‘The one right way gives your customers the consistency they love and increases profit, which you’ll love.’
For years, I labelled myself as a ‘process’ person when really I’m a ‘making life easier’ person. I’ve lost count of the number of times I’d use the word ‘process’ at network meetings, and see the shutters go down. I’d try ‘systems’ and they’d think I was a techie, into software and IT. I’d used language that put me in a box that no-one wanted to open ‘except in emergency!’
You know what I mean. You’re a ‘get on and do it’ person, and the people who love process are the ‘Rule-Bound Reggies’ of this world, paralysed by the need to analyse, lacking creativity, shackled by the need to ‘follow the system’ – right? Well, sometimes! The truth is, we all need to get past the language.
The only reason a process or a system exists is to make life easier for you, your managers, your team, your customers. There is no other reason for them. But if like many people ‘a process’ brings you out in a rash then try replacing it with ‘a how to’.
At McDonald’s there is a system, a ‘one right way’ a ‘how to’ for everything, from toasting buns to taking on a new supplier; from mopping the floor to assessing franchisee performance. Yet I don’t remember ever really talking about having systems. They weren’t something we did in addition to the day job; we worked with them every single day, unconsciously. It was just the way things got done.
So I want you to stop thinking about process; I want you to stop fretting about developing systems; and I want you to focus on making ‘the way we do things round here’
SIMPLE LOGICAL REPEATABLE.
At Macs, these were three key ingredients of each and every system that are imprinted on my mind. Three words that encapsulate why McDonald’s systems work:
That’s what makes business systems effective.
The other block I find some people have is that somehow the ‘one right way’ is not for creatives. So I’d like you to think about Masterchef. You’ll recall the episodes when the creative contestants have to go into Michelin star restaurants and cook the chef’s dishes to exactly the same demanding standards of content, taste and presentation. I’ve never heard those chefs go, ‘Oh I’m gonna do it my way’ or ‘I feel hidebound by having to produce this in exactly the same way’. No, they use their skills to deliver the same excellent standards and consistency and take pride in achieving them.
If you don’t watch Masterchef what about Bakeoff. A baker will follow tried and tested methodology, the one right way, for baking the cake to free up their time to try new flavours or to focus on decorating their showstopper. It just makes sense.
Think about an author who has a system for plot outline and development, research, character development, and a schedule to work on certain aspects of the story. A disciplined approach to the basics creates time for the creative story-telling.
And so in business, systems keep the nuts and bolts of your business; your invoicing, purchasing, marketing, recruiting etc in motion, and form a platform for the creative people to ‘do their stuff’. The one right way gives your customers the consistency they love and increases profit, which you’ll love.
And the one right way is always evolving as part of your improvement cycle. So your team come up with a better way as circumstances change and that becomes your new ‘one right way’. So you establish the ‘one right way’, the ‘how to’ with the people doing the work then you regularly review it together, improve it, train it in and off you go again. Your team can then work independently, taking ownership of the task and pride in what they do. And you have the trust in them to get on with driving your business(es) forward or spending more time with your family.
‘Systems are not chains to tie you down, they are wings to help you fly’.
Do one thing: Our Business Efficiency Test will give you an insight into how each of the key systems in your business is operating, and will give you strategies for improving them in a .pdf report. Take the test now, to see how you measure up: https://scorecard.mariannepage.co.uk
An effective Customer Journey Map gives you a clear and detailed picture of how your customer uses your product or services, and how customers and potential customers go through the buying process. It gives you and your team an overview of your customers’ experience and shows how they move through your sales funnel, which in turn helps you to identify opportunities to improve their experience.
To make it effective, you need to rethink what you believe you know, and fully understand every touch point a customer has with your business. There’s no one template that fits all businesses when it comes to mapping your customer journey, but there is a system, what a surprise! So here it is.
If this is your first attempt at mapping, then the most important thing is to keep it as simple as possible, but make sure it gives you all the vital information that you need. Remember that to make it effective you need to step out of your own shoes, and into your customers’ shoes. Take off those rose-tinted specs and see your operation as the customer sees it… as it is, not as you want it to be, or as it should be.
When you have your mindset right, follow these 6 steps…
Make sure that you know your customers intimately
You may have been told about the importance of building your customer avatars (a picture of your ideal customer). For customer journey mapping, these avatars are essential, giving you insights into your customers’ motivations, their buying habits, what they think, how they make buying decisions, what they want to achieve and so on. To get the best possible results, you’ll create a customer journey map for each avatar.
