Entrepreneurial News®

Home Depot Horror Story

I’ve been looking around for a bad customer service story for awhile, and Home Depot has provided one.

Back in January, we ordered 14 boxes of wall tile to tile the peeling walls of our garage from Home Depot online.

Tile arrived, but when we examined the packages, about half the tiles were broken, possibly from being thrown onto our front patio for delivery. No one from the delivery service (NDS)  rang the bell and said they had 14 boxes of tile to be delivered, and where would be like it?

Then the wrangling began on the return for the next two months. Home Depot Customer Service actually claimed at one point that they had nothing to do with Home Depot. Meanwhile, our installation is delayed and we’ve got a $790 charge at Home Depot for broken tile.

Finally, an enterprising customer service representative agreed that they whole matter should have been quickly resolved, and took out one of the small Home Depot flatbed trucks and with a female driver, came to our house and loaded the broken tile. Once the store had the tile, they reversed the charge.

Kudos to the employee (Frank) who showed the initiative to take a truck and pick up the tile, but a real brick to the rest of Home Depot customer service for being unresponsive.

As a result, we’ve ordered the tile from Floor and Decor, who has been very accommodative, and we’ll pick it up ourselves.

The morale of this tale is to empower your employees to make decisions in the best interests of the customer.

We hope that Home Depot reviews the recorded conversations of this travesty and fires most of the customer service reps who were involved.

Whip Inflation in Your Business

Year over year price inflation is something like 7/5%, depending on what your mix of costs are. OK, we’re gonna point out some things you can do to not only whip inflation but expand your business at the same time.

These things work, too. I’ve done them.

First, figure out what your competitors are doing. Odds are they’re raising their prices, but you need to know, because it will to some extent dictate your strategy. Most businesses will raise prices because their owners and management are lazy.

You’re not lazy.

So, if you observe the dicta I’m laying out, you might even cut prices.

Second, start producing or ordering in larger quantities if you can. Given supply chain problems, this might not work, but order more where you can. Most suppliers will give you a price break, even now.

If you’re a manufacturer, produce more; your unit costs will go down because of more amortization of fixed costs, even if your variable costs, e.g., labor and raw materials, don’t go down. If the variables go down, so much the better.

Third, don’t run yourself out of money while you’re ordering or producing more, either. Talk to your banker, tell him or her what you want to do, and they’ll probably be accommodative. You might need an increase in your credit line. If you get static, let us know. We know people.

A word about energy costs. It’s hard to predict if or when the Washington Wizards will open up our energy sources. Electricity is going up somewhat. Solar power might be an option but it’s capital intensive. Leases with options to buy might be available.

Your variable labor costs might go up due to wage inflation, but it’s not much if you’re increasing production. Add variable labor costs into your equation.

Fourth, you might find that you will need more distributors or retailers of your product but wake up your sales force and get them busy. Or go recruit some more manufacturer’s agents…they’re out there, and they’re usually hungry to take on new lines. You might even find some agents coming over from your competition.

If you do all of the above, you’ll not only whip inflation in your business, but you might also expand it.

If you want any help with any of this, log into our Zoom Room 819-907-3230, passcode solutionsf on Wednesdays at 4 pm MST and we’ll talk it over.

Rethinking Remote

Our local Business Journal had a good article recently about rethinking remote working for your employees.

Our local upsurge in Omicron cases has probably influenced some firms to keep more employees remote or be more lenient in allowing remote work.

It’s a fact that many companies’ workforce decided that they liked to work from home, software could be redesigned to accommodate working from home, and many workers say that if they can work from home, they are less likely to change jobs.

Among our clients, one large civil engineering firm remoted all of its employees to cope with COVID, and has changed to keep employees remote if they want to be.

A large mortgage company allows its employees to go back and forth between working in the office and working remotely.

Employees of an investment firm in New York all want to return to the office.

So, be sensitive to what your workers want before you make any non-reversible decisions about working remotely.

