What Makes You Weird, Makes You Special

“That which makes you weird is inevitably what sets you apart and makes you special.” This is true within life and humanity, but it is also true in business. Typically we call it ‘finding one’s niche’. Often, small businesses especially, stray from what they are good at and try to do everything else. That’s not a bad mindset, but it might, at times, be misguided. Branch out as it makes sense for you, but don’t lose sight of your ‘niche’.

By that, I don’t mean ‘cling to the old ways’ but having a niche is a good thing for your company.

Using Custom Equipment Company as an Example

Our niche is right there in our name. When it comes to Material Handling, we have a wide array of products. From Forklifts to Pallets to Fencing. We supply Racking and Cabinets, safety equipment and all of your Packaging and Warehouse needs. But, in the Material Handling world, who doesn’t sell those things? Our niche is Custom Products, meeting the specific needs of specific industries in ways no one ever has before.

We specialize in Custom Dunnage, Custom Pallets and all forms of Custom Solutions to meet the needs of our customers. This is what makes us, us… So what exactly makes you, you?

So what Makes You Unique and What do you Do with that Information?

1. What is your Company passionate about?

This is usually pretty simple as it is usually a companies focal point. Ice Cream shops are usually passionate about Ice Cream. And Burger joints are usually about Burgers. But not every company is so cut and dry. Let’s take a Pet Store, for example. Some might be passionate about Pet Safety, while others may be passionate about Pet Adoption. Both are admirable and each is the beginning of it’s own niche.

If you are starting a Company, you may want to ask, specifically, what are your passions? It is always cool when you can create a company with a niche that parallels your own interests. It doesn’t always work out, but with the right business mindset, it stands a pretty good chance.

2. Narrow or Broaden your Niche as needed!

Sometimes a company’s niche is too narrow and it needs to be broadened. For example a Pet Store that only sells Guinea Pigs. That’s probably too narrow with a much smaller demand. Could also be an Ice Cream shop that only sells plain Chocolate Ice Cream. Options are good, but too many can be a bad thing.

Conversely, can you imagine trying to make a selection at an Ice Cream shop with a thousand different flavors? That’s too many and will force people to just pick one of the first ten or so. Baskin Robbins used the number ’31’ because there was a flavor for any day of the month. That seemed to bring them great success. Not so many that you got overwhelmed as a customer, but not so few that you turned your nose up from the lack of selection.

Find that happy medium where you can maintain the stock appropriately and give the customer a comfortably whelming experience.

3. Is Anyone else Doing your Niche?

Not only do you not want to saturate your store or company with too much product or selection. You also want to avoid saturating the market around you. (Unless you can take control of that market.) Two pizza stores in one of our more rural areas is perfect because one is artisan style pizza and the other is New York Style. They thrive on each other. On the other side of town, there is another rural area with five pizza spots. two have been there for nearly 30 years while the other three seem to be a revolving door of different types and styles of pizza shops. At some point, someone has to realize that two might be the magic number for that size demographic.

Check to see who else is doing what you do. If there is an overabundance or absolutely none, question why and whether you can thrive in that location.

4. Test Your Niche Nearby

I think the industry that can do this best is Food and Beverage. A Food Truck is an inexpensive way of testing a certain type of food in a specific area or community. Where as most industries can’t just pop up like that, Food Trucks can do some serious testing of the waters to find out the best locations.

That being said, it is harder for other industries, not impossible. The Construction Industry can go door to door handing out fliers for ‘Free Quotes” to gauge interest. The Occupational Service Industry, like Lawyers and Dentists, can jump onto neighborhood sites and pages as well as reach out to H.O.A. Offices and Apartment Complexes to get in touch with the communities. It’s not impossible, but it certainly isn’t easy either. These will all take some elbow grease to get the ball rolling.

5. Is there a Market for Your Niche?

Lastly, the question of whether there is even a market for your product, service or industry is one of the most important to starting and to thriving as a company. *Remember, just because you think it is wonderful doesn’t make it so.*

A Burger and Ice Cream Parlor that is known for it’s delicious Burgers has taken almost half of their menu and made it Vegan. Not because the market was asking for it, but because the Owner became Vegan. That’s not good business practice. It might serve you on a personal level, but it isn’t strategic from a business perspective.

If you live in a rural farming area, there probably isn’t much need or desire for a three story Hip-Hop Dance Club. Know the area and your market.

But what are some Markets that could use our attention today? The next Blogs will shed some light on the industries with the most bountiful areas of growth!! As we GROW towards a Brighter Tomorrow!!

 

 

For Monthly Updates Subscribe to our Newsletter

Accounting 101

What is so important about accounting? Asked very few people ever. When it comes to your companies health and growth, I would say the accounting is one of the most important Key Point Indicators (or KPIs). KPIs are used to assess the health of an organization for future growth. So why are your financials so important? What parts are the most useful? Who should know them?

Why is Accounting Essential?

If you were to correlate accounting with another field, I would say it most closely relates, figuratively, to medicine. Imagine your company is the body and the administration and C-suite teams are the brain. Your employees and staff are the organs and your customers are the food and water that every body needs to survive. Accounting is the pulse. It’s the heartbeat that let’s us know when we are on the up and up or a slow decline. sometimes it skips a beat from a financial hiccup and sometimes you can feel it slow as a company is coming to an end. The person with their finger on the pulse, on the financials, should always know how healthy the body (the Company) is based on that pulse.

And where do you check for this pulse? That’s also essential, because you want to get the most accurate reading. You can look at Revenue and say, “We made ten million dollars this year!” But if your expenses were eleven million, your pulse is gone and your body might be dead in the water. That’s when you draw the pulse from the top line. Instead, you should go for the bottom line, the true net profit of your company after everything is expensed and accounted for. This check will give you the most accurate diagnosis of the health of your company.

What Parts are most Useful?

