Problem solving

I think the most important aspect of running a business is having the ability to solve problems on the fly.

I remember reading a story about George Frank, the late, great French wood finisher. The company he worked for was finishing oak woodwork in a bank that was expected to be open the next morning. The stain color had been declared too light and the finishers were tearing their hair out trying to figure out how to darken all of the woodwork before opening time.

Frank came up with the idea of fuming the entire bank with ammonia. They sealed up the bank and set out dozens of small burners with little bowls of ammonia. He went to the bar and waited, fretting the whole time. Two hours before opening time, they unwrapped the place and the color was perfect. Problem solved, except for a lingering scent of ammonia.

This kind of problem comes up all the time in our business. I can think of plenty of similar situations I have found myself in. Sometimes I had the stroke of brilliance, while other times it came from the most unlikely source. But wherever it comes from, it is a key part of making the customer happy.



  1. Gary Coyne wrote:

    But problem solving is the whole fun of any hobby, company, ANYTHING!

    Yes there are those who delight in making their 3000th birdhouse and I am grateful that they find peace in that. For myself, I look for new projects with new challenges to solve new problems. That’s where the fun is.

    BTW, what’s with the “small burners?” I fume all of the time (I use 27% ammonia). Ammonia (as a gas) is flammable and adding a flame is NOT recommended. Perhaps you meant “small bowels?”


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