Productivity: Learning from the Past

Just what exactly does it mean to be productive? On the most basic level, it’s input and output. It’s a measure of economic performance that compares the amount of goods and services produced (output) with the number of inputs used to produce those goods and services.

For Braydan Shaw, president, Burns 1876, it means effectively using your time and resources to accomplish desired results. It’s an important bottom line for just about any business which is why it’s one of the company’s core values: “We are productive.”

“Personally, and professionally, I believe in being results-oriented and focusing on the outcomes rather than the activities,” he says. “If you do this, it typically ensures you’re working on the important things to help you meet that end.”

How does Shaw approach productivity? He says he does a lot of daily calendar time blocking. He admits that most of us have more work than we can do in a day, so this helps him to prioritize the most important agenda items first.

Jake Quarnberg, president, retail operations at Burns, says that while we all have 24 hours in a day, being productive is being able to make the most of them.

“Creating good habits, day after day, until we become that person that we have long aspired and worked to be is something we strive for at Burns. Once a person is on the path of being productive daily, they can’t help but carry others along with them that want to emulate their characteristics,” he says.

In order to foster productivity, company-wide, leadership recognizes team members in weekly department meetings and spotlights those who have been particularly productive. They also recognize those individuals, company-wide, monthly.

“As a company, we’re very results-focused. Job responsibilities accurately correspond to each job and it’s the output that matters – not the amount of time spent on any given activity,” Shaw explains.

He adds that they’re constantly working to improve their systems and says that everyone has a voice in making those systems and processes as efficient as possible. Being a multi-generation family business has taught them the importance of shared guidance and wisdom – and learning from the past.

Shaw tells one of his favorite Burns’ stories that serves to illustrate and emphasize productivity:  

“Many years ago, our seat cover business was just beginning to boom and the company was almost running 24/7 to produce and ship seat covers across the country. Part of the production process entailed cutting poly strings about three feet in length. This was accomplished by unwinding the string off a spool, measuring it and cutting it over a hot wire to melt the ends of the string. The department was struggling to keep up with the production demands and something needed to change. An outsider to Burns was walking through the shop and noticed that they should be able to cut more than one string at a time. That insight led to a rearrangement of the equipment to hold five spools of cordage. By doing so, we increased productivity by five times.”

Shaw says, to this day, the company continues to seek out those seat cover string moments.

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