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Archive for January, 2012

Who Is Your Company’s Role Model?

Friday, January 27th, 2012

In business, the best companies often become great by learning from other companies. It’s not crime to steal inspiration on how to run your organization from business leaders and companies that have been successful. For some, that might be the likes of GE’s Jack Welch or Apple under the direction of Steve Jobs; for others, it might be fellow GAWDA distributors and suppliers who serve as inspiration.

When I talked with Norco CEO Jim Kissler recently, he talked about how the Boise, Idaho-based distributor has gained inspiration from other companies within and outside of the industry. “When we were planning one of our fill locations, we traveled to the industry to learn as much as we could,” he says. In turn, Kissler has welcomed industry members to learn from Norco. “It’s the smartest and brightest operators who come here. They put their egos aside and learn by networking within the industry,” he adds.

Outside of the industry, Norco drew inspiration from Shopko and a local hospital for the design of its central warehouse. The results are a one-of-a-kind warehouse that you won’t find anywhere else in the gases and welding industry…at least not yet—maybe this will serve as inspiration for another company. You can get a look inside Norco’s central warehouse in the latest GAWDA Member Profile and in the video below.

Interestingly, Kissler himself was named a “CEO of Influence” by the Idaho Business Review last year. Even the great ones learn from somewhere, and perhaps the ability to give credit where credit is due is part of being great.

Who or what inspires your company? What successful businesses have served as a model for your processes? Share by leaving a comment or send me a message on Twitter to @GasWeldEdge.

Take a look behind the scenes of Norco’s amazing warehouse:

Can “Dirty Jobs” Clean Up Welding’s Image?

Tuesday, January 24th, 2012

The welder shortage has been well documented within the industry, but does the average American know the opportunities that exist for welders? My guess is far more people know of the need for nurses or for science and math educators. Estimates are that there will be 238,000 new and replacement jobs in welding, welding engineering and related fields by 2019. In 2009, maybe, that seemed a long ways off; but now that it’s 2012, are we any better off?

GAWDA members are doing their part, as evidenced by photos of hundreds of students engaged by distributors in “The Image Of Our Industry.” The challenge that distributors and suppliers face is reaching out beyond the industry—beyond the welding labs and Vo-Techs, where the message has already reached—and reaching students who aren’t sold on welding and other skilled jobs as promising career paths.

Thanks to several sources on Twitter and Facebook, I came across this video of Dirty Jobs’ Mike Rowe testifying before the U.S. Senate on the need for skilled workers. He points out how disconnected we have become from the trades behind everyday conveniences like indoor plumbing, air conditioning, bridges and so forth. “I believe that we need a national PR campaign for skilled labor,” says Rowe, “something that addresses the widening skills gap head on and reconnects the country with the most important part of our workforce.”

Why care? The livelihood of the gases and welding supply business is only a small part. As you know, the country’s infrastructure—everything from transportation to energy—relies on skilled welders. To illustrate this, Rowe talks about the construction of a power plant that could not move forward due to lack of qualified welders. Some have criticized the rejection of the proposed Keystone XL project, which was projected by TransCanada to create thousands of jobs. But with a shortage of qualified welders across the country, how much pipe welding business would distributors really have had to look forward to?

Short of a national PR campaign, GAWDA members have an opportunity to drive change in their local communities. Distributors and suppliers have access to an incredible network of end-users, schools and manufacturers with resources for change. How can you reach young people about the message of welding? Share by leaving a comment or send me a message on Twitter to @GasWeldEdge.

When you have a few minutes, take a listen to what Mike Rowe had to say. It’s well worth the watch.

Dale Carnegie For The Digital Age

Monday, January 16th, 2012

Do traditional selling methods hold up in today’s technological world? I happened to catch yesterday’s episode of Sunday Morning, which revisited the teachings of one of the icons of selling, Dale Carnegie. Carnegie is famous for his “good guy” approach to sales—influencing people through kindness. One of the interesting questions raised by Sunday Morning is how Carnegie’s teachings translate to a technological age, where selling can be done through email.

How do you take one of Carnegie’s principles such as “Smile.” and use it in an email? Peter Handal, CEO of Dale Carnegie & Associates, answers, “You can choose words that communicate. It takes longer.” You might write in your email, for example, “I’m having a great day, I hope you are, too.”

