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« Does a duopoly lead to shared services? | Main | What is going on with beer values? »

How to improve your operations

OK, you’re not going to merge with anyone or jump on the shared services bandwagon (see the 2 prior posts)… then what?  Or I guess, even if you are ;-)


Simple.  Build and operate the most efficient and effective organization you possibly can.  Here are some things to think about in no specific order.


·                    The world changes… are you allocating your payroll dollars appropriately?  This is especially true in your sales area.

·                    Flat, flat, flat… the flatter the organization the better.  Look at your management levels… do you really need them all? (sorry folks) What is the ROI on some of these positions?  Do you have $75K level people doing $30K level work?  It is much easier to manage an organization like this but it is rather expensive.

·                    Build better managers.  We promote “doers”, people who are great at getting things done.  You know the type, you give them a task and never think about it again since you know they’ll get it done and get it done right.  Then we make them managers… where they have to accomplish tasks through others.  This is not what has made them stand out… this is not the personality trait where they have excelled… in fact in many ways it is in contradiction to the very things which made them superior.  That’s the reason many managers and supervisors in this industry don’t truly manage at all… they help.  They think their job is to help their people accomplish their daily tasks… and they do so by physically helping them, rather than managing them.  Help your managers make the profound transformation from being a doer to a manager.

·                    If it doesn’t help sell beer, why are you doing it?  Ask yourself this one every single day.

·                    The office is almost always the least (worst?) managed department in a distributorship.  There often aren’t great payroll savings here (but there might be), but a lot of operational friction can start here.  Make certain that all departments work together seamlessly… that each department’s actions support and smoothly integrate with the other departments.  Often one department does something in a certain way, not knowing it causes great headaches for another… and a simple solution is available if they just communicated about it.

·                    Getting too specialized in delivery is generally a poor ROI move.  Specialization in sales has a better chance of generating a positive ROI but be careful here too.  Some wholesalers have gone a little overboard with this… make certain the benefits exceed the costs.

·                    As an analogy, the past years in beer distribution has been like going from playing high school ball to college ball to pro ball.  How many superstars in high school can play at the college level?  A lot get weeded out when everybody else is pretty darn good too.  And how many college stars can play at the pro level?  Look around (and in the mirror)… is your team ready to play at the pro level?  If not, get it in gear and start down a path towards that goal.  Train, coach, help your people get better.  And where this isn’t possible, replace them with someone who can play at the pro level.  These things aren’t moral issues, just the essence of building a winning pro team.  Keep your high school team if you desire… but I’ll bet on the pros every time.  Just as I’ll bet on the beer drinkers when it’s 3rd and 10 over the milk drinkers (I stole and modified that last one from the old Miller Lite sports quotes)

·                    Get rid of stove-pipe thinking… that’s when each department focuses solely on their own little world and don’t communicate beyond their stove pipe.  Force cross-departmental communication and integration.  Your organization is a system.  No part of a system is more or less important… in fact the concept doesn’t even make sense when thinking of a system.  You need to ensure the entire system works.  A great example of the truth of this system thinking is the space shuttle Challenger… that’s the one which exploded soon after takeoff.  It was a very complication system with a total cost of hundred’s of millions of dollars.  Yet it exploded and killed everyone on board because a five dollar O-ring failed.  Ask those dead astronauts what’s the most important part of a system… they all are.

·                    Don’t be afraid of change… embrace it.  This is a mindset, not just a slogan… help it spread throughout your organization.  Now don’t go mindlessly chasing change but try to wake every day and see the world (and your organization) anew.  If something can be done better, then do it.  One caveat here though… don’t be constantly changing the design of your organization.  Employees don’t handle constant change very well… once every 3 - 5 years or so take a hard look at your organization… the rest of the time spend your efforts improving the execution of what you’ve got.

·                    Look in the mirror – are you consistent?  Nothing destroys management and employee commitment more than owners and senior management flip-flops… or bull****.  Make certain you don’t say one thing but down the road when this creates some conflict, you take the easier path.  And as a side note, from my experiences whether in management or even child rearing, most of the time the easiest choice is the wrong path.  Quite often, tougher choices today make for much better results tomorrow.    

·                    Take good and make it better… take great and make it greater.  Never be satisfied.  Except with your sharp dressed and black hearted management consultant ;-)


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