In 2013, our stone supply company hit a rough patch. Sales were declining. Like many entrepreneurial startups, we lacked standard processes. We had little accountability and incomplete metrics but no clear way to improve.
A mutual friend introduced us to Brad Kuik with K2 Performance Management due to Brad’s experience in large, successful businesses. His invaluable outside perspective opened our eyes to the methodology of continuously improving ourselves both personally and professionally. Brad mentored us in the implementation of regular sales meetings, performance reviews and standard work for all business tasks. He challenged our processes and provided improvements in accountability and structure. Today, our sales and morale continue to increase as a direct result of his ongoing mentorship.
Brad is an influential leader with a genuine interest in people and the ability to draw out the best in them. In the process of working with him, he has become more than simply a coach or trusted advisor. He is now a close friend.
I had the pleasure of meeting Brad Kuik when we started on our lean journey in 2015. He was able to provide us with much advice and guidance in his visits to our cabinet manufacturing facility in Perth, Western Australia.
Brad provided us with a strong external point of view, ensuring we remained on track and guiding us through additional actions that he understood were required. His assistance contributed to a 20% improvement in labor efficiency, a reduction of warranty work in excess of 75%, and 10-30% improvement in cost per unit depending on the product produced.
Brad has the ability to engage with all personnel in the business, and shows a genuine respect for people. His larger-than-life personality, warmth and enthusiasm for what he does really makes him an agent for positive change in an organization. We appreciate all the work he did with us and look forward to working with him again in the future!
Prior to K2 Performance Management working with our family-owned greenhouses, we had very little organizational structure documented. We struggled with accountability, communication and the establishment of responsibilities in our chain of command. Our process improvement was infrequent and lacked direction. We tackled day-to-day activities with a “firefighting mentality,” responding reactively rather than proactively.
In response, Brad Kuik from K2PM listened and observed. He worked with our core leaders to refine our business culture and continues to guide us through succession planning. He helped improve and document our organizational structure, job descriptions, standard work, and countless other measures to hold our management and employees accountable. Most importantly, Brad helped us make improvement in our business habitual.
As a result, our payroll to sales ratio has improved significantly. We continue to reduce the amount of time and money we spend on cleaning and reorganizing, freeing us to focus on delivering premium products to our customers. Knowing improvement is an ongoing process, we’re excited Brad and the K2PM Team are continuing on this journey with us!
From the first time I met Brad Kuik in 2005, I sensed him to be a natural fit for lean thinking applications. He was and remains a thoughtful lifetime student of lean thinking. Brad always seems to understand the deeper lesson behind the immediate instruction. For example, in witnessing my direction to a client seeking improvement through lean, Brad would instantly comment on how I took a socratic approach to asking questions over providing answers to problem solving teams. This was to ensure the teams understood how to remedy their specific challenge from a sustainable form of learning through assimilation of principles, not simple answers to a specific problem. The aim was to avoid dispensing answers applicable to specific conditions of the moment which ultimately might lead to two frequent failure modes: not learning problem solving principles and misunderstanding situational specific answers as some sort of universal practice solution.
Over the course of my lean journey, which began with a trip to Japan in 1989, I have witnessed firsthand the successful attributes of the lean sensei leader: a progressive and open learner; team based problem solver; a visionary leader able to drive toward positive changes no matter the environment and circumstances; self-confident yet not arrogant; and adaptable to any role, whether servant leader, manager or individual participant. A sensei must understand lean tools well but also recognize the importance of their appropriate application and continuous acquisition. Brad possesses these traits and continues to hone them as he helps others and improves his craft.
In George Koenigsaecker’s revolutionary lean book “Leading the Lean Enterprise Transformation,” Koenigsaecker describes three leadership behaviors associated with successful lean transformations: leaders with a DRIVE for 1.) Continuous Improvement, 2.) Mentoring & Learning and 3.) Disciplined Execution. These summarize Brad very well. While these behaviors sound straightforward, lean practitioners know the challenges associated with successfully implementing them. If you’re seeking results that matter and last, seek out Brad’s counsel.
When Brad Kuik joined us as General Manager of Nathan’s Cabinets in 2009, our business was profitable but in need of a shift in our culture and mindset. As leaders, we were making a lot of assumptions with regard to expectations. We had a status quo and it was being met, but our standards weren’t in line with our customer needs or our potential. We needed to learn to understand what our customers saw as value; to become process-oriented in order to deliver a quality product in full and on time, rather than just getting the work done.
