Five lessons I learned last week

Last Wednesday at Blues Point head office there was considerable drama.  I left home at 7.30am – earlier than usual, because my wife was doing the school run and I wanted to get ahead of the game with my work.

The traffic was easy, and I was the first one in the car park.  Things were going well and I was literally ROARING with enthusiasm for the day ahead.

But my momentum was brought to a sudden and unexpected halt.  I couldn’t get into the office!

The problem was that our antique internal electronic access device (pictured) was failing to respond to my commands.

Midlands IT recruitment and staff retention and re-engagement

Instantly I realised what this meant.  We had a problem with our electricity supply!

I called Sally, our landlord’s office manager, who works over the road, and she sprang into action like an administrative tiger.  She let me in to our office area via a secret door, and we saw that the fuse box’s central switch had tripped out.  Together we hunted for the source of the problem, eventually pinning it down to our server / phone system cabinet area.  How did we know this?  Because of the disgusting smell than was coming from there.

At first I was afraid – I was petrified! – that an expensive and business-critical piece of IT hardware had let us down and had caused the circuit to trip.  But when we turned it all off and tried again, the fuse still refused to stay in place.  It was time to call in the electrician.

Not long after the summons, he arrived – and it took him less than a minute to isolate the root cause.  The smell – and the fault – wasn’t anything to do with our cabinet equipment after all; it was all down to a small white box on the wall that actually served no purpose. From the outside it didn’t look like anything was wrong, but from the inside it looked like this:

So he replaced the offending item with a new one, and restored the power.  Job done, and by 10am we were up and running as if nothing had happened.

We had had a lucky escape.

Lessons

You’ll be wondering why I’ve bothered to tell you this boring story, and why you have read it.  Fear not: there are lessons to be learned.  And here they are:

  1. Don’t be afraid to call in the experts.  In this instance we had little choice; you don’t mess with mains electricity unless you know what you are doing, which I didn’t.  But it’s not always quite so clear, and it’s tempting to save a bit of money by doing it yourself, whatever it is.  Just be sure that you have done the maths, because of learning point 2.
  2. The cost of getting in an expert is very often less than the cost of not getting in an expert.  In other words – if I’d tried to solve the problem on my own it might have taken a day, or a week, to work it out.  An unknown amount of time spent not focusing on our core business!  And you might be in a similar position if you have ever wondered whether or not to outsource your recruitment.  I would, of course, advise you to do so in almost every case.  (Bonus recommendation: don’t be afraid to investigate the option of taking on an IT contractor if your project needs it.  Contractors cost money, but you can have someone working very quickly – someone who is used to hitting the ground running.)
  3. Always have a disaster recovery plan.  In management terms – you might have the perfect team in place at the moment, but what would happen if your star employee were to hand in their notice?  Disaster!  You can give yourself some warning of this and possibly avert the crisis altogether by putting your people through regular motivation assessments.  We use Motivational Maps for this.
  4. Following on from point 4 – external appearances do not necessarily reflect what is happening on the inside.  Are your team as happy as they appear to be?  Or might they all be looking for new jobs right now?
  5. Burning plastic has a distinctive and unforgettable smell.

If you manage a team in the UK and you’re now wondering how motivated your current team is, get in touch and ask us about trying out a Motivational Map assessment.