By Tom Grandy, Founder
I am now in my 76th year of life. At this point I am relatively set on what I like to eat and what I am not interested in eating. When it comes to jelly for my toast, grape is my favorite followed by red raspberry (with seeds) and apple.
A few weeks ago, some friends of ours returned from a trip and blessed us with a variety of homemade jams they had purchased. One of those jars was Strawberry Rhubarb jam. We valued their friendship, therefore, we thanked them for thinking of us through the gift they had purchased. However, my thoughts were not as pure. I was actually thinking “Why would anyone produce, much less sell, Strawberry Rhubarb jam? Furthermore, why would our good friends actually purchase it as a gift? I could tolerate, and perhaps even enjoy strawberry, but Rhubarb! Who even eats rhubarb and even if they did, why would they put it in jam?”. The jar was set aside and I reverted to my usual grape in the refrigerator.
About a week ago my grape jelly jar was empty, and my loving wife of 53 years placed the gifted jar of Strawberry Rhubarb jam on the table. I like strawberries but even the idea of rhubarb repelled me. As a side note, I really don’t know if I have ever actually tasted rhubarb before, but I know what it looks like and I was pretty confident that if I had eaten it, it would taste terrible. The idea of putting jam on my toast that contained strawberries and rhubarb sounded nauseating. However, in order to avoid an awkward conversation, I put at little on my toast, pretty much without comment.
My first thought, after having taken a bite of toast with strawberry rhubarb jam on it, was that the jar had obviously been mislabeled. Why? Because it tasted good, really good! Upon closer observation it seems the label was correct; it WAS strawberry rhubarb jam! It tasted great!!! The jar is now nearly empty.
My thoughts then turned into a question. “What would my reaction have been if there were no labels on the jar and I just tried the contents? How many foods (or business ideas) had I missed in the past just because they didn’t sound good.”
Growing up I didn’t eat potato salad for the same reason. It didn’t sound good. When my mom came to visit, she asked my wife how she was able to get me to eat potato salad. Her response was “I just put it on his plate, and he ate it.” It was our first year of marriage, so I ate what my new wife put on my plate. Bingo, I liked it!
So, what’s the point? As a business owner, how many new ideas have we not implemented because they didn’t sound good. How many suggestions have we heard about at seminars, webinars, conferences or even read about that we never implemented because they didn’t sound good.
I want to challenge you to do one of the following, or perhaps both:
- Company Meeting with All Employees – More than likely your employees have some amazing ideas when it comes to improving customer service, efficiency or even profitability. Consider having a dinner meeting and ask employees for suggestions for improving the efficiency of the company or maybe overall working conditions. What new benefits might be implemented that would boost morale? Listen to their comments and then try a few. If they work great. If not, nothing really lost.
- Suggestion System – This is similar to a company meeting but is simply a way for employees to make suggestions “as they think of them”. Place a box on the wall labeled Suggestions. Have paper and pencil nearby. Routinely check the box and read the suggestions. If possible, talk with the person that wrote the suggestion to gain additional insight into their thinking.
Employees work in their respective areas every day of the week. Many have great ideas for improvement, however, if no one asks them, they go unutilized!
Also, keep in mind there is a basic principle that always works. “Reward behavior you want repeated.” If you can work a reward system into the dinner and/or suggestion program an amazing thing will begin to happen. More ideas will be submitted. Don’t ignore any idea without some serious thought. You might find out it’s like strawberry rhubarb jam, it might be really good.
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