Thank you to everyone who attended our Open House on Wednesday, January 29! We enjoyed seeing you, and we appreciate your participation.
In case you weren’t able to join us, here are some helpful bits of insight from the presentations that day.
Selling as a Service
“Selling” shouldn’t be treated as a high-pressure game with the sole objective of getting customers to say “yes.” That irritates prospects and frustrates the salesperson.
Instead, approach selling with the goal of solving a problem for the customer. Giving solutions rather than pushing for the sale will showcase your expertise and build customer confidence. So, even if you initially get a “no” from a prospect, you’ll lay a foundation of trust that can lead to a “yes” in the future.
Every business has a brand—whether or not it is intentionally created.
Realize that your brand involves more than just the logo on your truck. It is also shaped by your company values and how you treat your customers, vendors, and employees.
Our Q&A Panel
Superior Plastic Products representatives shared recent updates to the Placid Point Outdoor Lighting system. Changes include increased brightness and an easier-to-use control system.
Mike Stoltzfus of Homestead Outdoor Products walked us through the manufacturing process of railing products. Also, he reminded us how critical it is to consider the application before selecting the product.
Let’s Gear Up for Next Year
We’re already looking forward to our 2021 Open House! Feel free to call Ken Burkholder at (717) 656-9596,
extension 2, with any topics you’d like us to cover next year. We welcome your ideas!
You’ll find the planks easy to install, thanks to their tongue-and-groove design. Plus, when you upgrade from wood to Wolf Serenity™ Porch the transition is seamless. There’s no need to change the heights of your siding, trim, and porch posts as you would if using a thicker flooring product.
Contact us to learn more!
*Available in Pewter
In the past few issues of our newsletter, we shared eight of W. Edwards Deming’s 14 principles for improving productivity and work quality. In this edition, we’ll wrap up our Deming series with a focus on the final six principles.
Break down barriers between departments.
It’s critical for all people in a business to work as a team and recognize potential problems that pose risks to the production or quality of a product or service.
No matter the size of a business, it’s essential to have a free flow of information among team members. Companies need to remove the knowledge silos that prevent communication between departments. For example, a contractor’s salesperson must communicate everything discussed with a homeowner about a deck project to make sure installers will build the deck to meet the exact expectations of the customer.
Eliminate slogans, exhortations, and targets for the workforce.
Demanding perfection and putting too much pressure on performance can create strained relationships. Often, low quality and low productivity are results of faulty systems or processes rather than workers’ negligence.
While it may be simple to say, “We need to reduce mistakes,” that demand won’t happen without management giving a road map—a strategy—for eliminating mistakes. For example, you might request that both the saw-man and the measure-man check the board size before cutting. “Measure twice, cut once” is an oldie-but-goodie phrase that can solve a lot of issues.
Eliminate “management by objective” on the production floor; lead instead.
Even companies with small crews can fall into the habit of holding workers accountable for quotas and numerical goals. But quotas and goals without strategies to reach them is a lazy way to manage teams. And, it’s a sure-fire recipe for creating unhappy workers and rushed work.
Rather than announcing a number and hoping workers will step up production to reach it, fix the kinks in the system that are preventing growth. Focus on how to improve the way things get done before setting goals for how much improvement you’d like to see.
Remove barriers that rob employees of their right to pride of workmanship—and get rid of the merit or annual rating system.
This applies to hourly laborers as well as management and engineering teams. The responsibility of supervisors should be on the quality of work rather than reaching numbers.
Make sure workers have a clear understanding of what “quality” means in the context of whatever task is at hand. Tools that can help them grasp what they need to do include updated drawings, manuals, checklists, videos, and other
resources that deliver an explanation of expectations.
Institute a vigorous program of education and self-improvement.
Attend shows, read trade magazines, and provide workers with opportunities to attend training events and classes
to hone their knowledge and skills. Homestead Outdoor Products is here to help with that! We will have a breakfast-n-learn program every month this summer at the New Holland Coffee Shop. Look for details soon!
By including everyone in the process of making improvements, you can set the stage for a team that works together toward the common goal of becoming better. Let your employees know how each of them is an important part of your success.
Stay tuned for our series on Stephen R. Covey’s 7 Habits of Highly Effective People, starting in our next newsletter!
Previously, we shared several of the 14 revolutionary process improvement principles of respected management expert W. Edwards Deming. In this issue, we continue to explore Deming’s insights and how you can use them to improve your business.
DEMING PRINCIPLE #5
Improve constantly and forever the system of production and design.
Always look for processes that need improvement. This applies to all aspects of a business—from work in the field to work in the back office.
You may have to watch areas of your business over time to detect recurring patterns. For example:
- Do material failures coincide with weather patterns?
- Do office mistakes happen more often on Mondays?
Even small changes can have a big impact on the quality of your service and productivity.
Caution: Avoid the knee-jerk reaction of adjusting work systems at the first sign of a problem. Spending energy on what may be a one-off issue is a poor use of time and effort. Instead, focus on issues that occur regularly.
According to Deming, “The greatest waste in America is the failure to use the abilities of people.” Training employees on the job will help you understand their potential and prepare them to perform at their best. Recognize that people learn in different ways—training may need to take different forms for different employees.
DEMING PRINCIPLE #7
Adopt and institute leadership.
