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Friday, November 30, 2007

Hawaii Rugby Tournament Scores - Day 1

Today was a good day. And a big day for me. I met lots of people and got lots of great information. Seems there is a vibrant and growing rugby community here in Hawaii, but no one knows about it. I'm trying to change that.

There's a rugby tournament going on, today and tomorrow. Below are today's scores, but first some information and commentary. I discovered two more teams today, Maui Rugby, which turns out to be a team as well as an organization organizing and developing youth rugby, both boys and girls. Excellent! And Tama Sule Ie Rugby Club. They're out in Nanakuli, on Oahu, and they practice Mon, Tue, Thur, and Fri from 6:00 pm to 10:00 pm, at Nanakuli Beach Park. Maui Rugby practices at a field on Shaw Street in Lahaina, and they have directions and contact info on their website. I also met the new president of the Hawaii State Rugby Union. This Union is news to me, but it looks like there are some people who are serious about getting things organized here. Excellent! I'll put a link to their website, but it seems that there was some technical difficulty putting it up (I was told it was just put up yesterday) and there's nothing there yet. Hopefully it will be fixed by the time you read this.

I'm also told there's going to be a clinic for referees on January 11-12, 2008. I'm also told it's going to be run by the head of referees for USA Rugby. That will be good, not just for training refs and passing on information, but in developing stronger relations with USA Rugby.

Now, almost ready for game results, but I have to make some comments. The tournament is being played by teams that are composed almost entirely of Pacific Islanders; Samoa, Tonga, New Zealand, and I don't know which other islands. There is, or has been, a stereotype of Pacific Islander teams. Whether they were true or not, the stereotype was there. But after watching these games today, any preconceived notions I had are gone, and yours should be too. There was some great rugby played today, and all the games were clean and well controlled. There was definitely some physical play, but it was all conducted at high standards. I wanted to mention that for any naysayers out there. And, in case anybody's interested, I'm haole.

And it goes without saying, rugby people are good people. Everyone I met today, and the past several weeks I've been out gathering information, is just wonderful. The tournament organizers, refs, coaches, players, and the fans. And tomorrow's day 2.

So, the scores:


Maui Rugby
Islanders (withdrew and forfeited games)
Tama Sulu Ie

Game 1:

Maui Rugby - 13 vs. Barbarians - 5

Maui Rugby played a man short due to not arriving on time from the flight over, but scored two tries and kicked one penalty to defeat the Barbarians, who scored one try. The first half was very well played by both teams, before getting a little sloppy in the second half. I have to mention that Mark stole one lineout from Maui (his big play of the day, per him). Three cheers for us old guys. I have noticed that fitness is a big issue with all the teams I've seen play the last few weeks. Fitness, tackling (effective tackling, that is), and ball control are the big areas that need work. There is no lack of enthusiasm though. Makes you want to get out there on the field.

Game 2:

Hurricanes win by forfeit over Islanders

Game 3:

Tama Sule Ie - 10 vs. Kalihi Raiders - 5

Tama Sule Ie scored one try, with conversion, and a dropkick. That dropkick was great. Totally unexpected, from about 30 meters out. The Raiders scored one try on an outstanding play that saw great passing and support.

Game 4:

Hurricanes - 26 vs. Barbarians - 0

The Barbarians suffered from their fitness. After playing their morning game, of 20 minute halves, they looked tired and played tired. They've got some potential and some good players, but we'll have to work on that fitness. The Hurricanes scored four tries, and converted three of them.

Game 5:

Kalihi Raiders - 8 vs. Maui Rugby - 8

I was too busy talking to make any worthwhile comments about this game, except to note one player from the Raiders. This guy is good. To look at him you might mistake him for a prop, but he plays, I think, Inside Center (refer back to my talking and not paying attention). He's got wheels, can cut and run, and can run you over.

Game 6:

Tama Sulu Ie won by forfeit over Islanders.

Tomorrow, the games start at 11:00 am (Kapiolani Park). And I'm told there's an after tournament dinner, to be held at the Puerto Rican Hall in Kalihi. I'll have to look up where that is, but it's $10 to get in and you get food and good company.

Now I have to tell you about Jim (not his real name). Actually, that's how he introduced himself, but he's from Japan and I know his real name is not Jim. He wandered over to the park this morning and stayed all day. He's 56 years old and plays Senior Rugby for a team in Kobe, Japan. He used to be a flanker, but now plays out on the wing (there's a story behind that), and gets cold alot standing out there. Another reason to be a forward, no chance to get cold. And Jim's goal is to be the #1 oldest rugby player in the world. But he has to play for another 50 years. Apparently, the oldest rugby player is 103 years old. Hang in there Jim.

Thursday, November 29, 2007

A Steve-O Manifest-O

Nobody asked for my opinion, but that’s never stopped me before. So here goes. I’ll teach you a little bit about a fundamental and powerful, yet under-utilized and often poorly used, business process, and hopefully raise the status of rugby in the United States. Hold onto your hats…

To be successful, an organization must be integrated, from top to bottom. The entire organization must move in the same direction, towards the same goals. This can be done, and is being done in many successful organizations. An organization that is disjointed will not only under-utilize its resources, weakening itself, it will pull itself in different directions, maybe even pull itself apart. Business or rugby, for-profit or non-profit, to be successful you must be integrated. So how to do that?

Strategic Planning. I work with organizations to develop effective strategic planning process, and I write and give presentations on the topic. Just the words, strategic planning, cause many eyes to roll, but that’s because the process has a bad reputation. Much like rugby used to have a bad reputation, but we’ve overcome that, for the most part, and so can strategic planning. What I’m talking about is an effective process to set goals, and then achieve them.

First, the simple basics of this process, then a plan for United States rugby. Rugby in the United States is disjointed, and it needs to be integrated. It can be done, and here’s a method to do it. An effective strategic plan consists of four elements:

1) Products & Services
2) Markets
3) Financial
4) Structure

It is also backed up with an Action Plan and an effective Performance Measurement System. And this is a process, and ongoing process, not something that’s performed once a year resulting in a piece of paper that sits in a drawer. The plan must be infused throughout the organization, from the top executive to the lowest level individual.

Now, no matter what you think, USA Rugby is a good organization. My thoughts are to enhance the organization, integrate the entire rugby community, and raise the level and awareness of rugby throughout the country. You can also use this same methodology in your business, and should.

