The Podcast

Today I record Creating Structure Podcast #2. I will be hosting a discussion with Michael Kohler, PMP, Branch Office Leader for Wheaton & Sprague Engineering, Inc. (WSE.) The topic of discussion will be the Glass and Glazing industry, delegated design and engineering, the professional services perspective, and a look at current and future trends. It should be a good one. Mike started in the business in the early 1980’s. He’s been a VP of Technical Services for Tremco and also had a high level position with Sherwin Williams. We started in the business together at PPG, so we go way back. Mike leads WSE’s largest office and interacts with a large staff and client base daily. He also has worked nationally and internationally so he brings an interesting perspective. Podcast #2 will be posted next week.

Podcast #1 has 40 downloads to date. I’m really pleased about that. Thanks for all the support. You can find us on Buzzsprout, our primary platform, and also on Apple Podcasts, Spotify, Deezer, Podchaser, Podcast Addict and more; most of the major platforms. We broadcast from a studio in my corporate office.

Look soon for a YouTube Channel for WSE as well. We will post audio and video versions of the podcast there, as well as other relevant content from our niche space and perspective.

Make it a great day and thanks for reading.

Leadership is….

Leadership is as leadership does. We need to model and “be” the example of what we expect to see for those we have the privilege to lead or influence.

Want accountability? Be accountable

Want engagement? Be engaged

Want better communication? Communicate

Want more quality, schedule adherence, shipping on time, reliability, client sensitivity, (fill in the blank), then BE that thing. Model those qualities. Lack a skill or capability? Hire to it. Define clarity to that person and position; “I am not good at “X” so I need you to be that for me.” Either way, model integrity. Model reliability.

Then we may expect it, and we can drive to accountability from those around us.

Remember, we are all growing. We are all a work in progress. We are all a bit scarred and “cracked pots.” Truth and grace are good combinations.

We get what we work for.

Instagram: Inbound Marketing and Sales

The email I received from my Development and Communications Coordinator, which came through our “Contact Us” location on our Website said:

“Good afternoon, I actually chat sometimes with John Wheaton on Instagram. I have been following the work closely when photos are posted on IG; the scope looks like you might be able to help my company with a current NYC custom curtain wall project. The project is (project address removed for blog purposes), and we not only have to provide the curtain wall but we own the design and installation of waterproofing behind the glazing. I was wondering if Wheaton & Sprague could provide pricing to consult on waterproofing for this job. Please let me know who to send preliminary shop drawings and arch info to. Note that this is a very time sensitive project. Thank you.”

This is an example of “inbound marketing.” In other words, it came to us; we didn’t go outbound to generate the lead directly. It was the product of RELATIONSHIP BUILDING. It is also an example of how leads and RFP’s (requests for proposals) are generated via social media.

So how do I actually get leads for real sales from Instagram; how does this work?” Here’s a few pointers, experiences, and examples.

  • Posting is an act of “creating awareness.” It brings visibility. Keep posting.
  • Engage with the people who follow; follow them back; thank them for comments. Send DM’s. Have a conversation.
  • Keep posts consistent and organic. We must be true to our DNA, passion, interests, realities. No need to try to contrive ideas. Just post. Post interests, projects, comments, use hashtags
  • Put the company website link in the bio of the IG profile
  • Have a personal and a company IG profile
  • Call out the company in the personal posts. If you don’t have a company, or “you are the company” then put your blog or personal website link in the bio
  • Create a unique hashtag around your brand. Ours is #creatingstructure
  • Connect with as many people and companies in your space as you can; especially with those that are active.

When people tell you that social media marketing doesn’t work for business; it doesn’t work in professional services; it doesn’t return an ROI; that they can’t afford a social media support person, etc., etc., just smile and nod. Keep posting. You get to become the lead generator; the engaged one; the relationship builder in multiple platforms. But IG and Social is not the answer alone. It’s just ONE Answer. One means. It should be just another manifestation of an outward focus; an outward seeking mentality; a passionate desire to connect on many levels with people, with their businesses, and their needs. And remember, it only takes one lead, one proposal, one sale, one referral, to reinforce the importance. I can’t tell you how many leads we’ve gotten from social media platforms.

Be present. Be engaged. Create more content than consumed. Listen to the community. It works.

COVID19 RULES

Since we are going to be in this environment indefinitely, here’s some things we’ve learned along the way and some observations on managing a professional services business in this reality.

Lead with care First: Health and wellness for clients and staff is #1. It always has been, but even more so now. Care 1st.

Over-Communicate: This is almost always true, but again, more so now. We always THINK we are communicating enough, or appropriately, but that’s rarely the case. Take nothing for granted. Communicate often, and with clarity, by any means necessary.

