I bought a used truck a few years back. Sadly, I bought it just before I got a new job which involved a 30-mile commute each day, but I like my truck. I added a quality radio and even included a back up camera so I could remain safe in reverse. Over the last few years, my truck has been very good to me. Of course it has had the occasional urgent need, but most often, it’s been extremely reliable.
About a month ago, I had it inspected. Because I had recently purchased tires, it passed. A few days following the inspection, I got some warning lights on my dash. First it said “Slip”. Of course I had no idea what that meant, but it turned out to indicate that the automatic traction control was engaged (or not engaged, something like that). This light was yellow, and in my experience yellow is a cautionary indicator – certainly not urgent. When the red “Brake” light came on the next day, I got a bit more concerned, and called my favorite mechanic.
I will mention that this blog could easily be about small town Maine customer service because I have found a mechanic that is honest and reasonable with their rates. But it’s not about that. The mechanic got me in the next morning and the prognosis wasn’t bad at all. The truck was low on brake fluid. They topped it off, easy fix.
A week later, the lights came back on. Knowing what I know about cars, which is not much, I concluded that I was low on brake fluid again. The next logical conclusion was that there must be a leak somewhere in the brake system. I came to this realization while driving down the highway with my wife. She of course saw this as a much more urgent issue than I did and implored me to get it fixed right away. I, of course, told her I would. After dropping her off, I stopped at a gas station and bought some brake fluid. I filled the truck up and the lights went out! So I kept my promise to my lovely wife, and my truck is fixed.
Now we all know that just because the indicator lights have gone out doesn’t mean my truck is fixed, but for some reason, I know I will keep driving it until the problem gets worse and the lights come back on. Knowing that a simple refill of the fluid makes them go out again probably means that I will refill the fluid several times until I finally give in and take it back to the shop.
In business we have indicators as well. We have a bad quarter of sales, we have an increase in costs from our supplier, we have an additional, unexpected expense or even an employee whose work habits have slipped. We handle those and make sure the bottom line is good but do we ever look at what the indicator means? It’s far too easy to be optimistic and ignore bad signs in favor of the good ones. If it’s all working okay, why change anything?
I certainly don’t believe my brakes will suddenly fail any more than you believe your business is going to be bankrupt overnight, but that’s not really the risk is it? The risk is in avoiding these warnings and sitting idly by as the problem increases in severity. At some point, the major repair needed is too costly and could have a lasting impact on your ability to make a profit.
This afternoon, I am taking my truck to the shop to have them check for leaks. I encourage you to take some time to look over your business carefully and see if you are ignoring any troubling indicators. I’d be happy to help give your business a tune up – just call.