A lesson in managing people

Recently, the Salem Ohio Community Theatre performed a comedy roast and skits in Courtyard Square.

I often go to see the shows at our beautiful historical theatre in our city. They are professional and of very high quality and, indeed the theatre and it’s company are a grand asset of this wonderful city.

Dan Haueter was the Director, and managed a dozen or so unpaid and over-talented actors who, in two weeks put together a show that sold out and changed the entertainment direction of a city.

I am a manager of people. Most of my time has been spent in turn-arounds. I am known for being candid and absolute. I am not known for compassion nor for kindness. I am, perhaps a bit of a dinosaur, a remnant of the days of “If it ain’t broken – break it”.

Dan is very different. He never raised his voice. He never got upset. His management style was gentle and forgiving. The cast love him and I have grown to be yet another of his advocates. His demeanor and his success have caused me to reflect on myself and my methods.

“There is no greater friend than one who teaches you to be a better person” That quote is from me. I have had a few great men who have stopped to help me along the way. First my father, great bosses, great clients, and great employees, and I took what I felt was the best that they offered and I made it my own.

Now, I am confronted with another friend who has shown me that, perhaps it is time to look at myself and assess my style in light of the changed environment of management and to learn from Mr. Haueter’s gentle management style.

Scott Cahill

The fatal disconnect

For years I helped to do turn-arounds of troubled construction companies. Within minutes, I saw the problems. They were glaringly obvious, but to those who were there day after day, they were not so apparent. They had become “normal”.

I sometimes have tried to order at one of those drive-up windows at a fast food outlet, only to yell to the person to complete the order. “would you like to try our specialty roast beef with chocolate sauce today?” No, lady I don’t!  Do the CEOs of these places ever drive through these windows and order? No, they do not.

Have you ever called a supplier to buy something from them to be greeted by “Your call is important to us – please wait and the next available salesperson…” or my favorite; “thank you for calling Acmeco. If you know the number of the extension that you wish to reach enter it now” Do they not want any NEW customers? Do you have to know an extension or a name BEFORE you call the company. Are they insane?!

These examples are examples of companies who have disconnected from their customers. They are destined to fail. Short their stock and try not to do business with them. They will drag you down with them.

Many of these kinds of failures are the result of costly mistakes. Large corporations look at things like losses from shoplifting, a legitimate issue, and cost, and institute programs that require their customers to be treated like thieves, or at least to have to find an “associate” to buy a razor or a fob from the locked case.

All of these actions have a common thread, the failure of management to consider the customer experience. All of them are the indicators of imminent failure. If management has lost its ability to see their service from the customer’s vantage, bad things will surely happen.

Scott Cahill