4 steps to separate yourself from the competition

4 steps to separate yourself from the competition

The Ariens Company and Marty Grunder laid out tips at a recent event in Wisconsin.

March 14, 2017
Katie Tuttle
Supplier News

“Culture is your company’s personality,” said Alissa Beyer, the director of human resources for the Ariens Co. “It’s hard to sometimes define, but it’s immediate when a company has a good culture. It’s that one thing you can’t put your finger on, but it sets you apart from your competitors.”

Ariens, along with Marty Grunder, president and CEO of Grunder Landscaping, hosted a group of 15 landscape professionals from across the U.S. as part of the Elite Retreat.

The event, which took place in Wisconsin was two days’ worth of learning how to improve your company, whether with culture, social media or efficiency.

Here are four takeaways:

1. Survey employees … but more importantly, take what they say to heart.

Ariens uses an anonymous survey tool to get employee feedback and to see if there’s anything they can improve about the company’s culture. Most satisfaction surveys will rate answers on a numerical scale, but they’ll also include comment boxes.

“You can skew the numbers, but it’s the direct comments we focus on,” Beyer said. “The direct employee feedback.”

Once you do the surveys, Beyer said looping back with employees is “critical.” If people feel confident enough to share their feedback with you, they like to know they were heard and that you listened to what they said.

“If you ask for feedback, you need to do something with it,” Beyer said. “Otherwise it destroys the trust.”

2. Go lean.

Lean manufacturing is a systematic method of getting rid of waste in order to make your company processes more efficient.

Ariens has saved hundreds of thousands of dollars by becoming a more lean, efficient company, but it didn’t happen overnight.

“In the beginning, we didn’t have any expertise,” said Jeff Kerns, director of continuous improvement for the company. “We didn’t have any lean experts in the company.”

Ariens brought in consultants and started doing week-long Kaizen events – activities to continuously improve all functions in the company – which involved everybody.

The company then started focusing on ways for continuous improvement, which included the 6S audit form, which stood for safety, sort, set-in-order, shine, standardize and sustain. Ensuring that everything in the factory followed those six categories helped make things more efficient.

Ariens also started a near miss program, meaning situations that were almost accidents were reported by employees, who were then incentivized.

“This allowed us to address almost accidents before they became real accidents,” Kerns said.

3. Social selling.

Companies who aren’t on social media, and aren’t using it as a selling resource, are missing out on a large demographic of potential customers.

If you’re new to social selling, the important thing to do is focus on one of these platforms instead of spreading your resources and effort too thin over all of them.

“Be an inch wide and a mile deep with social media,” said JW Washington, director of business development with Ariens. “Have a vision where you want to go and stick it with. Engage.”

On social media, Washington said there are four things to focus on: build and project your brand, content acquisition and creation, social hiring and social selling.

First, always post before pictures of a project, not just the after shots.

“After shots mean nothing to a potential customer if they don’t know what it looked like before,” Washington said. Providing before shots shows exactly what your crews did to the property.

You can also use social media to sell.

“Social selling has become a massively important aspect of the modern sales process,” Washington said. Salesforce, a cloud computing company, interviews people across a number of industries and found that 79 percent of salespeople who used social media as a selling tool outperformed those who didn’t.

4. Create your vision.

Every company should have a vision statement. A vision statement is your “win” statement; it’s the ideal state, or goal, your company strives towards.

“If you can’t clearly articulate what your vision is, imagine how your people feel,” Grunder said.

If your company doesn’t have a vision – or a clearly defined vision – now is the time to work on it. First, decide what your dream is; what you aspire to be and need to work on. Then, look at reality, where you are today. The steps in between the two are your strategic plan, which will help you get to where you want.

“It’s important to have small steps, small victories to get to where you want to go,” Grunder said. “Martin Luther King Jr. didn’t say ‘I have a strategic plan.’”

“Vision is a process,” he said. “It’s evolving, it’s a journey. It’s one you’re regularly working on.”