About this time last year, Dan Parker shared his goals and predictions for C.I.Agent Solutions in the 2015 business year. Today, we’ll have Mr. Parker take a look back over those goals and discuss how the company fared over the last 12 months, in addition to sharing his candid thoughts.
2015 Goal Number 1: More activity that results in accomplishment
In 2014, Dan believed one of the company’s biggest failures overall was “confusing activity with accomplishment.” He believed an easy way to overcome this challenge was to follow through on all projects, from start to finish, and don’t let roadblocks and hurdles bar us from accomplishing our goals.
“… I admitted one of our biggest failures in 2014 – confusing activity with accomplishment.”
Was the goal achieved? Yes
I think we’ve made great strides in regards to accomplishing what we intend to accomplish. Even though we put some policies in place last year that has resulted in a more efficient project process, the real key to recent accomplishments is our ability to adapt and think quickly on our feet.
Also, improved communication has been a vital component to success. In 2015, we implemented weekly sales meetings in which the sales team would convene and share details of projects they had in the works. Because important information was shared freely among our team in a collaborative nature, we could ensure all projects would be handled professionally and to our high standards of quality, even if the original person working the job couldn’t finish it due to extenuating circumstances. Additionally, these meetings allowed us to discuss unexpected challenges and brainstorm together to solve such unexpected problems.
All in all, I think we’ve done a much better job of following through on projects until the end and not giving up easily. Adaptability is key! Of course, it’s important to keep chasing accomplishments, which we’ll be doing full-throttle in 2016!
2015 Goal Number 2: Increase sales by 20% in 2015
It may have sounded unrealistic or idealistic, but Dan believed steadfastly in the company’s ability to increase sales by 20% in 2015. He intended to tackle this goal by improving communication and encouraging teamwork between members of the internal sales force (accomplished in Goal 1, above). “The very nature of commissions causes sales teams to be very competitive with each other, but I’m hoping we can alter this mindset and develop synergy that results in everyone winning.”
“The very nature of commissions causes sales teams to be very competitive with each other, but I’m hoping we can alter this mindset and develop synergy that results in everyone winning.”
Was the goal achieved? Yes
Some on our financial team thought my goal couldn’t be met, but we ended up hitting the mark! Our sales team really stepped up and worked together, which drove sales up like I knew it would. Even more amazing, is that we were able to achieve this despite some challenging setbacks.
When we design secondary oil containment solutions for our customers, the idea is to provide for a 100 year, 24-hour rain event, which in theory is defined as an intense storm or rainfall that should only happen about once a century. In reality, however, a 100 Year Storm can happen more than once every 100 years; it’s basically just rainfall totals that have a one percent probability of occurring at that location in that year. And last year illustrated that distinction very well, as clients in several areas of the country experienced more than just one, 100-Year Rainfall events.
2015 Goal Number 3: Cultivate major corporate accounts
Any successful salesperson will attest, success is not achieved by a sale here and a sale there, especially if working on straight commission. Dan hoped that focusing on the development of a more cohesive sales team in 2015 would organically result in the addition of more corporate accounts, and the opportunity for our solutions to be written into more and more of the large electrical utilities’ engineering standards for secondary containment.
“Helping our internal sales force develop as a team should translate into the addition of more corporate accounts. We’d like to add more big players to our portfolio, and will go after them with the hope of our solutions being written into engineering standards for secondary containment at more and more of the large utilities. I envision Dan Koons to spearhead this initiative, as he’s worked closely with several utilities over the last few years that have written C.I.Agent® Polyvinyl Liner System into their standard practices.”
Was the goal achieved? Yes, to a degree … still a work in progress
We’ve made some strides over the last year, and have put a lot of effort into improving communication among our internal corporate sales team. This is vital to securing and cultivating major corporate accounts. We’re not where we need to be yet, but we’re definitely on the way … and much closer today than we were a year ago. We added two new associates to the sales force last year, and are in the process of identifying what utilities are a good fit for our solutions, and how we can build the foundation for successful relationships with them. I personally attended more industry meeting and events in 2015, which opened my eyes to a lot of challenges we never knew existed. Also, I really believe our new corporate alliances will prove very strategic for opening up additional business opportunities with major utilities, as well as outside of our target market.
I recently heard a quote that will become my mantra for 2016:
“We first seek to understand, then to find the best practices. After that we then make changes.”
In order to cultivate relationships with the major players among investor-owned utilities, we have to understand them! What they need, what they prefer, what makes them tick, what problems they’re facing, etc. We also need to figure out what procedures and processes they are most comfortable with, before we can attempt to offer them something completely different. Companies, like people, are creatures of habit, especially within the electrical utility industry. Change is scary, so it is often avoided.
Well, we’re not offering run-of-the-mill oil containment solutions. C.I.Agent Solutions is a company built on the ability to harness new and innovative technology to custom-engineer oil containment systems that solve real and detrimental problems. We can help eliminate soil contamination from an undetected leak at a rural substation, or we can prevent transformers from exploding in underground vaults.
