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By Harrell Kerkhoff,
Maintenance Sales News Magazine Editor

How does a company get the most out of its employees in today’s changing work, sales and customer environments? How can coaching employees help? What exactly is and is not coaching? What about skills development?

These were just some of the questions addressed by Stephen Riddell, head of customer experience at Casper Sleep, Inc., who spoke at a recent ISSA event with the message, “Average Is Over: Leading For Superior Performance And Profits.”

Riddell has spent a large part of his career helping company leaders succeed in such areas as: employee management, coaching, call center and sales improvement, and customer service. He has found success in these fields of study while working at Blinds.com, Sprint Corporation, and now Casper Sleep.

Riddell’s presentation focused on his belief that the world’s top-performing business leaders succeed, in part, due to their ongoing commitment to properly coach and develop the skills of their employees.

This commitment can help companies differentiate from other businesses within the same marketplace, and thus become disruptive in a good way. Companies that become disruptive often exceed, especially in an industry where most competitors are doing the same things.

Of course, employees must be properly trained and coached to help a company become a true market disrupter. Skill development is essential.

“If skills go up, what happens to performance? It goes up. What happens to problems? They go down,” Riddell said. “The question that must be asked is, ‘How many managers and other business leaders truly focus on developing and improving people’s skill levels?’”

Riddell said he has visited and studied many organizations and has noted one common theme — the lack of employee skill development.

“I have seen companies hire people and figuratively throw them up against a wall to see if they stick. They don’t even give them a little velcro. If an employee starts to slide down the wall and hits the bottom, the company may get rid of him/her and hire another person to throw up against the wall. History repeats itself,” he said. “At what point do leaders have a greater responsibility to help improve the skill level of employees, especially if you believe, as I do, that as skills go up, so does performance?”

Riddell added that good employee skill development centers around good coaching.

“If you are building skills, you are coaching. Everything else is management,” he said.

Good coaching, according to Riddell, involves “asking” rather than “telling.” Good coaching is also considered “situational” by nature, it “provides a process for self-evaluation,” and it “focuses on getting a specific commitment” from a person.

“Coaching is not telling a person what to do. If you are in the business of just telling people what to do, they will always have to rely on you for their next moves,” he said. “Good coaching is the best way to develop skills, increase employee satisfaction and build both ‘like’ and ‘trust’ among employees and customers.

“This is important because we buy from people we like, and we buy from people we trust.”


What is it like to be a customer of your company? Is it a good or bad experience? These are key questions Riddell said every company owner must ask, no matter the industry.

“Let’s say I am a person you just hired. You tell me, ‘I want you to deliver a great customer experience.’ The problem is, define ‘a great customer experience,’” Riddell said. “Most people will know it when they see it, but it’s very hard to define.”

Riddell was once employed by a large insurance corporation to help that company define its “customer experience.”

“I spent a year of my life tracking down one or two key components of ‘an experience’ that easily talked to other people about that particular organization,” he said. “What I found was, this can be done with any company. If you, as a business owner, can understand and build your company’s ‘experience’ for the better, this can have a profound influence on your organization.

“In my opinion, every company must adopt and deliver what I call ‘the experience.’”

Riddell outlined three keys for providing a great customer experience. They are:

• Customer solutions — No matter what role a person has with a company, it’s imperative to provide customers with some level of solution to their problems.

“People will call a company because they have a specific need or problem. Nobody wakes up in the morning and decides to call a particular company because he/she has nothing else better to do,” Riddell said.

Along with problem solving skills, company representatives must be trained to properly take advantage of sales opportunities that are suddenly presented by current and potential customers, according to Riddell.

“How many people call your company with the intent of purchasing something, and end up not buying? Why don’t they always buy if they had that intent when they called?” he asked. “I believe often it’s due to something a company representative did or didn’t do or say. I also believe that if the skill levels of employees are improved, companies can greatly improve their sales conversion rates.”

• Ease of doing business — Riddell said he is often shocked at how hard it is for customers to do business with some companies.

“Have you ever gone to a company and found it difficult for that business to take your money?” he said. “There should always be an ease of doing business exhibited by a company. Even if something is actually very difficult, the company should provide the appearance that the task at hand is easy.”

