Life is awash with rhythms. The sun rises and sets, the tides ebb and flow, the seasons come and go, even if not as consistently of late! My business now enjoys a lovely rhythm too and the beat is set by 90 day cycles. I read a great blog the other day on a site called Asian Efficiency (all about time management and productivity) where they were talking about the 90 day timeframe as ‘the range where ambition and planning actually fall reasonably close together’. I like that.
I’m a big fan of 90 day planning. I do appreciate not everyone is keen on planning particularly when it’s something that takes time to do then is filed away and forgotten about. I get that, even if you don’t create an action plan for each goal and work your plan, there is a huge amount of power in thinking about what you want, where you want to get to, and getting the outcome you want down on paper.
I think planning too much detail too far ahead can be a waste of time. Have a great vision, of course, but three years of fine detail is too much since so much can change in that time. Planning too far ahead can result in overestimating what can be done too. That’s why I love the 90 day planning cycle. Starting with the end of that period in mind you can work back till you have a week’s action plan. It’s amazing how the closer you get to the actions needed, the greater the reality check! Of course you should be pushing the boundaries but too much, as it can become a demoralising wish-list. And no one in your team will buy into that. It reminds me of a great cartoon showing a line of productivity on a board with a gap in the middle. ‘What happens here’ says the boss. ‘Ah, that’s where a small miracle happens!’ comes the reply.
We all have a really good feel for what we can get done in 90 days – how far we can move towards a big goal, and plan the steps that we need to take to get there. Our longer term plans, even though it’s valuable to have them, can’t be planned right down to concrete steps; the goals are too big, there’s too much to get done, and if we try to plan the detail we just get overwhelmed, which in turn leads to inaction.
Working with 90 day goals:
Do one thing: Resolve to try out the 90 day planning cycle. I’d love to hear how you get on.
Thanks for reading. Have a great week!
A skunk as you know is something that stinks, and nearly all businesses have them. No, I’m not talking about issues with personal hygiene - your skunks are in your operation, your customer journey, your hiring.
So what does a skunk look like?
It looks like something that isn’t adding value to your business and may be actively detracting from it:
Imagine that you’ve only got one person trained on an aspect of your business and you haven’t got what they do recorded, as a How To, a system which anyone could follow. What happens when this person is sick or on holiday? Things don’t get done or not done to the standard you expect. Often it’s the business owner who has struggled to delegate, not willing to give up ‘their’ tasks for fear of losing control.
I smell a skunk!
Say for example you had a problem with quality, so you added a layer of checking and that’s continued for several years. But you’ve never reviewed it since, to see if it’s still necessary. Quality has improved so you’ve left well alone. But what if the problem was fixed at source through recruitment, training or development and the checker has not found a problem in twelve months? It’s wasting time and money and robbing people of taking pride in their work. It’s a skunk.
Waste really stinks and it’s the little things that collectively can reek. When was the last time you found yourself asking, ‘Has anyone seen the xxx?’ Who was last to use the xxx I can’t find it anywhere?’ Or think of a time you couldn’t go straight to a file you were after online.
‘A place for everything and everything in its place.’
I love the factory idea of a place for everything and a picture of what should be there. (I imagine its what a Japanese garage looks like rather than my own!)
Waste also occurs when we reinvent the wheel; I know I’ve been guilty of it. You know those tasks you do infrequently where you think, ‘How the devil did I do this last time?’ And you waste time going round the houses to get it done. And you’re saying to yourself I really must make a note of this for next time but then you’re so relieved it’s done and your to do list is so long…. so it’s left till next time and round you go again.
How often have you added a step in a procedure without really getting down to the root cause of the problem. That sort of analysis and investigation takes a bit of time and you’re after a quick fix so you just throw money at it. But unless you’re lucky, meddling isn’t fixing. Similarly automating a process without first streamlining it can simply automate inefficiency.
Have you ever recruited someone because they weren’t exactly who you were after but they were the best of the bunch and it was an expensive process? How has that worked out? They might have worked out well but if not, how expensive has that been to your business?
As a customer just think of the last time you were infuriated by the hoops you had to jump through to get service. My pet one is telling someone your tale of woe having queued for twenty minutes on the phone only to be told that someone else has to help you and you’re back in the queue again and then having to re-tell the story… You feel yourself losing the will to live and, unless it’s a service or product you really want, you just walk away.
Solutions for skunks
I know it’s tempting to just kill a skunk when you spot one, and a quick fix will work for some skunks. But if you route one out at the beginning of a process it may have a knock on effect down the line.
What you need is that helicopter view of your whole business, starting with a ‘warts and all’ look at your Customer Journey. Working through the journey from start to end, ideally with your team, will show you the inefficiencies, the blocks and the weaknesses; you’ll be able to see how something at the beginning of the journey is causing a problem further down the line; or how you are a block at a crucial point.
