It may not rank up there with the “Seven Deadly Sins,” but complacency can be a business killer. And, regrettably, I’m not immune to it.

business killerThroughout 2012 business was good. I was in a groove, feeling pretty good about myself. Maybe a little too good, superior even. Then, seemingly out of the blue, in January reality reached out, grabbed me and put me in my place.

It started with a cleaning challenge that I was unprepared to tackle. Next, postponed maintenance led to too-slow drying and a customer complaint. Finally, a competitor beat me, not on price but on performance. He was better prepared than I to take care of a customer’s problem. He won the job; I was embarrassed.

Forced to take a hard look ay my operation, I didn’t like what I saw. Entropy was invading my business due to my complacency.

Fortunately, I recognized it. (Unfortunately, I’ve been down this road before.) I am looking at all aspects of the business with a critical eye and upgrading where needed. My goal isn’t to get back to where we were, it is to be better than ever. To up our game, if you will.

Most but not all of the changes are cosmetic: Truck, equipment, uniforms. But we’re also incorporating newer technologies into our operations: Speed drying, smart phone credit/debit card processing, establishing a presence in the social network world.

And, I’m doing one other thing that I hope will keep complacency at bay: I’m instituting a plan to make one change, one improvement, to the way we do business each month. My hope is that by doing this I will force myself to look at my business each month with a critical eye and not fall victim yet again to complacency.

But I wouldn’t bet my life on it.

John Downey is a fourth-generation carpet cleaner and owner-operator of Downey’s Carpet Care of Granville in Granville, OH. When he’s not scrubbin’ rug, his wife, Cecilia, lets him serve on the board of directors of the IICRC and assist Dr. Michael Berry in his efforts to bring science-based environmental management practices to the cleaning industry. John can be reached at