Business Assets

Written by Joe Driscoll

November 22, 2009

Business are built on a base of assets; cash, receivables, inventories, patents, trademarks, equipment, and real estate. But in the final analysis, “business is people.” Regardless of the level of investment in all your other assets, it’s your people who will ultimately determine the performance of your business.

I was in the parts/service area of an auto dealership recently. The service managers was completing a job estimate for another customer who had phoned in a request. One of the employees of the parts department was standing near by. He was leaning back against a desk with his arms crossed in front of his chest. His bearing lead me to believe that he held a responsible position, perhaps he was the parts manager.

The service manager turned from his desk and extended some paperwork in the direction of the parts department employee and said, “I’ll need an estimate on these parts to complete this job.”

The parts manager remained fixed with crossed arms as he turned his head to look at the clock on the wall which read 4:45 PM. He then smirked and replied, “It’ll have to be tomorrow, its five o’clock and we’re closed.” Someone in the background said that tomorrow was Saturday. He shirked his shoulders and said, “I guess it’ll be Monday then.”

The story sounds a bit dramatic, but I’m afraid its an altogether too commonplace occurrence. With all the time, effort, and money that has been spent by American industry, particularly the automobile industry, to improve customer service and productivity, this is a good reminder that money doesn’t solve problems, people do!

That same week I went to the movies with one of my daughters. The movie that we wanted to see was playing at one of those new theaters that really is several little theaters combined. After a brief wait in line, it was our turn to buy our tickets.

I asked for two tickets to the movie we had chosen. The ticket vendor politely replied that there were only front row seats remaining for the seven o’clock show. Front row seats in a movie theater are not such a good deal. We were about to leave, but made a last minute decision to buy tickets to one of the other movies that was scheduled to begin at about the same time.

As we proceeded to our show, I stuck my head into the door for the movie that we had been told there were only front row seats remaining. The theater was half empty!

I’m certain that the ticket sales person hadn’t intentionally mislead us, but the result of that misinformation was almost a lost sale. How many others in that line decided to walk away?

Another example. I was recently in a well known restaurant for dinner with my family. One of my children asked the waitress for directions to the rest rooms. A puzzled look came over her face and she said she wasn’t sure where they were either. I should have gotten up and left right then!

The waitress was more than pleasant and was embarrassed as she explained that she was new on the job. What kind of managers were responsible for putting a new employee in a situation like that? While you might disregard this as a poorly managed establishment, I suggest that the situation repeats itself all too frequently throughout business and industry. This was not an otherwise poorly run business.

Why do some employees quit at 4:45 on Friday afternoon why others remain on the job, sometimes long after closing time, until they’ve met all their responsibilities? Do you suppose that ticket sales person would have passed on that erroneous information if her income was dependent on how many tickets she sold that evening? Is it fair for an employer to send an employee out to do a job without first training them properly.

As you ponder your assets and liabilities at the start of this new year, determine on which side of the balance sheet your human resources are. In the final analysis, “business is people”. They can make you or break you. You get to make the decision!

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