Your business’s supervisors (foremen, lead carpenters, office managers, etc.), must understand the work they are managing. They must also be able to delegate work so that they can focus on the big picture. This may seem obvious, but many companies violate this principle.
Also, resist managing solely by the numbers. Realize that many factors can cause even superstar employees to have down days.
DEMING PRINCIPLE #8
Drive out fear.
Fear impairs performance and can lead to team members lying or fudging numbers when things don’t go as planned.
“I’m scared what the boss will think or do, so I’ll say the deck installation went great. We can blame the homeowner’s Labrador retriever for the scars made from the screw gun.”
False information won’t give you a true sense of what’s going right or wrong in your business.
Also, keep lines of communication open between you and your employees so that they feel comfortable coming to you with questions and concerns.
Read more about Deming’s principles at deming.org.
We are now stocking Fast-setting Quikrete® Cement. Specially formulated to set within 10 to 15 minutes, it is ideal for repairing edges on curbs and concrete steps. It’s also a great match for setting posts in small fencing projects and building footers in areas that don’t require a footer inspection.
According to a survey by BrightLocal (a marketing software development company), 86 percent of consumers read reviews for local businesses. As a contractor, you’ll want to pay attention to this statistic. Most people look at online reviews before they decide what products and services they will buy and from whom they will buy them. Therefore, online reviews are essential for doing business in this digital world.
Some customers—being proactive—will post reviews on websites such as Facebook, Google My Business, Yelp, Angie’s List, Houzz, and others. But some may need prompting.
How can you get more of your customers to share about their stellar experience with you?
Seventy percent of customers that are asked to write a review will write one, according to BrightLocal’s survey.
ASK PROMPTLY. Customers will be more likely to leave a review when the details of their interaction with your company are still top of mind.
SEND A REMINDER. If it has been several days or a week since you requested a review and none was written, consider sending an email reminder.
MAKE SURE ASKING FOR A REVIEW IS ALLOWED. Although some review websites encourage businesses to ask for reviews, some (Yelp, for example) prohibit it. Read a review site’s terms of service before asking customers to leave reviews on it.
A study found that 75 percent of people suffer from some degree of dehydration. Add the hot sun, high humidity, and sweltering temperatures into the mix and you get a recipe for disaster.
How can you know if you are dehydrated? Early warning signs include:
- Dry mouth
- Muscle cramps
More serious symptoms such as no longer sweating, rapid heart rate, confusion, and difficulty walking can occur as dehydration worsens.
Keep plenty of water (and other beverages with water) on the job site and drink them gradually throughout the day. Also, pack fluid-rich foods (such as fruits, vegetables, salad, and applesauce) for snacks and lunch.
The amount of water people need varies from person to person, but according to the Mayo Clinic, the general rule is eight 8-ounce glasses of water each day. Keep in mind that heavy sweating will increase your body’s need for fluids, so you may have to drink more in the heat of summer.
In the last Homestead Post, we shared three productivity- and quality-boosting principles from management consultant W. Edwards Deming. In this issue, we’ll talk about another important Deming concept: End the practice of awarding business on the basis of price tag alone.
When choosing vendors, price means little without considering the measure of quality and efficiency that you get. Securing value when purchasing tools, equipment, materials, or services requires long-term thinking beyond the dollars and cents on a price sticker.
Buying goods or services from whoever gives the lowest price may seem to be a cost-effective way to do business. However, it can backfire.
- Jumping from one vendor to the next based on prices requires a good deal of administrative time and may result in getting inferior materials.
- In comparison, having a single, trusted source for a product or category of products helps ensure consistency in quality and availability of materials to meet your needs and deadlines.
- Dealing with one vendor simplifies accounting, minimizes paperwork, and streamlines ordering.
In today’s competitive business environment, you can find a lower price on almost anything that you want to buy—but that doesn’t ensure value. Value comes from forming a long-standing relationship with a vendor that is dependable, trustworthy, and dedicated to satisfying your needs.
To learn more about Deming’s principles, visit The Deming Institute website at www.deming.org.
Do you have a question about a product or want tips to help manage a certain aspect of your business more successfully?
We welcome you to suggest topics for our future newsletters. Email your ideas to Ken Burkholder at firstname.lastname@example.org.
When you’re in the business of building decks and doing other exterior work for homeowners, requests to do fencing work are inevitable. Installing vinyl fencing—one of the most popular options—isn’t difficult, but you do need a few specialized tools to tackle the project.
- Tool for digging holes: Either an auger attachment or a dedicated hole-drilling unit will do the trick. (You can rent them at an equipment rental company.)
- Fence rail notching tool: Although it’s not an absolute must-have, it comes in handy when cutting sections to size. (You can borrow one from Homestead Outdoor Products.)
- Concrete: The type will depend on the size of the job and might require anything from hand-mixing to bringing a metered concrete truck to the site. For the typical backyard, a portable sack concrete mixer and a wheelbarrow offer a middle-of-the-road solution that’s cost-effective and fast. (You can purchase QUIKRETE® from us.)
- Fencing material: Homestead Outdoor Products has a wide selection to suit your customers’ needs: vinyl fencing, chain-link fencing, aluminum fencing, and wood-tone fencing—all made by the best brands in the business.
Not overly familiar with fencing installation? No problem! In our next newsletter, we’ll step you through the basic process of installing vinyl fencing.