Are You An Idea Hamster?

Are You An Idea Hamster?

I often spend time with clients and other business owners who are full of ideas– so many they don’t know where to start, or they starting working on 2 (or 10) without much progress. Their head and office notebooks are littered with the ghosts of projects past.

I heard another business owner Amy call this being an “idea hamster”– what a great term!

You have an idea, and another idea, and another one, and you start running on that hamster wheel spinning and going no where.

Sound familiar? I know that it does for me, I struggle every day with being a reformed hamster.

Here are six key steps that have made a difference for me to complete something important [as Seth Godin calls it “shipping”]:

  1. Write a destination postcard for the end of the year– what you plan to accomplish
  2. From the postcard results, generate a long list of potential projects and categorize by type [are they planning, sales, marketing, people, operational?]
  3. Now rate those projects on effort and on impact on your goals — then rank by those with the highest impact and the lowest effort — these are your short list– put the rest into a “parking lot” [crucial step 1- they are always there to be re-considered.]
  4. Prioritize the list of projects— does one have to be completed for another to be effective? Does one address a burning issue or roadblock to growth?  Rank them and put a guestimate on the number of weeks to complete.
  5. Select the Number One priority project, get your team together, make an action plan to divide up the tasks and start chipping away every week.
  6. Crucial step 2– do not start another project until this one is complete! 

Do not get distracted by the next shiny thing, just keep momentum on that project. Focus on the next step, one at a time, every week.

Get your team concentrating on just one task and making progress. Yup, it’s hard to do but any change in habit is challenging.
{See the great graphic above that I think captures what we all go through! This is great, this is hard, this sucks… dark swamp of dispair…}

9 Ways a General Manager Will Benefit Your Small Business

9 Ways a General Manager Will Benefit Your Small Business

Over the years, you built your small business on step at a time. Your hired more staff to sell and service your clients, then you added an office manager and/or an accounting manager. With each hire you expected to get “freed up” to act like an owner, not an employee.

Yet you are “crazy busy” every day– getting sales, monitoring if work is done, leading improvement projects, fighting fires, and otherwise tending to the daily work in your business.

What could be the cause? If you have 10 or more people on staff, you are likely missing a “level” of management.

You have level 1- individual workers, and you (level 4)- expecting to lead well-designed and highly functional systems run by others.
You might even have level 2- a “supervisor” who monitors daily work of direct reports (perhaps informally and tactically), and is concerned with the next week or month.

But if you want to plan 1-5 years out and make changes that will improve your people, process and profits, you have to get out of the “daily supervision” game.

You need a deputy.

Here is a list of 9 ways your deputy (general manager) can positively impact your organization:

  1. Watch the store– develop and implement dashboards with key business results, review regularly and alert you to any “exceptions” so you know things are on track and there are no surprises
  2. Process improvement – identify trends in your hassles, bottlenecks and other issues, research to find route cause and suggest solutions, then implement the solution
  3. Build your team– Identify new roles or more people before your delivery suffers. Recruit, screen, onboard and train new staff that are Ideal Candidates, build a virtual bench of pre-qualified candidates before a position opens up
  4. Coach the team– schedule, assign and coordinate work, monitor performance and attitude, give feedback, train and develop people for the best job fit and opportunities, engage the team to retain A players.
  5. Client experience building– handle escalation of client issues, routine relationship building, periodic follow up to uncover unreported issues and identify opportunities
  6. Get stuff done– Take your brilliant ideas for sales, marketing, process improvement, customer service and work with you to implement them
  7. Get Strategic – Provide another viewpoint and involvement input in annual goal setting, then cascade goals down to every person, communicate and implement via individual dashboards and team coaching conversations.
  8. Hold down the fort” so you can have dinner with your family and take several two-week vacations (almost worry free)
  9. Open up your schedule– so you can focus on thinking and planning, provide leadership and direction, building strategic relationships, and monitoring from a dashboard (instead of an avalanche of data)

Basically a deputy lets you guide the process while they drive the business.

Most owners wait far too long to get a deputy- a general / operations manager. The concerns are the usual- effort (how can I find and train a good one) and cost (how will I pay for him or her?).

Take a quick count- how many of these are happening now in your business?

What impact would these activities bring to your business if they were in place?

  • Would it tighten up your sales process to win more business and increase revenue?
  • Would it increase customer satisfaction leading to more sales and referrals?
  • Would it provide the systems for reducing your costs based on higher efficiency?

If you increase quantity and value of each sale 5%, and reduce costs 5% this can double your profit.

