BY JANET SOUTH
Each January DECO Coatings begins Q1 with a revitalized marketing plan that sets the tone for the entire upcoming year. Integrating our fiscal goals with the marketing department is always part math, part magic. And as everyone knows, you have to spend money to make money as a business, so the path to building a strong brand ain't cheap!
So what is the first thing we do when evaluating our business as a whole and deciding how we want to expand and improve in the coming year? Where we put our time and money is where we are going to grow, so instead of just continuing 2018 in line with how we focused 2017 we answer three steadfast questions...
I am providing you a template at the end of this blog for you to work from. In the meantime, here are real world examples from our company to illustrate the concepts we use clearly.
1. What were our biggest on-the-job successes and failures?
This is not just about lessons learned, but rather a very specific look at where we shined/failed and why? Has our new heavy machinery reduced a significant amount of time on the job? Did the new service we started offering bring in more business?
It was hard to choose what DECO's best job performance in 2017 but the winner was our two 28,000 lb filtration tanks. Why? Because it pushed us past our comfort zone, requiring special camaraderie and team building. DECO had to utilize and maximize internal management and operations collaboration. We had regular conference calls with stakeholders from across the US to discuss progress, pictures, and challenges. We had onsite visits to plant operations from across the US for inspections. Our 40T crane was utilized to support multiple operations. The delivery schedule was brutal with precision time line goals but working with a national team was an incredible experience for our crews.
For those in construction, note: Without practicing our LEAN training, it is doubtful the delivery schedule could have been achieved. Safety is our first and foremost concern on any jobsite and LEAN has been a key factor in integrating safety into our company culture. LEAN embraces team work and valuable input from innovation to process improvement. And our customers greatly benefit: DECO returned 9% to the stakeholders on the second tank due to process improvement LEAN technology (yes, we are LEAN certified).
What was our biggest job failure? It was the small job “fillers”! Since they are small it is easy to assume, "compared to the large jobs these are on autopilot."
Things that categorize a job failure in our industry
· Excessive re-work
· Inadequate processes
· Poor labor production
The small jobs checked each of these bad boxes. Since we have been in business for over 25 years, we know what to look for and have the experience that protects us from actual job failures. However, that doesn’t mean that problems don’t arise constantly; it simply means that we have a very large tool box and exact diagnosis for coating failures.
Small jobs require planning and team collaboration the same as large jobs. Even though those processes take less time, they are still actual costs that must be included in the bid. Even a big job broken into much smaller pieces which requires additional mobilizations is a game changer for pricing.
Time is of the essence; not just on deadlines, but specifically reaction times. A remedy may be a small tweak or halting production to implement a more effective process. DECO takes immense pride operating in pro-active mode; however, a 911 emergency remedy to a reactive customer is no small matter. We are excellent when it comes to moving the reactive to pro-active.
2. How will we capitalize on our strengths this year?
People first. The people who make up a company, determine its quality and strength. We have an employee who came from a very challenging background without a lot of hope for a future with a skilled trade. Since starting with us, he has increased his income by 39% by continuing his education and specialized training and seizing leadership opportunities through programs DECO Coatings offers to all employees. In order to grow, a business must constantly re-evaluate employee engagement, process improvement and customer needs.
Secondly, marketing. How are we going to delegate our dollars this year? Wherever we want to grow, that's where we inject money. So for example, one of our strengths is that we are now fully capable with the capacity to take on federal contracts and are expanding our services further in to the national playing field. Equally important in developing relationships also means we will need to put money into campaigns targeting these types of online searches and try to get organically found on the first page of searches with our industry keywords. We take this to the marketing team in LA that handles everything for us, and work with them on a game plan that gets us real results that translate into dollars. This past year, our business took a huge step up in growth, thanks to dedicating real focus in our online presence and working hand in hand with an actual marketing team that does the work for us so we can focus on our company day-today.
3. Is there any business we need to let go of?
We grade our customers. We seek to do business with those who have likeminded goals and business practices. Do any of your customers cause you too much grief? Let them go!
If we have a customer and their main goal is to see how cheap they can get each service, it is not a good match. We are best value, not cheapest price. It is not uncommon for us to be approached with the lowest price in hand from a customer/stakeholder with them saying, “you can have the job for this price”. No, we won't do the work for “that price”.
The cheapest price ends up being the most expensive cost. This is a statement I stand firmly by, in my industry. Even though another company may bid lower, careful analysis of the detailed scope of work paints a different picture when it comes to meeting schedule deadlines, specifications, and quality to stakeholder expectations. So for a customer who wants to save that extra dollar, we learned to let them go, as it is going to cause more grief and frustrations to both them and our company.
Each year brings new tech developments, new customer needs, and bigger project opportunities. So how do we decide how we want to grow in the new year?
We had two management goals for 2017…we accomplished three…
One goal was to earn the SSPC QP3 Certification. We did it! With that under our belt, DECO is leveraged to apply and install a broader range of higher level sophisticated coatings.
Secondly, we wanted to become HUBZone Certified. We are officially certified.
Thirdly, we wanted to launch and delve deeper into the federal marketplace. We accomplished that by seeking out formal training and consulting with the people who could guide us in the correct way. Check, check, and check!
Had we not set these goals in writing at the beginning of last year, they surely would have gotten pushed to the back. But by sticking to the “Next-Year-This-Year Plan” we were able to continue growth and marketing with clear intention and follow-through. Business ebbs and flows, and no matter if you are in the specialty coatings trade or high fashion, basic business practices all require a well thought out plan that is a living, breathing...thing.
Now go forth and seize Q1! Q4 will thank you later. :-)