Advice, humor and more!

Serving Your Customers’ Needs

When defining quality, we typically focus on two issues: conformance standards and customer expectations. Too often, we overlook a key area that is a major focus of marketing: customer needs. If we fail to meet the customer’s needs but conform to the plans and specs; the customer is not likely to be satisfied. That’s a good reminder from Charlie Silver, one of our friends at FMI, management consultants to the construction industry, headquartered in Raleigh, N.C. And if we meet all of the customer’s expectations but the project won’t serve the function for which it was designed, the customer again is not likely to be satisfied.

What needs to be done, Silver asserts, is discovering, describing, creating and structuring the expectations of the customer so that they conform to the customer’s real needs. Ask questions that will unearth the attitudes, motives, underlying needs and hidden agendas that will ultimately define value, and thus quality, for the customer.

Your task, says Silver, is to match your own capabilities against the real requirements of the job. If you are able to deliver on the now clearly defined expectations, and do it by agreed-upon standards, you can do a high-quality job.

Construction Inspector Group

The Association of Construction Inspectors has been formed to provide educational materials and professional designations for those involved in construction inspections and project management. The group consists of contractors, inspectors, architects, appraisers and other professionals with construction and/or real estate knowledge. Members can choose between two designations — Certified Construction Inspector or Certified Construction Project Manager.

When a loan is approved for a construction project, funds often are allocated and the contractor is paid segments or “draws” according to the construction schedule. Before each draw can be released, a construction inspector must verify that the percentage of the construction completed agrees with the draw schedule. For more information, call 320.763.7525, or visit

Attention-grabber for Sure

A Los Angeles law firm, in a promotional mailing to 600 potential clients, wanted to cleverly reinforce its message that “business is war.” So when recipients opened their package, they found a fake hand grenade. The (seemingly obvious) results: several emergency bomb squad calls and untold amounts of soiled underwear.

Because nowadays no one is responsible for their actions, and the first reaction to any problem is to blame (and usually sue) someone else, a senior partner for the law firm explained, “The lesson here is don’t believe everything the marketing consultants tell you.”

[Insert your own lawyer wisecrack here.]

As for business being war, the “Portfolio” staff suggests that the law firm query the families of veterans killed or wounded in action for their take on that.

Invitation by Suggestion Only

Have you ever called a meeting, asked for input, and then everyone stares into space or works on a hangnail? If you’re frustrated by employees who attend staff meetings but refuse to participate, the National Institute of Business Management has a suggestion to help eliminate what it refers to as “bump on a log” syndrome.

Distribute index cards to all employees a few days prior to the meeting. Inform them that attendance at the meeting is compulsory, and that to be allowed into the meeting, each person must write out a suggestion, idea or question, and submit it on the day before the gathering. One manager using this technique reports that about three-quarters of what she receives is useful and almost always stimulates valuable debate and discussion among those in attendance.

Yet Another Helpful Holiday Hint

It happens all the time, and there are many reasons — both pragmatically deserved and otherwise.

Perhaps your spouse’s parole hearing didn’t go as well as hoped; maybe it’s just your second day in the federal witness protection program; or it might be that the rest of your family went to the Bahamas on vacation, but they voted — in a landslide — not to tell you about it. Sometimes you just find yourself home alone for the holidays.

If that’s the case, we offer for you to use (at your own risk) the advice of Reggie “Left Hook” Paxton. “Don’t worry about bein’ alone,” he blathers. “Get into the true spirit of the holiday — be thankful you don’t have to spend the day with that pain-in-the-butt (circle one: mother-, father-, sister-, brother-, son- or daughter-)in-law.”

You’d think with the nickname “Left Hook” he’d be a good fighter but alas, it’s quite the opposite. He got his moniker — ironically, six Thanksgivings ago — when he noticed his diminutive sister-in-law reaching for the last drumstick on the dining room table. After he snatched it from her grasp and tauntingly devoured it, she fled the room in tears. She returned moments later with a cordless circular saw, wrestled Left Hook (not known as Left Hook yet, but it was indeed imminent) to the floor, and proceeded to remove the offending hand. To this day, witnesses to the incident still gush over the cutting power of that Turbo Truncator 8 1/4 incher with rear pivot adjustment and 40-tooth per inch blade. It delivered a super-clean cut with no burrs — the wound healed superbly and the prosthetic hook attachment fit like the proverbial glove.

Given that background, it’s not entirely surprising that Left Hook prefers to spend Thanksgiving alone these days. He’s done five in a row so he’s an expert at it, and he offers us his very own, easy (if not unadvisable)-to-follow recipe for cooking a turkey when you’re home alone on Thanksgiving:

Step 1. Go buy a turkey.

Step 2. Take a drink of whiskey.

Step 3. Put turkey in the oven.

Step 4. Take another two drinks of whiskey.

Step 5. Set the degree to 375 ovens.

Step 6. Take 3 more whiskeys of drink.

Step 7. Turn oven the on.

Step 8. Take 4 whisks of drinky.

Step 9. Turk the bastey.

Step 10. Whiskey another bottle of get.

Step 11. Stick a turkey in the thermometer.

Step 12. Glass yourself a pour of whiskey.

Step 13. Bake the whiskey for 4 hours.

Step 14. Take the oven out of the turkey.

Step 15. Take the oven out of the turkey.

Step 16. Floor the turkey up off the pick.

Step 17. Turk the carvey.

Step 18. Have a drink from a scottle of botch.

Step 19. Tet the sable and pour yourself a glass of turkey.

Step 20. Bless the saying, eat and out pass.