Archive for August, 2010

The Balancing Act of Life

August 26, 2010 by Machel

School has started for your kids, and you.  Now what?  Juggling home, school, family, and work can be a daunting task.  But if you keep focused and stay on point, it is possible.

For the last 7 (yes seven) years I have been attending school while managing 2 kids (3 if you count my husband) and work.  I could not have done it without the support of my family and friends.

The hardest part for me has been worrying about what I wasn’t doing.  When I was with my family I was thinking about school, when I was at school I was thinking about work or what I needed to do at home.  Being a multi-tasker by nature, it was difficult to remember that I was only human.  Some days it was like working 3 full-time jobs, and only getting paid for 1.

Being organized and setting a schedule is the key.  It helped us quite a bit to sit down at the beginning of each week and go over the schedule for the family, figure out menus and shopping, and making sure the clothes the kids needed were ready at the beginning of the week and not trying to do laundry at 2 a.m. (although that has happened).  I’m not saying you should be a schedule Nazi, be flexible.  Also, start teaching the kids to do their own laundry.  Their spouses will appreciate that at a later date.

I’m hoping all this hard work will teach my kids to finish what you start.  My poor daughter doesn’t even remember me not going to school.  I feel it is important to show them that education, especially now, is vitally important to their success.  A lot of companies won’t even look at you unless you have graduated college with some kind of degree.

If you are lucky enough to work for a company that values education, take advantage of it.  Setpoint has been great to work with my ever changing schedule.  I know my family and Setpoint will be glad when I am done.  Of course, I will be ecstatic to remove a full-time unpaid job.

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There’s No Room for Guessing in Sales

August 19, 2010 by Clark

My goal as a sales professional is to ensure the following three things happen with each of my clients on every project or job we do for them:

  1. Help my clients be successful
  2. Provide them with a solution that exactly meets their needs
  3. Make sure there are “no surprises” at the end of the project

Open and honest communication between me and my clients is the most important thing required to ensure each of these three things happen.

Over the past 3-4 years I have been following a sales process developed by Mahan Khalsa, who is a very successful sales consultant and has developed proven techniques that allow sales professionals to meet these three goals outlined above.  The whole premise behind the success of Mahan’s techniques is “No Guessing.”

Clients naturally want to be successful.  So in order for me to help them accomplish whatever it is they think they need to accomplish to be successful, I need to know a lot about their issues and results they are hoping to solve or realize by hiring my company.  That way my company can come up with whatever it is that may help them succeed.

In most initial sales calls, sales people want to brag about how great their company or products are because they generally have limited amount of time to be in front of the customer to try and convince them that what they have or do is better than everyone else in the world.

I go into sales calls with potential and or existing clients, with a totally different mindset.  Number one, I assume that they already know enough about my company to even get a face to face meeting in the first place.  So spending time over selling myself and my company is a waste of time.  After all, they just want to know how much, how long it will take and how much they will make if they spend money with my company, right?

So what I focus on is right out of the Mahan “No Guessing” training.  I never assume I know what the client’s needs are, and I never assume I have a solution that will exactly meet their needs until I’ve asked the customer a pile of questions.  Each question I ask is centered around finding out what issues they hope to solve or what results they hope to be able to realize.  Through this question and answer process with the customer, we eliminate incorrect assumptions or guessing and actually find out from the customer themselves what exactly they are dealing with.  You can also ask the customer what they have too little of or not enough of.

The more we know about a client’s needs the better chance we have of providing a solution that exactly meets their needs.  If the client seems hesitant to provide you with information specific to their needs or issues, you can easily stop and let them know that all you are trying to do is find a way to help them be successful, provide a solution that exactly meets their needs and ensure that there are no surprises down the road if they choose to move forward with your company.

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What it means to be a Setpoint Strategic Partner

August 12, 2010 by Setpoint

By John Lennox-Gentle – L-GA

For many years we at Lennox-Gentle Automation in Golden, Colorado, have held a special relationship with Setpoint Systems of Ogden, Utah, we are a proud Setpoint Systems Strategic Partner.

In our Strategic Partner role we assist Setpoint during their “capacity shortage” periods by providing the Lennox-Gentle Automation teams engineering and manufacturing expertise at special “trade” rates.  This synergistic relationship has certainly profited Lennox-Gentle Automation, and we hope it has also profited Setpoint.

From our first meeting with Setpoint, many years ago we have been impressed with the Setpoint Systems philosophy.  This philosophy sprang from a vision laid out by the Setpoint founding partners.  It is a simple yet profoundly effective outlook.  They just maintain an “open and honest” relationship with their employees, associates, vendors and most important, their customers.   I hail from the “old school” of management which taught us “tell your people (staff and customers) nothing but good news or you will loose them” so the first “open” step I took was more of a “leap of faith” for me.   I threw all cares aside and engaged the Lennox-Gentle Automation team in the Setpoint “open” policy.

