Monday, June 29, 2009

Data! Data! Data!

There is no substitute for tracking data to find areas for improvement. Our company is transitioning into a Lean Manufacturing firm which has as one tenant the reduction of waste. One of the seven key wastes in the Lean philosophy is wasted time. Using that as a foundation, I have for the last month tracked all of my work time in fifteen minute increments. After tracking 160 hours I categorized and sorted the data and then began the analysis.

What I found was eye opening. Being in sales, my key goal is to sell which means I need time in front of customers, but my largest chunk of time was internal meetings at 18.49% of my time. This was not a total surprise because I do get involved in many internal projects that take time to work through, but I would have never thought it would be that high.

The next biggest chunk of my time was quoting, starting jobs, sales management, customer meetings and marketing. Those four areas account for 31.43% of my day. The remaining time is spend on low priority items such as driving, paperwork, managing jobs and other activities. Now that I have this data, I can focus on the largest wasters of time and then use that extra free time to get in front of customers.

There is no end to the amount of improvement that is possible with the right focus and the right energy. Take something that needs improvement, track the data and let the data give you ways to improve. Then keep doing that over and over and over.

Friday, June 26, 2009

No Excuses

No excuses is a mindset that will help anyone looking to improve his or her position in life. Almost any problem can be overcome when a person believes there is no excuse not to solve the problem. There are clear tools and techniques to use to overcome excuses.

In a blog by Leo Babauta, he outlines seven steps to living a no excuses lifestyle. The title of the blog entry is How To Kill Your Excuses and is well worth the couple of minutes it takes to read and think over.

In a time in our history where so many people are looking to blame others for what is going on in the economy, in the world, in Iraq - it's nice to read something that brings the focus back on what I can do right now to change my life. If enough people changed their individual lives, the greater society would also change for the better.

Friday, June 19, 2009

Father's Day

Happy Father's Day to all the dads. This is one of my favorite weekends of the year, not just because I am a father, but because the entire family gets together for a great Sunday. This Sunday there will be time with my daughter, my son and my wonderful wife. We will also be spending most of the day with my in laws which is a good time.

Growing up I learned many lessons from my dad. I remember when I was 13 and during the summer between school my dad got me a job on a fishing boat. I was so exciting to be making money but after the first week I realized how hard the work was. That Friday I asked my dad if I could quit and he said "no problem - when you start school in August, you can quit." My dad taught me the life changing lesson that when I start something, there is no option other than finishing what I have made a commitment to finish. Even today, this lesson pays tremendous dividends.

One of my greatest hopes is that I can be that same type of teacher for my kids. To me the greatest Father's Day will be when I can see our two kids as self sufficient contributing members to society. Until they are old enough to do that, I will enjoy every day I can with them.

Thursday, June 4, 2009

Email Marketing

Email marketing isn't something generally blogged about by a commercial printer. Email marketing is seen as one of our biggest competitors because as that type of communication increases, print generally decreases. We know this and we would be crazy not to address it head on. Today we sent our first email marketing release. The plan is to share two things a month with our customers.

We will be doing press releases, employee profiles, project profiles and newsletters. What we are finding is that our customers are looking for ways to use email along with web adverting and connect that to print items. The more we can become experts at email marketing and web advertising, the more we are able to help our customers. In the end that is all that matters - helping customers grow and then growing along with our customers.