How quickly things change? One minute you are reviewing your progress towards your first quarter goals and the next you are scrambling to make sure that your business stays afloat. One thing is for certain is that the future isn’t as predictable as you would like it to be. In times of uncertainty, it’s important to look at the future and assess where your business fits into that future. It is also important to not spend so much time there that you forget about what’s happening right in front of you in the hear and now. I put together a list of nine things that you can do right now to supercharge your business to make it better today and prepare it for a bright future.
A common hang up you, and many business owners, have is what to do with your time as you transition from being hands on in your business to being more of the behind the scenes force.
Chess grandmaster, Savielly Tartakower said “Tactics is knowing what to do when there is something to do; strategy is knowing what to do when there is nothing to do.”
As you evolve your business, and your leadership, you become more and more of a strategist. Leaders who embrace strategic work start to identify the difference between high leverage work vs. low leverage work. Low leverage work is the hands-on day-to-day work of the business, which includes serving customers. High leverage work includes four key areas:
- Systems and Processes
- Team Building
- Idea Generation and Implementation
A great resource to dive deep into the concept of high leverage work is the book High Output Management by Andrew Grove. It’s the best resource I have read on the subject and will expand your mind to what’s possible when you engage in high leverage work as a leader.
The nine areas to supercharge your business are all high leverage activities. For the effort you put into them, you will create a positive, multiplier effect for you and your business.
In uncertain times, or even in times when you don’t know what to do, it’s easy to shut down and do nothing. Having your world disrupted in abrupt fashion is a disorienting experience. Creating a new set of routines and rituals is vital to surviving and even thriving. Some of these routines may be new and some of them may be old routines done in a different way.
A key ritual to look at is your morning ritual or what I call a “power hour”. This is time spent in the morning focusing on mind, body, and spirit. This includes things like exercise, meditation, learning, journaling, planning etc. When you get your day off to a good start, it sets the rest of the day up for success. My goal each day is to live with intention and then to execute that intention with integrity. A morning routine helps me show up that way each day.
Having a routine keeps you in a place of purpose and, I believe, is better for your mental health in times of difficulty. If you feel like you are in a rut, see what adjusting your schedule does for you
One of my favorite TV shows of all time is Friday Night Lights. In that show, Coach Taylor had a phrase that he made his football teams recite.
“Clear eyes, full hearts, can’t lose.”
Clarity breeds confidence and helps give you direction as a leader. Here are some things that you can work on, in addition to a morning ritual, to gain deeper clarity of your business.
Mission– Why does your business exist? Anyone can slap a random definition on their business. My challenge for you is to assess if your mission is meaningful to you and it showcases the unique ability of your business to deliver value in the market.
At New Work Revolution, we had a boring mission for years. The lack of uniqueness never moved the needle for me as a leader. I sat and pondered this one day and it hit me. I get the most compliments from clients when I created environments for that client to have a breakthrough and I did that by asking great questions. Our mission evolved into creating environments for rich, meaningful discovery that built the confidence of leaders. That was a mission that was unique to me and that I was excited to deliver.
Vision– Where is your business going? What would you like to see your business do and become at some point in the future? Who are your clients? How will your product/service offerings change? Has your business model evolved? How many people work for you? What does a future organization chart look like? What will be the key behaviors that get you there?
You will spend time painting this picture and, just to speak to your fears right away in this exercise, you will probably be wrong about what’s possible. The point is not to be “right”. This exercise gives your business a road map the next steps which is vital to getting closer to the answer of what is truly possible in your business.
Value– What are the most important traits that you want the collective team to possess? This illustrates the DNA of the team by answering the question, “how do we behave?”. Values shape your team, your processes, your products, and your marketing. Just like mission, the more unique you make these the more congruent it will be to who your company is and how it serves.
Your Customer– Take this time to reach out to customers and learn more about them. What else do they do when aren’t buying from you? What do they care about? Why do they buy from you? What is their favorite part of buying from you? When I started doing this in my own business what I noticed is that people valued things differently and they cared about things that I didn’t think my clients cared about. It allowed me, and my team, to see our uniqueness more clearly and to craft a better marketing message to other people who were just like the clients I enjoyed working with.
Your Experience– Our methodology at New Work Revolution is called Total Experience Design (TXD). TXD aims to create more intention with the delivery of your service to help you stand out. What I notice about most of the businesses that we work with initially is that they don’t have any intention around their service delivery from a big picture, holistic standpoint. Certain pieces of their processes are intentional, but they aren’t always unified towards a specific end. The question for you to ask yourself is, what is your perfect customer experience and what needs to change to deliver that consistently to your end user?
3. Hiring and Onboarding
Small business owners do a terrible job with hiring and onboarding team members. It’s not that small business owners don’t hire good people ever, it’s in spite of the process instead of because of the process when this happens. In TXD, we say that the “Internal culture is the caretaker of the external experience.” With culture being so important, having a great process for hiring and onboarding your team is critical.
