Where to Find Great Ideas to Make Improvements

Where to Find Great Ideas to Make Improvements

I am asked often where I get my ideas and how many of them are my own. Well that in itself makes for a good newsletter. No, I am not going to expound on my great wisdom and stroke my own ego in this newsletter. Instead I am going to give you something that you yourself should take away and apply to your own learning process. I am going to talk about how sometimes I learn from the foolish mistakes I have made, sometimes stumble on ideas, and what I have seen others do. In doing so, I hope you can gain perspective of your own self-awareness.

The most recent foolish mistake I made happened only a few months ago. I have the privilege of learning from the most experienced and knowledgeable people in our industry. Recently, I spoke to a well-known leader in the SBCA—I would mention his name, but I need his permission first. His message to me was simple. He stated, “Todd, before you can sell your services, the client has to trust and know you first. Shut up and just be friendly with everyone and anyone first without trying to push your services. Then when they start inquiring, you can speak about them, but only after they invite you to do so first.” Sounds simple, right? Be patient, allow the other person to get to know you better, develop a rapport with him/her, and talk about yourself only after they get to know you (Sales 101). So I thanked him for telling me this and tried to remember and take it to heart. Anyone with any kind of marketing skill should understand such a basic principle of salesmanship. Fast-forward to a recent quarterly SBCA meeting. I am sitting down eating some food and talking with some people I know. Another individual I do not recognize sits with us and is quietly eating and listening. I enquire as to whom he is, and of course I recognize him after he states his name and company. I ask a few questions about his business and how things are going. The next thing that comes out of my mouth is what I can do for him and his company. Did I not learn anything?! I saw from his body language he was not receiving my sales pitch well. There could be multiple reasons that he may not have wanted to hear about my services right then and there, but it was I who made the foolish mistake of not waiting until invited to do so first. So a lesson for all you new salespeople out there: get to know your customers’ needs and develop a relationship with them first. Allow them to inquire about your services and earn their trust. But for the point about this first lesson is this, actually apply what other experts may be telling you in your own practices.

Part of my services is to help companies resolve and improve their practices and methods for equipment usage and material flow. In fact, this is a big part of what I do for companies, so naturally I have honed my skills to become an expert in this very area. You would think I have seen it all and have a ready-made answer no matter the condition. Well, then you would be mistaken. I had a client with a material flow problem because of the building and land topography. Their solution was causing huge bottlenecks, and my solutions were not very helpful. They were expensive and not a great way to resolve the problem. So in other words, the great guru of the truss industry, referring to myself, was not really being too helpful for this one very big problem. After this consultation was completed, time had passed and I did a few more consultations with other clients. But it was not too long before I walked into the manufacturing area of another consult and saw the exact same type of condition as my other client was suffering from. But they resolved it very cleverly. So what did I do? I took pictures and wrote some notes and sent it to my previous client to help them solve their problem. This particular issue of learning better ideas, I have always whole-heartily adopted. So now you know where I get many of my fantastic ideas. I do not spend a few hours with any company, I spend an entire week getting to know everything they do and how they do it. I always try and take away from each client some little nugget of gold and apply the better practice to the next consultation. This is called continuous improvement, which is at the very heart of lean manufacturing. So the lesson is simple: just because you are the so-called expert, leader, or anyone of many years of experience doesn’t mean you cannot learn from others. Always be open to new ideas from a perspective of no emotional attachment or ownership. Do not get hung up by your own ego. Everything you do, no matter how many years you have been doing it, you should always view everything with 3 things in mind. Can you improve it by fine-tuning, modify it or completely replace it with something better? Nothing is off limits!

Because I am willing to be flexible and adopt better methods of anything and everything when they prove to be better, I can be less tolerant of those who are not so flexible. During the BCMC trade show, you can spot many individuals, if you look for them, walking around like peacocks telling people how important they are. They state things such as, “I am in charge of X number of manufacturing plants.” Or they often state their importance by their sales volume by saying, “We achieve so many X board feet per man-hour. Or, our total sales volume is X.” They often also will claim X number of decades of experience and some type of degree or certification such as a black belt in lean. In other words, they want you to recognize their area of responsibility and the importance of their role. So naturally, they believe they are experts in their given area of responsibility. But far too often, when I am able to ask them some probing questions about their company, I can easily see signs they have not adopted better practices that could garner better net profits. So there are really two lessons in this example. One is simply that no matter how long you have been a part of the industry, what type of training you have had, or how much responsibility you must shoulder, you can always learn something new from the most unexpected people if you just set your ego aside. The other lesson is something I have struggled with, and that is simply understanding the pressure and actual responsibility these power players really do have. I should be giving them due recognition for the roles they have in their companies and the industry.

I hope these lessons will help you in your present or future endeavors, and that I hope to see you at the BCMC show this year!

Todd Drummond Consulting, LLC.

Website: www.todd-drummond.com

Phone: (USA) 603-763-8857

Email: todd@todd-drummond.com

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