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Good Habits

Aug 10th, 2012 | By | Category: Nick Kemper's Blog

Developing a good habit is an efficient way of simplifying your life. If you can get your employees to develop the proper routines for their work — drivers checking in, doing pre-trip truck inspections, organizing their equipment, dispatchers answering the phone with the proper greeting, entering data in the proper fashion, following dispatching protocols — you can hone your operation into a machine.

When I drove an impound truck for a living, one of my co-workers called me “The Machine” and I took it as a compliment. There are times when you don’t want to be like a machine, such as when you are interacting with people, but if you complete your hook-up procedure like a machine — automatic, quick, no mistakes — it gives you the time to be creative when you’re playing practical jokes on people you work with. I’ve written before about my Catch-21 Program, named in homage to a former employee who kept bemoaning all of the “Catch-20s” in his life, and in relation to the theory that behavior repeated for 21 days becomes a habit. I used it to help employees who were “forgetting” to do their job. If they “forgot” to lock up an impounded vehicle when they unhooked it in the storage lot, they would be assigned to check all vehicles in the lot for their next 21 work shifts. If they “forgot” to do that, the 21 days would start over.

I also used the Catch-21 Program for paperwork training. We ran a variety of calls: private property impounds, police impounds, commercial tows, donated vehicle tows, city abandon tows. I would print out call information from our software program, give the trainee photocopies of blank invoices and have them complete 21 of each type of tow. If they didn’t look good, they’d keep doing sets of 21 until they did.

I recently became frustrated with all of the calendar items I had in my phone and decided to start numbering them day-by-day. Daily items went up one every day, so I knew how many days in a row I had completed the task. Items that were on the calendar on weekdays only would go up one every weekday. The idea was that when I got to 21, I wouldn’t have to refer to the calendar anymore to remember to do it. It didn’t work. I think I was developing the habit of remembering to look at my calendar, not to remember to do the activity itself.

There’s a fine line between success and failure in this Machine business. Coaching my son’s baseball team, we’re trying to develop the right habits in 8- to 10-year-olds. Yikes. We’ve almost got them to automatically store their helmets in the right place in the dugout. Knowing when to cut off the throw from the outfield might take a few more practices.

In business, you want to develop habits in your customers. When someone’s car breaks down, you want it to be automatic — they call you to take care of it. No thought, no shopping around, no indecision — just call you. We want the same thing from you. You need a part, you call us. No thought, no shopping around, no indecision. We don’t have the resources to invest in advanced analytics and web applications that follow you around with emails and texts if you ever do a web search for “ratchet.” Our habit is pretty simple: The Right Part — The Right Price — Right Now. We hit our mark most of the time, I think.

Have a safe and profitable week.

Nick Kemper