Thursday, April 26, 2012

Free Joy Rides

   All manufacturers are pretty confident their products are good enough to serve the needs of their customers. The hard part — and this goes for just about any business owner — is to get those customers to walk in the door. Cub Cadet decided not to wait, instead bringing products to the customer.

  As part of the Cub Cadet Test Drive Challenge, the company brought a series of mowers to the plaza that sits between Progressive Field and Quicken Loans Arena — homes to the Cleveland Indians and Cleveland Cavaliers respectively. Between the two teams the company had an opportunity to reach nearly 30,000 fans in just one afternoon. The company, located in Valley City, not too far from downtown Cleveland, is a long-time supporter of the Cavaliers and was on hand as part of Fan Appreciation Night. The company even gave away one of its mowers as part of the Cavaliers' salute to fans.

   The Cub Cadet Test Drive Challenge is a national tour with which the company is exhibiting its residential line of mowers to consumers around the country. The Cleveland stop is just about the mid-point of the tour.

LM Publisher Jason DeSarle demonstrates
his zero-turning radius prowess.
  "You can promise all day long," says Jeff Salamon, Director of Brand Marketing, but "people need to test" products for themselves. The Test Drive Challenge is geared to the residential market, but most of the stops on the tour are conducted through that city's local dealer, which means a professional contractor has an opportunity to take a look at the high-end models.

  Cub Cadet set up a test course on the plaza to to show off a line of the company's zero-turning radius residential mowers. There was even a simulated grass area to help demonstrate the electronic power steering feature the mowers offer.

   The Test Drive Challenge is about midway through its tour around the country, but any contractors that want to test one of the company's commercial mowers can visit any of the 1,500 or so dealers around the country — of course they might not walk away with the free key chain and T-shirt offered at the Test Drive.

Thursday, April 19, 2012

Always make time to play

   It’s a beautiful spring night after a good Alaskan storm soaked us with 1.3 in. of rain here in Ramona, CA, resting in the foothills outside of San Diego, about 1,600 feet above sea level. About 45 minutes away, and another 3,000 feet more in elevation, we had 3 in. of snow. Some buddies back east (outside Allentown, PA) said we have had more rain and snow (in the nearby mountains) than they’ve had this entire winter. Nice!

   I am sitting outside watching the Yankees lose to Minnesota Twins, but they beat the Los Angeles Angels a couple nights ago. During one of the commercials, I caught something about — always leaving time to play. And that prompted me make a note to myself for my next blog. 

   Do you make time to play? Play and work don’t sound like they mesh, but I am a true believer. I practice both. Life is too short, and you never know when it’s your time to leave this earth, so have fun along the way! And yeah, that means at work too!

   So, how can you have fun at work? Well, work doesn’t always have to be serious. Yes, you have a business to run or a job to do — that’s a given. We have to give 110% all of the time. Times are tough, and if we do not give that 110% all the time, the competition banging on your clients’ doors asking for your jobs just might get them. Most clients aren’t just one job. Property managers usually have a portfolio of work so chances are if you lose a job from a property manager, you’ll need to work twice as hard to replace that revenue.

   So, back to that fun-at-work thing. Do you take the time and sit with your employees and ask how was their weekend? How are the kids; baseball teams? Do you take them to industry events like seminars, golf tournaments, association events or other social functions? Do you have company picnics or go to ball games? Take them golfing? Go out to lunch or even to a happy hour? What do you do to get to know your employees better? For those of us with many employees, it is very hard to get to know every single employee — but try and do this. We do!

   If you set the tone and take the time to know your top employees and at times, have some fun with them, then they are more apt to work well with their teams, and so on and so forth down the chain. We do a company picnic every year (on a Friday and it’s a paid day). The account managers and branch managers cook for all New Way’s teams — owners, execs, and all field personnel. That’s a lot of employees to cook for! But our annual company picnic is a big deal for our employees. We have a huge raffle where we get donations from our vendors. We also get gifts from the points we accumulate from our business credit card. Last year our top prize was a huge flat screen TV brought by our business attorney — and boy did that make the winner happy!
   At this picnic I make sure I shake everyone’s hands and thank them for the hard work they do — and I mean everybody!! At Christmas, we throw a party out back of our corporate facility, and all the teams come in for camaraderie, food and some words from me, New Way’s president Kathryn DeJong, and the VPs. Again, I make sure to say “Merry Christmas,” “Feliz Navidad” and “thank you” to everyone.  If our employees don’t know how much we appreciate them, why would they work harder to make us happy? They won't. It’s important to tell your staff how without them, the business doesn’t run, because it doesn’t, and all positions deserve our gratitude.
   Now, on the flip side, do you have fun with your clients? We sure do. Whether it is taking people to Padres opening day, other Padres games, Charger games, golfing, sponsoring them at industry events, happy hours, lunches, or just a cup of coffee, we make it a point to have fun with our clients. Clients need a break from work, and most of them like to get to know their vendors. It gives you a chance to talk about something other than work to develop that all-important relationship.

   Do you remember your clients’ and employees’ birthdays and anniversaries? Do you know their spouses and their children? All these things help you connect with your employees and clients, which can make having “fun” easier. Most of my friends are our clients, and talking about work isn’t the way we got to be friends. Despite the difficult and sometimes grueling task of running a business, I find many different avenues to enjoy every bit of my work life — and that is through the wonderful people that I have surrounded myself with throughout the past 32 years!

Tuesday, April 17, 2012

No good deed...

This is not the way to start a new life together.

Josh Miller, an Atlanta landscaper, was ready to pop the question to his girlfriend. He'd even bought the ring and hidden it in an old winter coat in the closet for a couple of months.

Unfortunately, he donated that coat to Goodwill. And proving that no good deed goes unpunished, when he realized his mistake and went the store to get the coat, it was already gone — along with the ring. Sadly the ring was uninsured, so the couple is currently at the mercy of the good will of whoever purchased the old coat.

Read the whole story here.