On The Level: Keson and SOLA: Measure What Can Be Measured: Define, Report, Adjust If Necessary, And Repeat.

Words: Todd Fredrick

Jude Nosek

Take a method and try it. If it fails, admit it frankly, and try another. But, by all means, try something. ―Franklin D. Roosevelt

In 1968 Keson’s founder (my grandfather, Roy Nosek) began importing fiberglass tape measures into the US market. This innovative product offering was the start of establishing the company we are today. However, if we only supplied fiberglass tape measures, Keson would surely not have been around for very long. By adapting to the needs of our customers and tailoring our offering to that market, we were able to do more...to grow and build an evolving organization. From early on, we have had to change in many ways to meet the varying needs of our market while also consistently meeting the immediate needs of our customers.  

Through the decades, we have tried many systems and techniques. In the past 15 years, we have better defined and more completely adopted a few techniques that have assisted us. These techniques are by no means unique to Keson. When applied to virtually any system, they can help generate consistent growth and positive change. Our experience has been that these types of systems can be applied to just about everything you’re looking to improve. What follows is a very brief overview of some techniques we use and a few examples of how they work. Hopefully, you can find something of value and perhaps get started on defining a consistent, repeatable system for your company. 

We will address Defining Goals, Reporting Progress, Making Adjustments, Repeat.  

Defining Goal

What are you trying to do? What are you doing? These questions should be complementary if your goals and your actions align. At times we are presented with several possible courses of action. At other times we are reacting to something we have to do.  In either case, it is easy to miss the opportunity to set a course and thus focus our efforts. Without a clearly defined goal, we struggle to know where we’re heading. We waste time and resources on actions that do not further us on our journey toward our goal.  

For goal setting, we suggest the use of the SMART acronym system.  

S Specific Is your goal clear and concise?

M Measurable Does your goal have a metric that will enable you to recognize when it is reached?

A Actionable Do you have the ability to affect your progress toward this goal?

R Realistic Would an informed, reasonable person (someone other than you) agree this is an achievable goal?

T Time defined What is your timetable?

“Sell more stuff” is a goal, but it is not SMART. It is too vague. By using a SMART goal system, you can set your sights on a target, define expectations for the parties involved, and build a plan that can help you achieve what you’re after. 

Let’s use an example that will be in italics.

A SMART goal would be: Sell 1000 levels at the January 18-22, 2022 World of Concrete Show in Las Vegas. In the days leading up to January 18th, we can prepare a plan to accomplish this goal (e.g., have more than 1000 levels in stock, distribute flyers to inform conventioneers of the sale, train our salesforce, etc.). By January 22, we can tell you if we’ve met our goal or not. (BTW, feel free to help us achieve this goal. Mention this article, and we’ll throw in a bonus item!).  

Report Progress

Define how to measure the progress and measure it. And measure it regularly. Consistent reports with simple information are best. Time and resources are needed to put together the information and to communicate it. You get to pick your intervals and methods of reporting. As you begin to progress and measure, you will find a lot of information coming your way that you might want to keep an eye on. Take note, keep track, adjust when necessary. Learn from what you have done.  Share your results. 

Take our Trade Show Goal “Sell 1000 levels at the January 18-22, 2022 World of Concrete Show in Las Vegas” Reporting every 5 minutes could be too short and cumbersome.  Reporting every seven days could be too long, as we would be unable to make reasonable adjustments that could help us along the way. A daily tally (or half days) might work best.  

Making Adjustments

You need to be able to adapt to changes, to suggestions, to opportunities. 

After the opening day of the show, we tally the results and find: 

  1. We have sold 300 levels: 200 of them are SOLA Digital levels, 75 of them are 48-inch levels, 25 of them are 24-inch levels, and 100 are GO! Smart versions. How can we adjust to lean into this? That night, we printed up more flyers, put up a sign to draw more attention to them, armed each person in the booth with a demo unit, etc. 
  2. We also find that one salesperson sold significantly fewer levels than the other two. When we ask why we find that she spent a significant portion of her day selling Keson nylon-clad steel tapes. Over 50 of them! So we adjusted our focus slightly and leaned into this new information. She gets a small demo area in the booth, and we make up a few more signs.

You will likely have to make decisions to stay the course or to make changes. If you allow them to, these decisions can be time-consuming and cumbersome. The time it takes to make a decision should be considered in the cost of the decision. Adjustments don’t have to be made. You can stay the course. In my experience, the time it takes to change (new goal, new plan, new communication) can be equal to the time it took to set the original plan up. Be wary of changing too frequently and certainly from straying too far from your guiding goal.

Repeat: Run it rhythmically 

Days 2-4 of the show will come with their own challenges and opportunities. (Turns out masons LOVE to talk about chalk line reels, how cool folding wood rulers are, how the ADA is becoming more important, among other things). With our cadence of 1. Set the Goal (Act to achieve that goal) 2. Report (Adjust our actions if necessary) 3. Repeat. We continue to make progress. 

There are many sources for these types of systems and activities. Our recommendation is to follow FDR’s technique: Try something. Did it work? If so, do more and find ways to do it better. If not, try something different. 

Here are some suggestions for more information:

Books

Good to Great, Jim Collins: How good companies break out.

Great by Choice, Jim Collins: More on how great companies become so.

Built to Last, Jim Collins: Attributes/practices of great companies

Mastering the Rockefeller Habits, Verne Harnish: strategies on Goal setting, reporting on them, and setting up a rhythm for your business.

Podcasts

The Tim Ferriss Show, Tim Ferriss: practical advice and disciplines from successful people
Getting Things Done, David Allen: practical advice from people who are getting things done, time management

About SOLA-Messwerkzeuge GmbH: For 70 years, the brand SOLA has meant high precision measuring and marking tools. As market leader in premium spirit levels, the Austrian company manufactures various products, including screeding levels, folding rules, long and short tapes, squares, marking products, laser distance meters, and a customized laser program. SOLA Measuring Tools is globally present in 70 countries around the world. 75% of all products are manufactured in Goetzis, Austria, where the headquarters and production facility are located. Find out more at sola.us. 

Comparison of Laying Brick Versus Block

Brick and CMU (Concrete Masonry Unit) are two commonly used materials in masonry. As a mason, it is important to understand the similarities, differences, pros, and cons of both materials, as well as the variations in layout and measurement techniques, mo

Westlake Royal Building Products™ to Showcase Be Boundless™ Campaign, Top Industry Trends and New Product Innovations at Pacific Coast Builders Conference (PCBC)

HOUSTON (June 18, 2024) — Westlake Royal Building Products™ (Westlake Royal), a Westlake company (NYSE:WLK), will showcase its Be Boundless™ campaign, top industry trends and new product innovations at the Pacific Coast Builders Conference (PCBC) in Anahe

Bringing Bricks Back To Life with BrickRecyc

BrickRecyc, a machine that removes old mortar from bricks, was invented by three entrepreneurs from Quebec in 2021. Tommy Bouillon, David Dufour, and Hugo Cartier were the innovation's source. The invention emerged out of necessity. Tommy Bouillon, head o

Are Your Employees Safe While Working In Hot Weather?

As the temperatures rise outside during summer months, so do the risks that employees working in hot conditions may be harmed by the dangerous effects it can have. Exposure to high temperatures can be deadly. It’s your responsibility as a business owner