Holes in My Sweater…And Your Business

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During the week between Christmas and New Year’s I went to Lord and Taylor to check out the sales. I hit the jackpot with a great Nic and Zoe (one of my favorite brands) sweater on the sale rack with an additional 25% off.

I snatched it up and wore it on New Year’s Eve. About 15 minutes into my evening I realized there was a large hole in the sleeve. Ouch! I took it off and returned a few days later to see if they could find another one for me at a different store.

The sales person apologized and processed the return. She then handed me off to two sales ladies to help me find a replacement.

Good news! There was a replacement in the system and with a few quick details, my new sweater was on its way to me.

The Lord and Taylor box arrived last night and I opened it today. I pulled out the sweater and held it up. I noticed there were no tags on it – that seemed a little strange.

I put my hand in the sleeve and sure enough, there was the hole. They had sent me my own damaged sweater!

I can imagine what happened.

The ladies who were helping me put the sweater somewhere in “the back.” The computer “looked” for a sweater at the store closest to me and found the one I had returned moments before. When the person responsible for fulfilling the order happened to find the sweater, they neatly folded it and sent it off.

As ridiculous as this is, I’m sure similar mistakes happen in small businesses all the time. And it’s all because no one is taking a mile-high view of basic processes.

In the case of Lord and Taylor, there should be a place for damaged merchandise and a process to remove it from the inventory system.

In the world of solo professionals and small businesses, I ask you to consider these questions regarding your back-office operations:

1. How many times do you search for a file in an email instead of downloading it to the proper folder on your computer when it arrives?

2. Do you keep all your notes in one organized centralized place? Or, do you have scraps of paper and note cards all over your desk?

3. When it’s time to make a phone call, are you scrambling to find the number? Or, do you have a contact manager for quick access to phone numbers?

4. When you sit down at your desk each day, do you know which task to tackle first? Or, do you bounce from client to client, always reacting?

5. Do you have the tools of your trade that you need? Or, are you always making do?

When you (and I) work alone, it’s easy to develop our own quirky systems. We think our work is “different” and assume that a new process or method will not only be uncomfortable, but will make things harder. Nothing could be further from the truth.

Chances are, the fundamentals of your business operations are not that different from thousands of other solos and small businesses. There is much more discomfort, wasted time and wasted money when efficient systems are not in place.

Use these five key questions to modify your processes key and watch how much more efficient – and enjoyable – your days become!

  1. lynne dominick

    I love this Belinda!
    I am sure this is exactly what happened, but the analogy you make to business owners and the recommendation on what we can do to narrow the possibility of it happening again is extremely valuable.

    Thank you!


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