Business Is as Easy as Sort, Wash, Repeat

Life is a matter of upkeep.

Businessman at a laundromat, Fishbowl Inventory BlogWhat do I mean by that? Well, there is a constant trade-off of between having what you want or need, and the precursory effort leading up to those things. You need to improve your health? Then you need healthy eating and exercise. You need a new windshield? Then you need to pay for it. You need a better relationship with your kids? Then you need to spend more time with them. Yes, I’m being general, but you get the point.

Call it the law of the harvest, cause and effect, even Maslow has some things to say about it, but it boils down to: put the energy in to get energy out. Keep in mind, this continues to be applicable in regards to maintaining those “things.”

But do you know what upkeep I personally hate those most? Laundry.

Doing laundry. The whole process of washing and drying and sorting and hanging. Ugh. If we can put a man on the moon… well, I don’t know how that relates to laundry, but someone figure out a better solution. Like printable pants. So why do I go through this unpleasant process? Because I want to be clean, and not offend the olfactory senses of others, and a fresh warm shirt straight from the dryer is good thing. But apparently I have to keep doing that laundry.

Ready for a smooth transition? The exact same processes of necessary repetition exist on every level of our businesses and organizations. We all have those personal favorites to dislike, but how can we make them less so? It’s like doing the laundry; you have to Sort, Wash, Repeat.


Look, I get it. This is such a no-brainer. But have you really done it? That initial time planning and sorting, be it inventory or workflows, will probably be the most tedious and labor intensive. But then it’s done, and you’re left with a means to be more efficient, with an organization that requires less expenditure for upkeep. Where could your business find ways to better organize?

  • If you work with inventory, use barcode and software tracking and count once.
  • If you lease or use equipment, plan out future maintenance and store those records.
  • If you manufacture product, use software that updates stock by work orders.


No, bringing a pressure washer to work isn’t going to solve problems (usually), but there is absolutely something to be said about a clean work environment, regardless of industry. This isn’t just dirt and grime (I was a dishwasher in an Italian Deli growing up. Talk about oil and grease. But the place was always spotless by night’s end). What about clutter? Can you access customer purchases or shipping updates in less than 60 seconds? Thirty seconds? Where do you need to focus on cleaning?

  • If a customer walked into any office or floor, what is their impression?
  • If a new employee is expected to find something, is it apparent?
  • If a customer saw your process, what would be their reaction?


This may be the biggest line in the sand between those who perform and those who pipe dream. Your business relies on consistency. There will be mistakes, slipups and snafus, but what are your customers concerned with? Your ability to perform day in and day out. They want your batting average. Happy customers are repeat customers. The place I buy my paint from is more expensive than the box store down the street, but the product is superior, the manager knows paint like no one else, and he strives to deliver the best product for whatever my project is. What should your business be doing that’s worth repeating?

  • If a customer made a purchase, did they come back for more? What was their reaction?
  • If a potential customer picks the other guy, what do they offer that you don’t?
  • If you want different results, why are you still repeating the same things?

So, unless you’ve made a breakthrough in the printable-pants equivalent of business laundry, you have to pay your continual dues to upkeep. Fortunately, the contrast makes the fresh smell of success that much sweeter.

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One Response to Business Is as Easy as Sort, Wash, Repeat

  1. Marilyn says:

    I love the analogy between the 3 steps of doing laundry and the steps to do good business – and I love the clear associations James made. It really struck home with me! Thanks Fishbowl!!

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