Archive for the ‘Productivity’ Category
The Key To Getting More Done? Do Much Less. Wednesday, January 11th, 2012
I speak with a lot of business owners; some are seeing success while others are struggling for whatever reason. Even the successful businesses have obstacles though. In fact, nearly ALL business owners I speak with face a common obstacle. It may be slowing them down or even completely holding them back.
That obstacle is the constant effort to do too many things at once.
Businesses face a lot of challenges and include many functions that must run simultaneously such as sales and marketing, finance, payroll, fulfillment and production, etc. Because of this, it is only natural that business owners decide to work on them all simultaneously as well. Each function has its own issues to work on and improve. This, of course, pulls the business owner in every direction and last time I checked, there is only one of me (if there is more than one of you, please share your secret).
Now I’m not simply talking about multi-tasking (which is a bad idea even though my wife claims otherwise). I’m talking about the direction you are going with all those tasks. What are working toward? Highly productive people have this same problem believe it or not. It is a matter of focus. Not just daily focus, not even weekly focus.
We’re talking about singular focus that lasts at least 2 weeks and as long as 90 days (maybe a year if you’re a later stage company with slower growth). Within that time frame, you will eat, breath, and sleep that single focus. Maybe your focus is to increase the average number of sales by 50%. Well my friend, that is ALL you care about for the next 90 days! Do you still do the other stuff? Well, of course.
You can’t sell if you aren’t fulfilling, making payroll, or any of the other critical functions. The difference is you will simply maintain them at their current level and nothing more. It is okay to keep these other functions within your peripheral so they do not fall apart but beyond that, you know nothing of them. It is all about the single focus of increasing sales. You talk about it constantly, theme parties around it, reward against it, and dream about it when you don’t want to.
How long do I have to do this?
So how do you know which time frame (2 weeks to 90 days) you should choose? Well, that depends on a few factors such as your industry and growth rate. If you are approaching the speed of light, your time frames will be closer to 2 weeks as too much is changing too rapidly.
If you stay too long on one focus, it may slide back in importance long before you are done and leave you with big fires to put out. Certain industries such as software development often do what may be called agile development which is often based on 2 week deployment cycles in order to ensure no one falls into complacency and to ensure no one’s brain melts from overexposure to the same computer code. For most businesses, the 90 day line is perfect (1 quarter of the year).
Every 90 days, you take another look at things and determine a new focus. It is good to switch it up because computer programmers are not the only ones running the risk of melted brain. Teams and people become callous toward the focus after too long and begin to ignore it. We all do it (just think of routines and goals you stopped tracking after a bit).
Are you even capable of laser-like focus for 90 days? probably not… at least not without some level of accountability. You will need someone to discuss progress with, someone that will ask about how the focus is going on a regular basis (at least twice per month). This can be an advisor, a board member, or may even become part of someone’s job description (it is still recommended to have some outside perspective as well).
I’m good at balancing work needs… and lying.
Oh, you like to do a lot of things do you? Well, there will be plenty to do in order to achieve your focus and you won’t be bouncing around, almost getting somewhere, always complaining that nothing works. Almost marketing never sees results.
Almost solving a problem leaves you without an answer… still. Unless you are a chameleon with those crazy eyes, you can’t focus on two things at once but we all continue to cram many more than that into our minds. Stop it! Those other things can be your focus next time, but this time they are not. You can capture them in your productivity system, a journal, or whatever to be visited later but now, they can wait.
Progress must be visible
In order to maintain this brutal level of focus, you must be able to see progress, movement, something! If you can’t visualize your standing within the area of focus, it is almost guaranteed you will get lost. You will think you are still focusing but upon comparison to your original plans, you are out in left field… in another stadium! Have numbers you can track that can be prominently displayed and regularly reviewed. How close are you to your 50% increase in sales? Have a way to see it.
Congratulations, you are alive… break time
After the 90 day period of focus is over, celebrate. Break routines and enjoy yourself a bit. At least have 2 cokes at lunch instead of one… something! You must reward yourself and your team for their dedication and focus. If you jump right into the next cycle, it will feel like never ending torture. If you reached your goal, really celebrate, if not, than just celebrate but don’t really celebrate. Instead of buying a small tropical island next to Richard Branson’s, just have a beach day a few miles down the road. Have some fun, you earned it.
Ready, set, go… again!
Now that the celebration is over, get back to work!! Take some time to find your new focus and… wait for it… focus! Forget the world around you, including those other, albeit necessary, business functions and focus.
