By Don Adams, President of Midsouth Casters & Equipment

Competition can bring out the best in us.  It can create an intense focus that drives us to be better than we are.  When I am engaged in motorsports, I  consistently attempt to turn a fast lap into a faster one; I will drive lap after lap to identify areas that can be improved upon.  Every other driver on the track wants to accomplish the same thing.  They want to gain an edge, identify that inconspicuous improvement that will help place them in front of their competition.

As a competitive racer, I have had many conversations about purchasing newer, more sophisticated, equipment that was supposed to deliver better results. Despite tons of money being invested, the improvements we desired were never realized.  It finally occurred to me that if I had access to the equipment, so did my competition. The real performance gains came from a much more precious asset.  True performance improvements aren’t simply derived from mechanical enhancements but rather they come from something hidden within each of us.

In most instances, average drivers never become good drivers and good drivers never become great because of their inability to do one thing: see themselves objectively. It’s only natural that we see ourselves for how we want to be seen.  However, we can be blind to our weaknesses. If we can’t see our weaknesses, how then can we improve?

The self-awareness phenomena occur in many disciplines.  In racing we work to improve our technique. In business we focus on processes.

As business owners we are susceptible to the same human tendencies as any athlete. Personal blemishes we can easily identify in others become invisible when we examine ourselves.  We spend good money, a lot of money, on business coaches, marketing firms, tax strategists, and other business consultants because we believe they can help us. We become charmed by sales people who can offer the latest technology and equipment that promises to make us more profitable. It is easier to buy or hire a solution that will help us reach our goals, than to admit to our own weaknesses and begin to correct it.

People who practice the principles of continual improvement know the secret of increased performance and efficiency. Good leaders and managers will examine and test a process ten, twenty, even 30 or more times looking for improvement.

The secret to better performance, much like anything else, is not hidden in better software, faster computers or better equipment, it’s locked inside improved processes. Reducing inventory, speeding up production time, making great hires, increased productivity, and improved work flow are all products of better processes. Making the decision to spend the money to buy better equipment is a one-time event. Deciding to make the investment of process improvement is a one-time decision that that will save money going forward. Looking inward and finding those areas of improvement will make us better drivers of our businesses.