Profiting At The Bottom Line™

This month’s focus: Are You Focused On The Wrong Fix.

There are times when you believe you’re focused on the right problem only to find out no matter what technique, fix, or other deliberate action you take as to rectify the issue; it grows worse with every remediation. The problem many times is we’re trying to correct where we believe, rather then where the true issue lies. e.g. Searching for greater tire discounts because you wear them out far above the average rather than correcting and maintaining the issue of proper alignment.

Case Study: We were delivering highly perishable food products during a relentless heat wave. It seamed there were a few of our semi trailers that were not keeping the temperature within the ranges we set. Great care was taken by all to ensure proper loading, setting and maintaining all the mechanical and so forth. Yet, the condition and results were the same. No noticeable improvement.

It was argued we needed newer equipment. It was obvious to everyone that the older equipment just couldn’t handle it. Reasons were given, explanations were offered, and everyone had an argument why. And finance had a reason for why not. e.g. Too expensive.

Come to find out the resolution had nothing in common with the arguments nor the fix.

It turned out after watching the trailers being loaded on the docks I spotted the problem. A newer dock worker was using pallets incorrectly when loading.

In the case of refrigerated containers pallets serve two functions. One is the openings as to allow the fork trucks to lift them. The second is they also serve as the air flow returns much as the vents in your home freezer work. If blocked your fridge just wont cool correctly.

It was standard operating procedure for trucks to have 2 empty pallets stood up on their end as to allow air flow back to the refrigeration units for proper cooling. However, they must be sure as to remove one of the boards on the end of each, if not, they block the returning air making the whole exercise moot.

Everyone knew this as a standard practice, except this worker. He was not new to freight, but he was new to refrigerated freight. No one caught the issue because it was happening intermittently. (even the drivers of the trucks themselves who are usually quick to spot such things missed it out of some form of familiarity blindness)

With the proper removal of two boards the issue was resolved saving us hundreds of thousands of dollars in immediate upgrades that we truly didn’t need.

The most common practice that everyone believed was in place and when asked to verify were able to answer truthfully in the affirmative. However, in reality it was only an illusion.

What was not an illusion was the money saved by not spending on the wrong fix that would have only resulted in a waste of valuable resources.

© 2014 Mark St.Cyr

Profiting At The Bottom Line™ is a monthly memo, which is pithy, powerful, and to the point. It focuses on innovative techniques and or ideas that you can put to work immediately in your daily or business life.

Getting Hired By Showing Your Entrepreneurial Worth

I was queried on the topic of what advice I might give to first time job seekers. Personally I believe the response for first time applicants is the same I would give for any other applicant. I also believe the same argument can be adapted to any with the entrepreneurial mindset.

The focus of any interview should be all about what you can do to add value. No emphasis on the value you bring, no need to listen or go further into any other details is all they’ll be thinking. Period.

Here was my response:

When one is interviewing regardless of first entering a job market fresh out of college or a seasoned veteran, the issue on salary or pay will be one of the most determining factors on how you approach and answer than nearly all other questions combined. The way to approach salary as well as show your understanding of the bottom line and what you mean to it, is to ask the following:

If going for a sales or marketing position: “Is there an incentive plan for exceeding projections?” Or, “Is there a policy where one can go on full commission, and if so are there any representatives they can show as an example?”

If going into anything but sales or marketing you must understand you will always be viewed as “overhead” rather than an “asset.” No matter how politically incorrect it may seem. The way to move yourself out from one side of the ledger to the other in a hiring managers eye is to ask: “Are there any incentive plans that reward an employee for suggesting or implementing cost cutting, or profit enhancing measures, that increase profitability?”

Make the above examples your own and you’ll stand out head and shoulders above 99% of any and all candidates you’ll be competing against.

© 2014 Mark St.Cyr

Clarifying Why With: What If?

Often times we get caught up in the asking of why rather than asking what if. It sounds like such a subtle distinction and for some it’s an exercise not worth pursuing. However, it is sometimes this very innocuous line of questioning that is the only thing that gets at the root of many issues facing not only business in general, but sometimes rooting out the answers one doesn’t want to actually face – never mind deal with.

Personally I made many of my marks in business by being the person who more often than not had to pick up the pieces or control their trajectory as to where they may land ahead of time during my tenure in the business world. Today the professional moniker is “an expert in Crisis Management.”

Expert is not for vanity’s sake. If I had done it once that could be racked up to chance, twice could be coincidence, but three times and more and you’ve distinguished yourself with a track record.

Although I have always been somewhat of a contrarian, it was when a friend of mine years earlier asked me a rhetorical question during a crisis taking place where we lived that shaped much of my reasoning and understandings for years to come.

