By Bill & Chris Sitter
One of the absolutely essential keys to business survival and long-term success is the ability of leaders at all levels to solve problems. Sure, this seems obvious enough but how many departments, divisions or even whole companies spend more time discussing and complaining about problems than they do attacking, solving, or working around obstacles for survival and success. Business journals are full of reports of CEOs who got credit for turning around major corporations. As exciting as these one man or one woman turnaround testimonies may be, we know that true and lasting success is the result of the cumulative actions of dedicated problem solvers; women and men who “invest” their time and effort into improving their team and their organization, whether an AED dealer, a manufacturer supplier or an industry service firm. Let’s look at a few basic problem solving scenarios; they may not be glamorous but they are all difference makers:
- I recall when a Senior Mechanic showed me (Bill) as a former AED dealer branch manager, where our facilities were seriously leaking energy. The cost saving step was simple… insulate… but the leak had been there for 20 years, until he cared enough to problem solve.
- Consider a dedicated Used Equipment Manager who works with the Service Department to ensure that a trade-in does not get overloaded with repair work that throws the resale price and profitability picture out of balance.
- How about the Parts Manager who takes extra time to train his/her team how to sell consumables, as a service to the customers and an added source of revenue.
- We once visited a small OEM member of AED and were impressed by a Lead Machinist who stopped his CEO (while we were touring the plant) to present an assembly line modification aimed at saving time and money, allowing them to be cost competitive to imports and regain market share.
- Reflect on a Field Sales Manager who stresses true consultative selling techniques, so the salesforce is more apt to be viewed as “partners” by their customers, as they are guided to the best equipment purchase, rent and/or rebuild solutions for their projects. Win-win solutions build long term business friendships and will result in an increased “share of wallet” for the dealership.
- A final example is the Department or Division Manager who, instead of complaining about the business cycle, is always seeking new market niches and/or new allied product lines that will meet customer needs and enhance the bottom line.
You’re probably at the point of saying: OKAY, we agree… practical problem solvers are needed at every level in our enterprise. So what do we do to add these impact players? Glad you asked. Here are a few ideas:
- Look first, inside your company, to identify people who are already demonstrating that they care and they want to be part of the solution and not part of the problem. Do something good to reinforce this type of positive behavior – reward or promote – and use their example to encourage more people to be problem solvers.
- As you hire new managers or employees at all levels, seek doers and not just talkers who look good and have slick answers to interview questions. Probe candidates, and their references, to see if he/she has demonstrated the ability to solve practical business problems. Get examples that can be validated.
- Articulate to your entire organization that genuine problem solvers will be acknowledged, rewarded and/or promoted. Stress the team approach versus the “I did it all” attitude and shape a culture that embraces positive change.
Final Thoughts: When it comes right down to “it”, managers at every level – from CEOs to supervisors – are hired to solve problems, both big and small. With this in view, every potential new hire, every performance review and every evaluation for promotion should place major emphasis on his/her ability to be proactive doers and practical business problem solvers. This directive is easier said than done. However, if leaders will place a high priority on hiring, rewarding and promoting women and men who embrace problems as exciting challenges, and take personal satisfaction in finding solutions, they will be building a team that can help ensure the long-term success of the enterprise. We hope these thoughts are provocative and that they encourage dealers and manufacturers to “Hire the Best”!