Are you un-coachable? Drips might help.

Heading into Battle

Frustrated with the rate of change or accomplishment of new work in your business?

I had a conversation recently that might help.

Ann: Sometimes I think some of us are un-coachable.
Mark: Reminds me of “When the student is ready, the teacher will appear.” It’s huge for those who teach and/or coach – you have to meet the student where they are rather than where you want them to be. Anyhow, I don’t think it’s being un-coachable, it’s a form of being overwhelmed.
Ann: We hear and understand but we just can’t get traction and do it consistently and …
Mark: Habit momentum is important. Start one thing today, then when it becomes a daily habit that’s part of your life, add another.
Mark: IE: D,D,D
Randy: I *knew* you were gonna get that in there.
Ann: D..D..D..?
Randy: DDD stands for “Drip, drip, drip.” In this case he means that if you do a little bit each day, the small efforts add up. It’s something I have to *constantly* remind myself about.
Mark: Right, but it’s important that you make sure the *right* bit is what’s getting done each day.

Little changes, big results

Ann: But what does Drip mean?
Mark: It’s a euphemism for incremental change.
Ann: Told you I was un-coachable
Randy: By making incremental changes, those little changes that we might not be able to make as a whole eventually add up to big things.
Ann: DDD = small deltas
Randy: Exactly. And one of my favorite Rohn quotes applies here. “For things to change, you must change.”
Mark: With DDD, the concept is that it’s easier to change one thing in your business than to change 20 or 30. When we look at our business, we can often come up with 20-30 or even 100 things that we’d ideally like to change, so it’s often difficult to get ANY of these changes to happen because of the sight of them as a whole.
Ann: Yes, it’s tough to get traction.
Mark: Absolutely – and that’s the painful part. In most cases, even establishing two or three of the changes will make a substantial difference to our business. Some see two or three changes as a failure because they’re focused on a list of 20 or 30 as “success”. If they aren’t in the right mindset, these initial successes actually discourage them from continuing to chip away at number three, much less 21, 22, etc because the effort as a whole feels like a failure or a journey that’ll never end. It’s too easy to miss the incremental wins when you’re focused on the end (or what you think the end is).

What IS a Drip?

Dean: Do you guys think Ann’s phrase about “Getting traction” is a good description of the problem?
Mark: Traction – I agree it is, which is what drips are all about. Drips generate confidence and momentum as they become habits, forming a foundation for bigger change. Traction.
Dean: What if the drips aren’t enough to make a business work? I have a friend who’s been “running a business” for years, working three hours per week. After a decade, little progress.
Mark: Drips are about new habits and making change, not building the whole business. And…Drips aren’t about hours. They’re tasks.
Dean: For example?
Mark: Say a client needs a print newsletter, an email newsletter, blog posts and videos. If I drop all of that on them at once, they won’t get them done. There’s too much to take on at once and it’s overwhelming. Instead, we break each one out into a drip. In other words, each one is a new habit (product or outcome) you want to introduce into your business.
Dean: OK, let’s talk about starting the print newsletter.
Mark: I’d probably rough out a layout in maybe an hour. I’d spend the next hour writing content.
Dean: Starting from scratch, you’d just need one hour?
Mark: No, I’d spend an hour on the newsletter until the first issue is done. The idea is to chip away at that single habit or change for an hour a day (or a week, whatever I have to work with) until the first cut is done. At that point, I should have a process that’s ready to delegate or outsource.

The key to Drip, Drip, Drip is to stay focused on each change and keep working at it till it’s done.

The most expensive, most stressful thing on your desk

Nothing destroys a work day like distractions.

Ever realize that it’s “suddenly” dinner time and all you remember doing since lunch is reading Facebook?

That’ll show up nicely on a deposit slip. Hello, stress.

Distractions are a product of your work environment, your work habits and how those two things are communicated to others.

Your work environment

What you surround yourself with is critical to your work. Clutter doesn’t help – and I mean clutter of all kinds – physical as well as electronic.

These things are waiting to distract you, so you have to eliminate them from your work environment. Eliminate doesn’t necessarily mean trash.

