Q&A with Robert L. Handwerk

A conversation with the founder and president of RLH & Associates, LLC.

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How long has your company been in business, and what are your primary activities?

We’ve been in business for the past nine years, and we basically provide executive and management services to enhance employee productivity and increase profitability. Quite a bit of this includes management training, but there are a few subsets to that. For example, Raycar Gear and Machine Company is a good customer of ours, and we’ve done a variety of growth enhancement projects with them. We’ve been privileged to provide executive coaching with Dan and Joy Schwartz, who are the co-owners, and management and supervisory training for their team leaders, helping them to develop team-building and human-management skills, along with creating performance and reward systems.

We do what I call “process work,” helping produce employee handbooks and policy development guidelines, involving systems related to employment, payroll policies, employee benefits, progressive discipline, sexual harassment, drug use, those sorts of things. We also market Profile assessment tools, which is one of our product lines that helps companies hire, retain, and promote the right people. That’s a sophisticated online service that we market across the country to help companies select—based on job fit for their individual firm—everybody from presidents to vice presidents and production managers, schedulers, and technicians. In some cases we’re involved in the executive search process, and we also help with strategic planning and goal setting. In other words, we help them achieve the particular mission that they’ve defined.

Seems like you’d need to know a lot about a company before you begin the process.

Yes, we try and find out some of the basic things about the company, in terms of how long they’ve been in business and what their area of specialization is. We learn all we can about their customer base and the technology they have available, the company’s history and ownership structure, and their particular needs and concerns. Most of our work comes from referrals, and they share their perception of what the potential client’s challenges are, as told to them by their intimate with the firm. So we often know something about the challenges the company is facing going in. And every business or industry has its own nomenclature and way of going about doing things, so we have to get up to speed in those areas in a hurry. We work with a lot of clients who are involved in the gear industry, but we’ve also worked with others that are involved in metalworking, plastics, carpentry, even insurance. But that’s what keeps us young, and always excited about the next project.

We’ve discussed how you can help your clients with their internal operations, but how about their relationship with customers?

One thing we try to emphasize is that every company has two sets of customers, internal and external. A lot of people forget about that, but a good relationship with your internal customers–your employees–will improve your dealings with external customers as well. We also point out that what you as a company may perceive as good customer service is actually based on your own internal strategy, but is that really the same thing as what your customer thinks? They may want something completely different. With some customers it’s important to get things there way ahead of time, and others might be driven more by cost. I have a customer who’s really impressed when his suppliers make their deliveries in bright, shiny trucks. For whatever reason, that’s really important to him. So you just can’t deliver everything to every customer in the same way, in the same time frame, and in the same packaging. You’ve got to figure out what makes them tick, and then deliver on that.

I would think that the same thing applies to your company. How do you go about delivering on your customer’s particular needs?

First we do our research, as I’ve mentioned, and then we determine which members of our staff can best address the customer’s situation. Everyone on our staff has a great deal of experience. For instance, we have one person whose expertise is in compensation and employee benefits, and another whose strength is in strategic planning and team building. We also have a life-balance coach, and another who works primarily in recruiting and skill assessments. In fact, that’s one thing that helps differentiate us from the competition: all of our people have already been successful in business management, so we’re able to bring that experience to the table when we’re working with our clients. They want someone who can relate to their situation in a real-world sense, and that’s exactly what we’re able to provide.

MORE INFORMATION  Robert L. Handwerk has more than 25 years of experience in human resources management and human services, and he holds an M.Ed degree in guidance and counseling. He can be reached at (262) 728-9682, or via e-mail at info@rlhassociates.com. Visit the company’s website at www.rlhassociates.com.