Category Archives: International Pipe

New Year Resolutions

Back when I was in the 5th and 6th grade, I remember walking after school with a teammate to basketball practice; I still laugh when I think of all of us groaning as we “ran the lines.” I wasn’t a basketball all-star, but I participated.  Moving into middle school, I didn’t make the A-team for basketball, but I did play in one varsity game that we won. Read More

International Pipe Gains CRM, Boosts Productivity with Acumatica

International Pipe & Supply LLC, a family-owned company with decades of steel pipe distribution experience, used SouthWare ERP for the last decade. But the legacy software was extremely difficult to use, lacked a system to track sales leads, and had weak financial reporting. Rather than bolt-on applications, International Pipe implemented Acumatica, a unified, modern business platform, gaining financial visibility, sales tracking, and ease of use that increased productivity. Read More

Why Steel Pipe Doesn’t Always Follow the Steel Market.

Steel pipe is separate from the steel market due to one major factor, steel pipe is price driven by coil versus general steel shape products such as angle, channel, and beam.  Coil must be made from a slab (vs a billet) and that coil market drives the pricing in the steel market.  Coil is used in the automotive, appliance and any other industry that uses sheet.  Since coil may be in short supply or high supply it is the availability and price of coil that drives steel pipe pricing at any given moment.    Read More

Chances to Shine

I am often asked, what can I do to get a promotion or how do I advance or how do I get a raise.  Often times the question is asked by a good associate.  That question has always been tough for me to try and explain to the would-be-great-associate so that it makes sense.  It usually isn’t that they don’t work hard, because they do.  It isn’t that they don’t think and perform their tasks well. They usually follow the rules, get their job done and go home.  So what is it that separates a good employee from a great employee?

In a recent discussion with a couple of our Divison Managers, the topic came up.  How do we explain the “thing” that “gets you noticed”?   The thing that makes the boss say,  “That is the person I want on my team.” ” That is the person I want to take to the next level.”  I was frustrated because, if I can’t explain it to myself, then how the hell do I explain it to a valued associate without insulting them?  It’s not about working longer, or staying later, it’s about your efficiencies during the day.  It’s about taking the blinders off to see what is going on around you. There is always a juncture with an associate where they have reached a point they feel they deserve a raise or a promotion, that usually results in a manager sitting down and pointing out all the small flaws in the associates game, how they need to think like a manager, act like a manager etc etc.  What the hell does that mean anyway??  There are a lot of bad managers!!! In my experience that has led to the employee feeling down, frustrated and crushed because they felt they were doing a good job. (And they were most time) Then we sometimes lose a good associate out of frustration.  They are thinking “he treated me fine yesterday and now I’m am a failure?? How did that happen??”

 (Side note: if you ask the question,  be ready for the answer as you may need to improve your own game if you cant show up on time, you may want to avoid the question of “how do I get a raise around here?”)

In our discussion it came to me…what separates the average, or the good from the great- it is taking advantage of chances to shine.  I’ll try and explain… In life, business and marriage there are chances to shine, “opportunities” , if you will, to shine.  A chance to make a difference. These always take extra effort and work, I don’t care how many people tell you otherwise.  To get noticed you have to do a very simple thing, Pay attention and work at it. Work at it all the time!  I am not talking about bringing your boss coffee in the morning, I am talking about real issues that make the business move, sales solutions, new markets, operational efficiencies, etc.

Now that being said don’t confuse a chance to shine with being a decision-maker.  It has nothing to do with making decisions. Have you ever heard “if I could make the decisions, I know exactly what I would do”.  Well, then why don’t you voice that?  The problem is; many times the new manager wants to make a decision for the sake of making a decision not an intelligent, educated decision. The first questions in any decisions are; Do I have to make the decision right now? Do I have an expert to help me? am I an expert?  Have I done my research? Many owner/executives lack the time to do the research and that is why some Ideas or suggestions just never seem to come to fruition, frustrating staff and causing inefficiencies.  This is exactly the point where you can shine.

