As a young child, when asked to clean my room it was not uncommon for me to do the least amount of work and sweep the dirt and dust under the bed or carpet. At first this was a fine solution. I quickly finished the dreaded chore and was back to playing. And then one day my mom looked under the bed. Needless to say, it was a game changer in my home.
Most everyone at some time has either literally or metaphorically swept things under the carpet. You don’t want to deal with a weakness that someone has pointed out to you? Then sweep it under the carpet. Out of sight is out of mind. And initially, this approach works fairly well.
However, as time goes on more dust and dirt gather under the rug and it becomes challenging to continue. Perhaps you must now lift a larger section of the carpet to move the dirt in deeper. And over time funny little bumps and bulges start to give your dirty secret away.
Now I don’t think that anyone would actually sweep the dust and dirt under the carpet on a regular basis. (Maybe once in a while when Aunt Lizzie is coming and you’re in a rush, but not every week.) And yet, small business owners regularly do this when it comes to their organizational weaknesses.
At one time there was a local company that manufactured high quality truck bodies that were light weight and durable. Unfortunately, they were also known for installing wooden floors that did not stand up to the demands that were put on them.
This company, let’s call it Alpha, had four choices:
- Ignore the situation
- Change their business model
- Outsource or partner
- Turn the weakness into a strength.
Alpha stuck to their strategy of ignoring the weakness or sweeping it under the carpet. They marketed on being light weight and durable. When customers complained, they dealt with the complaint, but that is all they did. Not surprisingly, somewhere along the line Alpha disappeared – I assume the company went out of business.
Alternatively, Alpha could have decided to change their business model. Instead of marketing on quality, they could have become the market leader in low cost truck bodies. Profitability could have been enhanced with add-on products like warranties or upgrades that would increase the price and quality at the same time, allowing customers the flexibility of deciding what level of quality and reassurance they wanted in their truck body.
Another potential resolution would have been to outsource installing the wood flooring to a company that excelled in this area. In fact, if this worked well, they could have created a strategic partnership or acquired this company, thus ensuring it as a long term solution.
Finally, Alpha could have focused on their weakness and worked on turning it into a strength. This strategy works best when every employee, customer, and vendor is involved. Working jointly, many different directions could have been explored including:
- Researching what the competition was doing
- Investigating industrial hardwood floor solutions
- Checking out new technology in non-wood floors
- Talking to customers about demands placed on the truck bodies
- Working with vendors and potential vendors to identify other options
What distinguishes the last three approaches from ignoring the situation is that they recognize the weakness and work to eliminate or neutralize it instead of sweeping it under the carpet. Addressing weaknesses is not a negative activity that drains an organization of its energy. Instead, it’s an activity whose sole function is to either make the weakness go away entirely or no longer an issue so you can concentrate on your strengths and dominate your marketplace.
Sweeping weaknesses under the carpet will not make you strong. Sweeping dust under the carpet is fine when you are pressed for time and Aunt Lizzie is due to arrive in five minutes. However, when Aunt Lizzie leaves, it’s time to look for a long term solution like investing in a vacuum cleaner adaptor or dust mop. Or perhaps, even outsourcing the whole issue by hiring a cleaning lady so that you are never again lifting up the corner of the carpet to hide a bit of dust or dirt.
What weaknesses are you hiding under the carpet? What can you do today to find a better solution?
Remember, in the short run, ignoring weaknesses will work. In the long run, it will trip you up every time.
Have a great day!