That being said, when looking at the bottom line there are some things your team can fix and other things that, as the Admin or Owner, can only be fixed by you. Let’s start with your team, the harder part. Increasing Sales, or the Top Line, of your Profit and Loss Report. A company needs a ‘top line’ to be successful. Without it, you will have to do a lot more pruning to keep the company above water. But it is only half of the coin.  So what are some ways to increase sales without spending too much more money?

1. Optimize Labor

This can be done in two ways starting with ensuring that all of your employees are in the right positions. You will never be optimized if the person who is best at Human Resources is out in the field doing Outside Sales. You can’t optimize labor if your Outside Sales Rep is inside trying to create appropriate Processes and Procedures.

Secondly, you need to optimize the use of the time given. If you have salary employees, you should be making sure that they are optimizing every hour of their shift to get more done. Making cold calls or sending cold emails may not pay out every time, but it’s something and costs nothing for a salary employee who has nothing else to do that day. Research. Send Emails. Visit Websites. Read News Articles. There are so many things that an employee can do to optimize their time.

2. Optimize Marketing

Organic Search Results come from a lot of different things, but in our small company we have come to find that focusing on E-Blasts and Monthly E-Newsletters, Updating and Refreshing the Website and Blogging have been our ‘big three’ that have increased SEO (Search Engine Optimization).

If no one is responsible for this, try to hire a teenager for the summer who can get some experience in the field and will do this job for very little. Or, like we did, hire on a full time adult whose job is to do these things. They aren’t hard, but they can’t be brushed off and left undone. Your ‘audience’ will be looking for you to keep those things updated. And in todays time, this is easier than ever.

3. Optimize Processes and Procedures

If you haven’t had time to check it out, here is a recent blog on the Importance of Policies and Procedures. Check it out for a little more detail on this specific issue. Beyond that blog, here are a few quick pointers in bolstering that ‘top line’.

Procedures should be used to make everything flow more efficiently. That works better for the employees and will also be a leading factor to adding additional time for Optimizing Labor and Marketing. The whole team should have a concise understanding for how to handle 80-90% of all situations that occur. That leaves the last 10% or less for creative solutions.

What about the Bottom Line?

Now, for the easy part. Or the part that is usually easier. How do we raise the bottom line without any additional sales? Well, we cut excess spending. We trim back the fat so that all that is left on the steak is the meat. There are companies out there who specialize in lowering utility bills, cable and even telephone. But, if you aren’t a fortune 500 company, you can do much of this on your own. Lower your utilities. Lower your rent or mortgage payment if possible. Scout out new insurance companies. Cut wasteful spending on consulting fees and accounting fees that may be excessive and unnecessary.

It’s all just Accounting 101. Raise Sales and Reduce Spending. Any business that can do this, will survive and most will actually thrive! And after 2020 and the Covid Pandemic, our businesses NEED to thrive!! Let’s thrive together as we move towards a Brighter Tomorrow!

 

 

For Monthly Updates Subscribe to our Newsletter

Find more amazing products on our Catalog or in our Case Studies!

The Importance of Policies and Procedures

Policies and Procedures within a company bring structure and add importance to everyday tasks. They are the foundation blocks of building and growth within any organization and must be communicated. Communication is essential. I can’t express how disturbing it is to hear a leader in any sort of organization scoff at the idea of policies and procedures. And it happens far more often than you would expect. Let’s begin by diving in to ‘why’ some leaders may have a negative view of Policies and Procedures.

Aren’t we all Adults?

The most common reason I hear from leaders who are against Policies and Procedures is that ‘we are a team of adults and we don’t need these rigid constraints’. This notoriously misguided response to Policies and Procedures comes from a misunderstanding of their purpose. Like any good partnership or relationship, communication of clear guidelines is essential to building a strong foundation for a long lasting, thriving union. If employees don’t know where they are supposed to go and what guideposts they are supposed to follow, how will they ever be able to accomplish their personal and company set goals? How can they know the direction they should be going?

Let’s take for example the necessity of Employment Contracts and Job Descriptions. Small organizations and Companies should pay close attention here. This isn’t something that you brush under the rug. Employee Contracts, especially for salaried employees, give a clear indicator for where an Employee is starting and what is expected from them and what they can expect from the company. It should include Compensation, Bonus Structure, Benefits, Paid Time Off, Sick Days and Personal Days. It should outline Employment Status, Life of the Contract, Non-Competes and Termination of the Contract by Employee or Employer. A Severance Package should be included along with how Annual Reviews will be conducted based on an attached Job Description.

These things may seem monotonous, but in reality, your Employees will be happier knowing that the hard work they are putting in for you and your company isn’t for naught. They have a bone in this fight and they don’t have to fear what is unknown. (That fear paralyzes and restricts your workers.)

Why Annual Reviews?

Reviews are your ‘Check Ups’ for health and growth of each employee. They are essential in cataloging where an employee is and where they need to be. They are good for the employer because they offer one-on-one moments to guide and direct an employee on what they are doing well and where they can get better. But they also serve as an opportunity for the employee to voice their own needs and desires for growth. It is a set time for them to come and be open about where they are looking to be.

These reviews will shape your company for the better. After instituting these annual reviews, I would regularly have employees asking if we could do mid-year reviews and I could see them getting excited about upcoming annual reviews. They also offer a time to share with them where they are in relation to the whole. Are they one of the best employees? One of the worst? Just a mid-level employee? What can they do to step up?

Why Severance and Exit Strategies?

I would argue that just as important as the Salary and Job Descriptions, the Exit Strategy and Severance are some of the most important pieces to an Employment Contract. In the same way that the beginning of the book is just as important as the ending. The setup of the exit of an employee is just as essential as the on-boarding process. We don’t want our employees to leave, but in life, people come and go. Whether they leave to go to a different field, industry or even retire, everyone will eventually need to exit. So, have a strategy in place to eliminate that unknown so that your employees can work comfortably.

