By Ken Hager, COO
What does it mean to be proactive? Being proactive requires advanced thought and preparation, something that many of us don’t take the time to implement. Why is being proactive more important than being reactive? Which one do you classify yourself as?
I like the Dictionary.com definition of proactive:
“1) serving … to control an expected occurrence or situation, especially a negative or difficult one; 2) anticipatory.”
The opposite, of course, is to be reactive: waiting for things to occur before responding, or behavior that is not internally motivated but manifests in response to a situation or the actions of others. Let me give you a few quick examples of why proactive activity is the better choice, although most people by default seem to be reactive.
As I explained in an earlier article in this publication, I am a boater/fisherman who loves being out on the water as often as possible. The only problem with being involved in water activities is the real possibility that you may find yourself in a situation beyond your control that could very well be life threatening. I like to travel anywhere from 20 to 125 miles offshore in pursuit of my passion. As I often tell my crew members, make sure we have everything we could possible need for this trip as there aren’t any convenience stores out there that we can run into and pick up supplies. In a situation like this, you definitely want to be proactive and think of every possible need that may come up ahead of time and make sure you have it — and, when possible, a spare — on board.
I always tell Nelson, who works on my engines, “If it needs to be done, just do it. You don’t even have to ask me.” The last thing I want is to be 120 miles offshore, have an engine failure, and not be able to get back to shore just because I put off doing a recommended service.
I had just such a situation this past September when my crew and I decided to go to Block Canyon to hunt down tuna, about 140 miles away from the dock. We fished all afternoon and throughout the night and into the late morning of the next day, with the intent of leaving right after lunch to be home by dark.
We didn’t make it. About 125 miles from home, I lost a transmission on one of my engines. Instead of being able to travel 30–35 mph to return home, we could only go 7 mph. What should have taken us 4 1/2 hours ended up taking us 15 hours (this after being on the water for 28 hours).
Naturally, as we plodded along, the wind started to build and the seas kicked up waves to 10-footers. We didn’t have the ability to run out of the way. It was a very unpleasant 6 hours of the 15-hour return trip. We made it home — tired, aggravated, extremely late, but safe.
The next day back at the dock, I went over all of our pretrip arrangements and all of our preparations to see what we could have done differently. Turned out we had plenty of supplies, food, water, and everything else we needed to spend an extra day out there, so that worked out. What I hadn’t done was give any thought to spot-checking or servicing the transmission. It had never occurred to me.
When the transmission guy came to the dock to repair the one transmission, I instructed him to replace it on both engines. “But why would you do that if the starboard transmission is working and hasn’t demonstrated any problems?” he asked. I explained that I was a firm believer in proactive measures, and since both transmissions were installed on the same day and had an equal amount of hours on them, it was only a matter of time before the other one decided to go as well.
After he replaced the port transmission and then double-checked that I still wanted to go ahead with the starboard one (after showing me the invoice for the cost of the port one), I still gave the go-ahead. Once he took it apart, he called me immediately and said, “It turns out that was a great thought on your part.” This transmission had the same wear problem as the other, and it was a matter of days or weeks at the most before I would have found myself in the same situation.
The original repair and aggravation were a result of my reactive thinking, but the second replacement was proactive. By being proactive, I saved myself and my crew from being caught offshore and limping home again, possibly being caught in God-knows-what conditions. Being proactive saved me time, aggravation and possible additional costs by treating a potential problem before it became an actual issue.
It’s the same thing with everything we take on in life, much like a conscious decision that JGS Insurance made as a company a few years back. My brother Vinnie and I sat around a table and reviewed our entire operations as a company. We realized that we had been a very reactive entity, both internally as well as externally to our customers. As a result, we weren’t prepared for situations that we could have or should have been ready for. We were losing customers and business due to a lack of forethought and doing business the same way for over ninety-five years.
We made the decision to completely change the way we do business and put into place proactive services for our customers. We developed time lines and service plans that extended from eighteen months to five years in some circumstances. We retrained our employees and brought on additional professionals to help us implement our vision. We are still early in the change process, but to date, our customers and our employees have a greater sense of satisfaction and accomplishment than when we just reacted.
If you want to experience the difference between reactive thinking and proactive planning, reach out to one of the professionals here at JGS. We would be happy to sit down and discuss our services and how we can help you adjust your planning and outcomes.