Electronic clutter is particularly distracting to me, so I’ve surrounded myself with systems that “protect” me from it. Instapaper helps me get rid of open browser tabs that I was saving to read. Things, a GTD-oriented system, helps me store ideas and to-do items on notes, in my head, in emails, etc.

Because I know they’re not “lost”, they don’t clutter up my browser, mind, desk or subconscious. Don’t take the last one lightly. Worrying about forgetting something is very distracting.

Random phone calls are also a form of clutter, so I only take calls by appointment (with very few exceptions). I know – you think you can’t do this without losing sales. I thought the same thing.

My tools may not fit you. Use what fits. Discard what doesn’t.

Your work habits

Last night at a local restaurant, I spoke with one of my Scouts who’s home from college for the summer. He’s in amazing physical condition and has been for years, despite being a skinny little guy years ago. He says people often say they want to “look like him”, but they don’t want to do the work he did to get that way.

He tells them it’s as easy as working out every day, which may be hard to do until it becomes a piece of your life you aren’t willing to give up for anyone – even your immediate family. That hour a day that no one (or nothing) can take from you for any reason isn’t neglect. It’s building a better you so you can be better for them.

Habits are just as critical at work.

One of my mentors would growl “Just do more of what matters. Make more time by doing less of what doesn’t.” While he’s right and yes, it’s common sense, most people need help doing it.

Consider the three most important tasks you need to finish next week. Do you have to think about it to remember them? That’s not good.

I use my calendar and Things to tell me those three tasks. Neither tool forgets. I review Things every weekend and schedule work tasks on my calendar as if they were meetings, speaking gigs or other commitments.

In an age where you can watch TV on your phone and people can contact you almost anywhere, you have to take managing yourself seriously. Scheduling things (even blog writing) in my calendar is how I make sure that the important things get done – including family stuff and paying bills.

A full calendar makes it easy to say no to less important things you don’t have time for. If the important things like work and family are booked first, stuff that doesn’t matter enough has no place to go.

How those two are communicated to others

People appreciate when you don’t immediately answer your phone, but always return their call.

People appreciate when you don’t immediately reply to an email, but always reply.

People appreciate it when you don’t miss a ball game, a play, a concert or a night out, even if you have to work afterward.

When people see you glance at and then ignore a vibrating phone while in a meeting with them, they’ll ask about it the first time. When you tell them that you aren’t answering because you booked this time solely to give them 100% of your attention, your previously “unreasonable” call policy suddenly becomes reasonable.

If you work (or play) with focused attention, people will notice and appreciate it.

You mentioned stress. What about that?

How much stress would you have if you didn’t forget important things and routinely completed them?

 

Visa_small_biz_infographic_060713

Disclosure: I am blogging on behalf of Visa Business and received compensation for my time from Visa for sharing my views in this post, but the views expressed here are solely mine, not Visa’s. Visit http://facebook.com/visasmallbiz to take a look at the reinvented Facebook Page: Well Sourced by Visa Business. The Page serves as a space where small business owners can access educational resources, read success stories from other business owners, engage with peers, and find tips to help businesses run more efficiently. Every month, the Page will introduce a new theme that will focus on a topic important to a small business owner’s success. For additional tips and advice, and information about Visa’s small business solutions, follow @VisaSmallBiz and visit http://visa.com/business.

Christians, Lions and Wives of New Jersey

During the run-up to the fall of Rome, entertainment in that civilization became more violent and what many people these days would probably call immoral.

If you look back to Rome, you might not see the parallel to today but I’m sure you’re familiar with the words “Those who forget / ignore history are doomed to repeat it.

As Roman civilization flourished, they valued education, representative government as they knew it, the works of scholars of the time and times before theirs, infrastructure, design, innovation and more. Sound familiar?

But something changed. At some point, the Romans became complacent. Over-confident. In today’s lingo, we might look at their later years and characterize them as “fat and happy”.

When you read back over what Romans wasted their energy on as their civilization crumbled, you might describe it with words like class warfare, cultural differences and entertainment.

