Encouraging the Team

leather book with benjamin franklin quote

I write frequently about how leaders need to encourage their team.  So, instead of writing another post about encouraging the team, I thought I’d share a real-life example.  What follows is copy from an actual email I sent to our team.

My goal in writing the email was twofold.  First, I wanted to use a real-life story to illustrate why our customer’s needs matter.  I felt this reminder was needed because our team was working hard, in some cases around the clock, to meet customer needs.  With the extra work, I was starting to hear griping about how busy we were, and how crazy some of the demands were.

Next, I wanted the tone of the email to be encouraging.  I wanted the reader to be reminded of our togetherness, and that I am not “above” the struggle.  As I share below, I can lose my way if I am not careful.

Some of the details were edited for confidentiality purposes.  I included the quote at the end with permission, as my friend Matt sent his testimonial in for our corporate website update (You would do yourself well by buying some YumButter this week!).

Good afternoon,

What I am about to write is admittedly idealistic, wordy, and possibly a little cheesy.

I also believe it to be true.

Two weeks ago, I stood inside what was by all accounts a large “freezer” at one of our customers.  As I glanced at the thermometer, the dial read 48 degrees.  How could people work 8 hours inside here, I wondered?  I was shivering, and yet, there were about 10-15 fellow human beings packing yogurt pouches into cardboard boxes due to ship to grocery stores all over the county (all with Trust-T-Lok on them by the way!).

Why would they do such a thing?

Turns out, their customer’s demand was growing.  And as crazy as this may sound to us, the only way to meet their customer’s need was to utilize an old filling machine that had no “automatic packing,” so pouches had to be hand-packed after they were filled.  Given the product being yogurt, the “freezer” was the only safe way to make this happen.

I share this story for two reasons.

First, we primarily exist in the B-2-B world (business to business).  Thus, our job is to make sure that we help our customers (fellow businesses) get what they need so that they can serve their customers (typically consumers like you and I).  As I tell the sales team regularly, these people are the hero.  We simply help them (guide them) to better outcomes.  This hopefully means that our high-quality parts get to their destination when the customer needs them, and ultimately help them increase their efficiency, profitability, and market-share.

I warned this was going to be somewhat idealistic.

Why does this matter?  It matters because we are in the business of improving the lives of our fellow human beings.  Remember how people were inside the freezer working?  They were there because they needed the work (i.e. money) to put food on their table (why else would one work in a freezer?).  Manufacturing matters because it helps people do this.  And because of this, every single job at Hoffer Plastics matters.  Without excellence from everyone, we will not achieve the mission described above.

And all of us, customers included, rely on us achieving that mission!

Second, and I am almost done, I share this story because it serves as an example of what our customers are willing to do to satisfy their customer needs. They’re all in, and when we are at our best, so are we.  We go the extra mile because it is in our collective DNA as a company to go the extra mile.

To this end, I admit that sometimes our customers ask us to do things, that in the moment, may feel crazy.  And even though I believe every single word written above, I confess that there have been situations, especially when I forget that we manufacture for other human-beings, where I complain about those very requests.  This kind of behavior is shortsighted, however, because without customers worth complaining about, we would be out of business.

Once I remember this necessity, and remember that every other Thursday is in actuality “customer appreciation day” (i.e. the day the customer tells us how much they like us when we all get paid), things begin to normalize again.

It is such thinking that convinces one to work in a freezer to begin with.

To be sure, we get it right often.  So, I’ll close with this message I received from a customer yesterday afternoon:

“Hoffer plastics is a true expert partner to us, which has allowed Yumbutter and Tribe 9 to continue being a leader in pouch innovation across the nut butter industry and beyond. They are a delight to do business with and highly recommend them to anyone looking seeking out the best injection molders in the market.

Embrace that comment.

You earned it.