Would one “minor glitch” bring down your company?

Florida power outage

Last October, we discussed the single slip-up that doomed a beef company. Not just doomed it, but in fact, put it completely out of business. A single stumble kills a decades-old business.

Today, a “minor glitch” (according to MSN) caused South Florida’s power grid to puke, and the resulting chain reaction caused two Florida nuclear reactors at Turkey Point to shut down.

While those shutdowns can be explained as safety precautions driven by automated monitoring systems, this was just a minor glitch, right? A minor glitch that cut off power to as many as 3 million people.

Look at your business. What sort of “minor glitch” could shut down your business for a day? A week? Permanently?

Some examples: Internet failure. Frozen merchant account. Boiler failure. Strike. Supplier failure. Power loss. Refrigeration loss. Cash flow. Vehicle problems.

What precautions can you take and processes can you put in place to prevent these glitches from causing serious damage to your business?

Be Prepared.

Why Street Cleaning Is The Most Important Job In Your Business

Imagine that your attention to quality is so weak that you could make enough bad product today (or next week) to actually kill your company.

Who was monitoring their sanitation processes, other than the understaffed, seemingly incoherent USDA, who actually thought about it for a few days before asking for the recall, for reasons that none of us will ever really know (ie: politics).

The thing is, this sort of stuff seems NORMAL to some meat plants. Our domestic beef industry routinely gets banned, unbanned and banned again in other countries because we stick stuff in a box that says “no bones” and someone will open a crate overseas and find bone marrow, bone pieces, BSE lab samples, or Jimmy Hoffa.

Ok, you got me, I made that last one up:)

Did you know that the plant that produces more hamburger patties than any other plant in the US has just one USDA inspector on the site? Yep, the same Topps Meat plant that is now closed.

How do you make 331 thousand pounds of bad hamburgers? By not managing “the little things”.

By now, you are undoubtedly wondering what this has to do with your software company, car wash, restaurant (sort of), retail store, or outdoor power equipment store.

It all comes down to your management. Your understanding that the “little guy’s job” is more important than the CEO’s job.

You have to impress upon the street cleaner that their job is important, even if they don’t think it is and your city appears to prove it by paying the street guy $12.50 an hour.

No, cleaner streets aren’t going to bring the troops home, make Britney a good parent, bring back the glaciers, balance the budget, or eliminate obesity. On the other hand, the street cleaner’s job might keep a car from hitting a piece of metal, blowing a tire, veering off the road and running over your neighbor’s seven year old while they ride their new Wal-Mart bike down the sidewalk.

That’s pretty important, don’t you think?

Look around and you’ll see plenty of “unimportant jobs” that are critical to the success of their organization, yet the people doing them are barely managed, their performance often unmonitored and definitely unmeasured. And those folks quite often care deeply about what they do, despite being treated like crap.

A friend of mine is a cook at the local high school (reality: she’s a master). Most folks have no idea how hard it is to cook 2 meals a day for 1200 people in a space smaller than the size of your garage – much less serve, clean it up for tomorrow, plan for next week, order the supplies and maintain the equipment. Is that job important? Think so.

The next time you hire someone to do what you feel is an unimportant job, or you take what you think is an unimportant job, think a little harder about the impact that job has.

How important was the job of the Topps Meat quality control team who missed whatever tainted 331 thousand pounds of their burger?

Apparently it was important enough to kill a 67 year old company and instantly put 77 people out of work (87 before it’s all over).

The little things, like sand in a wheel bearing, will tear your company apart and send your customers running to your competition. Customers notice the little stuff and they’ll wonder – if the little stuff is messed up, how good are you at the big stuff?

Do the “little things” right and take good care of the people who do them. They hold your company – and your customers – in the palm of their hand.

ONE. Bad number for a business.

“One is the loneliest number that…”

Three Dog Night sang that song in the 70’s, though in their case, love was the subject at hand.

In business, one isn’t as much lonely as it is deadly.

ONE supplier.
ONE client.
ONE employee.
ONE product or service.

Any ONE of those, if you’ve allowed them to become too important, can be deadly to your business.

Over the next few emails, let’s talk about why ONE is such a bad number. We’ll start with ONE supplier.

ONE supplier: If you have just one supplier for a critical raw material or service, what happens when and if that supplier goes bankrupt, gets bought out and broken up, doubles their prices because someone stole money from them (or the IRS slapped them hard), and so on? YOU are the one who pays.

You can see the reality in this in our local aluminum plant here in Columbia Falls. They operate using commodity raw materials (price controlled) and their product is also a commodity (price controlled). They have ONE power source (commodity, price controlled). When that power is expensive, they cant do business using their current model. When it isnt expensive, they incur massive startup costs to ramp up production. Its a 1960’s business model, but this is the 21st century. ONE supplier of power has them by the shorts.

I recently spent some time finding alternative suppliers for the raw materials that we use at my wholesale skin care products company. Why? Because I had ONE supplier for a few things and it scared me. I refuse to be at the mercy of one supplier, even if that supplier currently does things wonderfully. Things change. Be prepared (that’s the Scoutmaster speaking…)

Look at your business. Is their ONE supplier that could cripple your business if they went under? Or if they decided to get militant with you, or if they doubled their prices? Dont just think that you are immune because you sell software, or are a consultant, or run a day spa.

ONE affected a recent football playoff game. A team came to Montana saying they had the ONE best player in the country. Everything their team achieved depended on that ONE player. Unfortunately for the team, their coach bragged that that ONE player was the best and implied that nothing else mattered. He found out the danger of ONE. The other team keyed on that ONE guy, shut him down, and sent his team home without scoring a touchdown – in fact, almost without scoring at all.

ONE recently put our local Staples on its knees during a holiday shopping weekend. A hard drive crashed, preventing them from taking credit cards most of Saturday and preventing customers from using reward cards (or reward certificates) all weekend until Monday. Despite the fact that there were plenty of hard drives on the shelves, they could do nothing until first of business on Monday. Wonder how much that REALLY cost. Ouch.

ONE. Don’t let it happen to you.