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The Berkshire Company Blog

Mark Fallon

Mark M. Fallon is President & CEO of The Berkshire Company, a consulting firm specializing in mail and document processing strategies. The company develops customized solutions integrating proven management concepts with emerging technologies to achieve total process management.

Recent Posts

The World's Slowest Cook

Posted by Mark Fallon on Oct 4, 2022 4:00:00 AM


Growing up, Sunday morning breakfasts were always special. Whoever woke up first – usually my mother – would fry up bacon in a cast iron skillet. Using the grease from the bacon, we would fry up our eggs in the same skillet. (I said the breakfasts were special, not healthy.)

Getting the chance to make breakfast was a rite of passage. One Sunday, I woke up early, and went down to the kitchen before anyone else. Excited, I heated up the skillet, got the bacon out of the refrigerator, and started cooking. A few minutes later, my mother came downstairs, gave me an amused smile, and asked if the coffee was ready. In my rush, I forgot about the coffee. So I lowered the heat on the bacon, and fired up the coffeemaker.

Soon, my father walked in, and reminded me how he liked his eggs cooked. He poured himself a cup of coffee, went into the dining room, and opened the newspaper. I turned up the heat on the bacon, and cooked enough for all my brothers and sisters. Before the bacon was done, I heard my father ask, "Are those eggs done yet?"

When I finally did get to his eggs, I made sure they were done just right. I put the eggs on a plate with some bacon and toast, and proudly placed them in front of my father. He looked up from his paper and said, "You've got to be the slowest cook in the world."

A bit defensive, I said that food cooked at the same speed for everyone. He countered that the diner near the post office cooked faster than me. My father would place his order when he walked in, and his eggs, bacon, toast and homefries would be at his regular seat at the counter before he got his coat off. And that certainly didn't take 10 minutes.

For years, I dismissed my father's story as an exaggeration. Nobody could cook that fast. But one semester in college, I was a third-shift waiter at the local Howard Johnson's restaurant. My second week there, the cook quit. The manager convinced me to take the job. My father was certain that all the customers would starve to death.

I struggled for the first few weeks. It was difficult to keep track of all the orders. And it was difficult to cook the food so it tasted good and looked good. At the end of the shift, I spent another hour finishing my extra duties – preparing eggs and potatoes for the next shift, restocking the supplies, and cleaning the kitchen.

But with some coaching from my manager and the other cooks, I soon developed the techniques needed to be successful. I knew I had the routine down when I was able to cook a customer's breakfast before the waitress had time to write up the order. I was no longer "the world's slowest cook."

Most people never get the opportunity to work in a restaurant. It's one industry where you can be assured of immediate customer feedback on production quality and service. A short-order cook is always managing multiple priorities and filling different roles. There are 5 techniques of a successful cook that apply to many business situations.

Technique #1– Use the right tools for the job.  At the restaurant, I had special cooking forks and spatulas. I also had a four-burner stove, a commercial toaster, and a large griddle with adjustable heat zones. I could keep extra bacon and homefries simmering on the low heat area of the griddle, with plenty of room for eggs and pancakes on the high heat area. Do you and your employees have the right tools to get the job done right and on time, or are you trying to cook bacon and eggs in the same small skillet?

Technique #2 – Clean as you go.  A clean work area improves productivity. I learned to constantly wipe down the cooking areas. Spills were cleaned when they happened. Used pots and pans were moved to the dishwasher as soon as possible. The end-of-the-shift cleaning went quickly because the kitchen was already neat and orderly. What does your work area look like?

Technique #3 – Use downtime for "prep work".  A lull in the orders didn't mean it was time for a break. There were always potatoes to be diced, egg batter to be prepared and supplies to be restocked. We kept a list of tasks posted and checked them off as they were completed. You always knew what needed to be done during a break in the action. Are you using your downtime to prepare for the future?

Technique #4 – Know your regular customers. Every morning, between 5:30 and 6:00, two guys would meet at the restaurant for breakfast. One would order oatmeal with dry wheat toast, and the other would have eggs over easy, bacon, homefries and an English muffin. I learned to watch the parking lot, and start their breakfasts when I saw their cars pull in. Their food would be ready before they reached their seats. Do you know your customers well enough to anticipate their requests?

Technique #5 – Learn from the veteran cooks. My success at the restaurant – and the rest of my life – was possible because of help from more experienced people. The other cooks taught me how a good cook works. If I was willing to learn, they were willing to teach. Do you actively seek help from people with more experience?

The next time you go to your favorite diner, sit at the counter and watch the cook work. And learn.

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Operations Management / Leadership / learning / success / mentorship

Comprehensive Postal Reform – Part Three: Imagining a New Future

Posted by Mark Fallon on Sep 1, 2022 4:00:00 AM



US Code Title 39 §101(a): The United States Postal Service shall be operated as a basic and fundamental service provided to the people by the Government of the United States, authorized by the Constitution, created by Act of Congress, and supported by the people.

The first post in this series proposed a new reporting structure of the US Postal Service (USPS) and the Postmaster General (PMG). The second post reviewed the Universal Service Obligation (USO) and provide a minimum standards for a new USO..

