Abby Cymerman

Wednesday, 25 June 2008 20:00

Top techniques

When CnD Industries Inc. became too tied into just two customers, Clyde Shetler decided it was time to diversify.

The owner of CnD Industries says that until the mid-1990s, his custom steel fabricator and large machine shop was heavily dependent on two customers, and each quarter, he worried when he studied the sales-per-customer numbers.

“We started to see a downturn in that business,” he says. “And that’s when we said, ‘We have to diversify this customer base.’”

As a result, the customer base at CnD today is much more diversified, leading the 67-employee company to 2007 revenue of $6.7 million.

Smart Business spoke with Shetler about why it’s a bad idea to put all your eggs in one basket and how to hire strong managers.

Q. Why is it important for companies to diversify their customer base?

Historically, companies in our business tend to get too locked into one customer or one industry.

You can get stuck in a rut where you’re getting constant work from a customer.

They’re paying you on time, and pretty soon you say, ‘I don’t have to go look for work because I’ve got all the work I can handle from this customer.’ The problem is if your customer has a problem, then you have a problem.

Diversification allows you to survive through downturns. At any point in time, no customer is more than 15 to 18 percent of our quarterly business, and we cut across enough industries that we don’t have the peaks and valleys of being strictly tied to one of the industries.

Q. How do you diversify?

In our quoting and our job procurement, we try to look out as much as six to eight months and see what’s out there to be bid on, what projects are going to be coming up. But we also might say, ‘We’re really tied to this steelmaker. We need to load our shop next quarter with something from somebody else.’

Another thing that has helped us grow is doing a good job of selecting the fore-men and plant managers, the first people under me. Each step up the line it becomes harder and harder to find the right person. The closer you get to me, the more responsibility they have to take and the more decisions they have to make.

Q. How do you communicate the focus on diversification to your employees?

We relay through the managers that it’s important to have customer diversification, and we also relay to them that every customer is important.

Whether it’s a $500 job or a $500,000 job, they all are important to us. Each one needs to have the same amount of care and service. We want to keep them all. We have several hundred customers that are not big dollars per year but always have their work in here. That’s part of the diversification; we want to support those shops, too.

Q. How do you create a good management team?

Each manager that we hire goes through a series of three or four interviews with everybody he’s going to work with here, whether it’s his equal or his boss.

You want to try and get the right person the first time. If you hire somebody and it doesn’t work, it actually costs you quite a bit of money. You’ve invested time and money, and you don’t want to find out four months later that this really wasn’t the right person for the job.

Q. How do you manage delegation?

Letting go is the hardest thing to do for someone who owns their own business. You’ve always made the decisions yourself, so now you’re giving the authority to somebody to make decisions.

You have to have trust and belief and faith that, that person will do the job, make the right decision and, hopefully, come tell you if there’s a problem with the one they made. Hire the people that you can trust to make those decisions for you.

Q. How do you measure employee performance?

We do a yearly three-page evaluation at the company. We talk about strong points, weak points, areas of improvement and continuing education. It’s done for everybody that works here, even me.

My managers do my evaluation because if I’m not giving them the right information, they can’t perform their job. It helps me to get better at what I do. Actually, it’s very enlightening.

Everybody knows that evaluations are coming at the end of the calendar year, and from an hourly standpoint, employees are anticipating some sort of raise. In the evaluation process, the HR manager explains to them their total wage package for the previous year — what they’re getting in health care and in their 401(k) — so they understand what we’re paying for workers’ comp, health insurance and why so many programs are in place to control these costs.

And, next year, we will have this year’s evaluation to compare for areas of improvement.

HOW TO REACH: CnD Industries Inc., (330) 478-8811

Monday, 26 May 2008 20:00

Bean counter

Greg Ubert was probably a childhood whiz at playing telephone.

His talent for communicating is tapped regularly as founder and president of CrimsonCup, a 22-employee consulting business that provides coffee, equipment, support and training to independently owned and operated coffeehouses.

Ubert says leaders who consistently explain their vision will lead the company in the intended direction.

“It’s not like I can say it once and be done with it,” he says. “What I have to do on a day-today basis is continually get that message out.”

Ubert’s business posted $6.4 million in 2007 sales.

Smart Business spoke with Ubert about sharing his message and teaching others to be successful.

Q. What steps can executives take to grow their companies?

People are No. 1. There’s no way that you can grow if you don’t have the right people on board. Is everybody at your company capable of growing the business?

And No. 2, are your employees branded right? Are you continually getting out the message of the brand: Who are you, and what do you do?

