Forecasting profitability involves looking for shadows

February 1, 2009 By    

February is the month that Punxsutawney Phil will come out of his hole to look for his shadow and predict the weather. The legend holds that if Phil sees his shadow, there will be six more weeks of winter.

Unfortunately, Phil cannot actually predict the length of winter, nor can a business forecast safe results by giving a cursory look toward safe practices.

When it comes to safety, many companies use a similar formula to determine exposure. They look around, and if they see no liability shadow they assume they will have future good fortune and their assets will be safe.

The movie “Groundhog Day” had an interesting plot involving a news reporter who grudgingly goes through the motions of the annual coverage of what he considers a boring ritual. Little does he know how a simple twist of fate will impact his attitude.

As it turns out, he wakes each morning to the same day, the same people and the same interactions. Everything is the same, until he figures out that he can change the outcome of the day by changing his actions and habits. The resulting plot involves his practice on everything from not stepping in a puddle of water to learning to play the piano to impress a love interest. In the end, his humorous escapades illustrate our ability to change our outcomes one day at a time through diligence and practice.

After an accident, your company has the opportunity to review past action and inaction related to cause and future prevention. It can be a painful process. Plaintiff’s attorneys can request all of your records related to documentation of customer communications, service and installation work, employee training, supervisor activities and company policy compliance. Such mandated reviews involve endless hours of investigation, depositions and delays of the legal process.

Many owners who have been caught in the crossfire of such scrutiny have revisited past action and inaction much like the main character in the movie. It can be repetitive in the form of waking up to a bad day over and over again. Unfortunately, they can’t relive those days prior to the accident. They cannot go back and change a tragic outcome.

In recognition of Groundhog Day and the spirit of forecasting your company’s safety future, I recommend you consider what you might do differently when it comes to areas of safety scrutiny.

• What past issues or situations have resulted in near-miss accidents or future liability problems?

• Which employees or customers represent an exposure to a future problem?

• Do your supervisors and managers practice daily to predict and achieve safe results?

• Is your company investing in goal-oriented training and the motivation of employees to practice every day to master their abilities and attitudes?

• If you could forecast your company’s future profitability, where would you look for shadows?

Such self-examination can be frustrating and create an environment fraught with conflict, especially if a need for change is uncovered. However, a true forecast of future profitability for all companies often involves the need for management to pull their heads out of a hole and look around for shadows.

It’s the best way to predict good things to come.

Jay Johnston ( is an insurance agent, business consultant, safety writer and inspirational speaker. Jay can be reached at or 952-935-5350.

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