How One Drop of Solder Was Worth 2.4 Million Dollars

Yes, you read the title correctly. No, it is not click bait. I promise. In business too much focus is on looking for the silver bullet, the magic pill that will cure what ails us. What is the one big idea I need to improve my business? We rack our brains over and over trying to reinvent the wheel and come up empty. What if you took that big picture thinking and reduced it? What would your perspective look like if you went from 30,000 feet above the ground, to sea level? Do you think you could see more? There is a popular book out there called 212 The Extra Degree. The basic concept discussed and expounded upon is that at 211 degrees water is hot. With one extra degree, at 212 water boils. With boiling water comes steam. With steam you can power a train. One degree can make an enormous impact.

 I am currently reading the book Titan by Ron Chernow about the life of John D. Rockefeller. We have all heard of Rockefeller and Standard Oil and how what he did in the late 19th century revolutionized business. Although he was responsible for thousands of employees, hundreds of refineries, plants, docks, ships, etc. he didn’t stay in his ivory tower. He frequently took the time to go into his refineries and observe, listen and ask questions. At one of his plants he observed a worker soldering the lids onto 5 gallon tin cans of kerosene for export. He asked the worker “How many drops of solder do you use?” The employee answered “40”. Rockefeller asked “Have you tried 38? The employee responded no, we have always done 40. Rockefeller asked him to start using 38 drops and report back. A couple days later he followed up and learned that at 38 drops a couple of cans would leak. But at 39 drops, none of them leaked. 39 drops became the new normal throughout Standard Oil. Many years later in his retirement, Rockefeller took great joy in recalling the impact of one drop of solder. He stated that in the first year that one drop of solder saved $2500. His exporting business doubled, tripled and quadrupled in a short time providing him with savings in the hundreds of thousands of dollars. For reference, $100,000 in 1875 is the equivalent of 2.4 MILLION dollars today. One drop of solder.

What is your one drop of solder? When was the last time you walked the shop and just watched the processes unfold? How often do you observe, listen and ask questions? Comment below what your one drop of solder was and what it did for you.

Some things to observe, review and consider as you look for your 1 drop of solder

An advisor’s complete interaction with a customer from write up to delivery

A technician performing a multi-point inspection

A technician performing an oil change

A technician diagnosing a check engine light

A detailer washing a car

How much do you pay for washer fluid, oil, rags, brake clean etc.? What form do you buy in it? 1 gallon vs 55 gallon?

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