What does it mean to burn the candle at both ends? It means to do too much, especially staying up late when needing to wake early. While we are not taking this saying literally here, our cooperative is burning it at both ends. (I hope I don’t need to give the same background I’ve offered in recent posts; let’s suffice it to say that I am complaining about work here…the opinions expressed are solely those of me.)

Now, I’ve been around business long enough to know that payroll budgets matter. Payroll is an expense that must be accounted for, and it must be controlled. Profit margins are slim, and this line item on the profit/loss sheet cannot be disregarded.

That being said, I strongly believe (strongly!) that you do not ‘cheap’ your way to success, you do not ‘cut costs’ your way to success. No, the way to be profitable and to stay in business is to plan for that end and prepare for it.

My point is that you need people in order to grow the business, even if your payroll budget says you can’t afford them. One of the specific issues in this business is that people don’t always know about our products, as there are many things (products and ways to use them) they are not used to from their conventionally-processed diets.  Similarly, many people gravitate to our type of ‘alternative’ food store due to health issues; they must make changes, but they don’t know which foods or supplements are good for them.I strongly believe that having people in the store is the way to grow, by being able to answer questions and direct them to products. (in addition to simply stocking the shelves…)

Our staff has been stretched thin for months, and the latest manager (the fourth one to occupy that office this year) is obsessed with counting holes on the shelves. Meanwhile, he has shown a propensity towards pulling staff off the floor (away from stocking shelves, aka filling holes!) for other projects.

The push and pull of our staff is the same as the proverbial burning of the candle: people are betting burned out and frustrated. The poor management leads to inefficient, over-worked staff, which leads to poor customer service.

Additionally, the word candle comes from the Latin, candere, which means ‘to shine’. This store, this organization, does not shine right now. It burns like a regular old light bulb: it creates light, but it does not inspire, it is not beautiful, and it will die some day.