Work out the phases in your customer journey
How do potential customers hear about you? What are their first interactions with you?
What is their step by step experience with you? Your customer phases may include things like: Research, Purchase, Discovery, Recommend, Choice. For your first map, keep it simple and don’t over-think things.
Know what your customers want to achieve
In customer journey mapping, it’s crucial to keep in mind that this is not about you, it’s all about your customers. It’s all about what they need, what they want, their pain, their goals.
Go through each phase of your map and think about what your customer wants and needs when they’re in this phase, so that you can give them what they are looking for.
For example, if they are looking to put a toe in the water and try your products out before they commit to a purchase, but you don’t have any free resources, then you are not helping them to accomplish their goal. Or if they are trying to find you online, but your website is not ranked on Google, then again you have stopped them from accomplishing their goal. You have put an insurmountable hurdle in their way.
List your customers’ goals clearly under each of the phases in the journey map, because you can only accomplish your goals if your customers accomplish theirs.
Identify the touch-points and Moments of Truth on your customer journey.
For each phase, identify the interaction points between you and your customer, and the opportunities you have to connect and engage with your them as they try to reach their goals. These will include interactions that you have off site and onsite, through marketing, in person, and over the phone.
Some of these touch-points are more critical than others, e.g. when they try to call you does someone answer the phone, and how do they answer the phone?
These are your Moments of Truth. Map them out too as you will need to pay particular attention to them when you come to take action.
Understand your time-frames
Work out the time it takes for a customer to move through each phase of their journey with you. Is there more that you could do to help your customer achieve their goal for that phase, or speed up their journey?
Assess the team members/external support involved in each interaction
Look at who you have involved in supporting the customer journey. Do you have ‘aces in their places’? Are your best people looking after and monitoring the Moments of Truth? Do they have the support they need?
Are they following simple, logical and repeatable systems to get the job done? Have they had enough training? The right training?
For your customers to accomplish their goals in each phase of their journey through your business, there must be effective systems in place, and well-trained people owning and running those systems.
Walk through every step of the customer journey with your team, and at each step ask ‘Why? Why do we have this step, do we really need it, does it add value for our customers? Why do we do it this way, could we make it easier?’
As it sounds, the customer journey is the route your customer takes through your business from first deciding that they want what you have, to choosing to buy what they want from you, through every step of your sales process, to receiving and paying for their goods or services, and hopefully leaving you good feedback. It’s well worth the investment.
Do one thing: Our Business Efficiency Test will give you an insight into how each of the key systems in your business is operating - including your customer experience system - and will give you strategies for improving them in a pdf report. Take the test now, to see how you measure up: https://scorecard.mariannepage.co.uk
Like many business owners, I used to make the mistake of thinking that what was crystal clear and obvious to me would be crystal clear to my ideal client. That they would take the time to jump through my hoops, understand my jargon or click more than once, to find out more about me and my products.
Like many business owners, I’d over-complicated my very simple business.
I’d made myself difficult to do business with, forgetting the key lessons I’d learned at McDonald’s:
Visibility – make sure that you’re somewhere that your ideal clients can see you. Then have great branding – your equivalent of the Golden Arches sky sign.
Accessibility – be available when and where they need you to be, easy to reach and easy to understand.
Simplicity – be easy to do business with; straightforward; no hoops, no added complications, no unnecessary steps in your process.
As a Restaurant Manager at McDonald’s, I was tasked with walking my customer journey (or doing a ‘Travel Path’ as it was called), every hour. This meant walking about 100 yards (old school) up the street and back, looking for what my customers might see and notice, - litter, cleanliness, etc. And on my return what about first impressions seen from the Customers’ eyes, - tables and floor clean, team smart and busy, no queues - you get the idea.
Of course, we don’t all have bricks and mortar businesses. For many of us that first impression is online, and very often will begin with a Google search, followed by our website, maybe followed by a phone call, and so on. Very different businesses but they all have one thing in common: every customer goes on a journey through them.