• Offering extraordinary “WOW” service — “When you (as a company representative) finish an interaction with a customer, or employee, the goal is for that person’s first reaction to be, ‘WOW, that was great!’” Riddell said.

He reiterated that when it comes to coaching employees, skill development should be the key objective.

“Most employees understand what they don’t do well,” Riddell said. “If they do not receive any type of skill development to help them improve, and are only left with the fear of losing their jobs if they don’t do better, that really is a poor way of managing people.”


Success in business often depends on the success of both employees and customers. Riddell provided important takeaways on how companies can better meet both objectives. They include:

■ Understand business performance alignment — Every business owner strives to have a thriving, successful organization for the benefit of employees, customers and the company itself. The main question is, what steps need to be taken to make this goal a reality?

Riddell outlined five objectives every company should focus on for the future success of both employees and customers. They are:

• A Pleasant Buying Experience;
• Effectiveness: High Conversion Ratio;
• Efficiency: Good Leads;
• Process Knowledge;
• Product Knowledge.

Many companies, Riddell added, want their employees to focus most on “process knowledge” and “product knowledge,” but he has found that all five objectives are equally as important.

“Think of these objectives as being five spokes in a wheel. If one spoke is larger than the others, the wheel will not properly operate,” he said. “The same is true in business.”

Riddell also addressed the importance of providing what he referred to as “lifetime value.”

“As a company and employee, everything you do, and every decision that needs to be made, should focus on providing ‘lifetime value,’” he said. “How many times will a person buy from one specific company, and recommend others to do the same? This is often the result of that company’s successful efforts in providing ‘lifetime value.’

“How do other people see your company? Do they find value and want to continue to do business with you?”

■ Acknowledge the value of self-discovery — It’s generally agreed that most people don’t like to be told what to do on a continuous basis. They would rather experience their own “self-discovery,” Riddell said.

“The things that we have discovered for ourselves are often the things that have greater implication for our own actions and activities,” Riddell said. “Unsolicited advice rarely goes over well, whether you are working with employees or customers.”

He added, however, if an employee or customer asks for advice, it’s OK to be brutally honest.

“What is the difference? They (employees or customers) solicited that advice,” Riddell said. “Asking people ‘to do it my way’ through unsolicited advice may not feel right to them. You may be asking people to change without using a proper catalyst that shows why that change is important.”

■ Quality assurance exposed — Many companies use some type of quality assurance to make sure products and/or employees are performing to desired standards. According to Riddell, quality assurance can have a downside.

“In the call center world, quality assurance involves people listening to, and often grading, the interaction between employee and caller,” he said. “What I have found is that when you grade employees in this situation, it becomes more about the ‘score’ and less about the ‘skill’ to them.”

He added that it’s natural for employees to do whatever they can to improve their scores, without little impact or actual value to callers.

As a company owner, Riddell said, it’s important to ask, “Is it possible to get a good score while the call itself is bad?” On the flip side, “Is it possible to get a bad score while the call is still good?”

Scoring a call can actually inhibit an employee from delivering great service by the very nature of how a company monitors him/her, according to Riddell.

“Employees will do things that they know don’t work, don’t fit or don’t have any positive impact on the customer, but because the business requires it, they will comply,” he said. “This is why how we measure people may have little value in many cases, as people will often choose ‘score’ over ‘skill.’

“If you truly want your company’s scores to improve, improve the skills of your employees. In fact, if you improve their skills, you won’t have to worry about their scores.”

■ Compliance vs. Competence — Many companies must meet matters of “compliance” in order to remain in business. This often involves meeting government laws, rules, guidelines and regulations. However, being “compliant” is not the same as being “competent.”

“If I spent the day at your organization, would I walk away saying it was heavily focused on ‘compliance’ or ‘competence?’” Riddell asked. “Most companies aspire to ‘competency,’ but the way they conduct business is all centered on ‘compliance.’

