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July 2010
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The lights are out so go lock the doors Tip #23

Ever work with somebody that goes over the top on some issues and makes you think they must be crazy?  Someone that leaves you clearly understanding that you are supposed to drop whatever you are doing to attend whatever they feel is important at that split second?  I worked with a man just like this but I have to admit now, years later, that I learned a lot.

As the Director of Marketing within a company of about 50 people, my job reached in to many areas within the company as good marketing should.  My boss at the time was the owner of the business and I worked very closely with him every day.  He kept everyone in the company on their toes and always had them worried about retaining their job.  Those that didn’t get the job done were held accountable and were replaced.  The boss (who I’ll call the Crazy Man) somehow knew about things happening throughout the company as if microphones were hidden throughout the building that could result in you being balled out for just about anything.  Most every employee hated the crazy man thanks to his regular tirades that could be over the simplest of things.

One of those regular tirades stemmed from burnt out pot lights within the customer areas of the business.  The message was clear – crazy man never wanted to see a burnt out light.  Upon arriving at work, you were to turn on all of the lights and then walk through the business looking for any light burnt out, get a ladder, get up and replace the bulb.  Nothing else gets done first.  Crazy man often told the story about the corner grocer that opens the store while everyone in the neighborhood is still asleep.  They open and immediately stack the fresh newspapers at the front of the business, prepared the displays of fresh cut flowers for the front of the business and turned on all of the lights.  They were now prepared for the first person in the neighboorhood to drive by and see all of the lights on, coffee ready, flowers out and someone waiting to serve the first customer of the day.  Crazy man was crazy about getting us all to understand that we have to ‘Ready’ the business for customers.  If we weren’t going to pay attention to the business why should the customers pay attention to us?

Now crazy man never wanted to hear an excuse – once you opened the doors the business had to be ready and that meant every light had to be working.  This was a big business with thousands of lights indoor and out of different wattage and style so while it seemed like an easy task – it wasn’t.  You had been yelled at too many times to forget the lessons, so you checked the lights every morning without fail – but somehow, he would regularly find a light out within seconds of arriving at work.  They must have burned out as he arrived, we had power surges as his car drove in or he had some new-fangled remote control that turned random lights off just so he could give us the speech again.  That is how it felt at least.  Lights that burned out during the business day had to be watched too, otherwise he was sure to see them and blame you for not checking before we opened the doors.  He was a difficult guy to work with.

Years later now, I really do have to forgive him because I understand why he was such a crazy man about the lights.  The lights were just one of the things that shone for him about whether we were ready to do business with customers and whether we were paying attention to the growth of his business.   Too often I see business people that are missing the important things that make their business worth paying attention – Marketing, image, brand, cleanliness, telephone manners, customers service – the list could go on and on.  Crazy man wanted us to focus on one simple thing and showed us over and over again how hard it is to pay attention to the simplest of things.  It isn’t easy to grow your business but what else should you pay more attention to?

While I don’t suggest that business owners or managers abuse their people to the point that they hate working for them, I do suggest that your people all need to understand how important the smallest things can be within the business.  Find a way to make your people care about improving your business and as a leader, seek out those things that you can improve and drive the change required to make it happen.

Identify a problem, stop and fix it.  Do it every day.  Be a crazy man about something important and eventually people like me will figure out that you aren’t that crazy after all.          [email protected]          250-412-3500

9 comments to The lights are out so go lock the doors Tip #23

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