Let’s Start From The Beginning. Or The End.
Among the most important work of building any business are the following:
1. Getting what’s in your head documented so the gap between knowing and doing is closed. When principle players of a business don’t document what they know, the organization is unable to learn. Only learning organizations remain viable over time.
2. Getting systems built so products/services can be delivered with predictable success over and over. Some call it scale. Some call it sustainability. Whatever you call it, it’s urgent that every business build a work-flow that enables the delivery of the service to be excellent every single time. The exception, poor service, should be the exception – not the rule.
3. Once systems have become second nature, it’s time to consider automation – putting some activities on auto-pilot. This may involve lower cost labor executing activities previously done by more skilled people. It may involve using technology to perform functions previously done manually, giving the company more man hours for more profitable functions.
All of this boils down to a simple “easier-said-than-done” approach to business building:
If Then Systems
“IF” this happens, “THEN” here’s what our business does to respond.
Every business is nothing more than a series of requests. Daily our lives are driven by requests. Customers have requests. Prospects have requests. Partners have requests.
Businesses run into trouble when they aren’t able to effectively and efficiently handle all these requests. Every stress felt by a company stems from that company’s inability to properly handle all the requests put upon it. From cash flow, to lead generation, to making payroll – and every other challenge facing a business – they all can be fixed with an improvement to more consistently deliver superior value in answer to all the requests.
Among the big challenges facing most small businesses is this one, “How can we say YES to this request?” Unfortunately, too many small business owners don’t consider a more important question, “SHOULD we say YES to this request?”
It really starts with making decisions that put the business in the best possible position for success. Success is based on financial results, number of happy customers, how many customers will recommend our company, happy employees and ongoing innovation and creativity.
The Solution Is Also The Problem
The problem is TLC. The solution is also TLC.
Time • Logistics • Communication
Time is an obvious problem. We don’t have enough of it. Ever.
Logistics is a multi-faceted problem. It’s who and where, all at the same time. Who has it. Where are they at with it. Simply put, logistics is work-flow. It’s how we get things done. We do it with the help of other people.
Communication is internal and external. It’s how we talk, what we say, when we say it and it involves every aspect of our communication with people inside the company, or those directly involved in our work (suppliers, vendors, partners, anybody who is associated with our serving customers). It’s also how we communicate (in all forms) with our prospects and customers.
The elephant in the room is one word: EMOTION.
Every element of TLC evokes emotions, either positive (calming, excitement, intrigue, comfort, happiness) or negative (fear, dread, anxiety, depression, unhappiness).
It’s important that a business establish basic guidelines and expections to build a TLC model that is effective in building the most successful business possible.
An Obvious Truth: If the business suffers, everybody associated with that business suffers. If a business thrives, everybody associated with that business benefits.
That means every decision must be congruent with the purpose of the business. So we begin with the end in view, “What is the purpose of your business?”
Money. Well, of course. But that’s an outcome – a hopeful outcome – of what a business does. The purpose is something deeper, more important. “There’s something more important than money?” Sure.
Time is more important. You can earn more money, but you can’t create more time.
And this first component of TLC presses on us how the purpose of our business has to be focused on one big question, “How do you want to spend your days?”
That is, what do you want to do with your time? Specifically, what do you want to do with your working time?
Every successful person – in our case, business people – must determine how they’d like to spend their time. Every day people get up and DO something. It’s that something we DO that determines our daily purpose. It establishes who we are. It defines us.
We can fight against it. We can even deny it. But when all is said and done, it’s what’s done that defines who we are – and what kind of business we build.
If everything is important, nothing is important.
Establishing priorities is one of the most important decisions facing every leader. It forms the foundation of the entire business. Openly and subtly it tells everybody what we value most.
Business owners often make the mistake of making everything important. They love the mantra, “Sweat the details.” Or, “the devil is in the details.” It’s a cowardly way of justifying their poor management style.
The autocrat – a person with absolute, singular authority – rules with an iron fist. Unmoved by input from anybody else, he’s the center of his own universe. Every good idea must be his own, otherwise, it’s a bad idea. Every job in the company is best performed by him, but he only suffers the foolishness of others because he’s too important to do every job. He’s not too important to be the backseat driver behind every decision and every action taken by others.
Over time – sooner than later – the business realizes that there really are no priorities because every single thing is important. The owner’s ire is provoked by everything. People are unable to get a read on what really matters because it all seems to matter.
The practical reality is we all know things have a value based on their relation to other things. Some things are more important than other things. It’s important that people in a company draw the proper conclusion. That is, they must quickly learn what matters most. Leadership provides that answer with the establishment of priorities.
Congruency. Have you ever seen somebody in a place where you didn’t expect them? Sure, we’ve all done that. Perhaps we’re accustomed to seeing a person who waits on us regularly at our favorite eating joint. One evening we go out to attend a concert. We see somebody who looks familiar, but we’re unable to place them. They approach us and all of sudden it dawns on us who they are. Why did it take us so long to recognize them? Because in this moment of time, our congruency meter is thrown off by the context of this concert. In the restaurant setting we have no problem recognizing them. That’s congruency. It’s how we all make sense of the world.
It’s also among the many components that explains why the abused wife stays with the abusive husband. He says he loves her…after he’s beaten the crap out of her. He says one thing and does something different. Incongruities confuse her. She must make sense of it somehow. So, over time, she convinces herself his words mean more than his actions. “He just loses control sometimes,” she might say. Or, “I shouldn’t provoke him.” She has to make sense of her world in any way she can. And she does.
Employees and other people associated with our business do the same thing. They must make sense of things. When ownership says one thing, but does something different…or when ownership does one thing, then contradicts that with an opposite action…people naturally seek to make sense of it.
Being congruent speaks to every aspect of TLC. Our ability to be congruent with who we really are, what we really want and what we think is really most important – those send strong signals inside and outside the business. They mean everything to our business.
In the next show I’ll dive into the T of TLC, time.
Thanks for listening,