Gotta Know Your Limitations

To paraphrase the Clint Eastwood movie, ‘A man’s gotta know his limitations’.

What does that mean for you, as an owner of a company?

It means don’t get ahead of your organization’s ability to execute what you want to do.

It’s fine to have buy-in from your organization on your plans (we recommend it), but you might task your organization with more than it can do in the time frame you’d like it done.

An example: in one of my companies, we were adding production capacity, expanding eastward in the United States, and adding English and Australian distributors, and I and my plating manager got the idea for a completely new metal coating process for our exhaust parts on a Friday afternoon.

We were also improving our shipping times, which required a fairly major commitment to more inventory.

I discussed the new pr my partner, who had blessed the idea previously but who had expressed valid concerns about going beyond our capacity, So Monday, I and my partner held an all hands meeting with my staff, front office and warehouse, as well as production. My CFO missed the meeting, but she would have asked me what additional strain I would be putting on our financial resources.

Frankly, I didn’t know, and I admitted as much. My name was on the building, but I discovered it was ok to not know something. At Wharton and Ford, you were expected to know the answers.

So, we kept implementing the other expansion plans, and I started the process of doing market research and actual testing of the parts in the worst climates where we had discrete distributors. I might have otherwise skipped the market research test because the initial response from a couple of key distributors was overwhelmingly positive.

We digested the plans already in the works, and then tested the parts in places like Seattle, Houston (for marine uses) and Denver. All positive.

The tests took about six months, during which time our competitors might have found out what we were up to, but they didn’t.

So, we stayed within our limitations, kept the financial wheels on the business and had a very successful product launch.

And the staff was happy, because they didn’t get pushed beyond their limits.

Financially, we added nearly 30% to our sales in a year in the middle of a recession, which we didn’t think we could do, but it worked.

Gotta know your limitations so you can exceed them

 

Home Depot Horror Story

I’ve been looking around for a bad customer service story for awhile, and Home Depot has provided one.

Back in January, we ordered 14 boxes of wall tile to tile the peeling walls of our garage from Home Depot online.

Tile arrived, but when we examined the packages, about half the tiles were broken, possibly from being thrown onto our front patio for delivery. No one from the delivery service (NDS)  rang the bell and said they had 14 boxes of tile to be delivered, and where would be like it?

Then the wrangling began on the return for the next two months. Home Depot Customer Service actually claimed at one point that they had nothing to do with Home Depot. Meanwhile, our installation is delayed and we’ve got a $790 charge at Home Depot for broken tile.

Finally, an enterprising customer service representative agreed that they whole matter should have been quickly resolved, and took out one of the small Home Depot flatbed trucks and with a female driver, came to our house and loaded the broken tile. Once the store had the tile, they reversed the charge.

Kudos to the employee (Frank) who showed the initiative to take a truck and pick up the tile, but a real brick to the rest of Home Depot customer service for being unresponsive.

As a result, we’ve ordered the tile from Floor and Decor, who has been very accommodative, and we’ll pick it up ourselves.

The morale of this tale is to empower your employees to make decisions in the best interests of the customer.

We hope that Home Depot reviews the recorded conversations of this travesty and fires most of the customer service reps who were involved.