“Companies must be compliant in many ways, but they can also focus on competency. Competency will improve compliance. Compliance will rarely improve competency. While properly developing a person’s skills, you are also focusing on competency. This is opposite of ‘processes,’ which focus on compliance. ‘Skill’ is part of an asking culture, while ‘process’ is part of a telling culture.”

■ The competency model — Riddell detailed four basic stages to building employee competency. They are:

• First stage / Unconscious Incompetency: This stage involves employees who start out “don’t know / can’t do.” The response should be to teach or weed out.

• Second stage / Conscious Incompetency: This is when employees know what they are expected to do, but still can’t adequately perform the task.

“This is where you, as a company, go from teaching to training. It’s like training for a marathon,” Riddell said. “The employee has to be properly trained to run the race.”

• Third stage / Conscious Competency: Employees at this stage know how to do something, but must think about it in order to properly complete the task. This is where coaching overcomes training in importance.

• Fourth stage / Unconscious Competency: Employees in this final stage know what to do, and don’t have to constantly think about the task at hand. Employess may still need fine-tuning.

“Unfortunately, there are company leaders who spend all of their time at one stage. They never get around the circle to help employees who have advanced and need further skill development,” Riddell said.

He noted that new employees and under-performers usually take up a lot more of a manager’s time than high-performers, when the opposite should be true.

The value of being a disrupter — The problem with not properly training and coaching sales people, is often they will develop what Riddell refers to as the “sleazy, slick and aggressive” method to selling.

“The stereotype for many people in sales is that they are ‘pushy,’ and that is what they will become if not properly trained and coached. If they know no other way to sell, they will become pushy,” Riddell said.

“Selling” may not even be a true sales person’s primary function.

“When I worked at Blinds.com, I asked the question, ‘Are we a blinds company that happens to market our products, or are we a marketing company that happens to sell blinds?’ By looking at sales from a different perspective, it can change the way sales people view themselves,” Riddell said. “Regarding the cleaning industry, I have to ask, ‘Are you part of a marketing company that happens to be in the cleaning business?’ If you are, it could change the way your company operates, helping it become a disrupter in an industry that few people have figured out how to disrupt.”

Americo Announces A New Partnership With Essendant Inc.

Americo Manufacturing Company, a manufacturer of commercial cleaning products, including floor pads with Full Cycle technology, hand pads, utility pads and floor matting, has formed a new partnership with Essendant, Inc., a wholesaler of janitorial and sanitation supplies. Essendant will now carry the Americo line as part of its nationwide fulfillment network.

“Essendant strives to find a strong business fit with our partners where the combination of our collective capabilities will serve our customers. We are pleased to welcome Americo Manufacturing into our partner network, and offer our customers the quality products they provide,” said Essendant Vice President of Merchandising Business and Facility Essentials Jeffrey Bobroff.

“The benefits of this new partnership for the reseller will include competitive pricing, and easy access to Americo products. Essendant’s nationwide fulfillment network can deliver Americo products to customers across the U.S. within 24 – 72 hours.”

“This is a win-win for Americo and our customer base. Our distributors will receive the same high quality Americo products they are accustomed to, but now with greater flexibility when ordering, and access to quick replenishment inventory as needed,” said National Sales Manager of Americo Rusty Heinsman.

For more information, visit www.AmericoMfg.com.

Spartan Chemical Voted NETWORK’S 2018 Member Choice Award And Supplier Innovation Award

Spartan Chemical Company, Inc., a formulator and manufacturer of sustainable cleaning and sanitation solutions for the industrial and institutional market, was awarded NETWORK’S 2018 Member Choice Award for best all-around service provider, as voted by the NETWORK members.

"Each year, Spartan ranks among the top suppliers by our membership," said Warren Noble, vice president of supplier relations, NETWORK Services Company. "This is the third consecutive year that Spartan has won Member Choice; it is clear that commitment to distribution is at the core of its corporate culture.”

Pictured receiving the Member Choice Award are, left to right,
Alan Tomblin, president and CEO, NETWORK Services Company;
Greg Ford, Spartan vice president of sales; and, John Swigart, Spartan president.

"We are extremely honored and thankful to NETWORK, and our distributor partners for this recognition," said John Swigart, president, Spartan Chemical Company. "It is with great pride that I share the Member Choice award with the entire Spartan organization; it truly takes a companywide effort to operate at this level of excellence.”

