“I can’t get the assignment done because we’re always fighting fires.” How often have I heard that one? My client was telling me he couldn’t get ready for our coaching session because too many things were going wrong in his business. “We’re always in crisis mode,” he said.

Too many small businesses run on the edge of being out of control–responding to customer complaints, fixing mistakes in production, dealing with unruly employees, resolving conflict among the management team. The result is crisis after crisis, fire after fire.

I suggested my client start counting fires–keep a log of the fires and make a graph we could discuss each week. Fires per day became a key business measurement. As part of the fire log, we asked these questions: What happened? Who was involved? What, precisely was the problem? What should be done to prevent such a fire from happening again?

Each week, we discussed the graph and the results. Soon, things were under control and we began to set longer range priorities for training, process improvement and management practices.

And, yes…we watched the fires/week line move down on the graph.

Count your fires. You’ll learn something.