Too busy mopping to turn off the faucet.

in growth.

The service industry is an interesting place. Perhaps you work for a large service-driven company or perhaps you provide services as a solo entrepreneur. Either way, no doubt that you have put out your share of fires, or mopped up your share of messes.

mopping up the mess

That’s what we do. We clean up messes. And as women, I believe that cleaning up messes is part of our makeup due to how we are raised. It’s more nurture than nature, but serving and cleaning up after someone else (or ourselves) is just what we do.

But if we’re not focused, we’ll spend more time mopping up messes than we do preventing them. Sound process design emphasizes control – how can we keep the same mess from happening twice?

Keep Your Head Up

Being in the weeds in your work requires that you keep your head down and work, work, work, all the time. But you can’t just work, work, work if you want to add control. You must look up – see what is causing the problem, and then devise a plan to address it. This means that you’ve got to learn to how weave process improvement into your day-to-day, “run the business” agenda.

Add Process Controls

Let’s imagine that you manage an email account that customers use to get assistance with one thing or another. After some analysis, you discover

  • 90% of the messages are about the same problem.
  • The problem is one that you cannot address. The customers must contact a different department.
  • It takes 5-10 minutes to come up with the wording to respond to the customers. This usually involves wading through previously sent emails and copy/pasting into the response, changing a few things here and there like the customer’s name.
  • The account is only reviewed 3 times per day, so it’s possible for a customer to have to wait hours for a response only to be told that they need to send the request elsewhere.

There are a few ways to handle this type of issue, but ultimately it comes down to how best to quickly address the customer’s need while saving time and expense on your part. One very viable solution is an auto-responder that lets customers know that you have received their message, and that the account is set up for a specific purpose. If their message does not relate to what the account is for, you will not respond, but explain to them where to send their message so that it gets addressed immediately.

OR, you can do nothing, and continue to waste time and energy responding to 90% of customers in exactly the same way and still not truly solving their problem.

Learn to Look for Improvement Opportunities

In your work, whether employed or self-employed, keeping priorities in mind, always seek the “better” solution. There is ALWAYS a better solution or a way to improve. And most of all, try to keep from limiting yourself to the obvious solution. I like this takeaway from Daily Kaizen


50 percent improvement today is better than perfection sometime in the future.


bizchickblogs food for thought: What was the last thing you complained about with regard to your work, your customers, your marketing, etc.? Is there anything at all that you could do to improve it?

Image credit: Jos Dielis