Jul 2, 2012

Thinking about starting a company blog? Rob Olney shows how to do it right.

Ever feel like everybody has a blog, and you should get one too? Well, if you do want to start blogging, do it right. How? Let’s go-and-see…

ETM Manufacturing has been fabricating and machining sheet metal and assembling products for its customers for more than 40 years. It aims to have a customer centric culture, and CEO Rob Olney’s blog demonstrates how that culture operates daily. When I look at Rob’s blog, I see these qualities:

Informal: Rob tells you a story in his own words. No corporate-speak. No stilted phrases.

Personal and emotional: Words and phrases like “stunned,” “shocked,” and “We had a scare the other day…” humanize ETM. When we care about our work, we feel the same emotions, and these glimpses can help us feel a connection with Rob and his team. (Some research says that triggering these feelings releases oxytocin in the brain. It’s been called the “trust hormone.” Scientific American, To trust or not to trust)

Smart: Rob tells a story about deciding whether to bring powder coating in-house. It spells out costs and alternatives, and how the ETM team worked with a customer to make it feasible. Although it’s a breakeven proposition, it’s the right decision because it increases process velocity as the part moves between customer and supplier. Sharing the thinking with blog readers shows a business decision that another company might not make. In addition, because employees often don’t know the dollars and cents analysis behind a decision, laying it all on the table makes them smarter too.

Constantly seeking improvement: Rob says, “For the first time, I saw through Jim (Womack)’s perspective the waste in our quoting and job release processes.  We take pride in 24 hour turns for any type of quote, but Jim had me see that 24 hours may not be valuable to the customer.  Two hours might be valuable on one quote and two weeks might be valuable on another quote.”

Partner attitude: As a customer or supplier, I would feel ETM is interested in making my company competitive and help me improve my product and process when I read, “An enclosure’s cover is getting scratched during the removal, storage or replacement processes… Keith’s solution was a 3M protective sheet to wrap the top enclosure... This is not a bad idea, but the lean thinker in me sees all the waste… A better solution came from Rich, our salesman.  Why not use returnable packaging between Keith’s company and our company?  We would build wood boxes with foam inside for each enclosure…”

So much is revealed in one little story: Rich is engaged with the customer, understands waste, and knows the processes involved. Rob knows an improvement opportunity when he sees one.  Rob gives Rich credit for his idea. And ETM takes responsibility for making the returnable boxes, which now become kanbans and produce all sorts of other savings.

Confident: In the story about the enclosure cover, Rob doesn’t neglect the sell, however soft it is… "You probably can think of several other solutions… you, me, and Keith’s end user don’t want to pay for waste…Once we adopt this customer attitude to our approach as suppliers, new opportunities always open up to help reduce waste and increase value.”

Available and helpful: “We have started working with a select group of customers to dive deeper into supply chain partnerships…We’ve found that those partnerships require a lot of training and process improvement work… customers who are searching for deeper, more integrated approach will be supported by our dedicated sales force.” (This post also announced that ETM has hired new salespeople, and how that can benefit you as a customer.)

Inclusive: Rob talks about people at ETM and customer companies, always by name -- Rich, Ed, Shawn, Kerrie-Ann. The team is the center of the story.

Friendly: I really feel Rob’s openness and connection with his team and customers.

Humble: “I used to think… Now, I know better.”

Direct: Whether it reveals a weakness or a problem with his company -- which of course he and his team are working to correct -- Rob tells it like it is.

Persistent: Rob blogs about once a week, which I think is about right. (I’ve been called out on not blogging often enough, and I can tell you how hard it is.)

I could go on about ETM’s website, Twitter feed, news releases, photo gallery, LinkedIn company page, YouTube channel, and networking activities with other manufacturers in the region. But you get the picture, and can explore these on your own.

So inside the social media buzzwords, you can use these new tools to share how your company works... and who doesn't want to read a story?

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