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What Now? (Part 2)

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CKCA by Sandra Wood
CMP, Executive Director, CKCA
In the last issue we heard from one industry expert who offered tips on how to navigate you and your business forward in these stressful times. Vaccines are rolling out and there’s a level of optimism as infection rates have dropped. But this isn’t an easy time to be in business because apart from COVID-19, there are so many other issues including supply chain, price increases 
and labor shortages.
Adapting and adapting again are the new normal. But you can take steps to keep some control over it all. In Part 1 we connected with Connie Millard, POWERPODS to discuss how business owners can manage wearing so many hats and carve out time to work on their business even though the industry is so incredibly busy.
CKCA spoke with two more experts who have a lot of experience working in our sector helping companies develop smart strategies to reach greater success with less stress.
Andrew Wall, Sandler Training helps companies to profitably grow their business through consulting, training and coaching their leadership and sales teams to be their best.

CKCA: Many companies have filled their book of business months out or even to yearend. While this is a great position to be in, many are concerned that this bubble could burst. What strategies would you recommend they consider now, to manage the current situation, but also to prepare for what is next even though we really don’t know what next will look like?

Andrew: Sandler Training has been helping our cabinet-
manufacturing clients to define their ideal client and focus on providing cabinet solutions to these customers. Business comes 
from both residential walk-in traffic and ongoing custom builders, contractors and designer relationships. We are encouraging our clients to focus on these strategic partners to have a deeper understanding of their business and meet their needs both today and in the future. When the post-COVID demand weakens from the residential walk-in traffic spending money on vacations, the strategic partnerships will continue to provide consistent and steady business.

CKCA: You’ve done a lot of sales and leadership training with kitchen cabinet companies. What are some of the common challenges you see, especially in the past?

Andrew: With custom cabinet demand at all time highs, Sandler Training, is working with our cabinet manufacturers to define their sales process to provide clarity to both prospects and themselves. This means selling your design services and then showing customers what their new kitchens will look like before they agree to the full investment.  With supply challenges and production booked, we have been 
coaching our clients to have open and honest conversations around timelines, so you treat your clients with dignity and mutual respect.

Chris Leonard, Consulting Director, Kaizen Institute (Helps owners adopt the Kaizen business system to help their managers and employees communicate daily, improve working conditions, and solve problems that make it difficult to do their best work together)

CKCA: As you are working with a number of kitchen cabinet companies to implement Kaizen and given current pressures, what should a company do to ensure employees remain engaged and employee retention is maintained?

Chris: The simple answer is communication and education. With communication it is possible you have communicated more during the pandemic with all your employees than you did in the entire previous year, but your voice was competing with a lot of other voices coming from government, community and family as well as the internal voice of fear. Now that your employees see that the business has survived the worst of the crisis, some of the background noise and fear will have subsided and they will be looking for leadership to lead them forward.
Note to senior leaders and owners: Don’t delegate this, do it yourself and let your managers follow your lead. Having a town hall style meeting would work best, one that included time for questions to be asked by your employees. Creating a mechanism for anonymous questions to be gathered beforehand would be a smart move; you want to know how everyone is really feeling.
When it comes to education, having worked in your industry now for more than four years, the thing that strikes me the most is the willingness of shop floor workers to learn new skills and routines. If you have not seen this in your own organization, look again! Ask yourself the following questions:
When was the last time anyone asked your employees what skills they would like to develop?
When was the last time they were invited to learn about new processes or techniques?
Many workers in this industry have no post-secondary education but possess some of the keenest minds for problem solving 
and creativity that I have come across in my 23 years in training and consulting.
The good news is that things are changing in the post-secondary education market; COVID-19 has accelerated the move towards greater flexibility in admissions as well as access to courses. Micro-credentials (a micro-credential is a short, competency-based recognition that allows a learner to demonstrate mastery in a particular area) and online learning platforms are coming together to provide the opportunity for your employees to be recognized for the skills they have and further develop them.

CKCA: People may think that taking on a Kaizen program at this time is just too much, there’s no time to do it. What do you say to these companies?

Chris: In our rush towards normalcy in our operations we must acknowledge, there is a new normal that will emerge whether we like it or not. This new normal will best developed together with everyone who works in your business.
The greatest misconception I have come across as I’ve worked with organizations implementing Kaizen, is that people hate change. But that is not true. Our brains are literally wired to both deal with and effect change, we are after all, the best problem solvers on the planet. People do however hate change that is imposed on them, but they will gladly embrace change that they helped create. When we seek to solve problems for our employees, we not only rob them of the pleasure of coming up with a solution, but we also ensure resistance to what every solution we provide them with.
The new normal will include, health and safety measures, working hours, multi-skilling to ensure greater flexibility and a personal responsibility for first time quality and greater productivity. 
I really don’t see why, as an owner, you would want to take all this responsibility upon yourself instead of engaging your entire workforce; introducing the Kaizen Business System will make this process automatic.

There are tools to help you and your business. We hope we have inspired you to take the first step with any one of the solutions whether it’s POWERPODS, Sandler Training or Kaizen. Each one offers something uniquely different, but they all strive for a common goal – to help you and your business thrive. We have a number of members who are already using these different tools. Be progressive - take the first step!
Want more on these programs? Contact info@ckca.ca

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