October 16, 2007

Finding Time to Run a Glass Business

By Paul Bieber

At last week’s Grand Rapids trade show, during my presentation on working with your glass vendors, I discussed one piece of a road map. “Take time ahead of an annual meeting with your key vendor to study what you are buying, talk to your receiving department, the finance department and your sales group. There are basic questions to see if your vendor is treating you well. (These points were discussed at the seminar, and are free to our readers, just drop me an e-mail at paulbaseball@msn.com).

The actual vendor meeting should be about an hour long, and the prep time should be 4 to 5 hours.

A hand rose up from the back, (there were actually people sitting in back AND front), and Patti Lampl, an industry consultant specializing in personnel in the glass industry, asked the Chevrolet question of the day. “If this set-up, the actual meeting, and the follow through take up about ten hours, and you work with multiple vendors, you then loose a lot of time to actually do the work!”

I was silent for a few seconds, and the only answer I could give her was a one syllable phrase “YES”. Someone in the audience blurted out, sure If we do all this purchasing by the book, then we won’t have time to sell.

One of the toughest decisions any manager/owner has to make is how to use his/her time. And yes, emergencies can arise, snow and high winds change every body’s plans, but let’s set a starting point with time.

Here is an agenda for a single owner, 4-6 installers, 1 shop person, a bookkeeper and and counter person.

The owner should spend 50% of his/her time directly with customers, getting new work, confirming work, following up at job-sites where you already have work. 10% hiring and training workers. If you have low-turnover, they your training should be top notch! 10% running the business of the glass business, working with vendors, the phone company, meetings with your insurance advisor,etc. The last usable 10% should be working to grow the business for the future. This includes attending trade shows, learning from your peers, studying trade magazines and web sites.

I would place the purchasing annual meeting in this zone of life. What can you and the partnership of your vendor be doing in the future. If the meeting is just who’s got the lowest price…take a step back. Remember, your key vendor is the one that has your philosophies and if needed, you would be glad to work there. You may have two or three key vendors, one for auto glass, one for aluminum and one for flat glass. This 10% cut of time isn’t for today’s problems, it focuses on next month opportunities.

The last 10% is time for you and your family. A week or two of vacation, and a couple of days here and there for you to learn, attending trade shows, getting in-depth tour of a vendor’s facility. (how many have actually seen glass made at a floater)? Maybe a two-day course in how to use a computer to help you make your shower door drawings.

Everyone in business has a struggle in filling their time usage dance-card. I strongly recommend that you do create and actively use your time to learn from and work with your vendors.