Every fall, Mailing Systems Technology conducts a two-part annual survey to gauge how organizations today are treating their customer communication methods and weathering the changing climate of the mail industry. One question often asked is, “How would you describe the attitude of management in your company toward the mail center?” Responses have varied over the years, with some years showing more support for mail than others, but one thing remains clear: Mail professionals must constantly work to ensure that the higher-ups at their organizations understand and support this communication method.
In my long career, I have come across many mailing professionals who have shared a common plan for success within their organizations. That not-so-secret initiative involves these professionals educating their organizations, particularly the C-level executives, on the value of mail and postage — and how it affects the overall bottom line.
These executives demand that their employees at all levels do their jobs quickly and efficiently, and mail managers are not isolated or immune from this responsibility. On top of the day-to-day responsibilities, mailers must convince executives and decision makers that postage is a powerful tool that can be utilized to establish a competitive advantage to attract and retain customers, rather than as an expense alone.
I still speak with a great many associates who report that the communication and effective leveraging of postal strategies has not fully evolved within their organizations. When I hear this, I reply with a very simple question: What have you done about this? Have you prepared reports that show the activity for which your mail center is responsible? Have you quantified the effects of the latest rate changes on your organization’s budgets and revenue goals? Do you tell people about these changes and how impactful they can be? What USPS promotional programs have you registered your organization for (assuming, of course, that you are having this discussion during a year in which promotional programs have been announced!)? What benchmarking do you do, and of that, what do you actually share with executives? Have you scheduled time with the senior management to share this type of information at least quarterly? Do you express an interest in having a speaking role in the quarterly business reviews held within your organization? These are all steps we as mail professionals can be taking to help our C-level executives make important postage related decisions.
Our roles call for us to consume any data remotely related to postage or mail (you’re off to a good start by reading Mailing Systems Technology). Once done, we must relate this data to our organization and make it relevant to the goals we all share. Then there are the compliance perspectives we can impact. What processes can you put in place to minimize security risks or proactively impact certifications like ISO, as well as support organizational efforts to successfully pass audits and gain certifications? The more you can do to interact with all of these groups and demonstrate how vital postage is, the better. It is important to listen and to understand what your peers need. You then must make sure that what you share and propose is both meaningful and actionable.
Keep It Simple
The KISS principle needs to be followed here because your role (and yours alone) is to know the “in the weeds” details of mailing operations, as well as the details of the rules and regulations affecting the organizational mail profiles. As a mailing professional, you can save real green dollars and help weather issues caused by budget constraints.
Decision makers in the C-suite are busy, and their time is valuable. Therefore, learning to send communications that focus on the facts needed is imperative. Be respectful of their time and end these messages with an offer to provide more when their schedules accommodate deeper discussions. Make yourself available at times that fit their schedules so they know how important sharing and communicating are to you, and your timely availability will accentuate your value. As professionals, they realize that your passion for your work is indicative of your value to the organization, not to mention it helps develop communication skills that will serve you well throughout your career.
C-level executives are particularly interested in assessments related to the regulatory impacts so they can act to protect their organizations against risk. I once had a boss tell me that my job was to keep him out of jail because he “did not look good in orange.” I understood his humor and that we were doing nothing illegal, but his joke made it clear that he respected postal regulations enough to tell me that I was needed. I was valued, he appreciated the knowledge, and he regularly made time to discuss postal related issues with me. He allowed me to present to other executives in the organization, which led to presentations to all units and departments in the company. This helped me grow and made me appreciate the opportunities mail provided me personally and professionally.
Having this exposure across the organization brought professional opportunities I had never imagined. I was asked what professional organizations I wanted to join. Time was provided for me to actively participate in local mail organizations. I was allowed to attend National Postal Forums, write for company newsletters before moving on to regional and, eventually, national publications in our industry (like this one!). I was also allowed to contribute to monthly and annual reports that my peers rarely even saw. One of the highlights of my writing career was when I put together a postal terms glossary for Mailing Systems Technology, which has been well received within my current organization. It amazes me how many people saw that material and wrote to congratulate me and encourage me to do more.
Finally, you get the chance to develop a professional network that serves you in many ways. In case you are unaware, people in our industry talk. I can now reach into the USPS at levels I once only dreamed of. I have had the opportunity to discuss job opportunities while out in the industry, which have led to actual career changes that would never have come my way without the executive support in my career. These people know people, and as they pursue career changes, they leave holes you can fill, or they may call and ask if you want to follow them to their new organization. The mail industry just keeps getting better the more you put into it. Sharing your passion and knowledge is a powerful thing. Knowing how to communicate to your executive management in ways they value will provide you the great career, professional rewards, and personal fulfillment we all seek.
Mark Rheaume is a Services Engineer, Enterprise Services Sales Engineering, at Ricoh USA, Inc. He has over 35 years of industry experience developing, designing, and implementing solutions. Mark is and has been an active member in several postal industry associations as a board member, speaker, and writer. These associations include: MTAC, Idealliance, NPOA, PCC, MSMA, Mailcom, NPF, and Printing Industries of Minnesota. He can be contacted at Mark.Rheaume@ricoh-usa.com.