Mark's Memo - Bright Lights, Hidden Talent

“Looks like we’re open.” It’s after hours, our store is brightly lit and I’m muttering to myself as I drive past.  Someone forgot to turn off the lights.

In a perfectly managed business lights are turned off every night, orders called in on time, and the aprons are always clean. But even in a well-run store these items can be missed. The difference, between a well run and a not-so-well run store, is awareness of the impact this has to our customers.

AEP, our electricity provider, is not a company we negotiate with. If they were, I’d send a Post-it with our check saying we’re deducting because we really didn’t mean to leave the lights on. Not going to happen.

That leaves only one option. We have to charge our customers for the lights we leave on. No, I don’t show up at the store the next day and ask our dairy department to raise the price on butter 2 cents per pound to recoup our costs.    

Our mission statement says, “We are obsessive about eliminating waste and maximizing our God -given resources.”  We identify 2 kinds of waste— mistakes and underutilization of talent.

There are also 2 kinds of problems—window dressing issues and structural issues. Leaving the lights on is a window dressing issue, like, crooked blinds. It’s won’t put us out of business. Identify the issue, move on.

Not using our talents to their fullest is a structural issue. It’s also structural when we fail to identify a team member’s potential, causing us to miss a lot of what-could-have-beens. We don’t know what we don’t know. High electricity bills are easy to spot, talent can be hidden.

The solution—believe in everyone. Even the team member who forgot to turn off the lights!     

-Mark Coblentz

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