For hiring, start with your employment ads. These are ads and they are supposed to sound interesting. Most ads that I see small businesses write are boring. An example of an ad that captures the culture is from Murder Burger:
You may criticize some of the words in this ad but one thing you can’t say is that it’s boring. Your business has a personality, don’t be afraid to show it.
Once you revamp your ads, look at your interview questions. If you are like a lot of business owners I talk to, these questions aren’t even written down. Business owners are just winging it. This process is too important, don’t wing it. Have a system for interviewing with each position that you hire for. The higher the skill level of the position, the more in depth your interview process will be. Utilizing your values as part of the interview process can help to ensure that you hire people who are good cultural fits for your team.
With the hiring process, make sure that have defined outcomes in mind for the type of person you are trying to hire in each role. What boxes does this person need to check and how do you create a process that gets you there?
In the onboarding process, this is where you set the tone for the team member’s experience with your company. What agreements do you want to create with a new team member with regards to how they show up at work? What are the good and bad things about working for your company? Be honest. Create a roadmap for the first 90 days of your new team members experience. Just like you define customer experiences, you also want to define employee experiences as well. Again, the internal culture is the caretaker of the external experience.
4. Product, Programs and Business Models
Society is currently in the midst of significant change. Some of this change may prove to be permanent. This is an opportunity to look at your products and services, and how you deliver them, to see what new changes can be made to the way you do business.
As you look at this, consider not only the mission of the business but also your role in the business today and in the future. Look at this from the lens of “anything is possible”. You can change pricing structure, the way a program is delivered, the type of client that you work with, you can add a new product vertical, etc.
For example, I work with a lot of medical providers in different fields. One of the things that medical providers will tell you they don’t enjoy dealing with insurance companies. The way necessary care is assessed, and paid for, by insurance companies isn’t always what’s best for a patient. For that reason, as well as cutting down on administrative expenses, this could be a great time for a medical provider to go to a cash-based model.
5. Reviewing Efficiency
Efficiency is difficult to fix when work is busy. Who wants to introduce a new technology or software when things are crazy busy? No one. So, you won’t. There are likely several efficiencies that exist in your business that will streamline customer and team member experiences as well as position your business for scale. Take this time to look at your current bottlenecks and redundancies and create different ways of handling them that are more efficient. These changes don’t have to be monumental. A series of small changes can have a big impact on a business.
6. Expand Your Knowledge
Is there an area of your business that you wish you knew more about but don’t? This is the time to dig in and learn.
I have a counter-intuitive approach to delegation that some may not agree with. To delegate effectively, you must have a functional understanding of the area that you are trying to delegate. From accounting and finance to marketing, business owners complain about the contractors they hire to support their business and buy into the belief that good people are hard to come by.
If you don’t know how something works, how are you going to delegate that effectively? Most of the time you are just guessing. Oh, so and so said he is a great marketer and he can help you generate leads? Ok but what else should you know about this marketer to assess if they are a great fit for your business?
This is a great time to be a student of your business. Be a student of marketing. Accounting. Leadership. Systems. Your ability to build teams around these areas will grow as a result. Your confidence will grow as well.
7. Embrace Mindfulness
Doers have no patience for mindfulness bullshit. Except when you realize how important that process is to identify and recognize growth opportunities inside yourself. Pay attention to your thoughts and feelings about the world around you. When you are busy, it’s easy to ignore your thoughts and feeling and push them aside until something dramatic happens that force you to take notice. You are being given the gift of increasing and improving your mindfulness of the world around you. This can be a tremendous opportunity for improving your stress levels, your relationships, and your business as a whole.
8. Deepen Your Experience
In the clarity section, I talked about our TXD process. This is a great time to identify your experience and it’s also a great time to look at where you can deepen the experience that you have with your customers. There’s two ways that you can grow your business. More volume. Or more value. I am not advocating one over the other but this is a great time to use some of the clarifying areas around your mission, your customers and your experience and look at where you can serve your customers beyond what you have currently been doing. You will be surprised at what you may discover by going through this process.
9. Build Your Platform
Most people are likely ignorant about your industry and what it’s really about and how it works. Your customers don’t know how to discern between good and bad product/services until after the fact and then it’s too late. If you have ever wanted to get more active in delivering content to your audience and to be a part of the conversation they are having, now is the time.
In the book Linchpin, Seth Godin said that the world just gave you control over the means of production, not to master them is a sin.
You can start filming videos, recording podcasts and writing articles without spending a lot of money to produce these things. Building your platform provides you the opportunity to educate your customers so that they are smarter buyers. It also gives you the opportunity to showcase your expertise. Both outcomes can create business growth opportunities for you now and in the future.
If you are like a lot of business owners throughout the country, you have some additional time on your hands that you weren’t planning for. What are you going to do with that time? You can waste it on nothing or you can use it to create meaningful change. The nine areas above will supercharge your business and they cost very little to do but time which you now have more of. If you have ever complained about having time to do important things in your business, now’s your opportunity to change that and potentially change the course of your business for the positive for years to come.