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What can carpet cleaners learn from Honda?

attain-carpet-cleaning-management-perfectionEven with all the “blood on the tracks” in the auto industry in the last decade one auto maker has emerged with it’s reputation for quality largely unscathed- Honda!  Yet, several years ago Honda’s former president, Nobuhiko Kawamoto, called the automaker “inferior” and “headed downhill”.

Why, you might ask, would Kawamoto level such harsh criticism on a company that has always had and is still enjoying such unprecedented success?

I think it’s for the same reason that football coaches berate their players for missing tackles—even when their teams have commanding leads late in the game.  It’s for the same reason that symphony conductors continue to drill their orchestras—even when the audience gave them a standing ovation the night before.  And it’s the same reason successful business owners continue to investigate and correct flaws in their companies—even as they are enjoying great success.

It’s because they know that any weaknesses in their processes today (the things that made them successful) can threaten the success of their organizations tomorrow.  They understand the importance of executing their processes flawlessly—even when things are going great in their businesses, and they seem to be way ahead in the game.

In his book Good To Great, author Jim Collins states “Each piece of the system reinforces the other parts of the system to form an integrated whole that is much more powerful than the sum of the parts.”  Therefore, a weakness in, or a threat to, any piece of the system compromises the performance of the integrated whole (your company).

I always encourage my clients to have a continuing process of drafting their Business Strategic Plan by constantly asking “What are the “Threats” to my company”?   By looking beneath the surface of your day-to-day activities, you can identify the weaknesses in your processes that pose a threat to your company.  By identifying these threats early enough you can resolve them while they’re still small, inexpensive and easy to fix.

If one of your customers isn’t delighted with your service it is a no-brainer to need to make things right with her.  However, even more importantly you also need to dig into what went wrong to cause this outcome in the first place, and make corrections to the process so it doesn’t happen again.

In fact, in our Strategies for Success seminar Steve Toburen recalls that he never minded a complaint ONE time.  After all, a complaint is just a wake-up call to fix the process.  But it drove him to distraction to keep getting sand-bagged with the same exact problem again and again and again without ever DOING anything to change it!

For example, when service equipment or vehicles break down on the job obviously you  need to get them fixed.  But, you also need to dig deeper into your maintenance procedures to find out WHY they failed on the job AND how you can prevent this particular problem from ever happening again!

Nobuhiko Kawamoto understood how important it is to ruthlessly seek out threats to Honda’s systems and correct them at once.  We need to develop the same practice with our own companies.  This way maybe someday we’ll be minting profits and Customer Cheerleaders just like Honda!

Chuck Violand (more about Chuck)
SFS Instructor
CEO Violand Management Associates

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