It also gives the company a path for letting employees go without there being any sort of animosity or resentment. Not every exit is or will be a bad one. But Exit Strategies help, even the bad ones, remain tame and professional.

*CAUTION about Policies and Procedures*

You can not have Policies and Procedures in place and not adhere to them. As an owner or administrator, these are checks and balances for you just as much as they are for your employees. If you put a bonus structure in a Job Description or Standard Operating Procedures Manual, you are bound to it. You don’t have enough money in the bank? That isn’t your sales person’s fault. That is the fault of the Administration and C-Suite Team. You will DESTROY your community and employee culture by betraying them. Yes, it is a betrayal not to keep your word.

If you say you are going to give your employees Time Off, Breaks, Paid Lunches or any other Benefits, and don’t. You will have betrayed that trust, and also could be held liable for it. That’s right. Policies and Procedures, according to the Keches Law Group, says in most cases it can’t be used against a company in a lawsuit, but why chance it. Be a Company of your word and adhere to the manual in place.

 

The importance of Policies and Procedures is in building the community and workforce in the best way possible. It shows that you are looking out for them and they are looking out for you. As you strive towards a Brighter Tomorrow!

 

You can find more information by visiting our  CEC Website & Online Catalog.  

Find more amazing products on our Catalog or in our Case Studies!

Breaking the Wheel as a Leader

Companies, both big and small, get caught up in the routine. This routine is often referred to, symbolically, as a wheel.  An object that keeps rolling over and over, never to stop. That being said, this wheel is a double edged sword. In one hand it may bring continued success for a company who has built a strong wheel and aimed it in the right direction. On the other hand, it could be a detriment if set rolling in the wrong direction because changing courses is quite difficult. This, in my opinion, is the hardest part of being a leader. So why should a leader consider Breaking the Wheel?

Where is the Wheel Taking you?

If the wheel (or routine) is taking you in the right direction, go with it. There is no sense in breaking the wheel if its methods are working. However, if that wheel is leading you in the direction of any of the following, you should definitely consider breaking it before it does more bad than good. ‘

1. Disunity

Often, a poorly directed wheel will run your team straight into disunity. And this outcome will be the main reason your company is not as successful as it should be. Or possibly unsuccessful all together. Often, I see teams broken because the ‘wheel’ is rolling in favor of one worker over the rest. Maybe because of title, or special favor to the owner or administrators or maybe they contribute more to the success of the company as a whole. In whatever case, bias towards one party will inevitably create division among the rest. So make sure that disunity is worth it.

2. Confusion

There is nothing more confusing than working for a company who claims one vision, but allows the wheel to continue down an antithetical or contrary path. For example, a company who tells their employees that ‘the customer should always come first’ and then disciplines an employee who didn’t get a task done because they were assisting those customers. Or, treading on toes here, a company who says, ‘You have unlimited Paid Time Off’, but shames or disciplines employees who are still completing their jobs but taking time off.

3. Aggravation

Often the result of a wheel running headlong into the realm of ‘task completion’ over ‘common sense.’ I remember working in retail and being responsible for the layout of a shelf that came with a diagram on how the company wanted said shelf to look. I set it and it looked awful. So I changed it. The District Manager came in and said, ‘Oh my. That looks AMAZING… but it’s not to diagram’. I was baffled. Asking why we should do it the other way when that looked bad; the DM replied, ‘It looks ugly, and your way is better, but we go by the diagram because that’s the policy.’ And I understand that idea, but when the wheel travels for the sake of traveling, I think everyone feels aggravated by it.

What are the Cons to Breaking the Wheel?

Con Number One:

Weighing PROS and CONS is a vital part of any good Leader’s role. Very few things in life are cut and dry. So seeing the CONS is necessary to make the best decision possible. So what are the CONS to breaking the wheel? Well, to start with, though living in the groove and going where the wheel takes you may be bad, it is also comfortable. A CON for breaking out of that routine is NO ONE likes change. It is moving from the known to the unknown. Breaking the wheel requires flexibility and critical thinking skills. It needs good communication and attention to detail. Though people want change, they hate it, no matter what form it takes.

Con Number Two:

Another big CON to breaking the wheel is how much time it consumes to build a new one. As you know, the process isn’t wrong in and of itself. It only becomes a problem when it keeps us from heading in the right direction. From getting us to where we need to go. When it no longer serves the purpose it was designed for… it has to go. But building a new system to help guide the company in the right direction is time consuming with numerous moving parts that need to be tended. A new process means new training and techniques. It makes the day to day tasks wobbly as workers compensate for the lack of direction until those new processes are put into place.

Con Number Three:

The last great CON for breaking the wheel is disunity based on the feeling of ‘unfairness.’ People have a hard time with change, as I mentioned. But when mass change, like this, happens, the ‘me-my’ culture and concept come roaring in. People forget that a new wheel being built is a work in progress and immediately allow the stress that comes from change to overwhelm them. They start saying things like, “We should have just kept the old system.” Or “Probably shouldn’t have changed without working out all of the kinks first.” Even though, many of the conflicts are impossible to predict.

Why is Breaking the Wheel so Scary?

The scariest thing in the universe is the unknown. This fear is ‘Xenophobia’, though the word is now much more narrow that its original intent. Believed to be the fear that fuels all other fears. Arachnaphobia, the fear of Spiders, is from not knowing. Not knowing where it ran or where it came from. Not knowing if it’s going to jump or if it even can jump. Thanatophobia is the fear of death or dying. Rooted in our fear of what comes after life, if anything. It finds its foothold in the human mind because death’s elusive nature and unpredictability. I could go on.

Fear of the Unknown is the reason we don’t break the wheel more quickly and decisively. Terrified of what might happen to all of the affected variables. From employees who might quit if we rattle the status quo to the possibility that the new wheel won’t work or might be the company’s downfall. What if it throws us off track and we lose money or customers don’t like the changes.

