A bad situation is a good situation. ~ Zen Master Seung Sahn

Staff turnover is never fun, especially in the middle of the busy season. When a soap maker leaves unexpectedly or a new farmer’s market hire fails to materialize as scheduled, its rough. We all have to take on extra work to keep the business running till the open positions are filled.

It’s exhausting, but not completely without a silver lining or two.

I didn’t get into the soap making business because I wanted to spend 40 or 50 hours a week in front of a computer, but over the years my job has gotten increasingly administrative and sedentary.

When we’re short-staffed, however, I have to get back in touch with the hands-on parts of the business – with the tactile, physical jobs that I started with long ago. I weigh fats and make soap. I get outside and start selling at the farmer’s markets, just like in the early days. It’s a nice change of pace.

And as this happens, I look at our processes with fresh, critical eyes. Gosh, this part of the operation is a pain in the neck! I’ll think. Is there an easier way to do it? Is there a piece of equipment or something that would alleviate the “pain points” in this job?

Anticipating bringing on a new person, I’m more motivated to clean areas that have gotten grubby, sort drawers full of clutter, and replace tools that have gone missing. I update instruction books that are full of notes that only the original author can decipher, and post clearer signage in the production area.

But wait – that’s not right! you might say. Why do these improvements have to wait till someone leaves! Shouldn’t they be happening continually, no matter what? Of course, of course! But I guess it’s human nature to settle into complacency when things seem to be chugging along without trouble.

At any rate, doing someone else’s job for a while gives me new insight into the work, and appreciation for those who do it. Especially the employees who hang in, keeping the ship sailing through the bumpy transition.

A friend who built a very successful business once told me that each time his business went through a big upheaval, it came back stronger than ever.  May it be so.