In Roman times, you became the entertainment by being different from the mainstream Roman populace. It didn’t matter whether it was religion, social standing, financial standing or whatever. If you qualified, you were a normal day’s entertainment.

By entertainment, I mean the target of the carnage that took place in the Coliseum and elsewhere.

Something turned them from improving themselves and their society to consuming the equivalent of today’s reality TV. The relationships and trust they built as a society and used to build Rome were consumed with drama, suspicion and conspiracy.

Fast forward 600 to 800 years (or more, depending on your view of history). What’s different today aside from the delivery mechanism? Today’s entertainment is a flat panel TV playing the “Real Housewives of New Jersey”.

According to The Hollywood Reporter, “the (Real Housewives) reunion was up 33 percent in 18-49 and 28 percent in total viewers compared with the prior year’s season ender. The ratings performance boosted the season 9 percent in viewership and 3 percent in the key demo compared to the second season. Bravo also touts that the New Jersey subsite lured 3.7 million page views and roughly 430,000 streams, 14 percent and 23 percent jumps respectively the day following the previous week’s episode.

That’s 3.4 million Americans sitting in the equivalent of the Coliseum, watching allegedly adult women in cocktail dresses take on the roles of Christian and lion.

3.4 million Americans and (as noted above) millions of internet users rewarding Bravo for creating this sputum.

How are you spending work time?

That Hollywood Report quote about viewership numbers was from FIVE years ago. What’s changed since then? Perhaps the names of the shows or the cast, but not the gist of what they deliver.

What are you spending your time on? What are you doing to help you, just you, stay on task and on target? If you look back at last week and are completely honest with yourself about what got done and what didn’t get done, what was the cause for things that didn’t get done?

What have you done to prevent that from happening again this week? Perhaps nothing, but now I hope you’re thinking about it, so I’ll ask in a different tense: What can do you to prevent that from happening again this week?

What can keep you on task? What can protect you and your time from inane distractions? What can be delegated, deferred or ignored, even for a day?

It isn’t solely you who has this challenge. What are you doing to help your team stay on task and on target? What can protect their time? What can they delegate, defer or ignore for a day? Assuming you are their direct manager, what are you doing to protect their time and allow them to focus on the one thing you really need them to get done this week?

How are you setting an example for your team in these areas? How are you reporting your findings on what makes you more effective, less frustrated, less distracted, more focused? What are you placing in front of them, ready for them take a swing at?

How are you spending your downtime? You may not have any influence over your team’s downtime, but you can still set an example.

Jim Rohn said (paraphrased) “You become the average of the five people you spend the most time with.” Who are your five people? Are the “Real Housewives of New Jersey” on the list?

 

Put away the white shoes

seoul conductor
Creative Commons License photo credit: kikfoto

Back in my grandmother’s day, the day after Labor Day meant “Put away the white shoes.”

These days, we may not be quite so beholden to old school wardrobe rules, but we still tend to let a Roman emperor’s calendar decide when our business is going to take action.

With the exception of consumer retailers, some businesses are trying to wrap up their revenue goals before hunting season, before the holidays and so on.

Likewise, many will wait until “everyone is back” (from what, exactly?) in mid-January to ramp up next year’s business. Many of those haven’t even planned what they’ll be doing in the new year.

If you do trade shows, you already know you can’t do this. You have to have your booth setups, marketing materials, products and a litany of other things organized months in advance. You actually have to have your act together, at least as the show requires. You have to show up ready to deliver.

Whether you do trade shows or not, have you started planning what you’re going to get done next year and how you’re going to launch it?

The rest of the year will likely take care of itself. You should already have it planned. Execution should already be in motion. If you don’t even have that planned, maybe it’s time to start your new year right now.

What’s the point of waiting?

Show up for the rest of the year…ready to deliver.

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?

Raise The Bar!

Monkeys on a Banana
Creative Commons License photo credit: Furryscaly

During some recent travel to deal with some family stuff, I’ve had a chance to see how business is going elsewhere in the U.S.

One thing caught my eye over the weekend and I think it merits some discussion.

