Business as usual

After returning from New York and experiencing the ultimate in efficiency and service at one of the Apple stores, as I wrote about last week, I came back to the reality of doing business in Barbados.

I had to have four new tyres for my car and this time I went to another tyre retailer. At least it took less time to find out what type of tyres I needed and I was advised to have the wheels aligned but, my goodness, it was downhill from there.

After I did my initial check in, I was given a piece of paper with the quote on it, which I had to take to the cashier. I don’t understand why the cashier takes so long to process transactions; maybe the system is old and slow. In fact I don’t understand why the initial person who prepared the quote couldn’t just take my credit card and process it. Anyway that probably would not have decreased the waiting.

In order to use my waiting time effectively I walked across the courtyard to their parts department to buy a filter for my fridge. I was told that they were out of stock. Out of stock! To be to be out of stock is inexcusable. It indicates poor understanding of your stock movement and lack of a proper ordering system. Who is going to be fired for that I wonder?

The positive that came out of this was the salesperson’s recommendation that I go next door to their competitor. That was very good of him. Going to the competition, however, was just another exercise in frustration. I don’t understand why everything is so slow here in Barbados. As more people experience efficient service in other countries it just adds to the frustration of doing business in Barbados.

The saving grace, thankfully there was one, was the fact that they had the same part and it was $30 cheaper. How is that possible? Both companies are of similar size and should have similar buying power so how can one be $30 more than the other? Well you know where I’ll be buying my filters in the future.

That just brings me to the next point: Why is it that you can’t get parts like filters at the same place you buy the fridge in the first place? Why do you have to go to some out of the way place to get parts when the location of the retail outlet is so much more accessible?

This is not just in one or two places; inefficiency seems to be rampant in Barbados. Some of it is the result of poorly designed systems and some of it seems to be the due to lack of motivated staff. But then we shouldn’t be surprised because the survey carried out by NISE a couple of years ago revealed that only 30 per cent of employees in both the public and private sectors are engaged.

An engaged employee will look for more efficient ways to do their job and will offer suggestions for improvement. The bottom line is we need companies which don’t just have employees but encourage their employees to be entrepreneurs in their area of the operation. That may require a significant culture change and has to start from the leadership.

The whole episode took about two hours, partly because I went over to the competitor with my bill. Now when the cashier gave me two copies of the bill, she said that they were mine. I was actually wondering why I was given two bills since that didn’t make sense. One was supposed to be given to the tyre changers so that they could get the tyres released by the warehouse. Why did no one think to mention this? So my car sat there with no tyres for about 45 minutes while I walked next door and experienced the competition’s own brand of inefficiency.

As I was airing my frustration to my daughter she said that’s why we should live away. I don’t want to live anywhere else; I love Barbados. I just want to see our businesses and our Government operating efficiently and I’m committed to doing my part to help. So forgive me if I sound like a stuck record but I truly believe that if enough of us talk, write or agitate, something has to give. We really can’t afford to be doing business as usual.

* Donna Every is a Chartered Accountant and an MBA who worked with Ernst & Young for ten years before starting her own Business Advisory practice, Arise Consulting Inc. She has written four books including What Do You Have in Your House?, Surviving in Times of Financial Crisis and the newly released novel The Merger Mogul.

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