Get the 1-1 level: Check in at the 1-1 level with everyone that reports to you. Set up new reporting and accountability structures to accommodate the need to be “agile and nimble” in making sure no one is lost in the fray each day.

Virtual meetings: Make generous use of virtual meetings. I prefer MS TEAMS for internal meetings, WebEx for external meetings. TEAMS is a big value for driving engagement.

Office Environment: Make a safe space of beauty somewhere; make it invitational. We did so with our porch and the ability to eat, greet, meet outside through summer and into autumn.

Financials: Share the state of the business with everyone. Make it relevant to their space and contribution

New Sales, Marketing Progress, Project acquisition: Bang the drum loudly. Celebrate wins with everyone in the organization or in our respective domains (depending on size of company)

That’s all for today. I could go on and on but these are at the top of my mind.

Share your observations, insights and feedback. The more we share successes, the better we all will be. There’s enough of the “pie” to go around for everyone.

Post Project Meetings – Defining Experience

Post project review meetings are arguably the most important project and team meetings in an organization (and a required SOP now at my company) since it defines lessons learned; what we did well, what we did not, how we can improve. It helps identify “the experience” of the team and the client. It’s ALL about the client’s “experience.” The team’s experience is equally important  (client experience is only as good as the team experience and service to each other)

There’s many hotels, restaurants, auto dealers, contractors, engineering firms, professional services corps, ALL TOUTING the SAME THING.

Which one’s do you like to frequent and write checks to? Those with whom you have a positive experience or a negative experience ? Positive experience (gratitude, smiles, fair price, great value, delivering on what has been promised) means repeat business and growth.

Post project reviews are necessary for company and professional advancement.

All progress starts by telling the truth. These meetings are great truth revealers and tellers. We learn and grow through doing, celebrating wins, and fixing problems.

Customer Experience

It was the jeans that triggered it.

You see, they were the exact same jeans that I had on as I walked into the store. The same jeans I bought there 6 months ago. And I love these jeans.

So the pair I grabbed off the shelf, the exact same color, size, make, model, when I pulled them on, they didn’t fit over my thighs in the dressing room. What? I double checked the size and shape. No difference.

“Perhaps they aren’t marked correctly, I said to myself.”

So I asked the sales attendant if he can help. I ask if I’ve made a mistake.

“Nope, he says. This happens all the time. You see we recommend you grab 3 or 4 pair at a time when you’re trying them on. They’re made in like, 50 or 60 different countries so you never know what you are going to get.”

Great response. Glad you don’t sell for me.

He’s doing a poor job at customer experience management and selling. Plus, he’s saying that they aren’t making jeans with consistent size patterns based on the country where they are assembled. Either way, both the salesperson and the manufacturer are doing a terrible job of designing experience. No thank you. I don’t expect to have to grab 3 or 4 pair of jeans to see if one or more of them, the exact same size, actually fit. I don’t care what country they are made in or what their supply chain logistics look like. Once I find a pair of jeans that works, I expect they will all be close to the same size EVERY TIME. I don’t want to play “roll-the-jeans-dice.”

This company is providing a negative and inconsistent experience when it comes to sales, and product QA/QC.

I quickly placed the jeans back on the shelf and slipped quietly out of the store. I wasn’t in the mood to manage my shopping experience through trial and error.

So what about your company? What about my company? I know different clients can have different experiences even though they all are “shopping” at our place, in different offices, and different ends of the building. How consistent of an experience am I creating? How am I making it easy on the client? How are my colleagues and people representing our services to buyers, prospective clients, and observers? Do our people know what to say and how to say it? Have they been trained in the “why of our business?” Is our product the same EVERY SINGLE TIME?

Even in professional services it’s not uncommon for clients who’ve had a negative experience to quietly slip away; to place the jeans on the shelf and never return. Do everything possible to prevent this from happening.

 

 

Sometimes it Seems Random

It was 7 or 8 years ago. I was cranking out decent miles on a trail run. I heard his footsteps approaching while leaning into a hill. He was stride for stride but not passing. I sensed this might be an unusual experience for him, but I didn’t like to get passed on my runs; stupid I know, but it’s a part of me; a throwback to my competitive running days. He finally pulled up next to me and we started to talk. (It’s a “runner thing.”) He had relocated here from Arizona. His wife’s family lived in town and she wanted to be closer to them while raising their kids. He took up running as an adult. He did triathlon’s as well. We cruised through 7:30 miles for the rest of the run and had some fun getting to know each other. We talked throughout. He was in fund-raising, business development, lead generation. I was in the business of engineering and construction. I sensed some connection between us.

