I guess someone could set their clock by my consistent arrival at Starbucks each morning. Just two blocks from my office in our little town, just outside of Nashville, Tenn., I order my usual tall, decaf Americano and Classic Oatmeal, and always stop to say hello to several other regular customers who have become good friends over the past several years.
Recently, I sat down at the table of one of these regulars and, while we were trying to have a serious conversation on various issues, another group of regulars sat at a nearby table, howling, laughing and making such a racket. My friend Dave and I could barely hear each other.
I said, "Dave, it looks like your friends are having a good time, wonder what all the commotion’s about with Frank and his friends."
"Just empty wagons!" Dave said, looking annoyed.
Dave said again, "You know, empty wagons!"
"What are empty wagons?" I asked.
"I can tell you didn’t grow up on a farm," Dave said with a smile. He had that right.
Dave is a wise and articulate man who knows a lot about a lot! "On a farm you learn that wagons rattle and make a lot of noise, especially when there’s nothing in them."
Got it! Our friends were making a lot of racket at that other table, but the conversation had little to do with anything, as usual. Dave, if you knew him, likes a bit more meaningful dialogue with his coffee. I like that.
So, what does "empty wagons" have to do with systemizing your business?
I’ve heard my fair share of "empty wagons" in my time — those owners of chaotic businesses who regularly go off on their employees when errors are made or equipment breaks down due to poor maintenance, and all those other unnecessary, system-busting errors that happen in a business. You will often hear these frustrated owners/managers coming, from down the hall, cussing, fussing, yelling and blaming someone for "the same stupid #!&% mistake" that occurs month after month.
Just like those other "empty wagons" these kinds of owners and managers make a lot of noise but rarely offer (or even look for) a real solution. There will be no system put in place to ensure those mistakes won’t happen again. These owners and managers tend to hire really great people, but fail to provide them with certain quality control tools that would make their jobs easier. They seem to think, "People just shouldn’t make stupid mistakes!"
Well, people DO make mistakes — that’s the point!
If your only solution is a good hire, then your company "wagons" will keep plodding along, rattling and clanging, but they will never fill up with the goods needed for a healthy, error-free business.
On the other hand, when systemic controls are implemented, it reduces the unnecessary, frustrating and irritating noise of chaos that occurs daily in too many businesses.
When organization meets systemization, it brings a culture of calm, peace and fulfillment.
Yes, great people are needed to drive the wagons, but onboard there needs to be tools that help keep the wagons fully-loaded, with little noise. Human beings, even the most capable workers, make mistakes if not given the right tools … the right SYSTEMS … to prompt consistent quality and service.
Did I mention? Great systems work!
Philip Beyer, founder/president of Ebiz Products LLC and founder of Beyer Printing Inc. in Nashville Tenn., is a chronic entrepreneur, business systems analyst and consultant. Author of "System Busters: How to Stop Them in Your Business" and recipient of an InterTech Technology Award for the design and development of System100 business process management software. Beyer speaks to business owners across the country on how to bring lean, sustainable order to their businesses. Contact him at (615) 425-2652.