Process ain’t sexy, but it’s necessary
Creativity and innovation are ‘hot topics’ right now, and I applaud that. But, in the end, it’s boring, unsexy ‘process’ that actually gets things done. Even ‘creativity’ is often a process. Sometimes it’s just dumb luck or a sudden flash of brilliance but, often, it’s a process.
Most successful companies have developed a disciplined and consistent process that delivers a stream of innovative products, well-trained and highly engaged employees, more efficient operations, consistent quality, employee safety, increased sales and an amazing customer experience.
‘Process’ is what keeps airplanes from falling out of the sky. It’s what makes a Big Mac exactly the same at a McDonald’s in Montreal as it is in Moscow. Process is what gets cars designed, engineered and produced. Process is what allows a hotel chain to know you want a non-smoking room on a low floor, near the elevator, with a king size bed, foam pillows and the Globe & Mail at your door each morning.
In fact, everything that happens between ‘intent’ and ‘delivery’ is process. As a business owner, you can have the best intentions in the world for your customers, your staff, for the environment and for your bottom line. But without clear, effective and well-communicated processes, these wonderful intentions will be just that – intentions.
To quote the late W. E. Deming, the internationally renowned authority on quality and efficiency, “If you can’t describe what you’re doing as a process, you don’t know what you’re doing.”
So, exactly what is a process, anyway? Simply put, a process is:
- An effective and well-communicated sequence of activities,
- Supported by the necessary resources,
- Designed to deliver a consistent, efficient and effective result,
- To a specific standard.
Okay, so it’s not so simple. But that’s what a process is and there are no shortcuts. Re-read the definition above and, while you’re at it, rate your business’ performance, on a scale of one to ten, on each of the four elements. Then, using that information, determine what needs to be done to improve the processes in every part of the business.
Here is something else to think about:
In today’s hyper-competitive world, a retailer has four clear competitive choices. Pick one:
- Offer exclusive or extraordinary products, services or experiences that make it not all about price.
- Make it all about price and then develop the business model and world-class operating efficiency required to win the price war profitably.
- Offer quality products and/or services, be competitively priced (but not necessarily the cheapest) and then out-serve and out-hustle your competition.
- Be mediocre, struggle and fade away.
The Hudson’s Bay Company (HBC) has been caught cheating again. Canada’s oldest retailer, HBC has agreed to pay a $4.5 million penalty to the federal government for false and misleading business practices in which they offered fake deep discounts on mattresses and box springs. (Click here for more.)
This illegal practice is called ‘marking up to mark down’ and it’s been going on for years. Are you playing it straight in your business or are you cutting corners and deceiving customers in any way? If so, stop it! Businesses and brands – including those of independent furniture stores – are built on trust.