During my early professional and developmental employment years when I was advancing my career in sales management for a small manufacturer’s rep company, I came across perhaps the single greatest 20th century management consultant, Peter Drucker. His articles frequently showed up in all the business trade magazines including The Harvard Business Review. He made a profound impact because of his easy and simple to understand concepts. Nearly 20 years before the founding of Microsoft, Drucker coined the term “knowledge worker” to describe the ever growing cadre of employees who now labored more with their brains, rather than their hands. Later in his life, he considered knowledge work productivity to be the next frontier of management!
My 45-year long odyssey and business career began after graduating from Drexel University, in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, with a mechanical engineering degree and thereafter with initial positions of responsibility in engineering design, manufacturing engineering, long term production planning and production scheduling control management. However, it was not until 1974, when I accidently discovered a new technical sales position working for a growing manufacturer’s rep company supporting the sale of fluid film bearings, vibration monitoring tools, diagnostic equipment and high speed couplings to the power generation and refining industries, that my lifework drastically changed even to this day.
In these formative years of learning the various products and their applications to large pumps, motors, steam and gas turbines, high speed gear boxes and other and critical rotating machinery, my company owner said one of the best and more meaningful ways to be successful is to “learn most” from your customers, by carefully listening to their needs and the problems they need to resolve. How true a statement at that time!
I did not realize how profound this advice would become over my extended business career. We need to pose thoughtful questions to our customers, carefully listen to their answers, take notes and then to further clarify and refine our understanding. Actually, it’s quite a simple technique. Even in today’s world of small niche companies, including a high degree of specialization and where it is often thought that we “know everything”, we still frequently learn from our customers every single day. Sometimes it is just the smallest detail, but it can drastically change the outcome or the solution to a bearing problem or an operating condition of a critical machine at a power plant.
In 1984, I had the great fortune to participate in a small company sales conference (in Hawaii of all places) to hear Robert Waterman, co-author with Tom Peters, of one the classic business books, “In Search of Excellence”, published by Harper & Row in 1982. Mr. Waterman gave a two hour summary of the key concepts of this best-seller. At the time, it was the “industry standard” and still remains one of the biggest selling and mostly widely read business management books ever published.
A few of the classic comments from this business management masterpiece of the best run companies about listening are:
• “The excellent companies are better listeners.”
• “The best companies are pushed around by their customers and they love it.”
• “So the better companies are not only better on service, quality, reliability and finding a niche. They are better listeners.”
Today, more than ever, customers depend on Pioneer Motor Bearing as a niche fluid film bearing company with very specialized and customized services to help them enhance and extend the reliability of their rotating machinery. And in this capacity, we are and must continue to be dedicated to listening to our customers’ concerns and requirements so that we can act together with them to make them an even more competitive and respected force in the marketplace, in their “search for excellence.”