I don’t feel like somebody who’s had a business for 17 years; I feel like somebody who is continually learning. That could be No. 3. I’m not the most experienced person in the world; I’m getting better and better and learning new things each and every day.

Q. Why is it important to pursue continuous learning?

When I first started the company in 1991, I thought it was all about product. The next year, I met someone who put 20 people through the line and out the door in five minutes with an espresso-based drink in hand. It was my first ‘aha!’ moment in business.

At that moment, I realized there is much more to having a successful business than just having great products. That really changed the way I thought about business. I realized that we had to teach people how to be successful.

It wasn’t just having great products.

It’s about getting better and better each day. If you’re the same person today as you were a year ago, you’re probably not going to move along in any way. If I had said in 1992, ‘We know everything,’ we would not be where we are today or in this position for growth.

Q. How did you determine your company’s growth strategy?

We looked at our market segment. We became a consulting company because I realized that just supplying people the world’s best coffee was not going to make them successful. We teach others how to be successful in selling specialty coffee. They all fit under what it is that we do. While they may be different, the reality is that all of them need to be shown how to do better with their sales.

We’ve set up interview processes and other qualifications that people need to pass in order to become our customer because while we’d like to be No. 2 in the industry, that’s not a driving factor. We would get there better by having the world’s best customers first, and we need to do it one customer at a time.

Q. Why is it important for employees to understand the brand?

You need to promote a consistent message, and everybody needs to know it within your company because that’s where it all starts.

Then it goes to your customers. We’ve had to turn down a customer because they weren’t right for us. It doesn’t mean they’re a bad person; they just weren’t right for our brand.

When people understand they’re not just supplying a product or a service, they come up with solutions for us. And when your vendors understand who you are and what you do, they become engaged with you.

You can’t do it all yourself. You need everybody across the board understanding and living by your values. It’s being really clear with what it is we want to build. It gets back to the clarity of what we want.

Q. What one thing can prevent a company from growing?

Without a clear vision, even good people will be going in different directions. We want everybody in the same boat, rowing together in the same direction.

It gets back to the vision and where somebody wants to go. For that to be fulfilled, you have to have the right people who can understand that vision.

The vision encompasses values.

HOW TO REACH: CrimsonCup, (888) 800-9224 or www.crimsoncup.com

Friday, 25 April 2008 20:00

Keeping it real

When Elaine Roberts was offered her first job at an airport, she accepted it but told her boss she wasn’t sure she wanted to stay in that field for her career.

Twenty-five years and three airports later, Roberts is president and CEO of Columbus Regional Airport Authority, an independent, governmental entity responsible for operating three Central Ohio airports: Port Columbus International Airport, Rickenbacker International Airport and Bolton Field.

With 2007 operating revenue of $75.4 million and 390 employees, Roberts runs her organization like a private business with a public purpose. Several years ago, the airport authority was experiencing growing pains, so Roberts and her managers solicited input from employees to create a five-year strategic plan to manage growth.

They also hired an outside consultant to study the efficiency of the three airports’ IT division, and the employees were so pleased with the results that Roberts expanded the study to make her organization’s other operating units as effective.

Smart Business spoke with Roberts about how she makes sure her employees are heard and how she motivates them to do their best.

Be collaborative and accessible.

Where it’s practical, I like to get consensus and buy-in to decision-making. When we don’t have that luxury of time and decisions need to be made quickly, I certainly can do that.

I have regular staff meetings every other week with my management team. I try to engage conversation with that group before making a change. I’ll make sure everybody has an opportunity to be heard, and if there is disagreement, we’ll see if we can look at all the options before we make a decision.

My style is fairly open; I want to be accessible to all employees. I’m a pretty hands-on leader. I try not to micromanage, but I do keep pretty informed about what’s going on across the organization.

When we’re going to discuss a change in direction in the way we’ve been doing things, I’ll try to engage conversation with my executive direct reports and our senior team before making the change. I’ll make sure everybody has an opportunity to be heard, and if there is disagreement, we’ll see if we can look at all the options before we make a decision.

Aim for alignment and accountability.

Alignment helps keep focus on what’s really important. If you’re not aligned properly and you’ve got too many cooks in the kitchen trying to manage problems, it’s not nearly as efficient. It can also be stressful because you have people in the ranks saying, ‘Who’s doing this? Who’s got responsibility?’

The biggest issue is accountability. Who do you hold accountable if something doesn’t get done? Do you have to ask two or three or four people how much of this project are they involved with? Employees generally don’t want to see their peers getting away with not being held accountable.

