Don't Loss Sight of the Fundamentals

Early in the morning of September 7, 2019 the Golden Ray, a massive car transport ship – 2 football fields long and 17 stories tall, departed the Port of Brunswick, Georgia. The Golden Ray was continuing its journey to deliver over 4,200 trucks and cars to the Middle East. Before departing 285 Hyundai Accents and Kia Fortes were unloaded from two decks and 335 Kia Tellurides were loaded onto three decks. The additional cars added 411 tons of weighThe morning was mild and waters were calm.

At 12:45 am the harbor pilot guided the Golden Ray out into the channel. At one point the narrow shipping channel bends to the right, but when the harbor pilot tried to turn the floating parking lot, the ship didn’t turn. He continued attempting to turn, but suddenly the Golden Ray turned over on its side.

The ship can’t be refloated, so crews are slowly cutting the ship into huge sections, which loaded onto tug boats and floated to a recycling site. Demotion work continues 19 months after the accident. Claims are expected to top $400 million.

 It appears two fundamental mistakes caused this tragedy. First, prior to arriving at the Port of Brunswick 1645 tons of ballast water was discharged from the Golden Ray. Secondly, the additional vehicles weighed more than the cars unloaded and were loaded on three decks vs. the two vacated by the offloaded cars. End result, it appears the ship was top-heavy.

 It’s not the first time failing to adhere to fundamentals has been costly to a business. It’s not uncommon for leaders to become so busy doing busy work that they lose sight of key factors that can sink (sorry for the play on words) their businesses.

 My guess is that no one noticed that the heavy trucks were placed on higher decks than the offloaded cars. Nor, did anyone recognize the impact of the ballastdischarge with the heavier load until it was too late. If the captain recognized the problem presumably the Golden Ray would never have set sail before correcting the fundamental errors.

 You may think that something like that could never happen to your business, but I caution you that taking your eye off the fundamentals can be costly for any business. For example, are you monitoring the experiences customers have with your business? Are you assuming that since you’re not hearing any complaints that your customers must be happy?

 Remember the last time you visited a restaurant expecting a fabulous meal and came away disappointed with the meal quality or the service. Did you speak to the owner to pass along your negative experience? Did you go back to that restaurant? Most people don’t. So, the owner doesn’t realize that he/she has a problem unless he/she actively solicits comments.

 Are you actively surveying your customers as to their experience with your business?

 What about taking care of your employees. How much time do you spend with them understanding their goals, actively working to help them achieve what they want? How much decision making have your appropriately delegated? Have you created processes throughout your business to standardize the routine tasks to reduce employee frustration and increase operational efficiency? Do you deal with employee issues when first made aware of them? Or, do you assume that things will get better?

 Perhaps you think that marketing doesn’t work because your phone isn’t ringing enough. Yet, you may never have looked at your competitors’ websites to see what they are and are not offering. Have you seriously examined what makes your business different than your competitors? Or, perhaps you’ve been too busy to completely analyze which markets best lend themselves to your business so you market to everyone, which results in broad generalized messages rather than specific messages addressing the needs of specific target markets.

 Lastly, have you taken the time to understand your financials. You started or bought your business. but you may not know how to read your financial statements. You use your checking account balance as the barometer of how well your business is doing. There is nothing more fundamental to running a successful business than accurately knowing how your business is doing. I don’t consider judging performance based on bank balances to be a valid assessment.

 These are a couple examples of where business owners lose sight of the fundamentals. Presumably because they think their busy-ness is more important than the details of basics. The fundamentals aren’t fancy and many owners who have been running their businesses for years may think that their knowledge and skill level is well past the basics.

 In 1961 36 members of the Green Bay Packers football team began training camp looking to take out their anger for losing the NFL Championship game to the Philadelphia Eagle in December of 1960. Vince Lombardi, one of the greatest football coaches of all time, called the players over to him and held up a football and said “Gentlemen, this is a football.” The point being that he was going to demand that his players start at the beginning and focus on the fundamentals of the game. Not surprisingly, the Packers finished the 1961 season 11-3 and won the NFL Championship. They FOCUSED ON THE FUNDAMENTALS.

 John Wooden, coach of the UCLA basketball teams that dominated college basketball in the late 1960 and 1970 won ten national championships in twelve years.  He also was a stickler for teaching the fundamentals. It’s the focus on fundamentals that contributed to his teams being so dominant.

 Final Word:  Don’t lose sight of the fundamentals of your business. Take the time to examine all phases of your business and install processes so that it’s impossible to incorrectly load you ship.

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