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Business insight from the back of a shampoo bottle


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When are you going to get serious about your business?

Identify one thing you can do today to attract a new customer, educate a prospect or answer a common question.

Do it again tomorrow. If daily is just too much (seriously?), can you do it every couple of days, or at least once a week?

Once the habit is cemented in place, don’t stop. Ever.

Now find another rough edge in your business. Repeat the same process.

Like the shampoo bottle says: “Wash, rinse, repeat.”

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attitude Business culture Competition Habits Personal development

Maybe I mislead you

 
Speaks for itself.
 

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attitude E-myth Employees Entrepreneurs Habits Improvement Leadership planning Productivity Setting Expectations Small Business Strategy

Why don’t we do what we know must be done?

Change is hard.

We often don’t make a change because just thinking about it tends to be unpleasant, never mind the change itself.

We’ll think about it and mull it over and consider our options like we do about stopping for gas. We’ll glance at the pump as we pass by and put off the inevitable until the needle falls into that “below-the-E” zone where you know you’re in trouble if you don’t stop soon.

The decision to pull over and take 10 minutes to ensure that you can continue for hours or days takes just an instant. Yet many of us wait until forced to do it.

What actions are you waiting to be forced into? What would change if you didn’t wait?

It’s about the pain

Jim Rohn used to say “We don’t change until the pain of change becomes worse than the change of same.”

Yet we know better. Every day people make a decision not to fix something, change their mindset (or at least start down that path) or deal with the 500 lb gorilla in the room.

I sit in meetings with regularity where the obvious thing that has to be faced is ignored as if time will make it go away. Every day, the cost of not facing that thing increases.

Yet we continue to stall.

Why?

In the past, some have proposed that we’re afraid of reaching the destination we claim we’ve sought for years. In a few cases, that might be true, but I suspect that for the majority of people and businesses, advance thought might never have gone that far.

What important task have you avoided thinking about this month? What would happen if you forced yourself to focus on it for 15 minutes?

Procrastination

How many times have you thought about a problem you wanted to solve, then bought something (a book, service, etc) to help you address it – and then did nothing with the resource?

Our minds get satisfaction from the purchase. That little bit of dopamine is enough to pacify some of us. It pretends to be action.

We stop on the first rung of the ladder, or the second, or worst, the last.

When it comes to the most important thing you’re putting off, what rung are you on? Do you have more trouble starting or finishing?

Inertia

The trouble with inertia is that it seems to sprout from a smaller version of itself. It does this without water, sunshine or even MiracleGro.

Yesterday’s inertia morphs tomorrow’s seemingly insurmountable mental castle surrounded by alligator-infested waters. It grows like interest on a credit card bill. Every day, its slightly heavier weight eats away at you, your life and the stuff that needs to get done.

What’s the source of your inertia? Worse yet, what feeds it?

Overwhelm

Every marketer knows that if you present too many choices to a prospect, they’ll often choose nothing. They’ll….procrastinate, secretly hoping that the list will shrink and make the selection easier.

It isn’t much different than a todo list with 300 items on it or a TV listing with 300 channels or that restaurant menu with 40 appetizers.

Overwhelm breeds inertia. Would half as many choices help you get moving?

Momentum

There are two kinds of inertia. The kind we just talked about – the bad kind – is the inertia that keeps you from taking the first step, the next one or the last one.

With just one step, the bad kind transforms into the smallest instance of good inertia. Movement. It creates momentum, however small.

That first bit of movement spawns more. Every little decision you make in your day either contributes to it or undermines it.

Think about the little things that hurt your momentum. Stop doing them or at least, do them less often.

Think about the little things that fuel your momentum. Do more of them, however tiny.

Essential Keys

If you must, start with the smallest thing. Then the next size up. Build upon each tiny victory, even if it’s something as simple as sticking a stamp on an envelope or writing one page of that book.

The small victories, like tinder and kindling for a fire, are what build you into a sustainable force.

Do what must be done. Start right now.

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Automation Business Resources Competition Employees Entrepreneurs goals Habits Improvement Leadership Management Personal development planning Small Business systems The Slight Edge

6 questions that will shake your productivity beliefs

The easy question sometimes ends up playing the role of the hardest one.

The easy question – What system (paper, software, methodology, whatever) do you use to manage ToDos, Goals and Priorities on an annual, monthly, weekly and daily basis?

