ProTips

The E-newsletter for Waste Industry Professionals

No. 14, January 2005)

 

A guide to this month’s edition

1. Welcome

2. ProTips for Professional Development

3. ProTips for Operational Profitability

4. Topic of the Month: Prepare to Negotiate

5. Quote of the Month

6. Ramblings

7. Announcements

 

Welcome

 

Welcome to “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.

 

I encourage you to share “ProTips, the E-newsletter for Waste Industry Professionals” with your colleagues and friends. They can subscribe by simply going to

http://www.protoconsulting.com and selecting the Sign-up link on the home page.

 

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

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2. ProTips for Professional Development

 

Expense reports…raise your hand if you like to fill them out. Have you ever misplaced a few receipts, or spent an inordinate amount of time looking for them only to give up and eat the expense? I don’t know anyone who enjoys filling out expense reports, but here’s a tip that can make the job bearable. Put the report form in a desk drawer you open frequently and place it on top of everything else; this way you can’t help but see it. Every time--I mean every time you have a reimbursable expense--when you return to your office, fill out the report and attach the receipt. At the end of the month, when your colleagues are whining about completing their reports, you can rest easy. All you have to do is total up your expenses, turn in the report, and wait for the check--no fuss, no muss, no kiddin’.

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Keep only one calendar…if you want to avoid missing a meeting with an important customer or city official. If you use a PDA to track your appointments like I do, it’s hard to get a view of the whole month on a 3 1/2 inch screen. So how can you have the convenience of a PDA and a view of the whole month without keeping two calendars? Synchronize your PDA with the calendar program on your computer. Print the month view page and keep it handy, preferably in your notebook or binder. When someone asks for a meeting, go to the month view page and write in the appointment. When you have two or three handwritten appointments, update your computer, synchronize your PDA, and print a new month view page. The trick to making this work is to use only your month view calendar to schedule appointments. If you go back and forth between your PDA and your month view calendar to schedule meetings, you’re bound to miss an appointment sooner or later. Avoid the problem by using only one calendar to write in new appointments.

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Check your outgoing voicemail message…to make sure it conveys a warm, friendly tone. You never know who’s going to call. It might be that big customer you’ve been trying to contact, and you don’t want to turn her/him off with a poorly crafted, unfriendly message. Opt for a brief cheerful message. However, if your message is long, give your callers an “out,” such as “Press ## (or whatever code your system uses) to skip this message in the future,” so they don’t have to listen to your entire message. I recommend putting the “out” towards the beginning of the message, right after you say your name. Don’t ask callers to leave the time and date of their messages, either. Most modern voicemail systems let you know the date and the time the call came in, so don’t clutter up your message or waste your caller’s time. Another turnoff is asking your caller to be brief. If the caller is an upset customer, you want as much information as possible to help you take corrective action on the return call. If prompted, your caller may give you enough information to help you prep for or even eliminate a return call. One last tip: if you’re going to be out of the office for an extended period of time, let callers know and give them an alternate phone number to call in your absence.

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3. ProTips for Operational Profitability

Reduce your flat tires…by walking around your yard. It may not be the most important thing you have to do, but walk around your yard and see how many nails you pick up. You’ll get a sense of how many flat tires may be self-inflicted. You may not be able to eliminate all the road hazards your trucks encounter, but you can take control of some. Now, I’m not suggesting you do this every day, but you can take other precautions to eliminate those self-inflicted flat tires. Ask the person in charge of cleaning the yard to have someone drag a magnet behind a pickup around the yard once or twice a day. You’ll be surprised at how many flat tires can be eliminated.

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Increase your revenue…by paying attention to your no-service accounts. If your city has mandatory service, make sure all inhabited residences and business are subscribed to your service. Sometimes, customers will stop service to avoid paying their garbage bill and take all kinds of steps to get rid of their garbage. It’s not uncommon for no-service customers to dump their garbage in city litter cans, other residences’ cans, or business dumpsters. Worse yet, they may even dump it in vacant lots or blind alleys. If need be, ask the local jurisdiction to help out, because it’s in their best interest, too. This also lets the city know you are on top of your business. Pay attention to your no-service accounts and you’ll increase your revenue and help keep your city clean.

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Hold regular staff meetings…to keep your folks in the know. With fewer people doing more and more work, staff meetings can seem like a waste of time; however, used constructively, staff meetings can be a quick, efficient, and convenient means to share the latest information with all your direct reports. Staff meetings also give you the chance to listen to the feedback, squelch the negative, and accentuate the positive. They provide a forum to get everyone on the same page and headed in the same direction. Staff meetings can have a positive impact in moving your agenda forward while putting to rest many of the rumors that are fueled by ignorance, as the more people know, the less they will speculate. The last thing you need is to have your folks badmouthing the latest corporate directive, or to be uninformed about the logistics for the next big project. Keep your folks in the know; hold regular staff meetings.

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4. Topic of the Month: Prepare to Negotiate

 

This year you or someone in your company will participate in some type of negotiations. They may be for a collection contract, a new labor agreement, or conditions on a regulatory permit. Negotiations are never easy, and they can be filled with stress. Over the years, I’ve participated in all types of negotiations, some as the lead negotiator and others as a member of a team. Every time I came away with one or two lessons learned that have helped me reduce the stress and prepare for the next time.

 

If your job doesn’t provide the opportunity for you to negotiate, don’t worry. Ask your boss to let you sit in on her/his next negotiation. It will be a chance for you to gain valuable insight into the process, and you can show that you are a valuable member of the team by being a diligent observer and taking detailed notes.

 

Whether you are an experienced negotiator or just starting out, here are a few thoughts to get your wheels turning as you prepare for your next negotiations.