Can a deputy do this for you?

7 Roadblocks to Your Small Business Growth

7 Roadblocks to Your Small Business Growth

Most small business owners wear many hats—service provider, marketer, salesperson, accountant, customer service, and for your team – trainer, project manager and coach.

But the more the business depends on you, the more you are limiting it’s potential .. you can’t do it all well.

In fact, only 8% of businesses grow to over $5 million in revenue.. something happens to most firms and they plateau around the $1-2 million mark.

Actually, not just one thing…

There are 7 main roadblocks to achieving your business potential— a lack of systems in 7 key areas.

  • If your firm lacks these 7 systems, it creates a bottleneck that flattens sales, prevents great customer experiences, and reduces profits.
  • Once you get the key elements right, you can grow smoothly and consistently, with a business on “auto-pilot.”

1. Plan

Roadblock - lack of dashboards measurement

Dashboards

Remember Steven Covey’s habit “Begin with the end in mind”?

There are four main plans to guide your activities and decisions to create the business you desire:

Strategic plan: It is crucial to provide a roadmap to guide your major decisions.

Budget: An annual budget is a planning document, report card, and decision tool.

People Plan: This plan outlines your current and future people roles— and forecasts what additions and changes to roles are needed to support sales growth and new business lines.
It also outlines individual’s work with organization goals (see People and Process below).

Owners plan: Owners, just like every team member, should be in a role that maximizes their strengths. Many owners continue to be the CEO- the Center of Everything Officer. This creates a huge roadblock for growing the business as the owner becomes overworked and overwhelmed.
An owner’s plan considers their current and future desired involvement, and outlines a plan to transition responsibilities to key people over time.

2. Sales plan

Most businesses have a reactive approach to sales—they do a bit of advertising or hire a sales person and then respond to the leads that come in.

Often the owner is heavily involved in all or part of this process. It is typical for a busy owner to be slow to respond to inquiries and provide proposals, and leads can be lost quickly without a tracking system.

There are several roadblocks in such an informal process.

Not only are you losing new sales that you already proposed, but you are also not pursuing qualified ideal prospects to have a consistent flow of new sales opportunities. A third sales area often overlooked is repeat business from current or prior customers—most organizations don’t have a solid process to keep in touch and offer additional services.

If you want to find, attract and cultivate leads into new and repeat customers, the solution is to have a consistent optimized sales process plan that is semi-automated.

3. Process

Process Plan

Define your process

We all have our own way of doing things.

While that is just fine in our personal lives, a business needs to ensure consistency and quality of the product and service we deliver to our customer.

This roadblock is the lack of three little letters: SOP—Standard Operating Procedures. 

Maybe you consider this super-boring, but this is the foundation of growing and scaling your business with few fires and chaos, not more. If you throw gasoline (more sales) on a fire (inconsistent work) you have an explosion.

If you want to grow smoothly, you need SOP’s.

SOP: Two key elements to a streamlined and consistent process are 1) to identify key tasks and results in standard operating procedures – SOP, 2) continually refine those SOP and implement projects to improve your process and delight your customer.

Employee involvement: To best way to process improvement ideas is to actively involve your employees in the process—they are closest to the customer and are more likely to see ways to do things faster, better, and cheaper.

Business success is about delivering an exceptional customer experience– and systems allow you to do this easily as you grow.

4. Rhythm

Your standard operating procedures are enhanced further by creating job responsibility profiles with key performance indicators (KPI) for each employee.

When everyone is clear about their responsibility, how it supports business goals, and how they will be measured, they perform better and are more engaged with their work.

One optimal practice is to create a firm-wide dashboard of key metrics, and then “cascade” the goals and metrics to the specific people responsible. These “report cards” show when company and individual results are on target, allow for quick adjustment in  areas that need attention, and  ensure focus on the main items to achieve this year’s goals.

5. People

Fabulous Team A Players

Fabulous Team A Players

Even with perfectly optimized systems and all the pretty dashboards with your key metrics, you won’t grow with a fabulous team of People, who work together to achieve business goals.

A Players: There is a simple measure to know if you have this—do you have 100% “A-players” in every role?

Virtual bench: When you have qualified candidates on a “virtual bench” (ready to hire as business grows), this allows you to plug in the team you need when you need it, rather than overwhelming your staff and disappointing customers as you reactively scramble to find more teammates.

6. Personal

Personal work life balance ikigai

What is your ikigai?