Despite our challenges, Brad didn’t just tell us what was broken and leave us to fix it on our own. He helped us see where our thinking and systems lacked efficiency, holding rapid improvement events to create better use of space and decrease our inventory holdings. He joined us on the floor, conducting gemba walks to personally observe our work, identify problems and create solutions to overcome them. He taught us to study our processes, but not in isolation from understanding the LEAN tools that could assist us. He mentored our entire team, training our leadership and empowering us to develop our tradesmen.
In his three years as General Manager (2009-2012), Brad led Nathan’s Cabinets to grow our annual revenue more than 150% while decreasing the same manufacturing space by 50%. These positive changes increased our revenue from less than $6 million dollars per year to over $9 million. Brad was the catalyst in our LEAN transformation, including a disciplined focus on the development of standard work to sustain this progress. Even after departing Western Australia in 2012 to form K2 Performance Management, he continues to coach us on our journey of improvement. We reap the rewards in a happy, healthy, rapidly growing organization.
I have known Brad Kuik for 20 years and was privileged to work with him on his first lean deployment. Brad learned the concepts well and has transferred them to professionals across a wide range of industries, enabling them to experience the joy of successfully using lean.
Brad loves lean and seeing people “get it.” He brings great energy to the room and, at the same time, has a calming personality that helps people feel confident to graduate their thinking outside of their comfort zones.
Brad is one of the few lean experts I am proud to recommend to business professionals who are serious about using lean to better themselves and their work environment.
We’re fortunate to have met Brad from K2 Performance Management through an existing network and, over time, developed a relationship that led us to understand and appreciate the value of K2’s services. At the time we met, K2PM’s clientele were predominantly product manufacturing businesses. Mulder Kampman Design is a creative business, producing architectural designs for our clients. However, we’d identified an opportunity with the “production line” component of our business – producing technical drawings after the creative design process was complete. This involved a degree of repetition in the process, and there was a significant opportunity to analyze and improve it.
We hired K2PM, and following an initial overview of the business, K2PM worked closely with us to map out our existing processes and identify specific areas requiring improvement. We’d previously followed a traditional way of producing our technical documentation that was reactionary to circumstances. K2PM trained us to identify where and when information should be pulled into our process. K2PM also assisted in identifying waste and provided direction for its elimination.
Over time, the “K2PM/lean way” has become ingrained into our team and, with this mindset, we are continually looking to improve our systems and processes. This change in thinking enabled us to produce our technical drawings far more effectively than previously and led us to recently launch a sister company, “The Drafting Lab.” This new business is focused purely on producing technical drawings for other architects and designers as an outsourcing service.
As business leaders, we don’t claim to be perfect and have a lot of work to do in building and improving our systems and processes. We are thankful for the services provided by K2 to date, and look forward to continually building and growing with their support!
A K2 Lean Tours Experience
On behalf of our team of Continuous Improvement (Kaizen) “devotees” please accept my sincere thanks for hosting such an informative and educational tour recently at Kaas Tailored in Mukilteo. Our team found the day both stimulating and very challenging to our understanding of continuous improvement concepts. The tour allowed us to experience actual Kaizen events in a manufacturing setting, and see inside a company dedicated to eliminating the seven wastes of manufacturing. The information and training that the Kaas employees provided was well presented, and the opportunity to experience actual Kaizen presentations from Kaas employees had a significant impact on each member of our team. We were impressed that every employee is brought quickly into a culture of Kaizen – an achievement that Kaas should be extremely proud of.
Thanks also to you and Janice for taking such care to ensure every detail of the day was well organized. From snacks on the bus, to the delicious box lunch on the way home, our needs were efficiently looked after. However, we especially appreciated the chance to come together after the tour, and have you lead a summary of the day that allowed us to formulate the right questions about what we observed, and how these insights might impact our own business. Each member of our team believed this part of the tour was the highlight, as your skill in guiding the session, and your understanding of Continuous Improvement concepts was the catalyst for a great discussion. We appreciate that you incorporated this session into the tour as it allowed us to process what we had witnessed at Kaas Tailored, and apply it to our own business applications.
Should we have the chance Brad, we would highly recommend this tour to any individual or company that wants to take the step towards a deeper understanding of Continuous Improvement (Kaizen) concepts. Thank you again for providing such a good experience for all our team.