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We Are Laminate Works

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Service transcends to value

  • Confirm orders and quotes within 24 hours.     
  • Make parts only (and panels).     
  • Don’t compete with our customers.     
  • Always give quick / immediate updates whenever new information comes that changes what we have previously committed to.     
  • Retain our primary distribution model as milk runs with no minimum orders.     
  • Utilize our biggest assets, our creative problem solving approach, in every situation we encounter, both for our customers as well as ourselves internally. Choose to work to be the best (world champions) in every market we serve.     
  • Treat our customers, vendors and employees, as we would want to be treated.     
  • Pay out profit sharing to all employees equally to solidify our commitment to a team effort.
  • Never forget that customers won’t ever be delighted unless the employees serving them are devoted and have a great attitude.

 

We Are LW Explained

I think the word recipe best describes what this list represents.  Part of the magic of a recipe is determining what ingredients work together and the balance or how much of each, makes the dish perfect.  As you process our description of each of the “ingredients”, imagine how each ingredient balances with the next one and how the proper amount balances the other ingredients and brings out the uniqueness of the dish.  Picture your favorite dish and how the nuances of the ingredients all come together in a way that makes your mouth celebrate.  Have you ever noticed how sometimes when you are describing one ingredient, you end up describing a different ingredient?  We found this tricky as well.  In a few cases we found ourselves describing a different ingredient than the one we started to explain.  I think this is phenomenon is important.  Without a recipe, it would be easy to make substitutions or deletions.   We need to take the time to really hone in on what makes the perfect dish and stay true to the recipe.

One final thing, as you visualize our dish, process this thought.  I can paint a picture of the dish but our employees, customers and vendors make the dish real.  No one knows what the dish tastes like from my picture.   Together, we bring it from values or ideals that look good on a poster, to something we can taste, smell and enjoy. The real secret to our recipe is this, our employees, our customers, and our vendors.  Together We Are LW.


Confirm orders and quotes within 24 hours.

This ingredient is like the flour in a cookie.  It is a base ingredient.  Getting the balance right is very important because too much of the other ingredients make the cookie too thin, but not enough of the other ingredients makes it thick and hard to work with.  Although the goal is 24 hours, many quotes are quoted within minutes.  The reason is simple; customers love it.  It shows people we care, it shows them we are hungry, it shows customers we want the business, and it shows them we want to be different.  Some times quotes take longer than 24 hours for one reason or another.  In these instances we don’t beat ourselves up - we communicate with our customers.  

The foundation of this ingredient is just as it seems, customer service.  But it is much more complex than this.  It starts with the fact that when we confirm an order or quote, our customer knows we have received it.  We all know the frustration of thinking someone has received our order only to find out a week later that the order was never received.  “If I only knew” is the place we always go.  Responding timely solves this problem.  Customers learn that if they don’t get a confirmation within 24 hours to call and confirm the order or quote request was received.  Although this was the foundational reason, this is far from the end.  Several other benefits have formed from this ingredient.

1.    Consistency – If we stand firm with our commitment, over a period of time, our customers come to realize this is “how we are” and that gives them great peace.  They can rely on us.
2.    Visibility – One of the primary reasons for the 24-hour confirmation is our normal lead-time is often one to two weeks.  Getting materials ordered and received, panels scheduled and bonded, parts cut and edgebanded, and finally the panels or parts delivered, in such a short lead-time needs a plan – and the first part of the plan is visibility.  To confirm an order it needs to be in our system.  Once it is in our system, everyone at LW has visibility to the order and can make plans to ensure the order delivers as promised.  When the order is sitting on someone’s desk, others don’t know it is there and they don’t have visibility.
3.    Core value – Although, originally adopted for customer service and visibility, this ingredient has become somewhat of a core value as well.  The core value of don’t procrastinate, plan ahead so when we deal with the problems of manufacturing we have structure that allows us to create quick decisions and work-a-rounds so the customer gets what was promised as promised.   
4.    Pride – Over the years our people have owned the importance of this ingredient. Delivering with consistency is a great source of pride and “good” pride like this fuels a drive to be the best we can be.
5.    Competitive advantage – Competition will always be there.  Customers will always have a choice.  Usually price is one of the key drivers to choice.  It is unless you do something to make something else even more important.  It’s not enough for Mercedes to think it is better; the automobile has to be better.  When our employees commit to the 24-hour ingredient, our product has a higher value.