With each of the four dimensions, specific goals or objectives must be identified. They have to be specific and measurable, and they have to be realistic, though they should be stretch goals. USA Rugby offers a variety of products and services. The various teams that are supported, including the Men’s and Women’s National Teams, the training camps, coaching programs, player registrations, are all products and services. For strategic goals, the organization must identify products and services that it will offer in the future, either new ones or modifications of existing ones. For an organization of this size and maturity, five years out at a minimum should be looked at, with some 10 or 20 year goals included. What products and services will USA Rugby be offering five years from now? That should be spelled out in the plan.

For markets, you’re looking at different segments. These can be geographic segments, age and gender segments, or anything else that makes sense. This also includes the fan segments. Right now, rugby in the U.S. primarily consists of players and former players. The market has to expand beyond that, to the general public, but specific market segments must be identified and targeted over a specific time horizon.

Financial causes problems for some people, because it refers to more than just a budget. It consists of defined targets for revenue, costs, and profit margins. I have no idea what the budget for USA Rugby is, but let’s say it’s $10 million a year in revenue. The strategic plan might include a goal of $20 million in revenue five years from now, or sponsorship contracts will total $10 million, or administrative costs will decrease to 5% of revenue. Whatever they are, they are specific targets, not vague or fuzzy numbers.

Structure is another area that causes some confusion. Structure includes things like specific positions, operating divisions, and departments. What will your organization look like five years from now? What will the reporting system look like, how will the operating divisions relate. Again, these goals have to be specific. The structure of a $20 million organization may look quite a bit different than that of a $10 million organization. But maybe not. Either way, you have to define it.

After you defined the goals in these four dimensions, the Action Plan integrates them. You might not offer all your products and services in all your markets, so you need to define which products in which markets, and the revenue provided by each product in each market. This is also where you come up with a more detailed timeline, and the prerequisites for tasks. To get to $20 million in revenue five years from now, what will the revenue be in four years? In three, two, and one year from now? And if you’re going to offer a particular service five years from now, what will have to be done in three years, and what has to be done today? The thing to remember with the Action Plan is that it is still a high level plan. The individual divisions, units, and people will have far more detailed plans, task lists, and to-do lists. But they all flow down from the strategic plan and they all support that plan.

If you want to actually achieve all these goals and plans, you have to measure your performance. A performance measurement system is not the annual review that everyone loathes and that accomplishes nothing. An effective performance measurement system ties the whole organization together and gets it moving in the same direction, to achieve those goals defined in the strategic plan. A performance measurement system is not a punishment system. Performance measurements have two purposes; 1) measure progress, and 2) influence behavior. You have to measure the progress you’re making towards your goals, to keep on track and make any adjustments that need to be made, and you have to guide everyone’s behavior towards achieving your goals.

Everyone involved with rugby needs to working towards the same goals; an active, robust, popular, and respected sport, enjoyed by millions of players and fans. The whole rugby universe needs to be financially stable, from the smallest local club to the governing body, USA Rugby. Every game that is played, every tournament held, every training camp, must help to move the organization towards its defined goals. Measurement like the number of new players recruited, the number of players retained each year, the increase in revenue or budget of a club or territorial union, will help to measure progress and influence behavior. Again, this is not punishment, but if a club knows that they’re being reviewed and measured on financial stability and player retention, they’ll work towards meeting their goals. And by meeting their goals, they’ll be helping the organization meet its higher level goals. All the way up and down throughout the entire organization.

It won’t be easy, and there will be some resistance, but if everyone is moving in the same direction, everyone involved with rugby will benefit. If you’re used to playing in front of 20 old or injured buddies today, wouldn’t you be thrilled to play in front of 100 cheering fans tomorrow? You can still have a beer afterwards.

And you can do your part today; Adopt-A-Rugger and Hug-A-Rugger

Wednesday, November 28, 2007

Sports Management & Manufacturing: What's the Difference?

I added a new link to Your Scrumhalf Connection. While I was looking at her site I noticed a post she made about the official sponsor for the Women's National Team tour of England (taking place soon, or now, I forget). The sponsor is First Sports International. They're a software company providing products for sports teams and event management. Interesting, I never really thought about that side of things. I'm used to software for manufacturing, warehousing, inventory management, and the associated accounting and customer management, and all. Which brings me to my point (oh, and thanks to First Sports for their sponsorship), what's the difference between manufacturing and sports management? Not as much as you think.

The core of both industries is managing resources. The resources are different, but the management of them is not that different. And when it comes to software to help run your business, the differences are even less. The first thing to remember is that software is a tool. When the right tool is used, and used correctly, it is a big help. If the wrong tool is used, or if the right tool is used incorrectly, it hurts more than it helps. Technology will not solve your problems. It can help you run your operations more effectively, or it can send you quickly into a downward spiral. The choice is yours.

The choice is yours because before you look to a technology solution to solve your problems, do some analysis of your business first. Look at how you do things, what works, what's causing you trouble. Then work to improve your basic processes and look for ways to improve the entire organization. If technology can help you improve, along with or after you've got all your processes working well, then use it. And remember that you can't just buy some software, install it, and expect everything to be all hunky-dory. A software implementation is a huge undertaking, especially if it's and enterprise wide system. Besides all the training, pre-, during, and post-installation, it's a huge cultural shift for the organization. Even if you've already got an existing system, switching to a new one is just as big a deal.

So, sports management and manufacturing. Not much of a difference after all.

Tuesday, November 27, 2007

Am I out of the loop?

I guess I've been out the rugby loop for a long time and haven't been paying much attention to the whole wide world of rugby. Of course, it could be I'm just clueless and never knew what was going on, but we won't go there. I "found" eRugbyNews so I can get some news there, when I remember to look. I need to subscribe to Rugby News, since I'm a hold something in my hand kind of guy and it just comes to my house without me having to think about it. And there's Saturday's a Rugby Day for women's rugby news. But here's a couple of things I found that I did not know about and find very interesting.

Did you know there's a non-profit foundation with the sole purpose of promoting rugby? They primarily support youth rugby, from the really small fry through high school, but also offer support for coaches and some other things? Well, I didn't. The United States Rugby Football Foundation. They were founded in 1963. How come I've never heard of them? And another question, why aren't they associated with USA Rugby? They are separate organizations, but they're too separate. They can remain separate but still be sister organizations. The missions overlap to a great extent, and I think the Foundation would gain a lot more exposure (and therefore, money) if they were officially associated with USA Rugby. I've been involved with plenty of organizations that have a non-profit arm that acts as a support mechanism and funnels donations into a variety of programs. Something to think about. But check them out, or if you know more about them, let me know. I signed up for their newsletter, so maybe I'll find out more.

