Nitty Gritty Application

In last week’s article, I mentioned the principle of always having a guy in a truck with not enough to do. (Which is the key to business growth.) 

That’s just a principle and isn’t necessarily meant to be applied literally.

A faithful reader emailed me back (to protect the innocent we’ll call him Tom) with the name he uses for this principal and how he applies it in his company.

It was such a beautiful nitty-gritty real-world application, I asked Tom’s permission to share it with you.

The cliff notes version is this:

A company can’t grow without SLACK built into the workload/workforce balance. As in, there’s no growth if your workflow can’t expand to say “yes” to new work coming in.

Now, here’s the detailed explanation.

“A key is to realize work isn’t linear.

Some hours of the day we do more than other hours of the day.
Some days of the week are more productive than others.
Some weeks we get more done than other weeks.

The secret is the idea of SLACK.

Basically, a 60% load is the base level for a standard work week. Which means you can crank it up and hit around 80% if it is required. But you can’t sustain 80% for extended periods of time. If you are running your crew at 80% you need another crew member.

Conversely, if you keep too many people working at 40% this will soon become the new norm.

If you hire an extra person to simply be waiting for work what will happen is the entire work team will slow down to match the work to the time.

Think of it like a car driving at 75 mph … Cruising speed … but when it comes time to pass you want to easily ramp up to 90 mph.

Run your crew at cruising speed most of the time.


The other factor in SLACK is these are people not machines.

They don’t work in a linear progression. We load WAVY.

We load them heavier MTW and heavier in the morning. PM is SLACK time.

Fridays is our SLACK day.

Fridays we have our weekly team meeting & breakfast. Each week a different person brings breakfast (we pay for it).

We kick it off by all hands, including management, doing cleanup of the shop, bathrooms, break room, take out trash (yup I get to scrub the loo too).

Friday is also when we celebrate birthdays and occasional team lunches.

But if we are behind the 8 ball, we can step it up and get to work. We can even amp up and run some on Saturday if needed.

The big idea is people are not designed to run hot for long. For the long-haul run ‘em at cruising speed most of the time. When you start consistently running at 75-80% you know you are short staffed.

There is no sin in making it fun to come to work and looking forward to Fridays leaves the team with a good taste in their mouth to finish the week. And you marketing pros know about the importance of last impressions.”

If you found Tom’s explanation and application of SLACK helpful, let me know. I’ll pass it along.

I love these kinds of real-world applications of good business principles.

 – Zac Smith, VC