Alignment and accountability are ways to communicate to the entire work force: ‘Here’s what we’re focused on. Here’s who’s going to have lead responsibility, and they’re going to need support and help from the other divisions.’

Motivate your staff. A couple years ago, we created the President’s Award of Excellence. Throughout the year, you can nominate another employee, or a supervisor can nominate somebody, and we’re looking for things like how this employee exemplified our core values.

Twice a year, we go through a selection process with a committee of managers and senior leaders. We have a recognition luncheon and let those employees invite their families. We give each person a check, and we do a communication piece with their picture and why they were a recipient of the award, and that’s distributed to all the employees.

Does that motivate people to perform? I would hope it does. It’s really more about the recognition in front of their peers and their family that motivates people to want to do well.

If you don’t recognize when employees are performing well, they’ll lose potential motivation to do a good job, and they’ll think that their boss doesn’t care one way or the other. If you don’t recognize employees, it also allows the company to become more complacent and satisfied with the way things are.

It’s important to reward exceptional performance when an employee goes above and beyond. This is the kind of behavior, performance and customer service that we want our other employees to model. We want to be known as exceeding our customers’ expectations.

Stay grounded. Don’t get too big for your britches, and don’t forget where you came from. There are a lot of people that helped make you successful personally as well as the team and the organization.

There’s always a place for recognizing personal performance and holding people accountable for their responsibilities, but it also takes a lot of people to run any successful organization, and you need to identify it, show appreciation and not lose sight of that. I’ve had the fortune of some excellent mentors and people who opened doors for me, and I’ve always greatly appreciated that.

I had one of these strange ambitions growing up of wanting to work in everybody’s job at least a day so I could relate to those individuals and appreciate what they go through. ... So I had a lot of part-time jobs and summer jobs before I went away to college.

All of that ties back into my history: I can only be successful if I have successful people around me, and the whole team is successful.

HOW TO REACH: Columbus Regional Airport Authority, (614) 239-4000 or www.columbusairports.com

Sunday, 25 November 2007 19:00

Choice and commitment

Howard & O’Brien Associates’ CEO Lee Ann Howard and President John O’Brien have a personal commitment to community involvement, and it has become a philosophy that permeates their company’s culture.

As the top executives at their Cleveland executive recruitment consulting practice, the couple encourages their team members to participate in community service efforts and the nonprofit organizations of their choice.

“It is our company’s belief that our employees are best-suited to determine what cause is most important to them,” O’Brien says. “They should not feel obligated to participate in a companywide, predetermined effort. Howard & O’Brien Associates supports all organizations or causes in which our employees are involved.”

Howard and O’Brien’s employees understand that their employers support their volunteer efforts. If a team member needs time off during the day to prepare for an evening fund-raiser, work schedules can be rearranged easily. The company also contributes financially to causes supported by its employees, and the company leaders attend events when possible.

Howard & O’Brien Associates has made numerous sizable cash donations to local nonprofits, including Womankind, Providence House, Dress for Success of Cleveland, Center for Families and Children, YWCA, The Gathering Place, the Women’s Community Foundation and the Weatherhead School of Management at Case Western Reserve University. The company also has donated significant pro bono consulting work for JumpStart, Baldwin-Wallace College, Karamu House and the Women’s Community Foundation.

Serving as good role models, Howard and O’Brien are board members of The Gathering Place, The American Heart Association and Cleveland Scores. During the summer of 2006, the couple took their children to Guatemala and worked with Adopt-a-Village to bring needed supplies to Guatemalan schoolchildren. The crayons, pencils and other supplies were collected by their children’s classmates at their Shaker Heights elementary school.

“Every human being benefits from being connected to the community around them, whether it is a work, industry, school, church, city or town community, even our global community,” O’Brien says. “We gain a sense of belonging or connectedness and of accomplishment when we help others in any of these realms. It connects us all to the ‘human condition.’”

HOW TO REACH: Howard & O’Brien Associates, (216) 514-8980 or www.howardobrien.com

Friday, 26 October 2007 20:00

The business of beauty

Charles Penzone’s mother begged him to be a dentist, and while he may not have followed that particular career path, he did take another piece of his parents’ advice to heart: “You are only as good as the people with whom you surround yourself.”

The president and founder of Powell, Ohio-based Charles Penzone Inc. says those words weren’t meant to be business advice, but they stuck with him through the years. They guided him to make better decisions while growing his 39-year-old chain of eight Central Ohio salon/spas and a company that distributes beauty products throughout Ohio, parts of Kentucky and Indiana.

