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The attempt has been made to touch upon all the departments, through which a gas company is operated, but it is feared that the paper has not brought out the real intent of your committee, or fulfilled your ideas of the title of the subject, “The Working Organization of a Small Gas Company.” In the writer's mind and by his experience he feels that as to organizatin, in the true meaning of the word, a small gas company can not carry the burden of too much of it, but that it is purely cooperation, from the highest acting official down to the lamplighter which makes the “Organization a success, and makes it an Organization.”
Richard Schaddelee, Grand Rapids:
I think the paper is a very good paper indeed. I think there is some danger that in the operation of a small plant, economy may be carried to excess, with the result of giving poor service to the consumers.
I do not care how small the plant is, there always should be some one on duty if possible to attend to all complaints and orders with reasonable promptness. If you have a “Jack-ofall-Trades,” he usually is not very good at anything.
When a party wants a meter set or if trouble orders come in, it is poor consolation to know that the foreman is busy at the gas plant. Some companies make it a practice to pay all their bills from some distant central point. That is a poor practice in my opinion. Our practice is to have the managers of our companies pay their own bills. We do not handle any money in our home office and do not write any checks. The manager handles the money of his company and writes the checks. I know of cases where local creditors of the company came in to collect their bills and were told that the bill had to go to Chicago or Grand Rapids before it could be paid, thus creating considerable ill feeling and dissatisfaction among the local public. When they come back a few days later to collect their bills, they are told, “I have not heard from Chicago yet.” This is bound to cause friction.
If you expect to collect your bills promptly, you must pay your bills promptly.
I think Mr. Bixby's paper is good and valuable.
I think that Mr. Bixby and I have had a great many experiences in common. He speaks of his experience with division heads; I will read the paragraph: “We are too small to divide; the entire force is too close together to maintain it under different heads. We can liken ourselves to a power plant with a surplus of countershafting—there is too much lost motion.”
I think that probably many a manager of a small plant, in an effort to get results quickly, makes the mistake of expanding and promoting his organization too rapidly. I have had the same experience that Mr. Bixby evidently has had in building up an organization faster than the business grew with it. If you take a man in a small plant and make him the head of a department with title, he is likely to restrict his efforts to that department, so-called, and to get at odds with the other departments in an effort to make a showing for himself and his assistants.
It is very necessary for the manager to have, even in the smallest plant, such a working force under him as will enable him to give immediate and undivided attention to anything of importance that may come up, no matter how unexpectedly; but, to have everything referred to a department manager, superintendent or foreman in a small plant is, as Mr. Bixby says, likely to bring the small bickerings to his attention and result in the essentials being overlooked.
Mr. Bixby mentions the desirability of looking closely after collections. While it may not be exactly pertinent to this paper, it has always seemed to me that the solicitor, or representative as I prefer to call him, who is in contact with the consumer or prospective consumers every day, is in a good position to handle all such matters as collections and complaints, and in Adrian we have had such plan in force now for some three or four years. We require the district representative to look after all delinquent collections in his territory and to handle directly or follow up all trouble orders, and we go a step further than Mr. Schaddelee, for not only do we have all checks paid by the local office through a local bank, but we have the representatives deliver them in person, and this can frequently be made to give an entree to a prospect that he might not be able to otherwise obtain.
W. J. McCorkindale, Ishpeming :
I do not feel that I can add much to what Mr. Bixby and these other gentlemen have said. Mr. Bixby by his paper shows very clearly that he has had the experience. There is no question about it. He has seen it in the small gas company. As a rule the manager must be all he claims. The management must be a go-between, between the solicitor of the company and the people, and to a certain extent he has to take the people into his confidence.
I have found just as Mr. Bixby says, you have to, in a small town, get right close to the people. This thing of staying in the office on collection days and trying to meet as many as possile is true. I try to be in as much as possible during the first ten days when women come in to pay the bills, as almost all ri our accounts are collected over the counter. We send all of our bills out by mail. It costs us as much for mailing, as it would to have a man go and deliver them. We would have to check him up and besides we would not get the people into the office, so this way we pay out about the same amount of money and we really get much better results. Mr. Bixby speaks of letting the heads of departments and the men know something about what is going on. We do that. I furnish the Chief Engineer of our power house a statement every month showing how much coal he has used, how much he has paid out for labor, and how much per K. W. it has cost us, etc., compared with the same month the year before, and with our gas department we do the same thing and even with the stokers. And if they have done a little bit better this July than last July, we tell them of it, what it costs us, and I find these men look forward to the 3rd of the month when they get these statements, to know just how things have
gone. They are all pretty well interested. There are lots of things in this paper that the men from large companies ought to note. I say this because a inanager can not get too close. I think Mr. Bixby has handled this thing remarkably well. I think that all of us can get a little more inspiration out of it, especially in the smaller companies even now, although we have been through these experiences.
T. W. Jackson, Pontiac;
Mr. Bixby considers it good fortune to have been connected with several different companies in as many different states. Without doubt the experiences derived were helpful as the local conditions, especially in small towns, are so varied that the working organization must operate accordingly. My experience has been limited but in my judgement, the New Business Department, the Complaint, and the Distribution Departments, should be associated very closely under the same supervision with the assistance of a street foreman. I consider this very necessary in view of the fact that the working details of these departments are not easily handled by a man whose time is largely demanded in the office and the work shop. We cannot put to much stress on the Complaint Department, and the manager of every small company in order to gain the respect and confidence of the consumer, must be closely in touch with this desk, and have the time and disposition to listen to and adjust a large portion of the complaints. The New Business Department must be close to the Complaint Department, as complaints that require a personal investigation should be handled by a representative of the New Business Department, who should be capable of straightening out trouble and at the same time take the opportunity to install any appliances that will improve the service and make the consumer satisfied that he is getting the most good possible for the amount of money he pays the Gas Company.
I think it is necessary in order to maintain a favorable public sentiment, that the manager of a company in a small town must make a special effort to keep in touch with the public and be constantly on the lookout for dissatisfied customers. We should not look upon the kicker as an enemy, because if we do the right
thing the majority of kickers will develop into our best friends. We could all relate experiences where the kicker swears he will not spend another cent with the Gas Company, and after a careful explanation and lots of patience, you succeed in selling him probably the best range on the floor.
There is such a vast difference between the large company and the small company that the working organizations cannot be compared and I think in connection with Mr. Bixby's paper the comparison with the one armed paper hanger, is good. We all appreciate that, for we have seen the time when we had scratching enough for both arms and both feet working full capacity.
The Collection Department, I should say, is the bugbear of the small company. We all have rules and live up to them, but our friends are numerous and the delinquent friend I consider worse than a kicker. He is always looking for a favor and considers himself entitled to great consideration and tells you so every time he gets paid up close enough to dare mention it. I would like much to hear discussion on the ielation of the Collection Department to the New Business and the Complaints Departments, from the representatives present from the smaller Gas Companies.
It is a fact, gentlemen, that the man who sells appliances and the man who meets the people as a salesman, is not in a position to get the money as easily as the man who makes a special business of it. There seems to be a great difference in opinions regarding those things and I would be very glad to hear from some people who have had more experience than I have. I thank you.