Here are two of my strategies I use to help teams innovate to turn the business around or take it to the next level.
Staff and customers are fantastic sources for ideas on what to improve, yet many businesses don’t tap into these gold mines well.
1. Permission to fail.
When encouraging staff to suggest and try better ways to do things (that are not life threatening or financially crippling), make sure you give them permission to fail.
“Try it, if it doesn’t work, change it or try something else.”
It’s that simple. No big deal. Encourage your team to try new ideas they have.
The culture has to be one of giving permission to try.
I see so many teams frustrated and demotivated because they can’t implement their ideas. It is common to see morale turn 180 as soon as the team feel listened to and able to suggest ideas.
2. Ask customers for suggestions.
The trick here is to appreciate they can have a fixed opinion of what you can do.
They have put you in a ‘box’. Therefore you need to encourage them to think outside the ‘box’.
I will literally say something like, “if anything was possible, what features would you really love to see?”
Encourage them to forget what they believe you can offer, and to talk about what they would really love to have. Sure, some ideas will not be practical, realistic or feasible but in my experience, there is always at least one good idea that helps improve the business.
If they seem a bit stuck for ideas, ask them if there is anything your competitor does really well that they like.
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:
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.
Approaching the end of the year, is a great time to have those chats with the team about their personal goals, suggestions they have, training they would like or equipment/software, and what they would like to do more of or less of.
I’ve just finished a round of interviews for a client and as always, they have delivered absolute gold in the way of suggestions, and truth about what needs fixing or improving in the business. Also what is causing some angst.
The example I’d like to share, and it is just one of many from this round of interviews, is one where the business owner was getting nervous and stressed about getting a second employee to do a very specific job. The employee was getting stressed because they wanted to retire (but hadn’t told the owner this yet) and felt they couldn’t reture until the owner had a replacement for them.
Now this is all quite simple and straight forward on paper, but it is a good example of how the business owner doesn’t always know EXACTLY what the team are thinking/feeling or planning. Everyone is head down getting through the day-weekly tasks. Making time to discuss ‘other’ things can be low on the priority list.
As a result, both sides can become stressed and worried about something they don’t need to worry about.
The outcome of my interview was that both parties now know the situation and there is massive relief on both sides.
The business owner no longer feeling hesitant about hiring a replacement and is running an ad this week for a new person to start training for this role, and the current employee has the relief knowing they can retire in one year. That was their goal, to retire in a year. So now we can plan around that, there is no mystery about the plan and everyone is happy and can move forward. Case solved.
Please, please, please…make sure you make time to get honest and open communication happening with your team. And remember, its not all about you and what you want them to do better. It’s about them too! Find out what they want, what they want to do more of, what they want to do less of, what suggestions they have.
And if you feel they won’t be honest with you or you don’t have the time, simply engage me to do it on your behalf. I summarise my findings for you and provide my recommendations. Easy. Saves you a lot of time and I find staff open up to me and tell me things they don’t tell the business owner/GM. I do the same for your clients that are good, bad or have left you if you ever want to know the truth about how you doing, what they think about you, what they would like improved in order to give you more work.