Are you making too many left turns?

Elizabeth Rasberry, a UPS public relations manager. “Having more concise data of how a vehicle performed during its delivery route allowed us to see where efficiencies could be improved.

“What we found: A significant cause of idling time resulted from drivers making left turns, essentially going against the flow of traffic. From there we explored routes where these turns were cut out entirely, and then compared data.”

Even if this meant traveling a greater distance, results showed that more packages could be delivered in less time with reduced emissions by driving in a series of right-hand loops. It helped the bottom line, met consumer demands and increased safety.

This month has been a whirlwind.  30 days in 11 cities.  Week after week I’ve been incredibly lucky to speak with and learn from a group of the most successful business owners in the nation.  Tomorrow I’ll have three scant days with a contractor who has been awarded “Best in the Nation.”  It’s both daunting, massively exciting, and humbling.  Because of the tremendous exposure and variety of companies I’ve learned two things about the characteristics of exemplary business owners and their companies.  First, these people just get shit done.  Plain and simple.  Flat out.  When their tuning fork goes off and they recognize a good idea it gets done.  They don’t waste time debating it, overthinking it, “what if-ing” it.  Nope.  They roll.  Hard and fast action kills fear, flattens uncertainty, and (hopefully) delivers on the expected results.  Please don’t mistake this type of action as short-sighted.  The men and women I’m working with have years of experience to help them make smart decisions in a contextual manner.  The bottom line is they don’t miss an opportunity to improve once they recognize it.  It always makes me wonder how many times I’ve had a flash of inspiration and talked myself out of a potentially awesome idea. The smarts to know when to grab hold of something and do something incredible…that’s something that these hugely successful business people seem to have in common.  And then I saw a gentleman shake his head…

For the sake of anonymity I’ll call him “Bill.”  He was sitting to my left, two rows back.  I was talking about refining a company’s retail narrative.  He sat back, shook his head, and started to laugh.  I played along.  “What’s on your mind?” I asked.  Bill sat up and kept laughing.  “What you’re saying is so obvious, and is something that I’ve been thinking about for a long time.  If I could fix every 1% detail in my company I’d make twice as much money as I do right now (which, speculatively, is a lot).”  As much as I’ve learned that the best of the best execute great ideas swiftly, with conviction, and to completion–I’ve also learned that they deeply respect the positive impact that the incremental win has on the bottom line.  They “get” the importance of controlling the smallest processes, procedures, dispatches, communications, orders, feedback, resolutions, leads, and on and on and on…the seemingly “tiny” details that can either make them or cost them thousands and thousands of dollars.

UPS does everything it can to avoid left turns.  They’ve determined that a simple turn of the steering wheel costs their company an unnecessary amount of money on a global scale.  It wastes fuel.  It slows down deliveries.  It hurts customer satisfaction.  A turn of the wheel in one direction over another is significant enough to merit a dispatch model focused on only making right turns.  A turn of the wheel in one direction over another can be the difference between my friends making money or losing money.  The details.  The thinking.  The planning.  The scrutiny involved in evaluating a simple turn of the steering wheel.  Yet UPS is UPS.  The best at what they do.  

Are you making too many left turns?  In business?  In life?  I’ve spent this month meeting, listening, learning, and speaking with men and women who take this question very seriously.  That’s probably why they’re in the same room together.  

Thank you to the incredibly successful, driven, creative, inspired, progressive, and flat-out dominant business men and women who’ve shared some incredible insights with me this month.   

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