My first cautious step was made easier by my main contact with Setpoint, my “Project Manager”, my “Mentor”, and now my dear friend, Roger Thomas.  Roger, with his avuncular attitude, genial manner and inherent wit, places his personal stamp on the relationships he develops with his people, his vendors and his customers.  Rogers’ honesty is contagious, and each member of his team has the same “tell me the full scoop, no filters, no holding back” attitude.  Roger is the epitome of “open”.  Not just by his “open” policy, but also by his “full frontal”, “show it how it is”, “open toga” policy of true, honest project reporting, “pimples, warts and all”.

Working with Roger, Clark, Bob, Ken, John, Scott, Steve, Joe and the rest of the Setpoint team is a joy for us.  Each of their attitudes naturally promotes the entire team to get involved, and this combined energy is focused on the fight with the delinquent project issues, rather than in, the other company, who lull each other into a false sense of accomplishment or security.

I know that Roger and the Setpoint team has our six, they have proved it time and again, and I am sure they know that we have theirs.  We hold no project “secrets”, we share all the project problems, as well as the project progress with the entire Project Team.  (The “Project Team” being the L-GA and Setpoint project staff, company staff, vendors and most important, project customers).

I have now modeled my company on the Setpoint, “open” policy.  I recently remodeled my engineering offices by knocking down all the office physical and psychological walls and was pleasantly surprised how this has positively affected the Lennox-Gentle Automation team morale.

The team members can hear each of the other members’ project interaction with vendors, other team players and customers.  Now there is no need for any “pat each other on the back” meetings, and the progress and “status” meetings have shortened from hours to minutes because of this “open office” and “open policy”.  Team communication is almost subliminal.  We inherently know each others problems so we can be immediately ready to assist with their resolution.

Being a Setpoint Strategic partner means much more to us than sharing a mountain range, albeit when visiting us the Setpoint team retains an odd sense of “direction” as their mountains are in the East.  It is sharing the project responsibilities, sharing the project pains and project glories with a trusted companion who is as eager as you are in bringing it to a successful conclusion.

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Financial Management is the Same Big or Small

August 5, 2010 by Joe Knight

Setpoint Systems is a small automation manufacturing company with revenues raging from 5 million to 25 million annually. Setpoint has always been able to grow to the projects it has. We have learned to flex with the opportunity. In the new work world much of what companies’ do is through outsourcing. Setpoint had always been able to find a way to do that. The other challenge for a small manufacturing business like Setpoint is to keep the cash flowing. In today’s world it is nearly impossible to get financing if you are a small business.

I am the CFO of Setpoint and when I am not at Setpoint I am on the road training people on how to read finance. I have a book published called Financial Intelligence that outlines how to read financial statements and is representative of my training approach. I have done or am currently training companies like General Dynamics, General Motors, Metlife, Visa, Electronic Arts (EA), NBC, and Boeing.

In my experience with these large Fortune 500 companies, I have realized that the issues that these large companies deal with are very similar to the problems we face at Setpoint. One of my clients is that small company called General Electric (GE). As I was struggling at Setpoint to stay cash positive and not exceed our limited credit line on a major project, I was training at GE (I do the finance segment of their MDC, Management Development Course, at their Crotonville training campus.) As I was presenting information on the cash flow statement this last year, an attendee from GE capital talked about how she recently was unable to get funding for a $50 million credit line requested by a borrower. When she called the GE treasury department for the funds they said we are out of funds. With the commercial paper market collapsing, we do not have the liquidity to provide the funds for the credit line. As I heard this I remember thinking this sounds like the problems I am having at Setpoint trying to make payroll. Of course, we always do find a way to make payroll and GE found a way to work around the collapsing commercial paper market as successful companies do. But what was interesting to me was that our problems with cash were similar. GE has over $150 billion in revenue and Setpoint has around $10 million.

Later in that same session, another attendee said that his business was a project based business. He said that during this last year GE management required that all projects must remain cash positive. This means that customers must provide funding up front for GE projects during this same cash crunch period. As I heard this student talk about this issue, I remembered a week earlier telling my team at Setpoint that given the lack of credit out there from now on all contracts had to be completely funded by the customer. I smiled as I thought about how similar my problems were to GE. Now as GE is losing revenue, they are learning more and more how to access the contractor approach for growth just like Setpoint is.

What I have learned by working at Setpoint and watching the struggles of large Fortune 500 companies is that business is the same no matter the size. It doesn’t matter if you are the biggest company in the world or a small sole proprietor. You need to figure out how the make a profit and generate cash if you are to stay in business. GE has been doing that for nearly 100 years. At Setpoint we are approaching nearly 20 years with a lot of good years to come.

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