Why Should I?

"Why Should I?" The little 4-year-old girl with pretty golden curls stood with hands on her hips and a defiant look on her face.

The mother looked exasperated, reached down, picked up the kid and said, "Because, I said so!"

I thought, "Bad answer" as the mother started walking away holding the daughter. Sure enough, the wails of unhappiness soon echoed throughout the shopping mall.

"Bad answer" is also my response when foundries only reply price to the customer question, "Why should I buy from you?,"

Small foundries don't have many opportunities to distinguish themselves. Rarely will they be able to significantly improve the design or offer improved packaging that allows other manufacturers to develop brand recognition. Small foundries are usually limited to supplying the customer the design he ordered, packaged the way he wants it.

If a foundry's lead time is "about the same as everyone's," their on-time delivery performance is "no worse than most," and their quality is "as good as my competitors," that doesn't leave a customer many reasons to buy other than price. It also leaves the foundry in trouble.

If a foundry is selling strictly on price, they shouldn't be too surprised when the job is moved because the customer found a lower price. The prices offered by the new foundry may not be fair.  The prices may not even be realistic.  But, if it's only price that counts, the first foundry loses until it can either lower the price or until the second foundry closes.  Just as the gun slinger in the Old West eventually found out, there's always a faster gun out there.

The second important "Why should I" question that today's small foundry manager must be able to answer is, "Why should I work for you?" Actually, you're going to have to answer this question well, if you expect to have good answers for the first "why should I" question. Only good people will allow you to provide the service that will let your foundry sell castings on something other than price. In fact, it's only with good people that your costs will be low enough to be competitive.

Once again, if the only answer you can give to the question, "Why should I work for you?" is money, my response is, "Bad answer."

Certainly, you're going to have to pay competitive wages to get good help. The potential employee doesn't really have any way of knowing that much about an operation before beginning work. If there's a choice between organizations, it's a rare person that will take a lower salary. Choosing which employer to work for based on salary may not be the best decision, but it's what happens.

It takes more than competitive wages to keep good employees. Think back in your career. How many times did you really leave a job just because of money? That's the reason you may have given when asked; however, what prompted you to find the better money was most likely something else.

With today's mobile society, the employees can almost always find better pay if they want to look. All it takes is something to make the employee frustrated enough to start looking, and he'll be able to find another job that pays as much or more. While that's not very encouraging, it's a fact of today's economy and something that managers must deal with effectively if they are to have a successful operation.

It's more important than ever for today's managers to ask themselves what they're doing to create a work place where "the good" employees will want to stay. Are the systems currently in place designed to keep good employees or are they designed to keep all employees? It's been my experience that systems designed to keep all employees are very good at getting rid of the good ones. The system that rewards all equally makes sure that more productive employees don't put forth full effort or that they look for a place to work that will recognize their efforts. Even the system that rewards people for staying with you may be seen as a reason for a good new employee to look somewhere for some organization that will recognize his contributions now.

In most cases, the way to keep good employees is to have good supervision. Good supervision recognizes when an employee doesn't need close supervision and leaves him alone. It sees when he needs instruction and gives it in a way that doesn't make the employee feel less than human. Good supervision also recognizes good performance and corrects less than satisfactory performance. Unfortunately, many foundry supervisors got their jobs because of their longevity or technical competence, not because of their ability to work with and/or motivate people. Their supervisory training consisted of watching their supervisors, who were trained (or not) in far different times. The result is that some good employees are turned into less than adequate supervisors.

The next time you're faced with a problem of lack of customers or lack of employees think about answers to these "Why should I" questions. If your responses are limited to talking dollars and cents, it's a "bad answer." While there's no doubt that money is, and will most likely always be, important, it's the other answers to these questions that will determine the success of your operation.