Hard vs Lazy Work

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Hard Work – The Flintstones

October 2017 – Three months post acquisition  

7:20am – I jump into the truck headed for another unpredictable day. 

I follow the route of customer visits I created the night before. Five stops today. Two quality inspections, Two pissed off customers and One happy customer.

I jump back into the truck between stops, take notes. Call the office to ask questions about findings from each visit.

I route myself to the next customer stop, making a pit stop at a subway where I was accumulating rewards. 

I return missed calls from the office in between stops. Most of those calls were about money (No CFO at the time) and resolving to time sensitive customer issues that had escalated.

 2:00 pm – I arrive back at the office. The line outside my door is six deep as usual.

The issues spanned the spectrum from trivial to “house on fire.”

First up, a technician wanting to complain – in Spanish – to “the owner” (me) about how mad he is about a word that a supervisor used that he (the supervisor) didn’t even realize was offensive (Spanish dialect issues).  I was the new owner. How I handled this would reverberate within the technician ranks. 

Last up, My most experienced Field supervisor wants to talk. I am being held up again: He wants another raise. This time its 20% He knows he has leverage. He’s got tons of tribal knowledge stored in his head. If he left today, picking up the pieces would take months.

5:00pm – I emerge from these conversations feeling like a cow who just had its teats sucked dry by 6 babies. I am tired, hungry and drained. Now, we begin the manual paper based dispatching puzzle for tomorrow’s schedule. 

I emerge from these conversations feeling like a cow who just had its teats sucked dry by six calves.

7:30 pm – I’m in the truck headed home. Listen to a podcast about the NBA on the drive. Get home, Dinner, time with Julie and the boys. 

9:30pm – Fire the computer up.

I finish working on the job description for field supervisor. Post on Indeed.

I switch to lighter work: A demo of one of the dispatching software solutions I had on my shortlist.

12:30am – Go to bed. Do it all over again the next day, and for the next fourteen months.

THE JETSONS, Jane, Judy, Astro, Elroy & George Jetson, 1962-87

Lazy Work – The Jetsons

November 2018 – A whole new world starts to emerge: The need for “thought work” otherwise known as Strategic Thinking.

  • Dallas is an interesting market. How do we enter it?
  • How do we smooth out the seasonality curve? 
  • How do I transition my current customers from repeat to recurring?

Rookie Take

There has been a steady evolution from how I had to spend my time to how I chose to spend my time. There has also been a corresponding correlation between my activity set and the trajectory of the business.

The Flintstones traveled between cities but the Jetsons traveled between planets. Transitioning from “hard” (tactical) work to “lazy” (strategic) work has allowed us to experience the latter phenomenon. 

Roomination

Earn the right to work on million dollar problems.

I worked as a consultant for a short time. Management Consultants are some of the smartest people I know.  I wasn’t very good at that job, in part because I am not close to being one of the smartest people I know. With that said,  one of the things I struggled with as a consultant was that I felt like some of our solutions to the client’s problems were not practical. For me the best solutions come out of lived experiences. Those experiences can be tough and seem futile in the moment, but out of them can come creative, practical solutions that can transform the trajectory of an organization. We’ve certainly seen that in our business.    

Hire great people to work on the thousand dollar problems

Someone’s got to fill in the gaps that you leave as you go to solve the larger problems. In order to do that, I had to be willing to cede control to others even when it didn’t feel totally safe to do so. This is something I am still working on. One of the strategies here is to create clear templates for people to follow and have regular check-ins especially early on about their adherence to those templates.

Keep your million dollar problem solving time Sacred

It is incredibly easy to be pulled into the muck and mire at a small company like ours. So it is important to purposefully dedicate time to work on strategy. Our business is seasonal. Beginning around thanksgiving, our order volume decreases. Correspondingly, I reduce the number of operational meetings I am a part of during these periods. The team gets to flex their leadership muscles, while I work on things that will hopefully enable us to travel between planets (Jetsons) vs between cities (Flintstones).

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