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When Cloning Sheep Just Isn't Enough

Becoming the CEO: When Cloning Sheep Just Isn’t Enough

Chris Ballard FamilyA few weeks ago, I had the rare opportunity to visit Disneyland with my siblings – just my siblings.  I didn’t bring my spouse or children it was just me and my brothers and sisters visiting the happiest place on earth.  For those who know me, you’re aware that I’m a self-proclaimed workaholic who only gets this opportunity once every ten years or so.  For this reason, I decided to mentally go on this trip with my body…  I just re-read that last sentence and it sounds a little strange, so I’ll illustrate what I mean…

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Finding Value in Change

Frankly Speaking: Finding Value in Change

Change is inevitable and is something that all businesses will experience. Choosing whether this experience is a proactive or reactive change depends on how you approach the subject as a company.

In my experience, companies that embrace change the best start with a clear set of Core Values. These companies also tend to be the most successful. Core Values need to have both the companies and its associates best interests in mind. Key Core Values often include topics such as Ownership, Empowerment, Growth, Communication, Culture, Work and Home Balance.

Ownership – Begins with the owner’s personal commitment and an owner/associate shared mindset driven by pride in the company and what it represents.

Empowerment – One of the strongest drivers of change, is empowering the associates and opening the doors to innovative thinking. Innovative thinking is critical in growth.

Growth – Growth is most often found after empowering associates to be both creative and willing to take on some sort of change. Growth, utilizing empowerment, creates new projects, which in-turn, creates “buy-in”, resulting in a positive behavioral change in the company. Repetitive, positive change promotes growth.

Communication – Clear, precise, incoming, and outgoing communication is necessary in business. Leadership must have an “open door” to allow information to flow throughout the company. It is important to communicate and to listen to feedback of any form. There are many ways of providing or receiving this communication, such as e-mail, phone, in person, etc. Choosing which form of communication to use will vary by the messages importance and audience.

Culture – Culture within a company is created and modeled by its leadership. It creates a mind-set of what is or is not acceptable. Leadership must be a shining example of respect and they must portray what the company stands for. Setting a positive culture will create a healthy morale, engaged employees, and positive reputation within the community.  

Work and Home Balance – Associates in most cases work to take care of their families. Think about this for a moment. Have you ever met an employee that had a family, so they can work? Showing that you care about your associates will give your company’s culture a healthy boost. As a best practice, within reason, be sensitive to the fact that the associates need to balance work and home. Both are important in their lives.

To experience growth thru positive change, leadership’s ability to interact with associates is always vital. The company’s Core Values must be shared and upheld to create an environment that welcomes change. Celebrate as a company when a change is met with positive results. When failure occurs, learn from it as a company and invite innovation into the mix. There are associates out there that have untapped abilities and they may know the path to success. The question is… Are you listening?

Becoming the CEO: Transitioning from follower to leader

Becoming the CEO: Knowing You Have What It Takes

When you choose to make the jump from employee to owner – will you have what it takes?  In Astronaut lingo, will you have the “right stuff”?  And what is the “right stuff” anyways?  How will you know if you do or don’t have it – and does it really matter as long as you have some stuff?!? Read more

Outsourcing Yourself: A Key to Growth

Becoming the CEO: Outsourcing Yourself – A Key To Growth

Those who cannot remember the past are condemned to repeat it“Those who cannot remember the past are condemned to repeat it.”1

CEO’s are just as human as the people we employ.  Even so, there are lessons we learn as an employee that should stick, but sometimes get lost along the path.  Years ago, I managed a team of employees whose job it was to distribute collateral across a world-wide organization.  I had grown the team from 3 to 7 employees in the space of a year.  It had been a great year and my annual performance review reflected my growth.  Within it however was one bump in the road that I needed to improve upon in the coming year.  At the time, I was in charge of a marketing print & fulfillment budget of around $2M, and my Director had requested that I sharpen my cost-control and accountability skills to show an improved ROI this next year.

 

How was I going to sharpen my accounting skills and apply them within the 12 month window to show my progress?  How was I going to run a growing team with growing responsibilities and needs, without losing momentum?  Budgets were tightening and I needed to figure it out quickly.

