Case Study: Case of Legislation, Part 1

A leader is one who leads; not one who follows the whims of those led. Leaders deal with the needs of their followers, not their wants. A business owner must lead. Otherwise, whatever happens…well…happens. I was recently reminded that the leader must not only lead, but must legislate. They must legislate what is acceptable and assure followers meets those standards. And they must not violate the standards themselves.

What does that mean in practice? The leader establishes the hours the business needs to be open to attract and retain customers. Let’s say the leader decides that is eight to five, Monday through Friday. So when should workers who serve the customers need to be present? That’s where it begins to get fuzzy.

Is it okay for one press operator to come in at 3:00 in the morning and work until 11:00? Is it okay for another one to work from 5:00 until 1:00? And we have a CSR who has to drop his child off at school, which is a long way away, so he can’t begin work until 10:00, but he makes it up by working through until 6:00 in the evening. And, oh yeah, boss, I don’t want to stop and eat lunch, so I will just work on through and leave early, okay? Is it okay for another to take off Fridays so she can visit her family every weekend in another state, and, after all, we aren’t that busy anyway?

The worker’s logic is usually, “Since I don’t deal with customers, then as long as I put my eight hours in, then what’s the difference? After all, eight hours is eight hours.” This is when the leader’s legislation is needed. The leader, in allowing such behavior, is organizing around what workers want, not what they and the business need.

What is the business of your business? According to Al Ries, it is to attract and retain customers. Why do we have business hours? We establish hours in which to do business with customers and they usually are set at the convenience of the customer. And it is up to the leader to determine what those hours are.

Now, does it make sense for your business to open at 3:00 a.m. and close at 11:00 a.m.? Does it make sense for the business to be open Thursday through Sunday and closed Monday through Wednesday? Most of us would say no. That is because we need to be available when our customers want to buy what we produce. If we aren’t, then it is logical that they would go to another supplier who is open when they want to buy.

The Concept of Team
“Yeah, but,” comes the cry from the back room workers. “What’s that got to do with us? We don’t see the customer.” In many cases that is correct. The press operator does not see the customer, but they do serve the customer.

My wife, Pamela, has a great analogy for this. She says, “In football games, the field goal team is not used that much; maybe three or four times in a game at most, and usually, but not always, in the third or fourth quarter. So why does the field goal kicker have to show up for the first half and just sit on the bench? ‘Coach, I’ll come in at halftime and do my job, but there’s no need for me to just sit here.’”

Or is there? It seems pretty obvious in football that you really don’t know when you will need the kicker. So when do you think you will need the typesetter? Do you need them during business hours or outside of business hours? Beyond that, there is the concept of team. They call it the baseball team, the football team, or the basketball team. Do you have a printing team? Or do you have a collection of individuals who do their job and nothing more? “After all, boss, you pay me to do my job and I do it. So what’s the beef?”

A team is supportive of each other, meaning we don’t do just our job. We support, interface with, and even do tasks of others when appropriate. The points that go up on the scoreboard aren’t the number of impressions; rather they are total sales. We aren’t individuals; we are members of a team. The team puts up the sales number. The press operators don’t do it by themselves.

Three obvious issues arise when we have workers working odd hours by themselves. First is injury. While there is no OSHA regulation prohibiting a worker to work around dangerous equipment alone; they do have the capability of issuing a post-incident finding. In essence, it follows the logic: “While there’s no rule against it, obviously it was dangerous for management to allow the practice to exist because the injury occurred and was made worse because there was no one able to assist the injured worker. Therefore, a significant fine will be levied.” Ouch!

Second is inefficiency, which is the biggest issue. The press operator may need new plates because he catches a typo that needs correction, so he takes the job off the press and sets up another one while waiting for the prepress guy to show up. A bindery worker cuts a job wrong and it has to be redone, so it waits for others to show up, losing valuable time.

A production worker has a question that goes unanswered. A prepress person needs to tell the press operator something about the job, but since she won’t see him before its run she writes it down, and that usually doesn’t work that well. A CSR who works alone covering the phones until 5:00, gets a call from your biggest customer and can only say, “I don’t know; it will have to wait until morning.”

Third is the less likely but always possible event that you need the field goal kicker to be able to respond to a significant customer request. You need to set some type, plate, print, and cut it before the customer leaves on a flight tonight. So, we need to field the team when the customer wants us to be there. You decide when that is and get the workers there. And if you are wrong and need to change hours, then change the hours and get your team there then.

Okay, now let me address what many of you are concerned about. I’ve got a great press operator who works from 3:00-11:00 a.m. You may be wondering how to change that. One script for that is, “Ronnie, I need you to begin working every day from 8:00 to 5:00 beginning the first of the month. Do you have any questions?”

Then deal with the “yeah, but” by leading the worker to a proper conclusion. “Yeah, but I have to drop the kids off to school.”

“Okay, so what can you do about that?”

“There’s nothing I can do about that because I have to do it that way.”

“I am sorry that there is nothing you can do about it, but our business requires us to be available to our customers from 8:00 to 5:00 and that means your job requires you to be here between 8:00 and 5:00. I know we have had other arrangements in the past, but we’re changing that. So are you sure there’s nothing you can do about it?”

And yes, the bottom line is whether the person chooses to conform to the job so they can continue on the team or not. It’s not you being hard, mean, or unreasonable. It is about you legislating what the worker needs to do. They may want to work from 3:00 to 11:00, but what they need is a good paycheck and job security, and that means they need to work from 8:00 to 5:00 so the business can do what it needs to do, which is acquire and retain customers.

What if you don’t need to be available to customers from 8:00 to 5:00, but can accommodate the worker’s request to work from 8:30 to 5:00? Change the hours if you wish. But it is up to the leader to legislate hours. Workers don’t get to choose when they want to work. The leader must decide and then legislate. You can have the most perfect worker in the world on your team, but if they aren’t present when you need them, then they are a zero and the team suffers.

Getting workers to work at appropriate times is the first test of the leader. If you can’t do that, you will be unable to direct them in other ways. The way you get them there is simple. We have a job from 8:00 until 5:00, Monday through Friday. I understand you would prefer to work from 3:00 until 8:00 a.m.; but I don’t have a job that meets that schedule. Would you be interested in the job we have?

Next month we will discuss other areas where the leader must legislate.

Tom Crouser is principal of Crouser & Associates, Inc., 4710 Chimney Drive, Charleston, WV 25302, 304/965-7100. You may reach Tom at And check out the unique business opportunity for small press printers offered by CPrint International at Follow Tom weekdays on Twitter at This article is available as a podcast at and from iTunes.