With the whole picture in front of you, you can then make a plan to kill off your skunks, one by one.
Your business will never have smelled so good!
Do one thing: Take the Systems Scorecard and find out where the skunks may be lurking in your business.
I’ve always loved team sports, whether I’m playing them or watching them. Watching them always incurs listening to the pundits and of course with the football season underway we’re awash with analysis. I have to admit that I do enjoy it; I love the insight and the banter. Sometimes, worryingly, I find myself joining in, particularly when I disagree. Anyway, moving swiftly on!
Something that resonated with me recently was the pundits’ view that a winning team needs a strong spine. The idea is that if you have a strong spine from goalkeeper, through centre back, centre midfield and up to your centre forward it will:
And it struck me that in business that strong spine is your process. Having a strong spine of simple, logical, repeatable systems and procedures that everyone in your team follows, allows the whole team to be creative, to stamp their personality on your operation, within a structure. It means that every team member knows what to do when problems arise, they trust in the system. It gives you that agility too to take advantage of sudden opportunities.
It’s about being able to do things on auto pilot because you know the system; you’ve been drilled in it, you know that your team mates know it too, so you trust that they will be where they should be when you need them. Great systems can give great results even when you haven’t got the top superstars.
Of course who you have in each position in your business is still important. You want to recruit to your Vision and Values, team players, people passionate about the customer experience. But it’s the systems that run your business, your people who run the systems. That’s how it should be in business, your systems so well entrenched that when you lose someone to holiday, sickness, maternity leave, your well-oiled machine just keeps on moving forward.
If you’re not into football analogies then think about what Pilates or Yoga does for your body. It gives you a strong core which gives you strength, balance and agility. Continuing to develop great systems in your business is like your weekly Pilates class. Both need you to commit the time and money to their development. The rewards are worth every second of the time you put in.
Do One Thing: Download this free chapter (below) from Marianne’s Amazon bestseller, ‘Simple Logical Repeatable’ to discover more.
Thanks for reading. Have a great week!
You must have seen the arcade game Whack A Mole* which is all about smacking cute little moles on the head as they peep out of their holes. Fun game! Just as you knock one back another appears and another, and another… until your time, or your money, runs out. Fun, but infuriating!
Do you ever feel like that game mirrors your work - maybe your whole life?
Always fixing the latest problem, always dealing with mini or sometimes major crises?
Of course, for those of you in love with the struggle this is all part of the game, part of what you love about being in business. Fire-fighting can be fun!
A crisis occurs and we rush in and save the day. It’s high-octane, high-energy and a great adrenaline rush. As Deming said,
‘One gets a good rating for fighting a fire; the result is visible; can be quantified. If you do it right the first time, you are invisible. You satisfied the requirements. That is your job. Mess it up, and correct it later, you become a hero.’
I'm sure you're not old enough to remember public service broadcasts! They were like adverts only non-commercial, aimed purely at educating and informing the apparently 'not too bright' population of Britain at the time.
Anyway, there was one about a family whose water pipes had burst. It showed how the father had all the family trained to go through a well-rehearsed, well-drilled process of dealing with it - turn off stop cock, get buckets under leak, mop up water with old towels...
At the end of the ad a smug father and his family stand there proudly, crisis overcome. And just as you’re thinking that it's their well-drilled 'crisis management' that's being recommended, an even smugger voiceover pipes up, ‘Well done Mr Mole, but what a pity you let it happen in the first place!’
Fire-fighting can be fun. But! What if our time or money runs out?
It isn't sustainable, it's a waste of our resources, and it's certainly not good for our reputation - with our team or our customers.
Yes, some fire-fighting is inevitable; there will always be the knowns and the unknowable, the controllable and the uncontrollable. No matter how much we plan or anticipate the future there will always be a certain level of uncertainty.
But - if you're constantly fire-fighting, if every business day is a game of Whack A Mole, then maybe it's time to call in MPL pest control* and get some preventative systems in place.
We don’t kill moles, but we do prevent them from digging up your business.
Do one thing: Look back over the last couple of months and check out how much mole-whacking you’ve done. Think about how having systems in place for each area of your business could have prevented this and saved you and your business time and money.
If you need help, our intensive two-day Systems4Scale Bootcamp is for you! To find out more information you can download our brochure here.
Thanks for reading. Have a great week!
*no moles were harmed in the writing of this article.
I’ve seen a number of posts recently about parents proudly and perhaps anxiously getting their kids to school for their first day. It’s that time again; new beginnings. For some their first day at a new school or college. For others their first day in a new role or a new job; maybe their first ever job?
