In Your Business…Do You Cover Cracks or Fix Them?

A neighbor recently had his bare concrete garage floor upgraded with a permanent garage floor covering.  If you’ve ever seen one of these processes, you know that it can cover up a lot of small cracks on the surface of the existing concrete.   However, just because you can no longer see the small cracks, doesn’t mean they aren’t still there.  The process only covers them. 

A few years ago, one of our clients owned a foundation repair company.  You learn a fair amount about the “in the business” part while working “on the business” with a client.  It’s part of the process even if you’re not in the trenches with them.   One of the diagnosing steps of the foundation repair business that stuck with me was the importance of understanding what was going on under the surface that allowed the foundation or concrete to crack or shift in the first place. 

In the case of a garage floor, any small cracks that were covered would eventually expose themselves again it the root of the problem isn’t addressed.  Especially if there are voids under the concrete that need to be filled or some other force is at play causing the subsurface environment under the concrete to be unstable. 

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Covering cracks….the quick fix

Thanks to HGTV and the growth of the house flipping business, the “quick fix” is a challenge for a lot of contractors who provide services that have both an element of what you see and what you don’t in the repair.   A house flipper will often challenge the contractor to simply perform the “quick fix” and cover the crack when the permanent solution is much more involved, but it requires a bigger investment, which they don’t want to make.      

Covering cracks is the quick fix;  the 10 minute solution.  Once it is covered did the crack ever really exist?  In business, this approach is often the case, we are quick to make a change to address a situation, but if it doesn’t really fix the problem, we all know what happens.  We end up “fixing” it again and again and again.  We never really are getting to the root of the problem. What is causing the crack in the first place?

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Fixing Cracks…the bigger investment

It is actually very easy to determine if you have a void under concrete that may be contributing to settling or cracks.  Simply take a baseball bat, metal rod, or wooden pole and tap it on the concrete. If the there is a void, the sound is hollow.  If it is solid underneath the sound is more of deeper thump.  It’s obvious.   If a void is allowing settling or cracks in the concrete, covering it up only makes it look good on the surface – and even then, only for a while. The more permanent fix is going to require filling the void under the concrete – which is a much bigger investment.  An investment some are not willing to make.

Business owners often struggle with the bigger investment as well.   The bigger investment of getting to the root of the problem requires tougher questions and sometimes uncomfortable conversations.  But if you don’t have them the issue or problem is never going to really go away.  Over time, cracks usually don’t get smaller, they get larger.   If there are cracks in your business, you need to be willing to put in the work to figure out what is causing the crack (issue) in the first place.  Until you can answer that question, you’ll constantly be addressing the same issues over and over again. 

There are several different tools you can used to break the cycle of quick fixes with more permanent solutions.  Two of our favorites at Aspire are “The 5 Why’s” credited to Toyota’s Sakichi Toyoda and “The I-D-S (Identify, Discuss, Solve) Method” Gino Wickman introduced in his Traction model.  

The 5 why’s process simply states that the root of the problem is rarely, if ever the first reason given.   By repeatedly asking Why? you will get to the root cause and typically by the time you get to the 5th Why you will discover what the real issue is. 

I-D-S is more of a communication process you can plug the 5 why’s process in to.  Identify the problem, Discuss it (use the 5 Whys to get to a true root cause), and agree on a Solution.  It’s not always easy, but it does work!

What about your business?   On a scale of 1 -10 are you more likely to address issues in your business with quick fixes or more permanent solutions?  Have you ever felt you’ve solved a problem with a permanent solution, only to find out you never really got to the root of the problem?   Do you have a favorite tool your company uses to get to the root of problems?

As for my neighbor I really hope they enjoy their new garage floor for years to come.  The finished garage floors really do look great! As always, we value any comments in the space below.  

Chris Steinlage Kansas City Business Coach

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