Growing up in a rural setting, I was a sponge for local idioms and colloquialisms. These “folksy” sayings were usually a treasure-trove of wisdom, and I’ve always been pleasantly surprised at how many of them could successfully be applied to the business world.
“It ain’t eating no hay.”
My dad used this phrase when discussing an upcoming project. Part of me reveled in its deliberately atrocious grammar that smacked of nails on a chalkboard. Dad was right. If a project wasn’t “eating hay,” or costing me something to leave things alone, my time was better spent tackling another item on my to-do list. In the world of business, there is seldom a shortage of things needing our attention. Prioritization of projects is key.
“An ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure.”
This one, attributed to Ben Franklin, may not be all that folksy, as ol’ Ben was quite the urbanite. Still, the message holds true in most business situations. When he coined the phrase, Franklin was talking about safety, and in the electric industry, the phrase runs doubly true! When a faulty bit of safety gear or a lapse in concentration can mean death, those few precious minutes we spend doing a hazard analysis before each job are worth their weight in gold. By focusing on safety training for a few hours a month, we hope to prevent a lifetime of pain and suffering.
“The squeaky wheel gets the grease.”
One that seems to have deviated from its roots is “the squeaky wheel gets the grease.” Some folks make it sound like a negative statement – complain until the situation is resolved to your liking. After being in the electric industry for nearly 20 years, I hear “The squeaky wheel is the wheel that NEEDS grease.” That squeak is our warning sign. If we ignore that warning (or if we never receive the warning at all!), something bad is going to happen. I’m thankful for the squeak. The squeak is our signal to apply that ounce of prevention!
“Not that different is not that bad. Very different is very bad.”
This little bit of wisdom is courtesy of yours truly in his college days. Change is a necessity in business. “Change or die,” as journalist Alan Deutschman wrote. But change has to come at a pace that allows everyone to adapt. Change too much, too quickly, and you can leave your employees behind you, along with the other people who need to give their “buy-in.” It’s not an individual race. You all cross the finish line together. So make you bring everyone along at the same pace.
Or else you might find you’ve bitten off more than you can chew.
Shane Smith is the manager of operations and engineering for REMC.