In the SCORE Small Business Success Podcast: Quality as a Marketing Tool, Bob Theis, a SCORE mentor, explains how focusing on high quality helped grow sales for his company from $2 million to over $32 million.
Bob is the former CEO and chairman of J.R. Clancy Incorporated, a leading designer, manufacturer and installer of theater rigging equipment. His business depended on creating customized, precise metal parts for backstage theater equipment and systems. But sometimes the parts didn’t fit or didn’t arrive on time, and dealers complained frequently. Fixing the mistakes became expensive, and the gross margins were slipping. Something had to change.
While attending a quality control seminar, Bob and his business partner saw companies comparable in size who were National Quality Award winners. He said, “They had the energy, they had the profitability, they had growing market share, they were spectacular companies and they were very proud of what they had done.” Bob had a revelation: quality is the answer.
How do you define “quality?”
After asking customers, installers and dealers for suggestions, Bob developed a three-part metric for quality measurement. The customer order has to be
- on time
Bob tracked the metrics every single day. He even incentivized the whole company. If the three standards measured at 95% or higher, employees received a bonus.
Bob examined every process in the company, “everything from how we address people when they call in to how we actually physically ship the box and what the box is going to look like when we ship it out. Those were defined as well. Could you get by with something less than that? Sure you could, but we want it to absolutely have everybody, every function be part of this as well.”
Making Partners Successful
The company made another critical change to increase quality. Instead of talking to their dealers as customers, Bob decided to treat the dealers as partners. J.R. Clancy’s mission statement became “Make Our Partners Successful” or MOPS.
Bob explains, “The idea was that if we made them successful, if they made money on their job site, then ultimately, they would continue buying from J.R. Clancy, and that would cement the relationship. Our philosophy was, ‘Make them successful, we will ultimately become successful. Give, then you get.’”
Bob became obsessed with partner satisfaction. He asked for partner feedback through questionnaires and even hired a third party to talk to partners. Keeping quality relationships with partners meant success for all.
Using quality as a marketing tool
After realizing their strength in quality control, Bob thought, “Maybe we should get credit for it. What should we do? We developed this program called ‘The Extraordinary Guarantee’. The guarantee essentially said, ‘We are 100% committed to the on-time, complete and correct…shipment of your equipment. If you feel we have not met this commitment in any way and have caused you to spend additional time or money, then please attach a note with a brief explanation and deduct to your cost from this invoice along with your payment. Someone will contact you immediately to resolve the problem.”
“That was printed at the bottom of each invoice, it was printed on our price sheets, it was printed in emails that we send out to all of our dealer partners, it was sent out in literature. We had literature made up for it, we had a logo made up for it, and we merchandised it.”
Quality became a marketing tool and even appeared in their tagline. The company motto used to be “J.R. Clancy Since 1885.” Then they proudly changed it to “J.R. Clancy, Quality Since 1885.”
The hard work and dedication paid off. J.R. Clancy grew from a $2 million company in sales to over $32 million.
“Quality is not expensive. Quality will save you money, period. That’s the first part of it. If you’re talking dollars and cents, quality will save you money. The second is that again, I feel that is the right thing to do. It’s just the right thing to do. If you’re running a company, you have to stand for something, and we stood for quality. That became our mission. Quality was our mission, to make our partners successful. Again, if you give, you’re going to get.”
Learn more in the full “Quality as a Marketing Tool” podcast.