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Don’t Manage the Symptoms, Heal the Problem!

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You have a really bad headache. What do you do? Often we search for the bottle of aspirin. Now stop and think for a moment. Is your body really lacking aspirin? Is that why you take a tablet or two? No, the aspirin treats the symptoms, not the cause. The aspirin doesn’t deal with the cause of the headache, it simply manages the pain so you don’t feel it anymore, but the problem remains.

Have you watched any TV commercials that advertise drugs? “Take XYZ pill and your symptoms will be reduced.” Notice a couple things as you watch those commercials. None “heal,” they simply manage symptoms. Secondly, nearly all have side effects! “This product may cause bleeding, heart attack, stroke, or death!”  Then they show the happy individual.

Do you want to be healed or do you want your symptoms managed?

Now what are you doing as an owner or manager. Are you managing symptoms or solving root problems?

If you are an owner, or manager, you probably have lots of irons in the fire every day. When a problem arises we all want the fastest solution possible, so we can move on to the next fire.  The reality is that, in the long run, it’s better to spend a bit more time, energy, and money today than to have to deal with the same problem again several weeks or months down the road.

Let’s look at a couple examples.

One example of this principle is delegation. One of the most difficult things for most owners to do is to truly delegate duties, and responsibilities, to others. We feel like we are losing control if we are not intimately involved in everything. Also, it “seems” a lot easier to simply do it ourselves than to spend time training someone else to do it. After all, I can handle it in 30 minutes and it will take me an hour or more to show Joe how to do it. The results are obvious. If I do it myself, next time a similar situation arises I will be the one who has to take the time, again, to fix it. If I had trained Joe how to handle it, I would not have to be involved when a similar situation comes up.

Let’s look at another situation. Things are busy and we need another service tech today! We quickly hire a warm body to get the position filled ASAP. However, we later find out the tech is really not all that skilled. Besides that, his customer service skills are poor and he ends up losing several long time customers. Within a few weeks, or months, he either leaves or we fire him. What did that cost the company? Perhaps we really should have done an assessment on him before we hired him to see if he had the technical ability, handled paperwork well, and was willing to be a team player. Checking references would have been helpful too as doing a background check would have revealed he had three DWI’s over the past two years! The pill (hiring the first warm body we could find) seemed like a good idea at the time but in the long run it caused a lot of damage.

Now let’s look at for one last example. Sam has been with the company for 10 years and he handles most of our sales. His close rate isn’t great, but he is a hard worker. Over the next few months Sam starts selling more jobs, however the company seems to always be drawing from its line of credit to survive. You know you should be job costing Sam’s jobs, but that takes time, time you don’t have. One day you decide to take the time to job cost a few of Sam’s jobs. My goodness, the company lost money on most of them!  After a bit of research, you discover Sam has been lowering the price for some time. You also discover that Sam’s sales began going up at the same point in time profitability began to fall. We should have dealt with the problem but it was a lot easier to take the pill, at the time, however the long terms affects have been much worse.

Ignoring problems that we know in our heart need to be fixed doesn’t help anyone. The short, quick, answer is seldom the right one. Pay attention and make the hard decisions.

Tom Grandy

Posted In: ACCA Now, Management

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