As the passionate leader of more than 650 employees, Penzone is dedicated to change, both in the business world as well as in the beauty and fashion industry.

“To stay ahead of the competition, you’ve got to be willing to change,” he says. “If you don’t, you die; your company remains stagnant and doesn’t grow.”

So how does Penzone accomplish this never-ending task? He puts job candidates through several interviews to ensure that he is hiring smart people who also thrive on change.

“They’re willing to sign a commitment agreement with our company and go though an additional year of training within our company before we turn them loose on providing service to the client,” he says. “We know they’re committed to our industry and to our culture.”

Describing himself as a “big-picture-focused type of individual,” Penzone supplements his large-scale plans by hiring detail-oriented associates.

“I’m not sure I’m comfortable with being called a visionary, but in essence, that’s probably what it is,” he says. “Company owners have to envision what direction we want our company to head in the future, and that is a very big picture.”

Penzone believes successful business leaders need to delegate their objectives to smart, dedicated people, and then stay out of their way.

“We service 10,000 clients a week. I have to be confident in the people that I’ve chosen to work here,” he says. “They’ve proven themselves to be capable, and it works for me.”

There is a certain amount of risk involved in empowering employees, but Penzone says his team members are welcome to refer to the company’s well-established policy and procedure manuals, as well as its group of highly skilled managers.

“We’re talking about a well-trained group of professionals being managed by a well-trained group of professionals,” he says.

Penzone has found that his employees care about doing the right thing and performing their jobs well. And that, in turn, makes his job easier to do.

Customers won’t see Charles Penzone Inc. opening 10 salons in a year or acquiring chains with reckless abandon. Instead, Penzone prefers to follow a simple strategy: slow and pragmatic growth.

“We do the due diligence it takes to open a location. We take our time, focus and try to do a good job. We’re not rushing out there or doing anything at the expense of jeopardizing what we’ve done over the last 39 years,” he says.

Having established a solid infrastructure of young professionals at his company, Penzone is confident that his business will continue to grow and find success long after he’s retired.

“I’m extremely entrepreneurial and have a tendency to want to charge forward, but I have a great group of people here that advise me and keep me very disciplined,” he says. “I don’t have a lot of ‘yes people’ around here. I have a lot of people that voice their opinion, and we work together to make decisions.”

After 45 years in his industry, Penzone says success means being happy with your job.

“I just can’t imagine not loving what you do when you get up in the morning to go to work,” he says. “I’ve genuinely loved being in business and still do. It’s still a ball.”

He says that his favorite part of his job is making a difference in people’s lives. He estimates that since he founded Charles Penzone Inc., the company has employed about 10,000 people and made millions of visitors feel special and look great.

“How many people enjoy going to the dentist?” he asks. “And who do you know that doesn’t enjoy going to a Charles Penzone salon?”

HOW TO REACH: Charles Penzone Inc., (614) 898-1200 or www.charlespenzone.com

Thursday, 04 October 2007 20:00

Serving a need

Sometimes the best way to expand your business is to find a growing niche market and climb aboard for the wild ride, as W. Michael Jarrett can attest to.

After gaining experience at Roadway Express and Caliber Logistics, Jarrett became founder and president of Jarrett Logistics Systems Inc. in 1999. The Orrville-based company serves as a supply chain management, transportation management and logistics service provider for high-growth North American companies.

Jarrett realized that larger third-party logistics providers typically don’t provide service to companies with less than $500 million in annual sales. He realized this was a great business opportunity because those businesses can benefit most from transportation management services: They have staffing limitations, and logistics is often not their core competence.

“As just-in-time manufacturing and inventory reduction continue to gain momentum, controlling transportation costs is becoming even more critical in maintaining a competitive advantage for the growing segment of the marketplace,” he says.

Growth in both sales and employees has been dramatic. From 2002 to 2006, sales increased 567 percent, and payroll grew 150 percent. The company’s growth has been honored in the Inc. 500, Entrepreneur magazine and Weatherhead 100, and JLS has received the Cascade Capital Business Growth Award for the last three years.

Jarret says the keys to his company’s success are business ethics, employee character and operational efficiency. JLS uses a centralized routing center concept to receive daily shipment information from both its customers and their suppliers.

The company also created proprietary software called Shipment Handling and Information Planning (SHIP) Systems, which provides detailed transit and rate information. This software helps service agents gain instant access to the best service/least cost solutions for each shipment and coordinate shipping arrangements with the appropriate carriers.