That question is part of The Rescue Interview because managers, CEOs and company officers usually have a ToDo/Goal system that they use to organize and prioritize the work they do.

Typically, they’re using that system because of a book they read, a seminar they attended or because they were referred to it by someone whose productivity they admired. The last one tends to be the most prevalent source of the system that my clients are using, if they’re using anything. The “where I found the system” really isn’t important, but the referring person is. Pay attention to their habits and it will pay off.

Urgent!

If you have a system, the most important aspect of it is that you use it consistently. It can be a battle reminding / forcing yourself to focus on that system consistently every single day – particularly given life’s ever-present desire to inject other priorities.

If your daily focus doesn’t use your chosen productivity mechanism, you’re probably working as Covey describes – on the urgent but unimportant. You may roll your eyes because you’ve heard that phrase so many times – but does “urgent but unimportant” work still monopolize your daily routine?

Tougher questions

The next five questions are a little tougher:

  • What percentage of last year’s goals did you achieve?
  • What percentage of last month’s goals did you achieve?
  • Did you complete 100% of last week’s goals? If not, what percentage did you complete?
  • Did you complete 100% of the items on yesterday’s ToDo list? If not, what percentage did you complete?
  • Are you happy with those results?

If you’re happy with your answers and using your system on a daily basis, that’s great news – you can skip to the next section.

If you’re doing well but want to get better – Typically this is caused by a lack of daily use of the system that’s clearly working for you. Focus on your system more frequently, fine tune what works and get rid of the parts that don’t. It’s possible you’ll need a system better suited to your desired level of accomplishment / productivity. If you’re honest with yourself, you’ll know whether you’ve given the system a real chance to help you.

If you’re seriously disappointed with your level of accomplishment (not just “well, I can do better”), the current system may not work for you, but it’s more likely that you aren’t using it often enough (or at all). If you’re using it daily and are still disappointed, it’s probably time for a new system.

If you need a new system, ask the most productive person you know to show you what they use.

But wait, there’s more

Now that we’ve determined whether you have a system for getting more of the right things done, how well it works for you, whether you need to use it more often, or that you need a new system, it’s time to ask the questions you rarely get asked.

What system (paper, software, methodology, nothing) does YOUR STAFF use to manage ToDos, Goals and priorities on an annual, monthly, weekly and daily basis?

After refocusing on your entire business, ask yourself these six questions:

  • What percentage of last year’s goals did your staff achieve?
  • What percentage of last month’s goals did your staff achieve?
  • Did your staff complete 100% of last week’s goals? If not, what percentage were completed?
  • Did your staff complete 100% of the items on yesterday’s ToDo list? If not, what percentage were completed?
  • Are you happy with those numbers?
  • Are they happy with those numbers?

It’s not unusual for highly productive business owners to be shocked with themselves if their staff has no system.

Business owners who have worked hard to select and refine their own personal productivity system sometimes “forget” to pass that training and system on to their staff, much less implement a company-wide system that manages the ToDos / goals / priorities of their entire business. When they hear these questions, it hits home.

How are you and your staff doing?

PS: Julien Smith mentioned Action Method in his blog this morning. I haven’t tried it yet. Maybe it’ll fit your team.

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Automation Competition Habits Ideas Improvement Personal development Productivity The Slight Edge

Stop Chasing Rabbits: A Productivity/Focus “Secret”

I don’t spend a lot of time writing about “the hows” of staying focused, but I do remind you now and then about the reasons that make focus so important.

For example, I closed the post A Thousand Dollars an Hour with “The goal? To do more of the right work. The work that advances your business in massive steps.

I hope everyone can relate to that.

There’s nothing wrong with what I might call “leisure reading”, but I suggest setting aside time for it rather than doing it during time planned for work.

One thing that really helps me is to avoid “chasing rabbits”.

Have you ever seen a dog chase a rabbit? Rabbits are incredibly elusive because of their ability to quickly change direction when running at high speed. What makes them so elusive: A body designed to make radical direction changes without losing much speed.

The dog might end up running half a mile or more within a football field and might never catch the rabbit. An overhead view of the path of a rabbit eluding a predator looks like the crayon scribbles of a two-year old. It goes everywhere, randomly… just like your afternoon spent doing random browsing.

Chasing links

Your productivity suffers the same thing on the web.