On this note, because we’re aware there’s no cookie-cutter solution for all containment needs, our marketing and digital media department spent the summer developing a unique interactive application, specifically to help engineers, substation designers and others involved with transmission and distribution navigate the various secondary containment applications. It can be confusing to figure out what options are best, and there are often a number of variables that must be considered. Our Secondary Containment Solutions Tool is an easy-to-use platform ideal sorting through all available solutions, whether you need new containment or want to retrofit existing containment.
2015 Goal Number 4: Increase staff by 3 or 4 people at the minimum
Specifically, this goal referred to increasing the number of people who work in our manufacturing department. As mentioned previously, our sales increased from 2014 to 2015, which means manufacturing increased as well. Dan wanted to hire more people to work in the plant to alleviate some of the burdens on the guys who travel often to assist in site supervision of installations of our systems.
We did this in 2014, and I’m hoping we’ll need to do so in 2015 as well. We must keep adding to our manufacturing team to keep up with the demand of business. We don’t want to burden the guys doing the installations by too much travel, so hiring more people who can be trained to correctly and efficiently install our solutions is ideal. I want to find the right people to fill these roles, ones who will enjoy working here and stick around for a while. More staff means the opportunity to do more fun things, as a company.
Was the goal achieved? Yes
The manufacturing team is the bread and butter to our company – we depend on their quality work for our success. Without their dedication to producing solutions, we wouldn’t have the great reputation we do within the industry. We had a record number of orders this past year, including some really large projects with tight deadlines, but the boys in the Warehouse (aka, the W) stepped up to the challenge without hesitation or complaint. We added four new employees to the roster, and as it is now, we’re literally out of space! But that’s a good problem to have.
On a more somber note, we also experienced a great deal of sadness with the death of one of our own, Donaven Carey, on Nov. 11, 2015. We are a small company, and extremely close-knit, so it was as if we lost a member of our own family. Though dealing with this tragedy was unbelievably painful, witnessing how the company, especially the W, came together to lean on and comfort each other made me both proud and humble.
2015 Goal Number 5: Continue social media efforts
Though our market has been slow to embrace online marketing such as social media, Dan has been a surprising advocate of adopting social marketing strategies for some time now. He spoke highly of efforts a year ago, and spent the year encouraging the marketing department to produce as much online content as possible, including social media posts, blogs, data, videos, interactive tools and more, in the interests of equipping engineers and utilities with all the information they need to make informed decisions about their oil containment needs.
Not only will we add more people to our manufacturing department, I also hope to grow our digital media/marketing presence as well. I firmly believe that social media like Facebook and Twitter and online content marketing like our blog can enhance a traditional sales force. It sure isn’t going to hurt it! The more data, web content, and information about the industry that we can provide to engineers, the better it is for both them and us. Communication touch points have evolved, and it’s time we get on board in this industry. We’d hate to be left behind.
Was the goal achieved? Yes
I’m a big fan of online marketing, as many of you know. I’ve been dreaming of a large marketing department for some time, and this year, that dream came true. We added two members to our marketing staff to round out the department at six. We now have people dedicated to web development, social media, marketing research, and video and animation. We’ve invested in new tools and technology that will catapult us lightyears ahead of our competition.
Note from the Marketing Director:
Christina Bickett here, head of marketing as of 2015. I have to agree with Dan that we really do have a great marketing team and are gearing up for an even more incredible 2016. Not sure if everyone is aware, but marketing secondary containment is hard work. It’s a complicated, unsexy range of products for an extremely niche market. Even more frustrating, the market we’re targeting is adverse to change of any kind. To some teams, it might seem challenging, but at C.I.Agent Solutions, we don’t have challenges – we have opportunities! With that mindset, we’ve developed a content strategy that attacks the industry from all angles, and are optimistic about revolutionizing the oil containment market in 2016.
2015 Goal Number 6: Remember our core industry
Dan’s final goal for 2015 was simple: revert to the roots of the company, in both strategy and focus, because that method is proven and will work. This company was founded on the backbones of pioneers in alternative and disruptive technology, and was able to thrive in spite of itself. How can we keep up that pace, when innovation moves at the speed of light? By remembering why we do what we do; we protect the water.
“Simply put, clean water is our business. We can’t forget that our main goal is to protect the water.”
Was the goal achieved? Yes
This year, I focused on the fact that we are a new company. We’re no longer working in the spill response industry, and we’re redefining our brand and corporate identity from the inside out. We asked our customers what their problems were, and developed containment solutions to meet their needs. That’s what pioneers and trailblazers do. As I’ve already said, “We first seek to understand, then to find the best practices. After that we then make changes.”
In the next blog post, I’ll outline some of my goals for 2016. Until then, everyone have a Happy New Year!