The Dead Pixels Society podcast

Exploring Operational Excellence for Business Expansion with Alicia Butler Pierre

August 31, 2023 Alicia Butler-Pierre Season 4 Episode 129
Exploring Operational Excellence for Business Expansion with Alicia Butler Pierre
The Dead Pixels Society podcast
More Info
The Dead Pixels Society podcast
Exploring Operational Excellence for Business Expansion with Alicia Butler Pierre
Aug 31, 2023 Season 4 Episode 129
Alicia Butler-Pierre

Have an idea or tip? Send us a text!

Gary Pageau of the Dead Pixels Society talks with Alicia Butler Pierre, the founder, and CEO of Equilibria, Inc., about operational excellence. The conversation revolves around the critical role of operational excellence in business expansion, sharing her company's unique approach to tackling issues like high turnover, audits, and escalating customer complaints using the Lean Six Sigma framework.

The discussion moves beyond just identifying problems, delving into the intricate balance between sales and operations. How can organizations ensure they deliver on their promises without compromising their operations? Alicia shares her insights. Additionally, we explore the necessity of possessing a robust business continuity plan and a disaster recovery tool. This conversation covers scenarios from dealing with supply chain disruptions to navigating natural disasters or coping with an essential component of your business shutting down. We wrap things up with a sneak peek into Butler Pierre's Smooth Operator Masterclass, a valuable resource for developing effective operational structures. 

Energize your sales with Shareme.chat, the proven texting platform. 

ShareMe.Chat 
ShareMe.Chat platform uses chat-to-text on your website to keep your customers connected and buying!

Mediaclip
Mediaclip strives to continuously enhance the user experience while dramatically increasing revenue.

Buzzsprout - Let's get your podcast launched!
Start for FREE

Visual 1st
Visual 1st is the premier global conference focused on the photo and video ecosystem.

Disclaimer: This post contains affiliate links. If you make a purchase, I may receive a commission at no extra cost to you.

Support the Show.

Sign up for the Dead Pixels Society newsletter at http://bit.ly/DeadPixelsSignUp.

Contact us at gary@thedeadpixelssociety.com

Visit our LinkedIn group, Photo/Digital Imaging Network, and Facebook group, The Dead Pixels Society.

Leave a review on Apple and Podchaser.

Are you interested in being a guest? Click here for details.

Hosted and produced by Gary Pageau
Edited by Olivia Pageau
Announcer: Erin Manning

The Dead Pixels Society podcast +
Get a shoutout in an upcoming episode!
Starting at $3/month
Support
Show Notes Transcript Chapter Markers

Have an idea or tip? Send us a text!

Gary Pageau of the Dead Pixels Society talks with Alicia Butler Pierre, the founder, and CEO of Equilibria, Inc., about operational excellence. The conversation revolves around the critical role of operational excellence in business expansion, sharing her company's unique approach to tackling issues like high turnover, audits, and escalating customer complaints using the Lean Six Sigma framework.

The discussion moves beyond just identifying problems, delving into the intricate balance between sales and operations. How can organizations ensure they deliver on their promises without compromising their operations? Alicia shares her insights. Additionally, we explore the necessity of possessing a robust business continuity plan and a disaster recovery tool. This conversation covers scenarios from dealing with supply chain disruptions to navigating natural disasters or coping with an essential component of your business shutting down. We wrap things up with a sneak peek into Butler Pierre's Smooth Operator Masterclass, a valuable resource for developing effective operational structures. 

Energize your sales with Shareme.chat, the proven texting platform. 

ShareMe.Chat 
ShareMe.Chat platform uses chat-to-text on your website to keep your customers connected and buying!

Mediaclip
Mediaclip strives to continuously enhance the user experience while dramatically increasing revenue.

Buzzsprout - Let's get your podcast launched!
Start for FREE

Visual 1st
Visual 1st is the premier global conference focused on the photo and video ecosystem.

Disclaimer: This post contains affiliate links. If you make a purchase, I may receive a commission at no extra cost to you.

Support the Show.

