I was pulled over by a policeman while driving to a client’s site in Cleveland, Mississippi.
“What did I do officer?”
He replied, “You passed a car illegally.”
“What was illegal about passing a stopped car?” I asked.
“You used the shoulder of the road. That’s illegal,” he replied.
“Officer, I’m from Texas. I didn’t know that using the shoulder was illegal in Mississippi.”
“Sorry sir. But ignorance of the law is no excuse.”
Ignorance is risky business. “Why is there such a thing as risk? Because there is such a thing as ignorance. If there were no ignorance there would be no risk.” (1) Counter to what you may have been told, “What you don’t know can hurt you!”
Businesses function like a set of scales. Large amounts of ignorance are a burden to the business, raising the risk of failure. For example, if you don’t know for sure which products or customers are profitable or unprofitable, you run the risk of selling more and making less. Or if you don’t know the highest cost activity or process in your business, you run the risk of misappropriating limited resources to an activity inconsistent with your organization’s mission or strategy.
Risk takes many forms.
- Being logical is risky business.To be considered logical requires doing what the majority of other people and businesses do. If you look closely, most of those people and business are not successful. As author Vincent Roazzi says, “Success is not logical”. (2) Having thousands of credit card debt is logical. Being debt free is illogical. Being illogical leads to personal financial security and success. Do you and your business need to be more illogical?
- Being tolerant is risky business.Apathy, bending the rules, letting others set the agenda, ignoring commandments lead to demise. In his new book Taking America Back, author Joseph Farah says, “I’m proud to be called intolerant. I’m intolerant of evil. That’s a good thing. Tolerance of evil would be evil.” (3) Is there something you’ve tolerated for too long?
- Ignoring a truth is risky business.Lotteries are called a tax for people with poor math skills. The odds of winning the Texas Lottery… picking 5 numbers out of 44… are 1 in a million. To be precise, 1:1,111,264. For an organization with 100 or more customers and $5 million overhead expense, the odds that overhead is consumed equally by every customers is even higher than the lottery. Managers who ignore a valued tool, like Activity Based Management/Activity Based Costing (ABM/ABC), are risking the financial livelihood of their organization. Are you ignoring proven principles and tools that can improve your business’ results?
- Ignoring retirement planning is risky business.Because of procrastination, ignorance and no financial planning, “By their 65th birthday, 93% of people are either dead or broke.” (4) Regardless of your age, do you have a financial plan? If not, you’ll end up with no time and no money.
- Greed is risky business.As seen in the recent annals of Enron, HealthSouth, WorldCom and other businesses, greed is infectious. According to John Nofsinger and Kenneth Smith’s book Infectious Greed, the greed of Enron’s management team infected auditor Arthur Andersen, law firm Vinson & Elkins and countless other firms. What is infectious in your business?
- Ignoring a faith in God is risky business.Faith is the evidence of things not seen. Lee Strobel was an atheist with a Master of Studies in Law degree from Yale. He decided that it was risky to be wrong. Using historical, scientific and fingerprint evidence coupled with a dozen interviews of doctoral experts from Cambridge, Princeton and Brandeis, Lee wrote his findings in a book titled The Case for Christ. Do you lack faith?
- Ignoring mistakes is risky business. “It is heartening to note that some of the worst mistakes occur in the most successful companies.”(5) How a person or company responds to mistakes is critical to survival and success. I worked for Johnson & Johnson during the 1980 Tylenol poisoning incident. While J&J was not at fault, leaders did not ignore customer’s concern. A 100% recall of all product followed by the introduction of new tamperproof packaging led to the recovery of one of America’s greatest brand name products. Have you made a mistake that needs to be celebrated this year?
- Ignoring experts and hanging out with amateurs is risky business. Amateur bull-rider Richard McHugh asked world champion rider Gary Leffew how to be successful. Step One was not a type of grip or specific type of equipment. Instead, Gary told Richard to quit the amateur rodeo circuit where he had been successful. “As long as you are hanging around amateurs, you will think like an amateur, and you will not improve your skills.”Are you hanging out with amateurs or professionals?
- Ignoring root causes is risky business.Because it’s easier, most people and businesses treat superficial symptoms, not the deep-down root causes of problems. ICMS customer Dupre’ Transport is committed to safety. Dupre’ Transport’s safety department recently showed me research that indicates every 20 near misses by a truck driver leads to at least 1 property damage accident. How does Dupre’ lower the risk of accidents and maintain an excellent safety record for their employees and customers? They don’t hire drivers that exhibit the undesirable behaviors that lead to near misses. What symptom in your business is in need of root cause analysis?
- Ignoring your purpose in life is risky business.If you don’t search out and identify your purpose, you’ll end with no wealth or legacy. The current success of Rick Warren’s book, Purpose Driven Life, is a positive sign that more and more people are searching out their purpose. Do you know your purpose in life?
I learned a life lesson in Mississippi. Ignorance is not a defense. Instead, it leads to defeat. Ignorance is the result of inactivity. Procrastinating… putting off to tomorrow those things that we should do today… is a slippery slope to demise and despair.
Thanks to several wonderful ICMS customers willing to rearrange their ABM project schedules, I was able to be with my mother when she died in hospice care last week. I did not wait until 4:00pm October 7th to tell her how much I loved her, appreciated all she taught me and had done for me. If I had waited to tell her those things and not been there, I would forever carry a burden of regret. Is there something important you’re ignoring? Don’t risk it!
(1) Don’t Waste Your Life, John Piper, Crossway Books, 2003
(2) Getting Rich With Integrity, Vincent M. Roazzi, Brown Books, 2002
(3) Taking America Back, Joseph Farah, WND Books, 2003
(4) 1980 U.S. Department of Labor Statistics and Mortality Tables
(5) Celebrate Your Mistakes, Jon Stamell, Melissa Field & John Holt, Jr., Irwin Publishing, 1996