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‘Death By A Thousand Cuts’ originally referred to an ancient Chinese form of torture. It was often used in interrogations and it doesn’t take much imagination to understand how it was conducted.


In the modern business world it has taken on a different meaning. In that context, it now refers to the loss of production, sales and/or revenue over time as concentration on details is allowed to slip. It is also sometimes used to refer to too much concentration on the ‘big picture’ and a corresponding lack of focus on details.


The term is derived from the idea that a small cut will not kill you but, if you get enough of them, you could bleed to death. In addition to meaning a long-term erosion of sales or production and, therefore, revenue, it can also mean a failure that occurs as a result of many smaller problems. Death by a thousand cuts could refer to the failure to close a sale as a result of several small issues rather than one major cause. This term can also apply to a product or idea that is destroyed by too many minor changes or the failure of a plan as a result of a cumulative chain of events.


If you look careful at the operation of your business, you may notice several ‘small cuts’ that are bleeding away revenue from the bottom line. Let’s look at some of the areas where this can occur:



You can have too many people with some not being productive all the time or you may have too few and you are unable to operate at full capacity.



Most companies did a good job studying and eliminating unnecessary expenses in order to survive the last recession; however, few of them have taken a more recent look to make sure spending has remained under control.


Employee Theft

There is no better example of profits being bled from a company than money or supplies being stolen by employees and yet most companies fail to study and try to minimize this issue.



For most companies, the largest drain on expected revenue occurs in the sales process. Errors at any step of this process can derail a sale and cause the revenue from that sale to be lost. Actions or inactions by salespeople can result in lost sales. Failure of management to monitor sales and step in when necessary will bring about breakdown in the sales process resulting in lost sales. Each of these ‘cuts’ bleeds away money your company needs.


Failure to inspect and identify these cuts while they are still few and small and stopping the flow while you can will, eventually, result in death by a thousand cuts. Left unrepaired, the number of cuts and the amount of your company’s lifeblood that is flowing out through them will spread. Eventually, your company will be hemorrhaging more blood than you are taking in and death will be inevitable.


On the other hand, being diligent in your search for every area where your company may be losing productivity, sales or revenue and quickly addressing those issues can not only prevent death by a thousand cuts but it will also drive more profit to the bottom line. Make your company stronger and healthier by understanding that no detail is too small and that every facet of your operation should be studied and optimized.

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