Archive for January, 2011

New Year, Same Recession

Thursday, January 27th, 2011 - By Brandt De Vries

Happy 2011 everyone. It has been a busier new year thus far, and I am very grateful for that. It has been a long recession and an even longer recovery process, but it seems to be moving foward. Talking with our customers, it seems as though a lot of manufacturers are picking up larger orders on a more consistant basis. That is, at least here in Chicago. How about everyone else around the U.S.—what is everyone experiencing? Leave some comments because I am curious to hear what everyone thinks.

In my experience it is always a good idea to be listening to your customers and salespeople to get a feel on how the economy is progressing. Especially now as our country’s economic model is broken and, although we are taking baby steps to a recovery, we are taking even smaller steps to fix it as a whole. I’m a Chicago Cubs fan though, which means I am inherently optimistic and I am excited to see what this coming year holds for us as a company. So Happy Belated New Year everyone!

Why Milk Is In The Back Left

Wednesday, January 26th, 2011 - By Abydee Butler

Snow storm hysteria manages to lure everyone across America into local grocery stores for two snowed-in essentials:  milk and bread.  Why these two basics have become frenzy fundamentals I will never know, but I do know why they are placed where they are in the grocery store.  Think about your trip to the store for milk.  Pretend that single carton is the only reason you’re visiting the store.  Is it conveniently placed in the front to simplify your trip?  No.  Instead, it’s all the way in the back left, serving as the bait to pull you through the entire store.  On your way back to the milk section, you pick up five other things not originally on your list.  Bingo—you have just been duped by the science of shopping.

Shopping psychology is a phenomenon that is applied to nearly every industry involved in retail.  Trust me; it is not a coincidence that every kid’s cereal is placed at the exact same level as the child’s seat in the shopping cart.  The basics of retail science, to some industries, are old news.  The entire industry of ‘convenience stores,’ for example, is focused around the ability to compete with big grocery stores, and provide basics, such as milk, to shoppers quickly.  Yet how many industrial gas supply and welding stores do we know that were designed with these retail techniques in mind?

Recently, we redesigned our largest retail location to follow the systems of shopping psychology.  In addition to increasing retail sales, the goal of the process is to boost the conversion rate—that is, of the people who enter the store as shoppers, how many actually leave as buyers?  And for those who leave as buyers, how can we elevate the number of line items purchased?

Having a focus on retail psychology does not mean that our store needs to look like Nordstrom to increase sales.  Better understanding of why some people buy and why others do not can help in any industry.  Over the years, perhaps shopping-savvy has been a bit too pretty to labor in the spotlight of industrial commerce.  Perhaps all industries just need a little retail tlc.

Fellowship In The Field Of Battle

Monday, January 24th, 2011 - By Ryan Morton

As of last week, I attended my first AWS meeting (American Welding Society). It was a delightful new experience and hopefully the first of many to follow. The atmosphere was perhaps the most interesting portion of the event. There are not many industries out there where you are able to engage in a friendly dinner conversation amongst your competitors, whom you compete with day in and day out. I met with many of our suppliers as well as competitors in the area and participated in a fellowship of sorts. I find it very intriguing that we in the welding and gas industry can set aside our livelihoods for an evening to learn from one another. It in fact demonstrates something about the people in this industry—an industry built with leaders that are characterized by benevolence matched with rivalry.

Feel free to share insights from your past experiences with this type of encounter or to comment on my experience.

Effective Communication…An Art?

Wednesday, January 12th, 2011 - By Ryan Morton

Customer satisfaction is crucial for any distributor, and I recently reread a book that reminded me of a wonderful philosophy. The book is entitled “Verbal Judo,” and written by Dr. George Thompson. I first came across the book in a concealed handgun course, where my instructor recommended it. I found the book’s main premise to be communicating through empathy.  Empathy is defined as “the intellectual identification with or vicarious experiencing of the feelings, thoughts, or attitudes of another.” Throughout the book, George uses various past experiences to communicate how to use empathy in day-to-day situations. He has invented an entire system to help with the teaching of his own philosophy, “Verbal Judo.”

I was certainly enthusiastic when I recently stumbled across this book in my closet. It is a great reminder of how to communicate with others on a regular basis. Many people in the business realm do not realize the need for continued improvement in communication skills; Dr. Thompson is a professional in the category of effective communication.

In my day-to-day interactions with customers and coworkers alike, I have to remind myself the importance of an effective communication system. Empathy is a great way to help communication in both of these instances. If you can put yourself in the other person’s shoes, so to speak, you can gain a greater understanding of the issue at hand.

Overall, “Verbal Judo” is a wonderful book that highlights effective communication as an art. The book’s philosophy has contributed to my overall progress as a communicator and I would highly recommend the book to anyone wanting to enhance their communication skills.

New Year’s News On The Toilet Paper…

Tuesday, January 4th, 2011 - By Abydee Butler
Butler Gas' The Toilet Paper
Butler Gas’ The Toilet Paper. Click on the image to enlarge.

Although I have never been a huge fan of fabricating New Year’s Resolutions, I do believe in creating opportunities for clean slate and fresh starts.  What better time than the beginning of a new year to implement major organizational change.

Here at Butler Gas Products, we are ringing in the New Year with a new organizational chart, a few new hires, and a revamped Action Plan for reaching our business goals in 2011.  On the internal marketing side, it has been my responsibility to communicate these changes and expectations for improvement throughout our organization.  With the tremendous help of our passionate team of Vice Presidents, we are well on our way.

Of course, implementation success is not found in the message itself, but often how the message is delivered.  Less than ten percent of what we communicate is actually in the words themselves.  Studies say that fifty five percent is communicated through body language and thirty eight percent through tone of voice.  I guess that means you and I are only working with seven percent here.

Anyways, it is a daily challenge to select the mode or the medium of communication that will work best for our bunch.  One recent wacky idea of ours was to release an internal publication called The Toilet Paper.  Naturally, this newsletter is mounted in a frame on the wall where it can be seen by all- the restroom.  I release a new edition of The Toilet Paper each month; it includes articles like the “C.I. Corner” where Sandy Gobrish, our champion of Continuous Improvement, writes a column each month about what our C.I. teams have in progress.  This month’s edition of The Toilet Paper mostly talks about our exciting changes for the New Year, including explanations of the methods behind the madness of our new organizational structure.  If you’re ever in the Pittsburgh area, I encourage you all to make a pit stop and read the news.  :)