Sign up for the Dead Pixels Society newsletter at http://bit.ly/DeadPixelsSignUp.

Contact us at gary@thedeadpixelssociety.com

Visit our LinkedIn group, Photo/Digital Imaging Network, and Facebook group, The Dead Pixels Society.

Leave a review on Apple and Podchaser.

Are you interested in being a guest? Click here for details.

Hosted and produced by Gary Pageau
Edited by Olivia Pageau
Announcer: Erin Manning

Erin Manning:

Welcome to the Dead Pixel Society podcast, the photo imaging industry's leading news source. Here's your host, Gary Pageau. The Dead Pixel Society podcast is brought to you by MediaClip, Advertek Printing and IP Labs.

Gary Pageau:

Hello again and welcome to the Dead Pixel Society podcast. I'm your host, Gary Pageau, and today we're joined by Alicia Butler Pierre, who is the founder and CEO of Equilibria, the in Atlanta, Georgia. Hi, Alicia, how are you today?

Alicia Butler Pierre:

I'm doing well, Gary, and I love your radio voice.

Gary Pageau:

I know it's not my normal voice, as you know, but I do turn that up when we get started. So tell us a little bit first about Equilibria, what that does, and later on we're going to get into how it relates to the businesses that listen to this podcast. But first let's talk about operational excellence.

Alicia Butler Pierre:

Thank you. Thank you so much, Gary, let's hop right into it. So, equilibria, believe it or not, we've been around for 18 years and I only look like I'm 16. I'm just kidding, just kidding, but we've been around for 18 years and you're exactly right, Gary. We specialize in all things operations, specifically something that we call business infrastructure, and we build this business infrastructure for fast-growing existing small businesses. Right, they're at a crucial point in their business where they have maybe more business than they can actually handle, and that's when they realize, Gary, the importance of getting certain processes and systems and just overall structure and organization to their operations in place. And that's our sweet spot. That's where we go in and work our magic and do what we do so that they can successfully scale to the next level.

Gary Pageau:

Now in the photographic industry, as I was kind of prepping you before the call, we're talking a little bit about the types of businesses that are in the industry. Now, a lot of them have very standardized processes in terms of dealing with images coming in and they're generally being printed on material and it's whatever. Is there a symptom of an operation that needs help? In other words, where can people identify problems as they happen?

Alicia Butler Pierre:

Another major example is turnover, high turnover with your team, even if you don't have a team of, let's say, employees, but maybe other independent contractors that you're working with, other people who are part of your ecosystem that you've been working with, and all of a sudden they're all jumping ship might want to check out the real reason why. Another red flag is customer complaints, the number of customer complaints exponentially increasing. Those are three major warning signs that you know what. You probably have more demand than you can actually supply, and hopefully we can actually get into a conversation around the law of supply and demand. But those are three telltale signs, Gary, and of course there's many more, but those are three that we tend to see quite often.

Gary Pageau:

Now, the other thing that may come into play, in a photo lab, for example, is sustainability, which again is controlling waste. Is that a measurement that someone could look at?

Alicia Butler Pierre:

We absolutely look at waste, and that actually comes into play when we start looking at how you do what you do. So you were talking about process, something that and I don't know if we want to get too much into the weeds with this, but I'll bring it up it's a framework called Lean Six Sigma, so that's something else that I do, Sure. So the Lean Six Sigma Black Belt and that's one of the things we always talk about is let's take a look at the actual process that you're using, and there's several processes within your business. There's tech office processes, and they're the things that you actually do to deliver the images or the photographs to your customers or your clients. But one of the things that we do in Lean Six Sigma is we it's known as the eight waste.

Alicia Butler Pierre:

There's literally eight different types of waste that we try to analyze your process for, to see how can we either eliminate it altogether or significantly minimize the impact of that waste. And just to give you a really quick example, one of the major types of waste is waiting, Just waiting. Is there something else that could be done as you're waiting? Is there a way to reduce the amount of weight that is embedded within your process. Emotion is another type of waste. A lot of people don't realize that, but motion can actually be a wasteful activity. So those are just some really quick examples of the different types of waste that we can analyze your processes for.

