Don’t forget big improvements don’t need big budgets or heaps of time.
In fact it is often the small things that have the biggest impact. And the difference between a hugely successful business and an average business is often the little things.
If you are frustrated with something not working, please don’t ignore it because you feel it is too hard to too big.
It may be…but it may not be. 🙂
This week a client of mine had implemented a whiteboard system for tracking projects. It made the invisible visible – everyone could see where projects were up to and where attention needed to be directed. It worked really well for a few months and made a massive reduction in the number of projects delayed in starting. This was essential to boost revenue each month.
But on my monthly meeting with them this week the board was empty. Shock horror!
The person in charge was finding it was taking time to transfer data from the computer to the board.
This is a red flag. And opportunity. Whenever I see cracks appearing in a ‘system’, i.e. a member of staff not doing something, I know there is a deeper cause. I don’t just blame the person.
In this case it was literally taking way too much time to transfer data from the computer to the board and keep updating the board.
The solution is really simple and they will replace the white board with a very large inexpensive screen on the wall and connect it to the computer spreadsheet.
The first solution, the whiteboard, was a major improvement but it then proved less ideal.
The key I want to highlight in this example is:
– Never stop improving and finding better ways to do things. Especially when staff stop doing something or don’t complete something as they should – rather than blame them, examine the process/system including their understanding of it and their training. Note: some staff can be reluctant to criticise a process the boss has implemented so it can be hard to get honest feedback! And you get inaccurate info about it so do your best to help them feel comfortable being honest.
– If the first solution doesn’t work, don’t be wedded to it, change it or drop it!
Is there anything, anything at all this week that you should stop doing and do differently?
Give yourself permission to let go of a strategy that deep down you feel doesn’t work. Or maybe it is time to acknowledge that it doesn’t work?
And it’s only a week – just try something diff this week in your business.
Here’s a few very simple things clients of mine changed and they experienced significant improvements/results:
– Put the approval checklist for projects on a big white board instead of a spreadsheet on the computer. The problem with computers is the info is out of sight, out of mind. No one could quickly see where approvals were at for projects so there were delays and this meant cashflow delayed. Now its on the white board, no one can escape it and projects are getting approved 40-80% faster = more revenue/month.
– Stop preparing and sending quotes for orders under $500. Just send a pricelist. It was taking time preparing quotes and for anything under $500, there just isn’t enough margin. This has freed up time to spend on the larger quotes and win more of those.
– Followup emails to enquiries that have come in over night were not getting done the same day. The culprit was continuous interruptions. The change in strategy was to ban anyone talking to the admin person between 830-9am. Now she has no problem getting replies out first thing which achieves their customer service goal. It wasn’t a hard change or complicated change but the results are significant. Note: recent research found that it takes 23 mins to get back on task after an interruption. Hence the reason they are so destructive!
The key point here is that small changes can make HUGE improvements to your business.
Don’t delay on doing something different because you feel it has to be ‘large’ to make a difference. If you analyse the difference between good and great companies, it is the small things that they do differently that sets them apart.
I’ve facilitated over 15 meetings with clients in the past couple weeks, and hundreds more with all the businesses I’ve worked with over the years and there is a trend.
Businesses that are NOT achieving their profit targets or have productivity issues, are not having meetings.
And I mean ‘effective meetings’.
When I ask why a business isn’t having meetings, the two common reasons are: they take too long and they don’t work.
If you have this belief and are looking to turn your business around, here are my tips for effective meetings:
> Set an agenda/checklist of topics. You may or may not need this and it can be the same checklist every month so you don’t have to rewrite it. But it can help add certainty to the team. No one is wondering if their question/issue is going to get raised etc. And can keep you on track and prevent you missing important bits. If you, as the boss, don’t discuss it, then the team will assume it isn’t important, and you can’t blame them for not taking it seriously either. Note my points below to add weight to what you think is important.
> Focus on outcomes and what needs to be done. It is quite natural for everyone to want to explain the background or talk around the subject, and about the people involved. It’s human nature. However in order to keep your meetings short and sharp and prevent people from blaming meetings for taking too long, you need to encourage the habit of allowing just a couple sentences on the issue, decide if it needs fixing and then just go straight to the outcome you want and what needs to be done to get it. Short a sharp. Issue is raised, “great, what do we need to do about it? Who’s going to do it? When do we need it done by?” Bang, done. Next topic.
> Make sure you write down and clarify:
- What needs to be done – outcome needed, what it looks like, how you will know it’s done
- Who’s going to do it – check the person is comfortable doing it, knows how to do it or needs some support/help/equipment/training
- When does it need to be done by?
- Give permission to get it wrong. New procedures may not work and that is ok. You don’t want people fearing taking action to improve things.
The above prevent staff losing faith in meetings because they ‘don’t work’.
Communication breakdown is a major reason businesses fail. Effective meetings are essential.
Contact me if you need help identifying the kind of meetings you need or to facilitate the first few to coach everyone on how to have effective meetings.
Just finished doing a turnaround consult on two businesses and I’m posting this to give encouragement, perhaps hope, to those of you running a business that is driving you nuts or sucking all your time for little financial reward.
If you think fixing your business is going to take ages or cost a lot, I can almost guarantee you are wrong.
Yes, there are some businesses that just can’t be fixed. But the majority can quite easily be ‘fixed’.
For example these most recent two businesses took 6 wks and one started implementing important changes in week 3 and is already operating like a different company! Wonderful to see the changes.
Both businesses had good products and service but were failing to make profit despite turning over $1.4m and $3.7m. They also had staff performance issues and the wrong people in the wrong roles.
My turnaround service involves an auditing process I’ve developed over the years and includes my own questionnaire, staff interviews, audit of processes, audit of financials and if required, customer interviews.
I then make recommendations on priority things that need fixing and how. Often this is enough. Sometimes the business needs me to support and facilitate the changes. I’m here to help for as long as required.
To emphasise again, seeing the way out when you are in it can be impossible. However this doesn’t mean the solution is hard or impossible! Quite the opposite!
I tried renovating a one bedroom apartment once. After 12 months of no rent, my wife made me get a builder in and we finished it in a week. I was spending nights after work in that apartment looking at the mess I had created pulling out the kitchen etc and I was paralysed. I didn’t know where to start or what to focus on so I just dabbled at fixing this and that. The builder came in and immediately knew what to do. He made it so easy.
Same in business. If you are having issues or want to take things to the next level, give me a call.