Sunday, December 12, 2010

Employee Input Or In The Catfish Line

“It takes a great man to be a good listener.” ~ Calvin Coolidge

There is no question in my mind that listening to your employees is almost as important as listening to your customers. Time and again, I see entrepreneurs underestimate the value of their employees’ opinions. Many times, entrepreneurs think they are the only ones who know how to improve their business, and it never even occurs to them to ask their staff how they might make it better.

Ignoring your staff is equivalent to a physician ignoring a patient’s concerns. In both cases, valuable information is lost and major damage can be done.

There is a neat company called King Arthur’s Tools. The company is run by Arthur and Pamela Aveling, who in the interests of fair disclosure, are also my good friends and clients of the Jim Moran Institute for more than 12 years.

King Arthur’s sells woodworking tools to both distributors and hobbyists. They either buy or manufacture to their specifications the various components of these tools. When an order is received, a packing slip is generated and sent to the warehouse, where most of the packing is handled by Warehouse Manager Henry Williams. A very loyal and hardworking employee, Henry has been with King Arthur’s for more than three years.

At one of King Arthur’s retreats, the staff was working on the company’s core values. After much discussion, Arthur asked Henry if he could think of anything that could improve his operation. Without hesitation, Henry said that he would like to have cards made identifying him as the one who packed the goods. He thought doing so would reduce the rate of error.

Everyone agreed that this would be a neat idea, and Henry and the staff got to work making the cards the very next day. They came up with three versions. Each version had a different message on it, but all of them included Henry’s picture and the phrase, “Packed with care by Henry.” The three alternate messages were as follows:
1. It was my pleasure assembling your order, and I hope you enjoy using your King Arthur’s tools on your project.
2. Your order was packed with care by Henry. Thank you.
3. King Arthur’s Tools loves to see what customers make with their tools. Post your photos on Facebook.

The response to these cards has been overwhelming. So many customers have commented on how much they liked them and what a neat concept it was. Many customers even called to thank Henry personally for their order.

The cost of implementing this idea was minimal, but the value was considerable. It improved the company’s relationship with their customers and made Henry feel good about what he is doing. It all came about because Arthur and Pamela Aveling were willing to listen to their staff.

Now go out and make sure that you are listening to both your customers and your employees. The best way to get input from your employees is simply to ask for it. Ask your staff if there is anything they think the company can do better. Even if some do not have something to contribute, they’ll know you welcome their input, which is invaluable.

You can do this!

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