by Jim Ashe, Secretary, PDCA Craftsmanship Forum
President, Beach Painting, Inc.
As in any company, in any trade, craftsmanship is crucial if you intend to be successful and compete on a professional level. In fact, most small businesses in the U.S. never achieve longevity and success, which may be attributed to a lack of craftsmanship on many levels.
In fact, every job has it’s own craft and only the most dedicated members of any craft become true craftsmen. Webster’s defines a craftsman as “one who creates or performs with skill or dexterity especially in the manual arts”, but it is belief that this definition can be taken further. For example, as a business owner, you are tasked with knowing how to create a yearly budget, make cash flow projections, learn marketing and put it to work, and knowing how to read key business indicators. Only when the owner masters these crafts, can he be a master craftsman in the art of managing a small business.
Most never achieve this level of perfection, but for those that do, the American Dream is realized, and greatly enjoyed. You can bet that the most successful businessmen and women failed miserably and had to learn how to be successful. It is this failure that most people are unwilling to accept. Most people find their comfort zone and blissfully abide there, ignorant of what they could become.
Office staff also can rise to the level of craftsmen in their own jobs. Your office personnel are the “front line defenses” against dissatisfied customers. A poor communicator can cause a negative effect on your business that you may never even discover! Customer service is an art, don’t let anyone tell you differently. From the office manager to the secretary, there will be an eventual need for some sort of customer service training. I can tell you from personal experience, that a great office manager can really take your company to the next level. The competent handling of the office from 9-5 can free the owner up to deal with more important things like writing that operations manual, or writing your marketing plan. Conversely, a lazy, inattentive secretary can add to your workload, causing you to have to deal with filing, or answering the phone instead of working ON your business.
Recently, I fired our secretary and hired another. I can’t tell you how refreshing it is to have a craftsperson in that position! She is doing things that used to be done by the office manager which now allows Charlotte to work on things that I used to do! Now, not only do I have the benefit of being able to work on other things, Mary and Charlotte really enjoy having the responsibility of the new tasks. They are happy to know that they are good at what they do, and show enthusiasm towards their responsibilities, which by the way, is an attribute of a true craftsman.
Of course, the obvious candidate for a craftsman is the field technician (or painter). After all, the painters are the ones who paint, and the paint doesn’t lie. It either looks good or it doesn’t, and that’s what most of your clients see. What they don’t see is just as important though, for the health of your business. Just imagine what you could do with a crew of craftsmen! Could they take you to the next level? If you increased production rates for your crew by 15%, what dollar amount would that translate into? As you might imagine, craftsman training for your crews could be the biggest innovation in your company since the invention of the paint roller. You could also train your craftsmen in the field to upsell whenever possible. I mean you’re already in the house working, why not go ahead and add an accent wall, or paint that door? What could you do with that extra revenue stream? Probably more training, if you get the picture!
Just imagine what your company would look like if all your people were craftsmen in their own positions. Everyone doing their own jobs wonderfully, cheerfully…respectfully. I can tell you that a smoothly running business is a miracle to behold. As the owner, you will suddenly find time to enjoy life and work too. Your yin will function with your yang, and life will make sense…well maybe not, but I guarantee you will be better for your efforts. You see, that’s it in a nutshell. It takes great effort to gain ability. I think we have almost forgotten that as a nation. Put in your time and effort to become a craftsman in whatever you aspire to, and wear the name with pride.