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Frankly Speaking: Customer Service and the Power of Social Media

Frankly Speaking: Customer Service and the Power of Social Media

Anyone who works with the consumer whether it be retail, restaurants, or other services at some point will experience an upset customer.  What might happen if you (or an employee) simply shrugged your shoulders and said, “oh well.”?  While non-confrontation is almost always the right course to take, we all know that it’s not that simple.  In this day and age, that scenario would be no-where close to being over. How you respond and how quickly you handle any situation can be costly!

We’ve all been taught that customer service should always our priority.  But, do we always follow that rule?  Where does customer service end?  At the register? At the parking lot? Truth is – It never ends.  Your customers go home and review their experiences on business websites and social media to their friends and acquaintances.    Potentially, some of those friends and acquaintances will also share this experience reaching an untold number of potential customers.  When it’s a negative review, it’s the kind of “viral” experience you don’t want.   According to Statista.com*, there are approximately 2.5 billion social media accounts in the world and nearly 78% of the population in the United States alone are using social media sites. This number is expected to exceed 200 Million by the year 2020.

 

Consumers are using their online voice to reach others, and it’s having an effect on small and large companies alike. Peers listen to each other, not the companies. Every unanswered negative review or comment is costing you money!  What’s worse, 60% of companies do not respond to negative comments.  The result is that oftentimes, the negative comment is the only comment their customers have to review.   What’s worse, 88% of customers are less likely to purchase from companies that do not respond!

 

Additional stats from Statista.com* are listed below. These are staggering!

 

Yelp:

1.1   Million reviews on Yelp

88% of consumers are influenced by reviews and customer comments

Facebook:

46% of users engage with brands

39% of users offer feedback

22% expect same day response

29% expect response within 2 hours

Twitter:

1 Million consumers view tweets about customer service every single day

80% of tweets about customer service are negative

60% of companies don’t respond to Tweets

88% of twitter customers are less likely to purchase from companies that do not respond to feedback

Companies that respond gain engagement with the customer resulting in a 20-40% increase in average ticket price over non-engaged customers

 

Jeff Bezos, the Chief Executive Officer of Amazon may have put it best when he famously said: “If you make customers unhappy in the physical world, they might each tell six friends. If you make customers unhappy on the Internet, they can each tell 6,000.”

 

In summary, one bad consumer experience is all it can take to ruin a business.  It may be necessary to go outside of normal procedures or take more time to find the right solution for a customer – but it’s worth it.  A customer’s lifetime of purchases and accolades will most likely outweigh the cost of investing in their complaint resolution.  It’s important to remember that this same customer has the power to take their issue to your business website or to social media.  With the potential for a single complaint to touch up to 6000 potential customers, a great customer service process and complaint resolution process is critical.  Respond quickly, respond positively in all areas of customer service should be our mantra.

 

Here are a few great ideas for your business:

*fast response time (Pre-select several people you trust to respond.)

*kindness & humor (Not at the consumers expense.)

*Not defensively (Apologize for whatever happened but don’t make excuses)

*Thank the customer (hopefully for their understanding and continued patronage)

*Always suggest a solution  (no suggestion = no resolution)

 

Citations/Sources:

* https://www.statista.com/statistics/278341/number-of-social-network-users-in-selected-countries/

* https://www.statista.com/topics/1164/social-networks/

* http://blog.paylane.com/jeff-bezos-on-customer-service/

Becoming the CEO : An Introduction

Becoming The CEO: A Blog Series Introduction

Welcome to the realization of the first of 5 business-related New Year’s Resolutions for 2018!

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Pacific Moves Headquarters to Accommodate Rapid Growth

In order to accommodate continued growth in 2018, Pacific moved it’s office headquarters to 18001 E Euclid Ave, Ste C, Spokane Valley, WA 99216 in October 2017.  An article written by Samantha Peone of the Spokane Journal of Business can be viewed here: https://www.spokanejournal.com/local-news/valley-printing-company-moves-into-larger-space/

The Single Most Important Factor to a Company’s Success or Failure.

