Increasing Your Performance Level – Importance Of Eating

How can you be more productive?

It’s a loaded question, I know.  Everybody and their mother has an answer to this question.  And like most things that everybody thinks they already know, the answers you’ll get will vary wildly in quality and applicability.

Myth:  Get An Early Start

Some people will tell you “You just need to wake up earlier- Wake up early, get to the office before anybody else, and you’ll be able to get some real work done!  It’s always worked for me, and if you don’t do it, it must indicate some character flaw or laziness.”

Of course, that advice works for them because they have a chronotype that puts them into the group of “Morning People.”  (A chronotype is basically the preference for waking and sleep times, as determined by your circadian rhythm.  Contrary to popular belief, it is not something that you can ‘will away’).

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Flexibly Rigid Processes – Huh?

Let’s get right down to it.  The best strategy in the world doesn’t mean anything if it just sits on a shelf and collects dust.  Strategy isn’t an event, it’s a process.  That means that it’s not something you set and forget.  It’s something that guides you and your company, but its also a living thing that needs to be updated and changed as new information comes in.

Similarly, the best systems in the world are useless if they’re not put into practice. It does you no good to have identified a set of ‘best practices’ if they’re not followed.

But they’re actively harmful if they’re meticulously scripted and require your people to follow them blindly, forcing everything to fit into the system framework.

Here’s an easy example – I’ve worked with a lot of companies on scripting their incoming and outgoing calls.  And every single time I bring up the topic, I get the same response:

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The Critical Importance of Sales Systems

There’s probably no better place to talk about the importance of the sales process than during our week-long focus on systems and their role in business.

This is, bar none, the most important system for your company.  If you’re looking for a place to start with systems, start with your sales process.  If you’re looking for a system to tweak, or to refine, or to improve, look to your sales process.  I really cannot overstate the importance of a well-understood sales process for any company.

In an early post on strategy, I noted that every company has at least one strategy, even if it’s “Keep our fingers crossed and hope for the best.”  It’s really disheartening to me how many companies use this as their default strategy when it comes to sales.

What’s the sales process in your business?

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Benefits of Systemization

Before we move on to look at how to generate and document systems in your company, and examples of successful systems, let’s take a post and talk about yet one more of the benefits you reap when you have a documented set of systems in place – The ease of training new staff.

Without formal systems, training new staff takes on at least three challenges that don’t need to be there.

  1. Increasing expectations of current staff (without corresponding increase in pay)
  2. Creates uncertainty in new hires and existing staff
  3. Impedes flow of new ideas

 

1.  Increasing expectations of current staff (without corresponding increase in pay)

Small companies generally don’t have training departments or big HR budgets to make sure that every new employee gets optimal training & orientation.  Instead, when possible they plug new employees in with existing employees, and hope that the talents of the new hire and the knowledge of the existing employee will merge together and lead to productivity relatively quickly.

Without systems, you’re dramatically increasing the expectations on your current staff, and likely not increasing their compensation.  After all, most businesses don’t include “Head of training and development” in the job titles of their staff, but that’s exactly what they become if you have them handle the orientation and training of new staff members.

Having more systems that give guidelines on expected performance, key deliverables, and best practices make it much easier to integrate new employees.

 

2.  Creates uncertainty in new hires and existing staff

With no definite instructions or policies on how to do things, people are left to figure out the best response to any situation using their best judgment.  Now, that’s not to say that their best judgment is always wrong.  To the contrary, the results are often wonderful.  After all, there are some tremendously talented people out there.

The problem is that the results are also unpredictable, and you have no way of figuring out what works best.

For example, let’s suppose you ask a staff member to take care of follow-up calls to new clients.  An implicit system here, with vague instructions like “Call them up and see if they have any questions, and try to get them to commit to a follow-up meeting ” might result in 10 different interpretations over 10 calls.

This would be fine, except for the simple fact that very minor changes in language and wording can have very different results, even in short phone calls.  What you want for your business is to give everybody access to the information that’s most likely to let them succeed – Not forcing them have to re-invent the wheel every time.

By having solid and explicit systems, instructions and policies in place, you also let your staff free up their attention and focus, so that they can find more effective ways to help your business run as smoothly as possible.

3. Impedes flow of new ideas

The third problem a lack of formal systems can create is that it makes it much harder for great ideas to spread.  Sticking with the ‘calling system’, if one of your staff has 80% of the people who call in for information book and show up for an appointment, and another has only 50%, then there’s certainly something different between the 2 approaches.  In a corporate culture that’s committed to documenting and systemizing excellent performance, the spread of tactics and good ideas is much faster than without, and this will improve the performance of your entire business.