And here's something I found quite interesting. Did you know you can take a course in Rugby Management? Now you do. Maybe you can even get college credit for it. This company, Sports Management Worldwide offers and 8-week online course in managing professional or amateur rugby teams. Now, since I just found this I can't vouch for them, I just think it's pretty darn interesting. When you visit their site, read the article from the Portland Business Journal (on their home page) to get a better perspective on the company. When I'm done with my MBA (which I'm finishing up, ugh!) I might look into this just because it sounds cool. Whether you could ever get a job in managing a rugby team after taking this course is another matter, but since that's not what I'm interested in, it doesn't matter to me. If I do take the course I'll let you know what I think about it. If you've taken it, please share your thoughts.

That leads me into a whole other line of thought, but that's for another post.

I'm adding a link to the Quad Rugby site over in the links, because I think it's so cool. I saw the movie Murder Ball a couple of years ago and was very impressed. Not too much similarity to rugby as a game, but very much so in attitude.

Sunday, November 25, 2007

Hawaii Rugby News

First, yesterday's game. The Hawaii Harlequins played Briars Rugby Club from New South Wales, Australia. Looking at their website, it seems they're on an end-of-season tour. Somebody told me they were heading to California. Cool. The score was 19-Harlequins : Briars 24. Briars scored four tries with two conversions. Two tries with conversions in the first half, and two unconverted tries in the second half. Harlequins scored three tries with two conversions. On unconverted try in the first half, then two tries with conversions in the second half. Since I arrived late, not knowing if there was a game and just showing up at the park, I only saw the second half. It was good though. As I said in a previous post, there's nothing like watching rugby up close and personal, even if it isn't the best rugby you've seen. What I saw of the game was pretty sloppy. A few good runs, but lots of bad passes, taking the ball while standing still, poor tackling, and the like. Still fun to watch though, so who's complaining.

What I did find at the game was some good information. Here's what I found, and what I found out last time I found a game.

There's a tournament next week, November 30 - December 1, at Kapiolani Park. That's the big park at the Diamond Head end of Waikiki, on Oahu, if you're not familiar with Hawaii. Should be fun. I'll be there. I don't know who all will be playing, but I now it's being hosted and organized by the Kalihi Raiders Rugby Club, and that the Islanders Rugby Club and the Barbarians (all from Oahu) will be participating. It's supposed to start at 11:00 am on Friday, the 30th.

Here's some information on clubs and their practices:

Hawaii Harlequins, practice Tues/Thur at 7:00 pm at Kapoalono Park in Kaimuki (near KCC, sort of). Their website is not too up to date, but there's some contact info.

Barbarians, practice Mon-Fri (so they say) at 5:30 pm at Paki Park, across from the Honolulu Zoo. No website and I don't have any contact info yet.

Kalihi Raiders Rugby Club, practice Mon-Thur at 6:30 pm at Kalakaua Field behind Farrington High School. No website and I don't have contact info yet.

Islanders Rugby Club, practice Tue/Thur at 5:30 pm at Kam Field (Kamehameha Field for those of you who don't like to see Kamehameha abbreviated like that), off of Likelike Highway mauka of H-1. I have a phone number for Lofi if you want to contact him.

I also spoke with someone who's involved with the Hawaii Youth Rugby League. They sound like they've got a good organization. Sounds like they just added a third team (U19, or Under 19 year olds) on the Big Island, which is really cool. There's supposed to be teams on Oahu and Maui, and then the three on the Big Island. I'll have to find out more about them and find out when and where they play. They have a website.

I also understand there's a team, the Hurricanes, on the North Shore (Oahu), so I'll have to find out about them too. They have a website.

I'll put links to the teams and organizations who have websites over on my links list, and when I find out more I'll post it here.

And don't forget to Adopt-A-Rugger and Hug-A-Rugger.

Saturday, November 24, 2007

Some Hawaii Rugby News

I got to watch half a rugby game today. That's one reason I'm out in search of rugby news here in the islands, so I don't only see half a game. Without much information to go on, I just show up at the park looking for games. They started on time today (though I didn't even know what on time was), so I arrived at half time. Oh,well. Watched a good second half and met some people who gave me loads of information.

But, since it's past my bedtime and I'm in the middle of upteen projects, you'll have to wait for morning for my second half recap, score, and all the info I got. Sorry, but I'm old. Need my beauty sleep. Have to get up and run in the morning. Since I'll probably be up before you, you should see something when you get up and log on.

Wednesday, November 21, 2007

A bright spot

You don’t often hear world class athletes saying things of great intelligence, but sometimes you do. Martin Johnson, captain of the 2003 World Cup winning England rugby team, has just earned a great deal of my respect. It seems that some people (who exactly, I don’t know) have called for Mr. Johnson to become involved with the England rugby team as coach or manager. Mr. Johnson, to his great credit, has declined to consider a role at this time. His reason? "I'd never be arrogant enough to assume that I could go in and be a national coach or manager without any experience." And, "There's nothing to say that just because you've played at the top level you'll make a good coach or manager.” Mr. Johnson retired from rugby in 2005 and has had little involvement in the sport since. His ability to see that coaching or managerial experience trumps past athletic prowess is quite refreshing in this era of the super-ego’d star athlete. Mr. Johnson, I salute you. With an attitude like that, I think he’d be great at coaching or managing, and he should start building up that experience.

Now look at your business. How do you go about promoting people into management positions? It’s usually somebody who’s very good at what they do. Meaning they have very good technical skills in their field. They don’t have management experience, they have specialized technical experience. Is that the best criteria? Probably not. There are very different skill sets required for management. People should be selected for promotion to management based on those skills. You have to look out for those skills within your workforce. Keep your eyes and ears open. Then start developing those skills and send people out for management skills training. You shouldn’t just throw people into the role without training and expect them to sink or swim. It’s just not good business, not a good investment in time and resources.

And remember, Adopt-A-Rugger and Hug-A-Rugger.

Tuesday, November 20, 2007

"With you!"

