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JOE SAILS - A Business Behavioral Novel JOE SAILS
A Business
Behavioral Novel

Joe Sails is a story
about improving customer service by elevating employees' core
Media Coverage

A soft economy

By Dick Olenych, Inside Business - Hampton Roads - 11/29/2008

I can feel it. Can you?

There has certainly been a shift in the economy. My small business was on pace for a 60% increase in revenue for 2007. I increased my staff to handle our explosive growth.

We had to hire more people than ever to keep ahead of the curve. You know, to keep our customer satisfaction at the highest of levels. And then around the late May or early June timeframe the slow down hit. I am now way overstaffed, by about 30%.

A smart business person would cut jobs or make some full timers into part time positions. But, those positions are people in my eyes, not just jobs. I have not lost sight of that. Each person is important to me. We had an understanding when I hired them.

You see, they trusted me with their livelihood and I in turn expected them to work hard and make positive contributions. Is it their fault that oil is at an all time high? No. Are they responsible for the dollar sinking to all time lows? No. They certainly can’t be blamed for the mortgage crisis can they?

I’ve never been accused of being a very smart businessman. So I’m not going to “can” anyone or make full time employees live on part time pay (and cancel their benefits). We’re going to work our way through it. Sure we’re tightening our belts - that’s prudent. But we’re not going to over react and cause deep fissures that have long lasting effects on the organization. We are a united group that can bridge any crevasse.

Too many times large corporations take the turtle approach when things get tough. They retract on every front, by cutting costs and manpower. They then hide in their shells. They hope the problem will go away before the next round of reorganizations. Some people may see this as wise advice to weather the storm, but I’m not one of them. I believe I have the power to change my situation by pushing myself and my company to new and different extremes.

I’m for changing and morphing to the demands in front of my business.

For instance on an organizational level, rather than getting just three bids for materials and services, we’re getting four or more. We’re looking to standardize our inventory and receive higher volume discounts. We are going to negotiate harder than ever on each and every purchase. We may as a group decide to reduce our pay as a whole and not individually.

Finally, we are going to market ourselves. Sell. And then market some more.

If I hear again from a small business owner that “I can’t do that,” or, “I’m not a salesperson,” I’m going to scream.

Your business is your baby. This is not the time for inaction. If your company is struggling, and you are thinking about getting rid of positions it’s about time that you started looking at yourself. It may just be that now is the time to change. Later could be too late. You must take charge of the situation and protect your company like it is your only child. There is no second place here. Your faithful employees deserve better than just the status quo.

Does this mean you have to wear a way too short paisley tie and thrust your business card in front of everyone you meet and say, “Hi, my names Joe want’ a buy a duck?”

No. Just think. Don’t hope, think.

How can my company be better? How can we get more customers or clients? How can we see more prospects?

Think about getting you in front of more people. I work eighty hours a week. I’ll work another five or ten hours just to get in front of a few more customers.

But each of us has to know your company’s strengths and become our own best advocates. If your company is the best a Tiddley winks talk about it. If your company has the second cleanest bathroom in the United States brag about...well at least mention it in passing. Don’t leave it to your marketing department. If you own the company, you own the marketing.

Personally, I never brag about what I own, but I always brag about what I build. Building a great team and a wonderful organization is the most demanding and the most satisfying of activities. I personally wouldn’t give up the struggles for anything.

These are demanding times. Demand more of yourself.

Dick Olenych is the author of “Joe Sails,” a business-behavior novel and an owner of Spectrum Printing. He can be reached at dick@joesails.info.

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