Seed World

5% Makes all the Difference

Gro Alliance

A third-generation seedsman, Jim Schweigert grew up in the family seed business and was exposed to industry issues at an early age. He earned a Bachelor of Arts in public relations from the University of Minnesota and worked for corporate public relations firms in Minneapolis, Chicago and Atlanta before joining the family business full time in 2003. He has since been active in the American Seed Trade Association, the Independent Professional Seed Association and earned his master’s in seed technology and business from Iowa State University. As president, Schweigert manages client contracts and crop planning, as well as business development and new market opportunities. His unique background and experience make him one of the seed industry’s leaders in innovation. As such, he was honored as Seed World’s 2009 Future Giant and currently serves as chair of the board of directors for Seed Programs International.

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My wife, Jen, and I love to play Scrabble. We played quite a bit before we were married and I was sure that I was the superior player. She thought she was, so I started keeping track of our game results. More than 15 years later, we’ve logged 1,798 game scores! I’ve learned two things by tracking our individual game results. 1) Jen is better than me at Scrabble by five percent and 2) being five percent worse over 1,798 games means I am way behind!

Here are a couple stats. Over 1,798 games, Jen has a running average of 323.3 points per game and mine is 306.7. Being behind by 5.4 percent doesn’t sound like much, but in context of total points behind, however, it’s huge. I trail by 16.6 points per game over 1,798 games, which puts me 29,846.8 points in the hole. At my current average of 306.7 points per game, I’d have to shut Jen out in 98 consecutive games just to get back to even. I’m going to have to get a lot better and live a long time to catch her!

Think about this in business terms. What business processes does your company repeat hundreds or thousands of times each year? What if you could improve them by just five percent? How much could that help your business over in the long-term?

Let’s look at the reduction of overtime for one hourly employee with a wage of $15 per hour and 500 hours of overtime per year. Those 500 overtime hours have an annual of $11,250. If you eliminate just five percent of those hours, the annual savings is $562.50. That might not sound like much, but take that over 15 years (like our Scrabble game log) and that total savings are $8,437.50. Make the five percent improvement to more than just one employee’s time and the benefit really starts to add up.

It’s common to think about big ways to transform a company activity or process, but major strides can be made just by improving your most frequent activities by small amounts. I encourage you to look at your company’s most common activities and brainstorm ways to improve them by just five percent. Track the improvement as frequently as possible and report the improvements to the team. Making small improvements to your most common activities can be the long-term “game changer” your company is missing!