What Family Taught Me About Business

December 12, 2018

business systemTo be successful in business, you have to be constantly learning.

I just came back from an incredible business event in London with all kinds of great ideas and inspiration. But learning also occurs in the most unlikely places. In the line at the grocery store.  In a flash of inspiration in the shower. Watching the waves pound the shore.

I had one of those unlikely learning opportunities one day when I was staring out the window watching my family.

I was sitting at my desk working on a PowerPoint presentation when I became aware of the buzz of a chainsaw outside the window. When I looked out, I saw my family, all working together to make sure we had the wood we need to heat our home for the winter.

As I watched the process, I realized our annual winter preparation is a great example of a business system. When it’s time to build the wood pile, everybody gets into the act. We have a plan. We have a system.

From the youngest to the oldest, everybody has a job. Grandpa finds the fallen trees and clears the path. Maybe he cuts down a dead tree that hasn’t fallen yet. Mom uses the chain saw to cut the tree into manageable chunks. Not too big, not too small. Just the right size for the chopping block.

The oldest child has splitting duty. The two middle children load the wheelbarrow, aiming for a perfect load…enough to make the trip worth it, not so much that the barrow is impossible to push. When the wheelbarrow is full, they take turns rolling it to the patio where the wood pile is built. Sometimes it takes them both, an exercise in cooperation.

At the patio, the youngest has unloading duty, taking the logs one at a time and carefully building the stack. When they get impatient, the middle two unload and go back to where the action is happening, eager to build the next load.

It really is the perfect machine. Everybody has a job suited to their ability and one job can’t start until the one before it is completed. To be efficient, the jobs must be synchronized, or somebody is idle for too long, while someone else is overloaded. We have a pretty good estimate of how much wood we’ll need (with a little help from Farmer’s Almanac predicting how cold the winter will be.) When we get that amount, we do an extra load or two, just for good measure.

When the task is finished, our little machine has done its job. We’ve worked together and have what we need to be warm all winter…and I have a great lesson on what it takes to build an effective business system:

  • a specific goal
  • a clear plan
  • the right talent in the right job
  • communication and collaboration
  • correct sequencing and synchronizing of tasks
  • having a backup…just in case.

Thanks, family…both for the lesson and for the wood.

Where is your next business lesson coming from?

Go forth and do great things,

Martha & Chris