Those fears, as all fears do, paralyze us so that we don’t act. They keep us in these stagnant waters until we finally stand up and break free. Until we climb from the waters that keep us captive and from the hamster wheel that saps our resources and energies with nothing to show for it.

So just, pull the bandage off. Smash the wheel and rebuild. This we must do if we have any hope of finding ourselves in a brighter tomorrow.

 

For Monthly Updates Subscribe to our Newsletter

Find more amazing products on our Catalog or in our Case Studies!

Simply Management

Management is simply the act of coordinating people to accomplish desired goals efficiently and effectively. We discussed in last week’s blog, ‘The Hierarchy of Leadership‘, about what Leadership looks like. Synonymously, leadership at it’s core (and highest level) is management. So, when we discuss management in this blog, I hope you’ll understand that I mean it at the highest level, Leadership based on Character.

How does a good leader, manage? They already maintain the respect and followership because they are compassionate and care for their employees. They are good hearted, high energy and bolster a positive atmosphere in the office. But is that enough? the answer is no. The highest level of leadership is only the beginning. So what’s the next step?

Step One Involves Vision:

Vision is the question of Where is your company trying to go? This should be answered in many different departments and areas. Your vision should include, Company Policies and Standards as well as Company and Personal Goals. As mentioned in an earlier blog on ‘Vision’, this should be decided by and enacted by the highest positions in the company. The owner, C-suites, Board and Administrators.

If you were using this blog as a template for management, I would give you three lines to write out your company ‘Mission Statement’ and/or ‘Vision Statement’. Then smaller lines to bullet point three to five standards, policies and goals. Be concise. No one wants to read a dissertation. Just get to the point, minimize your directive. You don’t need three hundred laws, ten is better… and two that culminate all of them is even better.

Step Two Involves Directive:

Directives involve the management or guidance of operations. This is the answer to the question of What? It isn’t enough to know where you’re going as a company. You must set up directives, an action plan, on how to get there. This isn’t something I, nor anyone disassociated with your company, can do for you accurately. Ideas and a rough skeleton. maybe. But the end process needs to come from the Leader/s. And as Leaders, they should have the know how and skills to determine appropriate directive to accomplish and guide others to those set goals. As an example.

 

 

Company: Nike

Mission: To Bring Inspiration and Innovation to Every Athlete in the World

Nike is one of the largest companies in the world, and they understand this process of management. A simple mission phrase that is easy to remember and simple to live by. If I were the Leader of Nike and had to develop a process based only on this ideology, I would start first with a breakdown. They already answered the questions What (Bring Inspiration and Innovation), Who (Every Athlete) and Where (in the World). Now I need to give this phrase some directive by asking ‘How’.  Disclaimer: I have never worked for nor studied Nike’s brand or management concept. These are simply the thoughts of  a managerial mind based solely on what I, as a consumer, have experienced. 

How can Nike be Inspirational?

Well, if you’ve ever watched any of their commercials, that’s the first and easiest place to inspire the masses. But as a Leader, I would want our company to inspire, not only on a large scale, but also one-on-one. So, I would continue to encourage the Marketing Team to inspire, while working closely with them to filter down inspirations for our crew members and retail sales people.

I might have a weekly “Word of Encouragement” for our employees to read and know and live by. I would want to create a culture of inspiring our customers, not only to buy our product but to live by these same inspiring principles that we filter down through our staff. And lastly, if I were at the top tier, I would partner or form an organization that could help inspire young and impoverished athletes with worthwhile opportunities to become the best athletes they can be.

How can Nike be Innovative?

Innovation is all about being cutting edge and is one of the quickest ways a company fails. They become stagnant resting on their old, soon outdated, products to carry them forward. So, for Nike to be innovative, I would put our research dollars (which Nike is probably already doing) into the two needs of any athletic shoe, comfort and support. And as the trickle down for innovation, I would want to institute new methods for selling shoes as well.

Perhaps a kiosk where customers can design their own shoes and have them shipped directly to them or to the store. Perhaps a trade in program used like a discount within the store on any given Thursday (or whatever day is slowest). The donations of the old shoes could be used as tax write-offs if donated to a consignment store.

Innovation can also be precipitated by statistics and questionnaires. It has been said that Henry Ford’s great invention was spurred by asking the question, “What do you need?” The people said faster and more efficient horses. And of course, he didn’t become a geneticist to make faster horses… to solve their transportation dilemma, he created the automobile. I would ask my customers, “what do you want to see?” Sure, you’d get some silly answers, but the real answers would be in there too. And that’s worth all the trouble.

How can Nike reach Every Athlete?

I think this would be the most exciting part of the Job for the Leader of Nike. Today’s word is so divided and so many groups feel so alone and secluded from the masses. And the saddest part is that, it isn’t one group or another. If I were the Leader of Nike, I would use this opportunity to help dowse the flames of inequality by attacking those inequalities as a company and as individuals. Being that they are publicly traded, this sort of stance would require the Board’s approval, but I would doubt that they would disagree.

Ads, commercials and in-store promotions that show a strong stance for the empowerment of the black community, the gay community, the trans community, women and the impoverished. Gather a team to find out in what ways we can impact these and other groups, and then work to do so while maintaining profitability and innovation.

How can Nike reach the whole World?

In over 170 countries already, I would just stay the course for this one and let it be the natural progression that comes from managing a great company.

 

Step Three Involves Presence:

This is the most overlooked job of the Leader, whether by themselves or by others. An invisible leader can’t lead! Now, the adverse is also true, the ever present leader cannot lead either. The balance of presence is essential to growth and culture. Think of it like a mother overseeing a child playing. While the diligent mother watches, the child will almost always act right. But when the mother steps away, the actions of the child are the true test of leadership. A good leader should be able to ‘walk away’ to forge those good behaviors when they aren’t around. But they should also come back to encourage those good behaviors and to reinvigorate the staff and culture.

