March 24, 2008

How the Glass Business is Like The Start of the Baseball Season

By Paul Bieber

Thirty teams start playing ball about now. It is the start of the season, last year is forgotten (unless you are a Mets fan), and everyone’s batting average is the same. There are fresh faces to learn and seasoned pros handing down the secrets of their success. Everyone cheers on opening day, every team has a chance at the World Series (this year it will be Red Sox and Mets–trust me) and players and teams have a clean slate.

Can you start your glass business over, wiping the slate clean? Yes.

You can build a new enthusiasm with your employees and your customers which will translate to a higher level of success…here’s how!

There will be some small amount of pain here, just like working out after a winter of hangin’ around. Look at your customer list and change the terms on customers that pay later than 90 days. Change them to 1/3 with the order, 1/3 as you begin the job, and 1/3 at completion. Look at your small dollar and high maintenance accounts. Let’s pick $200 as a cutoff, and all orders less than your cutoff point must be COD. You don’t have the time to create an invoice, make three phone calls to check on payment, and be happy when the customer pays at 75 days, and takes a discount.

If you don’t take credit cards, now is the time to start. Tell your customers that they can put their deposit on a card, and you will bill the final amount after the service is performed.

Also look at your small accounts to see, even if they pay promptly, if you are losing money. No matter how you slice it, sending a man and a truck to someone’s home to repair a garage door window costs more than you are billing! Look at your minimum service charge…is it at least $75 in the center of the country, and at least $95 on either coast?

Now is the time to steer your company towards a niche. What do you enjoy doing, and can make a profit on? Shift your advertising towards this area of the business.

Look at your vendor lists. Every business in America has too many vendors. Begin to wean yourself off of most of the small vendors, even if you pay 5% more on your small purchases, you’ll save in bookkeeping and transactional costs.

Go to your problem child employee. Sit down and explain that this is the start of baseball season, and last year is history. Give them a clean slate to start, whether on attendance or anything else. Give them a pep talk, that you want them to keep playing on your team, but now they have to step up to the plate and perform. You can’t lose. If they perform you have a good employee. If they don’t, send them to the minor leagues, away from your business, and go out and hire a free agent that wants to be on your team!

The single most important thing in your business, just like baseball, is attitude. Make yours happy and proud to be in the glass business. Your employees will mirror this and you and them will become better for it.