The following story is based upon multiple assignments. Names, locations, and other facts have been changed. As such, any similarity to any one business or person is coincidental.
Larry, a Delaware printer, called me last Friday and was surprised when I answered. He had read my offers to chat, but didn’t really believe them. Nonetheless, he told me of his self-diagnosed problem: he couldn’t find time to sell. Let’s see if you agree with my take on his real issue.
Larry had just cut his staff to five; two workers, himself, his wife, and father. Previously, there were eight and a half people doing $500,000 in sales. That’s a very low $59,000 in sales per employee (SPE). A couple years prior, he borrowed $100,000 to keep the business afloat. That’s dwindled away now.
The big challenge, as he saw it, was the sales drop, which is not unusual. What was unusual was the reason: he moved four years ago to be closer to home. And while he planned to do a lot of selling in the new location, he mainly fiddled with ideas on how to market and sell without actually doing them.
To free Larry up for his sales efforts, his wife “ran the shop,” but she doesn’t oversee production. Fact is, no one does. That falls to the press operator who is a “disruptive force” and has few to no people skills.
Oh yes, it wasn’t Larry’s idea to cut people. Rather, that came from the wife and father. Larry’s plan was to really begin selling this time. His call to me was to get me to agree with the plan.
Here’s My Take
The one key employee not performing is Larry. He reminded me of Steven Covey’s story in the “Seven Habits of Effective People” about the farmer who realizes in September that he forgot to plant in the spring. So, he tries to rush Mother Nature’s process with exhortations and overtime, which never works that well.
Larry fiddled while Rome burned. Instead of reducing staff when he had time, he waited until the cash was so low he had no other choice. Instead of selling when he had time, he played marketing. It’s late in the game now.
His first task is to get to a net cash positive, or at least neutral, situation and then sell. That requires budgeting and organizing. Lucky for him, there are ways that can be effective in even the smallest of shops, but that begins with organizing Larry’s time.
In short, he must make time to sell—not find it. That’s accomplished by organizing what he does into time blocks and dedicating time to selling.
Say it can’t be done in a small shop? Sure it can. Begin by asking why one can’t sell three mornings a week. As obstacles are uncovered, handle them.
In other assignments, I found a printer who had to be in the shop to price certain jobs. That was solved by simplifying pricing and training the wife to do it.
In another, the college student who did deliveries needed the owner’s car from 10:00 a.m. until 2:00 p.m., keeping the owner from going out. Why? The student wanted to work then. He was replaced with another student who would work the hours needed.
In another case, the CSR worked from 5:00 a.m. to 1:00 p.m. because that’s what he wanted. Seriously; I’m not making any of this up. This was solved with a simple statement, “Joe, beginning the first of the month I need you to work from 8:00 a.m. to 5:00 p.m. Any questions?” Point is: organize around functions, not people.
Once done, progress can be made. But I don’t know if Larry is up to it. He’s put up with the attitude of the press operator for years. He’s fiddled with marketing without selling anything to anyone.
I also got the impression Larry didn’t like what I said. Nonetheless, I hope he gets help. Otherwise, the business will crash and burn because Larry needs help in making changes.