Street Cleaner: A Job More Important Than CEO

By Beacon Staff

Imagine that your attention to quality is so weak that you could make enough bad product today (or next week) to actually kill your company.Who was monitoring their sanitation processes, other than the understaffed, seemingly incoherent USDA, who actually thought about it for a few days before asking for the recall, for reasons that none of us will ever really know (ie: politics).

The thing is, this sort of stuff seems normal to some meat plants. Our domestic beef industry routinely gets banned, unbanned and banned again in other countries because we stick stuff in a box that says “no bones” and someone will open a crate overseas and find bone marrow, bone pieces, BSE lab samples, or Jimmy Hoffa.

Ok, you got me, I made that last one up:)

Did you know that the plant that produces more hamburger patties than any other plant in the US has just one USDA inspector on the site? Yep, the same Topps Meat plant that is now closed.

So how do you make 331 thousand pounds of bad hamburgers? By not managing “the little things”.

By now, you are undoubtedly wondering what this has to do with your software company, car wash, restaurant (sort of), retail store, or outdoor power equipment store. Or whatever you do.

It all comes down to your management, of yourself or your staff. Your understanding that the “little guy’s job” is more important than the CEO’s job.

You have to impress upon the street cleaner that their job is important, even if they don’t think it is and your city appears to prove it by paying the street guy $9.50 an hour.

No, cleaner streets aren’t going to bring the troops home, make Britney a good parent, bring back the glaciers, balance the budget, or eliminate obesity. On the other hand, the street cleaner’s job might keep a car from hitting a piece of metal, blowing a tire, veering off the road and running over your neighbor’s seven year old while they ride their new bike down the sidewalk.

That’s pretty important, don’t you think?

Look around and you’ll see plenty of “unimportant jobs” that are critical to the success of their organization, yet the people doing them are barely managed, their performance often unmonitored and definitely unmeasured. And those folks quite often care deeply about what they do, despite being treated like crap.

A friend of mine is a cook at Columbia Falls High School (reality: she’s a black belt kitchen master). Most folks have no idea how hard it is to cook 2 meals a day for 1200 people in a space smaller than the size of your garage – much less serve, clean it up for tomorrow, plan for next week, order the supplies and maintain the equipment. Is that job important? Think so.

The next time you hire someone to do what you feel is an unimportant job, or you take what you think is an unimportant job, think a little harder about the impact that job has.

How important was the job of the Topps Meat quality control people who missed whatever tainted 331 thousand pounds of their burger?

Apparently it was important enough to kill a 67 year old company and instantly put 77 people out of work (10 more it’s all over).

The little things, like sand in a wheel bearing, will tear your company apart and send your customers running to your competition. Customers notice the little stuff and they’ll wonder – if the little stuff is messed up, how good are you at the big stuff?

Do the “little things” right and take good care of the people who do them. They hold your company – and your customers – in the palm of their hand.

And by the way…Happy Halloween. Burgers tonight for dinner?

Want to learn more about Mark or ask him to write about a business or marketing problem? See Mark’s site or contact him at [email protected].