This process of only looking at one thing for a period or quarter will lead to some phenomenal successes and allow you to sleep a little easier, or at least less confused as you will only be dreaming of one thing. You will see surprising clarity in other areas of your business, not just the focus area. It is just cleaning off the desk (which I literally need to do as I write…) so you can get to the brass tacks of what will bring success to your biz. First things first, set some time to figure out your focus for the next quarter and give it a try.
How To Make Confrontation Positive Thursday, August 4th, 2011
Confrontation Is A Critical Management Piece
Most business owners have a hard time with figuring out the nuances of employee management. Confrontation is especially difficult. We wait too long to confront, when we do confront we take an adversarial position and then we wonder why we don’t have a good relationship with our employees.
Today’s business tip deals with the 3 steps you must take to properly confront employees of your business.
3 Ways The Best Execute For Their Clients Wednesday, July 20th, 2011
I recently shared with you my 5 rules for thrilled clients. The first rule is to do what you say you are going to do. This seems so simple yet many still struggle to deliver when they say they will. What I have found is that the best just a find a way to get it done.
Execution really comes down to the types of decisions that we make. There is not a lot that we can control within our businesses. Decisions however are one of those things that we do have control over. After spending some time with Brent Bradshaw, owner of the consulting firm 9 Decisions, I realized that the ability to make sound decisions is so critical to fulfilling on promises.
Starting with decisions, here are three ways to help you execute for your clients:
#1- Make Good Decisions- I recently talked about how bad graphic designers can be about over-promising and under-delivering. The biggest way they did this was in the estimated time frame that a project would be completed in. The reason for the estimation issues? Their estimations had no basis in reality. They never took the time to actually think about what was realistic. And that’s just one of the nine decision points.
#2- Have A Clear Set Of Values- When you know what you value, you know when to say “yes” and when to say “no”. If you lack a clear value set then you tend to say “yes” to everything thus ensuring that you are going to disappoint someone by working on a project that doesn’t match your skills. Values can be a great filter for decision making.
#3- No Excuses Allowed- If you give yourself permission to make excuses for underperforming, I promise you, from personal experience, that you will find a reason for why something doesn’t get done. You’ve probably heard the story of Spain’s landing in Mexico and Cortez ordering his men to “burn the ship”. Whether you believe that story to be true of not the point is that if you give yourself outs, you are more apt to take those outs. When it comes to excuses, burn the ship.
Creating value for your clients and setting yourself apart from the rest of the crowd can be as easy as executing on what you say you will deliver to the public. So many businesses struggle to do this. There’s no reason that your business needs to be one of them.
Understanding the nine decisions to performance
I just touched on a couple of the 9 Decision points to making effective decisions for your business and ultimately improving your performance.
Join us in Salt Lake City on September 15th-17th as we go through the 9 Decision process as well as share how to coach these into your business.
You and your business will be better for it. We guarantee it.
Manage Your Business Relationships To Show Your Clients That You Care Friday, May 20th, 2011
Not to sound too clichéd but your clients really are the most important people in your business. Before you congratulate me on being Captain Obvious, my point for today is to have system for managing the important relationships in your business.
Our clients want to know that we care about them and what they are trying to accomplish. Telling them that we care is one thing. Demonstrating that through our actions is what really sets you apart.
We all need help in delivering value and service to our clients. One way that we do that at The Business Blueprint is through the use of technology to keep us on task.
Social media is a great relationship builder and has been touted as so. Social media use is just one piece of the puzzle, however. Social media can’t manage every facet of your client relationship.
For project management we have used services like Basecamp and Highrise HQ. My partner in The Business Blueprint, Billy, decided that those services weren’t good enough for him so he and his brother went out a created their own project management software as well as a client CRM for The Business Blueprint’s clients.
The name of the project management software is Akomplish if you want to check it out.
Using software to manage the workflow allows us to stay on top of deadlines and stay in communication with our clients. We have learned through our own shortcomings with managing clients and projects that if you don’t have a solid system for communication and follow up, you risk upsetting your clients. Utilizing online tools allows us to do that.
The great thing about most project management and CRM programs is that they are cloud based which allows you to access your account regardless of where you are at. You just need access to the internet. Now if something unexpected comes up with a project or a client, you can access their information from your smart phone or laptop.
Communication is a huge component to having a successful relationship with your client base. The better you are at communicating with them, the stronger the relationship that you will have and the more likely that you are to create favorable results for your clients.
