Cookie Cutter Products Aren’t the Answer

Gone are the days where Henry Ford said, “A customer can have a car painted any color he wants…as long as it’s black.”

No matter what industry you’re in, whether it’s the oil and gas field or finance sector, there is one thing across all verticals that remains the same: our customers want personalized solutions that fit their needs.

As businesses, we cannot simply sell cookie cutter products anymore. Gone are the days where we show prospective clients our pre-made ‘solutions.’ Regardless of your industry, there’s no such thing as ‘one-size fits all.’

Take smartphones for example. You might be thinking “well, everyone gets one of the three iPhone choices.” Or do they?

Imagine getting your new iPhone. What’s the first thing you do? You either rearrange your home screen, OR you download all the apps you love.

Now think. What do those two actions have in common?

They’re custom solutions that solve your problems—big and small. A rearranged homescreen means muscle memory can take over and save you time. A digital wallet that pays all your bills, a messaging app that keeps you in touch with your kid who is studying abroad, and a home security app that constantly gives you peace of mind.

This same idea goes for storage tanks.

Each of your current and prospective clients has specific needs. How many times do you really look at a new client and end up providing them with an exact same replica of a solution you’ve already given someone else? Our guess is never.

The trick, as we see it, is to be driven by processes.

We encourage that you start by first listening to your client and prospective client. From there, you should gain a clear understanding of what it is they’re hoping to accomplish versus what they need. Make sure that you truly understand your current and prospective clients’ long-term goals. Have a strategy session that builds a plan that can be used in the long-run.

We need to bear in mind that our customers each have their own specific set of needs, short and long-term goals. While ready-made products might fit some of those, custom solutions have a larger impact in the grand scheme of things. These tailored products not only fit immediate needs but future needs, making your relationship as a strategic partner proactive, not reactive.

You’re Really Hiring a Family, Not an Employee

When I was young, my father was laid off from his job working at a mill. There were 9 of us Polacek kids, so you can imagine my father’s unexpected job loss made an immediate and dramatic impact on my family. It was unfortunate moments like these that taught me lessons on how I’d eventually like to run my own business.

Of course my father’s company didn’t like laying him off; come on, no one likes to do that. To me, I see layoffs as my own personal failure. Like in life, your actions in business speak louder than your words. As a business leader, your greatest testament is when times are tough. When your backs are up against the wall.

Some of you may be faced with difficult decisions and immediately think: the right decision is the one that loses the least amount of money. While that decision might be the right one for a profit-focused company, we’re an employee-focused business. We choose to do the right thing and take care of the employees by providing benefits during good and bad times.

When the mill hired my father, they really hired my whole family— yes, all 9 kids! As an employer, how we treat our employees makes a profound impact on their families.

At JWF Industries, we’re really a family. We’ve adopted the belief that you’re not just hiring a person, an employee. You’re hiring their family. They’re integrating into our family. That’s a huge responsibility, and it’s not always an easy one…much like families.

Oddly, one of my proudest moments as a leader occurred during one of the hardest moments: when the recession forced us to lay off employees. We were faced with two options:

  1. Payout over $150,000 in insurance for laid-off employees and when they return to work they receive $1000.00, based on the understanding that they receive far less from unemployment.
  2. Lose a little money in a month.

We chose to payout over $150,000 in insurance and compensate returning employees with $1000.00. Because it was without a doubt the right thing to do.

Without our employees, we wouldn’t be where we are today. If you truly want to grow and you want your customer to grow, focus first on the people making it happen every day: your employees. When you compensate them well, give them good benefits, and help them succeed, all else will grow.