JLS also provides freight bill payment services, premium freight management, claims processing, shipment tracking, freight consolidation and customized management reports.

Jarrett plans to maintain a high-growth mode for his company by continuing to invest heavily in two main areas: integrity-based, skilled people and leading-edge supply chain technology.

HOW TO REACH: Jarrett Logistics Systems Inc., (330) 682-0099 or www.jarrettlogistics.com

Monday, 25 June 2007 20:00

Controlled mania

When Ranjan Manoranjan and Nanda Nair co-founded 3SG Corp. in 2000, they planned for their group to offer three S’s: software, service and solutions.

Manoranjan, who serves as CEO of the Dublin-based business, says 3SG then had to change course to keep up with technology and customer demand. Today, his company provides document imaging, management solutions and business process outsourcing services to 400 clients. Its 300-plus employees are located in four U.S. offices and one offshore, and gross sales have grown 75 percent, from $6 million in 2004 to $10.5 million in 2006.

Smart Business spoke with Manoranjan about how he empowers employees to exceed client expectations.

Q: How can other executives grow their company the way you’ve grown yours?

Focus on what you do best and don’t get distracted by other opportunities coming through. [If] you are not the best there, don’t get into that. The other things can look easy, but it still takes a lot of your management time — that is where you lose the focus.

Empower others. It’s hard for a small business to let people make the decision and be accountable. My partner and I used to be in every operational meeting and (managers would) look at us to tell them what to do, even though they were qualified and sometimes more experienced than ourselves.

Now we don’t enter the operational meetings unless they need some help. And, to tell you the truth, they do better than us because their focus is only that. My focus is companywide.

Mentally, we had to prepare to let it go. It’s hard for a small businessman, but if you don’t do that, you can’t grow anymore.

Q: How do you exceed customer expectations?

Our company philosophy is based on a book called ‘Raving Fans,’ by Ken Blanchard, who co-wrote ‘The One Minute Manager.’ I would say for three full years, we did not have raving fans; we learned it over a period of time.

Keep the expectations clearly defined. Once clients know that this is what they are expecting in return, then it’s easy to exceed that.

We have a client service director who reports to the president. She will talk to the client during the project, get their feedback and pass it along to the people who are providing (the service). If there’s a shortfall, she’ll immediately alert the production manager. If she cannot fix it, she goes to the president.

The client knows up-front there’s a person — a customer advocate — whose job is to make sure the customer is happy at the end of it. Sometimes, we had to do work twice; we have minimized our rework.

After the work is done, and sometimes during the work, we send out a survey to every client to get feedback. I cannot say we have 100-percent happy clients, but the percentage of happy clients is much higher than it used to be.

Q: What can prevent a company’s growth?

Not being attentive to your associates. A happy associate gives you a happy return.

We started with two associates and we have 302 as of December. We must’ve done something right. Our first associate who joined is still working for us.

When you are growing, you sometimes tend to forget the associates. Reward them, recognize them and bring in the family atmosphere so every single person feels that they are a part of the company.

We have more benefits than a lot of companies our size. It’s a cash investment. Most companies don’t, and I think that paid off. Ninety percent of our cost is in our associates.

Q: What advice would you share with other CEOs of fast-growing companies?

Be honest to yourself. If you take a project that is bigger than you can handle, you’re going to fail and not only lose that business, but it’s going to affect your reputation. Always ask the question: Can you do it?

If you can’t, partner with a company that can do it. It’s difficult when someone’s knocking on the door, but you have to say no.

Look for controlled growth. Your growth is controlled by three things: your capital or available financing, people to manage the growth, and not just customers but good customers who are profitable for you.

Don’t oversell yourself or it’ll be a crisis. You need the cash to meet payroll, but you cannot bill that client until the work is done. The bank will only go along up to a certain place.

In that stressful situation, you will be firefighting more if you don’t produce the best product for your customer. When you lose focus on your customer, you won’t have a raving fan.

HOW TO REACH: 3SG Corp., (877) 761-8394 or www.3SG.com

Monday, 25 June 2007 20:00

Vision and mission

Nineteen years ago, Tim McCarthy was working in the marketing department of a large restaurant chain when he thought up the idea of marketing the restaurants to consumers through their workplace. The company was not impressed with his brainstorm and sent him packing.

What could have spelled professional disaster for McCarthy turned out to be a blessing in disguise because it gave him time to develop his business concept, which he called “contract marketing.” Through hard work and credit-card debt, McCarthy founded Mentor-based WorkPlace Media, a marketing agency focused on the at-work consumer.