For those of you who consider yourself “people persons”, technology doesn’t replace that in your business. It just works to enhance the connections that you are already good at developing.
If you don’t have an online system for managing your client relationships, I would suggest checking a few out ASAP and find a system that works best for you, your business and most importantly, your clients. Happy relationship building.
How Soul Purpose Discovery Happens Thursday, May 5th, 2011
There seems to be this belief for many seekers of Soul Purpose that the discovery happens during an a-ha moment. This ends up leading to a lot of frustration on the seekers part as they just don’t know when that moment of inspiration is going to come. For my frustrated friends of Soul Purpose discovery, let me tell you how discovery happens.
Purpose and passion are sexy topics that seem to really speak to people who are at a transition in their lives where they are feeling unfulfilled and wondering where their life is going. It was at this type of transition that my own Soul Purpose journey played out.
Like a lot of people, I went through the tools for discovering my talent, asked questions and reflected on my life.
That was where my journey started. Where the mistake is made is in thinking that knowing what you are good at is the same as knowing how you can utilize those talents.
I will hear people say, “I know my purpose, now why isn’t anything happening?”
Understanding yourself better really is a critical first step and knowing the first step in your Soul Purpose journey is important. It’s the second step where true knowledge is attained.
The second step revolves around taking action and putting your assumptions, about how you create value, to the test. Soul Purpose is as much of a science as it is anything else. It’s putting together a formula or a process and then putting that into play to see how it comes out.
The great thing about doing this is that you can then review your actions during your morning routine and analyze what is working and what isn’t. My purpose has been refined considerably since I started my journey. Things I thought I liked, don’t engage me. Things that I ignored that were staring me in the face I realized were drivers for me. You never know until you go out and do it.
Realize that during this journey you fail some and you will succeed some. Analyze each and use that data to move forward with more certainty than you had going into the process. Each failure and success brings you one step closer to understanding the true path for creating value in the world.
If your Soul Purpose does happen to fall out of the sky and hit you, that’s great. Just do me a favor, don’t make that plan A.
What are your successes in Soul Purpose discovery? What are your failures?
Your Daily Morning Routine For Productivity Thursday, April 21st, 2011
Being a business owner means that you are on your own. In fact I recently stated that business is freedom. If business is freedom the dilemma then becomes, how to use that freedom wisely. One particular rhythm that I have set up for myself is a tool for morning productivity that I call a “power hour”.
Whether you are a stay at home mom or a Fortune 500 executive, busy people need to get their day started off on the right foot. The only time to do that is in the morning.
My morning “power hour” consists of focus on three key areas; spiritual, physical and mental. I don’t necessarily spend an equal amount of time in each discipline but I do spend focused time in each.
Here are some common questions that I get about doing a “power hour”?
What if my children get up at 5am?
The easiest way to answer this is to get up at 3 or 4am. For this to work you are going to have to get up before your kids. It’s that simple. As a father of four beautiful little girls, I feel your pain. One question to consider is, do your kids need to get up at 5am? Mine don’t. I could get into this topic more but I will save that for another post.
How long does it need to be?
I call it a “power hour” because you need at least an hour to spend adequate time in the proper disciplines. However, if you can’t do an hour then do it for as long as you can. You can even rotate between spiritual, mental and physical and do them on different days if you are pressed for time.
What does the mental part consist of?
This is a time to work on educating yourself. Read an informative book. Work on your business. Organize some facet of your life. Create something new.
How often should I do a “power hour”?
I would aim to do it every day so that it is a habit and just part of what you do. I notice a significant difference in my attitude and demeanor when I do a “power hour” vs. when I don’t.
What if I am not a morning person?
I wasn’t either. In fact I wrote a love story about waking up in the morning. You can train your body to a new schedule.
The Bottom Line
The bottom line is if you don’t have a morning productivity routine then it’s time to start one. No one has ever started doing a “power hour” and told me that they thought it was a waste of their time and they were sorry they did it. Usually I hear the opposite of that and in some cases I have had people tell me uplifting stories of how implementing this simple discipline changed their life. Do me a favor and try it on for the next 2 months and let me know what your results have been from doing it. I promise you won’t be disappointed.
Time Is A Limited Resource, Use It Wisely Tuesday, February 8th, 2011
The most common thing that I hear from business owners is that they don’t have time. There is no time to work on systems for their business. No time for marketing their business. Time is indeed precious. It’s just amazing how easily we waste time and don’t use the resource to their advantage.