A leader’s presence is also the only way to connect with the staff in a manner that articulates that highest level of leadership. It is quite difficult to be personable and compassionate on an intimate level if a leader is not present. Even by using a proxy, it is difficult to attain.

For some very skilled leaders, however, this type of trickle down care and compassion IS possible. Dolly Parton is a great example of this. She isn’t feet to the ground in Dollywood, working. But, she does come to the park on occasion to see and interact with the staff. She also employs managers as her proxy to identify needs within her workforce that she might be able to assist with. In talking with some of the workers at Dollywood, from attendees up to management, I found that the magnitude of respect they have for Dolly was unparalleled. And all of them also had stories of the first time they actually met Dolly and how kind and considerate she was.

 

Management is simply this. The act of coordinating people to accomplish desired goals efficiently and effectively.

 

Are you the leader? Are you making strives to be a better leader? Take these words to heart because they will change your Level of Leadership on the hierarchy ladder. Be kind to your subordinates because they are more than your most precious asset. They’re humans. Do this, and you will be the catalyst who thrusts us forward into a Brighter Tomorrow.

 

You can find more information by visiting our  CEC Website & Online Catalog.  

Find more amazing products on our Catalog or in our Case Studies!

For Monthly Updates Subscribe to our Newsletter

The Hierarchy of Leadership

A Hierarchy of Leadership is the concept of how much a person can lead from any given ‘level’ of the ladder. The lowest level would be the least likely to inspire others to follow. The highest tier is most likely to inspire others to join in to the new culture that the company is creating. They will also be the most likely to assist in creating that culture.

Level One: Leaders by Claim

This first level of the Hierarchy of Leadership is the lowest level, but also the most common form of leadership. It happens when the highest levels or decision makers, feel the need to fill a role with the easy choice. Sometimes they lose the former leader and have to pull up the next in line. That person isn’t always ready, and so they have to claim or seize their authority.

Listen for phrases like, ‘Because I said so’ or ‘I don’t need to explain myself’. The person or people who use these phrases are typically on this level of leadership. They often struggle to explain their decisions and feel ‘attacked’ if people question anything, even inquisitively. Leaders who have to claim their authority, aren’t much of a leader, after all.

“Any man who must say, I am the King, is no true King.” Tywin Lannister of Game of Thrones

Level Two: Leaders by Contribution

Give a person a title and they will do one of two things. They will either lord it over others, or they will respect the title themselves. They will either demand to be served, or they will choose to serve because of it. This is often the potential of a hard worker being promoted. We hope that they will translate that hard work into service instead of servitude. Level two leaders, serve.

This principle is best seen in the image here. The ‘Boss’ is Level one Leadership. The ‘Leader’ is Level two Leadership. And they may both get the mission accomplished, but the ‘Boss’ will do it while screaming and pulling out their hair. Their subordinates will finish the work, angry and frustrated and ready to quit.

The ‘Leader’ will complete the task with a team who is excited and ready to take on the next mission! They will follow because they see a leader who is willing to get their hands dirty doing the work. A leader who is there to direct them as well as take on some of the load when it is too much for the team to handle alone.

It is important to realize that this level of leadership should be level two and level one combined. Their leadership capabilities come from level two, but they should also have the title to go along with it. This isn’t always the case as there are extenuating circumstances.

Level Three: Leaders by Coaching

In this Hierarchy of Leadership, Level three is a Leader who Coaches. This tier should be, again, someone who also has Levels one and two in their repertoire. It isn’t a necessity, but without the title and the service attitude, they will not be fully equipped to Coach the team forward.

That being said, a ‘Coach’ is one who leads with encouragement and good advice. The reason this is a level three form is because people don’t care about what you say if they don’t see what you do. Tell your employees everyday how important it is to follow the Standard Operating Procedures, but if you don’t follow them, why should they? (If you say ‘because I said so’ or ‘those don’t apply to me’ you might want to check yourself.)

I think back on my Football Coaches. They wanted to win, but they also understood each of our limits as it pertained to the sport. Here are some Football Coaching Points I received that translate nicely to the workplace.

  1.  Know your ‘players’. That is, know the things about your employees that will help you to help them be successful. Know the way they feel appreciated in the workplace. (See the blog APPRECIATION FOR A JOB WELL DONE) Know their strengths for the position they hold and their weakness.
  2. Put the right ‘players’ in the right positions. Knowing your ‘players’ is only half the battle. Once you know their strengths and weaknesses and desires for the future, it’s time to put them in the right spot. TRUST ME, when employees hold the wrong positions, it will wear them down and burn them out. People being in the wrong positions is bad for them and bad for the company.
  3. Seek out new ‘players’ when necessary. My senior year we lost our kicker to an injury, and in 4A Football in North Carolina that was a major setback. So our coaches tried out players that we already had and no one was able to do the job well. So, they sought out a soccer player to join the team. It shouldn’t be a slap to the face when you gently tell an employee they just don’t have what it takes to be the leader. And your company WILL SUFFER if you put the wrong person in the wrong position just because you didn’t want to ruffle feathers or hurt their feelings. It hurts them and the team when you settle.
  4. The Coach didn’t tackle the runner from the sideline. The coaches job was to teach, train, encourage and empower. Then they had to let go and let the players play. What I mean by this is, the coach needs to train players to become ‘coaches’ themselves. The best teams have a head coach and a captain who also maintains this level of leadership. Create more leaders… My coaches were all about making us better men, even beyond becoming better Football Players.

Level Four: Leaders by Character

Lastly, in this Hierarchy of Leadership comes the Alpha Level of Leadership. This level gains followers because of the personal character of the leader themselves. Sure, they probably have a title and a service attitude. And, yeah, they are probably the best for coaching. But no one even thinks about those things because this leader is respected. Why? Because of who they are and what they mean to those who follow them. They embody things like kindness, goodness, encouragement and positivity. They have characteristics that form who they are at their core. Attributes that we look to emulate like compassion, vision, strategy and wisdom. People look up to and strive to be like this person. They follow them because they know this type of leader cares, and so they care about this leader.

