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Don’t forget to check your oil…

July 13, 2014

My dad grew up on a cotton farm learning to drive and maintain farm machinery.  When his dad retired from farming during my dad’s high school years, he moved the family into town.  Dad went to work in an automotive repair shop across the alley from his home.  It was from his farm experience and his work in the repair shop that he learned the importance of properly maintaining engines.  It was something that he worked to instill in his children.

Before I ever received my driver’s license, I knew how to check the oil and other fluids in our family car.  I learned how to change a flat too.  After getting my license and taking possession of a family car as “my” car, dad would periodically ask me if I had checked the oil.  He knew and taught me that an engine needs oil and it needs new oil and filters periodically or the engine will be ruined.  Even after I bought my first car and started college, he would ask, “Have you checked the oil?”  He was especially inquisitive of this if I was about to leave town to return to college or take trip with friends.  Naturally, this eventually became irritating to a teenager and eventual young man. 

It would be some time before I realized that he was teaching me more than just to properly care for an engine.  He was also teaching me a life lesson.  In order for an engine to function properly and have all the moving parts last for their expected life, an engine needs lubricant and it needs clean lubricant.  Therefore, maintaining the proper level and changing the oil and filter periodically is a must.  In life, we must periodically pause and check the moving parts to see that we taking care of our relationships and ourselves.

In business, we must pause to look at the parts of our business to make sure that we are properly maintaining it.  That comes in several “service checks”.  We need to check our employee-employer relationship periodically.  Are providing a safe environment for them to work?  Are we adequately compensating them through pay and/or benefits?  Are we providing our employees feedback on their performance both casually and routinely?

At least monthly, we need to look at our financials.  We have obligations to our lenders, investors, vendors, and employees to make sure that we, and everyone employed by us, are working to be fiscally responsible and profitable.  Are we minimizing cost and maximizing profits?

Well run businesses are often referred to as “operating like a well-oiled machine”.  Such businesses have processes in place to make sure that all moving parts move easily and without undue friction.  They have leaders that frequently “check the oil” and evaluate engine performance.  As such, they are able to make fine tuning adjustments and keep the business moving forward.  When they aren’t providing proper care, the business “blows its engine” and comes to a stop.

So, have you checked your oil lately?