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