Without falling down a rabbit hole, I will say that this is the type of leadership that changes the world.

  • Martin Luther King Jr. was one such leader, followed, not because of his words, but because of his character. He changed the world because of the man he was in his heart and the actions that followed.
  • Winston Churchill prided himself on building the morale of the people.  He sought to be motivational with a singular sense of identity for the masses. Unity was essential to his success.
  • Walt Disney who during his most formative years adopted a leadership style that valued the input of team members and peers. He took the time to know his team and their personal and occupational needs. And when he could, he met those needs.
  • Arianna Huffington speaks for herself. “Both my own leadership style, and that of the other leaders at HuffPost, is very much like being in the middle of the circle, rather than at the top of the mountain shouting down.” She also said, “Treat people like family and they will be loyal and give their all.”

Religious leaders had many of these same qualities. Many of them even spoke of these qualities and tiers. And, I don’t know of any leaders who would disagree with any of these four levels. Maybe they would add to them, but at the core, I believe this is the ladder we should strive to climb.

So let us climb it ourselves, as high as we need to. And then, let us lead by example, coaching others to climb the ladder also. Be willing to reach down and help them. And for those who might be hanging out at Level one… it’s time to move up the ladder, or step down completely. Forward motion is necessary as we move forward to a brighter tomorrow!

 

For Monthly Updates Subscribe to our Newsletter

Find more amazing products on our Catalog or in our Case Studies!

Time to Level Up

Has your company become Stagnant? Does it feel like you’re just going through the motions? Then it’s time for you and your team to LEVEL UP!

“Anything less than perfection is the enemy of perfection.”

People say nothing is ever truly perfect, and they’re probably right. But I can’t help but believe that when we settle for the idea that because it can’t be perfect, we don’t need to strive for perfection, we are actually failing. The truth is, we become stagnant because we believe that being ‘good’ at what we do is good enough. Jim Collins, the Author of the book ‘Good to Great’, said, “Good is the enemy of Great.” he even made it the first chapter.

In life and at work, when we settle for things being ‘good enough’, we have told ourselves that we do not need to strive any harder or push to go any further. We convince our bodies and minds that progress is unnecessary. But life doesn’t teach that. The Law of Decay says “Any system without the addition of added energy, is decaying.” We are no different. Our Companies are no different. If there is not added energy on a regular basis, our companies will decline and decay until they ultimately die.

Leveling Up Begins with Leadership

Some Owners and Administrators like to pull away from the office and judge the office’s general health from afar. The problem with that is that a company’s growth and general health come DIRECTLY from its leadership. In the subsequent blogs that will follow each week through the end of May, we are going to explore this further. For now, just know that leadership can not escape the blame of a failing or stagnant work culture because you have allowed it to exist. A company cannot progress forward if the Leader of the Company is not present and actively revitalizing the Team. This is a fact.

As an owner or Administrator, if you say, well, I’m not able to be there or equipped to energize my team. Then, with all due respect, you need to step aside and let someone else do it. And after that, don’t go getting in there way. The only thing worse than an owner/administrator who isn’t a good leader? An owner/administrator who micromanages the one who is.

So Who is the Leader?

Again, we will touch on the Hierarchy of Leadership in the next blog, but for the purpose of this blog. How do you locate the ‘Leader’ of your company? Ask these questions about each employee:

  1. How well do they do their job?
  2. How often do they go over and beyond that job?
  3. How do their coworkers view them?
  4. How do their subordinates view them?
  5. How much energy do they offer?
  6. Do they want to be a Leader?

If you can say they are hard workers who go over and beyond, are viewed positively and have charisma. I believe they will make a great leader, granted the answer to question six is ‘Yes’.

Leveling Up Requires Desire

Question six is the one I use most often as an Administrator. A person’s desires create and form their attitude for the company and for their job. Too often, teachers get burned out and lose that light that makes them ‘want’ to teach. Police officers who stop caring. Lawyers who lose the drive towards justice. Administrators who get fed up with teaching and guiding. When we lose the desire to go further and to strive towards perfection, we lose the energy to grow. Time to level up and move forward!

That Leader can feel this change before it gets out of hand by keeping their finger on the pulse of the company’s health. And a good leader will do just that. When I saw that shift happen in someone, I went to them and asked, “How are you feeling?” After they told me they were feeling fine and life was good, I would follow up with, “Awesome, but are you happy here doing what you do?”

If the answer was anything but, “Ye, so happy,” I would dig deeper. “What is it that makes you not want to come in to work? Is there another position you would prefer to be in? Did something happen between you and another employee? Is it me?

The point of these questions is to gather information to process. For example:

What is it that makes you not want to come in to work?

“It’s just the same thing over and over.” This is so common and so easy to fix. This employee isn’t saying the job is boring. They are saying they aren’t being challenged, and a good leader would see that! So we find a way once or twice a week to give them a project that can challenge and grow them. This is good for the company! You need a Leader who will see it and be wise on how to fix it.

“Non-growth, or plateauing, is decaying…”

Is there another position you would prefer to be in?

This is another, generally, informative question. But remember, any time you deal with people, it’s not about what they say, but what they are trying to convey. If your employee mentions management and leadership, get them on your Company’s Leadership Curriculum or Training Program. If they mention ‘sales’, many times they want or need more human interaction. If they mention an office setting, perhaps less human interaction. Think about their schedule and ask questions to deduce the reason they might prefer this new position.

Time to Level Up Your Culture

Lastly, for this blog, I want to mention the importance of your company’s culture. Culture is the Values, Beliefs, Behaviors and Material Objects that together form a people’s way of life. In life and in the workplace, this is true.

The Leader who believes it is time to level up the company, needs to build an understanding of what the company feels about each of these things. (Values, Beliefs, Behaviors and Material Objects) By doing so, they can then live them.

