There is No Secret Sauce to a 'First Class Operation'
Twenty years ago, I ran an in-plant print and mail operation. We were deploying the latest color print technology and piece tracking systems. We sold our excess capacity to small in-plants who occasionally had work they couldn’t handle.
As members of the Greater Boston Postal Customer Council, I offered to host meetings at our facility. We held an event where I delivered a presentation on the technology we’d deployed and then gave a tour of the shop. I had supervisors and operators at the equipment to explain what each piece did, and how we used it serve our customers.
After the event, one of my equipment salespersons approached me. “Do you realize what you’ve done? You’ve told everyone exactly how you do your work! You gave away the secret sauce!”
I laughed. And then laughed some more. Secret sauce? Sorry, there is no secret sauce. Hard work, dedication to processes, and commitment to quality? Absolutely. Special ingredients that can’t be replicated? No.
During most of our consulting engagements, we usually hear variants of the same question:
- “What do the best operations do?”
- “How do our competitors compare to these standards?
- “How do we compare to other operations?”
Since 2001, we’ve worked with more than 80 companies in different industries – government, higher education, finance, health care, telecommunications, and utilities. We’ve also worked with print service providers from Maine to California.
Some have operations with five people focusing on inbound and interoffice mail, while others have 100 people producing a million pieces of mail per day, seven days per week. Some have multiple four-color offset presses and bindery operations taking up thousands of square feet, while others have digital presses creating unique applications. Regardless of size or function, the best shops have a lot in common.
We define a “First Class Operation” as one that through consistent actions and reporting, demonstrate that the operation is staffed and managed by well-trained professionals who use the right tools to add value to the company.
These operations achieve those goals by focusing on the following principles:
- Value their employees — through communication, education, and recognition
- Value their customers — through communication, and being a solution provider
- Well-designed, clean work environment
- Track internal and external work — accountability and metrics
- Well documented procedures — that are used daily
- Aggressive address management
- Meaningful metrics transformed into actionable information
- Selecting and exploiting the right technology
- Quality Control is procedural and cultural
- Knowing cost-per-piece and understanding value
Are there really organizations that meet all of these qualifications? Yes, there are. Some are service providers, and some are in-plant operations. It didn’t happen overnight, but took years to build a culture of excellence. And those leaders aren’t finished improving.
The above principles are the baseline by which to measure success and are the building blocks for delivering first class results. Today and tomorrow. The standards for being considered a “best-in-class” operation will continue to be raised. Effective leaders are invested in continuous improvements — for their people, processes and technology — and themselves.
Input for this piece was provided by Lois Ritarossi, president of High Rock Strategies:
Lois Ritarossi is the President of High Rock Strategies, a consulting firm focused on sales and marketing strategies, and business growth for firms in the print, mail and communication sectors. Lois brings her clients a cross functional skill set and strategic thinking with disciplines in business strategy, sales process, sales training, marketing, software implementation, inkjet transformation and workflow optimization. Lois has enabled clients to successfully launch new products and services with integrated sales and marketing strategies, and enabled sales teams to effectively win new business. You can reach Lois at email@example.com.
Mark M. Fallon is president and CEO of The Berkshire Company, a consulting firm specializing in mail and document processing strategies. The company develops customized solutions integrating proven management concepts with emerging technologies to achieve total process management. He offers a vision of the document that integrates technology, data quality, process integrity, and electronic delivery. His successes are based upon using leadership to implement innovative solutions in the document process. You can contact Mark at firstname.lastname@example.org.