To give Customers the best possible experience, we need to understand the key phases of that journey, the ‘Moments of Truth’ along the way, and any opportunities for improvement. It’s vital that we view it through our customers’ eyes; through their very real experience; not what the experience should be, or what you want it to be, but what it actually is, day-to-day. Ask those in your team who work with the journey every day, how simple and straightforward it is; how many hoops you’re making your customers jump through; how much unnecessary information you’re asking your customer to provide.
An effective Customer Journey Map gives you a clear and detailed picture of how your customer uses your product or services, and how customers and potential customers go through the buying process.
It gives you and your team an overview of your customers’ experience and shows how they move through your sales funnel, which in turn helps you to identify opportunities to improve their experience.
To make it effective, you need to rethink what you believe you know, and fully understand every touch point a customer has with your business.
There’s no one template that fits all businesses when it comes to mapping your customer journey, but there is a system, what a surprise!
Look out for next week’s blog where I’ll share our customer journey mapping system with you.
So, you have a big Vision that gives you goosebumps and it’s plastered on your wall in huge letters. You’ve started to plan with your team about how together you’ll make that Vision a reality. And you’re all buzzing about the future and cracking on. Great stuff! I can feel the energy from here.
Now, all that’s missing is an effective Personal Management System. Not the sexiest title I’ve come across but even the most inspiring vision, and the smartest of plans will be wasted if you don't have the means to keep yourself on track.
A Personal Management System
Your daily routine is the cornerstone of your personal management system, and should be crammed full of habits that will maximise your productivity, and move you closer to your Vision.
1. Get into the habit of planning your day the evening before (and your week on a Sunday evening). At the end of the day, you’re usually very clear about what still needs to done, what the priorities are, what tomorrow’s frog* will be. Advanced planning like this makes sure that you hit the ground running.
2. Chunk your work into 90 minute segments. This is a good timeframe for focus, and FOCUS is the key word - don’t multi-task - if you’re going to work on a sales letter, work on it for the full 90 minutes, or until it’s done, if you can do it within the 90.
3. Peak Practice - Work out which part of the day you’re at your peak - for me it’s first thing in the morning - and use that 90 minutes to ‘eat your frog’ - *do the thing that you don't necessarily want to do, but that’s weighing you down mentally, because you know you really need to get it done.
Just get focused and eat the damn frog! It’s a really good success habit to get into.
4. Set yourself mini deadlines - always good for those of us who like a bit of last minute pressure - make them ‘drop-dead’-lines too! Absolute must delivers! Breaks are always a good deadline. Holidays are also excellent. Ever noticed how much more you get done in the days leading up to a holiday, or the minutes leading up to any deadline.
5. Switch Off. Both breaks and holidays are essential for your long-term productivity too - refreshing and re-energising your mind and body. The most successful businessmen and women really get this, and have made breaks long and short, a habit they will always keep.
6. Daily Exercise. Other daily routines and success habits that are good for your mind and body, include taking at least 30 minutes exercise a day - even if it’s just a walk down the road and back - and drinking plenty of water - two litres is the recommended amount isn’t it? I’m no scientist, but I can testify to the power of a lunchtime walk for clearing your head and setting you up for a productive afternoon.
For budding entrepreneurs, there are three other personal management essentials:
A Personal Management System takes discipline and time to develop, but when you learn to manage yourself, the business will be a piece of cake!
Do one thing: look back over today/yesterday. Did your work take you towards your Vision? Did you have frog for breakfast? If not, look to adopt these good habits and improve your routines.
For more information on how MPL can help you, contact us here: email@example.com
‘9950! I just need to go up and down stairs a few times; I’m nearly there!’
Are you hooked on your 10000 steps a day? It’s that time of year again when we review how those new year resolutions are going. Use the stairs, eat less sugar, get off the bus a stop early.
With the state of obesity and the impact on a stretched NHS, there’s a real abundance of programmes and adverts out there helping us to eat better, sleep better and particularly move more. The aim is 10000 steps a day. Apparently that number was a pretty random figure, yet like me, you probably know someone who is addicted to achieving it daily.
Many of us have started to use watches and fitbits to measure our activity and keep us focused on our daily steps target. Research has shown we can get so hooked on our target that we’ll (literally) keep going that extra mile, to ensure we achieve it.
So if personal targets like this can work so effectively, what about business? Are targets in business good or bad? Well, I would say that it really depends on the target.
