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Very Superstitious

(September 2011) posted on Wed Sep 07, 2011

Problems with letting superstitions into the workplace.

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By Craig Miller

When we think of superstitious behavior, we tend to imagine actions like avoiding the 13th floor of a hotel, refusing to walk under a ladder, or stressing for seven years over the mirror you carelessly broke. We are business people. We live in a fact-based world. We make business decisions and formulate business practices based on real-life experience, reason, and knowledge. For the most part, I would say we do, in fact, base our business operations on reality and truth, void of superstition.

It’s also true, however, that most of us are occasionally guilty of letting superstition rear its ugly head within our business strategies. Superstitions negatively influence our behavior and company practices and erode our ability to think rationally. Worse, we’re rarely aware of these misapprehensions and when our illogical behavior is pointed out, we continue to defend our superstitious decision making to be rationally conceived and true.

Many irrational ideas have been with us for centuries and involve a thought construct, religion, or philosophy no longer in vogue. What interests me most, though, are the superstitions originated by employees, colleagues, vendors, and customers. The superstitions cause damaging consequences that wreak havoc in our companies’ effectiveness and profitability. Here, I’ll describe two examples – one involving my personal superstition, the other involving superstitions of my employees.

Conquering irrational fear
As we all know, large- and grand-format digital printing is a very competitive business. Many variables must come into alignment for us to land and retain clients: price, quality, variety, expediency, and service to name just some of the most common factors. If we intentionally or accidentally do something a client doesn’t like, we fear they’ll punish us by taking their business to a competitor. One of the first, and perhaps the most never-wrenching, interactions we have with a new client is offering them a quote. In the quote, we must balance competitive pressure with a desire for profitability. I was a firm believer that competitive payment terms were a very important element in ensuring a successful conclusion to this interaction.