Do Your Processes Still Pass The Smell Test

March 1, 2017

A situation occurred just recently that has me thinking about our industry. I am part of a management review committee for a non office coffee service or vending industry company. During our annual senior management review, a member of the committee asked a senior manager, "Why are you doing this process this way?" And the manager replied "Because that's the way we've done it for the past 7 years." Did you grimace? Because I did.

This manager was smart and successful, but he thought his process was working, and didn't see any reason to change it. I know many OCS providers in a similar situation, operating the same way they did a decade ago, because its what they've always done and they haven't stopped to see if it still passes the "smell test."

Why review

The business world has changed dramatically in the last decade. The technology available and how we use it in business especially. This has also changed for our customers. How they do business and wish to do business is different, as is how they want to communicate. Millennials are plugged in at such a high percentage, what they need from OCS and how they expect to interact with a service provider is different than the previous generations. But have your processes and procedures changed?

Technology within the industry has changed rapidly as well. Are your current procedures truly the best way to operate today, or is there a better way? This requires looking behind the scenes, from how you divvy up responsibilities in the warehouse to handling customer service issues. It is also a must to review how you survey customer satisfaction.

How to review

The best way to see if your processes and procedures still pass the smell test is with the help of others. Passively, you can read about what different operators are doing in trade journals, like Automatic Merchandiser, or review the annual NAMA operating ratio report to see if your operations and sales match industry standards. But the best way is to present your processes to others, including related financial information, and let them ask "Why?"

Assembling an advisory board

A word about finding people who can truly review your procedures. Attend the NAMA OneShow and talk to noncompeting operators. Ask manufacturers and suppliers who also run successful businesses. Talk to your accountant, banker or member of the chamber of commerce. The business owners need not be in vending, but simply people you have some relationship with that have good business acumen and the ability to ask both honest and constructive questions about your business processes. Form an advisory board of these individuals be it an informal dinner with discussion or a group of people whom you pay a small stipend.

It does take time and effort, but I know it works, because I'm involved in one. I was there with the owner in the beginning, and have seen great things come from challenging existing processes and procedures. The world has changed so much, it's time to find out if your procedures pass the smell, or perhaps re-smell, test.

About the Author

Dean Gilland

NCE5, CCS VP Sales & Service

National Automatic Merchandising Association (NAMA)