I would love to tell you that I use every minute of business time wisely. I too am susceptible to wasting time. The sad thing is that we know we are wasting time and feel powerless to stop it. I have worked a lot on narrowing the time waste gap. Here are some things that I know work.
Have Vision- Knowing where you want to go makes knowing how you are going to spend your time that much clearer. Vision is the foundation for a lot of things in your business especially time management.
Lay out specific objectives for your business. When you have a specific set of key objectives for your business, you now have a road map for how you can best spend your time and what will make your business successful. This is also a great tool for employee management as well to ensure that they know what ultimately makes them and the company successful.
Get a time management system. There is a not a one-size-fits-all solution for time management but you need to find a system that plays to your strengths and that you can follow. What works for me may not work for you. There are tons of great time management systems out there; Getting Things Done, Franklin Covey just to name a couple. Pick a system and then make it your mission to execute it. Time management is a behavior issue and changing behaviors isn’t easy.
How are you going to make sure you spend focused time on your business? Is your business closer to its goals today than it was yesterday? Having vision, objectives and a system in place will allow you to better track your progress and give you a much clearer picture of how you and your team are performing.
How To Assess If You Are Busy Or Productive Tuesday, January 11th, 2011
We spent our last My Business World coaching call talking about planning efficiently and effectively. We don’t just get tripped up because we don’t plan. In fact I don’t think planning is our #1 issue. What good is planning after all if you don’t execute.
This is where time management comes in. Business owners can find things to do for days but how do you know if you are spending your time wisely?
There are two pieces to this formula that you can look at to help you assess your time management.
The first exercise is to do an activity inventory. Take five-ten and write down every single thing you have going on personally and professionally. Don’t over-think this and literally write everything down.
Now step back and look at it. Are there things in that list that need to be moved off of your plate?
Here’s one way that you can help decide.
Think about an ideal situation where you are only doing the work where you bring the most value to the table. What does that look like on a per hour basis? Is it $100/hour? Is it $500/hour?
Now go back to your list and ask yourself if there are activities that you can give to someone on your team or that you can hire out that would cost you less than the dollar per hour value that you ideally bring to the table.
This means most likely cutting out some paperwork or maintenance activities etc.
This sounds simplistic in its’ approach but the reality is you are probably wasting a lot of time working on activities that bring no real value to your business and that keep you plenty busy but ultimately keep you from being productive.
Spend some time this week to assess your activities. What are you spending the majority of your time on? What are the time wasters for you? What are you doing that you hate? Look at these activities and look for ways to get them off your plate and move you closer to your most productive year in your business yet.
What To Do When You Can’t Do Everything Thursday, October 14th, 2010
One of the most prevalent struggles that I hear from business owners is that they don’t see their projects through from start to completion and the primary reason for this is that they get overwhelmed with everything that needs to be done.
Has this ever happened to you?
I am pretty sure it’s happened to everyone. So provided that you have an idea that you need to implement for your business and you feel pretty good about moving forward how do you keep yourself from being overwhelmed?
Our brains are tricky. On the right side you have the ability to coordinate multiple things in time and space whereas your left brain take more of a linear, step by step approach. What makes this duality even more challenging is that you need both of these functions to start and complete a project.
The right brain take a look at the big picture. It’s the opposite of linear. It’s the fire hose. You need to be able to look at things from a 30,000 ft viewpoint and start thinking creatively about how a certain project is going to be put together and implemented. For instance, if you have anew product coming out, you have to start asking questions like; How will this product be best delivered? How will it be best experienced? What are some by-products that make the product even more appealing? For these types of questions, your right brain is essential.
Once you dial in the big picture questions you then need you right brain to start mapping out processes for putting this abstract concept into concrete terms. This concept reminds of the movie Stand and Deliver which is based on the true story of math teacher, Jaime Escalante. Jaime is teaching at an underfunded school that is not known for its academics and he decides that he is going to teach Calculus. When he introduces the concept of Calculus to his students they are extremely overwhelmed by the totality of learning something that seems so far beyond what they have done. Jaime’s mantra in the movie? Take it step by step.
Taking it step by step is the key to the completion of projects large and small.
If you find that your business is overwhelming you. The first thing to do is take a step back and look at all that your business is and compare it with what you want it to be. Then diagnose the easiest and most productive things that you can accomplish for your business. But the key is that you may freak out when you see all that needs to be done but push through it. It will pass once you start breaking it down into steps.
Jaime Escalante’s students were fortunate that they had a coach help them break their business down step by step. If you are having trouble breaking down the steps, a coach can help you with that as well.