Do you own a small business? And if you do, how often does that small business test you? Well, I love small businesses and have become quite a student of the workings of small businesses; I read about them, develop strategies and plans for my business, and over all find the whole subject very stimulating (it helps that I love printing, graphics and visual stuff in general). So what happens when you loose a key employee for 4 to 6 weeks? If you have read the blog post before this one, you know that Mike Green, our general manager got in a car accident and ended up having neck surgery, which laid him up for 4 to 6 weeks. And I have every sympathy for Mike, I’d rather be scrambling around without a key employee, and doing it on hot coals instead of going through surgery on my neck. Period.
So in case you might be wondering, Mike got his staples out (that’s modern for old fasioned stitches) on Friday 5/21, and is scheduled to be back on Monday, June 7. But what goes on in the machine when a part is missing? It’s been a fairly interesting couple of weeks. It starts with a period of adjustment, which means you try to figure out how to squeeze what that employee did into your day and a few other people’s day. And as you make adjustments to the way you operate you start to learn things about your business. It’s kind of strange, and it’s only been about 3 weeks as I write this, but I’ve really been able to look at the Big Picture of our business. Even though I’m working more hours than usual (kind of like the old days) through this period, I’ve been able to step back and view operations a little more methodically. That probably has to do with the fact that I’m right back in the middle of the mix, seeing how the flow of work really happens (reality, not theory), and seeing a lot of things I just might do differently. Thats where I have to be careful though, because our system works great even with 200 jobs in the mix, it really clicks. I wonder how many times small business owner’s find them selves in the middle of operations saying we could do all of this better if we only….
Part of running a small business is trusting your employees. And we have a great team to trust, the more I listen to them, the more I learn. So in trusting them, I find that most things are done for a reason… probably a good reason not to mess with the process (at least till I have a solid plan). I have learned so much about the inner working of our business over the last 3 weeks, that I’m sure it will lead to some very interesting discussions in future planning meetings. See, the printing business (as well as the whole communications business) is going through some big changes. The digital revolution has turned our industry upside down. So all I’m saying is that as we try to figure out what a print shop like ours will look like in 2013 and 2015, the experience of subbing for key employees will be an invaluable learning tool. It’s a good thing to be on the user side of the estimating and order writing system, opposed to the implementation side (like the guy who purchased it and heard about all these wonderful things it will do).
In the meantime, I never ceased to be amazed; even in the absence of a key employee, the wheels keep turning and incredible stuff keeps rolling out every hour and every day. It’s great to watch your business grow through thick and thin, especially when you get compliments from your customers on a regular basis and your employees like their jobs. It’s a small business and every day is a new adventure, but I don’t think I could do anything else.