Business lessons I learnt from Granma
My amazing grandmother practiced the principles of quality management as part of her everyday life. Here are four invaluable business lessons I learnt from her.
I have many wonderful memories of my grandmother, her warm hugs in winter, her ability to fully engaged in a conversation while performing complex moves with her knitting needles, her patience when teaching new games, her bravery (no bug was too big!) and finally, her nuggets of advice.
My grandmother was a very smart lady. She left school before the end of primary to start working, but made up for a lack of formal education by garnering a wealth of life experience.
It’s only now, as I look back, that I realise she had been imparting her wisdom over the years without me even realising it.
The circumstances she grew up in – the World Wars and the Depression – shaped her. She followed the principles of Bootstrapping and Lean to make ends meet. In fact, long before Deming’s philosophy about quality management became popular around the world, my grandmother practiced the principles of quality management as part of her everyday life.
"Your business or customers will be sending you signs, big or small… If you’ve received a complaint don't wait until you lose a customer to act."
There’s a lot to be said for sock mending
When I visited Granma it wasn’t unusual to see her mending a sock. While many of us would buy a new pair of socks or wait until the hole was bigger before worrying about it, Granma believed, ‘A stitch in time saves nine’.
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As business owners, there is a lot that we can learn from her sock mending philosophy.
1. Tackle small problems before they become big problems.
Some of the holes my grandmother repaired were tiny.
The lesson here is, don’t wait until you have a significant problem before doing something about it. Your business or customers will be sending you signs, big or small – ignore neither. If you’ve received a complaint don’t wait until you lose a customer to act.
2. Early fixes save you time.
Granma repaired the socks fast. Not long after the needle was threaded, the job was done.
The lesson? When you address a business problem early, you can fix it much faster. Look for these early signs, and a single stitch may be all you need; potentially saving you hours, days or even weeks of repair.
3. Fixes save you money.
As Granma knew, it made good economic sense to fix the sock rather than buy a new pair.
While you may have the resources to fix an issue if it escalates, why waste your hard-earned money on expensive repairs? If you solve problems immediately, you’ll save money in lost productivity, wages or professional fees, as well as in replacing and re-doing.
4. Investing time in mundane tasks reap rewards later.
I’m sure my grandmother would have preferred playing cards to mending socks, but she invested time in it because she knew it was important.
It’s the same in business, implementing systems may seem like a tedious and mundane task, but if you invest in implementing them now, you’ll reap the rewards later.
If you reflect on your own memories of your grandparents, perhaps they too were preparing you for life as an entrepreneur.
What did your grandparents or others teach you as a child? How has it helped your business?