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Lessons From A Dead Cat
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Nala, my favorite of three cats, died within the past couple weeks. We had rescued her from an abusive owner nearly a decade ago. She spent the first few months with us in the rafters of the basement. Over many months, and years, her personality improved, she came down from the rafters, and eventually came up from the basement.

Over those months and years, Nala and I bonded. She was the only cat I would let into my office. She would dash into the room and settle in by my laptop while I worked.

On a Wednesday morning we noticed Nala had a cut on her face. It had not healed by afternoon, so we took her to the nearby veterinary office. They glued the wound and said she would be fine, nothing more to do. By the next afternoon, blood was still dripping from the wound. That night, we took Nala to an emergency clinic, and by midnight she was dead.

So how is this relevant to the pulp and paper industry, or business and finance and management, or you personally? Let me offer a few examples:

Others depend on you — I was responsible for Nala’s health and well-being. Likewise, my children were dependent on me for food, shelter, emotional support, etc., as they were growing up. At the office, your employees may depend on you for fair supervision and ultimately, their jobs. And always, you depend on your customers to remain in business.

Building trust can take time and effort — Nala had bad experiences with her previous owners. She defended her new haven in the rafters with teeth and claws. Allowing her to become acclimated and feel safe helped create trust. For people, trust may be immediate or require repeated reinforcement, and it can quickly dissolve if perceived promises are broken. (My trust in the vet we saw, for example, has evaporated.)

Incorrect or insufficient information can be costly — For Nala, the vet’s statement that she would be fine and lack of information about potential complications proved fatal. In business, inaccurate accounting systems, archaic inventory systems, or outdated or inadequate process control systems can gnaw away at profits. Poor communications within a company, among staff members, or with customers, also make it that much more difficult to be profitable.

Delays also can be costly — Had Nala gotten additional treatment even a couple hours sooner, she might still be alive. In business, delays equate to lost production time, lost revenues, and sometimes, lost customers and lost business.

We all suffer loss, we all grieve — Pets die, people die, but emotional loss also can result when companies down-size and mills close. Some people have difficulty coping with the loss, others have difficulty acknowledging their feelings. For either extreme and everything in between, people (family, friends, employees, coworkers) need support, understanding, time to transition through their grief, and possibly counseling.

And: Appreciate what you have, while you have it.


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