It starts like this: Someone sends you a link via email, Twitter or Facebook. You follow it, it leads to another page, which leads to another and the next thing you know, the afternoon is gone and you can’t begin to remember what you did for the last three hours.

If you have the discipline to open the link in a browser tab and then not read it, you might end up with 20-30-40 browser tabs open. Not only does that slow your machine / browser down, but it’s a buffet of ready-to-serve distractions just waiting to suck you in.

Some folks might bookmark the links to get them out of their face (and out of mind so they can get back to work), but I’ve found that people rarely read the stuff they bookmarked.

Bookmarking misses the mark

Bookmarking works because you don’t have to worry about the tragic loss of that critical link that you know you need to read (a dash of sarcasm?).

For me, traditional bookmarking wasn’t effective, even via Delicious. Too much clutter? Too many clicks? Not in my face to remind me I had reading queued up? I don’t know.

What I do know is that Instapaper has, for the last few years, been the #1 “secret” tool that keeps me focused during the day.

Links come at you all day long. Click one, start reading and the next thing you know, the afternoon is gone.

Instapaper to the rescue

I don’t know why the subtle differences between Instapaper and simple bookmarks are enough to make this so much more productive for me, but they are.

Maybe it’s because I know those links will be in Instapaper when I’m in reading mode. Maybe it’s because I can archive with 2 clicks and instantly move to the next article. Maybe it’s because the queue of reading is kept in sync from my laptop to my desktop to my iPad and iPhone. Maybe the ease and speed of the Read Later bookmarklet does it.

I suspect the marriage of those things is what makes it work for me. I noticed a significant difference once I started using the free Instapaper Read Later bookmarklet. For me, it was the real key to quickly eliminating the tempting distractions without losing important reads.

If you have a Kindle, this page shows how to make Instapaper links automatically go to your Kindle.

I hope this helps you do more of the important, valuable work…all without missing out on XKCD.

PS: I’ve added a Read Later link to the bottom of posts, if you can’t use the bookmarklet for some reason.

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Business culture Business Resources Competition Employees Entrepreneurs Habits Hiring Management Small Business systems Technology

The Bulletproof Superhero

When it was just you and you were a bulletproof superhero, you could remember it all.

You could look at code you wrote six months earlier and you knew exactly what it did and why you wrote it that way.

A bit of time has passed since then. Youâ??ve hired new people. Because you didnâ??t write good technical documentation back then (or didnâ??t keep it up to date), there are many mysteries about your business buried deep inside the heads of your most senior, most expensive staff.

And now, they’re being interrupted repeatedly with every new hire because the new person needs the knowledge stored in the heads of the â??old onesâ? in order to do their job and learn your business.

You want a new programmer to hit the ground running. To become as productive as possible as quickly as possible.

Think back to the last new person you hired. Remember that ramp-up period?

Now imagine hiring three or five at once. Just try to get something productive done while they are getting up to speed. You (and whoever is managing them) probably have other tasks to do, perhaps very high ROI tasks. Without strong technical, application/market and process documentation, those tasks are going to get incessantly interrupted with things that should have been documented.

Sure, you’ll get brilliant questions that you might not have foreseen. The other 912 questions likely could be answered in your internal wiki or other documentation. Or you could enjoy their visits to your office, their emails, IMs, texts and phone calls, while pondering the time they’re wasting by getting you them both out of the zone every time they have questions.

Your choice.

PS: Just because you aren’t a programmer or don’t have programmers doesn’t mean you’re immune to this.

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attitude Business culture Competition E-myth Employees Entrepreneurs goals Habits Leadership Management Motivation Personal development Small Business strategic planning The Slight Edge Time management

Twelve Days of You

5
Creative Commons License photo credit: gagilas

Think about your day.

What did you do yesterday?

Were you productive? When I ask that, what I mean is this: Can you reel off a list of high-priority things that you accomplished?

Did you waste any time?

How much of each hour did you spend on real, focused, dedicated work that actually produces a profit (either directly or indirectly)?

Let’s go on the assumption that you are one of the most productive people around and spent 50 minutes of each hour doing work of a nature that I just described.

That leaves 10 minutes to stretch, hit the restroom, and do whatever.

The Price

What’s that cost?

At a billable rate of $50 per hour, that ten minutes is only worth $5.00.

Or so it seems.

If you only work 40 hours a week, that 10 minutes consumes 400 minutes (about six hours) a week, worth $200.00.