Gary Pageau:

So it's not as me like. You have to have an overview of your organization that is almost holistic, but you also have to be able to break it into different segments.

Alicia Butler Pierre:

That's exactly right and for so many of us, especially for those of us that are founders and we're the CEOs, we're in the top position within our businesses. We are the visionary, big picture thinkers, right? Not all of us enjoy getting down into the weeds. We don't want to be on the core level.

Gary Pageau:

That's what we have people for.

Alicia Butler Pierre:

Exactly. But, as they say, the devil is in the details, right? So, even though we may know that about ourselves, try to align yourself partner with someone who does like getting into the trenches and rolling up their sleeves and making sure every eye is dotted and every T is crossed.

Gary Pageau:

Because one of the things I think that happens with operational problems is you don't always see the symptoms right away. There actually may be trailing indicators where you may have orders going out late or your customer reviews start going down or something like that may happen. Your quality may suffer, your maintenance on your machine may be more because you're not using it properly, but by that point it may often be too late, possibly. So what are some of the indicators people can use during the production? Key points, maybe things they should be looking for.

Alicia Butler Pierre:

I think one important thing that we can talk about, Gary, are KPIs, key performance indicators or metrics. So let's say you've identified all these different types of processes that you have to have at your company, even if you don't have them documented. Start thinking what are some of the measures or metrics of success? When you talk about equipment, for example, is there some type of a maintenance schedule that you can come up with for each type of equipment? You want to try to be as proactive as you possibly can be. I'll go back to my days working as an engineer in oil and gas and at Monsanto. That was something that we always did with equipment. We always had dedicated time where we would literally and very intentionally shut down certain parts of the operation just to be able to proactively take a look at certain equipment, inspect it, make sure that it met certain guidelines and criteria. That way we didn't get caught off guard once we were fully operational again and something broke or malfunctioned. That's one thing that maybe your audience could consider doing is something very proactive.

Alicia Butler Pierre:

Yes, it requires a lot of documentation but it's better to be proactive than to have to react to equipment going down, because equipment going down means orders start getting backed up, which means once you have the equipment online again, you're constantly trying to play catch up Right. All of those problems that we talked about earlier. Gary, your customers being angry, people that you work with on your team, even if they aren't necessarily employees, but other suppliers and vendors that you may work with everybody is frustrated and aggravated with you. It can have a domino effect To the best extent possible. Try to be proactive. Start thinking ahead of time. What could go wrong. There's a tool that we use. This is another Lean Six Sigma tool. It's called the FMEA. It stands for Failure Modes and Effects Analysis. Gary, is you taking a look at, let's say, forgive? Actually, could you just throw out the name of a typical process within photography?

Gary Pageau:

Oh, finishing, you're putting a canvas wrap on a frame. That would be a part of the process of creating a canvas print. Is you're actually putting the printed canvas onto the frame?

Alicia Butler Pierre:

Okay, let's say I actually work with you and I ask you in painstaking detail, Gary, tell me exactly how you do that. But I'm also making observations and I'm jotting down everything that you not only say, but everything that I watch you do. Because if you were to document that process yourself, Gary, what you might document as 10 steps, I might document as 30. Because one of our processes, to be so detailed that once we hand it off to someone else who's potentially never done that work before, can, within reason, produce the same result as though you yourself did it, Gary. So what I would then do is, once I have your process fully documented and we've tested it to make sure that it actually works, I would then do this FMEA exercise and it's literally me poking holes in the process and saying where can this break, where can something go wrong? And if it does go wrong, what would be the mitigation or the mitigative activities that we would undergo to fix it.

Alicia Butler Pierre:

So, again, it's your way of trying to be proactive about all right. Nothing is ever perfect, right. And if it is perfect. Something could go wrong. Right, exactly You're down the line, and so you just want to make sure that you're doing everything that you can to be prepared for when things do break and when things do go wrong, especially when you're dealing with physical, tangible things, equipment, but even digital things, software. We all know software technology is great when it works, but when it doesn't, oh man.

