2. Same goes for e-mail.
3. Better yet, create specific times to read and deal with e-mail; at that time, read them - and then leave it alone.
4. Look around your office, your conference room, your waiting area. Are they clean? Well lit? Comfortable? Painted recently? No? Well, that’s easy. Clean them, light them, paint them and find some decent chairs!
5. How’s the Web site doing? Does it look like a hodgepodge? Can someone easily navigate it? Does each and every page have your logo, your phone number, your e-mail, etc?
6. Logos - do you have one? Maybe you have 14 versions of one or the one you have looks tired. Have a company contest; get customers involved. Award dinner for two to whomever comes up with the best new (or improved) logo.
7. Get rid of all the old logos. Off the trucks, the uniforms, the letterhead, business cards.
8. Rethink your gift giving. Do your customers really buy from you because you give them free pens? Or because you take them to the White Sox games? Very few gifts encourage more spending or loyalty.
9. When you stop the gift giving, think about what productive things you can do with that budget. Give the customers something they really want. That usually involves pricing or service.
10. What do your customers want? There’s one way to find out. Ask them. Call them, invite them over, send them a survey.
11. While you’re at it, find out what they don’t want (or need). Maybe weekly deliveries are fine. Do they like morning or afternoon?
12. Payment. This is one that slips by. How do they want to pay? By check? By credit card? On an account with a monthly bill?
13. Think creatively - maybe it is time to create some kind of flat billing program, just like the utility companies.
14. What tools do your employees want to do their job better? Run the numbers - if the software program or the Blackberry or ?? pays for itself in freeing up sales folks’ time, it is a good investment.
15. Pay for performance. Most people understand and respond to this. Seniority really has no role here. You produce - you get paid more. Set up something that is clear, simple and rewards performance.
16. Incentives. This is over and above pay for performance. If your goal is to crack a new industry, the right incentives will get your sales guys out there beating down the doors.
17. Computer training. Everyone. Now.
18. Sales training. Inside and outside sales.
19. Marketing training.
20. Operations training. All the warehouse people.
21. Human Resources - training gets tied to annual reviews and goals. Let your people know they can upgrade their skills and advance in the company.
22. Discipline - warehouses are notoriously loose. And sales teams are even looser. The company needs simple rules. And everybody has to abide by them.
23. Inventory - dump all that stuff that has more than a half an inch of dirt on it. I don’t care how much it is supposedly worth. It is taking up expensive real estate.
24. Now that you’ve cleared out the really old crap, move on to the pretty old crap. It hasn’t moved in five years? Gone.
25. We’re on a roll now. Get all the obsolete stuff out of your computers and off of your Web site like it was never here.
26. There’s still more work to do. If it were up to me, I would trash everything that hadn’t moved in a year. But I will compromise. For product that has sat for longer than a year, cut the inventory level in half.
27. A year from now, dump the other half (mark your calendar).
28. Track your inventory. Print monthly reports. Understand your fast, medium and slow movers. Restock accordingly.
29. Look at all that new space. Do something smart with it. A new product line? A demonstration area?
30. China: Start developing relationships now.
31. China: Only order fast movers in volume to start.
32. Be sure to segregate overseas materials from domestic.
33. Use color coding for different material, different areas, in the warehouse.
34. Trim down your U.S. vendor list.
35. Buy more from fewer. Get some buying power.
36. Assess vendors on the basis of product quality, pricing and speed of delivery.
37. Do more with less. Try a Lean Program somewhere in your operation.
38. Outsource that stuff you don’t like to do - or don’t know how to do.
39. Find a good accountant, a good trainer, a good IT guy …
40. Get to really know your key customers and deliver what they want. Always try to sell them more.
41. It is all about quality. Quality of service, quality of product, quality of the sales call, quality of the ‘experience.’
42. Take one of those no e-mail/no phone hours and think about the future at least once a week. Where could you get totally surprised? Where is the next big market going to be?
43. Have a strategic planning meeting with your VPs and an outside consultant once a month. Make the future real by scoping out steps to get there.
44. Rethink your communications. Do you have a newsletter? Does anyone read it? Do you have any way of knowing?
45. Phones - who answers? How do they answer? What happens after hours? Can customers get answers when they need them?
46. Never stop thinking about services. Your customer can buy pipe from just about anyone; he comes to you for completely different reasons.
47. Be careful with pricing. Lowering prices may get the sale, but it also creates an expectation that prices will always be lowered.
48. Take a tour around the warehouse, around the inside sales desks, go out on some sales calls - watch your people doing their jobs at least once a quarter. You will see things very differently than from behind your desk.
49. Take the plunge - hire a consultant. They too see things very differently - and that view can be very valuable.
50. Have FUN. This is the best part of running your own business - you get to decide your future.