In terms of time, that seems like a lot. In terms of money, maybe not so much.

Until

Until you multiply that times 50 weeks a year, when it becomes… Ten grand. 300 hours. 12 days.

Yet, you’ll assert that you don’t have enough time.

If you were focused and organized, what could you get done in twelve days?

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attitude Competition goals Habits Improvement Leadership Motivation Personal development Productivity Small Business The Slight Edge

9 minutes of “Will power”

Yesterday, I happened across this video montage of Will Smith interview clips that has him discussing what motivates him.

His comments on persistence, work ethic and competition are a good listen and well worth the 9 minutes.

Do you have that kind of will power?

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If I owned a fitness center

In the process of elliptical-ing across some wide open (virtual) spaces recently, I thought to myself, “What would I change if I owned this place?”

I might warm up the pool a couple of degrees, but that really isn’t the kind of change I meant.

The things that came to mind were in the spirit of “Be indispensable“.

So what would make that place the ONLY place to be a member?

When I have these conversations with a client, the first thing we often talk about are their clients.

We start simple. Who are they? What do they need?

A Day in the Life

To answer the “Who are they?” question, let’s look around at a day in the life of a fitness center and see how we can segment the members (customers) into groups based on gender, age, level of fitness, “Why they are there”, and so on.

I don’t mean a group like “People who need/want to work out.” Obviously, most people who join qualify for either need to or want to.

I’m thinking about a list like this, and I’m sure it’s far from complete:

  • Professional or semi-pro athletes, such as people who regularly marathon, triathlon and/or Ironman. You might include players for the local semi-pro teams. Around here, the Glacier Twins and/or Glacier Knights would be included.
  • Bodybuilders.
  • Post-partum moms who want to get their “pre-pregnancy body” back.
  • Pregnant women.
  • Men recovering from heart surgery.
  • Anyone newly diagnosed with diabetes.
  • People who are new to working out.
  • “Formerly disciplined workout people” who haven’t worked out in five, ten or more years.
  • People recovering from an injury, possibly under the direction of a physical therapist.

Within these groups, you’ll find breakdowns for gender and/or age group. Don’t underestimate those.

Everyone should be considering the sizable wave of Baby Boomers heading into their 60s-70s-80s might impact their business and what opportunities they suggest. Likewise, research has repeatedly shown that women control or influence 80% or more of household spending.

Is your business catering to these groups? If not, is your business even passingly friendly to these groups?

I Have Needs

The second question on my list was “What do they need?”

Until you create the list above, your needs list might be simpler than it should be because you might just be thinking “What do my members need?”.

Once we’ve gone through the customer (and prospect) identification and segmentation process, we’ll find more needs.

That’s why we go through this probably tedious, sometimes eye-rolling process that almost always helps you find new things that your customers need. The result should be obvious.

What do they need?

Now look back at that list of customer types from a “wants and needs” perspective. Consider the needs of body builders, post-partum moms, heart patients, and semi-pro athletes, for example. In some ways, they’re similar. In others, they have wildly different expectations.

They all need machines/weights, steam room, hot tub, pool, showers, restrooms and so on.

After that, the needs among the groups vary quite a bit:

  • Some would benefit most from instruction and/or working in groups.
  • Some prefer private facilities.
  • Some prefer gender-specific workout times/rooms.
  • Some prefer age-specific.
  • Some work evening or night shift.
  • Some would prefer to find a workout partner for motivation, spotting weights and/or accountability.
  • Some would like to be gently nagged if they don’t show up 3 times a week.

One example of many obvious ones: You wouldn’t necessarily have 20-somethings in a Yoga class with 60-somethings. Not because they can’t enjoy each other’s company, but because the instruction and goals for one group probably don’t parallel the other. That might drive you to have separate Yoga classes for singles, post-partums, “retirees”, physical therapy patients and so on. In each case, the instructor could be matched with attendees.

“What about me?”

If you don’t own a fitness center, you might be thinking this discussion isn’t much help.

Use what you can after adjusting it for your business. Can you take any idea here and make it work for you?

Finally, take a hard look at the thought process itself (“Who are my customers, what are their unique needs”) and see what you can come up with for your business. Even if you’ve done this five, ten or fifteen years back, I suggest doing it again. You might find yourself in new markets, focusing on a particular type of customer that you’d previously ignored, etc.