Earlier that day the city where we grew up experienced a power outage causing a city-wide black out that was still not resolved as we were talking later that afternoon.

The outage occurred during the mid morning. It wasn’t as if the streets or neighborhoods were cloaked in darkness. Yet, in less than 30 to 45 minutes after the outage started looters began smashing windows downtown and stealing everything that wasn’t nailed down.

It didn’t start with just one, it was a mob from all accounts that started the spree.

As we were discussing the reasons for “why” and more he made a statement that sticks with me to this day: “You keep asking why would they do this so quickly. The question you need to answer is, what if this is what they were waiting for?” That subtle change in questioning changes everything both in how you address the “why” and more.

Again it changes the thought process in how one looks as to deal with situations in their heads while opening up lines of questioning that help one zero in and fix a true underlying issue; rather than addressing or wasting time arguing moot points. i.e., If you only think about why someone is looting in general terms you rationalize the intent (boredom, mob behavior, frustration, etc.) far different from what if the intent was as soon as opportunity showed itself – that was what was to be done.

His reasoning was it happened far too quick. He said, “People just don’t lose the power and begin smashing windows 30 minutes later unless that’s exactly what you were waiting for.

Whether he was right or wrong didn’t matter. His line of thinking in objective analysis was spot on and I never forgot it. Plus it has served me well these decades later throughout my professional life.

So what does all this have to do about the issues today?

Well, it has a lot to do with what has just transpired in Atlanta in the willful experiment in both transporting as well as containing one of the world’s worst known viruses to the United States.

I use the words “experiment” as well as “willful” deliberately for this has never been done here before.

As of right now the Ebola virus which has been separated from the U.S. populace by the fortune of geological positioning has not only arrived on our doorstep, but was flown in deliberately on its own personal G5. Many are asking questions of; why?

I was speaking with a friend where I pondered a “what if” rhetorical rebuttal to their questioning of “why” and they nearly froze. As I said before: Changing why to what if many times opens up far more doors than one first believed even available.

The what if question was this: “What if they need to bring them back because they had no choice? What if the reason they need to get them into better facilities is for the worst of all reasons? i.e., It’s all ready here.”

Of course this is absolutely nothing more than a thought experiment. I’m not trying to be an alarmist banging pots and pans out in the streets with a sign around my neck claiming “The End Is Near!” Nor, do I have, know, or pretend to know what we should or should not be doing. I’m just asking a question because the answers are far too important and meaningful to not only business, but for much, much, more.

Here’s why one really needs to think (and that means clearly and rationally) for there are just too many other things happening that no one wants to even consider, let alone ponder “what ifs.”

Here’s what we know as of today. Not speculation, not hyperbole, not innuendo, but fact.

First: We know as of today we have an out of control southern border crisis where tens of thousands of both children and more are crossing in droves. Many have confirmed cases of infections diseases such as tuberculosis and others that have been all but eradicated in the U.S. currently.

What we also know is: we don’t know who or all the identities of those that crossed are. We know the bulk, but what about god forbid just one terrorist mixed within carrying the deadly Ebola virus. What if that were to be true?

Second: We know that there were infected people with this deadly virus detained and isolated after being seen visually suffering from the virus at: an airport. Albeit in the country of origin, but as I said earlier the question to ask is “what if” one made it past?

Third: This could have far more impact to western civilization and its society than any conventional means of warfare could ever have. And the people wanting to inflict harm are more than willing to use any and all means to bring about that end. No matter how hard one tries to equate or affix the immorality as to why one wouldn’t or shouldn’t.

I’ve talked, debated, and down right argued with people many times over the years where they begin to get up in arms as to defend positions through the “why” frame of reference. Well, “why would people to do this?” or “Why would one do that when …..?” (you can fill in the blank.)

What has over turned their soap box over whether it be about business, or just plain discussions on life more often than not is when I posit the “what if.” e.g., What if it doesn’t work? What if that doesn’t happen? What if there’s another reason? What if what you think to be true is in actuality wrong? This is when and where the questioning, reasoning, breakthroughs and more have happened. I believe you get what I’m trying to convey.

Don’t take any of this as a slam of the poor victims we just brought back. I have great compassion as well as admiration for these doctors and others that have the courage of their convictions to walk head first into a truly horrific condition as to try not only heal, but to help foster ways as to prevent.

These people are doing work where statutes should be erected at every public square in their honor. I understand and can easily rationalize all of the “whys” these people would embark on such truly humanitarian work.

What I currently fear is that once again I’m near alone where no one seems to even be thinking, let alone contemplating the obvious…

What If?

© 2014 Mark St.Cyr