Disrupt Yourself

It’s now late January, and maybe, just maybe you’re still thinking about what you want to do in 2022.

Courtesy of CEO Magazine, one of their more original ideas is to disrupt yourself. And, of course, they have several ideas about what you might do to rethink what you do in ’22.

  1. Think like a new business. Maybe what you’re doing as a company or as the CEO/owner is the same things you’ve done for years (I encounter people like this all the time). What did you do as a startup that you’re not doing now?
  2.   Commit to an experiment, whether it’s a new product/service line of a new way of doing something in your business. Maybe it’s a new service. Set a time line to get the service launched and evaluated.
  3. Be generous with your team, and not just your senior management. Not necessarily with monty, but maybe survey them all to see if they’re happy. Happy people make a happy company, and happy customers which means growth.
  4. Get some of your most enthusiastic employees to lead the rethinking…. it’s not necessarily just your responsibility.  If they know they’re driving the project, they might work harder, better and smarter.

7 Ways to Deny a Promotion W/O Demotivating

OK, It’s January, and everyone is back at work in most states.

I’ve shamelessly purloined much of this post from Ivy, which has good articles from time to time on running your business.

I’ve seen this scenario play out many times among our small business Solutions Forum clients, so I’m passing along their article paragraph headers (you can fill in the paras):

  1. The person who wants to be promoted doesn’t really have much basis for his/her belief, other than Johnny/Susie down the corridor got promoted.
  2. They’re not very entrepreneurial, which means they haven’t bugged you lately about the idea they had about improving xyz.
  3. They’re not a team player, but in a small business that might not be too important, as long as they do what they’re asked to do. Do they do more than asked?
  4. They come to you with problems, not solutions to your challenges. You’re not Dr. Laura.
  5. They ask for a lot of overtime. If they can’t get their job done in regular time, there’s a problem, and you should discuss it.
  6. Conversely, they’ve got track shoes on ready to bolt at 5 pm. Normally, a little overtime should be expected by you.
  7. They do their job exactly as they’re asked, with no ideas for improvement. Everybody has ways to improve their job, even on an assembly line.


New for ’22

I got a seminar requrest for attendance from a webinar house a couple of days ago wanting me to attend a seminar on 5 things to be aware of in 2022.

Most of the five items had nothing to do with marketing or sales. One was people related, one was fixing processes, and one was leadership related. The other two didn’t even make my top of mind.

If you don’t improve marketing and fix sales, your company isn’t going to grow, your competitors might run over you and life won’t be as much fun.

Not that being an entrepreneur is a day at the beach.

We continue to see problems with websites, usually that they’re not locally focused, are hard to use, or the design isn’t too functional.

And it’s even happened to one client, sorry to say. His sales have gone down in one division because he hasn’t fixed that division’s website in two or three years, and I wasn’t too happy with the design the last time.

And he wants to sell the company. Potential purchasers will spot this website weakness a mile off.

So, another client, whose websites I like (he’s done three for me) is fixing the division’s website.


COVID Comotion

We are sitting down here in Arizona, land of the free and home of no COVID restrictions and not many masks.

Our governor has been pretty sane about school restrictions too; the state  money follow the child, with the result that there’s a general shift away from public schools towards private and parochial

The coasts and Chicago need to get on board with the new reality, and the Illinois governor or the Chicago mayor should fire the teachers who aren’t in the classroom.

The Supremes are also likely it seems to declare the vax mandate unconstitutional. Enough of the nutty regs. OHSA wasn’t supposed to be in the vax biz anyway.

Unions have a place, but it’s not to be obstructionists.

So, You Want to Be An Entrepreneur?

There is quite an interesting article in this month’s INC magazine entitled ‘Out the Other Side’ about the struggles some entrepreneurs have had in their entrepreneurial journey with depression and feelings of failure, resulting in bad decisions. But they came out the other side, which is the point.