Gary Pageau:

When your microphone isn't plugged in properly.

Alicia Butler Pierre:

Exactly like me.

Gary Pageau:

How do you deal with, maybe, in a situation where you get, maybe, a person in the production environment who feels ownership over this process? They feel then we've always done it this way and it's really the best it can be. I mean, you sort of have this ingrained philosophy, right, because I mean that does happen in a lot of organizations, especially in the photographic industry, where you have people you want them to feel ownership over their job, right, you want them to be invested in it, but they're almost too invested in the sense that they think they are the sole authorities on that topic.

Alicia Butler Pierre:

One good way and you'll appreciate this. A picture is worth a thousand words, right? So one of my favorite, favorite, favorite tools in the world of operations and process and business infrastructure is process flowcharting or . It's a fancier way of saying a flow chart, but I always encourage people for a person like that that die hard. You know I'm not changing. It's always work this way. Don't fix something that isn't broken. Get those people involved in actually mapping out what they that those that we were talking about before, Gary, imagine converting that into a flow chart of some sort. But we're going to take it a step further. We're actually going to associate the time involved with every single step that is written in that process. And when you have that illustrative, more pictorial view of what your process actually looks like, that's when you start noticing gosh, there's a lot of time spent just waiting.

Gary Pageau:

Right.

Alicia Butler Pierre:

Who can we streamline that? Is it possible to incorporate some level of automation? Is it possible that we can do some things in parallel instead of doing, you know, waiting before step B can start, you have to do step A. Is it possible to do steps B and C at the same time? When you have that picture and you have the person that is so resistant to the change being a participant in that mapping process?

Alicia Butler Pierre:

I guarantee you you will get them not only involved, they have a way of wanting to actually figure out. How can we do more with less? How can we speed this process up? As long as you give these top down directives, yes, people will, and this goes for anyone. People will be resistant to the change, but the more you can incorporate people into the change and not let them know hey, I want to change this process.

Alicia Butler Pierre:

I think there's a way we can do this. Quicker, faster, better, cheaper, whatever, just say you know, I want to start documenting these processes and I'd love for you to get to be a part of this. Let's start mapping this out together. Let's figure out how long is it really taking us to do this? What if we could shave that time by another 15 percent? Does that mean we can bring in even more business during the fourth quarter of the year, when that seems to be our peak season? Imagine that 15 percent production in the time that it takes us to do certain things. How much more business can we take in and not have to turn away business because of the fact that we're at capacity?

Gary Pageau:

Or, in the other hand, it might actually support this person's attention that maybe they are doing it right or what have you. That's true to find their case? Is that they're exactly, this is the best way to do it, or exactly does put some quantifiable data behind that?

Alicia Butler Pierre:

That's absolutely right. Great point.

Gary Pageau:

So what are some of the you mentioned digital tools? Are there digital tools that businesses can use to kind of monitor their processes that are readily available?

Alicia Butler Pierre:

If you're looking for something like templates, there is a tool called Process Street where they have some ready made processes that you can just go and download, and of course, you have to customize them for your needs. But when it comes to actually storing processes, making processes highly visible, there's a tool that I love, Gary, my team and I we use. It's called Notion. Have you heard of it?

Gary Pageau:

I think I have actually not sure how I do that.

Alicia Butler Pierre:

I think with your, with your photographers, I think you would really like Notion, because it's so visual. It's not like a Dropbox or a Google Docs where excuse me, a Google Drive, where when you upload something you just see a bunch of. At best you see a folder icon.

Gary Pageau:

Right.

Alicia Butler Pierre:

Notion actually makes. It actually takes thumbnail images, For example. If you were to upload, if you wanted to upload images and share those with your clients, some of your customers, you could actually create a web. It would give you the ability to create something that that's almost comparable to a web page.

Gary Pageau:

Sure.

Alicia Butler Pierre:

Share that specifically with that particular customer and then, when you're ready to cut off their access, you can. You can also make it to where they can view it. Only they can't actually download anything. So you still have that right. You know those protection rights If they haven't paid for the pictures yeah, yeah, yeah yeah.