 

Information is power. This saying is especially true in negotiations. The more you know about the other side’s bottom line the better prepared you’ll be to negotiate. There is no simple way to find out what’s important to them, but one of the most effective ways is to ask. The best negotiations often start long before the first formal meeting. Informal discussions with the other side can help you prepare for the onslaught of formal demands at the meeting and help you formulate your negotiating strategies. It is also an opportunity to let the other side know what is important to you. Start talking to the other side before the negotiations begin to improve your chances for success.

 

Never underestimate the other side. Don’t take them for granted no matter how well you know them. Be prompt, courteous, and considerate. Don’t scoff at their demands. Enter every negotiation with a heightened sense of the importance of the task ahead, and be prepared to do your best. It sends a message to the other side that you are ready to negotiate.

 

Both sides have to arrive prepared to give. If it’s take, take, take, you’re headed for a disaster. I know that “win-win negotiations” is a tired cliché, but it has an important meaning here. Both sides have to come away from the negotiations with some satisfaction and some benefits; otherwise you’re in for a long, hard battle and all parties will end up losing. Go out of your way to accommodate the other side, but don’t give away the store; you’ll regret it.

 

Never react to the other side’s negative comments or criticisms. Once they get you flustered, you’ll have a hard time thinking rationally. If you lose your cool and lash out at them, take a break as soon as you can. Regain your composure before continuing with the negotiations. The most effective negotiators I’ve observed never react. Joseph Lepera, my lawyer friend, is one of the best at this. He NEVER reacts; he ALWAYS responds directly to the point in a calm, professional manner. Anger and disparaging words have no place in negotiations. Nothing is more disarming than a cool, collected response to harsh, negative comments.

 

Leave the decision maker back at the office. When the boss is part of the negotiating team, there’s no out when you’re pressed for a decision on an important point. Without the decision maker present you can always say, “I’ll have to pass it by the boss.” Now, if you’re pressed about you not being able to make the final decision, ask the other side if they can make the final decision. Chances are they won’t be able to, either. Negotiate with the union, and the officials have to go back to their members to have them ratify the contract. Negotiate with city staff, and they have to get the city council to approve the final contract. If the other side can leave the boss at home, so can you.

 

One last thought--there’s no shortage of books, tapes, and CDs on how to negotiate. Reading and listening to them can help you do a better job, but the best way to improve your negotiating skills is to participate. It’s like learning to swim; you can only read so much about the subject, and at some point you have to dive into the water. Create your own good luck with your next negotiations through preparation…and make sure you don’t hit your head on the bottom of the pool.

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5. Quote of the Month

 

“Pay no attention to what critics say; no statue has ever been erected to a critic."

 

Jean Sibelius, Composer

 

As you move through your career, there will always be those who cheer you and those who jeer you. Remember the cheers; they will see you through the tough times. As for the jeers, let them ring hollow in your ears; they have no benefit for you.

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6. Ramblings

 

Happy New Year! I hope everyone enjoyed their holidays as much as my family and I did. As usual, we overdid--food, wine, songs and gifts. The one thing I know for sure--don’t get too many things you have to figure out how to operate. I’m on information overload right now, still figuring out how to work the new video camera, the pedometer, and the iPod. I’m the kind of guy who only reads the manuals when all else fails, so I let my grandson Joshua, who’s a Steven Spielberg in the making, figure out how to operate the video camera. None of us can figure out how to set the pedometer. The print in the manual is so small you can barely read it with a magnifying glass, and nobody gets to use the iPod but me. I think I’ll have it all figured out by my birthday--just in time to receive more toys to baffle me.

 

I like to end my year the same way I intend to start the New Year--with family, friends and a great time. I try to do things on New Year’s Eve that will give me momentum for the New Year. I clean my World Headquarters, organize my office, add new pages to my day planner, and give a little thought to how I want things to turn out in the coming year. Another thing I’ve done for years is to make sure I go to the gym or do some other kind of exercise on New Year’s Eve. The reasoning is the same; I’m hoping it will give me momentum into the New Year.

 

This year was no different. I went to the gym on New Year’s Eve, and I was one of the first to walk into the gym on New Year’s Day. 2005 is off to a great start; as I was leaving the gym after my workout, I ran into a good friend. We exchanged greetings and pleasantries, and as we were talking, I asked him what his goal was for 2005. He said, “To survive another year.” “Whoa”, I said, “Anybody can survive. Homeless people survive. You can do better than that.  You have a great job, a wonderful family, and by the looks of it, you’re pretty darn healthy.” The conversation went silent, and I knew I had struck a nerve.

 

“You know Ron, you’re right,” he replied, “I don’t know what I was thinking. You’ve infected me with your optimism and your enthusiasm. I have to think positively and infect my drivers with my enthusiasm.”  Now my friend has me thinking; optimism and enthusiasm are contagious.

 

Every day we have a choice. We can be full of optimism and enthusiasm, or we can be pessimistic and apathetic. Choose the former and you will lead your team and your company to new heights. Choose the latter and you will lead a team into mediocrity, which of course gets you no place fast.

 

Begin every day on a positive note. When asked how you’re doing, reply with “great,” “terrific,” “fantastic,” or any other word or phrase that conveys optimism and enthusiasm. All the people I know who have lived long lives (well into their 90s), were optimistic and enthusiastic folks. They always had smiles on their faces and kind words to say…and they were a delight to be around!

 

So start today to live a long, positive life. Put on a happy face, speak kind words, and infect everyone you meet with your optimism and enthusiasm. It beats the alternative.

 

Best wishes for a Happy, Healthy, and Prosperous New Year.

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7. Announcements

 

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 Web site at http://www.protoconsulting.com for more ideas on professional development and operational improvements.

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“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 Web site, http://www.protoconsulting.com.

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