ProTips

The E-newsletter for Waste Industry Professionals

No. 20, July 2005)

 

A guide to this monthÕs edition

1. Welcome

2. ProTips for Professional Development

3. ProTips for Operational Profitability

4. Topic of the Month: Manage Your Collection Contract with Care

5. Quote of the Month

6. Ramblings

7. Announcements

 

Welcome

 

Welcome to ÒProTips, the E-newsletter for Waste Industry Professionals.Ó This monthÕs 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 ÒProTips, the E-newsletter for Waste Industry ProfessionalsÓ 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

 

DonÕt be bashfulÉwhen following up. If someone commits to do something for you but fails to deliver, donÕt hesitate to ask for completion. This is easy to do with a direct report, but more difficult with someone higher up the corporate ladder or with an outside company. The key is to be polite and straightforward. DonÕt apologize for having to provide a reminder; the other person made the commitment, and it needs to be executed. Just remind--gently.

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Be excellentÉnot perfect. Striving for perfection is a waste of time. It causes stress for you and your coworkers. Instead, make excellence your endeavor. YouÕll be more productive, and get the job done faster. The difference between excellence and perfection is a fine line. Cross it and youÕll cause anxiety and stress for yourself and others, and you wonÕt be any fun to be around. Stay on the side of excellence and watch your productivity increase and your creativity blossom.

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DonÕt forgetÉsay thank you. If a customer sends a complimentary note about your company or one of your employees, send a thank you note. A compliment is not something to pass over lightly. Compliments are hard to come by, so make the most of them. Send a brief note acknowledging the customerÕs effort in giving the compliment, mention your companyÕs commitment to quality service, and acknowledge the importance of your employees in accomplishing it. A short thank you note goes a long way in punctuating the quality of you, your employees, and your company.

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3. ProTips for Operational Profitability

 

Are you getting the best bangÉfor your labor dollar? Drivers and mechanics are highly skilled and well paid. Do you have them doing jobs that donÕt require their skills? If so, get a lower-paid employee, or hire a contractor to do the job. For example, if a truck needs to be dropped off at a dealer or a third party repair shop, it takes two people--a driver and a pick-up person. By hiring an outside service to handle odd jobs, you keep your drivers and mechanics on their jobs, saving you money in the long run.

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Call your officeÉdo they measure up? Are your receptionist and your customer service representatives making your company look good? All too often, IÕll call a company, not necessarily a garbage company, only to hear a pathetic response to my telephone call. Make sure your company is well-presented when someone calls. Call your office, and before you even mention your name, youÕll know if your company is well-presented. Casually walk through the customer service department and listen. Do you like what you hear? If not, take corrective action to improve the way callers are greeted and treated.

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Reduce your liabilityÉconduct a random driverÕs license check. It amazes me how so many drivers fail to maintain a valid commercial driverÕs license (CDL). Without one, they increase your liability if they get into an accident with one of your trucks. DonÕt rely solely on the Department of Motor VehiclesÕ Pull Notices that list driversÕ violations; the information lags by 60 to 90 days. Take action and conduct a random CDL check. If drivers have had to surrender their licenses, youÕll know it immediately and can keep them from driving one of your trucks. Reduce your liability; make sure your drivers are always carrying a valid CDL.

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4. Topic of the Month: Manage Your Collection Contract with Care

 

When was the last time you read your collection contract? If youÕve been operating under a long-term contract for awhile, you probably havenÕt looked at it for a long time. You should know your contract inside and out, and be prepared to execute every clause in it to fulfill your obligations. It is the surest way to secure your companyÕs longevity.

 

Your collection contract is your most valuable asset. Yeah, I know, employees are supposed to be your most valuable asset, but if you donÕt have a contract, you donÕt need employees. ThatÕs why itÕs important to manage your contract with care. Everyone in your company should be dedicated to following the contract to a tee, no exceptions.

 

A casual knowledge of your contract doesnÕt cut it; you have to know every detail. Most contracts IÕve seen run well over 100 pages, with some approaching 200 pages. They are filled with tough requirements and stiff penalties. It takes a lot of effort and patience to manage a contract with care; unfortunately, itÕs a necessary evil.

 

There is no guarantee that following your contract to a tee will insure your companyÕs future, but it will give you an advantage in negotiating a contract extension or even a new contract. The city staff charged with administrating your contract are most likely the same folks who will recommend a contract extension. Make their job tough, and your contract is sure to go out to bid.

 

Here are a few things you can do to manage your contract with care;

 

  1. 1.     Read and understand your contract completely; leave nothing to chance. Make sure youÕre providing all the required services--even the little annoying ones, like empting all the litter cans six days a week. You may not think itÕs necessary, but itÕs important to someone--thatÕs why itÕs in the contract.
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    1. 2.     Check to see if youÕre meeting all the reporting requirements. Are you providing the contracting jurisdiction with timely and meaningful reports? If not, get caught up now and put reminders in place to ensure that you donÕt fail this requirement again. Nothing, except poor service, annoys a contracting agency more than missing reports. When you donÕt submit reports on time you put a cloud over your operation.
    2.  