Alicia Butler Pierre:

I don't remember the images, but it has been a game changer for us. It we actually use it as a part CRM, so part customer relationship management database, as well as a tool for managing our projects, but also a repository for our processes. So it's very visual. It literally is an operating platform. It's an operating system and we love it. And and Gary, the most beautiful thing is it integrates with so many other applications that you might already be using.

Gary Pageau:

So where would somebody find that? And I'm, where would somebody find more information about that? If you're and you're not getting paid for this right, Is this something?

Alicia Butler Pierre:

No, I'm not, I'm not, I'm not. I believe in it, that much. No, no affiliation whatsoever, no affiliate sales marketing, none of that stuff. It's not so N O T I O N dot com.

Gary Pageau:

Now let's talk about scale in terms of the type of businesses, because I always hear things when I talk to a smaller retailer or maybe it's a photo lab or something he says why don't you do this stuff? Because I'm not that big. And then you talk to bigger. You know places with 40 or 50 employees that well, we're just too busy for that. And of course, I think the bigger people do do this right, the $100 million you know, or in bigger organizations have kind of got this stuff. But in terms of how people can benefit from businesses of all sizes, is that correct? I mean you shouldn't, even if you are that small. One store place, one location place.

Alicia Butler Pierre:

You should be looking at something like this Absolutely, because it directly impacts customer experience and that's why we're all if without our customers we would, we would not have a business. So, something that I always I always try to position operations and its importance. I tried to frame it or anchor it against marketing, because marketing gets so much of our attention. Right so, and rightfully so, because you have to. Even when I was looking at your website, Gary, I was like, oh wow, look at these pictures. Like, oh my gosh, your website is amazing. And so it instantly drew me in. I was like, okay, yeah, it makes sense that you are in the line of work that you're in, because the images were all so sharp and crisp and beautiful and very attractive. And now I'm trying to figure out can Gary help me redesign my book cover? You know so it did what it was, it had the intended effect.

Alicia Butler Pierre:

So marketing draws or lures our customers to us, potential customers. Operations keeps them there. Operations if marketing makes the promise. Operations ensures that you can deliver on that promise. So if you promise your customer, you know what I can have. I will come and photograph your special event. I will be at your son's graduation ceremony, your daughter's wedding, your dogs, whatever, and I can turn that around in less than 72 hours. I can have proofs ready for you to view, or maybe something shorter, but operationally you better make sure that whatever is going on behind the curtain or under the hood, you better make sure that you can deliver on that promise. And that's what operations does for you. Whether you are one person show or operation or a 150 person operation, operations ensures a positive, consistent, reliable customer experience.

Alicia Butler Pierre:

And it ensures that you can deliver on the promises that you make on the sales and marketing side.

Gary Pageau:

You know, I think if you've hit an interesting point, xer's almost a natural tension in a business for the sales and marketing side to basically say almost anything to get business right, whether it's consumer marketing like our. You know our French fries are the greatest in the planet, so you want to drive traffic, so people order, you know, more McDonald's French fries or whatnot, versus you know the operational standpoint of you know well, we've got to make all those things and deliver the hot fries with the salt and all the sodium and all the terrible stuff that are involved there, and so there is almost like a tension there where, you know sales and marketing are making promises that operations have to deliver and sometimes they throw each other under the bus.

Alicia Butler Pierre:

They do, and I'm going to repeat something that a client told me years ago and I thought it was so brilliant. She said you know sales and marketing, they're so busy selling, they're busy selling the dream, but us folks here in operations have to deal with the nightmare. That nightmare is. Oh my God. You said you could do what. By when?

Gary Pageau:

Right.

Alicia Butler Pierre:

Holy crap. Let's make sure we can make that happen and deliver something that is high quality right, because we can always get it out there quickly, but it doesn't mean that it's good right. And that is the challenge.

