If you don’t believe in the power of the written word, Paul Bordner II has a book for you a book that changed the way his company does business.
Several years ago, his Gahanna-based company, Laser Reproductions, was growing fast, capturing good market share and becoming arrogant.
“Our customer service was lousy, and we had to grow up and look at how we were servicing customers,” Bordner says. “This book really hit the nail on the head.”
So how did the company’s president discover “Customer Satisfaction is Worthless, Customer Loyalty is Priceless” by Jeffrey Gitomer the book that became required reading for his employees?
“One of our top customers sent us a copy and said, ‘I think you guys better read this,’” he says. “When we first got it, we didn’t realize what they were trying to say, but once we read it, we knew exactly what they were trying to say. They respected us enough that they thought, ‘We need to bring this to your attention. You guys need to do something about it if you want to keep us around.’”
That customer has remained loyal to Laser Reproductions, which specializes in rapid prototyping and product development. Bordner’s company now employs 45 people and has increased revenue from $4.9 million in 2004 to $6.75 million in 2006, with a strategic goal of reaching $20 million by 2012.
Smart Business spoke with Bordner about how he turns good advice into a growth strategy.
Q: How do you grow a company?
Utilize outside advisers in seeking advice and then implement the advice that they give. A lot of the advisers we have say it’s nice to finally have a company implement what they suggest.
That tells me that a lot of companies bring advisers in but don’t implement what’s in front of them. We strive for continuous improvement, and we can’t do it alone, so we seek outside advice.
Outside advisers share what works and what doesn’t work, and they give us different ideas to try. We try to create an atmosphere where it’s not a sin to fail, but you have to learn from your mistakes.
Q: How do you create and communicate that culture?
We award our weekly Helping Hand, which is given from peer to peer, to somebody who’s helped out or come up with a new idea. One of the simplest ideas was given by an employee years ago: differentiating products using different color folders. Something that simple is still with us today.
We also spend 10 to 15 minutes as a company in daily morning huddles. We stand up you’re not allowed to bring any food or drink to the huddle and we first read our mission and our vision statements. I would challenge anyone to come in our door and ask any of our employees what our mission or vision statement is, and they should know it.
Then, we’ll hand out the morning cartoon, which is typically work-related but funny. Then we’ll do our What’s Up review: what the salespeople are doing, is anyone touring the facility, who is sick or on vacation. It can be personal things, too. If somebody did something really exciting over the weekend, they can share it.
During the second portion of the meeting, we review financial numbers for the day. The more information you can feed the employees, the more they feel part of the decision-making. We used to get too detailed with the numbers, and they would walk away with the glazed-eye look like, ‘Oh my gosh, what are all these numbers?’ So we’ve really made it simple: We look at top-line numbers and bottom-line numbers; we don’t look at anything in between.
The last thing we do is the Information Funnel. Employees can bring anything to the huddle that may be a roadblock, something that’s keeping them from doing their job or ideas that may help them do their job better. Those will get logged, and then we try to eliminate the roadblocks on a daily basis.
Ninety percent of the huddle’s pre-typed and ready to go; everybody comes in, and we review everything. We’re not there to solve anything, just to spit out information and review it. The solving comes later.
Q: What advice would you share with leaders of other fast-growth companies?
To provide good service; you should always have a warm body answering the phone and willing to help whenever possible. Right after we read the Gitomer book, we hired a director of first impressions and got rid of our voice mail system.
The other rule of thumb here is, if a customer calls, and the management team is in a meeting, the customer is offered the first option of getting us out of that meeting if he needs to talk to us now. Sometimes the customer may need to take advantage of that, and it’s nice to give him that option.
HOW TO REACH: Laser Reproductions, (614) 552-6905 or www.laserrepro.com