My grandmother was a very smart lady. She didn’t have the benefit of the education that most of us take for granted. Leaving before the end of primary school to start working she made up for what she might have missed with life experience and a wealth of common sense.

Granma's Business Lessons


It’s only now as I look back that I realise that she had been busy imparting her wisdom to me over the years without me even knowing. I have many wonderful memories of my grandmother, her warm hugs in winter, her ability to be fully engaged in a conversation while performing complex moves with her knitting needles, her patience teaching me to play card and board games, her bravery (no bug was too big) and finally her nuggets of advice.


Long before Deming’s philosophy about quality management was known around the world my grandmother and those of hers and previous generations practiced the principles of quality management as part of daily life.


The circumstances they grew up in – the World Wars, the Depression – shaped them. They managed households following the principles of Bootstrapping and Lean without knowing, to them it was making ends meet, making do and meeting their family responsibilities.


When I visited Granma it wasn’t unusual to see her darning (look it up) a sock. While many of us would buy some new socks or wait until the hole was a decent size before worrying about it her ‘A stitch in time saves nine’ mantra meant that she was onto the problem before it became significant and she had saved herself time and money. Like I said, she was a smart lady.


There is a lot that we can learn from her philosophy today in our businesses.




Some of the holes she repaired were tiny. Don’t wait until you have a significant problem before you do something about it. Your business or customers will be sending you signs. If you have received a complaint don’t wait until you lose a customer to act. And while you have your needle out, check if there are any other socks or button-less shirts that could also benefit from some maintenance, it’s likely that there are other areas that need addressing.


Saving time


Repairs were often fast. Not long after the needle was threaded the job was done. Getting to a problem early will mean it will be easier to fix and more than likely take less time to get the problem back under control. I know what I’d rather be doing. Look for those early signs and a single stitch may be all you need.


Saving money


It made good economic and common sense. Think of the cost of thread and a few minutes of work vs replacing an item. While you may have the resources to fix an issue if it escalates, why waste your hard-earned money? Solving a problem before it gets to be too complex will save you money in wages, lost productivity, replacing and redoing. Save your money for more creative pursuits that will help to build your business and make it stronger.


Prioritise the mundane


I’m quite sure that my Grandmother would have preferred to be playing cards or doing her word puzzles but she made time for the mundane because she knew it was important. It’s the same in business, implementing systems may seem like a tedious and mundane task but if you invest the time you’ll reap the rewards later. Maybe then you’ll have time for a game of cribbage or to plant some freesias in the garden.


If you think back and look past the stereotypical memories of your grandparents perhaps they were trying to teach you a thing or two and get you ready for your life as an entrepreneur. Maybe there was more business gold there then you realised.


What business lessons did your Grandparents teach you? How has it helped your business?