Gary Pageau:

But that. But so how do you coach organizations that are running into that problem? Because I imagine you know you're coming in there as an operation lean six sigma black belt, you're ready to chop down those operational deficiencies and you know and kickstart the operation I don't know what other martial arts things to say I'm at, but I'm working on it. But I mean there's got to be peace between those things. And you know, like I said, in a lot of cases there is a, you know, a natural conflict. But sometimes it gets really bad and I've seen it in organizations where, you know, literally the salespeople will demean their production department because they haven't delivered, but in, and maybe in that case it's the salesperson who didn't do a great job of prepping the order or getting enough information to set up operations for success.

Alicia Butler Pierre:

It's primarily because of silos, and these silos literally hamper visibility, so the left hand doesn't know what the right hand is doing.

Gary Pageau:

Right.

Alicia Butler Pierre:

That's why the left hand can say things and the right hand is saying wait a minute, I can't, we can't deliver on that.

Erin Manning:

Right.

Alicia Butler Pierre:

I'll give a. I'll share a really quick example. Years ago I remember ordering a custom sofa, custom made sofa, here where I live in Atlanta, georgia, and I remember the salesperson. She was great. She was very knowledgeable about all the products. She was able to help me pick out the right fabrics and all these kinds of things. She actually sketched out the sofa. It was amazing.

Alicia Butler Pierre:

And then came the million dollar question OK, besides cost, when will this be ready, jenny? I'll never forget Jenny Dallara. When will this be ready, jenny? She said Well, I have to be honest with you, it's going to take somewhere between eight to twelve weeks. Oh, my god.

Alicia Butler Pierre:

Now, the reason why that's important, Gary, is she could have easily said oh, you know what, three weeks tops. You know just They'll, just to make sure she made the sale. But she's because she knew what, what goes on in production, and she knew that certain it the lead time that it would take to source certain materials. Does she have that knowledge and that insight and that visibility Into the production side. She knew, okay, I better not say something that's wrong and then really has this customer often She'll never do business with us again. Let me at least be upfront and tell her Listen, it's, it's not going to be fast, but hey, and she cleaned it up so nicely. She was like you know, but you know what good things come to those who wait now it's like you know what, jenny, you're right and I'm willing to.

Alicia Butler Pierre:

So I think by having that level of transparency Across the business, it's not just we're talking about sales and marketing versus operations, but it's all areas of the business right going on from a compliance perspective, things that are going on from an HR perspective, accounting and finance, all of these different Divisions or departments of your company.

Alicia Butler Pierre:

Do they really know what's going on right? Other areas of the business and best, we have some very specific exercises that we do with companies, Gary, to Tear down those balls, to tear down those silos and create that level of visibility and transparency that may not be there and this isn't I mean that obviously something like that is not a one-time process.

Alicia Butler Pierre:

Indeed, indeed it is, and and you'll love this we use. We use very simple analog tools, figures and index cards. I'm for those who don't have the benefit of seeing me I'm literally holding up right now a laminated stick figure that that enables me to write down the name of a particular role or a position. You would be amazed, Gary, at how effective just tools as simple as stick figures and index cards are and helping people, helping to tear down those walls and those silos that we're talking about, because we're getting people in the same room at the same time Having conversations that they've never had before.

Gary Pageau:

Right.

Alicia Butler Pierre:

Hey, Gary, I didn't realize you did that. Well, I didn't realize you were doing that. We're doing that too. Sometimes you realize there's duplication of effort, right as there are things that nobody's doing but somebody should be doing.

Gary Pageau:

For example. What would that be? I'm just curious, like, and have you run into a situation where they realize there's, you know, process that should be happening? That's not.

Alicia Butler Pierre:

I'm trying to think. There's a client that I'm working with right now and we recently had a Conversation. It had to do with something compliance related, because they have a certain Certification for the line of work that they're in sure. The question came up Well, who's who's making sure that that Certification is being renewed annually? Well, aren't you doing it so and so well? No, I don't look at that. I thought you were doing it Well.

Erin Manning:

I'm not.

