ProTips

The E-newsletter for Waste Industry Professionals

(No.6, May 2004)

 

A Guide to this Month’s Edition

1. Welcome

2. ProTips for Professional Development

3. ProTips for Operational Profitability

4. Topic of the Month: Part II, Make It Easy For Customers To Do Business With You.

5. Quote of the Month

6. Ramblings

7. Announcements

 

Welcome

Welcome to Issue No.6 of “ProTips, the E-newsletter for Waste Industry Professionals.”

 

This month’s newsletter is filled with tips and thoughts to help with your professional development and to manage your business more profitably. My purpose is to stimulate your thinking; the industry benefits most when we all do our best.

 

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If you would like more information about any of the topics discussed in this newsletter, or have any thoughts you would like to share, call me at 510.881.9440, or send an e-mail to ron@protoconsulting.com.

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Special Announcement

I will be speaking as part of a panel on Automated Collection at WasteExpo in Dallas, Texas at 12:45 pm on Monday May 17, 2004. Please stop by and say hello.

 

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2. ProTips for Professional Development

 

Be timely…return telephone calls and e-mails in a timely manner. If someone calls or sends an e-mail looking for information, a timely response sends a strong message about you; it says you’re on top of things and in control. It also puts you in good stead with the other person. You never know when you’ll need something in return. And don’t forget be nice to everyone; you never know how today’s relationship might look in the future, or who might be your boss someday.

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Be on time…nothing is more frustrating than waiting for someone to start a meeting or leave for an appointment. Your lack of promptness sends a message saying, “I have more important things to do than to meet with you.” One way to make sure you are on time is to plan adequate time for travel. Given that, don’t--I repeat--don’t pick up that phone when it rings as you are getting up from your desk to leave. If you do, it’s sure to make you late.

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Be time sensitivethe new American way is to do more with less. Consequently, everyone is pressed for time. Use caution when “dropping in” to someone’s office or cubicle. Remember that they’re busy, also. It’s easy to let a few casual comments turn into a waste of time for everyone involved. Others are not going to appreciate your visit if it puts them behind on the things they’re working to accomplish.

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3. ProTips for Operational Profitability

 

Cart inventory…if you provide carts for your customers, running out of them is like McDonald’s running out of French fries. One of the most frustrating things for customers to encounter is to call their collection company to start or change service and find out carts are on backorder and won’t be available for another two weeks. I checked with a few cart manufacturers, and they told me that depending on the time of year, it can take from four to six weeks to get delivery after the carts are ordered. Make it easy for customers to do business with you; check your cart inventory and make sure you have a ready supply all the time. I’ll take fries with that quarter pounder, thank you.

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Container inventory… like carts, you should never run out of front loader, rear loader, or roll-off containers. If you’re like most companies, your commercial business is your mainstay. Making sure you have enough containers to satisfy your demand should go unsaid, but unfortunately, sometimes inventory gets depleted. Adequate container inventory is more critical now than ever. The demand for steel has skyrocketed prices and created a bit of panic buying. As a result, some container manufacturers have six- to eight-week lead times. In addition, the summer is almost here, and demand for containers is sure to follow. Check your inventory and place your order now. I’ll have fries with that Big Mac, thank you.

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People inventory…now that’s a new term. But like carts and containers, well-trained and skilled people are always in short supply. It never seems to fail--come summer, companies are scrambling for qualified workers. Now is the time to check your vacation schedules to see if you will have enough qualified workers to handle the workload. Make sure you have a few extra workers waiting in the wings, because there are sure to be a few folks who will take unauthorized time off during the summer…no thanks, I’ve had enough fries; I’m watching my carbs. It’s nice to know, though, that you have them if I want them.

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4. Topic of the Month

 

Last month I wrote about making it easy for customers to do business with you. Part II is the following editorial, reprinted in its entirety from the April 12, 2004 issue of Waste News with permission from the author and Managing Editor, Brennan Lafferty. I chose to reprint this piece because it punctuated my comments in last month’s newsletter. I hope you can appreciate the message. I know it wasn’t lost on me.

 

“Lid throwers beware”

By Brennan Lafferty

 

Billionaire Donald Trump doesn’t have the market cornered on firing people.

 

Not after the Laffertys fired their garbage collector this month. But unlike The Donald and his advisors on the TV show “The Apprentice,” we took more than two minutes to make the decision. Eight years to be exact.

 

The straw that broke our backs was the sight of our trash cans and lids flying through the air at 7 a.m. This trash collector, who always rides solo, was angry. At least, that's what I gathered from his unintelligible yells from the street. From the safety and camouflage of my living room blinds, I watched him hurl cans, lids and venom in my general direction. A home remodeling project, you see, had generated three full cans of drywall and wood scraps. I struggled a bit the night before carting the plastic cans to the curb. I told myself, heavy though they were, we were well within our five can limit.

 

I’ve always been a sucker for the little guy, like the mom-and-pop hardware store or pizza shop. I've preached that good small businesses go out of their way for customers and help sustain our local community.

 

Well, strike one independent trash company from my list.