Last week, I received a business email that said “Tx” instead of “Thanks” or “Thank you.” It’s such a simple thing—and on the surface, the meaning is the same—but I winced at the sight of “Tx.” I immediately felt as though I was an interruption. It can be hard—we are all busy. But Handal is right. It takes more time to write out a personal message, but it pays off. Consider it an investment.

When all is said and done, Carnegie’s message comes down to relationships. If you build a personal relationship and become genuinely interested in your customers, be it through email, over the phone or face to face, they will want to buy from you.

So do Carnegie’s principles hold up with today’s methods of communication? If anything, I’d say Carnegie’s ideas are more relevant today than they were in the 1930s. With email, texting and everything else, it’s easy to forget about developing personal relationships. (Interestingly, Carnegie’s book was recently re-released as How To Win Friends And Influence People In The Digital Age to address new technology—and was met with scathing reviews, so you may want to stick with the original.)

Sunday Morning also asks, why do so many people (8 million so far) pay so much (almost $2,000) for Carnegie’s popular course, only to learn such a simple lesson as the Golden Rule? Handal says, “It’s common sense. The difference is it’s not common practice.”

My question for you is this: In your experience, how can you create a personal connection online?

You can watch the Sunday Morning broadcast below or read the transcript here.

The Year Of The Business Tablet

Tuesday, January 10th, 2012
O.E. Meyer sales reps on the iPad

O.E. Meyer sales reps on the iPad

It could be said that 2011 was the Year of the Tablet. From the iPad2 to the Kindle Fire (and everything in between), tablets took the world by storm, even penetrating into the business world. Distributors found tablets useful as an on-the-go sales tool, and companies like Sandusky, Ohio-based O.E. Meyer Co. outfitted their sales forces with iPads. Meanwhile several suppliers have developed apps and special websites that can be used with tablets.

So what technology will make the biggest impact in 2012? With the Consumer Electronics Show kicking off today and running through the week, we may get a look at some of the game-changing technology that’s on the way. However, it will most likely be a year or two before new technologies work their way from Las Vegas to the consumer market and ultimately into the business world.

A recent study suggests that tablets could have another big year in 2012, as iPads and other devices grow ever more relevant in the business world. The NPD group reports that 73 percent of small and medium sized business (those with fewer than 1,000 employees) have plans to purchase tablets over the next 12 months. Even companies with fewer than 50 employees intend to spend an average of $1,912 on tablets this year. That number increases drastically as company size grows, with 50-to-200-employee firms looking to spend over $10,000 on tablet technology.

“How can tablets help a gases and welding distributor?” you ask? “It’s enabled our salespeople to be more self-sufficient, and it’s taken a load off of our inside personnel,” says Eric Wood, O.E. Meyer Co. regional vice president of sales. According to a study from Frost & Sullivan, the number one aim among businesses using iPads is increased employee productivity, followed by reduced paperwork and increased revenue.

Have you looked at tablets at your business? Is it worth the investment?

My Resolution For 2012

Thursday, January 5th, 2012

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Setting goals is an important part of any business. Last year, I stated that my New Year’s resolution was to become better connected to GAWDA members. As I wrote, “I’m not interested in boosting my followers and connections for the sheer sake of numbers—my hope is to build a network that represents the voice of the industry, to bounce questions off of and to generate discussions.”

A year later, I feel that I have made progress on this continuous goal. One of the most rewarding experiences for me was attending the Spring Management Conference in Tampa and having people who I’d never met in person recognize me from my blog, LinkedIn or Twitter, or recall a phone conversation we’d had months before. Over time, many of these connections, online or over the phone, have turned into personal relationships.

Connecting with GAWDA members has helped me know what issues GAWDA members care about (To those of you reading this, I’m listening, if you have any topics you’d like to see us explore). And I hope, as a result, it has helped us create value for GAWDA members.

As far as the latter part of my goal, to generate discussions, I can see the voice of GAWDA getting louder every day. Several articles, particularly those in our On The Edge feature, have drummed up lively discussions. For me, the highlight was the conversation that followed as a result of an article about sales territories vs. market segmentation. It’s great to hear from people on both sides of the issue.

This year, I am setting a new goal, to learn the gases and welding industry in greater depth, to become more familiar with the products and services that distributors sell.  Like last year’s goal, this is a continuous goal. I’ve spoken with 50-year veterans of the industry who say they learn something new every day. This year, I’m making a concerted effort to keep learning. Any advice?

With that in mind, what is your resolution for 2012?