Alicia Butler Pierre:

That's really important because this literally helps them secure certain types of contracts. Sure, their business, but but no one had their eye on it. They, they landed the state, they received the certification, but no one actually Stepped up to make sure that the certification is renewed right.

Gary Pageau:

So yeah, that makes sense, because I can see there's a lot of, you know, government contracts or things like exactly you may be Applying for that they have to be again renewed.

Alicia Butler Pierre:

Yes, and that's that's exactly the space that they're operating in is is the government contracting, and so they work. So and that's something that happens Often we work so hard to land that client right and then, once we have that client something, something like renewing the certification that we can just completely forget about it, because we've spent so much of our effort Trying to land and score that big client that once we have them, we immediately just start doing the work and delivering the work, but then on the back end we forget to do something to make sure that we can continue filling our pipeline with that kind of work.

Gary Pageau:

Because that is one of the things, I think, where people have a maybe have a project mentality as opposed to an ongoing business mentality. Right, a project mentality is, you know, we got to get the meet this deadline, to get the certification so we can bid on this contract and get this business, and Once we cross that line, we're kind of done right and but it's, but it's not an ongoing business process where it's okay. In six months we got to start the review process to renew that.

Alicia Butler Pierre:

Exactly so imagine you know the fact. In fact, the federal government is the largest vendor, I believe, of small businesses. They do more business with small businesses than any other entity or organ type of organization. So imagine if you scored the opportunity to photograph a president or to be the president's private. I don't know what that role is, but I know every president has a photographer right that follows him or her hopefully one day in the future around. But imagine you score that, you score that contract. But I would imagine there's certain, especially when we're talking about the government, there's certain. There's all kinds of paperwork and security clearances that you have to have and you have to. All of that stuff has to be maintained.

Gary Pageau:

So here in the post COVID world we kind of had a challenge with supply chain issues right with especially in the photography industry. People can get paper, they can get this, can get circuit boards to repair their equipment or whatever, and hopefully now that we're in a post COVID world that has kind of gone away but still it's kind of raised the awareness of how what gaps in the supply chain can do. Are there any lessons from that experience you think people should be aware of?

Alicia Butler Pierre:

One important lesson is I'm going to throw out the name of another tool that I think everyone should. It would behoove every listener to at least start thinking along these lines. One of the tools is called a business continuity plan. Remember that FMEA that we talked about? Earlier identifying all of these. You know you're basically playing devil's advocate with your your day to day operations. The business continuity plan Gary says Okay, well, what if there is a fire? What if there is a major supply chain disruption? What if there is theft?

Alicia Butler Pierre:

what if any of these catastrophic events that can cause a significant disruption to your ability to operate your business? What? If that happens, what would you do?

Gary Pageau:

Right.

Alicia Butler Pierre:

And remember that you get online and back in fully functioning and operational as quickly as possible. That's what this kind of plan does for you, and there's many templates. In fact, I can, I'm more than happy to share a template with your audience that they can download. The other tool is called a disaster recovery tool, and it's a lot. It kind of goes hand in hand with that business continuity plan. Again, if there is a pandemic, if there's a fire, theft, flood, earthquake we saw, you know, we see what's going on in Hawaii right now. Who would have ever thought wildfires would completely consume many of their islands. I mean, it's incomprehensible to me, but it's happened. Lies have been lost, businesses have been destroyed and who knows what other repercussions have happened as a result of that. But it's our way of trying to again think ahead of the not so pleasant stuff. But seriously, if it does happen, what would you do?

Gary Pageau:

Right. And even the case of you know, let's say, just your normal, you know photo lab, where you may have a key component like paper, you know the supplier may go out of business, which is what happened recently with photographic paper, so people had to switch to another supplier and then you know their pricing was different. So how is that going to affect the entire operation?

Alicia Butler Pierre:

Now you have to explain your price increase to your customer.

Gary Pageau:

Well no, you got to eat it. That's just how it is. Unfortunately, that's probably what happened.

Alicia Butler Pierre:

But yes, that's, that's. Those are all scenarios that are worth taking, that are very real and very possible, that deserve to be thought through.

