How not to run a business


English: NHS logo

(Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Patience is a virtue?

This week I have witnessed some very poor business management, or more to the point, no management at all. As it was in a hospital I have also come to understand how the word “patient” has become the word used for those “customers” who are in hospital, because you have to be exceedingly patient when you are in there.

This is not a piece bashing the UK National Health Service. The NHS is great when you have an acute problem. Emergencies are usually dealt with very well. Our local plaster room has always seemed very efficient, but the key there is that the staff in there take responsibility for their own work. They are skilled and they move things along.

A good start

We had to go to a surgical assessment unit. We were told that the patient would be there five or six hours while she was being assessed and the tests were done. She was checked in quickly and efficiently. They took blood fairly early on and the patient was examined a couple of times soon after arrival in the morning.

All downhill

The ward was not especially busy. In the afternoon several patients were taken down for X-rays. Our patient was left to her own devices, and it was just as well she had a good book to read. However at around 7 in the evening when clearly nothing had happened for hours, she asked to be collected as she thought they must have finished with her and she had been told she was fit to go home.

Comedy time

When I arrived, the patient told me she was now supposed to be going to have an X-ray. A porter duly arrived and wheeled her off. Fifteen minutes later they were back. The lady had been rejected by the X-ray department because she was still in her day clothes. She offered to put on one of their gown there and then, but was told she would have to return to the ward to get one.

Now be-gowned she was wheeled off again. Fortunately the porter managed to keep her place in the queue from the previous visit, which was the only initiative shown by anyone all day.

Breaking out

We escaped from the hospital at 9 in the evening. I was starving and while I had been waiting I had sought food in the canteens and hospital coffee shops, all of which had closed. The patient had been fed a rather disgusting shepherds pie in the hospital.

Blaming the management

I found the hospital nursing staff and admin people to whom I spoke very pleasant. I am sure they are good people. It was no good complaining anyway. Clearly there was no organization or management. Many of them were sitting or standing around most of the time, and it did seem that they were over-resourced when we hear so often that the NHS suffers from staff shortages.

It seemed to me that the staff were in the wrong places. Also, in the absence of hands-on management and being told what to do at each stage (often not a good idea as it damages self-esteem), workers do need to be allowed to use their initiative and take responsibility as in the plaster room. Empowerment of the workers to think for themselves within certain constraints leads to greater efficiency and, very importantly, they will be happier and more confident.


I have always believed in largely hands-off management but not in no management at all. Managers should be friendly with their charges because that encourages loyalty, which again promotes good work. You really can’t beat giving your employees responsibility for their own domain in an atmosphere which encourages them to report problems without any fear of criticism. Then you have a really efficient productivity model.

It is a shame when good people are not allowed to be at their best in the workplace. It is a terrible waste of their abilities and a dreadful waste of money.

We wouldn’t run a business like that would we?

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Customer service and that nice warm feeling


Putting your stamp on the business

French bread and letters

We all like a bit of a moan sometimes. At least, I do. Recently on Twitter I complained that I had missed the post as the local collection was made early. I just saw the back of the van as it drove away.

To give them great credit, @royalmail responded within a couple of minutes and registered my complaint via Twitter, complete with reference number. I don’t know how far this will be followed up but I immediately got the feeling that they do care, so my feelings towards Royal Mail became a lot warmer.

I have mentioned before our local baker in the village. They have great products in the bread, and they are very friendly and helpful and allow us to reserve our favourite loaves over the telephone from 7:30 AM onwards. This sort of service inspires loyalty and of course testimonials since my wife and I tell everyone what a brilliant bakers shop they have.

Hospital hospitality

As a family we have seen rather a lot of hospitals recently. I guess we cannot avoid them all our lives.

This past week we spent the entire day at one. I really cannot praise too highly the service, but in particular the helpful friendly caring staff who made us so comfortable (patient and patient’s moral support) and looked after us so well. Of course no one really wants a reason to go back to a hospital, but we would certainly recommend it to others in need, and if we have to be hospitalised ourselves, I hope it is there.

It’s how they do it!

All bakers’ shops sell bread though not all bake on the premises as our does. Our baker stands out because we are made so welcome and can rely on top service. So we recommend them.

Our posties mostly do a very good job, and it makes me feel better about them that the business follows up on complaints rather than shrugs its shoulders.

A great hospital is worth knowing about and great service will help spread the word as well as allaying concerns about having to be admitted.

If we serve well our clients with a smiling face they will recommend us more easily. Smile!

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A patient having his blood pressure taken by a...

Hospital soap

If you have read this blog for a while you will know that I feel very much that lazy management can result in poorly run hospital wards, especially geriatric wards.  Currently my wife and I are visiting a much better hospital ward. It is still for the elderly, but it is a “rehab” ward, where the object is to get the patients back on their feet, and preferably back to their own homes.

Brightening up?

What is the secret of this part of the hospital? Well, it helps that the place is bright and at least seems airy. But the main ingredient of this new magic formula is a smile. Well, lots of smiles. The staff seem very cheery and upbeat, and everyone joins in the mood.

Of course not everything that happens in a hospital is a reason to be cheery, but if people are upbeat and approach their work happily it affects everyone around them, and especially the patients, or customers if you will.

The great thing about this ward is that the happy attitude is not artificial. It is not put on. The staff really are happy, and the patients and of course the visitors are caught up in it.

I commented to one of the nurses going off duty how happy everyone in the ward seemed to be. She said that it was a happy place. She said that any disagreement among the staff was soon forgotten, and she enjoyed working there.

I am sure a happy patient will be helped to get better more quickly, being supported at every step. I sneaked a look at “our” patient’s notes, and could see how attentively she was checked at least every hour, and that she was seen to be eating properly. They are clearly going beyond what everybody would normally expect.

Service with a smile

I always found in my former employments that everything seemed to run better when everyone was happy. There were less mistakes and less mishaps. The clients were looked after to the best of everyone’s ability.

I believe that service with a smile helps a great deal. In face to face meetings whether business meetings or just in a shop, I find a nice smile relaxes whoever I am talking to. It is easier to do business.

Smiling can be virtual too. That means being cheery on the telephone, and writing letters and emails in a friendly fashion while of course being careful that the written word is not misunderstood in the absence of an actual smile.

Just making our customer of client happy at very stage will make them more comfortable, more likely to come back to us and more likely to refer us.

Even after a client has paid a bill, I like to follow up to check they really received everything they expected. Just occasionally they may have had a different expectation through something they misunderstood, but we still have the opportunity to smooth the edges and keep them as our big supporters. That is a virtual or figurative smile, but it is still in the vein of keeping our customers happy.

Who have you smiled at today? It is great to get one back, isn’t it? It gives you a nice warm feeling, doesn’t it?

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