This post will reimagine what services the US Postal Service may provide in the future – within and beyond the limits of what the current laws allow.

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United States Postal Service / USPS / U.S. Postal Service / Postal Reform / Postal Regulatory Commission / Postmaster General / Universal Service Obligation

Together Again at the National Postal Forum

Posted by Mark Fallon on May 20, 2022 10:31:37 AM

 


Gathering for the first time since 2019, mailing professionals flocked to Phoenix for the National Postal Forum (NPF). People came ready to work – attending classes, connecting with vendors on the exhibit hall, and hearing from postal executives on products and policies.

A group of volunteers kicked off the conference with a different kind of work. Partnering with the NPF, The Berkshire Company sponsored a Habitat for Humanity build day on Saturday. The crew installed roofing, painted sections of the exterior and assembled work stools. We ended the day with a presentation of a mailbox for the new homeowners.

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United States Postal Service / Industry Vendors / National Postal Forum / USPS / U.S. Postal Service / NPF / Postal Regulatory Commission / Postmaster General / The Berkshire Company

Comprehensive Postal Reform – Part Two

Posted by Mark Fallon on May 1, 2022 5:09:39 AM



The last blog post proposed a new reporting structure of the US Postal Service (USPS) and the Postmaster General (PMG). This post will review the Universal Service Obligation (USO) and provide a draft USO for your consideration.

The USO is the vaguely defined responsibility of the USPS to provide consistent service at affordable rates to all citizens irrespective of geography. The Postal Regulatory Commission (PRC) calculates the costs of the USO and publishes a report on those costs.

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United States Postal Service / USPS / Postal Reform / Postal Regulatory Commission / Vote by mail / Postmaster General / Universal Service Obligation / The Berkshire Company

Comprehensive Postal Reform – Part One

Posted by Mark Fallon on Apr 3, 2022 10:42:39 AM


In last month’s post, we reviewed the lack of real reform in the “Postal Service Reform Act of 2022”. While the bill does address some financial issues, it falls short of introducing meaningful change to the US Postal Service (USPS).

A common reply to the post has been, “What would you consider ‘real’ reform?”

That’s a good question, and one that will be answered in three parts. Part One will cover governance and accountability, and Part Two will address universal service and the final part will discuss future services the USPS may provide.

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United States Postal Service / USPS / U.S. Postal Service / Postal Reform / Postal Regulatory Commission / Postmaster General / Universal Service Obligation

The Underwhelming Postal Reform Act of 2022

Posted by Mark Fallon on Mar 8, 2022 6:28:37 PM


On March 8, 2022, the Senate Passed HR 3076 – “The Postal Reform Act of 2022”. This is an important law that will address several issues affecting the US Postal Service (USPS). However, no matter how this law is promoted, it isn’t comprehensive reform, and it doesn’t overhaul the USPS.

What’s included? In summary:

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United States Postal Service / USPS / Postal Reform / Postmaster General / Universal Service Obligation

I Need to Read More Books

Posted by Mark Fallon on Feb 2, 2022 4:00:00 AM

What I bought on my summer vacation last year.

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Strategy / Leadership / The Berkshire Company / books / reading

A Strong Postal Regulatory Commission Benefits the Mailing Industry

Posted by Mark Fallon on Dec 21, 2021 4:00:00 AM


The day before Thanksgiving, the Postal Regulatory Commission (PRC) published Order No. 6047 – Notice of Proposed Rulemaking for Regulations Pertaining to Section 601. The technical title veils the importance of the ruling. The section being discussed – 39 U.S. Code 601 – describes when the letter monopoly of the US Postal Service (USPS) doesn’t apply to a mailpiece. This is the core of the Private Express Statutes.

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United States Postal Service / USPS / U.S. Postal Service / Postal Regulatory Commission / Universal Service Obligation

Terrible Timing – The Absurdity of the August Rate Increase

Posted by Mark Fallon on Aug 1, 2021 11:03:09 AM

For over 6 months, mailing industry professionals – through their associations and as individuals – have expressed their concerns about a second postage rate increase in 2021. Through group calls with the US Postal Service (USPS) leadership, meetings with the postmaster general, and many articles and blog posts, the message has been clear – a second rate increase in 2021 will cause harm. Annual budgets have been set, printers and mailers are just beginning to recover from the pandemic, and USPS service levels will be lowered in September.

Their efforts were for naught.

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United States Postal Service / USPS / U.S. Postal Service / Postage Rates / Postal Regulatory Commission / Postmaster General / The Berkshire Company

20 Years and the Journey Continues

Posted by Mark Fallon on Apr 27, 2021 9:50:53 AM

“Any exceptionally successful person who does not think that good luck is the #1 factor in their success is a pitiful creature.” – Tom Peters

2001 - 2021

In April 2001, I decided to try my luck at starting a company. As my father pointed out to me at the time, I had a well-paying job with good benefits. I was leading a great team of people whose hard work led to success after success. We were pushing the envelope on print-mail technology as well as new ideas on what was expected from an in-plant shop.

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The Berkshire Company / consulting

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