Can you remember back to one of your first days? We’ve all had at least one.
So what was it like?
Were you over-awed, bored or just completely bewildered?
Did you take in every word that was said, or did you go home on a caffeine-high with a numb bum?
I’d love to think you had a great day and came away buzzing with drive and energy dying to tell your other half, mum or dad what a great day you had and how excited you were about the future.
That’s what you want for the individuals joining YOUR team, but is that what happens?
A new recruit’s First Day is your opportunity to make a great first impression. It’s your chance to get a new team member excited about their future with you, to understand what’s expected of them, and get a feel for what’s possible.
First impressions count, and that applies to your team members too. Usually the focus is on giving lots of information; we’ve all been there suffering the slow death by power-point. When what’s really important is to give heaps of inspiration.
Yes, there are some very basic things you have to get across to them - where the toilets are, the fire procedure, where everyone goes for lunch maybe, but keep these as brief and to the point as possible.
The things that are going to inspire them are:
Think about splitting your day into 3 short sections:
If you look at your content and think it’s way too much to take in, then cut it. You want to avoid overload and get most value from their time, and your own, and besides, you don’t have to tell them everything about your business on day one.
Your aim should be for that first day to reflect what you and your business are all about. I’m not talking a song and dance routine, but you want it to be full of high energy, passion and creativity, and as interactive as you can make it.
We’ve got a great little worksheet to help structure your new recruit’s first day, and to make it memorable for all the right reasons.
Do one thing: Download our free worksheet below
Thanks for reading. Have a great week!
‘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.’
So says Michael Gerber in the ‘E-Myth’, the bible for so many entrepreneurs, and rightly so, in my opinion.
In the E-Myth, Michael Gerber talks about this whole idea of being a technician i.e. people who start their business because they’re really good at something. They’re a florist, an electrician, a carpenter. Or maybe they’re a dentist, and I pick on a dentist because I’ve just been to mine and his business is a good example so I’ll refer to this dentist as ‘him’. A dentist spends years and years learning his trade, honing his skills, learning everything that he needs to learn to be a really good dentist, to serve and satisfy this customers/patients.
So, you go to the dentist, either for your regular checkup, or because you’ve got tooth trouble. He’ll invariably sort you out. Ideally, he hasn’t caused you that much pain, and so you leave the dentist, and you tell everybody what a great dentist you have, and how it’s pain-free, and he’s lovely, and so on. In most cases, the dentist will do the job himself; certainly the one I go to, there’s rarely anybody else in the room during my appointment. Some may have an assistant or a receptionist but mine is a self-contained system just like the electrician, or the carpenter, or the florist. They don’t really need anybody else.
The problem is that when the dentist goes on holiday, so does his income, because he is his own self-contained system. Really, this is a huge problem for many business owners, because as 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.
Proper business owners and entrepreneurs can take time off whenever they want and their income still comes in. They have two fundamental things. They have systems, and they have good people to run the systems.
When I go on holiday for three weeks, I won’t be taking any work with me, and I don’t plan to get into it with the team while I’m away. I’m not saying this to boast. I’m not saying this to get you mad at me. I’m saying it because it actually took me a while to get to the point where I have that level of trust. That trust has come from now having the strong systems in place that I need, having the team in place to get on and follow the systems, and achieve the goals. And I know that they’re going to get there. It took time, but I do trust that everything will go well. I trust that it’ll go better than well. They’ll probably do things that I wouldn’t have thought of, because that’s the sort of environment and culture that we’ve created, within the business. 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.
Simple, logical, repeatable systems, and a good team to run them.
So let me ask you, what did you do this Mayday bank holiday? We’ve got another bank holiday weekend coming up shortly. Will you be having three days off work, or do you see it as a great opportunity to catch up on odd-jobs or to stop and take stock, because you never have time to do that when you’ve just been too damn busy managing the day to day palaver?
So will that long weekend be time off with your family and friends, or just relaxing and doing what you love to do, or are you going to be working? Now of course, there are always going to be business owners who really look forward to things like bank holiday weekends and Summer holidays because it’s when they make their big money. If you’re in the leisure industry, obviously that isn’t the time to take off, but I’m talking about generally. I’m talking about taking that precious time to rest, to relax, to recuperate, to re-energise.
Certainly 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. I’d love you to think about how you’re going to use the next bank holiday weekend. Great systems and well trained people equals financial and time freedom. So here’s my challenge to you;
by this time next year,
Instead, you’ll be spending quality time with the people that you love, with your animals or whatever you love doing beyond your work.
