The media bombards us with stories that relate to personal, business and homeland security: stolen identities, acts of terrorism, computer hacking, misappropriated funds, theft, employee dishonesty, false claims, vandalism, etc. And while there are all manner of systems and practices to keep ourselves and our businesses safe, Id like to address a different kind of securitythe kind that results from good communication and trust, particularly in a business relationship.
From birth, most of us are taught to negotiate, facilitate and compromise on some level. But as business owners and managers, we are taught to diffuse and avoid conflict whenever possible. Consider the lengths to which we go to avoid unpleasant situations with customers, co-workers and employees. Does our eagerness to pacify make us vulnerable? What does it mean to our personal and business security? I dont have answers, but I cant help but think about the ramifications.
After all, in todays world, we are forced to invest more and more in security systems to protect ourselves and our livelihoods. Its unfortunate that we must constantly look over our shoulders and spend more to preserve what is rightly ours, but its a reality we must faceespecially in a business like car-washing that deals mostly in cash.
In the car-wash industry, inventories and receivables are minimal, but we deal with a lot of currency. And depending on the type of wash site, the owner or other management is scarcely present. The result? Lots of opportunities for loss.
How do you minimize your risk? You discourage undesirable behavior, such as theft or vandalism, by letting people know you have taken security to heart. You install electronic devices to monitor on-site activity. You implement security systems and software. You create an environment that makes people feel safe and supervised at the same time. Essentially, you protect employees and customers from themselves while safeguarding your business. But how might this dynamic change if we learned to communicate and trust?
The Role of Communication
Good or bad, thanks to historical events, we now see more security tools entering the business and private sectors. At tradeshows across the country, car-wash vendors show us how to monitor our cash registers, wash bays, driveways and the mechanical fitness of our equipment. This is some very cool stuff. But sadly, all this software and hardware is minimizing the role of trust and communication in our business relationships.
As facility owners and managers, we use the word trust every day. If we dont actually speak it, we imply it:
- I trust you will lock up.
- I trust you will make that deposit.
- I trust you will do the right thing.
- I trust you and, as a result, count on you to manage my business.
We want to believe we trust those closest to us, and obviously have to move forward with that assumption. But sometimes its hard not to feel were kidding ourselves. All you have to do is take one look at the daily newspaper or count the escalating number of attorneys and police to know one persons definition of trust is often different from anothers.
Which brings us back to the issue of communication. I believe the answer to the growing concern over safety and security lies in this one simple concept: talking openly to each other. Im not saying that if we improve our communication skills, no one will ever try to take advantage of us, but we have to vastly improve what and how we communicate in our business and personal environments. For example, its critical that employees understand what we expect of them and know the rules to which they must adhereor face the consequences. And we must be clear about what those consequences are.
The truth is security has largely replaced trust in the business relationship, just as automated systems have replaced the human element. But mechanized security isnt and shouldnt be enough. To be truly safe and in control of our financial destiny, the answer just might be communicating more effectively. Granted, Im not sure exactly how to do it. But my hope is, as we learn to commune at higher levels, our customers will feel more secure, our employees will meet our expectations and, just maybe, our dependence on hardware and software will diminish. The first step is to try.
Fred Grauer is the vice president, distributor network, for Mark VII Equipment LLC, a car-wash equipment manufacturer in Arvada, Colo. He has made a lifelong career of designing, selling, building and operating car washes. He can be reached at [email protected].