Fast forward to present; just a few days ago in fact. My fatigue and the cold air led me to the local Starbucks this particular morning. And there HE was at the front of the line. The same guy. He reached out and said, “Hey do you have time for a visit?” I said, “Yeah for as long as it takes to get my drink.” (I was in a rush.) He rolled his eyes, pulled me to the front of the line, and said “Tell me what you want to drink.” Obviously he meant business. He wanted to talk.

Let’s rewind; two weeks ago.

He had emailed me via LinkedIn asking if I’d ever thought about employing a business development professional to advocate our business, open doors, and build relationships (yes, of course.) I’d asked him why, and questioned if he was still in his present job. He informed me that he was. He was looking to the future and to more possibilities.

Rewind again, this time to a month or two ago. We “randomly” cross paths (again.) This time it was just outside the trail entrance on the road. He was running and I was finishing a power walk. He’d recently started training again. I jumped in with him for a bit. It was totally spontaneous. He talked about his most recent position as a business developer for a General Contracting firm. I knew where he was working through our LinkedIn connection, and through his messaging from time to time. He mentioned how he’d helped to increase the GC’s bid opportunities from $2.5M to $12M.

I’d lost track of him before this, between the initial run on the trail and now, except for an occasional encounter at the grocery store, on social media, or around town at random. Now our paths seemed to be continuing to cross. I know more about his background because every time he changed jobs, he let me know. Every time he changed he got closer and closer to what I do; the business of engineering, design and construction. He’d been in fund-raising for a non-profit,  development for a college engineering department, and one prior construction company gig; business development, people stuff, talking, finding a fit, opening doors, designing connectivity; this is what he loves. It’s who he is. It’s a lot of who I am as well, but CEO duties in a growing organization make it harder and harder to build 1-1 relationships myself unless they are very specific and have high potential in scaled opportunities.

My quick encounter at Starbucks turned out to be a 20 minute conversation while I finished my mocha and he drank his coffee. He talked about his goals. We discussed my business. We talked about roles, philosophies, his and my approach to client and business development. Back and forth, back and forth.

I find it more than “random” that I bumped into him at Starbucks. I find it more than random that our paths have gently crossed over the years. I find it not random. People encounters are unique. They aren’t always planned and aren’t typically scripted. It’s important to take notice when recurring themes and people continue to present themselves. This got my attention. I wasn’t looking for it. I didn’t plan it. I was just going about my daily business. There’s a message for me in this perhaps, regardless of what it is or what I do with it.

We never know what relationship or interaction may turn out to be something of significance. Something that changes the way we think; the way we view life; how we interact. I am not sure yet what will happen from this. I’m still reflecting.

Sometimes strategy is planned and initiative. Sometimes is spontaneous and reactive; “opportunistic.” It’s important to watch, to listen, to stop for a moment, to reflect on what might really be happening; to decide what we want to do with it.

Policy and Common Sense

“That’s our policy sir, I can’t give you access to that information”

“But I have the “information.” I’m giving you the information; line and verse.”

“Right but you are not the person who owns the account so I can not give any more information”

“But I have the information and the money to reconcile the issue associated with the information; right now. I’m trying to pay online and you’ve listed the account as “closed.” I’m trying to get it reconciled. Can you “re-open it” so I can pay? Here’s the balance and the account information.”

“No I’m sorry sir. There’s nothing I can do. I can’t give any more information about the account or balance.”

“BUT I HAVE THE ACCOUNT OPEN AND I AM READING YOU THE BALANCE! How about you make the change on the account website (flip the switch) so I can pay it right this second?”

“I’m sorry sir, that’s against our policy. The account timed out and so it has to be handled another way. I know you want to pay the account balance but I can’t facilitate that. Again, that’s our policy.”

“Ah. So then you don’t want your money. Legalities and bureaucracy is more important.”

Policy. People. Common Sense (or lack thereof)

Policy is good. It’s supposed to safeguard people and companies; create process; manage risk. Mitigate fraud. I get it. Create policy.

But policy can get in the way. It can be counter-productive.

If policy isn’t making sense; if it’s preventing the very thing you are trying to accomplish or facilitate; if it’s getting in the way of something good and productive, then policy needs to be modified. (Isn’t that why there are managers?)

The thing that is sometimes lost in the interaction is that we are working with people, not policy. We shouldn’t be a slave to policy. We should use it as a guide, an important reference, a sensible context, but not as a strict manifesto, unable to be modified regardless of the circumstance.

People, and “doing the right things,” are more important than policy. Remember that in situations that are on the edges or outside the boundaries.