Business Lessons I Learned in Cuba

Just 90 miles from the coast of Florida, Cuba’s natural valleys and caves along with the urban development of its capital city, Havana, makes for one interesting kaleidoscope.

I, along with a small group of family and friends, recently had the pleasure of visiting Cuba.  Going from the capital city of Havana to the smaller, farm towns of Vinales, Varadero and Pinar del Rio, I observed an interesting paradox.

While the preservation of classic cars, culture, and cuisine are undeniable, so is the lack of preservation of many buildings.  These buildings are the unfortunate victims of years of neglect.

 

Lesson #1:  Maintain the Façade
Looking at the house in this post’s featured image as well as the picture below are visual, and painful, reminders of what can happen when you build something, but fail to maintain it.  The façade of both homes was no doubt stunning when first built and freshly painted.  Yet, its exposure to the elements without ongoing upkeep makes it a fragment of its original grandeur.

This is a visual cautionary tale of what neglect can look like in our businesses.  The widespread deterioration disturbed me, especially being a continuous improvement advocate.  I was fortunate to engage in a candid conversation with a Cuban economist and he explained that the lack of maintenance is primarily due to economic (and political) factors.  Simply put, many Cubans cannot afford the upkeep of their homes.

Limited maintenance budgets are indeed a reality.  For example, there might be times when you have to choose between making payroll or investing in buying new software.  If you put processes into place early on, you can foresee danger before it strikes:

  1. Document your key revenue-generating processes.
  2. Assign metrics to measure the performance of those processes. No vanity metrics!
  3. Monitor process performance on a regular basis.
  4. Make process improvements as necessary and as dictated by your finances.

 

Lesson #2:  Monitor Your Façade  
Dashboards are an effective way to monitor process performance.  By placing your most important metrics on one sheet of paper and looking at it regularly, you can monitor all aspects of your business to minimize both risk and…ruin.

In fact, I recently spoke about the use of dashboards on my podcast and provided an example you can download at BusinessInfrastructure.TV.  With maintenance being so important, why does this subject go ignored in so many small businesses?

I addressed this obvious omission in my “Who Said Operations Isn’t Sexy?” episode.  And quality expert Jarvis Gray further reiterated the importance of maintenance and quality in the form of continuous improvement in another episode.

 

Lesson #3: Go Behind the Facade
It’s not enough to have a business that looks good only on the outside. You have to go behind that façade and ensure that the way you deliver your services and products lives up to your customers’ expectations. In fact, when I interviewed marketing guru Andrea D. Smith on my podcast, we explored how to strike the perfect balance between marketing and operations.

It’s no easy feat, but it is doable! In fact, you can learn how to structure your company for sustainable success with my book, Behind the Façade: How to Structure Company Operations for Sustainable Success. It’s available in both hardcover and digital format.

 

Lesson #4: “If you don’t use it, you lose it?” 
Have you heard the expression, “if you don’t use it, you lose it?” Well, I have a new expression: “If you don’t maintain it, you can’t sustain it.”  Whenever something new is put into place whether it be a process, an app, or ink for your printer…if you don’t actively use it, it will lose its effectiveness.  For example, at one time in my life, I was fluent in Spanish.  I took Spanish classes all four years of high school.  In fact, my teacher, Senora Herrera, is Cuban.

But over time, my Spanish-speaking skills have dwindled to the point where I speak “Spanglish.”  Rather than speaking in full and complete sentences, I may start a phrase in Spanish but finish it in English.  This isn’t because I’m trying to be comical, it’s because I don’t remember how to say certain words in Spanish.

It’s shameful because my first name is Spanish!  I have several Spanish speaking friends and colleagues.  Yet, I’ve lost my ability to communicate fluently because, over time, I did not make a conscious effort to speak Spanish when the opportunity presented itself. Looking back, I should have continued watching Univision, listen to Spanish music and actively participate in activities to ensure I maintained my ability to speak the language.

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Think about your business.  Have you put something in place only to abandon, neglect, forget or ignore it?  Are there areas of your business that require Tender Loving Care (“TLC”)?  How serious are you about making these repairs and ensuring you have an ongoing maintenance plan?

Contact me for a FREE 30-minute consultation where we can discuss a game plan custom-made just for your business.

I’ve made a commitment to re-learn Spanish so that I can better communicate with future clients in Spanish-speaking countries.  What are you committed to maintaining in your business?

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Comments
  • Joann Schofield
    Reply

    Hi Alicia and Christopher,
    I too hope to visit Cuba one day. Ghana also has a culture of non maintenance. Poor infrastructure of Roads etc. I will order your book. Is there a Link?

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