An ear for communication

Jason Kubasak isn’t afraid to let his
98 employees lead themselves.
“I try to say, ‘Here’s our end goal. Let’s all understand what our part of it is and
move toward it,’” says the CEO of D&S
Communications Inc.. “Rather than make
them follow me, I like for them to strive for
it on their own.”

With 2006 revenue of $14 million, the
employees of this privately held provider of
refurbished telecommunications systems
are heading in the right direction.

Smart Business spoke with Kubasak
about why following up is such an integral
part of communication and how
understanding your customer base
is a sure path to growing your business.

Q: How do you keep a business
growing?

While it’s definitely great to go out
and do acquisitions and marketing
and try to acquire new customers,
the No. 1 thing to do is to retain and
build upon your existing customer
base. The first and best investment
of intellectual capital would be to
try and understand what other
services and how much more
service you could be providing to
the people that you’re already
reaching.

Q: How do you retain customers?

Don’t promise something that
you can’t deliver — no matter
what. If a customer leads you
down that road, you have to
know when to say no. You can’t
say to them, ‘Yep, we can do it.

No problem.’ Ultimately, the
other business that you’re doing with them
will go away when you fail them on the
new project.

Not overpromising, not taking on things
you can’t do, and then recognizing where
the areas of opportunity are with those
customers and trying to be there at the
same time that they’re there or before
they’re there.

You tend to lose customers in transitional periods, when they go to a new product
or a new person gets hired. Communicate with them: ‘Hey, if you’re making any kind
of change, let me know. We might be able
to accommodate you.’

Then you can retain that customer
through a transition where you might normally lose them.

Q: What has been your biggest challenge
in business?

Fitting in to the culture. Coming in as an
outsider and trying to work with all of
those people and getting them to do things
that I wanted them to do rather than the
way they were doing it before.

I met with all the managers individually
right off the bat. I didn’t tell them anything
that I wanted or anything that I expected
— I just asked them questions. They have
a better feel for it than I’m ever going to
have just walking in blind off the street.
Who better to ask what would make this
job easier?

The main thing that I tried to get out of
them is, ‘What, if anything, is an impediment to you doing better in any area? What slows you down? What’s inefficient?
What’s time-consuming that shouldn’t be?’
If you’ve got something that was a pain and
I can help it go away, then you’ll be more
willing to listen to me next time around.

You have to be genuinely open to listening to what they have to say. If you’re doing
it as a strategy, then I don’t know if it will
work as well.

Q: How do you show employees that you
are actually listening?

Follow up and say, ‘Here’s what I’m
doing to address your problems, and
here’s the exact outcome.’ People pay
attention to that. They recognize
that if you follow up, you actually
did take it seriously.

Most importantly, make something happen. If I say, ‘Tell me what
your problems are,’ and you say,
‘Well, my laptop is all screwed up,’ I
actually have to do something. I have
to either say, ‘Here’s a new laptop,’
or, ‘I need to buy you some software.’

Q: How do you communicate your
goals with employees?

I recently had an operations meeting with our warehouse manager, our
operations manager and our repair
center manager. I brought them in
and showed them all visually the
exact financial impact that putting
one more order out every day had on
the company.

Showing them the financial ramifications, it got them motivated. You don’t
have to get them all wound up with rahrah kind of stuff. Just lay it out logically
and say, ‘Here’s exactly what happens.’

I showed them a way of measuring it
— ‘Here’s the numbers. Here’s how you
can go into the accounting system to see
how many orders are pushed out’ — and
they took it from there.

If you try to just tell someone, ‘Get one
extra order out every day. It will really help
out,’ they’re like, ‘Well, OK. I’ll do what I
can.’ Instead say, ‘Take a look at this. Here’s
how it all plays out.’

HOW TO REACH: D&S Communications Inc., (847) 468-8082
or www.dscomm.com