You need to look for chances to shine. Don’t be so naive to think that if you are putting a bunch of effort into something you won’t get noticed.  It may take a day, a year or 5 years but someone will notice.   Paying attention and being a facilitator/problem solver will allow people to see you.  You need to put so much effort into something that you cannot help but be noticed.  That causes people to say, “ That’s the right person for the job for sure”   When there are ideas on the table, take them on, research them, provide the intel to allow them to be implemented.  Be early, not late.  If someone under you is struggling, learn the job together, help them through it, make them better. Take on things and own them like they were yours.  Become someone that people rely on to become an expert. (Again this has nothing to do with decision making) Your supervisor will then turn to you because they know you will do the work, do the research and provide the best options possible.  Not all of your research will be implemented, not all of your hard work will produce results and many times you may be the bearer of bad news, that something won’t work, but you will get noticed and you will be appreciated. Do these things often and accurately and that will give you the chance to be a decision-maker.  What your supervisor is looking for is people that make educated, researched, intelligent decisions, not just decisions.

 These chances to shine happen every day and people just pop by them with excuses like, “I don’t know anything about that”. “Not my Job” “I don’t have time”  “I’ll do it when they pay me to do it”  or they are so wrapped up in their social media, games or other apps that they don’t see their opportunity to shine.  If you make a difference and make everything better around you then your effort will be seen, rewarded and appreciated.  Your manager/boss needs help and if you listen, you will know exactly how to help.  That will get you a raise, that will get you a promotion, that will make you valuable to the team.  You have to find these chances to shine every day, there is no shining moment and then you are done it is an all-the-time-thing, not a some-of-the-time-thing.  Do that,  and you probably never have  to ask for a promotion or a raise again. Read More

How to Train Your Leader

If you own your company or have become a leader in your company, there will come a point where you will need grow and you will need to hire a manager/leader or you will need to train your replacement manager/leader so you can advance in your position.  Many times you are tasked with training your new leader just after you have grown your business or have just become a leader yourself.  At this point, many times, small business’s bring family in, or friends. The large business’s hire the up and coming business graduate.  One of the biggest mistakes in starting to train your leader is to avoid asking yourself if you are a leader. Look in the mirror and really try and nail down if you are a leader or are a keen business negotiator or perhaps an expert in your field or even just a great salesperson.  The issue lies in that none of these traits make you a good leader.

So, what is a leader? Google leadership and you will get thousands upon thousands of suggestions, definitions, videos, and books.  So the question begs, are you a situational leader, transactional leader, coach, commander, etc.?  The task of training leadership is often assigned to the most experienced or talented person in the company, but the question is the same again, are they a true leader? Can they train your next leader?  It is a common mistake in companies to leave the training of your future leadership to  Betty or Bob, the ones who have been with you for 25 years.  You trust them implicitly and they know the business inside and out.  Typically this results in some very technically proficient trainees. The question remains, does that make them leaders?  “Great players don’t always make great coaches”

I recently watched a Ted talk by Peter Anderton Titled “Great leadership comes down to only two rules”. It keys on some points that I believe are vital to leadership as well as the people that train leadership.

Peter discusses leadership and the studies of leadership briefly for the last Millenia. For thousands of years the experts have been in search of the secret of leadership; are you born with it, can it be trained, is it situational,  etc? In Peters opinion there are two basic rules of leadership that have been diluted and hidden as we no longer look for the keys to leadership, we search for the silver bullet.

So what is rule one? Rule one is it’s not about you.  Not in a servant mentality kind-of-way, nor is it a democracy kind-of-way but in the best interest kind-of-way.  It is not about coddling, hugging or hammering your trainee, it is about you wanting them to be better. You have to have your students best interests in mind, their personal interests, their professional interests, their psychological and economic interests.  To be a good leader it will require all kinds of leadership at different times; disciplinary, kindness, democratic, situational and the list goes on.  Rule one is the first thing you need to pass on to your future leader, in action and thought is“It’s not about you”

Rule two is the most important rule in my opinion.  It is the rule that most of us have thrown away as we gain experience and advance in position.  It is the first rule we forget as we gain confidence and expertise.  It is the rule we ignore as we proudly discuss our mistakes and our overachievements, plaques, and ribbons. It is the fastest to fade as we feel the power or of our new authority! Rule two is It’s all about you.  It’s about how you act and how you react.  It’s about how you take your experiences only to use them to make clouded judgments (That’s how we have always done it). The person that is a true leader should be working the hardest on themselves. It really boils down to how you improve yourself so you can improve those around you.