Everyone who has ever started or run a business has experienced feelings like this….I have, and several of my clients have. It’s one of the reasons I do Solutions Forum.

As far as I know, none of them has ever taken our Entrepreneurial Questionnaire, which we’re going to put in this blog, before year end to get all you people who are thinking about taking the plunge some insight.

One of the things that I noticed is that the people seemed to suffer in silence, not getting help from anyone.

Another thing I noticed is that not many of them did any market research before starting the business, which seems to have caused some problems, mostly anxiety at having possibly made a wrong decision. A couple pivoted after launch when they discovered that a certain segment was doing better, and then they did do some market research as to why a segment was doing better.

The bottom line, kids, is if you’re struggling, we’re just a group meeting or a Zoom call or even a Facetime away.

Stop Those Annoying Meetings

Since we’re all back at some form of work (in office, remote, or a combination of the two), meetings are back.

Notice that I didn’t say ‘in style’. They’re not.

One of our clients, PADT in Tempe, run by Eric Miller, wrote a good article published by the Phoenix Business Journal, entitled ‘A Word About Those Annoying Questions’. Eric runs a civil engineering firm, staffed with a bunch of engineers, who have all sorts of ideas on how a particular project should be run or a client should be handled, so he’s used to annoying meetings.

What makes the meetings annoying is that some staffers, in Eric’s opinion, and we think he’s right, delight in asking annoying ‘challenge’ questions of whoever’s running the meeting, or even some other meeting participants.

Discussion is good, but only to a point. And the annoying questions may not have anything to do with the subject. Since all Eric’s staff is probably highly paid and he doesn’t want unhappy employees and wants to foster creativity, he probably tolerates annoying questions in meetings.

In fact, about halfway through his article, Eric admits that challenge questions, which might be initially annoying, aren’t really that bad and usually lead to better solutions.

So, bottom line, don’t worry about whether a meeting was annoying. So your ego got a dent and a bruise. Did you get to a better solution?

Are You a Socially Responsible Business?

Scattered through the text of this book are references to a ‘socially responsible business’, so here’s a section dedicated to the term.

It also arises from doing a projected entrepreneurship curriculum for my college, Antioch, which emphasizes doing things in a socially responsible manner.

In my experience, most business owners start businesses for socially responsible reasons, such as providing gainful employment to themselves, and others, but they don’t think of themselves as socially responsible.

I did a survey of my approximately 20 Solutions Forum and Profit Growth Acceleration clients and they didn’t think of themselves as socially responsible, but they do operate in a socially responsible manner. (Otherwise they might not be clients)

Being socially responsible means openess in how you operate your business, and running it in a manner that benefits society. Benefitting society means making positive changes that benefit society while benefitting stakeholders and making a profit.

Being socially responsible is characterized as being open about all facets of running your business. Some examples of business practices that are considered socially responsible are:

  1. Opening your financial statements to your employees (you might wish to have them sign a non disclosure when you do, to prevent financial data being disclosed to competitors and the government without your permission).
  2. Being open and honest in hiring your employees.
  3. Being open an honest in your employment practices, usually through an employment manual, to which employees can contribute.
  4. Honest and forthright employee evaluations at reasonable intervals, such as quarterly, and allowing employees to make a commentary on the evaluation, and have them sign the evaluation.
  5. Allowing your employees to contribute suggestions on how the company is run, its leadership, and any other topic they wish. Such suggestions should be acknowleged, and a course of action designed to either implement or ignore the suggestion. If the suggestion is going to be ignored, management should say why.
  6. Regular feedback and interchanges with employees, such as on Friday afternoons. As a company grows, this feedback process might have to go through departments, and might have to be staggered so that customers are taken care of.

The qualification and quantification of being socially responsible is a relatively new phenomenom, and one that arouses a great deal of comment, so we expect our fair share of readers will let us know what they think of the practice and how their business practices being socially responsible.