Living this culture and then directing others to live this culture is how a company goes from decay to decadence. From failure to fruition. From ebb to excellence.

And that leader will know how to move your company forward, into a Brighter Tomorrow!

 

 

Find so many amazing products on our Catalog or in our Case Studies!

Opt in and sign up for our Monthly Eblast- click here

Small Businesses Unite

Custom Equipment Company isn’t a fortune 500 Company, and I would guess those of you reading this aren’t either. And most of us never will be. But, together, small businesses can certainly make an impact like that of the fortune 500’s, but only if we unite.

Why should Small Businesses Unite?

The question of ‘why’ is always at the top of the list for any small business group. When someone says, “We need this product.” The correct response is and should always be, “Why?” but more politely, like, “Could you explain what we need that for?” Often, the question ‘why’ is met with hostility as though you don’t trust an opinion or thought. When people question my motive behind asking ‘why’, I always say, “Convincing me is easy, but I have to convince others and they won’t be swayed without details backed by facts.”

But ultimately, the question ‘why’ shouldn’t be offensive because it means you’re giving someone the chance to convince you. So, why should we unite? Because we are stronger together. Check these facts…

  • In 2019, the Small Business Administration said there are nearly 31 million small businesses in the U.S.!!  This accounts for 99.9 percent of all U.S. businesses! That means when Big Business, that .01%, are in control, the other 99.9% has to just be quiet and fall into line…
  • When pulled together, Small Businesses make up almost 50% of the local and national workforce.
  • Small Business Administration said small businesses generate 44% of the United States’ economic activity as polled from 1998 to 2014
  • In 2000, 15% to 20% of small companies became medium or large companies every year. Today, that number is now closer to 6%

Big businesses can do so much on their own. Small businesses don’t have that luxury. That’s why we form Small Business Associations and Coalitions. We need to join together so that we can have the same sway as a large company without being large ourselves.

 

How does this look?

This could take form in numerous ways, including those I just mentioned. But one of the best ways for something like this to form is with partnerships.

I think the best representation of this is what a healthy friendship looks like. The ‘I rub your back, you rub mine,” approach. And in a business model, that can be tough, but it works out better for all of us as long as we are all in it for the whole. For example, Custom Equipment Company is always looking for new partners over new customers. A customer is just someone we sell to, but a partner is someone we serve and are, in return, served by.  Like one of our local manufacturers who we team with on a regular basis. Sure, the prices may be 6-8% higher than the price we can get from a larger company out of state. But this local company is also able to cut lead times and have face to face meetings (when Covid isn’t stalling that). They are also a part of the community. like we are, and together, we cover a wider area so when they get leads, they send them to us and in turn we keep our business with them.

It’s all about funneling that money through as many small businesses as possible and only using the larger manufacturers when we absolutely need to.  This is true with Insurance Companies,  Vendors, Marketing Teams and beyond. We are stronger together, so start building those relationships and see how wide the road opens for small businesses when they unite!

 

What are the Setbacks?

I would be dishonest if I pretended that there were no setbacks to joining with other small businesses in partnership with one another. These are wide ranging and could be mild or self-deprecating. But as long as someone is watching for the signs, they should be easily avoided.

  1. You have to be able to trust your partners.
  2. Your partners, in turn, have to be able to trust you

Trust in any partnership is the key to success. If one side or the other hurts or hinders that trust, both sides suffer. To be united means we focus on each others’ needs and work together towards a brighter tomorrow for all of us!

 

For Monthly Updates Subscribe to our Newsletter

Find all of our amazing products on our Catalog or in our Case Studies!

Material Handling is…

Material Handling is the movement, protection, storage and control of materials and products throughout manufacturing, warehousing, distribution, consumption and disposal. That is a mouthful. But, as many of you know by learning this industry and trying to teach it, there could be volumes upon volumes of literature to try to encompass it. (And there is already.) So can we simplify it for new comers to the industry? Is it possible to create an adequate shortcut to make it easier for new employees and sales people to navigate these waters without becoming instantly ‘grounded’.

I don’t have that answer, but maybe this short blog (by a guy who just started in this industry as well) can help.

Material Handling Defined

When moving materials and products from one location to another, whether inside a warehouse or onto a truck to be shipped, this is what we define as “Material Handling” (or MH). Our people and our product are our livelihood. So we need to make sure that we are moving safely and under control, while seeking to do so as efficiently as possible. The quicker we move product, the more product moves. And the more product moves, the more profit we enjoy. However, we need to balance that efficiency with the safety of our employees because without them, the whole production comes crashing down.

So How Does this Industry Provide for these Basic Needs?

Movement

The moving process is sometimes labeled as Logistics, though this term can also be used in reference to the actual shipping process. It can also refer to the whole process of moving, storing and supplying or redistributing product. Whatever you choose to call it, however, moving product and materials is vital to the MH Industry. Some of the equipment and products we might use to efficiently ‘move’ our products include:

Forklifts, Conveyors, Machine Bases and Tables, Cranes and Hoists

But also include newer and more advanced products like Auto-Storage Retrieval Units (Like turning your warehouse into a vending machine) or Automated Guided Vehicles (AVGs).

Safety and Protection

Keeping your employees and staff safe is ESSENTIAL to any good business. And Keeping your product safe is important too. MH Industry leaders across the board, agree. And so, nearly all of them dedicate multiple pages on their websites to products that promote and maintain important safety practices! In 2019, companies reported t5,333 deaths in warehouse, work-related incidents. And there were 79 recorded forklift-related deaths in the work place in the United States.

Safety is hugely important. Some products we sell to keep our products, and more importantly our employees safe include:

Guard Rails and Barrier Systems, Safety Tape for Floors, Spill Containment

But also include some of the most state of the art equipment. Outfit your entire Warehouse with warning lighting for when a forklift or pedestrian are passing between aisles or crossways. Checkout our Warning Lights & Dock Door Monitors or our Height Awareness Sensors to keep from clipping a low hanging opening.