Defending Systems and Systemization

In his fantastic Tribes, Seth Godin takes the idea of systems & systemization to task, specifically targeting and refuting the ideas of Michael Gerber (The E-Myth).

One of the ideas that Gerber promotes is to make your business ‘franchise-able’; in other words, creating a complete list of processes and procedures that allow even the least talented (but still qualified) people to work within it.  Gerbers idea is that if you have strong enough systems, you don’t need to rely on superstars to be successful.

Godin is (rightly, in my mind) quite offended at the notion that you should try to remove as much autonomy as possible from businesses, and asserts instead that by leading well, you can tap into the inner genius of your team.

Me?  I’m going to argue that there’s a lot of middle ground between those two positions, and I tend to favor more systemization rather than less.  I also think that it’s absolutely critical that you try to bring out the best in every member of your organization, and that you create an environment where people can experiment, personalize, and shine.  Reconciling those two positions isn’t as outlandish as it might seem.

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Systems, Processes, and Automation

Systemization is one of the topics that’s nearest and dearest to my heart.  Unfortunately, it’s also an area that’s often overlooked by business owners, mainly because it does require some effort up front.  But once they’re up and running, a good set of systems helps everything in your business run much more smoothly.

I’ll be using the words system and systemization a lot, so I suppose I should define them – a system is simply a fixed and documented set of actions designed to reach a specific goal.  Systemization is simply the process of creating and applying systems in your business.

By creating and following systems yourself, and having your staff follow them, you ensure that everybody has the best chance of success – You take out the guessing and the last minute improvisation, and instead give your staff (and yourself) the tools that have been shown to work.

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The Misuse of Groupons

“Yeah, I tried that, it didn’t work for me.”  Ever heard a business owner say this?  Ever say it yourself?

Ever suspect that in some cases, it’s the fault of the business owner not applying it properly, and in others, it’s the fault of a ridiculous idea/system/tactic/strategy that the poor business owner got rooked into?

Even if not, I hope you’ll get something out of today’s post.  I want to talk about how even great ideas can lead businesses astray if they’re not carefully tied into good strategic practices.  To do this, we’re going to take a look at Groupon, which has people split right down the middle (some call it the savior of the small business, others say that it ultimately costs far, far more than it’s worth in time, effort, energy and money).

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A Short Diatribe Against A New Client Focus

Let’s step away from a discussion of strategy setting here, so that I can rant about all the reasons a strategy of “New Client Acquisition” is such a bad idea.  This is something I feel very strongly about, and if you follow this blog regularly, I hope that you’ll become inclined to agree with me.  (How strongly do I feel about it?  Well, I wrote a book for the alternative health industry with the subtitle:  “Why focusing on getting new clients destroys businesses.”)

It all comes back to the vision you have for your business.  I firmly believe that it is impossible to have both a client-centric focus and a “New Client” focus.

The reason is simple:  The fulfillment of a client-centric focus requires you to build a lasting relationship built on trust and the benefits you bring to your clients over time.  This cannot be achieved in 1, or 3, or 5 interactions.  And if attrition is an issue in your business (as it is in almost every business), any strategy that is primarily aimed at attracting new clients will be at odds with the vision and value of building long lasting relationships with your clientele.

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Your Business As A Leaky Bucket

Imagine that your business is one giant bucket.  I know, it’s a pretty glamorous image.  But stay with me.

A bucket needs to be filled, right?  In a real bucket, of course, it’d probably be filled with water.  Now, for our ‘Business Bucket’, water obviously won’t do.  In your business, the purpose is to be filled with clients – because the number of clients you are actively working with is one way to measure your progress towards your vision.

It only makes sense that to fill your bucket, we need to put it under the “New Client Faucet.”  It’s kind of like a normal faucet that you’d use to fill a bucket with water, except that there is very little you can do to influence the flow of clients.  Sometimes they gush out very fast, and it seems like you’re inundated.  Sometimes it slows to a trickle, and you wonder whether it’ll ever pick up again.

Now, as if it weren’t glamorous enough to imagine your business as a bucket, I want you to imagine that it’s a bucket that’ seen better days…

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Crafting Multiple Strategies

As a clever reader, you’ve probably already figured out that there’s no such thing as having a single “Business growth strategy” that can guide every action you take in your business.  You can (and should) have the vision and core beliefs guidelines we’ve talked about, but it would be unwieldy to try to craft a single strategy that takes into account everything you need to pay attention to in your business.

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