Lucky's Blog

Thursday, April 12, 2018

It’s In The Bag

It’s In The Bag

The other day my wife was telling me about an experience she had at the grocery store. She was checking out and noticed the special attention the bag boy was paying to her weekly purchases. She went on to tell me that he was very considerate in the way he took the time to organize the contents, keeping the cold products together, not bagging the bread or eggs under something heavy, etc. We all know that some of this is just plain common sense; however she went on to point out that he didn’t mix any of the cleaning chemicals with the food bags, and kept the chips from being crushed into bits. He also took the time to make sure that the bags were not overloaded or too heavy, just a little extra on his part went a long way with my wife.

My wife made it a point to tell the bag boy what a great job he did. He was very thankful and said he had just started there. My wife, being the person she is, went over to the manager to let him know what a fantastic job the bag boy did. The manager thanked her, then walked over and complimented the new hire on a job well done. Then to her surprise, that manager told her that he was going to hold a meeting with all of the bagging personnel to make sure that everyone understood the process this new employee had used, and to make it store policy from that point forward.

There are so many lessons to be learned here:

The importance of customer feedback: As I have explained in multiple articles, you have to know what your customers are thinking. You also need to react and modify your procedures to promote the best possible customer experience.

Catching your team members doing something right:  The manager could have easily waited to say something to the bag boy, or even overlooked such a compliment. But he didn’t! He stopped what he was doing and went right over to compliment him.

The power of NOW:  The manager made it a point to change standard procedure right then to enhance the customer experience. There was no waiting around, submitting ideas, waiting for approvals. He implemented something that had a direct effect on the customer without hesitation, a man after my own heart.

I am pleased to say for the record this was a Publix supermarket. Publix has a reputation for great customer service and this is why. They empower their managers to make decisions that directly affect the customer experience and help the bottom line. (No, I do not own any stock in Publix; in fact I don’t even have any friends or family that work there. I just believe in giving recognition where it is due.)

Everyone can learn from this story. It is not necessarily the big promotional events and advertising that makes the difference. It’s not always about the lowest price! The real difference is in the small things that you do for your customer to make them feel special and let them know you care. My father always told me that, “anything worth doing is worth doing right”. Luckily for Publix, this bag boy understood that also, and made a difference to a major corporation. While most people would think of a bag boy as a position of low importance, the fact is that anyone can make a difference, and you need to instill a culture where everyone can contribute to the best practices of your company. You need to immediately compliment your team when they do something right and you need to use the power of NOW. Why? 

Because, if you do, the rest will be in the bag!

Thursday, April 5, 2018

How Do You Eat An Elephant?

Overwhelmed? In this article I wanted to talk about just that, being overwhelmed. One of the most common questions I get asked is, “How are you able to do everything you do?” While it comes down to two major principles, one, knowing how to say no, and two, having good time management skills, that doesn’t mean I don’t get overwhelmed. Even the best-laid plans can lead to frustration or the feeling of being overwhelmed. Let me explain.

Many years ago I started with a new company and I was given two separate jobs to oversee as a Project Manager. They were roughly 100 miles apart and both jobs were already in the red and had customers and team members that were very upset. One of the jobs in particular was a complete mess. The job had a total of six phases and overall was very complex. The job was roughly 40% done on the first phase but had already spent over 80% of the entire budget for all six phases. On Monday, my first day on the job, I was verbally assaulted by the management team of the customer, as well as the superintendent for our company and several of our foremen. Apparently, the previous manager’s way to deal with being over budget was to not order any more material or equipment. This caused everyone on site to become frustrated. To make things even worse, the previous manager never reported anything in his projections to the main office about the fact that this project was going to lose money.

So my first step was to call our construction manager and let him know the condition of the project. His name was Jim, and as I was explaining to him what was going on he asked me, “Why do you think the job will run over budget?” I told him that it doesn’t take a CPA to figure out that if we are only 40% done with phase one and we have already spent 80% of the total budget, this job was going to lose money! His next question was how do I know that we are only 40% done with the first phase? Slightly offended, I started reading off my resume to him, and told him, based off the years I had in the trade I could assure him that we were about 40% done with phase one. He then said, “About? Before you told me we were 40%. So, which is it? 40% or about 40%?”

Nothing but silence filled the air. Before I could speak again, Jim spoke up and told me he wasn’t trying to be difficult. However, before we go to the President and tell him the job is going to lose money we need more than gray hair and guts as evidence. I didn’t know it then, but this was going to be my first lesson in being a quantitative manager and not an emotional manager, a skill that would be extremely beneficial over the remainder of my career.

After a job site visit on that Thursday from Jim he agreed we were in a pickle, to say the least. He then told me he wanted me to do a complete take-off of the entire job, what has been installed and what has yet to be installed. Then he wanted me to meet him in the main office at 7:00 AM on Monday. We would review the takeoff, compare it against what had been spent to date, and put together a revised projection of where this job would finish based on my takeoff.  Finally, once we had completed a full evaluation of the current condition of the project, we would meet with the president of the company and inform him about the bad news. Are you kidding me, I thought to myself! It is 3:00 PM on Thursday and you want me to do an entire take-off a 6MM dollar project that has six different phases and is highly complex?  Oh yeah, and then after my first week at the company, you want me to sit in front of the president of the company and tell him that this job is going lose millions of dollars? Again, this was all said on the inside. After biting my tongue, I explained to Jim I didn’t think I would be able to get an accurate take-off together that quickly. I further explained that I hadn’t even wrapped my head around the entire scope of work we were performing, not to mention review the contract, outstanding purchase orders, etc, etc, etc.  Jim patted me on the back and said relax and take a deep breath Lucky. I have faith in you that you can get this done on time.

 Jim affirmed it was an extremely complex project with a lot of moving parts, but then he asked me, “Lucky, how do you eat an elephant?” I stared at him completely baffled. Jim smiled and said if you look at an elephant it is quite intimidating. If someone said you had to eat an elephant, your first thought would be there is no way to complete such a task! I wouldn’t even know where to start. So Jim asked again, “How do you eat an elephant? One bite at a time.”

Over the years I can still picture myself standing in the parking lot listening to Jim asking me that question. In today’s world, it is so easy to become overwhelmed. What with smartphones and computers we are always connected to our stressful environments. The ironic part is that we can still feel all alone in the battle. Many times it is easy to feel like you are on an island all by yourself. However, remember that you are rarely alone, and there are people that can help.

One of the main reasons people get overwhelmed is because they are too afraid, or too proud to ask for help. You need to remember your position is not unique and that many others have been in your position before, they had to learn how to handle those exact same problems. No one is born with total knowledge. If someone is in a leadership position, there is no doubt they made mistakes and had to learn how to do what they now make look so easy. Ask them for help. Asking for help is not a sign of weakness, but the total opposite. Asking for help shows that you have the strength and confidence to say I don’t know how to get this accomplished.

When you find yourself becoming overwhelmed, the best action you can take is to break down what needs to be done into small bite-sized pieces. In the movie “What About Bob” (hilarious), they refer to this as ‘baby steps’, but either term is correct. The next time you are feeling overwhelmed, just stop, take a deep breath, and break down the tasks into small bite-sized pieces, because in the end… How do you eat an elephant? One bite at a time!