Personal Disclaimer

     What follows is personal introspective insight.  It may contain thoughts or ideas that you may or may not directly agree with.  It may be controversial, but knowing myself it probably isn’t.  As a friend taught me recently, whether you agree or disagree with these thoughts isn’t as important as how you internalize these thoughts to develop your own opinion on the subject.  This piece was not written by a “ghost writer” or anyone professionally recognized for their writing prowess.  Neither am I a subject matter expert or anything like that – these are simply personal insights that I felt were valuable enough to share with you, the reader.  I randomly chose a topic based on personal inspiration and pondered on it.  Hopefully the results will be as much a value to you as they have been to me.  I hope you enjoy my thoughts on the topic and welcome your feedback, as it helps my personal and professional growth to consider the perspectives of others.  – Enjoy.

 

     Let’s start this blog with a confession… I rarely use social media for what it’s intended for – to share personal throughts, ideas, or experiences with the world at large – it simply goes against my nature to openly share them in that fashion.  That said, on September 15th I broke that rule with a Facebook post, the result of which was an entirely unexpected, almost immediate and surprisingly on-going interest in this blog’s topic…

     The Facebook post started with a simple, open-ended statement:

     “20 years working for large corporations.  10 years (well almost) as CEO of my own company.  In 30 years of combined business experience, it only hit me today what truly defines a successful company.  It’s not financials.  It’s not product.  It’s not benefits.  It’s not job title.  What makes a company great is it’s…”

     From that simple post, which only my friends could read (again, I’m not a “public” person by nature) I received 33 posts and 16 suggestions as to what makes a company great.  Only one of the 16 guesses matched mine – which intrigued me even more. Guesses that didn’t match mine were – people, partnerships, associations, integrity, accomplishments, service, customer appreciation, credibility, adaptability, team work, money, relationships, loyalty, respect, and my personal favorite – “free pizza”.

     The answer is a conglomoration of all of the above really.

     What causes a company to succeed or fail is mostly a product of it’s CULTURE.

     When you boil it down – nothing else even comes close. It’s why employees seek you out or leave you in droves. It’s why your people work with you to succeed, or jump ship at the first sign of real work. It’s what motivates employees to become better people, or sinks them deeper into employee zombie-like depression.

     Culture is what makes the difference.  It’s not a slogan, a motto, or a poster you see on a hallway wall that’s meant to inspire you – it’s not that cheesy and it’s definitely not that easy.

     As a business owner, the culture that you and your employees create, maintain, and share is the key differentiator between you and your competition.  It’s the glue that holds the organization together or the acid that rips it apart.

     As an employee, I’ve worked for several large multi-national corporations and for years I diligently served my corporate masters in numerous capacities from customer service rep to mid-level management.  I’ve prospered in organizations whose cultures were awesome and survived in a few who’s culture’s were – well, let’s just politely say “chaotic” at their best.

     A successful company’s culture is typically an actively spoken, sometimes written, but always understood agreement between employers and employees.  It’s a united we stand, divided we fall sort of understanding.  It’s one that openly communicates and actively applies certain values, beliefs, and communal goals that together we reach to achieve. The goal being to obtain and uphold a better standard of community within our organization.  It’s actively spoken and demonstrated by everyone involved – from the top to the bottom and everywhere in the middle.

     When a great culture is adopted, accepted, and lived by all – success typically follows.

     When not – it can be disasterous – for an individual, a team, or an entire enterprise.

     So there it is – the culmination of 30 years of business experience – and it all boils down to a simple word, “Culture”.  I wish that were the entirety of what I learned, I really do – but I pondered on this topic for almost 3 weeks since that initial Facebook post and as a result have lots of in-depth concepts and ideas to share…

     If you would like to learn more about my thoughts and ideas related to what makes a great culture and how to recognize one when you see it – please revisit this blog site over the next 2 weeks as I generate two more posts related to this topic. Who knows what I’ll discover next?…

     Thanks for sharing enough interest in this topic

to reach the bottom of the page!

