Icemaker, Icemaker, Make Me Some Ice

(Listen to this post, here.)

We have a new refrigerator.

Lest you think this was a hasty decision, let me just say that we bought the old one the year my son Evan was born. He turned 24 this week.

And this new one, I must say, is (literally) quite cool.

Side-by-side doors, whisper-quiet motor, and a stainless steel, “smudge-proof” exterior. And, as any self-respecting, 21st century refrigerator must have, a water and ice dispenser on the outside.

Like I said, cool.

That is, until earlier this week when our new technological wonder suddenly stopped making ice.

Why? I don’t know, I’m not a scientist. Maybe it decided that climate change is just a hoax and the world doesn’t need any more ice.

Whatever the reason, you’ll be happy to know that after some initial panic on my part (we’ve got friends coming over this weekend and we need ice), I was able to Google my way to the cause:

The icemaker works; the pump that delivers the water to the icemaker has failed.

And then I had a brilliant idea.

By taking everything off of the top shelf, and then removing the shelf itself, I could manually pour about eight ounces of water at a time into the icemaker. At which point, it immediately began working.


It wasn’t a lot of ice, but enough that after two or three cycles of adding water and waiting several hours for the icemaker to do its thing, we could get by until the repair guy comes next week.

I don’t mind telling you, I was feeling quite proud of my MacGyver-like workaround of this very high-end piece of machinery. (You’re welcome, America.)

That is, until last night, when my 17-year-old son, Jonathan, made an observation:

“Hey dad. Why did you bother with all that shelf removing and water filling? Why didn’t you just fill a couple of ice trays and stick them in the freezer, like we always did with the old fridge?”

Me: “Oh. Right. I guess that might have worked too.” (Damn kids.)

Are you paying attention to the wrong problem?

The reason Jonathan’s simple solution didn’t occur to me, I now realize, is because I misdiagnosed the problem.

What I thought the problem was: An automatic icemaker that didn’t work.

What the problem actually was: No ice.

And so off I went to fix the icemaker, instead of stepping back and thinking about alternative ways to get some ice.

As business owners, we often fall into the same trap, fixating on improvements to a “machine” as opposed to finding ways to achieve a particular solution:

We obsess over how many newsletter subscribers we have, without thinking about why we have a newsletter in the first place.

We find ways to automate our social media participation, forgetting that the key word in social media is “social.”

We work to get better at closing prospects and raising fees, but give little thought to whether or not we’re selling the right things to begin with.

You get the picture.

I’ve been making ice successfully for decades. But the minute I was presented with an “icemaker problem,” I completely forgot the greater goal, in the name of repairing the machine.

So try this.

Take a step back and have a fresh look at the tools, metrics and processes you use in running your business. I have no doubt that most of them make good sense and serve you well.

That said, I’m willing to bet you’ve got a few “icemaker repair projects” under way that don’t.

Discussion Questions:

  1. What’s the oldest working appliance in your home (extra credit if it’s your husband)?
  1. What’s the coolest thing your refrigerator does?
  1. Can you think of a tool, metric or process in your business that no longer serves you?

Share your comments below!

If you liked this article you’ll love the next one. Click here to sign up for future posts and get a free copy of my report, “The 5 Biggest Blocks to Writing a Monthly Newsletter (and how to overcome them right away).”

21 thoughts on “Icemaker, Icemaker, Make Me Some Ice

  1. Tracy

    1 – Our refrigerator is 32 years old and the dishwasher is 40 years old. My hubby fits in between there; we’ll be married 35 years in July.

    2 – Nothing – just thankful it still works.

    3 – Hmmm… I need to think a little longer on this one.

  2. Harold Waisel

    1. Our 2nd refrigerator in the basement is 24 years old. The A/C and Boiler are original to the house, about 37 years. I knock on a lot of wood that they keep running.
    2. It notifies me to replace the filter. Even cooler? I can reset the button and get a few more months to ignore it.
    3. My whiteboard. It’s not in the right place and it’s too small. Bought another, larger one that will sit front and center to help me remember what to do since I’m the oldest tool in the house.

    1. Michael Katz Post author

      I like your #2, Harold! I’ll have to check if mine does that. I’m a big whiteboard fan too. I might have to get some of that paint that once applied, turns any wall into a white board!

  3. Kathy Vines

    I have had this exact conversation (“why don’t you just use ice cube trays if your dispenser is broken”) with one of my organizing clients. It’s amazing how we can fixate on just the wrong thing, and ignore being able to generate meaningful solutions. (I always call these the “these go to 11” moment)

    1. My oldest working appliance in my home: does the fireplace count? If not, I think I’ll have to go with our soapstone sink in the basement, circa 1946, which gets used at least weekly. Oldest thing with a plug is probably the oven, but even that is only 14 years old.

