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 Effective Engineering e-Newsletter – 4/13/2006

This is your monthly e-Newsletter from Effective Engineering Consulting Services (www.effectiveeng.com).  If you would like to receive Effective Engineering e-newsletters as they are published, please send an email to e-newsletter@effectiveeng.com, and we will add you to our distribution list.  Comments and suggestions are welcome and encouraged!


Who  Funds Your Life?
  By Tom Dennis – President, Effective Engineering [tdennis@effectiveeng.com]

Who funds your life?  Who provides the money to allow you to live, to buy groceries, clothing, etc., to pay rent or a mortgage, to provide the ability to get along in life?  Most people will say it is their employer who pays their salary who does this.  While technically true, your employer is not really who funds your life.  They may provide the paycheck, but where to they get the funds to provide you with your funds?  Think about it.

In response to my last e-Newsletter (see eN-060302 – A Fresh Start!), I received an email from Bruce Haycock, a consultant at Advantage Business in Auckland, New Zealand (who says Effective Engineering doesn’t have international reach!
J).  Bruce made the observation that in consulting, it is a fresh start after every non-sale, and for that matter, after every sale, because if you don’t get the engagement, it’s back to the drawing board for the next potential engagement, and if you do, then it’s a new situation virtually every time. 

Bruce also mentioned that his daughter recently got married, which made him think of an earlier e-Newsletter (see eN-051006 – Project Management: Here Comes The Bride!).  His daughter’s wedding, as with mine, was an irreplaceable and special experience of joy, memories, and strong emotions.  It was also a time of significant expenses that had to be paid.  He realized that, as with all other expenses in life, everything gets paid for by one’s customers, and that we never quite serve our customers with the respect they truly deserve, for the good they bring to us all.  As I reflected on Bruce’s observations, it became evident that this was a great topic for an e-Newsletter, and here we are! 

Many people in business tend to consider customers as a necessary evil or a nuisance that must be tolerated or humored.  This is particularly true for the people in a company who seldom interact directly with customers; engineers are often a prime example.  If you ask them where their salary comes from, they’ll tell you it comes from their company.  While the check they receive each week or month may be issued by their company, the reality is that their customers fund their life.  Without customers, there would be no company, and thus no salary to support them.  This is a fact that people often choose to ignore, and even treat their customers badly or as a source of annoyance.

Even government workers (e.g. teachers, policemen, firemen, tax collectors, etc.) are dependent on customers, albeit less directly.  Their funding comes via taxes (property, state or federal income, sales, etc.), which come from taxpayers, who pay their taxes from money they make, which, in turn, comes from their customers.

Bruce offered two examples from his business, and how a proper recognition of the value of customers can change your approach to business and to life.

Some time ago Bruce had a landscape contracting business.  One of his crew leaders was a hard working, but hot-headed (at times) Irishman.  He had reacted poorly to a customer service complaint.  Bruce ended up saying to him, “Look here pal, you just don’t understand who pays your wages around here.”  His crew leader took this as a threat from Bruce to dismiss him, but Bruce said, “No, it’s not a threat from me, because I don’t actually provide your wages.”  “Oh yeah, who does then?” said the crew leader.  Bruce said, “The same customer you’re not listening to, she pays them, along with all the other customers.”  The return look from the crew leader was only half comprehending.  “Think of it this way,” said Bruce, “each pay day I don’t go to the back yard of my home, dig up a box full of money and pay you from it.  What I do is bill the customers for the work you guys have done for them, their checks come back, I bank them, and then pay the wages from that money.”  The dawning of comprehension became complete. 

A few months later, the crew leader told Bruce that he had been trying to buy a more reliable family car, but the budgeting service they used told his wife they couldn’t afford the level of repayments.  Bruce thought he was going to request (demand?) a pay raise, but instead he said, “I’ve been thinking about it, and is there any way my customers could help me make the payments?”  Bruce told him that was awesomely brilliant, and they went through the crew leader’s profit budget and found that if he could add one more customer to his own truck schedule, upsell a couple more services to existing customers, maintain his retention rates, and be willing to supervise another truck crew, then his monthly bonus return would more than cover his repayment shortfall.  The crew leader went out and bought the car that weekend, and struggled a little on the home front until the cash flow from his share of the productivity improvements kicked in.  A valuable lesson on the value of customers was well learned.

Bruce himself had another example.  At one point in raising their kids, his wife and he decided the local school options weren’t going to suit one of them.  But the fees for a private school option were a problem.  Bruce and his wife were feeling a bit glum, until it hit Bruce that he could get his customers to pay.  He determined that he would need to add about 30 more contract customers to add the extra cash flow to draw enough from the business to pay the schooling fees.  This possibility raised his energy level and the focus needed to drive for those additional customers, and in three months he had them.

To this day Bruce recognizes fully the value of his customers for the good they bring to us all, and treats them with the full respect they truly deserve.

I would like to offer my sincere thanks to Bruce for making what should be an obvious fact evident to me in such clear terms.  While I know Bruce only by email, I feel we have developed a kinship that can turn into a friendship; I hope that at some point we can meet in person.

The lesson that Bruce has made apparent is just how important customers are, not just to our businesses, but to our very existence.  We all need to make stronger efforts to appreciate them, value them, and treat them with the respect and dignity that they deserve.
It is our customers who truly fund our lives!

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Effective Engineering Consulting Services, All Rights Reserved

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