Did you hear the one about the train driver that went straight through every station to ensure he kept to his timetable! (Probably an urban myth.) But I did know of an organisation whose target was to process work in two days. So guess what happened to work not completed in that time? Yes, it got fitted in as and when, so managers could concentrate on getting new work done in the timescale by which they’d be judged. These managers were celebrated even though their old work was piling up. But at that time the age and level of that work was not a target and not measured, until it began to impact on the Customer. You probably have your own examples of targets where true customer service is not at their heart.
If you set a target and either celebrate it’s achievement or give people hell if it’s not reached, guess what? People will start to deliver it at any cost. If that target is not holistic or engenders fear of failure, somewhere down the line the business and your people will suffer.
So there can be dangers in target setting but also great rewards.
So what makes a good target?
A good target will always take you towards your business vision - so you need to be clear about that for starters.
It will be holistic - in the best interests of both your Customer and your business to engender a culture of excellence.
You can’t set targets just to improve profit - you’ll probably succeed in the short term, but what will the long-term cost be if you’ve achieved your target by cutting corners on quality?
Equally, you can set targets aimed at driving Customer satisfaction above everything else, but this could cause big problems if you ignore the needs of your business profit.
You want productivity – but if you focus on productivity without any thought for quality, customer focus or value for money, you may end up being very productive doing all the wrong things.
You get the gist.
Targets, like your SMART* goals, will be challenging, but achievable. You’ll be able to measure them, and celebrate their achievement with the team.
The very best targets drive your people and your business to excel and give everyone a real sense of achievement - just like your fitbit!
Do one thing: Review your business plans and ask yourself - are my plans a route map to my business vision / my destination? Do I have targets as key milestones along the way and are those targets holistic with the customer at their heart? Do they create a culture of excellence? Is my whole team involved in their creation and achievement?
For more information on how MPL can help you, contact us here: firstname.lastname@example.org
*SMART goals traditional definition:
S - Specific
M - Measurable
A - Achievable
R - Realistic
T - Time-bound
I’ve refrained from mentioning the B word in my posts. Like many of you I’m heartily sick of the dreaded ‘Brexit’ word. It’s not that I’ve been burying my head in the sand or anything, just rather like many people I’ve not felt qualified to give advice. But there is one thing I would recommend, and that is to plan.
Not knowing which way we’re going to go, let alone what’s going to happen then, can perhaps make people think what’s the point of planning when your crystal ball has totally clouded over.
Any time you work on a business plan you are faced with two things.
Now at anytime those ‘unknowables’ take an amount of guesswork based on things like the starting point of your business, the economy, strength of the pound, forecasts etc. So you plan using what you know and your best guesswork based on your current knowledge.
With Brexit/no Brexit looming those ‘unknowables’ are worse than usual since they can be a totally different set of unknowables depending on a hard Brexit or even no Brexit at all! Suddenly your best guesswork is built on very little knowledge and two possible outcomes at extremes of each other.
I usually say that planning is fun but I imagine planning for many businesses at the moment is a nightmare. So many factors are outside individual businesses’ control it can feel like you’re going to hit sheet ice and there’s not a damn thing you can do about it.
But I still believe in planning. Plan based on what you know and then plan based on what you can imagine. Planning in the current climate is going to need some creativity. Brainstorming how a hard Brexit or no Brexit might affect your business; get your team, your suppliers, your Customers involved, perhaps a third party unconnected with you who can add a ‘naive’ or independent view.
This is about planning for the worst case scenario but it can also be about recognising opportunities for example the effects of a weakened pound on exports, tourism, staycations etc.
McDonald’s taught me a lot about the importance of planning, and how to be smart about it. I learned that planning is a team sport; most effective when it involves the people it affects as well as those who will deliver on it. Add someone with no bias or axe to grind into the mix, and you will develop a truly effective plan.
I learned that you listen to those with the skills and experience, but you also consider the new and the different; that it’s ok to re-visit what might once have been considered crazy or just plain wrong for the business, as things change, and the ‘right time’ comes along.
I learned that you have a system for planning that makes it routine, regular, consistent; that keeps you focused on the end goal, even when you need to adapt, or change your route.
A plan for me isn’t something to be made then stuck in a drawer it needs to be dynamic; reviewed and adapted to changing circumstances. And 2019 may prove the most fluid yet.
Do one thing: Review your business plans. Do they include worst case scenarios or potential opportunities?