As Tom says, on the rugby field, you know you have support when you’re running with the ball and you hear a teammate behind you shout “with you!” That’s good to hear if you’re running out of steam and not near enough to the try line (end zone) to make it on your own, or you’re about to get crunched but there’s a huge gap that you can’t quite make it through. Pass off to your support and let them take it in for a try (touchdown). There’s no glory in trying to do it all yourself if you don’t end up scoring.

The same is true in business. To know you have support behind you to help you when you need it is a wonderful thing. Too often, though, in a business setting we don’t look for support when we should, and we don’t offer support when we should. Wouldn’t it be nice in you next staff meeting to hear a colleague shout “with you!” when you really need it? Try it. The next time one of your co-workers needs help, give them a hearty “with you!”, and let them know they have your support.

On the rugby pitch, in the warehouse, or in the boardroom, you’re a team. Support your team, and let them support you. There’s no glory in going it alone if you don’t score.

And remember, Adopt-A-Rugger and Hug-A-Rugger.

Monday, November 19, 2007

Changing Lanes

Some numbnuts pulled in front of me today without signaling. He (or she) did have a Give Blood, Play Rugby sticker on their new Prius, though, which was a bit of a surprise. I hope they don’t play rugby like they drive.

Running around opponents and breaking tackles is great, I wish I was better at it (meaning I’m not sure I’ve ever run around anyone), but you can’t just take off on you own without signaling your intentions to your teammates. If you go right and your support goes left, you’re in trouble. A well practiced team will have a much greater connection between and will have a pretty good read on each other, but you still must communicate.

The same thing applies to business. You can’t have one individual, a department, or division going off on their own without signaling their direction. To be successful, an organization must act as a cohesive unit, with everyone heading in the same direction towards the same goals. To get this to happen, you need a well developed Strategic Plan, a corresponding Action Plan, and an integrated and dynamic Performance Measurement System that ties everyone in to the Strategic Plan.

And don’t forget to Adopt-A-Rugger and Hug-A-Rugger.

Saturday, November 17, 2007

Does great rugby make rugby great?

Last weekend Berkeley All Blues won the national championship in Division I Senior Women's Club Rugby. By all accounts, the rugby played throughout the two weekends of the championship tournament was exceptional. That’s great! But does this great rugby make rugby great? How many people outside a few hardcore rugby fans even know this championship took place? I’m a rugby fan, but if I hadn’t discovered Blondie’s Saturday’s a Rugby Day blog, I wouldn’t have known about it. This is women’s rugby. How many other people who are already rugby fans know about it? And even more important, how many people in the general public know about it?

The U.S. could become one of the great rugby nations if we really wanted it. Not just those of us who are already rugby fans wanting it, but the country as a whole wanting it. We’ve got some of the best athletes in the world, we’ve got an active sports-loving population, we’ve got one of the world’s strongest economies (present conditions not withstanding), and rugby is the ultimate spectator sport. Rugby is full of action, it’s exciting, it’s energizing. And somebody could make money from it.

As they say - It Takes Money to Make Money. And USA Rugby needs money. Blondie posted on November 2nd an excerpt from an article in eRugbyNews about the financial concerns surrounding the upcoming Women’s National Team tour of the United Kingdom. The tour is expensive (relatively), costing about $80,000. USA Rugby not being flush with cash, is unable to pay the entire cost of the tour. That means that the women selected for the tour will be required to pay approximately $1,500 from their own pockets if they want to represent the U.S. as a member of the National Team. That’s just not right.

Rugby is not a professional sport in the U.S., yet, so players play for the love of the game. Players generally have to pay for their own travel to games and tournaments, unless their club has a strong support and fund raising system. And that’s OK, we’re used to it. But when it comes to the National Team of one of the richest countries in the world, the players shouldn’t have to foot the bill. It’s just plain embarrassing.

You can support USA rugby by making a tax deductible contribution. You can donate to the general fund, or any of a number of specific programs, including the Women’s Team. But we need more. Yes, USA Rugby needs donations and corporate sponsors, but it also needs a wider base of support. It takes money to make money, so let’s build up the coffers of USA Rugby so that they can use some of it to generate even more revenue. We need marketing to bring the general public on board. We need a broad fan base to attract more sponsors. We need a strong and viable nationwide organization to attract entrepreneurs who will take rugby in the U.S. to the next level.

So I propose an Adopt-A-Rugger campaign. I’ve created a Adopt-A-Rugger and Hug-A-Rugger logos and merchandise. All proceeds from the sales of the merchandise will be donated to USA Rugby. Find the merchandise at the Adopt-A-Rugger and Hug-A-Rugger Stores. Adopt-A-Rugger today!

“To Win the game is Great.
To Play the game is Greater.
To Love the game is Greatest.”

Thursday, November 15, 2007

What is Lean?

Lean, also known as Lean Manufacturing, and now morphing in the Lean Enterprise, Lean Supply Chain, the Lean Office, Lean Six Sigma, and more. But what is Lean? There was a discussion recently on LinkedIn when someone asked a question about implementing Lean in a Make-to-Order or Engineer-to-Order environment. That’s where a product isn’t made until customer actually orders one, or the product isn’t even designed until the customer orders it (think buildings or satellites or something like that). The questioner said that “traditional” Lean techniques didn’t work and was asking for advice.

To ask a question like that tells me you don’t really understand Lean and what Lean is. Lean, for those not familiar with it, is a management system that evolved from the Just-in-Time (JIT) system. JIT was an evolution of the Toyota Production System, which was an evolution, of sorts, of Henry Ford’s automobile production system. But that doesn’t really tell you much. What is Lean?

Lean is a philosophy. It is a business philosophy to operate your business or organization in the most efficient and effective way as possible. The term you’ll hear the most is Eliminate Waste. Waste takes many forms. Wasted time, wasted effort, and wasted resources are the biggies. Eliminating waste, improving processes, and becoming more successful and profitable are the goals. There are many tools, or techniques, associated with Lean. Things like 5S (Five S), which means to clean up and organize your work areas, Cellular Manufacturing, where you produce an item in a small, compact work cell, rather than moving things around to different departments, are used to make improvements.

Not every tool or technique will work, or work as well, in every situation or for every organization, but the basic philosophy is sound. Understand the philosophy, understand the tools, modify them for your organization, and reap the rewards. An instructor I had many years ago said “adopt and adapt”. Adopt the principles, and adapt them to fit your needs.

Beer and Business

It's Beer and Business tonight. What a great concept, especially since the beer's free, thanks to some sponsors who I'm not sure who they are right now. Mahalo (that's Thanks in Hawaiian) to Lorenz Sell at Blue Lava Technologies for coming up with this idea and organizing it. Woo hoo!

I do a lot of networking, usually lunches with various organizations. But Beer and Business sounds like a winner. More relaxed, after work, might bring out a different crowd. Do try this at home (or in your town).

Wednesday, November 14, 2007

Why should customers be happy?

Back to Safeway this morning… Rule #1: Never go to Safeway if you’re in a hurry. Especially in the morning. They’ve got this one person working at the checkout in the morning. He’s usually the only checker. They operate under the if-a-line-forms-call-for-help method, which occasionally works if the checkers calls for help at the first sign of a long line. They’re not the only ones who do this, but it rarely works as the checker never calls until the line is 20 people long and everyone is getting all huffy. And don’t even talk about banks; they won’t add a teller no matter how many people are in line, out the door, standing in the rain. So this particular checker is close to the worst checker ever. Slow, nervous, never calls for help until it’s way too late or until another worker discovers a line and tells them to call (usually with an added lecture about calling for help when the line backs up). I guess once you get a job as a checker at Safeway you’re in for life, no matter how bad you might be. Unhappy customers? Who cares about the customers?

Rule #2: Don’t expect to get the coffee you want. They have a little self-serve coffee bar. The menu shows about six different varieties of coffee. You usually have one choice, maybe two. It’s never the choice you want.

Customer service, inventory management, they’re part of Operations. Training employees on proper procedures, and making sure that the process and procedures work to achieve organizational goals, are a big part of Operations. Managing inventory and providing excellent service are part of Operations. But who’s actually in charge of ensuring your operations are effective? Somebody has to take ownership. Somebody has to take responsibility. If you know a procedure is broken, fix it or make sure it gets fixed. If you know someone isn’t fulfilling their job responsibilities, help them improve or make sure someone with responsibility and authority helps them. If you don’t have the inventory to satisfy your customers, improve the inventory system.

Why should customers be happy? Because without happy customers you won’t have a successful business.

Monday, November 12, 2007

I'm a veteran

I'm a veteran. Today's Veteran's Day (well, today's the day off of work holiday, yesterday was the actual Veteran's Day). Show your appreciation to your veterans; go shake a vet's hand, buy a homeless vet a meal.

I was lucky. When I was in the army the U.S. was not involved in any wars. So after training (Airborne - Hoo Ahh!) I spent most of my time in the motor pool at Ft. Bragg. Because of that I don't always consider myself a "real" veteran. I'm not in the same class as the guys and gals who have gone to combat, or into dangerous conflict areas. And I'm not in the same class as everyone who has served long enough to retire. Still, I am a veteran. It was a good experience, though military life really wasn't for me. An experience I think everyone should go through, for the learning, discipline, and opportunity it presents.

So go hug a vet.

Great marketing doesn’t make a great company

You can’t argue that Starbucks is an impressive company. From a small local coffee shop in Seattle to a global behemoth, they’ve changed the coffee experience for a whole generation. Long a tradition in Europe, the gourmet coffee shop culture hit the U.S. not too long ago (OK, I can’t remember when it hit big time, but it wasn’t that long ago). There have been coffee shops around for quite awhile, and there’s always been the quintessential (I like to throw big words in every once in awhile so you think I’m smart) American diner with diner coffee, but the explosion of the coffee culture is a recent phenomenon here. And Starbucks is the undisputed leader.

But what is Starbucks, really. In my opinion (to save me from any legal issues, this is my OPINION), Starbucks can’t make a decent cup of coffee to save their lives. And don’t get me started on their, so called, espresso, my drink of choice. But given that, they sure are successful. In some places you can’t spit without hitting a Starbucks. The cartoons kidding about opening a Starbucks in a Starbucks is not far off the mark it seems. So they’re successful, but at what.

To me, Starbucks is a marketing company. They’ve introduced coffee (one choice, extra dark and bitter) to the masses. They’ve raised coffee from a commodity to a premium product. They’ve pioneered the concept of cannibalizing sales of an existing store to raise total sales. You’ve seen it, they’ll put a store right across the street from an existing store, which takes sales from the existing store, but increases overall sales by attracting customers who wouldn’t go to that existing store for one reason or another (traffic patterns, parking, laziness, etc.). Genius.

But great marketing doesn’t make a great company. They’re processes are broken, or were never designed well in the first place. As I said, I’m an espresso man (and for the best espresso I’ve had, the gold standard, head over to The Steps of Rome caffĂ© in San Francisco). Now espresso should never touch paper. It’s a ceramic cup, demitasse, or nothing (well, unless you’re in an airport where you take what you can get). So I order a “double espresso for here”. That concept is beyond many of the new employees, the “for here” thing. I guess they often skip over that part in Starbucks school (less than stellar training process). Then the fun begins.

They’re set up to move people through as quick as possible. Depending on the time of day and how busy it is, the number of employees waiting on customers varies. But usually, one person takes the order and takes your money. They grab a cup and write the codes on it for whatever you’re ordering. These are paper and plastic cups. To go. Not for here. So that’s what they’re set up for. To get an espresso for here they have to write the code on a small sticky, about the size of a band-aid (can I say that, or do I have to say Band-Aid brand adhesive bandage?). So the person making the drinks is used to grabbing the coded cups, not the coded sticky. So the sticky frequently goes unnoticed or lost in the shuffle. This is not good from the customer’s perspective (me). I end up waiting. I usually stand right up at the counter so they see me and wonder why I’ve been standing there so long. Sometimes I ask if they’re making my espresso. Sometimes the person who took my order notices me standing there with my thumb up my butt, waiting. Standing there like a dissatisfied customer. But, hey, I’m just a guy with a $2 espresso, not a $5 mocha lotta quadruple pump soy half foam chunk ‘o licious fru fru whatever. Then today, just to throw me over the edge, they give me a single espresso instead of the double I ordered and paid for. They even handed me the single espresso while saying “here’s your double espresso”. Poor service makes me cranky. Broken processes make me cranky. It doesn’t have to be that way.

Of course, I say this as I sit in Starbucks yet again. I wrote my first book here and I’m writing my next book here, so obviously it has some appeal. The greatest appeal is its proximity to my house. The fact that they have numerous outlets to plug into is another appeal, as is the general coffee shop culture, and the constant buzz of activity that helps me work. I find I concentrate better when there’s activity and some noise around, it helps me focus. I can’t be the only one who works better this way, because there are a lot of people who come here to work. I’ve seen the same people here for years. The students come and go, but some of them camp out here for a couple of years at a time.

So I’m not bashing Starbucks, I just think they have some improvement to do. Better to do it now, when you’re at the top of the heap, then when the competition gets tougher and you have to fight for customers. Fix your process, make better espresso, and offer different roasts of coffee.

And just what makes a great organization? Delighted customers. Customers who are happy, satisfied, get exactly what they want, and sometimes things they didn’t even know they wanted. Effective processes. Processes that work towards achieving the organization’s strategic objectives. Processes that have defined goals, are efficient in achieving those goals, do not waste time, effort, or money in achieving those goals. Processes that are clear and understandable, and are measurable. Organizations that stand out above the crowd with their internal practices, how they treat their employees and how they go about achieving their goals. And organizations that give back to the community, locally, and globally if they are able. Organizations that treat their customers and their non-customers alike with respect and dignity.

I’m done now.

Sunday, November 11, 2007

No rugby yesterday

I went down to the park yesterday, but no rugby. So sad. I was told last week that it's the off season, but I've managed to find two games in the last few weeks, so I thought I'd try my luck again. I guess I'll have to go to some practices to find out what's going on. I'll have to wait until my back clears up (it's twinging) to actually try to run around with the boys (plus I have to find my cleats and a suitable pair of shorts), but I can go see what's going on and meet some people. That's one of the great things about rugby. Once you're a rugby player, you're in the club. You can go around anywhere, find a team, and instantly be accepted. You're not just some old, out-of-shape guy hanging around, you're a rugby player without cleats or shorts.

I'll keep looking around for what's going on with rugby here in Hawaii, and I'll let you know what I find.

Too many magazines?

I get a lot of magazines. Sometimes I think it's too many. I subscribe to several magazines because I like them and are of interest too me (Runner's World, Smithsonian, and Inc., to name just a few). Some I buy on occasion, especially when traveling (usually MacWorld and Entrepreneur). And then there's the ones I get for free, because I couldn't help myself. I've picked up some of these magazines at a conference, then sent in the form for a free subscription, and some I have no idea now how I got them. But I'm pretty inundated with them anymore. The thing is, though, that there's a lot of great information in them. If I only had the time to actually read them, instead of just contributing to the killing of more trees, they'd be quite interesting and informative. Since I started this blog and am looking for things of interest to talk about, I picked up one of the magazines that are on my pile. I think it's the first time I looked at this one; Food Manufacturing. The subtitle is Technology for Today's Food Production & Packaging Market. I'm just a bundle of excitement reading this type of thing, aren't I. Makes you want to party with me, huh?

But, when I started leafing through the magazine, I found a couple of very good articles. The cover story (October 2007 issue) is about designing food processing plants to mitigate the problems of food contamination, which is a huge issue these days. There's another short article about Choosing a Conveyor System for Your Small- to Mid-Sized DC (that's Distribution Center for those of you not in-the-know). And a very good article on implementing ERP systems (that's Enterprise Resources Plannning, or an organization wide computer information system). I have a chapter on ERP system implementation in my book, so it's always nice to see someone talking intelligently about it.

Most of these free magazines are focused on one industry, and are usually pretty technical and full of ads, but I'm going to have to take more time to look at them, as they are very beneficial. What I'll do with my newfound knowledge of Food-Grade Lubricants, I don't know, but you never know when that will come up in conversation. (That's lubricants for equipment in food processing plants for those of you with dirty minds.)

So what magazines are on my pile?

APICS Magazine (comes with APICS membership)
Quality Progress (comes with ASQ membership)
Quality Digest (comes with ASQ Quality Management Division membership)
Hawaii Business (comes with HVCA membership)
Food Manufacturing (mentioned above)
Manufacturing Business Technology
Materials Handling Management
DC Velocity
Inbound Logistics
The Manufacturer
Baking Management

I'm sure I'm missing one or two that have already found their way to the trash, but I think it's time to take control here.

Saturday, November 10, 2007

Do you know where your beer comes from?

Kona Brewing makes good beer, I can attest to that. I especially like their Castaway IPA and their "seasonal" Barlywine (it seems to be in season more often than not). You can only get these styles at their brew pubs, however, so sorry to all you folks who aren't on Oahu or the Big Island (in Kona - Duh!). You can get several Kona Brewing beers around the country however, and I recommend you check them out. Just don't expect those bottled beers to be made with pure Hawaiian spring water though.

Kona Brewing, along with many small craft breweries, outsource a portion of their brewing. This is no different than any company that outsources production, and shouldn't come as a surprise. Outsourcing is a valid, and widely used, business operations strategy. It might come as a surprise to some beer drinkers, but it's a common practice. An article in the latest issue of Hawaii Business magazine notes that Kona Brewing has contracted with Widmer Brothers in Oregon and Red Hook in New Hampshire to brew and bottle its beer. Even the bottled beer in Kona's home state of Hawaii is brewed and bottled on the mainland.

Kona Brewing has developed strong partnerships with their contract brewers, something that many companies can learn when working with their contract manufacturers. Kona Brewing controls the raw materials and is highly involved in the manufacturing process, not just inspecting the finished product (see my post last post on China recalls).

Good beer and a good lesson in excellence in operations. What more could you ask for? This is making me thirsty....

Thursday, November 8, 2007

Another China Toy Recall made in China. When will it end? And why is it happening in the first place? There's a lot of talk about increasing inspections, as we hear with the issues surrounding tainted food and pet food. But, for the 1,000,000th time, you can't inspect quality into a product. You can weed out a select few items that are bad, or don't meet standards or specifications, but that's not the solution to the problem. The companies that are importing the products blame the manufacturers. That's certainly no solution either.

What's needed is a comprehensive management plan that includes detailed specifications for all products. That may include chemicals and additives that are allowed and those that are not. The importers, also known as customers to the manufacturers, need to work more closely with their suppliers. Create partnerships, not necessarily financial partnerships, but working relations partnerships. If necessary, work with the suppliers to develop modern and sophisticated management systems, that include dynamic and reliable quality management systems. The big boys, like WalMart, Target, and others have a lot of influence. Don't try to muscle or threaten your suppliers, but work with them for mutual benefit. Many Chinese manufacturers are very sophisticated and have management employees with Western management education and training. Use that talent, support it, and enhance it. Send some people over to your suppliers to develop, in concert, the types of systems that are needed to prevent problems from entering the supply chain, not to try to inspect them out at the end of the chain.

Wednesday, November 7, 2007


I've been to YouTube a grand total of twice. I don't know why I went back the second time, because I didn't get a whole lot out of it the first time. Too much to sort through and a lot of it's not that great. But it's awful popular, so what do I know.

However, I clicked on something that just looked curious, and who knew, but it's really good. Check out Happy Slip. This lady is very talented (she does all her own writing, videoing [is that a word?], editing, and mixing) and just quirky enough to be entertaining.

The Importance of Professional Organizations

I'm a member of several professional organizations as well as several different business related groups. I think involvement in professional organizations is one of the most valuable career tools available to everyone, no matter where you are at your career. I first got involved when I was in college. One of my accounting instructors (my major) was the president of the local management accountants organization (now the IMA - Institute of Management Accountants, it was the NAA - National Association of Accountants, at the time), and a strong proponent of professional associations. I joined primarily to learn about the accounting profession and to meet people. I worked in internal auditing while I was a student, and everyone in the office was a member of both the IIA - Institute of Internal Auditors and the AICPA - American Institute of Certified Public Accountants. I received a small scholarship from the local IIA chapter, which included a membership so I was a member of that organization too. It turns out I wasn't really suited to accounting, but joining these organizations showed me the value that I continue to receive to this day.

I switched careers into Business Operations, first with inventory management, then production planning, purchasing, warehousing, quality, and other areas. When I first got involved with operations, a co-worker introduced me to APICS - The Association for Operations Management. I joined to learn about my new profession. When I started receiving the magazine that came with my membership I was really hooked. There was tons of wonderful and useful information in there. I ordered the annual conference proceedings, which came in printed form at the time, to learn even more. But I couldn't understand everything, so I started studying for the CPIM - Certified in Production and Inventory Management certification. That really opened my eyes to operations. That led me to more. I started getting involved with the local chapter, then was able to travel to the quarterly Region Meetings where I met presidents and officers from the other chapters in our Region.

I've continued to stay involved with APICS, even serving on several Association level committees. I've joined other organizations, ASQ - American Society of Quality, which I'm still a member of, and ISM - Institute of Supply Management, and I've earned several other professional certifications (CIRM - Certified in Integrated Resources Management, CQMgr - Certified Quality Manager, and CSSBB - Certified Six Sigma Black Belt). I continue to learn by attending presentations and conferences held by these organizations, and by giving presentations to local chapters of these organizations and their national and international conferences.

But, by far, the biggest benefit I've received, and continue to receive, is the people I've met and the friends I've made. I encourage everyone to join, and become active, in professional organizations. Whatever field you're in, or are interested in, there is an organization for you. Get involved, learn, meet new friends, and reap the benefits.

Sunday, November 4, 2007

Supermarket Operations

I went to my local Safeway again. I often question why I still shop there. The answer is it's close by and easy to get to. The problem is they're always out of half the things I want. I mean, it's not like I'm in there looking for some kind of exotic French cheese that is made one wheel at a time by a hermit in a cave. I'm going in there for yoghurt and peanut butter. And beer. This upsets me, when they don't have Guiness (Extra Stout) in stock. It especially upsets me when it's on sale and they're out of stock. But it really, really upsets me when the same 4 bottles in a six-pack carton are all that's in there for the second week in a row. Why can't they get things right?

If I wanted to get everything I was shopping for I'd have to find out when they stock each particular item and get there when they're stocking the shelves. Otherwise the odds are against me. If you sell that much yoghurt or peanut butter in a day, maybe you could restock more than once a day. I can hear the managers and executives now telling me why this isn't possible, but wait, I'm the customer and I have other options. One day I will be pushed over the edge and just stop shopping in your store, and I'll tell everyone I know not to shop there. Maybe one customer doesn't mean much to you, but with the competition in the supermarket business being what it is, I don't think you can afford to lose even one customer.

I might just consider myself ignorant and get over it, but in one of the most influential books on the Lean management system (Lean Thinking, by James Womack & Daniel Jones) the authors use an example of Tesco, a supermarket chain in the U.K. for how Lean works to improve operations. If they can do it, why can't Safeway? I'm sure there are lot's of things that can be done, even given whatever constraints they have, to improve their operations and keep the shelves stocked on a more consistent basis.


I went down to the park today to look for a rugby game. I found one, and it was pretty good. Hawaii Harlequins vs. Barbarians. I played a few games for the Harlequins many years ago when I first moved to Hawaii.

Harlequins 19

(3 tries, 2 conversions)

Barbarians 34

(5 tries, 3 conversions, 1 penalty)

You get a bit spoiled watching the World Cup, that level of play is quite impressive to watch, but there's really nothing better than to stand on the sidelines at a local club or college game. Sure, they're not professional, world class standards, but it's much more real. You're right there. You keep thinking to yourself "I could be out there, I would have made that tackle, I would have broken through that gap." And, if you really want to, you could be out there next week. Up close and personal adds a dimension to the game that you'll never get in a stadium or through TV. When I go to a dance concert I like to sit right up front. It makes it more real when you can see them sweat, see the little imperfections that you'd never see from the balcony.

That's another way to market rugby at the local level. Let the uninitiated in at the ground level. Let them experience the sights and sounds and smells that they'll never get at any other sport. The more personal the connection, the more fans you'll attract, and the bigger foundation you'll build.

So the game was a little sloppy, but fun to watch. The Barbarians had an impressive back line. They had several players with wheels, and moves to match. And they couldn't just run in the open, they were just as impressive, if not more so, in the rough. They didn't fall over at the first hit, not at all. The thing that impressed me most was from two players.

The Focus.

It was inspiring to watch. I wish I could play like that. Most of the players did what a lot of players at this level do. See a tackle coming and throw the ball away. I don't mean pass when you should pass, but just plain throw the ball away. Lot's of that out there today. There was a lot of good play too, looking for support, take the hit then ruck or maul, the regular stuff. But these two guys had this focus that you could not only see, but you could feel it from across the field.

