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Broken Window Theory

I sat down to write this article in late November of 2018, and as I glanced out the window, I noticed yet again, a police officer dealing with some unsavoury characters that seem to have overrun our city in the last couple of years.

Have you heard of “broken window theory”? It’s a premise created by a criminologist named George Kelling, and suggests that when a window is left broken, the other windows will soon be broken too. The first broken window tells everyone that no one cares, and so breaking another window is meaningless. Kelling then theorizes that allowing small misdemeanors and crimes to take place leads to larger, more serious crime.

This theory has been expanded into other areas – it’s really just talking about paying attention to the details. Of course, it can easily be applied to business:

  1. Are there any broken windows in your company culture? It’s shocking how fast morale can change, and neglecting what might seem like a small thing to an owner or manager can have a large impact on culture. At Avail, for example, our team endures a seasonal period where we put in many extra hours with additional stress. If we don’t pay attention to the details, our morale can quickly change. We try to keep our morale up by providing a positive atmosphere, opportunities for growth and development, and perks like massages, snacks, suppers, and when all else fails, alcohol. If you buy (or sell) a business, how will your employees react to the change? Keeping a close tab on morale will help ease the transition from the old owner to the new.
  2. What about in the tools you provide your employees? Do they have what they need to do their jobs effectively? If your equipment is old, out-of-date, or constantly breaking down, eventually, your employees will start treating your equipment like the junk it is. But If you implement a program to keep equipment running as smoothly as possible, chances are, your employees will be compelled to take good care of it. And a business that has well maintained equipment will be worth more than one that uses junk.
  3. Finally, do you actually have any broken windows? Anything your customer sees at your place of business will make a big impact on how you are perceived. Imagine going to a business where one of the windows is broken and ignored – does that give you a good feeling about going there? If your business is virtual, your website is your office space. Broken windows might mean dead links, outdated product descriptions, or a site design from 2002. These all show signs that nobody cares.  

Here’s the tricky thing with broken windows – sometimes you might have one and not even notice. Quite often, it’s easy to spot someone else’s broken window and not even realize you have one yourself. We can help! We can tour your business, review your operations, finances, and strategy, and make recommendations to help you fix any broken windows you might have. Contact us to get started.

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