    2. The coolest thing my refrigerator does, or rather, has, is pull-out baskets in the freezer, which lets me make sure I’m even getting to the stuff I stashed there long ago.

    3. In my business — I used to be a lot more focused on tracking all the numbers on different social media — followers, likes, whatever. I’ve abandoned glancing at all except Facebook, because quite frankly, none of the others ever brought me clients. Just because I can track it, doesn’t mean I should.

    1. Michael Katz Post author

      Great stuff, Kathy! I like your last point in particular, about tracking not necessarily equaling meaningful.

  4. Alle L'Eveille

    I love this topic. Too often we don’t see the forest for the trees (or in your case, ice).

    1. I was going to say me…until I saw the parenthetic comment.
    2. Keeps working. (Ours came with the house, we’ve been here 18 years and I’m sure they had it for a few years.) On Friday, the most important thing it does is chill the vodka.
    3. I would have to say something I realized and fixed: I used to always show a portfolio of project work. It wasn’t getting me sales or showing me for the insightful solution providing guru I am (cough, cough), just a lot of tire kickers looking at pretty pictures. Now I show a few examples along with a story of how it solved my clients’ unmet needs. Full disclosure: I’m still in the building process of my new site where this will be better represented.

    1. Michael Katz Post author

      Hi Alle! Nice to see you here again. Your #3 is a great example. Reminds me that I used to send snail mail invoices until one month, a client, who was a CFO for hire, told me he’d fire me if I didn’t stop wasting my money on stamps and paper!

  5. William Davenport

    I like the ice trays. Old school and the work. . . And 7-11 always has a freezer full of bags of ice.

    Now, what were you thinking trying to fix your ice maker? The service guy will say you voided the warranty doing so and you now owe him $13,000 to fix your $1,200 fridge.

  6. Gwen Kendall

    1. Funny thing I’ve been looking for a new refrigerator too. Ours is 22 years old. Unfortunately (or fortunately perhaps!) it has to fit into a specific built in space. Most of the new refrigerators are too tall/wide. After reading your newsletter I think I’m looking at this issue incorrectly. I need a new kitchen instead. I’ll be sure to tell my hubby Michael Katz said it was the thing to do!!!!
    2. Make ice– a lot of ice really well! Want to come over for drinks?
    3. We still send out invoices via snail mail as well as monthly statements–SIGH.

    1. Michael Katz Post author

      My favorite part of the new fridge is the side-by-side. For the first time in years I can see what’s in the fridge without bending over! Let me know when those drinks are ready and I’ll be right over….

  7. Don Sadler

    That looks like the new fridge we just bought to replace our old one that was 20 years old. Of course, it worked fine, as did the dishwasher, microwave and oven we also replaced. But they were white and ugly and didn’t match the look of today’s modern kitchen. The new freezer makes little ice cubes and has a tiny ice bucket half the size of the old one, which kinda sucks. But we didn’t go for the one with Internet on the door — I think I can live without Internet on my fridge! BTW, our washer and dryer are also 20 years old, though we’re going to replace them soon. Got em “scratch n dent” at a Sears outlet and they’ve worked great! Sigh — they just don’t make appliances like they used to.

    1. Michael Katz Post author

      Actually, we got our fridge scratch and dent at sears too! Like 40% less expensive with a dent on the side that you can’t see behind the counter. A bargain!!

  8. Bruce Horwitz

    1) Our Maytag washer was built in April 1968, per Maytag serial number records. We purchased it with our house in 1978. I’ve replaced the timer motor and hot water valve, but recently it hasn’t been spinning dry as well as it used to and I think that’s a repair that isn’t going to be worth it. It would be nice to get a nice round 50 years of service out of it, but I think we will settle for 49 years.

    2) makes spherical ice “cubes”. To be fair, this has nothing to do with the fridge… just some silicone ice shpere trays. See Our fridge itself does nothing but make cool/cold; if you read reviews, ice makers etc tend to be the first things to break, and, at least for me, add the least value since, by golly, the old manual trays work just fine.

    3) At this point, coasting into retirement, I’ve stopped worrying about such things!

      1. Bruce Horwitz

        It’s the hair that has you fooled :^P
        Anyway, who said you can’t retire at 35 after such a successful solo practice built on advice from you.

  9. Rusty

    Case in point, your taped email voice edition failed cuz I have a download problem with my provider. I went to the web site where I saw your framed fridge but no active voice recording appeared. What the he_ _? Then I tried your iPod broadcast. Surely I could watch that and hear your sultry tones!! But it didn’t load either. Drats! Oh, well, I thought, I’ll just catch up later. But I have too much email and I’ll most likely forget.

    Then, get this, I went back to your email and I completely forgot you always attach the written essay into your email. I used the third option to just sit back and read your post. Duh. What a dang concept!!

    PS– my fridge just works, nothing flashy, however my old dryer has had two motor replacements performed by my hubby.


Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *