Bob Armbruster

Everybody hates to admit making a mistake, yet that is how we all learn. The biggest mistake we have made is not wanting to ask the question, "Are you happy with our service?" We didn't want to find out that we weren't perfect.

However, honest communication in our industry is one of the most important elements of keeping a customer happy and also keeping a customer. Learning that a customer may not be completely satisfied, or not satisfied at all, is a good thing. It gives you a chance to correct those issues before the customer just fires you and hires your competitor. Asking how we are doing can also lead to extra project work, which can positively affect your bottom line.

My advice: don't be afraid to ask the hard questions.

Bob Armbruster, president
Clean Team Inc.
Toledo, Ohio

Craig Kersemeier

After a few years in business, our company wanted faster growth opportunities. Instead of just growing through internal sales, we thought acquisitions would increase the sales volume — and without completely duplicating the overhead, we would be more profitable. We never realized the hidden expenses of acquiring another company.

Besides getting additional debt, we acquired all the headaches hidden in the new company: employees without background checks; employees who refuse to adapt to our new procedures and paperwork; additional unemployment and workers' compensation rate increases because of the higher payroll, etc. This all led to new employees and a lot of training. Our overhead, which was once perceived as a savings, was now a large expense.

I cannot stress enough to do your due diligence. Have all your areas of concern addressed in the offer to purchase agreement and have enough cash to help this new entity sustain and grow.

Craig Kersemeier, President
K-Tech Kleening Systems Inc.
Schofield, Wis.

John S. Ezzo

When I reflect on the numerous mistakes we have made, it is not hard to identify the biggest. We tolerated the wrong person on our team way too long. It was so bad that when I finally fired the person, the rest of the team asked, "What took you so long?"

When I look back on all the lost opportunities, lost profit and stress, it sickens me. I now embrace the concept of hire slowly and fire quickly. Expectations are now clearly defined and measured in annual reviews. When lack of results and/or teamwork are identified in the future and not quickly remedied, I will be ready to say, "You're Fired!" I owe this decisiveness to my many great people who do work as a team and deliver desired results.

John S. Ezzo, CEO
New Image Building Services Inc.
Mt. Clemens, Mich.

Next month: How do you motivate frontline workers?

If you’d like the opportunity to share your opinion, send an e-mail to Dan Weltin