DeWeese--Little Things Mean a Lot
About 10 years ago, when my waist was 10 inches smaller and all my parts were alive and well, I wrote a column about the contributions that the so-called "little people" make to the success of their printing company employers. In 1988, my wit was still quick and I opened the column by rewriting the lyrics of the great old standard, "Little Things Mean a Lot."
My version began like this:
"Blow me a kiss from across the room.
Say I look nice when I'm not.
Give me smile if I've waited a while.
Little things mean a lot…"
My revisions butchered the great lyrics of the composers, Edith Lindeman and Carl Stutz, but, hey, I'm the Manaña Man, and I had a point to make.
If I could only remember that point...
Maybe, just maybe, it was that you salespeople, managers and owners ought to show more respect and more frequently acknowledge the folks—CSRs, receptionists, secretaries, accounting people, production people, and shipping and delivery people—who rub up against customers and prospects every day. Yep, that had to be it. Love the little people a little more, and they'll love your customers a lot more.
The Man Meets a Fan
Actually, it was lunch that reminded me of this old column. Lunchtime always reminds me of a lot of things. Lately, lunchtime reminds me that I haven't had lunch. I'm so busy that most days I forget lunch until about 3 p.m. and then have lunch sent in so I can eat while I work. This, of course, is terrible for my digestive system and accounts for the supply of Tums I keep in my desk.
About two weeks ago, I'd had my fill of printing industry deals, so about noon I put my phone on "do not disturb," slipped out the back door of our offices and headed for Joe's Place. Joe's food is a lot like me: ugly but good.
I took the last stool at the counter and began to study Joe's collection of famous resort postcards tacked on a large bulletin board next to the grill. Joe never goes anywhere and loves to complain about "being chained to the grill." So Joe's patrons have mailed him postcards featuring bikini-clad women cavorting on famous beaches around the world. There must be 300 cards haphazardly tacked and layered on the bulletin board. The whole thing is permanently held together with a coating of grease from the grill.
I had worked my way down to four nubile demoiselles dashing toward the surf at Cuerna Vaca when a female voice to my left said, "Aren't you the Manaña Man?"
Honored that I'd been recognized, I turned slowly toward the voice and responded, "It depends on whether or not you're from the IRS." You can't be too careful nowadays.
My countermate laughed and said, "I recognize you from your picture in Printing Impressions. I worked for a printing company for 17 years, and I read your column every month. I've been working in another industry for nearly a year and I miss reading it."
A fan! I'd met a fan. Of course, I've got tens of thousands of fans. I'm sure it must be that many. But here was one in the flesh, and she "missed" me.
I asked her, "Tell me. Why did you leave printing?"
She answered, "I was a CSR. I won't tell you the name of the company. There's no need to spread sour grapes."
Ms. CSR paused to lift her hamburger bun and spread some ketchup over Joe's grilled onions.
She began her story: "I miss it. I loved my customers, and they liked me. Some of them became good friends that I still see and hear from. Some of the customers were more my accounts than the sales rep. Some of the sales reps just stopped seeing those customers and let me handle everything. Of course, the reps still got the commissions."
I took a break from my fan conversation to order scrambled eggs, hash browns, sausage and coffee. Then my fan resumed her story.
"Our owner never expressed any appreciation to any of the CSRs and made the chief financial officer do our reviews. Most years he would tell us that the company wasn't making any money and there was no money for raises. Occasionally, we would get a 3-percent 'cost-of-living' raise.
"Their argument that the company wasn't making money never made much sense to me because the owner and his two sons, both salesmen, got a new Mercedes every year; we always seemed to have plenty of money for new presses, and one of the accounting clerks told everyone about the big annual bonuses for the owner and his sons.
"Our owner would also complain about the customers being unreasonable and only buying printing based on price. We didn't hear that from the customers, though. I had several accounts who told me they would buy printing from the company at almost any price because of the service the CSRs provided.
"But," she added, "that wasn't the worst part. The worst part was that the owner and the salespeople took us for granted and were abusive to us. If they were having a bad day losing jobs on price or dealing with customer complaints that they created, they would yell at us. I just couldn't take it anymore."
I mustered through a mouthful, "This is horrible. Where do you work now?"
Ms. Countermate Fan told me, "I'm the manager of customer service for a software company. The culture is entirely different. My new employer is very interested in people, and my salary is double what I received at the printing company.
"Everyone in my department received bonuses for our performance. We handled a sales increase of 40 percent without adding any new CSRs, and management felt we deserved a productivity bonus."
My fan stood and smiled at me. "Manaña Man, keep writing those columns and maybe owners like the one I had will catch on," she said. I noticed that she thanked Joe's counterman and tipped him 25 percent. A tip of that size is unheard of in Joe's Place.
Hall of Fame Alert
On this note, I am expanding my Annual Mañana Man Hall of Fame Awards to non-sales and non-management CSRs, production, secretarial, plant and shipping people who have provided meritorious service to their companies' customers.
You sales and management people are responsible for sending me your nominating letters by Aug. 15, 1998. I will pick the inductees from your nominations.
Send your nominating letters to me, The Manaña Man, c/o Attila the Editor, Printing Impressions, 401 N. Broad St., Philadelphia, PA 19108.
The 1998 Hall of Fame inductees will get some great gifts, their pictures in the October edition of Printing Impressions and permanent recognition for doing all those little things for your customers.
Now, you big shots, get out there and sell something!
About the Author
Harris DeWese is the author of"Now Get Out There and Sell Something!" published by Nonpareil Books. DeWese is a principal at Compass Capital Partners. DeWese specializes in investment banking, mergers and acquisitions, sales, marketing, planning and management services to printing companies. He is one of the authors of the annual Compass Report, the definitive source of information regarding printing industry merger and acquisition activity.