I live and work in Geelong. I have for 15 years or so. In that time, we have pretty much been in drought conditions, and under water restrictions.

This year, month, week, that’s pretty much changed. The word is, we are fast moving towards breaking the drought. With just “average” rainfall mind you. Fantastic! However, it’s caused a bit of chaos this week. You see, Geelong is a city divided by the Moorabool River. It runs roughly West to East, and dissects the North from South.

Of course, there are multiple points at which to cross the river, but one (apparently) vital one. It’s called the Breakwater Rd & Breakwater bridge. As the name suggests, it’s a breakwater, and it floods every time the Moorabool River reaches a certain level. It a pressure release valve so that the river doesn’t flood as badly as it might.

It’s a two way, one lane intersection. It’s tiny. It’s insignificant. It doesn’t appear to be that busy in the scheme of things. I take it everyday in my 5 minute trip to the office.

When it floods, it throws the City of Geelong into Traffic chaos! This week has seen a lot of Geelong employees late for work. My daily 5 minute drive has turned into 45-60 minutes!

My City has a heart problem. Like our Hearts, the city depends on all it’s arteries to follow un-hindered – block one, and you have a heart problem.

It made me think about my business (while i was stuck in traffic 🙂 ) Sometimes, we have arterial blockages in our businesses. It might be that the phone messages stall at reception and don’t quickly get sent to the sales guy, it might be the order release message from the accounts dept stalls and doesn’t get communicated to the despatch area, so an order sits on the back dock two days longer than it should.

An arterial blockage in our business is simply a part of the system that gets blocked up, slows the rest down, and sometimes even stops the system dead – grid lock!

The first step to clearing such a blockage is to identify it. Sit back, take a breath, and objectively look at your business and how an order goes through your system, even place an anonymous order and see how your system looks to an outsider. Once identified, you can take steps to alleviate the pressure and work out ways to prevent future issues.

In my business for example, the artwork process can be one of those areas that can bog down and block the system. It might be the client is slow to send us appropriate files, or our email breaks down, or a contract artist does not do the job fast enough – there are any number of ways that part of my business can (and has) block and stop orders from proceeding. I don’t like it, but knowing it is an area for a higher potential for screw ups, I pay more attention to it to avoid said screw ups.

Another area with potential for blockages is delivery. I rely on third parties often for delivery. I have clients all around Australia and even a few Internationals. Therefore, I am often reliant on third parties like manufacturers and couriers. If the guy on the back dock at the pens factory is having a bad day, my urgent delivery might not go out, just as the courier driver might have a flat tyre or only pick up 2 of 3 boxes. Even a foggy night made us miss one deadline when the plane holding one box was grounded.

I can’t completely avoid potential blockages, but if i know exactly what they are, I can put safe guards and pressure valves in place to reduce the risk.

So, does your business have a heart problem? It’s one of those questions just like your own health – it might not be comfortable to self analyse if you are at risk, but well worth the effort.

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