Leadership is never perfected, it is not a miracle that you suddenly discover one day.  It’s a lot of hard work, experience, and effort. So, how do you train your leader?, by remembering that “It’s not about you” and more importantly  “It’s all about you”.  The true leader looks in the mirror and says “if I want anything to be different it starts with Me”.

 

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Do People Care Anymore?

I recently had an associate who was struggling with their iPhone.  To rectify the situation it would take a trip to the Apple store.  The phone would not receive phone calls or text messages and we were told by the phone service that it would need to go to apple.  The associate immediately departed for the store and everyone else went back to work.

Murphy’s law kicked in and one of the associate’s most valued customers showed up to pick up an order.  Unfortunately, no one in the building knew what the order was, including the driver that was sent to pick it up. To complicate the matter, the associate that has no phone service, was the rep for the account and was probably the only person that knew what we needed to do and he was unreachable.. or so the average person would think.

 This customer needed their product for a rush job and the clock was ticking.

I said to myself, ” Well where there is a will, there is a way”. So I called Apple.  I was greeted by the auto attendant and the usual automated conversation ensued;

“What kind of product are you calling about ?”

Me- “ operator”

Automated person -“ I’m sorry that is not in our database, what product are you calling about “

 Over and over.

I figured I was toast on my search to prove it could be done, but I started pressing zero.  At every new “Sorry-you-don’t-get-to-talk-to-a-person” prompt, I pressed zero.  After many many zeros,  bam, person. “Thank you for calling the apple help desk my name is …. can I get a name and phone number in case we are disconnected”  .. I thought, oh boy here we go with the I can’t help you.

I explained my situation, the name of who I was trying to reach and that we had a small emergency and my associate was supposedly at the Apple store in Oklahoma City and I was trying to call the store to have him paged ( yep I’m that old).  To my surprise, the gal on the other end of the phone said: “ let me see what I can do”

… hold music….

Finally, she comes back  “ what was the associated name again? We are still trying “ …. hold music … then she is back “ for some reason I cannot call the location while I have you on the phone, I would like to hang up on you attempt to call the store and then call you back”  … my brain says “ yep just as I expected, the end.” But within minutes I get a callback, “It is Apple, please press 1 to discuss your recent request with apple.”  I said “hello” the reply       “ Mr. Sparks I have reached out to the apple store In Oklahoma City” ….. wait for it …… “and I have passed on the message and with any luck your associate should be calling you shortly.”

I sat there stunned, I doubtingly said “Ok,” they reply, “is there anything else we can help you with today Mr. Sparks”  with skepticism I said “ no and thank you” .. “ you have a wonderful day Mr. Sparks and thank you for calling Apple.”

Within five minutes a strange number rings  on my phone, the associate says “ Darren?” I laughed and said yep!  He said an apple guy just came running down the mall into the AT&T store and said I needed to call you, we have an emergency?   I explained the situation and we rectified the situation.  I wish I had written down every person that was involved in this experience but I didn’t because I thought it would go nowhere, so you all have my apology and a thank you to apple and all parties involved, from the operated to the store to the employee that remembered he had just sent my partner down to AT&T and ran down there to have him call me.  You saved my business situation, which in turn saved my customers business situation.  For that, I will continue to support you and my local store. Here is to the people, the people in every organization that make a difference. People like I proudly work with everyday at all of our locations! We firmly believe in people first and then business takes care of itself, that was proven by the biggest and smallest today!  It wasn’t about technology, internet speed, power bumps or circuit boards it was about people caring enough to help an old cowboy out.

Hats off to you People if apple !! Well done. Read More