      1. 3.     Pay up. If the contract requires payment of any fees or revenue sharing, make sure the payments are accurate and on time. Some contracts have hefty fees that result in large dollar payments. Hand-carry the check on the due date. ItÕs another opportunity to meet the folks who administer your contract and find out if there is anything you can do to make their jobs easier.
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        1. 4.     If the contract has operational provisions, make sure they are being met. For example, if the starting time for collection is 6 a.m., see to it that the drivers donÕt start before then. Noise is the most frequent service complaint received by contracting jurisdictions. Next on the list are tipped-over containers and gates left open for backyard collection. Make sure youÕre complying with all the operational provisions of the contract.
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          1. 5.     If the contract calls for the contracting jurisdiction to do an operations review, complete one before they do. If you take on the review with your own folks, tell them to be your most severe critic. DonÕt gloss over operating problems, and do right the wrongs before they become an issue. Remember, third parties who review your operation have to justify their existence. DonÕt give them cause to be overly critical. Find and fix problems pronto. Time is of the essence.
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            Managing a collection contract isnÕt rocket science, but it does take time, effort, and attention to detail. The newer, more voluminous contracts require the full-time attention of a very capable and competent staff person. Anything less sells your company short.

             

            Commit yourself now to reading and completely understanding your contract. Manage your contract with care and make your company stand out from the crowd.

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            5. Quote of the Month

             

            ÒDon't worry about people stealing an idea. If it's original, you will have to ram it down their throats.Ó

            Howard Aiken,

            U.S. computer scientist

             

            Great ideas rarely succeed in the first round. Fred Smith, the chairman and founder of Federal Express, got a ÒDÓ on his masterÕs thesis, which was, of course, the concept of flying packages across the United States and delivering them before 10:30 a.m. He didnÕt give up on his idea--nor should you give up on yours. If you truly believe in your idea, its time will come.

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            6. Ramblings

             

             IÕm no stranger to taking on jobs far beyond my capabilities. They are a terrific learning experience and a rewarding challenge. My last foray into the unknown was installing crown molding throughout my house. Hey, thatÕs no big deal; IÕm a pretty handy guy, and I have two helpful sons and all the toolsÉwrong!

             

            The first episode with the crown molding was part of a redecorating project in our kitchen and family room. I learn by watching, so I hired Ken Rose, a contractor, to help me install it. Actually, I helped him install the molding. The job was simple and fast. When we finished, I thought, ÒThat was easy, I can take it from here.Ó

             

            A couple of weeks later I decided to tackle the entry hall, living room, and dining room. I scheduled a weekend with my sons, Ron and Joel--let the games begin! Keep in mind--I have all the tools and some of the talent. Besides, I helped the contractor install the molding before; this is going to be fun.

             

            Well, it took half of the first day to set up the saw. Remember what I said about practicing excellence instead of perfection? Sometimes I need to heed my own words. It took the rest of the day to cut the first section of molding and install it. I discovered that cutting crown molding accurately is difficult. You have to deal with compound angles, and sometimes you have to cut the board upside down and backwards. This wasnÕt as easy as I had thought, and it was taking way too much time; we had to regroup. Another one of my rules is that when all else fails, read the instructions, so we stopped the project for the day, and I bought a couple of books on the subject.

             

            Two months later, there was still one lonely piece of molding on the wall in the hallway. Now I got the ultimatum. Vivian--my wife--the Patrona--said, ÒFinish the job or call the contractor.Ó I had so many things going on that I decided to call the contractor again. Within five hours, we installed the crown molding, and even had time for lunch. The contractor made it look so easy that I knew I was now competent.

             

            Several months went by, and the Patrona gave me the word again, ÒCall the contractor and finish the molding in the rest of house.Ó 

             

            I bristled at her suggestion and shot back, ÒIÕm going to install the crown molding myself. IÕm not calling the contractor. ItÕs a matter of pride.Ó

             

            ÒPride, smide,Ó she said, Òget it done.Ó

             

            I called my two helpful sons and we were at it again. This time we installed two boards in two days. Lessons come hard, and I donÕt give up easily. The two boards adorned our bedroom for several weeks. Finally, one day I said to myself, ÒIf this is about pride, get off your duff, and finish the job.Ó So I set out to install the molding by myself--dumb idea! Have you ever tried to install a 16-foot piece of crown molding by yourself? I donÕt care what the books say; itÕs virtually impossible.

             

            Fortunately, Vivian showed up and helped me finish the job. Wow! What a sense of satisfaction and pride--I--well, we--installed the crown molding. No matter that the seams in the corners were smiling at me; a tube of caulk will cover all the mistakes. I knew I could install crown molding. It just took time and perseverance. As I was gloating with pride, I heard the Patrona, ÒDonÕt forget to finish the hallway and two bathrooms.Ó

             

            With my new sense of pride and job satisfaction in my hip pocket, the next phase of the crown molding installation was going to be easy--ÒHello, Ken, will you be available to install some more crown molding?Ó

             

            As my nephew, Mike Campbell, said, ÒUncle Ron, the easiest way to install crown molding is to watch somebody do it.Ó Amen to that.

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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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            ÒProTips, the E-newsletter For Waste Industry ProfessionalsÓ 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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            © Copyright 2005 Ronald J. Proto all rights reserved.