Excerpt from “Characters”. Character 23: Courier

Courier sketch resizedI don’t think most small business owners give much thought to how a courier can impact the impression customers have of their business. I didn’t—until a customer made me.

In the early days we used a courier company for local deliveries within about a 150-kilometre radius of one of our warehouses. Each day they’d pick up our parcels in a van and take them back to their warehouse, where they’d be sorted by route and placed on the appropriate van and then delivered the next day. What more could you want from a courier service? Well, there was something that hadn’t crossed my mind until I received a phone call from the owner of one of our bigger customers.

Excerpt from “Characters”. Character 22: Trucker

Trucker sketch resizedIf the driver is a long-haul trucker, the tractor part of the rig will have a sleeper berth (living quarters) complete with bed, fridge, TV, air conditioner, microwave, and other home comforts. I once met a long-haul trucker whose sleeper berth included a bed for the Jack Russell terrier that accompanied him on all his trips. Truckers—men and women alike—tend to be tough, no-nonsense individuals; essential traits for coping with the demands of the job. But they are also highly skilled individuals, as you will know if you’ve ever seen a trucker handling a big rig in heavy traffic or backing up to a loading dock with the precision of a seamstress threading a needle.

My business dealt with truckers extensively for both incoming and outgoing shipments. If—as is often the case—their service is vital to your small business’s operations, manage the relationship carefully. Trucking is a complex business prone to problems that can directly affect your business. When it all runs smoothly and shipments arrive on time and intact, it’s a good day. When urgently required shipments are delayed, go astray, or are damaged, it’s a bad one. Managing the relationship carefully helps to keep this kind of bad day to a minimum.

Excerpt from “Characters”. Character 18: Maintenance Technician

Maintenence Person sketch resizedEmergency maintenance is required when a malfunctioning asset threatens to cause costly damage or impede operations. One good example is a restaurant freezer malfunctioning while stocked with expensive food. Another is something that happened to my business late one winter’s night in Calgary, when the outside temperature hovered around minus thirty-five degrees Celsius. We had to momentarily open the loading dock’s big overhead door, and then it jammed and wouldn’t shut when a spring snapped. Cold air began swirling into the warehouse packed with expensive freeze-sensitive emulsions.

Equipment failures like these happen in spite of routine maintenance programs—it’s just a fact of life that there are no guarantees. However, the impact of an event requiring emergency maintenance can be minimized by a simple measure: a list of emergency contact numbers. Fortunately we had the door maintenance company’s twenty-four-hour emergency number on a sticker right on the door. A hastily assembled wall of cardboard boxes, a cranked-up gas furnace, and the door maintenance person’s prompt response saved the inventory from freezing.

Excerpt from “Characters”. Character 15: Company Clown

Book clown sketch resizedNow, almost four hundred years later, we still discuss and study laughter, not so much to understand its impact on human health (it’s generally accepted to be beneficial), but to understand why it’s beneficial because neuroscientists still aren’t sure what happens in our brains when we laugh.

Regardless of the science behind laughter, I’m an enthusiastic advocate of humour in the workplace. And it’s not just about occasional laughter—it’s much broader than that. It’s about a culture of humour; it’s about creating an atmosphere in which the natural inclination to indulge in humour is encouraged; it’s about balancing fun and profit.