Make parts only (and panels).

This ingredient is tricky.  In some ways it is similar to the next one, but it is definitely different.  It is less about our inability to make finished products and more about clear focus on what it is we are committed to.  Making parts and panels requires the things we make to be a higher quality than if we were making a finished good.  With finished goods, you can cut around defects or hide them on the back.  When you make parts and panels, there is an expectation that the parts and panels are perfect.  Getting our employees to look at parts as our customer’s table or our laminated panel as someone’s cabinets is important.  Understanding the significance and challenges that come with parts and panels is as important as the focus it brings.


Don’t compete with our customers.

This ingredient is as much for us to maintain focus as it is for our customers to have trust in us.  One of the hardest things to do in business is turn down the work that doesn’t line up with who you are.  Deciding who we are and committing to it gives us stability and structure.  It gives us confidence to make hard decisions and trust in our principles.  For our customers it gives them peace that they can share confidential information with us without feeling vulnerable.  Most of our competitors are producing a product of some sort and bonding panels or making parts is a secondary product line for them.  Even the distributors we compete against are first distributors and second panel laminators.  Our commitment to who we are (and who we are not), allows customers to have trust in us.  Some to the point they bring their customers to our facility without any concerns we would ever sell to them direct.


Always give quick / immediate updates whenever new information comes that changes what we have previously committed to.

People fall down.  They make mistakes.  As our fathers told us when we were kids, “it’s not just how we fall that defines us, it is how we get back up”.  Many times the problem we are facing was out of our control, but became our problem because of how we dealt with it.  Rooted in our 24-hour commitment, we are also committed to call our customers immediately if anything happens along the way that presents a possible problem.  One thing we do is call our customers when we receive material with a defect.  Not to tell them the panel will be late, but to ask them if they want us to mark it and lay it up anyway.  We recognize that backorders are a pain for everyone and often our customer can cut around the defect.  In many cases getting all the panels together is a better solution than back ordering one panel with a scratch.  Taking the time to communicate shows our customers we care, we are manufacturers ourselves, and that we think about stuff beyond our product.  


Retain our primary distribution model as milk runs with no minimum orders.

This is about service more than anything.  As we deliver further from our manufacturing facilities, we lose our service advantage.  This isn’t to say we can’t ship product further away, we just need to recognize that it dilutes our value proposition.  By committing to fast quotes, consistent confirmations, great communication and on-time deliveries we present a product value that can be added to the price to manufacture making us more profitable.  Because our focus was on milk runs, we were able to see the need to open new plants in Dallas and Houston, and other in the future.  Had we tried a different distribution model, we may have increased sales in the Dallas market, but would not have built the dominance we have in the market.


Utilize our biggest assets, our creative problem solving approach, in every situation we encounter, both for our customers as well as ourselves internally.

For me this is one of those hidden ingredients.  Often our customer doesn’t taste or see it, but we wouldn’t be as good without it.  The funny thing is although this is a hidden or hard to define ingredient, it is one of the most important ones.  It is where the 24-hour confirmation came from.  It is the why we do milk runs why we call customers instead of shipping with back orders.  And it is how we grow with our customers.  Most of our customers started with buying panels from us and over time through our problem solving allowed us to make them parts as well.  Understanding that parts are a solution to a problem and not a product allows us to creatively offer high value solutions.  The value is high because it doesn’t just make economic sense it solves a problem as well.  When our sales people sell parts they are talking about capabilities and looking for bottlenecks and problems to solve as a posed to just selling widgets.  This perspective has challenges and benefits.  The challenge is there isn’t a one size fits all solution and it is difficult to create a brochure or description that adequately explains what we offer.  The upside is when our customers get it, they get it, and it is something that builds very deep relationships.  Most of our part customers are extremely loyal and view us as an integral part of their company.

