Your Business as a Ceiling Fan

My daughter and I were having a pillow fight in her bedroom. We got carried away and thwack! A pillow whacks the ceiling fan. Cuh-thunk cuh-thunk cuh-thunk. Now the ceiling fan, a four blade, has one blade twisted and bent. Here’s the thing: no matter how hard you try, you can’t get it back in balance.

The Errant Assumption

While on the phone the next day with a frustrated salesperson, she was lamenting the lack of respect between sales and the line workers. They rely on each other, but her sales manager keeps alienating the line workers with comments like “without us you wouldn’t have a job.” Then my daughters ceiling fan started spinning in my head – Cuh-thunk cuh-thunk cuh-thunk. I couldn’t help but think of the business as a ceiling fan.

When it’s aligned and well lubricated, the fan is working to be cool to as many customers as possible, to generate revenue, to be a part of the community. And each of the four blades is instrumental and interdependent to the others in making the breeze, in moving customers, in moving other business partners, with making one more revolution. In short, if one of those things is missing, the fans wobbles out of control and will disintegrate, hurting people in the process.

The blades

Look at each blade as one of four essential components of the business: line workers (those that make and ship what you’re selling), sales, maintenance, and engineering/R and D. The fifth element required, of course, is the motor/housing. That would be the office staff. More on them in moment.

The blades: Maintenance

Consider each of the four blades: We’ll start with maintenance. These are the people who get and keep the business working. From office cleaning to machine repair, they provide essential duties so others may do their job. The maintenance staff provides the infrastructure through which the business can operate, making it possible for the other blades and fan housing to do their jobs and collect a paycheck.

The blades: Line Workers

Another blade is dedicated to the line workers and shipping staff. These are the employees that build the product the sales staff sells to clients. That can make appliances, collect and deliver TV News and radio entertainment, they can stock shelves, print your pamphets, build your website, cook your food, bring it to your table or home, and hundreds of other jobs. These are the people that pull the all-nighters or wake up in the dark or miss their kids events ’cause someone has to be on duty.  These are the people that make it possible for the other blades and fan housing to do their jobs and collect a paycheck.

The blades: Sellers

One of the blades has to be the sales and marketing staff. Zig Ziglar claims there is nothing without sales. Ziglar’s declaration is incomplete. Without a product, sales is nothing. So sales needs the line workers to generate the product, and the line workers need sales to hit the street and handle rejection. Sales is a bitch. It takes a special breed, just as being on the line takes a unique talent. Yes, sales and line workers are different personalities, but interdependent for a functioning business. The sales staff scratches and claws out in the “real world,” making it possible for the other blades and fan housing to do their jobs and collect a paycheck.

The blades: Engineering, Research and Development

On the four blade fan, one blade left to discuss: Engineering, Research and Development. Times change, and any business has to change, too. Innovation is required, or at the very least, keeping the computers up to date, protected, and reliable. Plus your product needs to evolve. R&D has to design more efficient, less wasteful packaging, or develop new products based on demand, work with both the line workers and the  business sellers for the more cost effective ways to build and market the improvements. That’s part of how the Engineering, Research and Development staff make it possible for the other blades and fan housing to do their respective jobs and collect a paycheck.

All equal

Notice none of these blades were labeled one, two; first, second, etc. The entire fan (business) is interdependent and therefore no blade (department) is more important than any other. That’s worth repeating: Each department depends on the others, and none is superior.

And just as important

That means we’re ready to look at what holds the station together and spinning in the same direction: the office staff. Without the office staff to create proposals, to answer the phone, the deposit the client’s checks, and to generate your paycheck, nobody will work for long.

How to kill your business

In fact, without any of these “ceiling fan” components, the business cannot survive. No person or job is more important than any other. Not the General Manager or custodian, not the chief engineer or the stockholders. They all have responsibilities to keep the business moving together, and when one stops working, eventually everyone stops. Including the office staff, because without the fan blades, the office staff would overheat as it spun in circles.

All symbiotic

So if someone, anyone, in the business demonstrates they think they are more important than anyone else, they need to make amends or find the door. I had a manager that called it “stinkin’ thinkin’.” He showed the entire staff that positive morale and team spirit were required to be successful. Sure personality conflicts happen, but work it out, you are all on the same team, responsible for each other’s success – and paycheck.

Don’t you agree it’s better to remember the team before the pillow hits the fan, ‘cause once that blade is out of whack, once the “stinkin’ thinkin’” creeps in, everyone’s job is much more difficult.

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