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Last Update: Monday September 20, 2021

Key Idea: Be a Process Leader

Hattie says that Steve Hoffman is one of the best process leaders we have ever met.  Modern Postcard is technology and systems driven which has enabled it to grow since the Internet has become ubiquitous.

Key Question:


Install systems and keep working to improve them.

According to Dr. Keith Grint, leaders put systems in place. Dr. Grint is the Director of Research at the Saïd Business School, Templeton College, Oxford, England.
When we interviewed Dr. Grint we kept thinking about Steve Hoffman because he has been a systems guy since he sent out his first invoice in 1976.

When Steve Hoffman of Modern Postcard wants to work on improving systems, he has brainstorming sessions with small groups of employees. He’s making a very strong statement about how much he wants the creative ideas of his entire staff by setting aside a time and place for the sole purpose of hearing them.

Q: How does a small business foster an environment where everyone speaks up and everyone is heard?

A:  As always, actions speak louder than words. As important as it is to engage in dialogue with your employees as part of your interaction with them, it is just as important to have a formal process for soliciting their input. Remember the “suggestion box” that was so common years ago? The concept of the suggestion box coupled with the exchange form of communication is a powerful combination.

There are a number of ways to engage in this dialogue, brainstorming sessions certainly are an effective means. Collaboration is popular now that the Internet allows people to engage from multiple locations. Whatever the process, the important thing is that you have a way to engage every employee in the task of improving the systems.

Q:  What keeps business owners from installing systems?

A: First of all, this is not exciting work. It is grunt work. Second, there are many small businesses that exist because there are no systems. For example, a cabinet builder who advertises that his work is all custom and that each project is unique may not think he can put systems in place. If there are no repeatable steps then systems can't be installed.

And third, we prefer to fly by the seat of our pants because it seems to be more fun. We might think that no system could replace the force of our fabulous personality.

Dr. Grint warned us that all leaders must manage and all managers must lead. Therefore, we suggest that if you are leading your business with your personality, it may be time to put tiny steps in place and manage the accomplishment of those tiny steps. This is the only way for you to grow.

Think about it

What formal opportunity do you provide for your employees to offer ideas, constructive dissent and challenges to the way you are doing business? What part of your operation needs better processes?

Clip from: Modern Postcard

From 16 to 250+ employees

Carlsbad, California: Can an entire industry, the business of performance management, be reduced to a postcard? Can the deep study of kaizen and the work of business gurus like Peter Drucker be reduced to a link?  The quick answer is, "Yes." Visit Modern Postcard and meet Steve Hoffman and his team  producing over 100 million postcards a year for some 150,000 customers.

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Modern Postcard, Inc.

Steve Hoffman, CEO

1675 Faraday
Carlsbad, CA 92008

Visit our web site:

Office: 7604317084

Business Classification:
Printing, publishing

Year Founded: 1996

Be a Process Leader

HATTIE (In the Studio): Steve's first company, the Iris Group, still takes beautiful pictures, the highest quality images to make lovely calendars featuring some of America's most fabulous homes. But it represents only about 5 percent of today's revenues.
Steve might still be taking pictures today himself had it not been for his drive to understand process control and systems.

It became an obsession. Constraint analysis: What's holding things up? Where's the weakest link? This first process that Steve tackled sounds simple.

Take a picture, get it printed and deliver it to Realtors. But he examined every link in each process, even learned how to write computer programs to replicate some of these processes. As he hired and trained photographers to take pictures, he became even more focused on process excellence. Steve is a process guy, and Modern Postcard is a process enterprise. Much of the power and success of this operation he attributes to their constant analysis. Words like, `flow' and `constraint' occupy his mind. It has been said you have to either give customers quality, price or speed, you can't do all three. People who say that have never met Steve Hoffman and the team at Modern Postcard.

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