It was many years ago and I will never forget the incident.  It goes down in history as one of many embarrassing and hilarious moments in the life and times of Jim Meadows.

I was at a company cafeteria picking up my morning hot chocolate.  I grabbed the oversized Styrofoam cup and began to dispense the hot chocolate into it.

Now you have to understand, this dispenser did an especially good job of vigorously foaming up the hot chocolate.  You had quite a head of hot chocolate on that cup real fast.  Therefore, I began the routine process of dispensing, letting it settle down, and then dispensing again.  I normally went through this cycle several times to get the most bang for my buck.  (I love my hot chocolate!)

Unbeknown to me that day, my Styrofoam cup had a pinhole leak strategically hidden in the center of its bottom.  Thus, before I knew it, I found myself stuck in an endless loop as I kept noticing the incredible hot chocolate heads that appeared, but then settled down pretty low, at which point I simply dispensed another large shot of hot chocolate!

I kept thinking to myself, “Wow, this hot chocolate sure is foaming up a lot (today!).”  And of course, that steady stream out of the bottom of the cup was going directly into the drain system of the dispenser unit, so I didn’t even know it was happening.  And it was a very slow leak which only served to cloak its destructive actions more effectively.

Now that is funny enough all by itself, but what was even funnier and more embarrassing was how long it took me to catch on to what in the world was happening to my hot chocolate!  Yes, I know I’m not the fastest app in the downloads tab.  So it took me some minutes to realize my cup was leaking!  I think I got the cafeteria’s wacky customer award that day for “consuming” 16 cups of hot chocolate while only paying for and drinking one.

We can learn some lessons from my hot chocolate fiasco:

1—Never assume the basics.  I assumed my Styrofoam cup would be reliable and solid.  I was wrong.  As Ronald Reagan was wont to say, “Trust, but verify.”

2—Whether it’s a manufacturing process, a customer relationship, a revenue issue, or filling your cup, you have to pay attention to small things.  Small things can be indicators of big things.

3—Sometimes small things are indicators of system failures.  Without noticing those small things, you can miss the system failures.

4—Missing the small things can eventually destroy your business.

5—Small things, precisely because they are small, can easily escape our notice.  Sometimes we have to look for them.  That might demand some extra energy, but the payback will be worth it.

And yes, I have never looked at a Styrofoam cup the same way since.

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Posted in HUMOR, STRATEGY permalink

About James Meadows

Currently I serve as a training team manager for Johnson Controls at a customer-care center in Kansas City. Additionally, I am a business consultant, a freelance corporate writer, an Assembly of God ordained minister, a Civil Air Patrol chaplain, and a blogger. I believe we are living in the most fascinating times of human history. To maximize the opportunities these times present, I have a passionate interest in leadership development and organizational success, both of which I view as inextricably linked.

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