Find It, Fix It, Prevent It

As someone who has worked every position in the restaurant and my company, I have found myself in far too many situations looking like this.  Some things always break and feel like they always will.  Whether it was a clogged up floor drain, an overheated air conditioning system or even a poor budgeting process , things have a tendency to not work at times, it is inevitable.  As I would watch the water level of my kitchen floor rise or look longingly in despair as customers walk out of the restaurant because it was too damn hot or I scratched my head wondering why we would miss budget, the natural instincts of a good entrepreneur would kick in.  I would spring into action and start to solve the problem.  I would snake the drain, clean the filters on the A/C or recast the budget and start anew.   While these fixes did the trick to solve the problem in the immediate, inevitably a few months later or the following summer or the next quarter, the issues would arise again.

I spent much time and energy getting angry and frustrated by their re-occurrences.  I would task the whole company with the job of solving the problem, of “making sure this never happens again”.  Over the years, I have learned that the energy spent getting worked up or charging the whole company with the job of “getting to the bottom of things” was nothing more than wasted energy and really only anger and frustration with myself for having worked with brawn and not brain.  One day, I was given a great book and I learned that I had done the easy part.  I had found the problem and I fixed it, but I did not do the hard part…..I had not prevented future occurrences of the problem.

Preventing problems is not an easy thing, it actually takes the most thoughtful work.  Fixing a drain, the A/C or getting good with a budget is an easy fix.  You can hire a plumber, an HVAC specialist or an MBA intern to solve them, but preventing the problem takes forethought, process creation and discipline to keep up with the systems you put in place. (HT: Michael Gerber & The E-Myth)