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Entries in Bill of Rights (2)

Wednesday
Oct262011

Parents’ Bill of Rights

I’ve never been real clear on what Parent Teacher Associations, or Parent Teacher Organizations do.

They seem to be great at raising some money, and making modest improvements or scholarships in schools.  Heck, I even remember going door to door selling geraniums for the PTA as student.  (They still do it back in the old home town…amazing.   Thank goodness my Dad helped deliver all of them!)

As a parent, I always thought it would be more powerful to have the parents and teachers talk about broad issues rather than Geranium Sales.  Kids don’t come with user guides, teachers are professionals….and parents can help bridge the gap.  Alas, unless there’s “an issue” (spoken in a dramatic whispered voice) this didn’t seem to happen.

So it was great news when a (now retired) Middle School Assistant Principal (by the name of Ed Sullivan…not the TV host Ed Sullivan) got parents together to talk to each other.  Middle School in this case was grades 7-8, for my Midwestern readers “Junior High.”

The parents had similar issues…mostly around what were “age appropriate” things for the parents to do.  In this context, “age appropriate” related to the students’ age.

All parents were in the same conundrum based on feedback from their children. 

  • “Nobody calls the other parents”
  • “Nobody checks up on where other parents will be.”
  • “Nobody checks up on where their children are.”

This reasoned group of parents discussed what was reasonable.  This was not a case of a few “helicopter parents” wanting to hover over their children.  This was a case of reasonable parents, discussing reasonable behaviors, with the goal being consistency in the dealings with the students.

We jokingly called it the Parents’ Bill of Rights.  While a humorous name, the parents took the items on the list seriously.

As a parent, I have the right to:

  • Call other parents and make sure I know what is going on in their home
  • Call other parents and ask who will be the adult at events
  • Call other parents if I’m going to be away (at a movie, or dinner) in case they need to reach me OR so the party doesn’t move to an unsupervised venue

There were other items on the list, and the bottom line is the middle school parents were going to talk to each other for any reason we wanted.

As this discussion got reiterated in homes across town, there was a uniform and predictable outcry from the students…where their informal divide and conquer approach was met with a uniform, caring message.

As this unfolded, it became an acceptable, expected norm to check with other parents.  It was a quick conversation…generally just a conversation followed by small talk.

Mr. Sullivan’s little meeting set an acceptable behavioral norm for parents and students.  In my opinion, it was very effective.  What’s your view?

Thursday
Dec102009

Vendor Communications Bill of Rights

Most of my telephonic career has been spent receiving phone calls from vendors, with an additional 25% of vendor communications over email. Now I’m a vendor, and am astonished with the communications norms of companies.

Suppliers don’t understand what it is like to be on the firing line. Suppliers don’t get paged when something breaks in the middle of the night, and it’s expected you’ll be in late after entertaining a client. Add in performance reviews, 1:1s, budgets, etc and the day easily slips away to “wall to wall” meetings. Asking you to meet at 7AM (or 7PM) isn’t meant to be a negotiation technique; it’s a survival tool.

Companies don’t understand suppliers are trying to hone their message to meet their needs. As a generality, reputable vendors are focused on addressing an issue focusing on the remuneration second (of course it’s expected if the solution is good.)

In discussing this with some other supplier friends, they had a similar reaction, and offered the more senior the person the more likely a return conversation. So this post isn’t for the top of the house, it’s for the mid to emerging talent, written from the perspective of the company having suppliers calling on them.

Vendor Communications Bill of Rights

  • Cold Calls, direct mail, and broadcast emails – We reserve the right to delete these in the fastest way we can. Vendors cannot possibly expect calls back as we receive many of these daily.
  • 15 minute follow ons – If you have a solution we may be interested in, we will have a short follow on meeting. This allows us to quickly determine if more time with a broader audience makes sense.

    Suppliers are taught to let us talk.
    In our first session, we want to know what you have to offer. Use this time wisely; using 15 minutes to talk about the history of the supplier company makes little sense.
  • Follow ups – we will get back to you either:
    • When we commit to get back to you. If we say one week, we will reach back in a week. We know our calendar and other commitments
    • Within 24 hours – since we are in meetings for great periods of the day, we’ll get back to you when we can. In many cases, we can only reach back before or after the traditional workday. Please do not take it personally if we are not responding immediately.
  • Saying NO – we will be clear when NO means “no” and when it means “GAME OVER.” We understand the selling starts at “no”, and understand you’ll come back. When it’s “game over”, please respect our decision. We will advise you of our decision within the decorum of sound vendor relations
  • Doo Dads, etc. – We have shirts, pen and pencil sets, coffee mugs, thermometers, desktop tool kits, golf balls, etc. Please don’t cheapen our relationship by giving them to us. And in some companies, we can’t accept gifts and it puts US in a bad position. Leave the merchandise in the car.

    Dinners fall into the same category. Given our overburdened schedule, it’s hard to make time in the evening for a dinner. If we have a lunch meeting, let’s do it in the office and bring some nice sandwich wraps.

    We know this puts you in a bit of a bind because you are supposed to spend time with us developing a relationship. We’d rather focus on the business challenges together in developing relationships.
  • RFIs, RFQs, and RFPs – we are issuing “request for” documents to get additional items of information on an effort. We know suppliers abhor these documents unless they wrote them. Please recognize your response is important and take the time to put together a nice package. We know when suppliers are simply going through the motions.
  • End Runs – Suppliers are adept at working relationships at all levels. We understand this. When we tell you “GAME OVER” and you escalate around us, you do so at your own peril.