As the owner, you are both the key to your success AND your biggest roadblock.
If you want your business to run without your daily involvement, you need to:

  1. Build a trusted management team to optimize the business
  2. Delegate to handle the daily operations (no meddling)
  3. Hold them accountable via the goals and dashboards tied to strategy
  4. Focus your efforts on your genius—what you love to do, what provides the greatest long term value for the business

7. Profits

A lack of profits is a huge roadblock to your business success. Low cash flow causes you to make decisions out of scarcity— cheaper labor, old broken equipment, taking on low margin jobs,  not investing in process improvement, and working yourself harder.

When you have the Right Plan, Process and People, the Profits start flowing (I call this the 5 P’s model).

This upward spiral of success finally provides you the security, freedom and funds to step out of the daily “running” of the business, and let you focus on your ideal role and ideal week (and ideal life). 

Discover Which Roadblocks are Limiting Your Small Business

Take our 3 minute quiz to find out how your firm compares to high-growth and high-profit firms.

Blog Author Diana Southall

Article by Diana Southall

About the author: Diana Southall is the creator of the People Plan. She helps owners who want to grow their small business but are too personally involved, and who want to learn how to “run a business” and build a trusted team to handle the day to day.

3 P’s Essential to Maximize Small Business Profits

3 P’s Essential to Maximize Small Business Profits

Most small business owners want two things from their business- a reasonable Profit for all their hard work, and the freedom to enjoy their Personal life (both in the business and outside it).

However, they often neglect the 3 other P’s that will create the Profit and Personal life they want.

To explain this concept, I created a formula:

Plan + Process + People = Profits —> your Personal life

You need to have all 3 P’s in this order:

  1. Planning— What are the Right Things? [the What]
  2. Process— What does Done Right look like? [the How]
  3. People — Do we have the Right People? [the Who]

Without Planning, people don’t know how what they do impacts your goals, so they are busy but not focused.

Without effective Process, you will have wasted effort, headaches and won’t deliver on your promises to customers.

Without the right People, you will be busy dealing with fires and drama, and trapped in daily effort to “manage” your people and customers.

—> You feel overworked, overwhelmed by your wish list of business improvement projects, and you feel guilty working long days instead of spending time with your friends and family.

Once you put the 3 P’s in place at your organization, you can transform into an organization with:

A Plan: when your staff know the “plan” and understand how they impact organizational goals, they work together as a purpose-driven team to improve and grow the business by delighting your customers.

Clear Process: when activities are standardized, clear roles and responsibilities are outlined, and key results are tracked to make informed decisions, this provides “autopilot” systems to run smoothly and scale easily.

Right People: when you have managers who build and coach a team of A-Players, you trust them to run the business and make decisions as you would.

This leads to your ultimate goal as a business owner:

  • The level of Profit (financial security) you desire, and
  • The Personal work-life balance you want … the freedom to do what you want, when you want to do it.

—————————————————————————–

Discover Which Plan, People and Process elements are Roadblocks in Your Small Business

Take our 3 minute quiz to find out how your firm compares to high-growth and high-profit firms.

Blog Author Diana Southall

Article by Diana Southall

About the author: Diana Southall is the creator of the People Plan. She helps companies that are missing out on opportunities because the owner is personally involved in every sale or client.

Focus on these 3 T’s- how not to spend time on the WRONG things

Focus on these 3 T’s- how not to spend time on the WRONG things

I do it, you do, everyone (except the birds and bees) does it… spend time on the WRONG things.
Managers and owners spend our time coaching and training our People to be more focused, more effective, more productive… but are we?

As a fan and follower of Laura Stack (the self-proclaimed “Productivity Pro”), I was excited to read her latest book, “Doing the Right Things Right: How the Effective Executive Spends Time.”

She has a simple framework that outlines the 3 T’s — and is relevant for every People Coach (from to the CEO of a $1 billion firm to a small business owner with 5 people):

1. Thinking Strategically (Business)

2. Teamwork (Team)

3. Tactics (Self)

I call this Plan, People, and Process… and she has a nice breakdown of what a manager “should” be doing.

Get her book summary for free at this link: “Doing the Right Things Right: How the Effective Executive Spends Time.”

(There is even a self-assessment on pages 13-17 if you are up for the feedback!)

As the coach, you have to both set the example as well as personally focus on the Right Things for your team to be effective and successful.

“*Managing by Wandering Around” doesn’t work anymore! (*A great term coined to Tom Peters and still used today by many successful small business owners, who are unfortunately trapped in their business because their team relies on constant attention.)