The award was presented to Spartan Chemical by Alan Tomblin, president and CEO, NETWORK Services Company during the 2018 NETWORK Supplier Tradeshow in Las Vegas, NV. Spartan was represented by John Swigart, president and, Greg Ford, vice president of sales.

Supplier Innovation Award

Spartan was also awarded the 2018 Supplier Innovation Award for its CleanCheck® Learning Management System.

NETWORK Suppliers were asked to submit innovative products and services that gave their members competitive differentiation. CleanCheck was selected as NETWORK’s 2018 Supplier Innovation Award winner in the Janitorial Supplies and Equipment category, for outstanding innovation as voted by the Supplier Program Steering Committee.

“CleanCheck is not only a valuable training tool for custodial operations, it also provides unique value that enables Spartan’s NETWORK partners to retain business and open doors to new opportunities,” said John Swigart, president, Spartan Chemical Company. “Innovation is a continuous focus at Spartan, and we are proud and honored to be recognized for such.”

The award was presented to Spartan by Warren Noble, vice president of supplier relations, NETWORK Services Company, and Julie Vidor, senior manager of supplier programs, NETWORK Services Company, during the company’s supplier tradeshow. Spartan was represented by John Swigart, president, Greg Ford, vice president of sales, Bryan Mangum, general sales manager, David Reed, vice president of national accounts, Doug Peterson, national account manager and Cali Sartor, director of marketing.

According to a press release, “CleanCheck is a tool for instilling pride and professionalism, building confidence, minimizing complaints and cost-effectively managing the talents of custodial staff. It is endorsed by ISSA CMI, as an advanced certification program, is bilingual, and is a web-based training system.

For more information, visit www.spartan.com.

Trojan Battery Appoints Okada Master Distributor For Japan

Trojan Battery Co., LLC, has named Okada Corp. as a master distributor of Trojan batteries in Japan.

“Okada’s team of battery experts can now effectively support the Trojan brand for customers throughout Japan, as well as ensure that they have access to Trojan’s portfolio of deep-cycle battery products,” said Takeya Suzuki, deputy general for Okada.

“By expanding our sales in Japan with the help of Okada, Trojan can now better meet the growing demand for our deep-cycle batteries in the country,” said Mat Segal, senior vice president of international sales at Trojan. “We are excited by the potential increase of Trojan battery sales and market share in Japan.”

Trojan batteries power applications that require deep-cycle battery performance, including aerial work platform, airport ground support equipment, floor cleaning machines, golf and utility vehicles, marine/RV, material handling, oil/gas and renewable energy.

For more information on Trojan Battery, visit www.trojanbattery.com.

From Nexstep:
The New MaxiPlus® Microfiber Scrub Pads

Nexstep Commercial Products now offers its new MaxiPlus® Microfiber Scrub Pads.

The #96968-12, 18-inch pad The #96969-12, 11-inch pad

The features of the scrub pads include:
• Scrubbing strips that clean tough dried-on stains on all floor surfaces;
• Five-inch pad absorbs seven times its weight in liquid;
• Can be laundered up to 500 times; and,
• Continuous reinforced sewn edge eliminates fraying for extended use.

Nexstep is the exclusive licensee of O’Cedar. For more information, visit www.ocedarcommercial.com.

The United Group And TriMega Purchasing Association Affiliate

“The United Group® (TUG), a sales and marketing organization for jan/san, packaging, food service and safety product distributors, and TriMega Purchasing Association, a not-for-profit buying group serving independent office products dealers, have signed a 10-year agreement that mutually affiliates the two groups. The contract specifically allows TriMega members to become associates of The United Group, with access to TUG’s preferred suppliers,” according to a press release.

Members of The United Group and TriMega Purchasing Association were able to use affiliate benefits as of July 1, 2018.

The United Group® (TUG) is a 100 percent member-owned, national sales and marketing organization for independent B2B distributors. It maintains marketing agreements with more than 180 industry manufacturers and service companies and helps connect its suppliers with 400-plus distributor members.

