Monday Minute | 020

I’ve always been blessed with a sense of curiosity that has led me to want to learn about new and exciting things. Right now, my attention has gone back to my old love of outer space and travel to worlds beyond. It fascinates me that we’re talking about going back to the moon, but it really gets my attention when we talk about Mars. Mars is a challenge beyond anything we’ve faced in the past, but our technology has come so much farther as well.

This week, NASA selected the five winning designs in the latest stage of its 3D-printed habitat competition, including a pod inspired by the anatomy of a spider and a vertical egg-like container. Teams were challenged to come up with a solution that tackled the issues of transporting materials to Mars while considering differences in the red planet’s the atmosphere and landscape. If you’re like me and getting a chance to think about possibilities, please take a few moments to read the article linked below and watch the 4- to 5-minute videos! It boggles the mind that this is possible and that once we master the travel to the planet, we can actually construct housing without even being on the red planet! Talk about move-in ready.

After a short 30 minutes of refreshing my mind, thinking about the future and imagining the potential, coming back to reality and facing the challenges of today doesn’t seem so overwhelming. We need to allow ourselves time to gain perspective and realize that in today’s world … the sky is no longer a limit to our possibilities!

Be inspired at https://www.designboom.com/architecture/nasa-mars-3d-habitat-competition-winners-centennial-challenge-07-30-2018/

-Stacey Smith, PQC President & CEO

Monday Minute | 019

“The world does not need more successful people. The world desperately needs more peacemakers, healers, and lovers of all kind.” -Dali Lama

Humankind can spread love faster than it can spread hate, hope rather than despair, confidence rather than fear.

Monday Minute | 018

Last week we talked a little about whether we are a partner or a vendor to our customers. It’s important to state that PQC’s culture has always been to partner with our customers and look for ways to make them better. To understand their mission allows us to be quicker to see opportunity and bring it forward for consideration. We strive with every engagement to give that extra “oomph” to our work. We consider it a differentiator to our competitor, and our customers have always appreciated it. With that said, it doesn’t mean we should go rogue on their organization and tell them everything they do wrong. We should be thoughtful and tactful about the recommendations and use planned discussions for making them.

So how do we go from being a vendor to a partner? It starts with mutual respect. There are many people who can claim to do the job. As a partner, over time, we want to become a key resource to our customer. Someone that will come to know as much about their business as they do and be able to make them aware of their blind spots. We want to be able to support them in ways that other vendors can’t.

Out of respect for the expertise of the people you surround yourself with, offer a selfless generosity in your appreciation of their time and schedules. A few things to keep in mind when transforming your vendors into partners include:

  1. Ask, don’t order. We all have clients who are demanding, and it can be tempting to pass that experience on directly to your partners. However, the more you can slow down and interact in a calm manner, the more everyone has the space they need to execute at a high level.
  2. Partnerships are collaborations. Whether it’s an inspector or a stager, people want your very best and the knowledge you bring to the engagement. Be respectful and understand that they have a working plan. We are there to help tweak when we see opportunity. If the customer isn’t open to the tweak, we understand. It’s their operation! Being open to their input will help in future recommendations. The more respect and buy-in you give to their mission, the more they may be willing to share. This leads to great relationships, which opens their network and creates opportunities for you.
  3. Communication is as important as competence. If you’re looking for a long-term relationship, the fact that your working styles align can be even more important than the vendor’s reputation. You have to enjoy genuinely working together and must be able to trust that the other person will communicate with you in the style and time frame that works best.

For PQC, turning from a vendor relationship into a partnership has a real effect and creates an energy that is focused on our mutual success. When we’ve been successful in creating this kind of relationship, it brings long-term success to both organizations. We hope that as you move forward through your daily activities, you’ll remember that our customers are always looking for ways to be more effective and proactively avoid mistakes that can be costly and negatively impact their organization. If you see something, please bring it to the attention of our operations managers. They will include you in all discussions as we move forward in helping our customers.

-Stacey Smith, PQC President & CEO

Monday Minute | 017

Are you a partner or just a vendor?

