Michael Burton has extensive experience in management, sales and marketing. Burton owns and operates Burton Business Services, which provides consulting services, marketing assistance, and project management to businesses and nonprofit organizations.  He is also a partner in OandP Staffing, LLC, providing expert assistance with O&P careers.  Burton is a member of the Industry Advisory Council for O&P Business News and is President of the Orthotic and Prosthetic Activities Foundation. He also serves on the board of directors for The Center for O&P Learning & Evidence-Based Practice. Burton is a frequent speaker at colleges with O&P programs, as well as continuing education conferences. He focuses his blog on the business of O&P with a wide range of topics from marketing, human resources, health care reform and the latest business changes to impact O&P.

Firefighter or fire preventer?

Business owners who have been through fire inspections with their buildings understand quite well the difference in these two types of people. O&P facilities have a good overall record of safety and most employees would likely agree that the chance of having a fire is somewhat limited.

Fire preventers, usually called fire marshals, generally have a different point of view. They tend to walk into your building and assume the worst. They think in terms of your facility being dangerous and that they need to limit every chance for a fire to start. They also give a great deal of thought regarding what will likely happen if a fire does start. Firefighters generally do not have this same luxury. They are not given the opportunity to assess the dangers of your business prior to an actual fire. They hear an alarm and then quickly put on a safety suit and race off with sirens blazing to limit the damage a fire may cause.

Business managers also operate in one of these two ways. Which are you?

One management style is to react to problems as they arise. Most of us have probably approached a supervisor at some point in the past with a good recommendation for improvement only to be told that your problem has never occurred, and that if it ever does it will be fixed then. This is the firefighter management style.

If we are fortunate, we have probably also had the opportunity to work for a fire preventer. Managers who fall into this category tend to analyze most aspects of their business and try to implement appropriate changes before a problem ever occurs. After all, if you can prevent fires you do not have to extinguish them.

Managers who are fire fighters tend to have tempers that flare up when problems occur. They become frustrated when problems occur and then have to take time out of their day to extinguish these fires and get the business and its employees back to normal. Employees tend to be frustrated since problems occur so often and normal is not the same for these employees as it is for those who work for fire prevention style managers. These managers tend to be a little more laid back and have a different relationship with their employees. They generally assess the many different areas in their business and try to determine the most likely places for problems to occur and then implement the changes that will prevent the fires from ever starting. When problems do occur they tend to apply logic and reason to solving them and look back at what they have learned through the experience.

Who would you rather work for, a firefighter or a fire preventer? If you are a manager it is not that difficult to change your management style. It is also easier to prevent a fire than it is to extinguish it. It is also less stressful. Do yourself and your staff a favor and become a fire preventer today.