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Automation Business culture Business Resources Competition Customer relationships customer retention Customer service Direct Marketing E-myth Entrepreneurs Habits Marketing planning Productivity Restaurants Retail Sales service Small Business Strategy systems Time management tracking

A desk calendar, a yellow pad and a pen

A few weeks ago, I mentioned that there were some “numbers you might care about“.

Examples we talked about included figuring out the costs to obtain both a new prospect/lead and a new customer.

In prior discussions, I’ve also suggested that you need to be thanking your customers, following up with them, tracking referrals that customers (and others) make, checking to see that more time than usual hasn’t passed since their last purchase, and so on.

And then…I get emails.

Many of them tell me I’m nuts because no one has time to do all that and that I must be making it up. Others get it and they ask HOW to get all that stuff done.

GETTING STUFF DONE

Here’s part one of a primer on getting this stuff done.

What I mean by “primer” is that it’s simple and you don’t have to buy anything fancy or expensive, nor do you need to do anything geeky. You *can*, of course, but it’s not a requirement.

Start with these tools:

  • A free calendar (banks, insurance agents and others hand them out all the time). A large one-month-per-page desk calendar will help if you feel the need to splurge.
  • a free pen/pencil (ditto)
  • a $0.99 yellow pad

We’ll keep it simple for now and create a process for each of these events:

  • A new prospect contacts you
  • A new customer buys for the first time.
  • An existing customer buys again.
  • Someone calls to make an appointment.
  • You communicate with a prospect or customer.

DIRTY WORK

Now it’s time for the real work.

Use the yellow pad for these tasks:

  • When a prospect contacts you, write their name on one of the yellow pad sheets. Write the date they first contacted you at the top of the sheet. Below or next to that, write “Last contact date” and keep it updated (yes, it’ll get a little messy, but this is a paper system). Ask them who to thank for sending them to you. Write down the answer as “Source”. It might be a person, an ad or something else.
  • Keep a separate sheet for each prospect. Keep the sheets sorted by last name, unless you have a different way that works better for you.
  • When a prospect becomes a customer by buying something, write a C in one of the upper corners of the page so you know they’re a customer. In addition, write the first date of purchase at the top of the page. Write “Last purchase date” next to or below it. Keep it updated each time they purchase. Use a calendar on the internet to figure how out many days since they last bought. Write that down too.
  • When contacting (or contacted by) a customer or prospect, write a summary of each contact on their sheet. Indicate briefly their satisfaction level.

Use the calendar to remind you to perform these tasks:

  • Record appointments. Make note of them on the prospect/customer sheet so you can follow up as well as thank them.
  • Follow up with a note a few days (if that’s the right timing) after a new customer buys for the first time. Write the follow up on the appropriate date as soon as they buy.
  • Follow up with a customer after an on-site delivery or service to make sure all is well. If a staff member or contractor is doing the work, use the follow up to make sure that they were on-time, clean, courteous and took care of the customer’s needs.

Do these every day:

  • Check the calendar for follow ups, appointments, thank yous and such. Make them that day. Don’t get behind or you’ll never do them.
  • Check the contact sheets to make sure that customers are being properly taken care of. Your “satisfaction level” comments should feed this process.
  • Check the contact sheets for customers who haven’t bought in at least a month (or whatever time frame makes sense). Follow up to see why they haven’t been back  and include that on the sheet. If a particular competitor is involved, make note of that.

BOOOOOOORINNNNNNG!

Yes, this is mundane stuff.

It’s also exactly the same stuff that *so many businesses* fail at day-in and day-out. If you can’t get the basics right, you need to fix them.

Disclaimer: The computer guy half of my head insists that I remind you that manual processes and yellow pads don’t scale well (and eventually not at all), meaning that what works for 20 or 100 customers doesn’t work worth a darn for 500, 1000 or 10000.

Because paper doesn’t scale, I know what happens next. You get busy and eventually, you just won’t do the work. This happens despite the realization that doing all that stuff is at least part of the reason you got so busy.

If you do realize there’s a connection there, then you’ll either decide to introduce some technology or you’ll get some help. This kind of work is ideal for a stay-at-home parent, retiree or similar.

Crude? Perhaps. Understanding the value of these tasks – and of a tool that automates much this labor – is easier after doing it the hard way. This effort is just as valid for a four-star restaurant as for an oil change shop.