If you’re a service-based company, you are always striving to build your customer relationship up to the point to be truly called a partner. It’s such a compliment. It means you’ve committed the time and effort to understand the customer’s environment, their mission and their goals. You have built a bond where you can give advice and the customer doesn’t quickly think, “How much is this going to cost me?” and instead focuses on the positive outcomes that will come for both organizations.

So how do you know if you’re a vendor versus a partner? Here are some common perceptions:

  1. Alignment of core values and clear communication are foundational to a solid partnership. I think this is important no matter if it’s a vendor or partner. We’re a pretty eco-friendly company. I’d be devastated to find out partners or vendors that didn’t engage in the same “recycle, reuse” mentality that we do.
  2. The people you partner with to help execute your vision are not just doing their jobs, they are also delivering to the best of their ability and working toward a common goal. They are a direct reflection of you and your company. We look for this in vendors and partners. Why look for someone who’s just going through the motions when you have better options?
  3. Vendors are transactional and replaceable, whereas partners are long-term relationships critical to your success. Not so fast—this isn’t so simple. For example, I have a great relationship with the company who maintains our lawn/landscaping. The last thing I ever have to worry about is that small detail, but it’s one less thing to think about. Equally incorrect is that partners are long term. I have a good relationship with our bank, but because of the multiple changes we’ve had with the bank industry, we’ve had 5 bankers over the past 8 years. Bank dealings can be seen as transactional, and as long as you don’t have “unique” needs, it might be worth continuing to treat this as a vendor relationship.
  4. Vendors simply perform a service—partners have skin in the game and know that your success is their success. Again, not so simple. It’s harder and harder today to determine who’s got skin in what game. A small business always has skin in the game, because they are playing margins on small numbers and can’t afford to lose clients. I revert back to perception #1—if we’re both focused on good values and communications, we all have skin in the game.
  5. Transforming vendors into partners can be a great benefit to your business and accelerate growth. I can’t agree more. For every project we do, every customer request should be treated like it’s meant to ensure our customers see us as partners. In government contracting, there is sometimes a fine line (based on the contract) where that lies, but we should consider options, offer suggestions, and look for ways to meet and exceed our customer requirements. Building trust is key, and making sure they see you as an extension to their organization versus just being another contractor is key to going from vendor to partner!

Next week’s edition of the Minute will include more on this subject. For PQC, this is a critical subject worth a couple of Monday conversations.

-Stacey Smith, PQC President & CEO

Monday Minute | 016

When I was a little girl, I was constantly worried about myself and my family, because we were regularly reminded that the world was dangerous and we were most likely to be killed by an atom bomb. Air raid drills, hiding under desks, and creating underground shelters were an almost daily part of my young life. “Remove all pens, pencils and sharp objects from your breast pocket; take off your glasses; look away from the window; find a buddy and hold hands; no talking; walk quickly to the basement; get on your knees; place your head against the wall; and wait for the all-clear signal.” (And hope the teacher forgets about the arithmetic test you didn’t study for.)

Looking back, it was a ridiculously traumatic way to grow up. It bred us to be afraid. But, like so many awful things, you got used to it. The fear of instant annihilation was just always lurking in the background.

That is, until it wasn’t. Somehow, over time, the inevitability of the mushroom cloud simply went away. Wise and prudent men in our country and others found a better way to exercise their hatred and fear of each other’s social and economic systems. We had a cold war that turned into a cold shoulder that turned into a really stiff bout of “I’m not talking to you.”

Now it seems that the tide is changing again. Fear is again on the horizon daily. But there is so much more to be afraid of. Gangs, drugs that will be forced into our food stream, and every third story on Facebook is a conspiracy post about someone or something that stalked them at Walmart and tried to take away what is precious to us. Wise and prudent men are no more, and the unthinkable is back on the table. Death and suffering on an unimaginable scale is once again an option. The low drumbeat of existential dread has returned, and I find myself thinking odd thoughts like: “I hope someone reminds our leaders that no one looks good in a hazmat suit, and that we even tired of the Homeland Security Warning System.” Hopefully sooner than later, we will again be lulled back to our comfort zone with the knowledge that we don’t have to be afraid of life.

-Stacey Smith, PQC President & CEO