The one guy looked so relaxed when he ran, like he was just walking through a crowd at the mall, but he was fixed on the try line, and on the opposition in front of him. He looked like he was just calmly reading a map, then picking his space (no matter how zig zaggy it might be), finding a target, and flipping a switch that sent him there. Several times he took a hit that would have rattled my thought process, but that focus didn't waver a bit. He just kept on. Not to say that he didn't pass when he should or didn't know where his support was, but he had that target in sight and wasn't going to let anything prevent him from getting it. The other guy had that same focus, just a little bit different style. He was pretty small, but his presence was huge when he had the ball, or an opponent to tackle. That focus. I guess I wasn't paying as much attention as I should, but I think he was the winger and the other guy was outside center. Because this guy was usually near the touch line, but he knew where he was and it was all the time. You could see when he got the ball outside that he was headed for that gap right down the sideline, it was like a laser focused right down that slot all the way to the try line. Amazing. He too had that focus where a tackle seemed more an annoyance than a hit.

That focus.

If we all had that in everything we do, just imagine what you could accomplish.

Friday, November 2, 2007

The Business of Rugby

First, read Blondie's post about the plight of the USA Eagles Women. You can then click here to donate for their tour.

But this brings up the subject of the business of rugby in the U.S. The question, really, is why can't we do better? We have thousands of rugby clubs, at all levels from youth to old boys, tens of thousands (at least) of rugby players and fans, and some of the best athletes in the world. Rugby is an inherently exciting game. And is a true sport, just watch a game and the fans. So why can't the U.S. make rugby more successful and field a team that can compete at the top level of the sport?

There are a lot of good people at USA Rugby and the IRB (International Rugby Board), but we're not where we could be. Did you know that the U.S. is the current Olympic Rugby Champions? Of course the last time rugby was played in the Olypmics was 1924, but what happened? Maybe we're going about it the wrong way, I don't really know. I'm just thinking out loud here. But one of the first things that needs to happen is education. We'd have far more fans if more people actually knew what was going on out there on the pitch. Hey, that's one thing, the terminology. Joe Public would call it a field while many of the rugby crowd would call it a pitch. We need to educate the general public about the terminology and the basics of the game. On the surface, and from the stands, rugby is a pretty simple game. A good marketing effort would first focus on just getting people to understand the basics.

Then there's the money aspect. To make money you need fans, sponsors, people who aren't necissarily fans but who are interested, and business people who know how to make money. To generate more interest local games need to be reported on in the local press, regional games and tournaments need to be reported on in local, regional, and national press, and national and international games need to be reported on in the press and televised. The press are generally for-profit companies that need to make money. They make money from advertisors who pay based on circulation and readership, or viewership. If a buzz is generated by quality reporting, people will buy the paper or watch the news that has that report. That will attract advertisors, and the money starts to flow. The reporting has to include an element of education, to attract those readers and viewers who don't have a depth of knowledge of the game. Talk to your local news organizations and volunteer to help report on rugby in your area or be the expert about the game for their reporters. Create a buzz.

To make money off of rugby, with the idea that we can make it a professional sport here in the U.S., use the same basic business concpets you'd use for any other business. What are the sources of revenue associated with rugby? Ticket sales, obviously, but also concessions. Beer, of course, but food, water, and soft drinks. What else? Set up booths for all sorts of things that rugby players and fans would like. Selling rugby gear is an easy one, but what about face painting for the keiki (that's kids in Hawaii), cell phone vendors, coffee, outdoor clothing? I bet there are tons of things you could think of that aren't necessarily directly related to rugby but would compliment it nicely to increase revenue and make rugby matches (games, for the uninitiated) a profitable venture. Since this is, or would be, something new here, let's think differently than they do in the countries where rugby has a long history.

Chrysler Layoffs and the U.S. Auto Industry

I don't really want to get to deep into the discusson about the new layoffs at Chrysler, but there are alot of issues surrounding this that I'd like to talk about. And in my current MBA class I've got two classmates and the instructor with many years of auto industry experience, so maybe we'll hear from them.

There's alot of talk about the auto industry in the U.S., and has been for several years now. The U.S. auto manufacturer's are in decline while the Japanese automakers are rising. It's a complex situation and everyone has their opinion, so let's look at it. The recent contract talks at all three U.S. automakers brings it into the limelight again. The Chrysler situation adds some new things to the mix. Since they were recently bought by a private equity firm the dynamics change. Chances are the new owners aren't looking to run the business for the long term. They want to come in, turn the company around, then get out and make a profit doing it. Nothing wrong with that. That's what business is all about. The problem, if there is one, is how they go about making the turnaround. Laying off thousands of workers is never good. The employees suffer, sometimes severely, and the local economy suffers, sometimes severely.

But we have to ask why they're laying off these workers, and if there's another solution. If the company has more capacity than they need for the current market, it doesn't make business sense to keep that excess capacity. But can that excess capacity, labor, equipment, facilities, space, be used in another way or for another purpose that generates income? The easy solution is to shut down plants, eliminate shifts, and layoff people. It's a harder answer to think up ways to use those resources, very valuable resources, for other opportunities, but that is managment's job. What else could they use those facilities and people for that will generate income, and profits? And what would it take to make those changes?

Thursday, November 1, 2007

Getting Started

Still just getting stared with this blog, so expect some format changes. I'll be adding some links and who knows what else. As my profile mentions, I'm a rugby fan and former player, so I may digress into rugby talk here too, besides just business. Which lets me segue into mentioning a great blog I've found. And as soon as I figure out how to add a links list it will be at the top. I'm not a big blog reader, but Saturday's a Rugby Day, a.k.a. A Women's Guide to Rugby, is an excellent blog. The format is great and Blondie has great posts. It is geared towards women's rugby, but I haven't found a blog geared to men's rugby that's as good. If you know one, let me know.

As for business, my next MBA class starts today. Organizational Behavior. Should have lots of stuff to talk about once this gets going. I'm going to Baker College, using the online option. It's a great program and very challenging. Much more difficult, and rewarding, than the traditional program I started years ago.

Welcome to Let's Talk Business!

Welcome to Let's Talk Business where the focus is on Business Operations. That covers a lot of territory. Everything from the basics of inventory management to strategic planning, from customer service to Six Sigma. Operations is the heart of your organization. It's what you do that makes you you.

We'll be discussing topics that are all over the map, and whatever happens to be on my mind. That often means ranting about customer service, but I keep hoping that if I rant about it enough people will take notice and improve their service. Service, or customer service, is fundamental to Operations. Operations are all those activities that are directly related to producing and delivering your products and services to your customers. That includes what is often referred to as customer service, and that is an area, a broad area, where far too many organizations are lacking.