Ice. Frozen water. It seems simple enough. You take water, keep it below freezing temperatures for long enough and, bingo! You have ice. Ice forms easily, and in many parts of the world, people can just head outdoors to skate on nature’s hockey arenas, the local ponds.
But, in the world of the NHL (National Hockey League), ice is not that easy. Building an ice floor for the NHL requires extraordinary standards. Allow me to explain.
An NHL ice rink is 17,000 square feet. That’s as big as one of the largest LED screens ever displayed at Time Square, the same footage as Jay Leno’s garage and as many square feet as Michael Jackson’s former home. Inside the floor of the ice rink, there are 11 miles of inch and a quarter steel pipe that carries refrigerant. 11 miles is just a couple of miles short of a half marathon.
The floor has to be extremely flat. Tolerance is 1/8th of an inch. That’s only slightly larger than a head of a pin. How in the world can a 17,000 square foot concrete floor hold to that standard? It’s all about pouring the concrete perfectly. It has to be done in a single pour. 30 trucks of concrete are required to deliver enough concrete at the same time in order to accomplish that single pour.
Finally, there is a half an inch of ice on top. First, they mist the concrete that overlays the 11 miles of pipe carrying refrigerant. The mist hits the floor and freezes on impact. They then paint the floor with boundary lines and logos, and then fog it again. Again, the mist freezes instantly.
That’s how you provide ice to the NHL. There’s no app for that.
What can entrepreneurs learn from the NHL’s ice? In the more than 100 interviews with entrepreneurs, there was complete agreement that it is the quality of the end product that makes or breaks a small company. Relationships with customers are very important, but nothing is more important than quality. How do you consistently deliver quality as an entrepreneur? You tear a page out of the NHL’s playbook. You set standards. Communicate them. Train you people to meet them consistently. Validate, track and report results. If this seems difficult to do, imagine pouring 17,000 square feet of concrete from 30 trucks in a single pour and achieving 1/8th of an inch of tolerance!
All the best!
P.S. 100 Entrepreneurial Lessons Learned is now available as an app! Check out 100ELL 1, the first of 20 audio apps, at the iTunes App store.