Protect your people because a safety system costs less than one of their lives!

Storage and Packaging

Typically, two separate categories, together they make up a huge portion of this industry. And everything in the industry seems to relate closely if not directly with them. These include the bulk of our products including Pallets, Containers, Dunnage (which is the stuff used to keep product in position while inside any given container), Cabinets and Shelving.

Outside of these, and something that sets some of us apart from the rest, is the fact that we do Custom Products. for example, a customer needs a pallet that is larger than average to fit a specific product on it. Let’s say a 50″ X 50″. And the product is too heavy for a conventional pallet, so it needs to be made stronger than conventional means. Our team comes together and creates the product that company needs. We have done this for fortune five hundred companies, international companies and even some large but local companies.  Reach out and see how we can help you by building something custom for your needs!

Sales@cecmhs.com

The Warehousing Facility

This is where you would need to look to outfit your warehouse with all of the essentials as far as the facility itself is concerned. Think about the huge concrete room with nothing in it. Before you add shelving for products, or products themselves, what do you need to do to get it ready? Well, this could be anything from Dock Equipment to Mezzanines for more storage space, Modular Offices, Industrial Stairways and Landings and even Air Curtains to keep bugs out and your air conditioning in!

These products help maintain safety as well as save money. They also come with peace of mind guaranteed when the Dock Master or Warehouse Manager doesn’t have to fight to solve an issue like a truck not being tall enough to reach the Platform. They can worry about the things that matter, like being sure orders going out and coming in are correct and documented.

Services

Lastly, a part of Material Handling we don’t discuss quite often enough… the other services we provide. This is another piece of a company that may differ among the industry, but it is one that helps us to connect to and enhance the needs of customers and clients.

These could include Container Modifications and Repairs, Cleaning used Dunnage, Pallets and Containers, Installation Services and much much more.

When you truly help a customer, they will want to help you. Customers are most loyal to the ones who loyally care.

 

In a nut shell, this is what the Material Handling Industry is… what we are. It isn’t an exhaustive blog because the industry is never exhausted. Let’s continue to grow WITH the industry and never against it – As we look forward to a brighter tomorrow!!

 

Find more amazing products on our Catalog or in our Case Studies!

For Monthly Updates Subscribe to our Newsletter

Spring for the Office

Spring comes to your office THIS WEEK! Can you believe it? What an exciting time. Not only are we finally seeing some light at the end of the dark tunnel of this global pandemic. We are also seeing the rise of newness and rejuvenation and life. In nature, Spring is when the flowers bloom and the trees become plentiful again. In life, Spring represents cleaning out the old and getting outdoors again! In some of the major religions, Spring represents a spiritual renewal and call to newness of spirit.

And in our workplaces, Spring should represent much of the same. Here are some helpful tips you can do to take your office from dreary old winter to Spring Time!

Spring Cleaning

My favorite thing about Spring is… Spring Cleaning. I hate clutter and the winter just feels like the season where everyone wants to clutter up the office. Old, unused books and equipment get thrown in corners or left to take up shelves. On your desks, trash fills your pen cups. Your chair still has cracker crumbs in the crevice. Filing needs to be done and books need to be closed. It’s time for a fresh start, so clean up. No sense in taking the trash into the next quarter with you. And definitely not into the next fiscal year.

Maybe this is a time to digitize everything. Make digital copies and get rid of the catalogs and paper copies you no longer need. Clean out those filing cabinets and toss out the useless paperwork.

And for the sake of all that is good, CLEAN UP THE DRIVE! If you have files that haven’t been opened in five years, chances are they either need updated or deleted. Pick one. Consolidate files because there is such thing as too much clutter in organization. Get rid of useless materials and links and update your Manuals and Training Modules.

When your offices and filing cabinets and Drive are all cleaned up, you will work more efficiently as an individual and as a team!

Festive Office Attire

I know not everyone gets to dress fun for work. Some people have actual uniforms to wear, but for those of you who don’t… change it up! Toss those hoodies and big, baggy coats back in the closet until next year. Pull out your florals and pastels and bright vibrant shirts (or at least ties). And you can do it without looking unprofessional. Here are some ways.

Ties come in all Shapes and Designs

For men, the tie is the easiest way to liven up your outfit without going overboard. Go get some bright ties with fun patterns and designs. If you see customers during the day, they will LOVE it (I promise). And if you only see your coworkers every day, they will love it too! You could also change up your look by switching to a bowtie. This is my FAVORITE spring look because it is simple, cute and never too gaudy. I always get compliments when I’m in a bow tie. And these changes are good for you and for those around you. Try it out as we step into a brighter tomorrow, with brighter ties!

Jewelry is every Lady’s Favorite Accessory

That title may or may not be true, but it is every woman’s secret weapon for changing her look. I remember seeing my mom throughout the year and she ALWAYS saved her favorite jewelry for the Springtime. Flowered earrings to match a nice sundress. Rainbows with any solid colored outfit. And of course, diamonds are a girl’s best friend. Change up your bracelets and your watch bands and your phone case if you want. Make all the changes at once and come into work looking and (more important) feeling like a brand new woman! Bring Spring to the Office everyday!

A New Haircut or Hair Style

This is always a scary one for people. We have done it the same way for so long… what if I hate it? I can’t go back to it. It’s ok. Just own it. You are beautiful no matter how your hair looks. So own that beauty, inside and out. Try to go a little shorter or lighten it a little. Maybe darken it up a smidge. I always love a fresh haircut to shorten my length for the warmer days and of course a beard trim and straight razor cut to bring it all together. Fresh and New makes everyone feel better!

 

Strive to brighten up your life so that we can brighten up the lives around us. Choose to be light and a ray of sunshine, every day! As we choose to BECOME a Brighter Tomorrow!

For Monthly Updates Subscribe to our Newsletter

Find amazing products on our Catalog or in our Case Studies!