It illustrates how much room there is for a coherent, attentive business in the marketplace…even in today’s economy.

Billboards

If I look, did it work? Nevermind, that was a few weeks ago…

Seriously, I saw a billboard that stated a HVAC (heating, ventilation and air conditioning) company’s unique sales position (USP) and / or differentiating factor.

It was “We’ll be on time.”

If they aren’t on time, the service is free.

They didn’t advertise the quality of their service or the highly trained nature of their service people.

They simply said “Unlike everyone else, we’ll be on time and if we aren’t, our work will be free.”

One of the biggest time-wasters foisted upon consumers these days is the “We’ll be there between 8 and 5 or noon and 5” etc. People are unwilling to commit an entire day to deal with your inability to manage your work schedule, but they have no choice in many cases.

This HVAC company has a much smaller window of “we’ll be there”, but they’ve decided to accept responsibility when they mismanage their time.

I think it’s an effective sales tool that speaks directly to consumers’ pet peeves, but it begs the question “How much lower can businesses lower the bar?”

Are you lowering the bar or raising it? Which benefits you and frustrates your competition? Which makes it easier for consumers to choose you?

What are you doing that your competition is unable or unwilling to do? Are you leading your market or simply showing up?

Raise the bar.

Working in Disneyland. Not.

PING PONG
Creative Commons License photo credit: Max Braun

A few weeks ago, we talked about the importance of strategic delegation and how it might just enable you to enjoy a phone call free vacation, much less free up some hugely important strategic thinking time.

When I was in the photography software business, I quickly learned that photographers absolutely detest being pulled out of the camera room to answer the phone.

Likewise, if I emailed them about something urgent (usually because they said it was urgent), theyâ??d often respond hours later saying that they had been in the camera room and hadnâ??t seen my email.

It’s not as if they were hiding from us. Usually we were trying to contact them to help them resolve a problem, train them or answer a question.

But you don’t pull them out of the camera room.

It’s not Disneyland

The camera room isnâ??t a magical place, but it is where they make their money. Itâ??s where the backgrounds, props, lights and cameras are. Itâ??s where their clients are when they are creating their masterpiece, which results in revenue. They DO NOT like being interrupted while they are in there, just in case I wasn’t clear.

Technical jobs (programming, engineering, etc) work the same way. While performing detailed, highly-technical work; these workers despise being interrupted. We get into the zone, into a flow, we get clear, whatever you call it.

Interrupting us from this work after immersing ourselves in it is expensive and annoying. It takes a while (15-20 minutes or more) to get back to the zone where we can be productive with all the right stuff in our head.

And then the door to your office opens because someone wants to know where the toilet paper is or what place we have planned for lunch.

In an instant, youâ??re out of the zone. Even if you aren’t “technical”.

Produce a Procedures Manual

One thing that helps reduce these interruptions is having a procedures manual. Just because itâ??s called a manual doesnâ??t mean it has to be printed. It might be a wiki or a really long MS Word document. It doesnâ??t matter as long as it is documented and accessible by anyone who needs to perform a task at your business.

This manual might prevent you from getting a call on a Sunday afternoon at dinner time because someone went into the office to plan their week (or pick up something they forgot), and realized that they donâ??t know how to turn on the alarm.

Or the alarm is going off and the police are there and they want to know how to turn it off, so they call you while you’re in the doctor’s office, on the beach, etc. Worse yet is when they can’t reach you, so they leave without turning the alarm on, or similarly less-than-ideal situations.

Important Safety Tip

There is no process that must be done regularly in your business that is too trivial to leave out of this documentation.

Yes, I said no process too trivial.

One reason I suggest that is that someday you will have a new employee. They will start at the bottom. They won’t know anything.

And they’ll pull you out of the camera room (or your equivalent) every five minutes to ask you about this or that if you don’t have anything else (like a procedures manual) to provide this instruction.

Certainly there will be enough face to face contact as it is. In the old consultant’s home, you’ll hear us muttering something along the lines of “What’s worse than spending the time and effort to train an employee who stays for years? NOT training them and having them stay for years.”

