Doing Things the Wrong Way Can Cost You

Sometimes it can cost you time, sometimes money and sometimes your sanity.

As a company, my place of business puts a premium on technology and investing in the business. If there is something out there that will help the employees, the owner will be quite gung-ho in acquiring it, whether it is hardware, software or even a vendor who offers a service we can use.

As an example, I walked into the Accountants office the other day, and 2 minutes later I walked out with the credit card and 5 minutes after that my computer was downloading Adobe CS3 Premium and Final Cut Express was ordered and set for delivery.

That all being said, when you put such a premium on the equipment, why not put the same premium in your people.

And no, I’m not trying to say that the people are not up to snuff, or smart enough, or insult them in any way. But if you want to move forward, bring the people with you. Train them. Show them. Help them.

Allowing your employees to roam in the dark ages of technology will not help your business, and not putting the effort into helping them will harm you just as much.

I was asked to create a directory on our website that would allow users to find their local equipment dealers. You tell us what manufacturers product you are using and what state you are in and up pops a list of all dealers in your state.

To me, and most everyone I believe, the correct way to go about this was to use a database. I mean, who would want to type up every possible state/manufacturer combination and serve them up as static files. Not only would that take an inordinate amount of time, but if you need to make a change to a dealer who represents several manufacturers, that’s a heck of a lot of pages to change.

Now these listings are already being published in different ways in our print publications, so I went and found the source listings and was shocked – I mean shocked – to learn that every manufacturer had their own Word document, and in each Word document was every dealer they had. And on top of that there was a different Word document for ever publication we had.

Say you had a large equipment dealer that represented 4 different manufacturers, and there was a phone number change, you would have to open up 16 different Word documents and make the same change to each one.

This didn’t even affect me and it made me angry. The lack of thought (or even just inexperience) that went into this bothered me so much that I had to fix it.

So I went about creating a database that housed all of the manufacturers, all of the dealers and all of the contact information that we would need and created ways that they would reference each other.

I then set about building a back end that would allow easy adding, editing, and deleting for any dealer or manufacturer on the website. And when I had it all down perfectly working, I creating a page for the print people and showed them that any information they needed could be accessed through this page. They could select a manufacturer and a publication and all relevant information would appear. Everything they would need to put in the paper.

And the best part of all of this was that when changes needed to be made to a dealer, they only needed to be made once, in one place, and it would automatically be changed for both the newspaper and the website.

I was thrilled at my accomplishment. This was one of the first big projects I had taken on all by myself and it couldn’t have turned out better.

This was about 3 or 4 years ago. I was thinking of this today because I was listening to someone get angry at another employee because the listings on the site didn’t match the listing in the paper.

You might wonder how that could happen? Well, the boss (not my boss, BTW) didn’t like the idea of one list so he said that the lists needed to be supported separately and that lead to lists that don’t match, more than double the effort to keep information updated, web pages with wrong information, printed ad pages with wrong information and an occassional customer who will refuse to pay a bill.

There are semi-regular arguments about why this practice is continued and it always ends with that method being how they like it done. Of course, they don’t have to actually do it, do they? They just give the orders and let others get yelled at.