For more information on how MPL can help you, contact us here: email@example.com
Imagine you have a boat. It’s the start of a new year and you’ve just set sail, headed out to sea - full of optimism and excitement. Captain of your destiny. Owner of your fate.
But where are you headed? Wherever the current takes you? Slave to the tide and the prevailing wind? Or have you plotted a course to take you to your dream destination?
Now imagine that boat is your business.
Business navigation is no easier than navigating the ocean, but just like sailing the high seas, you’ll always be better off with robust preparation and planning, so give some thought to the following:
What’s the name of your boat?
This will say a lot about how you see yourself right now.
If you had to name it today what would it be: ‘Victory’, Endurance’?
Or might it be ‘All at Sea’?
Have you set your course?
What are your goals and milestones for 2019; for the next 90 days?
And what about practical action plans to achieve them?
How will you recognise that storms are coming before they hit?
What have you put in place to pick up on problems - to anticipate and overcome them?
How will you fill the gaps in your knowledge and experience?
Who or what are your anchors that will keep you from going under?
These are often the people who keep you grounded, keep you going, maybe develop and inspire you. A family member or a trusted mentor.
Perhaps they are words from a loved one that you carry with you.
Or perhaps it’s a faith, a belief in something greater than yourself.
How have you selected your crew?
Did you recruit to your values and passion? And how have you developed their skills to help them fulfill their promise? Can they take over happily if you get seasick or need to sleep?
What are the Values, the compass points that will keep you on a true course?
Those things that make you and your business tick, that show the world what you stand for. That you hold true too, day in and day out.
Do one thing: Think about where you're headed in 2019, and ask these questions to check that you’re prepared for whatever comes - good or otherwise.
Wishing you a safe and splendid passage through the year.
For more information on how MPL can help you visit www.mariannepage.co.uk or contact us at
Business owners, will you be keeping one eye on your e-mails on Christmas Day? According to recent research 1 in 5 of us will be. I can picture it now, a sneaky look at your phone secreted under your Christmas napkin and then all hell breaking loose when you’re spotted!
These stats make for interesting reading:
You could expect these figures for Christmas Day if they were coming from the hospitality industry, and of course retail returns with a bang again with Boxing Day sales, but these are across a wide range of SMEs. So what about other owners? Some will take the ‘down’ time to catch up on paperwork, some to think about the coming year and some may just want the excuse to escape from relatives.
For many though it’s the pressure of having to keep up with work. The ‘one man band’ may not have a choice. Larger businesses work over the festive period perhaps because the owners don’t trust their team and manager(s) to run things without them. It’s said to be the reason why so many businesses in the UK remain in ‘startup’ mode instead of scale-up.
So if you have a team but you still need to supervise and double check their every move, take a moment to think about ‘why?’ And then, what better time with the New Year approaching to think about what you’ll do to change things.
Michael Gerber says in the E-Myth,
“If your business depends on you, then you don’t own a business, you have a job, and it’s the worst job in the world, because you’re working for a lunatic!’’
He’s right, because quite often, as business owners, we are lunatics. We’re control freaks. We’re demanding. Demanding of ourselves. We insist on long hours and hard work, and really, that’s the technician, in us, the person who feels that they have to do everything.
Serious business owners and entrepreneurs can take time off whenever they want and their income still comes in. They have two fundamental things:
I’ll be taking a full two weeks off this festive season. I’m not saying this smugly, I’m saying it because it actually took me a while to get to this point.
To get to the point where I don’t feel guilty to get to the point where I can trust my team to do what needs to be done, where I have that level of trust. And to plan work so that I can also give my team a good break.
The trust that allowed me a totally switched off three weeks last Summer has come from having the strong systems in place that I need, having the team in place to get on and follow the systems, and achieve our goals. We business owners talk endlessly about how to engage and reward people and what better way than enabling them to get on unhindered by our daily meddling. Ask yourself how you would like to work for someone constantly looking over your shoulder and that’s how your team will feel. Simple, logical, repeatable systems, and a good team to run them, are the root to stress-free holidays, to long weekends off, to any weekend off, and to financial and time freedom.
