Bury The Cat Slowly

Sometimes it's easy to miss the details that make reaching your goals worth while.

William Douglas Little explains exactly what it means to bury the wrong cat. This better be good, Bill …

Kahuna was an old stray farm cat that found my wife and I about a decade ago. I still remember the day that my wife pointed him out to me; the cat was on the edge of the yard near a small shed and peeking out from the corner watching us like an evil stalker. He was average-looking — short hair and solid black, which made me think of a witch’s cat — but despite offering nothing special in the looks department, my wife fell immediately in love with him, and it was suddenly my job to feed him.

The funny thing was that we could never catch Kahuna. Perhaps my wife may have trapped him for a trip to the vet a time or two, and I know that my kids have both gotten close enough to wrestle him into the submissive allowance of a quick hug, but as far as performing his duties of relaxing his owners with lap-seated stroking sessions … nada. This cat was the most skittish, stand-offish, contact-avoiding animal on the face of the earth. A decade worth of food and vet bills; 10 years of walking out in the rain, the sleet, the snow and dead of night to make sure that he had a warm place to sleep and not a single time did that damn cat let me within 10 feet of him.

Wednesday morning, my wife had left for her usual routine of dropping the kids at school and then heading to the office. I was guiltily enjoying a late start on the day, sipping coffee in front of the morning newscast and eyeing my watch for the last possible moment to leave, when my wife came bursting back through the door. She informed me that Kahuna had been hit by a car, and it was now my duty to go scrape his body from the road and provide him with a proper burial while the kids were at school. They could pay their last respects that afternoon, but with the mid-summer heat, that cat was not going to seem so fresh by the end of the day. How can you argue with logic like that? After all, there are certain things that us men have to do.

Now extremely short on time, I put a couple of shovels into the bed of a Toro Twister that we keep at the house and set off to perform my responsibilities like a good husband/father. With the speed of a NASCAR pit crew, I scraped the cat’s corpse off the blacktop, rushed off into the woods and frantically dug an acceptable (albeit a bit shallow) hole, cussing tree roots and rocks throughout my mission. An hour later I emerged from the woods — drenched in sweat and covered with burrs and ticks — the cat neatly buried, complete with a headstone and a nice bouquet of wild daisies. That job complete, I ran into the house and readied myself for the office with a million now-tardy projects swirling through my mind.

Later that afternoon I was in my office with the air conditioning turned to its coolest setting still trying to recuperate from the morning’s undertaking, when my cell phone screamed to life. On the other end, my wife was excitedly yelling something that I couldn’t make out through the shrieking and bad connection.

"Wait a minute … I can’t understand you. What?" I asked.

"I said, I’m sorry for wasting your time this morning!" she replied. At this point I couldn’t tell if she was excited or upset, thinking that perhaps the kids had taken Kahuna’s passing badly.

"What’s wrong … what do you mean?"

"Kahuna’s on the front porch!"

My first thought was that my dog had dug him up and proudly displayed him for the family to see. My heart sank, the vision of my kids arriving home to a gruesome, dirt-covered, fury stiff at the doorstep. I knew I should have dug the hole deeper. "Wha … huh?" (I’m so good with words in these situations).

"He’s alive! Kahuna is alive! He’s sitting on the porch right now!" she yelled.

"Then who the hell did I plant?"

"How should I know? It wasn’t Kahuna!"

"Are you sure? Did you check the grave? I think Stephen King wrote a book like that …"

Abrupt ending or not, that is pretty much the end of this story. And if you’re wondering what this has to do with the motorcycle industry, I’ll tell you … quite a lot. Have you ever had a salesman write up the wrong bike? Paperwork gets done in F&I and the wrong unit goes down the road in the guy’s truck, leaving you scrambling to fix the problem a few days later? Has your parts guy ever ordered the wrong part for a customer, leaving you with the restock fee or having to sit on the item until the next return period? Ever quote the customer a price on the unit you’re showing him, only to realize later that its not the model you thought it was? Ever bury the wrong cat?

We spend our lives getting heated up in the moment, looking so deeply toward reaching short-term goals (burying the cat) that sometimes it’s easy to miss the details that make reaching those goals worth while (check to see if it’s your cat).

I’ve come down hard on my employees from time to time, often asking myself (and them) how something so simple as double-checking a VIN or pulling the right microfiche could be so hard? I’ve rolled my eyes, slapped my palm to my forehead and screamed out "DUH!" until I was blue in the face, but the fact is, people make mistakes when they become too focused on the eventual goal and lose sight of the road leading there.

Had I slowed down that morning and actually looked at the cat that I was shoveling from the road, I might have realized that it had gray tips on the end of its fur all down its underside, (this I remember clearly now … it didn’t register at the time). Kahuna is solid black.

An important thing to remember, both in business and in everyday life, is that the goal is the end result of the work that it takes to get there. If you want to be the top retail dealer in the district, great … but did you make money along the way? (Another lesson I’ve learned the hard way). You want the customer to provide a good survey response, but did you spend enough time with him? You want the billed hours to be high on the labor sales report, but did you remember to submit the warranty claims for payment? You want the cat buried so that you can get on with your day, but did you make sure it was even your cat?

The lesson here is to simply slow down and pay attention. Look at the details of the job and complete all of the necessary steps along the way … look at the color of the fur, for Pete’s sake. Measure twice, cut once … and in hindsight, bury the cat slowly. Then, if you do everything right along the way, you won’t find yourself explaining to the neighbors why you were seen shoveling their family pet into the back of a Toro.

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