 

Thoughtfully Yours,

Chris

The Coolest Wedding Invitation, Program and Accessories We’ve Ever Worked On…

Every now and then a printer gets the chance to create something truly unique and original…

It started out as a simple print request – a Groom’s mother reached out to us asking if we could help her produce some wedding invitation materials patterned after a Pinterest picture the Bride had found.  Seemed simple enough.  So in August 2014 we began what would be an 8 month wedding materials project that would define the event for the participants, which bridged the chasm between the print world we knew all too well and the promotional item world we knew little about.  The print and creative design side was easy, to help us in the promotional item world we enlisted the help of one of our favorite promo item professionals:  Jennifer Coffey of NBS promos, in Spokane, WA. (c: 509.230.2233)

The Bride and Groom’s mom had a great plan – the wedding was going to take place in Arizona, at a great venue and they wanted a really cool, custom built gift bag with customized items inside.  We helped them create the bag by identifying the correct size proportions and font based on the colors they’d selected and the mood they wanted to capture for their wedding.  But they also wanted to be a part of the building process, so we printed the pieces, trimmed them down, and they glued down the different parts onto over 50 bags… oh yah, and did I mention that the attendee numbers grew as we got closer to the event… (future brides, be aware as it almost always happens that way!)  Once the bag was in place, we focused on the items going into the bag, which for our part included water bottles with custom vinyl (waterproof) stickers of the newlyweds, and again turned them over to the wedding party to apply over 100 of them.  Next came the very cool “DoNot Disturb” door hanger – custom designed of course to match font, color, and feel of the event.  Following that piece, we turned our sights on creating custom artwork for neoprene can koozies – which turned out very cool and were themed after their “Save The Date” postcard.  This was followed up by their Wedding Programs and Thank You cards.

The programs were a truly unique piece.  They had selected a beautiful picture that displayed their affection for one another leading up to the wedding.  On the back, where the program was created, our in-house Graphic Designer, Jason decided to apply a pencil sketch filter to the same picture, printed on a thick, rich white linen paper, which when printed created an incredible background to the program overlay.

When all was said and done, the Bride and Groom started a wonderful life together, surrounded by friends and family who’s feedback about the bags truly made our day!

Which begs the question – how can we support your next event?

DIY Fulfillment Basics (Part 1)

Fulfillment Basics (Part 1)

Pacific’s Do-It-Yourself (DIY) fulfillment suggestions for the new business owner…

Set up your inventory system

Identify each of your products with a unique name and item# (SKU). When choosing a SKU number, the best practice is to keep it simple, but allow for growth. What I mean by that is don’t put a lot of logic into the SKU coding, keep it simple, for instance – 1000-01, 1001-01, 1002-01, etc. The idea being that the first 4 digits (1000) are associated to the product itself, while the ending (-01) might be the version, color, scent, etc. of the individual product itself. You could have each product line start with a different numeric like 2000, 3000, etc. just be careful not to put a lot of logic into the sequencing as it typically causes more work and confusion later as your product line evolves and changes. It will also make for an easier transition for your fulfillment vendor down the road.

In order fulfillment shipping, your most important product factors are weight and size. You’ll want to identify a maximum of 3-5 box sizes that will fit a majority of your product orders. Take the time up front to play with different order configurations so that you find the best (smallest) box shipping configuration – this will save you a ton of money in ordering boxes, fill material, air bags, tape, etc. In the shipping world, space is King – the less space or weight you add to a truck, the more you’ll save on shipping.

As you know, in business, image is important – but customer satisfaction is everything. Take the time up-front to understand your customers delivery/packaging wants, and let that dictate your packaging/marketing needs. It’s a simple concept, but one that many do-it-yourselfer’s can accidentally miss completely. (Example: If your product plays to the “green zone”, that is to suggest that your target customer is environmentally conscious (as we should be these days), then only use corn-starch peanuts and/or recycled/recyclable airbags to send a green message that you care and are sensitive when it comes to how you as a vendor treat the world. And when you do that, make sure you throw in a “green card” marketing piece that helps them become aware of your environmental efforts. It may seem like common sense, but it really isn’t – it’s just good business sense.

Shipping Vendors

Recognize that the USPS is your first, most cost-effective shipping resource,  they’re located just about everywhere, and offer a wide range of online and automated shipping options worldwide.

UPS – personally I would start with them if I was a start up as their rates are typically better than Fed Ex or others in the same arena. Until you ship with a fulfillment partner (like us), you probably won’t get deep shipping discounts, but it’s a good place to get your feet wet and their reps are typically eager for new businesses like yours.

Hope my comments/suggestions will help you in your endeavors.

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Author: Chris Ballard, CEO, Pacific Northwest Print & Fulfillment,Inc.