Create a strategy. HPI had been a company, prior to our arrival, without a strategy. Most of the late ’90s at HPI were characterized by a series of acquisitions and dispositions. There was not a very good job done of integrating those businesses.
Because that was the main thrust of the strategy, a number of things that are absolutely crucial to success and survival in the consumer products industry new product development, brand development, people development had been secondary concerns. We found ourselves in possession of a company that had really been trying to sell itself for most of the time since 2000 and had been sustaining itself by not investing in the business.
Execute the strategy. We put together a management team that is really pretty good at operating a business. By operating a business, I mean focusing on what is really important customer relationships, managing the manufacturing, managing the supply chain, keeping an accurate track of costs and expenses and working capital, and just good at the basics.
The second thing we did is we strengthened the area as it relates to how we interact with customers. We built multilevel relationships with our customers. It was no longer just the salespeople, but all members of our organization got involved in the selling process, so that we had not just the ability to tell a better story and tell it more clearly, but we were also more accessible and able to listen to what our customers were saying.
We invested in resources to develop new products and enhance existing ones. We took a very long and hard look at the whole image of our company and, in particular, our brand, and embarked on a process to enhance the relevance and attractiveness of our brand.
Build a brand. The image of our company, until the middle part of last year, was one that was anchored very much in the low-end of the markets in which we operated and did not bring much creativity. We were kind of boring.
We brought good service, reliability, our quality was OK. One of the first things we did was we decided in the areas in which we operate, we have to be the subject matter experts.
We have to transform that knowledge into enhancements to the product and enhancements to the presentation that made sense to the retailers so that they looked at us not just as people who deliver boxes of stuff, but who actually could tell them how to sell consumer problems.
Lead the way. I see myself as the person who makes it possible for everybody else to succeed.
That’s my mission. I’m somebody who basically makes sure that we have the human resources and the other resources so that we can all do our jobs well.
If there are issues, I work with other members of the team to address them quickly so that they don’t slow things down or get in the way. I also try to be the spokesman for what it is that we are trying to do and what is it that we believe in and help people understand that and stick with it.
Walk around. I try and maintain one-on-one personal contact wherever I can, which just means walking around. I don’t believe that you learn much or achieve much by sitting in front of a computer screen. I’m often not comfortable with how little time I do spend out there.
I’ve gotten into the habit of sending people e-mails and just letting them know, ‘By the way, this has happened, and this is great,’ and, ‘By the way, this is not happening, and I’m concerned, and this is what we should do about it.’
Be accountable. About twice a year, I get up in front of every one of our employees in all of the different locations and I just make myself accountable to them for how the business is doing and give them the opportunity to ask questions and share with them what our expectations are of them.
It’s just taking opportunities formally and informally to have dialogue. And dialogue in my book is basically listening.
Know what you want to accomplish. Every challenge is different. Every CEO has to know very clearly what it is he or she wants to accomplish and be able to enunciate that clearly so that other people understand. When you have all of the people on your team on the same page, then you have an effective organization.
Watch for results. (The job) was an opportunity that came out of the blue. It’s not an easy one, but it’s a lot of fun. It’s really started to become exciting, because we’ve been here long enough now to know that some of the things I talked about are beginning to show results, beginning to get traction.
The things that we’ve put in place have really laid the groundwork for a future that for most of the 1,000 people who were here before we came wasn’t anywhere near as rosy as it now looks like it could be.
HOW TO REACH: Home Products International Inc., (800) 327-3534 or www.homz.biz