Step Out of Your Communication Comfort Zone

An Exclusive

CHICAGO — No matter how you may wish to rationalize the behavior of our industry, if you would, sit back for a minute and observe any large industry reception sponsored by a reputable professional organization. You’ll see that, in most cases, industry components are unable to communicate with anyone but the customer. Sales are, of course, important, but so is knowledge of process.
Communication with industry peers, while practiced by some, is usually set in certain zones. The customer will be in zone 1, for example, which would also be fragmented into the uniform rental, hospitality, healthcare, government, dry- and wetcleaning arenas, etc. The equipment folks would be in zone 2, the chemical folks in zone 3, the textile suppliers in zone 4 and the consultants in zone 5.
While there is some crossover, usually stimulated by long-lasting friendships, very seldom do we see competitors communicating, irrespective of zone. This is not to say that you should give away secrets (as if there are any), but there are things that can and should be shared. I would like to compare this situation to that of any other industry, where in most cases an open forum would exist, such as the automobile industry.
All of us in this industry need to be aware of the various components, as they are all interrelated, and one is dependent on the other. It would be beneficial if we all knew each other’s systems so that we could intelligently communicate with the customer. No matter what component we represent, how often have we been in the mechanical room of a textile-processing facility, actually viewed how items are laundered and finished, observed soiled sorting, uniform processing, not just one time but every time we visit a facility? They are all, indeed, very different.
How often have you requested a visit to the end user — the hotel room, the hospital ward and other areas with which you should be concerned, no matter what component you represent? We all need to understand how the total process works. I do think that efforts are under way to streamline how we view the total process, but please, take a moment when the opportunity is there — when sipping that cocktail or devouring the food that is in front of you. Break out of your comfort zone and enter segments of the industry that will require you to fully understand how it all works and how other components view your zone.
How many times has the equipment manufacturer viewed the operation of a textile supplier, and how often have they taken the opportunity to visit the chemical manufacturing establishment, and vice versa? Don’t think for a moment that the customer hasn’t viewed all of this. Shouldn’t the supplier have as much knowledge as the customer?
I can tell you firsthand that if you want the full attention of the customer, you should be able to intelligently talk about industry matters outside your own comfort zone.
CEOs, owners, presidents, vice presidents and others need to know who their counterparts are in the industry. You will be amazed at the wealth of knowledge that can be shared, not only in areas of manufacturing, but in communication techniques, customer service initiatives, marketing, human resource issues, web-based operations... the list goes on and on.
Failure to initiate such communication within our industry will continue to grease the wheel that stimulates reinvention, rather than fostering an industry that should progress as one. We can all learn from each other, and the customer will benefit from such efforts.


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