When I first got out of college I worked in the retail business at a sporting goods store as a store manager. During a meeting with my district manager one day he made the comment to me that common sense is not common. He went on to explain that it is truly rare to find somebody who intuitively knows what to do without first being instructed. He felt that the reason there are so many disclaimers on the products we sold was because people didn’t have the common sense to use them as intended.
Being young, I thought he was just being cynical, but as I’ve grown older and hopefully wiser I do see his point and based upon some emails I receive others apparently feel the same way. I recently received an email entitled “Genetic Selection” in which there were photos of people doing some of the most moronic things. One of a gentleman doing mechanical work under the front hood of a car as it sped down the highway, another of two guys holding a lawnmower by its wheels a waist height trying to trim hedges. The photos went on with several more variations of things that some people do that to most wouldn’t make much sense, but obviously to these individuals it does. Common sense is not common.
If we venture beyond these people who come from the shallow end of the genetic pool there are still individuals with a high level of intelligence that have difficulty performing very simple tasks. Albert Einstein, one of the most accomplished physicists of modern time, quipped that “Common sense is a collection of prejudices acquired by the age of eighteen”. Most certainly his comments were made in self-defense because for as much genius that he displayed in physics he had very little common sense when it came to day-to-day functions. Perhaps he was just absent minded, concentrating on world changing equations but more likely he just lacked common sense. Common sense is not common.
In business, as owners and managers it is important to understand this concept. In the competitive marketplaces of today there is no room for errors in judgment. Employees should be given basic guidelines to follow and have periodic reviews to ascertain compliance. In my company, Katchen Company, we provide a full selection commercial real estate services which includes property management of apartments. With a slow economy creating high unemployment there has been an increase in vacancy causing increased competition amongst apartment communities as they try to attract the most qualified applicants. The appearance of the apartment community is a very important component of attracting new residents. This is something that I’d spoken to my apartment manager about at meetings and property visitation; but, last week I did a surprise visitation to one of my “star” property manager’s apartment community and was very disappointed with the property’s appearance. Weeds along fence lines and in garden beds, discarded trash scattered around the property and piles of debris that had apparently been dumped on the property by somebody who felt we had superior capabilities to discard it than they had.
When I called the manager and brought these short coming to her attention I was surprised to hear her lack of concern. A total disconnect between her properties difficulty in attracting applicants and the properties appearance. One would think it would be common sense to pull weeds, pick up trash or discard piles of debris but this seemed to elude her. It took some re-education of the importance of these “small details” to get her back on track. Common sense is not common.
Another example is a property manager who didn’t promptly return phone calls of those responding to advertisements. The total lack of urgency meant that prospective residents who might have chosen this manager’s apartment community looked elsewhere. Fortunately there are checks and balances in place and the phone logs turned in twice a week quickly reveal the manger’s misjudgment. It would be common sense to call back people who are responding to the hundreds of dollars of advertising we are doing to attract applicants but to this manager it wasn’t. Re-establishing a “sense of urgency” I got the manager back on track. Common sense is not common.
Both incidents occurred with managers who really do their job well. It was these short periods of misjudgment that adversely impacted the performance of the properties on the near-term and could have been even more costly if not caught and corrected quickly. By knowing and understanding that most people lack the ability to make seemingly easy decisions and putting checks and balances in place, behaviors that could have lost Katchen Company the property management contracts for these properties was averted.
The above examples are something to think about when managing your business. After all, common sense is not common.