Lessons From Scout

Like any good German Shepherd Dog (GSD), Scout won’t look at a camera. That would be a big act of aggression on his part, and he doesn’t have an aggressive bone in his body. (Kovi, his buddy normally doesn’t have any such compunction and couldn’t resist photobombing the photoshoot).

The days of summer closing, and I recently returned from 3 weeks of travel and saw Scout with fresh eyes. And boy is he blowing coat. GSDs are a double coated breed, and Scout, being a long haired GSD seems to have gotten an extra helping of both. Without daily attention, his coat gets out of hand very fast.

As I was combing him, I thought about how grooming Scout mirrors operations systems. First maybe, I should define an operations system…It is the set of policies and procedures that businesses have that defines what they do. In the food world where I work, this means Hazard Analysis for Critical Control Points plans, Standard Operating Procedures and logging. Lots and lots of logging. An operations system looks different in different parts of the company, much like a dog’s coat is different on the belly than the tail. But taken as a whole, it should all work together.

First, you have to put the system in place. And in our analogy, that meant a few things. To start this journey, I have to tell you my family acquired Scout because I had a dream. My first GSD came to me while I was sleeping and said to start looking for a new dog. Seeing as Medchen had been dead 3 years at that point, I was weirded out for a lot of reasons. But, my heart said look on PetFinder. And then I saw Scout. I did my research and called the shelter, I found out his story and what he needed. And then we piled in the car and drove to the Upper Valley Humane Society and adopted him. We brought him home and started living with a 110# GSD (he was about 3 when we got him).

How does that parallel operations systems? Well, you as a business owner need to know what system you want. I wanted a GSD, not a labradoodle, so I set out to find a GSD. Businesses need to know what system to implement. Is it just a USDA HACCP? Is it an ISO system for manufacturing? A Good Agricultural Practices (GAP) plan? Figure out what system you need. Talk to your customers and find out what they want you to have.

Once you figure out which kind of system, then you have to decide if you are going to do the work in house or hire it out. What’s the parallel? I suppose in our metaphor this mean deciding whether to breed and raise puppies or adopt an adult from a shelter. In our family, we got an adult from a shelter. Another option could have been buying an adult or puppy from a breeder. We optioned for less expensive but mostly trained and to bring home a dog that had been abandoned and in a shelter for 6 months. We spent some time training him and couldn’t be happier.

You can invest time or money. Both have their advantages and disadvantages. But you are going to do one or the other.

Build the HACCP and SOPs in house, or hire it out, you are going to have to work with your system to make it work for you. That means daily, weekly, monthly, quarterly and yearly work on the system. See where I am going with this? We brush Scout every day. I’m a vet and I know I am supposed to brush his teeth too (umm, whoops). We clean out his ears every so often. We do testing every so often. And when he is sick, we fix him. That’s how to approach an operations system. It’s like anything else. It takes work, care and maintenance but will make your life better and easier.

Molly (my daughter) and Scout, the day we brought him home