Examining work processes can pay off

I have owned a number of dogs in my life. My favorite was my first, one with a rich, black, wavy coat sporting a streak of white on his chest. At night when I looked out the bathroom window, I saw his shape curled in the moonlight. Every morning, he was at the back door to greet me as I began my chores. He had the best disposition of any dog I have known.

I chose him in early summer of 1963 out of a litter a friend’s dog had. I called him Lucky. In those days, money was tight. Although Mom and Dad were both teachers, we still pinched pennies.

Dog food was one expense Dad decided we could forgo. He created a recipe of skim milk and pig feed that was the consistency of corn meal with a touch of bacon fat.

Once every other month, I spent a Saturday morning mixing and cooking the mixture. In the milkhouse, which adjoined the barn, we kept an old stove and refrigerator. Into a large metal pot, I dumped the pig feed and the appropriate amount of milk and other ingredients. The pot simmered on the gas stove and I stirred it periodically to keep it from sticking to the bottom. As the hours passed, I had my finished product. I capped it and placed the pot in the refrigerator. Each morning and night, I spooned two big helpings into a bowl for Lucky to enjoy.

Dad taught us the value of money in a variety of ways. He took me to the Barnesville First National Bank to initiate my first savings account. My savings book was always in a safe place and I looked at it frequently. I watched it grow as we sold sweet corn and baby pigs.

I had a couple dozen hamsters in stacked pens in one corner of the milkhouse, so I spent time cleaning their cages, choosing mates for future young ones, and separating the growing young. I provided a steady stream of hamsters to the local Ten Cent Store for a tidy profit.

Dad was born in 1899 and was almost 30 when the 1929 stock market crash occurred. He was well aware of money struggles. He prefaced every item with a dollar figure, “A two thousand dollar car, a five dollar hammer, or a ten dollar bag of pig feed.” Dad’s plan to make our own dog food did save about 50 percent of the cost of buying it.

Today, I am involved in working with leaders who want to find innovative ways to streamline costs while making the work process more effective. In some cases, simply looking at the process and eliminating its archaic or unnecessary elements can save millions of dollars. It takes time and money to examine your work processes but the return can be amazing.

R. Glenn Ray, Ph.D., is the president of RayCom Learning. To learn more about Ray’s completely revised, third printing of The Facilitative Leader: Behaviors that Enable Success, visit his Web site, www.raycomlearning.com or call him at 740-629-4536. Everyday Leadership appears each Wednesday on the Business page.