Using the WorkPlace® print media program that McCarthy created, WorkPlace Media has grown from one employee to more than 70. Its client list includes Subway, Goodyear, Denny’s, Arby’s, Ruby Tuesday and other national retail chains.

McCarthy believes in having a “cool” corporate culture and says there is nothing cooler than showing respect for your employees. Understanding that his staff members work hard, he gives them time to “play” — which often translates to food-for-thought meetings, summer barbecues and movie days.

The average length of employee service is seven years, which McCarthy attributes to the company’s fun corporate culture, encouragement of professional development, internal promotions, and offers of tuition reimbursement to full- and part-time employees. Three of the company’s five top executives have risen through the ranks.

McCarthy also established a charitable foundation, Free Hand Inc., with his wife, Alice. The foundation aids charities in need of executive resources, money and management, like St. Philip Neri Ministry Center and International Partners in Mission.

McCarthy’s belief in giving back to the community has greatly influenced his employees. They have donated numerous service hours and dollars to Free Hand Inc. and many other charitable organizations.

HOW TO REACH: WorkPlace Media, (440) 639-9100 or www.workplaceprint.com

Monday, 25 June 2007 20:00

Dedicated professionalism

With more than 50 combined years of accounting and consulting experience, Mark Goldfarb and Gary Shamis serve as managing directors of SS&G Financial Services, a growing full-service accounting and business consulting firm.

Founded in 1968 as a two-man company, the firm has expanded to include more than 350 employees and now has offices in Akron, Cleveland (Solon and Westlake), Columbus, Cincinnati and Erlanger, Ky.

Throughout the years, the company has faced several challenges, including growing the firm in a declining economic region. Goldfarb and Shamis realized several years ago they had to implement an innovative plan to create opportunity and growth.

Their first business strategy was developing nontraditional service niches to set their firm apart from the competition. SS&G broadened its offerings to include payroll processing, wealth management, retirement plan design and administration, business valuation and litigation counseling, human resource and technology consulting, and a specialty tax practice. Five years ago, the firm began to focus on industry niches as well. The success of these practices laid the foundation for the firm’s future growth.

When it comes to hiring great people, SS&G wanted to be considered a destination employer. To attract talent, Goldfarb and Shamis decided to offer competitive benefits and employee stock ownership programs. As a result, the firm has won several awards and has a low turnover rate.

Last year, Goldfarb and Shamis spear-headed the transformation of SS&G into a next-generation company by working with nationally recognized consultants to survey staff, educate senior management and implement a forward-thinking plan.

SS&G’s leaders also encourage employees to support local charities. During the past decade, the company has raised over $250,000 with an annual golf outing that benefits the Alzheimer’s Association. SS&G professionals donate time and serve on the boards of over 500 nonprofits collectively.

HOW TO REACH: SS&G Financial Services, (330) 668-9696 and (440) 248-8787 or www.ssandg.com

Saturday, 26 May 2007 20:00

Competitive edge

Cleveland-based Lincoln Electric Co. is not only an expert in the design, development and manufacturing of welding products, it strives to be an expert in the area of customer service, as well.

Rick Trivisonno, Lincoln Electric’s director of customer service and community affairs, says his company wants to provide a total welding solution to its customers, so it continues to maintain technically trained field sales representatives and an application engineering department for customer support.

To further enhance customer service, the company recently incorporated industry-leading service standards that were benchmarked from some of the world’s most successful companies.

Its customer service department was reorganized, and the yearlong process incorporated operating practices from Six Sigma and training principles from Dale Carnegie, as well as leading procedures, methods and measurable reliability standards.

Technically knowledgeable customer service representatives now handle incoming calls to immediately help with cross-functional issues. Employees are equipped with the latest customer support technology and are empowered by Lincoln’s management team to make customer-focused decisions to speed inquiry and warranty processing.

Lincoln Electric also has programs to address service defects. It monitors fill rates for products, promise and delivery dates for shipping to customers, and warranty fulfillment times for immediate equipment repair. When a customer orders replacement parts that are out of stock, the company offers free upgrades for next-day shipments.

To recognize its VIP clients, Lincoln Electric offers incentives to its top distributor customers as a way to reinvest in their future growth. The Chairman’s Reward for Performance Excellence also recognizes its top distributor customers.

HOW TO REACH: The Lincoln Electric Co., (216) 481-8100 or www.lincolnelectric.com