Choose to work to be the best (world champions) in every market we serve.

This ingredient is similar to the milk runs, but definitely different.  There are two key components to this ingredient.  A decision to be the best and location to be the best.

1.    World Champions – This comes from the adage “whatever is worth doing is worth doing well”.  But taking this further, that adage comes from Colossian’s 3:23, “ Whatever you do, do your work heartily as for the Lord rather than men”.   It is not enough to merely try to do a good job.  Our desire is for each employee here to decide to do a great job.  To choose to be a part of something bigger than themselves and to understand for us to be a great company our people are going to have to work together and be great together.  This means we have to encourage each other.  It also means we have to hold each other accountable to be their best and ultimately we have to work together with a clear understanding of how we are going to work.

2.    Every market we serve – One of the hardest things in business is turning down work that doesn’t line up with your model.  Because of our value proposition and distribution model, when we find markets to serve that we can be the best in the market we need to go after that market with all we have.  Conversely when we discover markets that our value proposition doesn’t have the “value” it should, we will choose to walk away.  We are who we are, not only because of who we are, but also because of how committed we are to the markets we choose to serve.  This is not just location, this is also what keeps us from competing with our customers and producing things that don’t line up with our vision.


Treat our customers, vendors and employees, as we would want to be treated.

This ingredient is one of those that become so “known” it is often forgot (like salt in a cake).  We all know that treating the people that we work with well has value, but it has become so cliché that we often either say it and not do it, or just left it “assumed”.  To make sure we don’t lose sight of the importance of this ingredient, I think it is important to consistently add the why of the ingredients with the what.  If you added the why the 24-hour commitment, what the desire to be the best, why the desire to be profitable, why the desire to be consistent – for me, it all points back to this: that is how I would want to be treated.  It doesn’t do any good to hold our employees to a bar of excellence that we don’t hold ourselves to when paying them or seeking out the benefits we are going to offer.  If we expect our customers to pay us on time we need to model the behavior and pay our vendors on time.  When we make mistakes or put ourselves in a position where we can’t deliver to our own expectation, we need to work hard to create a plan to dig ourselves out of the hole and re-establish ourselves as the model we are have committed to be.


Pay out profit sharing to all employees equally to solidify our commitment to a team effort.

Similar to others this ingredient overlaps others but the heart of it comes from a desire to create an atmosphere that rewards hard work and commitment.  By connecting the dot that as a company, profits are a good thing and key in providing a future for all of us; it keeps us all aligned.  This is important but this key ingredient is more complicated than that.  It is actually rooted in Paul’s explanation of the Church body.  Each contributor has specific purposes and responsibilities, but all are needed – none more than others - as it relates to the overall recipe.  When we pay out profit sharing we pay it out evenly amongst all employees with no importance or favoritism placed on job title.  Every one shares in the profit sharing equally.


Never forget that customers won’t ever be delighted unless the employees serving them are devoted and have a great attitude.

This one is tough, not the concept, the execution.  The problem is we are all different.  We are motivated differently.  We aspire to things differently.  And we feel appreciation differently.  Authors have made millions talking about it and yet it comes down to one simple four-letter word – Love.  When people feel loved, it empowers them to live and work in a way they themselves can’t even explain. This recipe is as much about how we will be the perfect vendor to our customers as it is to how we will be the perfect employer to our employees.  They are all the same thing.  As a company, it is easy to show how we are focused on our customers, and it is easy to become so consumed with our customers that we loose site of how important our employees are.  One of the key ingredients of this recipe is our focus on our employees and to remember that we must focus first on our employees, to be everything we want to be to our customers.