Holidays, for me, are absolutely vital for continuing to do good work for my clients, continuing to come up with new ideas, or better ways of doing things. That all just comes out of resting my brain, stopping the relentless running and rushing around to see clients, or to develop and deliver programmes. It’s really, really important that you take that time to rest and relax, and you can only do that, as a business owner, if you have the systems in place, if you have the team in place.
I’d love you to think about that, if you recognise yourself here.
Simple, logical, repeatable systems, and a good team to run them.
Do one thing: Let this be your goal for 2019.
• you will not be working bank holidays
• you will not be working weekends
• you won’t be working 60 or 70+ hour weeks
Instead, you’ll be spending quality time with the people that you love, with your animals or whatever you love doing beyond your work.
Merry Christmas from all of the MPL team x
Do you feel like you’re drowning? Drowning in paperwork, in problems, in people stuff? And all because of your success!
When you were starting out you had a handle on everything. Now that you’ve grown you’ve had to take on more people and it’s just not the same. You feel like you’ve lost control. And like any new parent you’re finding it hard to trust anyone with your ‘baby’ - to do things your way.
If it helps, you’re not alone. There are lots of successful small business owners out there who have fallen out of love with their business. What used to be fun, exciting and rewarding is doing great financially, but not giving you the same pleasure or sense of adventure.
Of course you've always worked hard, but in the early days that hard work was interesting and added real value to the business. Now you’re working even harder and it doesn’t ever seem to move things on.
7 Clear Signs Your Business Needs Simplifying
So…are you stuck? Or are you drowning?
I hope you’re neither, but if you are, let me throw you a lifebelt.
It doesn’t have to be this way. You can have time freedom and a business that runs like a well-oiled machine, manned by a high-performing team. You just need to systemise in every area of your business and develop a strong second line of management. That’s not as daunting as it sounds.
In fact, there are only 10 steps to your Freedom - that freedom to scale, grow or sell your business, or run it from a beach somewhere if that's what you really want.
Fancy a bit of that?
Do one thing: Our Systems Mastery Programme works around you and your life, giving you the freedom to work ON your business, not IN it. Read more here: Systems Mastery Programme
I want to share an interesting conversation I had recently with a control freak.
Business Owners come to us for help to escape the day-to-day operation of their business, but the truth is that so many find it hard to let go of their role, even the small tasks.
Some believe that they are the only ones that can do a certain task to their exacting standards, and we come across this so often that a huge part of our work is changing the mindset of the business owner to let them know that they can trust their team with the right systems in place. They can take a step back to work on growing their business, while it runs smoothly without them, or with only a little input from them.
This particular ‘control freak’ (and I use that phrase because I can - I was one too!) was telling me how he hates to delegate - doesn't trust his employees to do anything without some sort of supervision, because they cock things up, make mistakes, take longer to do the job than he would.
"I check EVERYTHING' he said, 'I don't want my customers to have anything but a perfect service'.
It's the perfect excuse for the control freak - “I’m not doing it for me, I'm doing it for my customers.”
Drives me nuts.
Here's the thing, for those of you who recognise that you may be borderline, if not full-blown freaks, you’re keeping yourself stuck in that rut we talked about recently.
Just like the bindweed in your garden - you know the one with the pretty flower that pretends its trying to make your garden look lovely, while its tentacles set about destroying it? You too are strangling the growth of your people and your business.
You've forgotten that someone let you make mistakes when you were learning, someone gave you room to grow and develop, someone recognised that mistakes are how we all learn. You've forgotten that all of the successful people you look up to have built their success on a bucketload of failures, and much bigger failures and mistakes than any of your people might make if you gave them their head.
You want to limit mistakes? Have systems. Set standards. Give your people proper training in how to use your systems to achieve those standards. Manage their performance. Reward good performance and re-train when it's not so good.
People want to learn and develop, they want to grow - it's much more of a motivator than money. Give them ownership of their job, help them to feel like they belong to something, that you're relying on them to help you build something that you can all be proud of.
I saw this quote on Facebook, and it is oh so true - 'A team is not a group of people who work together. A team is a group of people who trust one another.'
Trust your people and build a high performing team, that runs your high performing business.
Get control of your freak. Pull out the bindweed that's stifling your business.
Do one thing: Want to see where you’re at right now? Complete our Systems Scorecard to see where you’re at, right now, in your business.
Marianne is the author of three books, and is currently working on her fourth, whilst regularly writing her blog, we hope you enjoy it :-)