Brian Miller, 32, parts manager at Carolina Handling LLC (Charlotte, NC), joined the company as parts supervisor in 1998 after working at Pengate Material Handling in York, Pennsylvania. Miller was named interim parts manager in 2001 and then parts manager in 2003. He manages 19 associates, ranging in responsibility from warehouse, shipping and receiving operations to inside sales and customer service to outside sales. Below is an account of Miller’s typical day.
Miller usually arrives in the office at 8:00 a.m. Once he checks and responds to e-mail and voicemail messages, he consults his daily calendar of in-progress projects from the previous day and week. Usually there are meetings to attend, with associates or other managers.
On a typical Monday morning, Miller has a conference with all the managers in the branch to outline what is happening in all departments. After that, he holds individual meetings with each service manager in his territory to learn how his department can support them better. That meeting is followed by a team leader meeting with associates from each functional area of the parts department—warehouse, inside sales and outside sales. In these meetings, Miller and his associates talk about the department’s objectives for the week and customer concerns or other issues and how to resolve them.
After the slate of meetings is complete, Miller begins working on whatever projects he has on his to-do list. “There are so many various things I could be doing in a day, and usually it’s dictated by the customer,” he says. Possible projects include checking inventory levels, preparing associate reviews or traveling with outside salespeople to meet customers and set up a parts strategy. “Recently, I’ve been working on returning no-move inventory from the field,” he says.
Some days, that schedule does not apply because Miller meets with the project implementation team to go through the steps necessary to transition Carolina Handling to a new business software system.
Primarily, Miller is responsible for the financial performance of the parts department and for the growth and development of his associates. To accomplish those objectives, he performs monthly reviews with employees to make sure their performance is tied into the department’s key performance indicators: sales, profit, number of new customers, shipping accuracy and inventory stock levels. “Right now our shipping accuracy is at 99.9 percent. We ship about 5,000 packages a month and usually have four or five errors,” Miller says. “We also measure dropped call percentage, those calls that we don’t get to in four rings or less. Right now that is at about one percent.”
Miller’s department in Charlotte services the Carolinas, and he speaks weekly with his counterpart in the Atlanta facility to work on a company-wide parts strategy to implement best practices and develop efficient policies and procedures. They meet in person at least once per quarter.
He finds managing 19 different personalities in different capacities challenging. “The same motivational approach won’t work with every person all the time,” Miller says. “Learning how to work with each one and find out what it takes to get everybody on the same page is also the most rewarding part of my job. Watching people continue to get better every day as they develop and mature into leaders themselves is the best thing about my job.”
In order to help them reach their potential, Miller relies on a leadership style he has refined at all of his various career stops. “I’ve tried to adapt what I’ve learned from each of my managers and combine what works for them with my own personality,” Miller says. The most important trait he wants to instill in his associates is accountability. “I want people who have a team attitude and individual accountability for their performance to make the performance of those around them better.” He gets his associates to buy into that philosophy by empowering them to make decisions. “They’re not going to grow if I make all their decisions for them and don’t help them.”
Miller makes keeping in touch with associates his top priority. “If they need something from me, they know that I will take action and see things through to the end. They know that they don’t have to go above me to get results.” Miller speaks with his supervisor, John Muse, for about an hour weekly concerning the decisions he makes. “It keeps him in the loop and it keeps the associates knowing that management cares about them,” Miller says.
With all these issues to attend to, the ability to work on several projects at once is a key to his job. It all adds up to about an 11-hour day, and Miller usually heads home around 7:30 p.m.