July 15, 2024

You’re the Boss: The Comment That Changed My Business

Staying Alive

Last week I wrote about what I’ve learned from blogging — including the useful feedback it has brought. Of all the comments I’ve received, one stands out because I followed the advice and it has made a large difference in our shop. It came from John, and it was left on a post called “I Know I’m Doing This Wrong.” Here’s John’s comment:

How about a short get-together on a regular basis. No one sits down. Everyone gets a couple of minutes to talk, ask questions, rant. The Boss, too. No personal attacks. That gives you a chance to share your problems or concerns. Perhaps opening of the day. Perhaps midmorning break, perhaps over lunch. Perhaps a combination.

When I say I followed the advice, what I mean is that I kind of followed some of the advice. John’s meeting sounded a little more confrontational than we would need, but I liked the idea of a short, regular meeting where anyone could speak.

In the first 24 years of our existence, we had never had regular meetings. If we got everyone together, it meant that there was some kind of trouble, most likely to be addressed with a harangue from the bosses. These sessions were, in my experience, a good way for management to blow off steam, but they rarely had a long-term effect.

John’s comment made me think about the nature of our shop communications. They were intermittent, inconsistent, and incoherent. We had no way of making sure that information passed to everyone. If people had good ideas, they either kept them to themselves, or they might pass them to one or two other people. We needed a way to coordinate our work, so that everyone knew the best way to do his own job and to make sure he wasn’t creating problems in subsequent steps. I also wanted to introduce the basic financial parameters to everyone. The employees had no knowledge of the financial side of the business. I wanted them to understand the connection between sales, what happened on the shop floor, and cash flow.

John’s comment prodded me to get something going. I decided that a once-a-week get together with a consistent agenda would be a good place to start. So we began meeting on Monday mornings at 9:00. I bring donuts for everyone. (Pavlovian conditioning.) Here’s what we talk about:

First, we review the sales from the previous week, and our backlog. I tell them whether we need overtime or not. I then cover cash flow (money in, money out, net for the week, and net year to date.) Next comes a cash flow forecast for the coming week and a discussion of any unusual spending (machine purchases, big credit card bills, etc.) We review our build and ship schedules. Then the floor is opened to anyone who wants to talk about any subject. We usually have one or two things to discuss, generally technical issues. Solutions get decided then and there, and everyone knows the final decision. The meeting lasts from 20 minutes to half an hour. Cabinet makers are not chatty people, so comments tend to be short and to the point.

The meeting has been a good thing to do. Having everyone on the same page with regard to technical and scheduling issues has been extremely useful. During our recent reviews, I asked everyone whether I should keep up with the financial information. They all wanted to continue with it. Several remarked that they had had no idea how much it cost to run the business. It’s been a huge relief to me to share the numbers. Now everyone has a good idea of what mistakes cost us and how their efforts to increase production contribute to our success.

Next: The Worst Comments

Paul Downs founded Paul Downs Cabinetmakers in 1986. It is based outside of Philadelphia.

Article source: http://feeds.nytimes.com/click.phdo?i=c6c8fc82fc2c97d9b38291f154ab9908

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