Gary Pageau:

you know, like Right, it's just taking the time to do it, which is one of those things where you know, I find that you know, in the business world you tend to have and people with entrepreneurial mentalities they tend to gravitate towards like the fun stuff they like to do. Like you know, they're more marketing or promotion focus. They tend to focus on that. Or if their operations focus, they tend to focus on that or everything like that. So if you are that more marketing person, you need to figure out the operation size or get someone who can help you.

Alicia Butler Pierre:

And you know, you know, you just reminded me of something that I used to tell people often is think of all of this stuff that we're talking about, Gary, is really like an extension of your, your business's, insurance policy. Sure yeah all these things, you know, it's not fun talking about.

Alicia Butler Pierre:

Or even from an individual or personal perspective, it's not fun talking about life insurance having your will, your trust, you know estate planning, all of these different things, because you're talking about your death, basically, and what will happen in the event of your death. So, but let's put a more positive spin on it on the business side and say, okay, well, if there, if something does happen, we want to know that we have certain measures in place certain safeguards in place that we can actually implement right away.

Alicia Butler Pierre:

The moment something happens, it's better to be caught, as, as the saying goes, it's always better to be caught with a plan than without. So so that's why all of this matters, and it does take time, and it's not always the most fun thing to talk about. It isn't but but, Gary, we have to do it.

Gary Pageau:

Exactly.

Alicia Butler Pierre:

And that's why I use these fun little tools like stick figures, like that, to try to make it fun right and to try to get people through it as quickly as possible.

Gary Pageau:

Yeah, I mean it is like you said and actually this may be a case where and again, this is not a, you know, no competition On my end, no plugs here but you should talk to your local insurance agent about some of those possibilities, because they may actually have some suggestions to either mitigate these problems or provide for them Absolutely, and your attorney. Yeah.

Alicia Butler Pierre:

Business attorney as well.

Erin Manning:

Yeah.

Gary Pageau:

So tell me a little bit about the Smooth Operator Masterclass. This is something you actually offer, so we are going to do a plug here for this. So go to town, tell me a little bit about that, about this offering you have that can help people run their business better.

Alicia Butler Pierre:

So this is our way, Gary, of scaling what we do, because we can't be one-on-one with everyone. As much as we would love to be able to spend that kind of quality time with everyone that's out there that's interested in these services, we simply can't Right. So this is the next best thing. It actually builds off of the book that I wrote, which is called Behind the Facade how to Structure Company Operations for Sustainable Success.

Alicia Butler Pierre:

In this course, it's not some dry Monday talking head just kind of spitting out information and you just sit there and you watch and you listen. No, these are all these interactive exercises that I've been describing throughout this interview, with the stick figures, the index cards and, for those who are listening, you may be wondering what is she talking about? How do you even do that? This course actually shows you how to do it. You can get, you can actually purchase these stick figures. You can download all kinds of templates templates for creating your processes, templates for creating your job descriptions, your organizational chart, all of those operational things that you need in place as you continue building and expanding your team. They have to know what work to do, how to perform that work and how the work is organized, and that's what this course gives them.

Gary Pageau:

And where would someone go to get more information on this course?

Alicia Butler Pierre:

Smoothoperatorcourses oh okay, yes, smoothoperatorcourses.

Gary Pageau:

Awesome. Well, thank you so much, alicia, for your time and your expertise. I know there's a lot of folks listening to this who are going to want to check that out, because I know it's something everyone can benefit from. But it's almost like going to the doctor you don't always like to do it, so hopefully you make it fun is what I'm hoping for.

Alicia Butler Pierre:

It does. At least that's what I'm told by clients, that it's fun, okay. But thank you so much, Gary, I appreciate you so much.

Gary Pageau:

All right, thank you, have a great day.

Erin Manning:

Thank you for listening to the Dead Pixel Society podcast. Read more great stories and sign up for the newsletter at wwwthedpixelssocietycom.

Operational Excellence and Identifying Problem Areas
The Importance of Operations in Business
Business Continuity and Disaster Recovery Planning

Podcasts we love