But what caught my attention more than anything else was one line by Ed Monbourne, our CEO. Ed was describing what we do and what differentiates us from other firms in our industry. He offered several concepts, but nothing stuck out to me as much as this...
We make dreams happen.
One of the things we find as we travel around to help small businesses is that far too many of them have been reduced to "holding on." The managers and executives in too many small to mid-sized business enterprises we meet have become content with a life of near-constant firefighting. They are happy if, at the end of the day, they have managed to restore normality.
Too often, these folks give little thought to any kind of ongoing improvement in their operations.
If they can make through the day and make an "adequate" profit--sometimes that means little more than breaking-even these days--these managers and executives are reasonably content.
Sadly, many of these business owners, executives and managers have stopped "dreaming" altogether. For others, their "dreams" have just become very, very small.
Nothing makes me happier in my role as a consultant than to spend two or three days with a small business and be able to leave knowing that I have been able to enlarge their vision and help them dream bigger. But, more importantly, I know that I have left them with tools and new thinking that will help make their dreams happen!
For me, that's what doing business is all about.
Frequently, by applying thinking tools and methods that have emerged from Lean and Theory of Constraints, we have been able to help management teams find "breathing room" through simple changes that can be applied in a day or two, but bring significant relief to undesirable effects (UDEs) with which the firm may have been struggling for years.
This simple relief from the day-to-day time, money and effort expended in firefighting gives the management team the opportunity to finally spend some time thinking about real improvement, not just restoring normality after the latest firestorm. If fact, if we have done our work properly, they will be thinking about how to create a POOGI - a process of ongoing improvement.
And, to tell you the truth, it doesn't really matter if the problem is internal (within the four walls of the firm) or external (in the supply chain), the principles are exactly the same. There's no "cookie-cutter" approach that works for every firm.
What works is helping the management team unlock "tribal knowledge" within their own organization and across their supply chains. Then, taking what they have learned, guiding them to apply what they have learned in the invention of their own solutions.
Yes, Ed Monbourne! We make dreams happen!
But first, sometimes, we just need to help the firms with which we work restore their dreams and recover from the day-to-day nightmare of hellish firefighting.
That's our real calling, isn't it?