False assumptions business owners make

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By Aaron Crowley,
Oregon business owner and author of Less Chaos, More Cash

My good friend Scott called me the other day and he was shouting, “I shouldn’t have to explain this!  It goes without saying!”   You see, he recently started a small business, detailing luxury cars, and he had just received a nasty call from a customer who was less than pleased to find a French Fry on the floor of his Mercedes after spending $350 to have it cleaned.  It was the first car, his very first employee, had ever cleaned. Scott, like so many small business owners, had made a very common assumption: He believed that washing and waxing expensive automobiles was a labor of intense love that is done with great care by everyone, most especially his new employee.   Accordingly, he sent his very first employee off to his very first detail job with few instructions other than, “Make sure you get a check.”

He made what I like to call the Deadly Assumption(TM) – which is the belief that some work is so basic, fundamental, and obviously important that it need not be explained…which explained his shouting, “I shouldn’t have to explain this!”

Have you ever shouted or silently seethed, “I shouldn’t have to explain this!” when you found out someone forgot to call the customer back, miss measured a cook-top, or left a nasty haze on an edge detail?  If not, you probably don’t have employees.  If so, may I offer you a management practice that can be instrumental in transforming your small business experience from one of extreme frustration to control and freedom?

I call it the PROcess(TM), and when applied to the critical tasks that may be slipping through the cracks in your business, amazing results are possible.  It is a 3 step progression that can be summed up with the acronym in PROcess(TM), P.R.O. which stands for Position, Result, and Operation.

By Assigning the Position, Defining the Result, and Designing the Operation, an owner can ensure that the critical tasks that employees perform are done right and at the right time with much greater frequency.

Assigning the Position is removing all doubt as to who in the company is formally responsible for performing a particular task.  In a business that is growing, and in businesses that are compressing their operations in a declining market, work assignments can be haphazardly doled out, resulting in a lack of clarity as to who is responsible for what.  For example, both the bookkeeper and a sales person could conceivably be responsible for calling on overdue accounts.  But what if they both believe the other is doing it?  The task falls through the cracks, payment gets delayed, and cash flow gets tight.  By firmly and formally assigning that task to one of them, the likelihood that the task will be overlooked is diminished.

Defining the Result is explicitly detailing what the task in question is intended to produce.  Anyone can run a bridge saw and “cut” a slab into counters.  Whether the counters are cut according to the templates within acceptable tolerances and on time is another matter.  To ensure that the counters are cut and ready to polish in time to meet the deadline, and fit at the install, requires that a deadline and measurable tolerances be provided for the sawyer to follow.

Designing the Operation is like the directions to a destination or the recipe for a cake.  Who can drive to a destination they’ve never visited if they haven’t written down the directions?  Who can bake a cake without constantly referring to the recipe?  Very few people.  And very few employees, no matter how diligent, hard working, and dependable can assume a new task and perform it with great consistency without written instructions.  To ensure that the result is achieved, step by step procedures must be written down, provided, and most importantly, followed.

Fabricating and installing granite slab counters is a lot like washing and waxing luxury automobiles…the clients are prosperous, the finished product expensive, and the expectations for performance extreme.  The next time you find yourself shouting, “I shouldn’t have to explain this!” or “This goes without saying!” take a deep breath and make sure you haven’t made the Deadly Assumption (TM).  Then apply the PROcess(TM).  By doing so you’ll have a lot less frustration and your customers will find far fewer French Fries on the floor!

— In 1998, Aaron Crowley founded his first company, Crowley’s Granite Concepts, and has grown it to what is today, one the most well respected and recognized stone fabrication companies in Oregon .  Aaron Crowley is author of a new book called Less Chaos, More Cash. View Less Chaos, More Cash here