Both in your business and in your non-business life you have to deal with nuisances, some serious some not. How much time and energy you spend on them depends totally on you.
In business, nuisances have a tendency to never go away. Instead they simmer and only come to a boil when we neglect to manage them. They can range from a key employee’s bad attitude to a vendor’s misbehavior and anything in between. Because there are so many varieties of a nuisance I will use a parable from the non-business world to illustrate some of the ways I have learned to reduce their impact.
I live in the South and we are entering our six good weather months. As temperatures drop, the oak trees are full of luscious acorns. Unfortunately these nuts become a major culinary attraction luring squirrels to think they own not only our yard but also the interior of our attic. For further digestion, they will also chew on exposed cables of any kind and in our neighborhood, the cable guy has become more regular than the mail-woman.
In order to defend our castle, I had to spend time,energy and money, in ever increasing amounts to reduce the rodent nuisance, and yet I knew that total victory was not in the stars. Just like the gopher in the movie “Caddyshack” the squirrels were determined to outlast me.
Keep in mind, that in business, your nuisance owner does not want to leave you or loose your business – they just want to train you to accept things their way.
When the squirrel nuisance started a year ago, my animal loving wife insisted that we use a catch-and-release trap. She volunteered to drive the captives to an uninhabited oak tree wooded area about 8 miles away and release them . We purchased a $59 trap and set it up. We averaged one captured squirrel per day for about 3 days. Then the rodents caught on and I never trapped another one. They also must have passed on their knowledge to their off-spring ( just like employees can copy bad behavior). Even with different bait set in different locations, I never caught another squirrel. Sort of like the practice of transferring a problem employee- they become a nuisance from afar.
Still being in a non-lethal mindset, after the failure of the trap, we tried using bio based repellents. These were totally ineffective – the squirrels partied on the treated surfaces and just multiplied in the yard. In correlation to HR terms – verbal counseling. The next step was an escalation into high-tech. We invested in a sonic noise generator, but low and behold, one of our neighbors started complaining that his pets were acting weird. The squirrels on the other hand acted as if the $90 gizmo was part of their home entertainment system. Zero effectiveness.
When non-lethal methods failed it was time to go on the offensive. We purchased the old-style, large rat-traps from Walmart and baited them with bacon or peanut butter. Success was mine for about one week. The squirrel population shrank and I was celebrating.
Then from one day to the next, even though the traps had been set off, the rodent and bait were gone! I reset it, and in a few minutes I watched a squirrel trigger the trap by pushing it. Once the trap had sprung, the squirrel proceeded to eat the bait, all the time looking at me. The entire squirrel family adapted their behavior and the nuisance was back worse than ever.
I realized that I would have to be more personally involved. That meant that I had to figure out how to get to them from a distance with something that would make an impact. Being surrounded by neighbor’s homes, firearms were not a possibility and neither was Elon Musk’s flamethrower. I settled for a BB gun and immediately realized that actually hitting a squirrel in motion was a bit out of my area of competence; but at least I was getting close enough for them to sense actual danger. Over the span of a few weeks the squirrels learned to associate my presence combined with the sound of an air-gun being charged as “immediate danger” and they ran for the neighbor’s yards. Even better, their ability to learn danger signs resulted in our yard becoming almost squirrel free. Now, when I see the occasional nuisance showing up, all I have to do is load the air-gun and shake the pellet box and they are gone.
What have I learned from my battle with nuisance squirrels? When you are dealing with a nuisance, it does not pay to be laissez-faire. Escalate the battle from Phase 1 to Phase 4 immediately. In HR terms – give a nuisance employee only one warning, if the behavior repeats, terminate them. It will save you time and energy and it will help morale. The same holds for a nuisance supplier – one warning and the next time you will lose my business. That is one of the reasons why you should try to never be dependent on a single vendor, or for that matter, a key employee.