I know you’ll train them. Really I do. Still, there are things that simply shouldn’t require hands-on training. They might be performed by a temporary employee.

These tasks will often be mundane, ranging from opening the store, to packaging to closing the store at the end of the day to turning off the alarm when set off by mistake.

Each is one less “really good reason” to pull you (or someone else) out of the zone.

Empowerment and the Silent Cell Phone

Henry Ford, despite his success with the assembly line at Ford Motor Company, made a mistake that many business owners still make today.

He didn’t delegate.

Most business owners delegate at least a little. Not Ford.

According to Peter Drucker, the senior Ford didn’t believe in delegation or floor management and it cost him plenty. Fortunately, he had the millions, if not billions, to backup what is now commonly considered a sizable error in judgment. We do, of course, have the benefit of a century of hindsight.

Ford’s son, Henry II, felt differently about the delegation of management. He believed that having management on the factory floor was critical. That decision was one of the keys to turning their family business around from a financially perspective.

Delegation is Efficient, Strategic

Ford II understood that leadership had a place in the assembly line factory floor back then as much as it does now in any business that has employees.

He discovered that empowering factory floor managers with the power to make decisions within the authority granted to them resulted in a savings of time and money. I suspect it also resulted in a safer factory floor in an era that isn’t known for having safe manufacturing workplaces. It’s also likely that the decisions made were better than (or the same) as those Mr. Ford might have made, since they were made based on those managers’ day to day experience on the factory floor.

That has several benefits we’ll talk about shortly, but it isn’t the number one reason to delegate. Your time is the biggest reason.

If you are focused on making the small decisions, every minute you spend on them is taken from the time available to research and make big decisions.

If the big decisions that affect your business long-term aren’t getting the proper amount of analysis, what problems could you miss? More importantly, what opportunities could you miss the importance of, if not miss completely?

Return on You

I can’t sit here and tell you exactly what to delegate and what to do yourself. What I can suggest is that you consider if something can be delegated to another person when you put that task on your todo list or schedule. You could do this daily, as you add things to the list, as you finish the task or whatever works for you. The key is that you actually do it.

Maybe you have to do it yourself this time, but make another todo to prepare as necessary to delegate that task next time. That way, when it comes up, you’re prepared to delegate without delay.

I’ve already made note of the value of being able to focus on the important stuff. Yes, this is the Department of Obvious Obviousness stuff, but I see enough of it that it’s worth repeating.

An additional benefit is that you might be the highest paid person at your business. If so, do you want to be doing things, management or otherwise, that someone who makes less than you *could* do? Being willing to mop the floor is essential. Doing it yourself, when you could outsource it or delegate it, allows you to focus on and work on valuable work that grows your business.

You wouldn’t hire someone to mop the floor and pay them $75 an hour. Yet that’s exactly what doing it yourself might be, effectively.

Fertilize Your Garden

One of the other benefits of empowering people on the floor (in the cubicle, on the road, whatever) is that you make that person more valuable.

Just like compost or fertilizer strengthens the plants in a garden, empowering your staff has a similar impact.

It engages them more closely in your business, makes them worth more in the marketplace (and thus to your business) and allows them to gain more skill in making decisions. The better they get, the less time you spend on those decisions, giving you more time to focus on the big picture.

Failure to “fertilize your garden” leads to the next topic…

Vacationus Interruptus

Once in a great while, you probably like to take a day off.

You’d love to leave for a week and come back to a business without 100 emails about decisions that “couldn’t be made while you were gone”.

You’d probably love to take a vacation and not have your cell ring every hour with a question about a decision that, now that you’re on vacation, seems like an annoying interruption.

Empower. Delegate. And enjoy that vacation.

How does your entrepreneurial garden grow?

Stairway to Heaven
Creative Commons License photo credit: RonAlmog

Today’s guest post from Jim Rohn arrives courtesy of Nightingale-Conant.

Once again, a page of essential insight from always-on Mr. Rohn.

What have you done today to improve yourself?

Is investment in yourself part of your daily todo list?

 

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.