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Week of 27 July 2020: Not an excuse

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Environmental policies and other regulations are the cost of doing business in the modern civilized world. If you are going to operate a business in today's world, you must do it legally, it is part of the job.

I have seen a number of excuses made over the years that do nothing to endear customers to businesses when such matters are used as excuses. The most recent one was when I checked out of the Hilton Hotel at the Zurich Airport last December. A line item on the bill was a couple of Euros for an environmental assessment. Really? If we are ever allowed to travel again, I can tell you I will not be staying in that property. Look what they did to their brand--the only thing I remember about the property is their blatant gouging.

Going back a few decades, I was a manager in an integrated facility that had paperboard manufacturing and a carton plant. When I got there, the carton plant was trying to use water-based inks to meet the new regulations on VOC (Volatile Organic Compounds) Emissions. We were failing at every turn and the sales force was losing business due to print quality complaints. We got approval for the emission control equipment we needed to go back to solvent based inks and solved the problem. If you want to be in business you have got to pay the price.

What I think is most harmful, however, is when we use a casual, offhand excuse for poor performance blaming environmental or regulatory compliance. I think we all have a tendency to do this, not only in these arenas, but others as well. It is a way of making conversation that become habit forming.

How many times have you called up a business, especially a retail business (but it happens in our industry as well) and gotten the excuse from the other end, "Well, my computer is really slow today." It seems like everyone's computer is really slow every day. And I am really tired of hearing that one.

So, how can you make your customers happy? Plan for the costs of environmental compliance and regulatory compliance in your product base costs, just like you do for labor, raw materials, energy and so forth. Then shut up. You don't throw up the cost of these other items when explaining your cost to your customers and so you shouldn't do the so in the environmental and regulatory areas.

When I buy anything, I don't give a thought to whether or not the supplier met all regulatory criteria. I assume they did, it is not my responsibility to assess their compliance.

It should be the same for your customers. Imagine yourself in your customers' shoes. Offer what they need.

Where you can bring up compliance is when you can offer a product that helps them meet any regulations they may have to deal with further down the line. The difference here is that you have turned these issues into a selling point feature for you. This is a whole different game than making excuses.

Of course, you if you can do it, you can always use safety features as a selling point.

Be safe and we will talk next week.

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