what we did before this crisis? Will we continue swimming with the current and go along to get along? Or will we pay attention to the world around us in a more profound manner?

Bill Gates was on TED in 2014 talking about exactly about this type of viral invasion and what it would do to the world. Did anyone listen and do anything? That is what I mean. But on a smaller scale in our world of capital equipment.

  • Will our dealer management systems continue to copy manual systems or will they finally reach their potential to radically transform how business is conducted? Or will a screen continue to be an electronic form?
  • Will our processes and procedures be what we have always done in the past? Or will we challenge ourselves to think about things differently?
  • Will we finally learn how to find every part every customer wants the same day that they want it? Or will we pay lip service to that concept saying “oh well, why try it when it can’t be done?”
  • Will we develop an accurate population of working machines so that we can help our customers with their owning and operating costs? Or will we say that it is too much work?
  • Will we monitor the operations of every working machine with the goal of identifying erratic activity before it becomes costly? Or will we think that is interfering with our customers too much?

Those are five very simple illustrations of questions I ask myself. What will we have learned in our forced time at home with our families? Of course, it will be a relief to get back to normal, whatever that means. But please don’t waste that time. Think about the anxiety you were feeling. Think about the unknown that existed. How long will those feelings linger? What will we do? Will our children’s loss of these three or four months of schooling hurt them for the rest of their lives? You know it will.

So how will we conduct ourselves at work when we return? Will it be the same as before or will we try to make it better? The choice is yours.

The Time is Now.

Manage Your Time

Manage Your Time

A recent blog said that “Time is the enemy.” As I age it becomes even more appropriate. I can’t outrun time and I don’t have the luxury of being able to get more time. So, it becomes critical that I learn how to manage my time. I used to think I could outsmart people at work. I would arrive a couple of earlier than normal and I thought that would provide me with more time. Well, people were smarter than I was and they figured out when I arrived and either the phone started ringing or they showed up at my door. So that didn’t work. In a future blog I will address those “interruptions” and how to minimize them.

Well, my conclusion was that I had to apply personal discipline to my work. That was how I was going to manage my time. Recently I attended a presentation by Dirk Beveridge. For those of you who do not know this gentleman you have no idea what you are missing. Google him. Read his books, listen to his posts and watch his YouTube videos. They are filled with wonderful information.

Dirk gave me a series of formulae to manage my time. I am a simple man and I translated then into “Time Blocks.”

I split my day into 5 “Blocks.”

  1. Reviewing results, daily critical few, project status, etc.
  2. Working with people trying to help improve progress and results.
  3. General communications: phone, meetings, emails, text, etc.
  4. Intense process reviews, process flow charts, value chains, etc.
  5. Personal growth: reading, thinking, planning, etc.

Then it is up to me to have the discipline and the personal character to manage it.

The Time is Now.

 

Multiple Languages: English, French, and Spanish.

Multiple Languages: English, French, and Spanish.

I am quite excited to be able to address the subject of multiple languages for our learning Without Scars programs. We have started the process.

Last year we ran a French language prototype in Canada. It went well. As a result of that we have established a time line and are working with a profession translator to get all our classes translated. We are starting with the Parts Business. We are in process to have all of the Subject Specific classes translated in 2020. That is 80 classes. We will then build out the remainder of the programs.

From the French prototype we have established a Spanish prototype and are working through the process in the same manner in which we did the work in French.

We have also recognized the value of our Skills Assessments and have all of the Skills Assessments done for English, French and Spanish. This approach is allowing us to redesign the leaning programs to the individual employee needs. (We will touch on that in the summer when we are completely revamping our web site to make it more user friendly)

These are exciting times for us and I am sure many of you know of my work in Europe and South America and Africa over the years. French and Spanish will open up those geographic areas to all of our learning programs.

So we continue to push the ball up the hill and expand the offerings.

The Time is Now.

Competence and Recognition

Competence and Recognition

With so many learning opportunities available over the internet and very few of these classes earning University or Colleges credits directly many institutions have devised a method to recognize individual student competencies.

They are using badges.

While with our accreditation by IACET we will be able to offer Continuous Education Units, which lead to college and technical school credits, we fell it is necessary and important to recognize specific skills within our learning programs.

We have identified five skill sets that need further recognition. They are Sales, Finance, Operations, Leadership and Customer Service. We are using the same approach as was used to develop our Skills Assessments. We are selecting 60 questions from the 2,400 questions used in our Skills Assessments and selecting them according to their relevance to the skill sets listed above. We will offer Platinum, Gold, Silver and Bronze Skill Set Badges.

Each learner then will be able to follow classes related to their job function, perform a skills assessment related to that same job as well as be able to be recognized as to their individual level of competence on specific skills sets.

This will be a first in our Industry. We are proud of this accomplishment and hat it will mean to our hardworking heroes in the parts, service and product support sales world.

The Time is Now.

 

Time is the Enemy

Time is the Enemy

Each day it is important that we check to see how we are doing? We must start with what I call the “critical few.” They are the measures that determine if the department or business is in good shape or not. And we must review our position with them every day.

Alongside those “critical few” we must have performance standards. Being simplistic I want to look at the “critical few” against the standards in a very basic manner – meeting the standards or not. Green or Red.

And I do this every day. It is the first hour of my day. If everything is Green then I can get on with my day. If any of them are Red then there is work to do. Contact the individual who is responsible for the item and communicate. Ask some questions, is this anecdotal, what caused the aberration, is it an anomaly or ongoing, what do we need to do to improve the results and get back to standard. A series of questions. This should end up with a plan to get back on track and back to standard.

But it must be every day. Consistently and constantly. Otherwise you aren’t in control of you job function. You are out of control. You will never have enough time to keep up with everything that happens to you on a daily basis.

The Time is Now.

Education Made Social

Education Made Social

We seem to be in a quandary these days. Either we are engrossed in our telephones or social media getting high on endorphins every time we get a hit or a wave, or we are self-absorbed in thoughts about where we are and what we will do in life. It is a complicated time. This year we are going to attempt to break through this wall of uncertainty. We want to make our learning platform social.

This year we are going to create “Chat Rooms.” There will be one for each operational discipline in a dealership. Parts, Service, Product Support Sales and Marketing. The purpose is to provide a resource to our students, and other interested people, to pose a question and start a “chat” on various thoughts and ideas pertaining to the point at hand. We will also be involved in these chat rooms so we can stay current on the thinking of our student base and their market place.

We will also begin a new “Podcast.” This will be a monthly event once we get it together and understand how to create the podcast and make it a “must hear event.” I will be having a brief discussion sometimes on a “Zoom” meeting so that there can be a “virtual” in person interaction. Sometimes, I will just do this on a telephone call. We will conduct these podcasts with people who I consider to be thought leaders, industry leaders and sometimes people who happen to be very curious.

Learning should not just be between a student and a teacher it needs to become a part of our lives. Self-improvement is a necessity with the rapidly changing world we live in today.

The Time is Now.