 

My call that morning to the company's office was met with annoyance from the dispatcher. I wanted to know if I misunderstood our service. She said I should have called the day before so the driver could have been alerted to the heavy load. No, they wouldn't have put an extra person on the route. But I guess this lid-tosser would have been mentally prepared for our hefty debris.

 

But this advice comes from a company that regularly took payments without actually picking up our garbage. For two years we mailed checks to this hauler, while a rival company actually carted away our trash while we were at work. The same dispatcher didn’t seem to care much then either when I called. Nor did she want to discuss a refund.

 

Days after the firing, I'm still conflicted. A much larger company now collects our trash. Our bill is less per month and we can throw away 10 cans of trash per week. As for their customer service…well, we'll see. But if after eight or 10 years I don’t like what I see or hear, I know where to find the Yellow Pages. Mr. Trump would be so proud.

 

Contact Waste News managing editor Brennan Lafferty at (330) 865-6174 or blafferty@crain.com

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5. Quote of the Month

 

The really happy person is one who can enjoy the scenery
when on a detour.
Author Unknown

 

My good friend Peter Vagadore sent me this quote. He is an avid cyclist, frequently completing double century bike rides. I can just picture him peddling like crazy and coming upon a detour. Most people would get upset, but not Peter; he would just follow the detour and enjoy the scenery. In this fast-paced world we live in, it’s easy for your plans to be upset. The difficult thing to do is not to get upset. Follow Peter’s example, and enjoy the ride.

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6. Ramblings

 

Last week I took my first trip to Hawaii. It was a wonderful experience. What made it even more delightful was that my lovely wife, Vivian, joined me. You may not see this as anything out of the ordinary, but let me assure you that it was.

 

You see, this was only the second time my wife has taken a trip on an airplane. The last time was eons ago. I’m not sure what happened on that flight, but she vowed she wasn’t going to fly again. Thus, we’ve been confined to driving vacations that are only three or four hours from home, along with the occasional trip to Disneyland.

 

When I told Vivian I was attending a conference in Hawaii and she said, “I’m going with you,” you can understand my delight. Without delay, I made all the arrangements, knowing this would be a deterrent for her to change her mind. I’m glad I did, because several times she tried to wiggle out of going.

 

The day of the trip finally arrived, and off we went into the wild blue yonder--headed for Paradise. The flight to Hawaii was smooth, and the service is what you would expect from a first-class airline.

 

Throughout the trip, we received service ranging from poor to excellent. The worst service came from the most unsuspecting place--the so-called “first-class” airline on the flight home. We weren’t even greeted when we boarded the aircraft. All the flight attendants had grumpy looks on their faces, and their service reflected their attitude. To top it off, the food was as cold as their personalities.

 

On the other hand, the service at the resort where we stayed was superb. Everyone was polite and courteous, attending to our every need. For our entire stay, wherever we turned, there was someone to help us out. It was delightful!

 

One day we decided to drive into town; after we completed the paperwork, the rental car representative gave us tips and directions to make sure we had a wonderful day, and off we went. Unfortunately, I made a wrong turn; it was the worst wrong turn I’ve made in a long time. Instead of going to the Pearl Harbor Memorial, we ended up at the Ala Moana shopping center. Vivian truly had found Paradise.

 

I can’t figure it out. No matter where we travel--Tahoe, Disneyland, or Las Vegas--shopping is the main sport. “Vivian,” I said, “We are 2500 miles from home. Do you really need to shop?” She politely replied, “Back off, I’m at the top of my game here,” as we entered the world of Versace, Chanel and Burberry. I swallowed hard, and prayed the stores would close before she could do too much damage to our bank account.

 

The interesting thing about our shopping experience was noticing the elements that made up quality service. (Contrary to what you might think, some high-end stores do have grumpy employees and poor service). It’s no mystery that the best service came from stores where employees brimming with enthusiasm met us as soon as we walked through the door, and greeted us with warm smiles and cheerful personalities. I can count on Vivian to always mention after such an encounter, “You can tell they love their jobs.”

 

Now I know why my credit card is so thin. Vivian gives it a workout every chance she gets, especially if the sales people love their job…Aloha!

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7. Announcements

 

“ProTips, the E-newsletter For Waste Industry Professionals” is produced and distributed monthly by R.J. Proto Consulting Group, Inc. I encourage you to share it with your colleagues and friends. You may reproduce this electronic newsletter in whole or in part, as long as you include the correct copyright notice (at the end of this newsletter), with a link to my website, http://www.protoconsulting.com.

 

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If you would like more information on any of the above topics, call me at 510.881.9440 or send an e-mail to ron@protoconsulting.com. Please visit my website at http://www.protoconsulting.com for more ideas on professional development and operational improvements.

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Your submissions are always welcome. Send them to ron@protoconsulting.com. If I use your submission, I’ll give you credit, unless you wish to remain anonymous. All submissions become the property of R.J. Proto Consulting Group, Inc., unless otherwise requested by the writer. (Sorry, that’s my lawyer friend).

 

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© Copyright 2004 Ronald J. Proto. All rights reserved.