For more information about The United Group, visit www.unitedgroup.com or email info@unitedgroup.com.

TriMega Purchasing Association is a not-for-profit member-owned buying group serving office products dealers and technology resellers nationwide. The group has 500 members. For more information, visit www.trimega.org.

Deb Group Wins DPA Buying Group Supplier Of The Year Award

Deb Group, part of SC Johnson Professional, received the Distributor Partners of America (DPA) Buying Group Supplier of the Year Award during DPA’s annual Buying Conference in Lake Buena Vista, FL, May 22, 2018. This annual award recognizes sales growth and support of the DPA member companies, according to DPA.

“After joining DPA in 2015, Deb has benefited from the organization’s numerous networking opportunities and enhanced market exposure,” said Mike Flagg, chief executive at Deb North America. “DPA allows us to share our technical expertise and support on our skin care programs, reliable systems and quality products. We’re honored to win the Supplier of the Year Award, and look forward to attending next year’s conference.”

Pictured, left to right, are: Zac Haines, CEO of DPA; Stephen Lander, senior vice
president of sales operations and industrial sales, Deb Group; Tom McLaughlin, director
of national industrial distribution, Deb Group; and, Jeff Tishko, president of DPA.

The theme of this year’s DPA Buying Conference was, “A World of Opportunities,” encouraging suppliers and distributors to work together and build or strengthen business relationships. DPA’s CEO, Zac Haines, and president, Jeff Tishko, presented the award to Stephen Lander, senior vice president of sales operations and industrial sales, and Tom McLaughlin, director of national industrial distribution at Deb.

The DPA Buying Group is a North American buying and networking organization comprised of over 850 distributors and 230 preferred suppliers in the janitorial, safety, industrial, packaging and restoration industries. For more information, visit DPA@DPABuyingGroup.com.

The Deb Group provides tailored skin care programs. To learn more about Deb, visit www.debgroup.com/us.

The Libman Company’s Third Annual Embrace Life’s Messes Tour To Visit 255 Retail Locations In The U.S. And Canada

“The Libman Company, a North American manufacturer of household and high-power cleaning products, is set for a third straight year with its 'Embrace Life’s Messes' Tour that will travel to 255 retail locations in the U.S. and Canada. This is the first year the tour will extend into Canada, primarily the Ontario region. Over the course of 13 weeks, the company will give away products and special prizes during the retail store visits to encourage consumers to embrace life’s messes by letting Libman help do the work,” said the company.

The Libman “Embrace Life’s Messes” tour began in South Louisville, KY, June 6, and will end in Columbus, OH, September 1. Heading the tour is a team of two, Yen and Derek, serving as Libman brand ambassadors, who will drive the Libman-branded Ford Transit van to store openings, and retail locations. At the retail stops, shoppers will have the opportunity to see in-store product demos and participate in games to win Libman prizes.

“The tour will be documented throughout the 13 weeks with blog posts, photos and videos of the two, and their experiencess on social media sites and on www.embracelifesmesses.com. In addition, Libman will concurrently run the ‘Embrace Life’s Messes Sweepstakes’ where, over the course of those 13 weeks, consumers can spin the online animated wheel every 24 hours for the daily chance to win a Libman Wonder® Mop, or the grand prize, a Libman Move-In Cleaning Kit, which contains essential cleaning products for those moving in (or out) of a house or apartment. The sweepstakes began June 6, and runs to August 31, 2018.”

According to the company, the 13-week “Embrace Life’s Messes” tour is an extension of Libman’s television and print ad campaign that reminds consumers to “Remember the Moment and Forget the Mess.” The message Libman wants to send is that Libman has consumers covered so they can enjoy the moment, rather than fret about the mess.

“The Libman Company was founded in 1896 with one mission: to make the finest, most durable wire-wound corn brooms. The family left Lithuania for the United States in the 1890s, landed in Chicago, and started life in the new world by peddling sundries from a pushcart, selling everything from brooms to clothes-pins. The old-fashioned corn broom was a top seller.”

Today, Libman is housed in a 1.4 million square-foot facility in Arcola, IL, with the fourth generation of the family now working at the company.

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