cut rope 1We’ve touched upon the issue of salespeople wearing too many hats at times – and we fully believe that each department should focus on their own workload instead of having to do two jobs at once.  That doesn’t mean we don’t think cross-training is crucial to your organization.

This is where many kitchen and bath businesses fall short.  Too many companies rely on that one designer, one star salesperson, one production manager, who holds the only key to the next step; and this ticking time bomb is their single point of failure.

Picture this scenario:

Customer:  “Thank you for working with me…I’m so excited to start designing my future kitchen.  Can you help me with that step of the process as well?”
Salesperson: “No, let me take you right over to Georgina.  She’s the only one that can whip up the designs, but you’ll love her.   Oh wait…I forgot, Georgina is out sick with the swine flu.  I’m not sure when she will be back…probably tomorrow, but maybe Monday.  But she may be busy on Monday and Tuesday since she’s been out all week.  How about we squeeze you in early Wednesday just to be safe?”
Customer: “You mean to tell me there is no one else here that is able to design my kitchen?  Isn’t the word design in the name of your company?”

In order to avoid situations like the one above, you need to make sure your systems, processes, and people provide contingencies for worst-case scenarios.  Cross-training is a critical component of this approach, but it alone is not enough.  You also have to make sure that each step of your processes – sales, accounting, production, etc. – provides sufficient checks and balances and more than one employee on a routine basis.  Here are some ways you can eliminate your single point of failure:

  • Sales and Design – In very small shops it is common for a single person to have multiple responsibilities – sales and design are commonly combined.  As they grow, there is more likely to be a separation of design and sales activities.  This is really a very solid approach, allowing technical artists to focus on computer-aided design while the sales team works on building relationships.  If you choose this approach, you should probably consider a team approach, with perhaps two sales people for each designer.  To avoid facing a single point of failure, be certain you have more than one highly-qualified designer and sales person in your organization.
  • Accounting – Have your bookkeeper teach a second accounting team member all aspects of their job – including payroll and banking.  And then, make sure the new assistant performs these functions on a routine basis.  If you can’t trust them with sensitive accounting information, then they probably aren’t right for the job they are doing.  And they sure won’t be the answer if your bookkeeper quits!

Eliminating single points of failure can help ease the day-to-day stress on your staff, lowering employee turnover and training expenses while also reducing business disruptions.

Be sure to take a hard look at your organization and processes to ensure you don’t have any single points of failure.  If you do, now is the time to take steps to make sure you are prepared for the next crisis – before it arrives.