President Trump said we are at war with the coronavirus. Politics aside, the virus has done extensive damage to our economic base, especially to our small businesses.

When has America had 15% or more of its people unemployed? Cash reserves for many small businesses have been drained. Many companies are closing their doors permanently. Not a pretty picture. Also, not a hopeless state of affairs. Difficult and challenging, but the economy can come back.

Look what the Japanese did after World War II. By the end of the war, their economy was destroyed. Yet by the 1950s and 1960s, Japan was an economic power. For example, look what they did to our automobile industry. America’s economy is not nearly as badly damaged as Japan’s was in 1945.

Our industrial structure is in place. Our people want their jobs back. We have experienced business leaders and entrepreneurs. Why not study what Japan did and use that as a model. After all, it was an American, Dr. W. Edwards Deming, who played a major role in their success. Dr. Deming became world famous and his program has been studied and used by many of our companies since then.

Here are some of the high points.

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Document your process. All work is a series of processes. By charting them you can see how they interact; streamline them and remove waste and rework. Don’t make it too detailed. You want a picture of the flow of your business. I have talked about the book “The Goal” before. The message of that author was that the raw materials should come off the truck and not stop until the finished goods are loaded for delivery at the other end of the manufacturing cycle. Eliminate the bottlenecks. The process chart should be understood and used by the whole team.

Train your employees. You want a compact, highly trained team. People that want and enjoy their jobs. Don’t we all want to know we are appreciated and important?

One of the advantages of detailing the process above is that you blame the process and not the staff when things don’t go right. That said, I’d break the employees into three categories.

  • Those that can do and will do. These are “keepers.” Let’s see how far they can go in the company.

  • Those that would do, but don’t know how. These folks deserve training and support.

  • Those that can do but won’t do. These people should be promoted out of the organization.

Delight your customers. That was another concept practiced by the Japanese.

Satisfied customers may or may not be loyal to you. Delighted customers don’t go shopping. In fact, many times they’ll get you more involved. Honda and Toyota delighted many of America’s automobile customers.

J. I. T. (Just in Time) What a great development this was. Inventory is evil. It causes obsolescence, damage and loss. The need for investment is greatly reduced by not tying up funds to support an inventory or extra floor space. This concept was brought to America and worked. I had personal experience with this with our customers. It takes partnering with your vendors and your customer. Just imagine the cost saving from less inventory. The direct cost and hidden costs.

Quality Control. Dr. Deming was a statistician. He focused on quality control. In addition to being costly, rejects interrupt the process flow. Referring to the Employee Training above, you don’t hire people to check on others. You train and hold the workers at all levels responsible for their output.

The war against the coronavirus goes on. We know the hurt done to America’s people can’t go on. Our economy is restarting. Our small business owners have a very significant role to play. The action items listed above do work. They show results quickly. Let’s get back to work. SCORE is here to help

Dick Jordan, 218-251-4413; j3021@crosslake. net.