If this resonates with you, but you feel a bit overwhelmed thinking of how to even begin, then we can help. We run a two day bootcamp where you can come away from the workplace, away from all the day to day hassle and distractions and start to work ‘on’ your business, not ‘in’ it, to quote Gerber again. Come along, with your team, to our Systems4Scale Bootcamp, where over those two days, you really get to work on your systems with our support and expertise. Our clients hit the ground running on their return armed, not just with know-how, but with the firm belief that this ‘freedom’ is achievable.
Do one thing: follow this link to find out more here
Our next Bootcamp is 13th & 14th June 2018 – email email@example.com to register your interest
‘Systems are not chains to tie you down, they are wings to help you fly.’
This week I delivered a keynote presentation at the prestigious north west business club the ‘K-Club’, posing the question, ‘What if business was easy?’ It challenged the thinking of the 80-strong audience of business owners, and led to an interesting Q&A.
So I wanted to ask you if it’s something you’ve ever considered?
What if business was easy?
What if you didn’t have to miss another school sports day or parents evening, if you never had to make an excuse for pulling out of a day out with friends or date night with your other half?
What if you didn’t buy into the school of thought that says that the only way to grow or scale your business is to work harder and harder and to make more and more sacrifices?
What if easy was a choice?
I know that easy is possible, because that’s what I experienced at McDonald’s – easy, flowing, well-oiled machine. Easy is good…really good…when you get there. Easy makes things more efficient, more profitable, more scalable.
During the late ‘80s and early ‘90s I witnessed massive growth and scale at McDonald’s – one new restaurant a week, with a constant stream of crew and managers needing to be trained and deployed to run them.
Since I left McDonald’s, I’ve seen business owners who came to me because they wanted to sell their business, fall back in love with it when they realise that business can be easy; that they don’t need to work in it all the time; that they don’t need to slog through the day-to-day of their operation; that they can free themselves completely.
I’ve seen complete control freaks take eight week holidays; people who would maybe leave the country, but have their laptop with them, checking in every single day to make sure their team were doing things right.
Going away, and just letting the business run because you know that everything is in place for it to run well, that’s really what ‘easy’ is all about.
And how do you get to easy?
First, you have to believe that it’s possible.
You have to believe that your people are smart, capable and resourceful; that they’ll work well as part of your team; that they’ll try their hardest for you when they know that you trust them.
And you have to believe in the power of systems; that systems in every area of your business will free you, and your team; that systems are the foundation of every business that wants to grow and scale.
Believe that systems are not chains to tie you down, they are wings to help you fly; a launchpad for freedom – freeing your people, making things easier for your customers, and certainly freeing you.
Once you’ve sorted your mindset, then it’s time to take action – to create simple, logical, repeatable systems, to run your operation, to train your people, to free them to take ownership; to make your life easy.
Are you ready for that sort of action?
Are you tired of being the block in your business – the person that everyone has to come to to get things done – the person that has to check everything before it’s signed off?
Are you tired of missing out on stuff – of working on your holidays – of being ruled by your phone and your inbox?
Are you ready to make your life easy, but you’ve hung round with the people who tell you ‘the only way to success is through harder work and more sacrifice’, for so long that you’re just not sure?
Then why not invest 70 minutes of your time and let me share with you how simple and straightforward it can be to get to ‘easy’.
Join me for one of the two webinars I’m running over the next two weeks, and in return I’ll give you simple tools and strategies that will have an immediate impact on your life and definitely make it easier.
Do one thing: Take action! Check out the dates and times for the webinars and get yourself signed up HERE. Look forward to seeing you there.
Many people I speak to can see the benefits of a systemised business. ‘Look at McDonald’s; look at Amazon,’ they say, ‘every really successful business is systemised…absolutely…there’s no getting away from it.’
But when it comes down to their own business you can see them beginning to come out in a rash. The thought of systemising their business is just too overwhelming…
’I don’t have time’,
‘I can’t afford it’
‘Systems are just a luxury’ I’ve heard them all.
The reality is that we all already have systems in our business; we all do things! But if the way we do things is not simple, logical and repeatable then we are wasting time and money and not achieving what every Customer (and every business owner) wants – consistency! We’re spending time checking, correcting,complaining…working in our business not on it.
What I’m saying is that we have a choice, either
Do things haphazardly – with each team member doing things their way, reinventing the wheel every time a task is done, little being done the way you want it to be, or
Do things, do every task in your business, in a simple logical repeatable way
For me it’s a no brainer.
The question is not, ‘Can I afford to systemise my business?’ but ‘Can I afford not to?’
And the reality is, it’s really not the huge, overwhelming, expensive task you think it is.
You decide you’re going to do it, you start small – with your most routine, every day tasks – and you ask yourself:
‘Is this task simple?’ Could anyone walking in off the street, (if it’s a basic task), or with the necessary technical knowledge (if it’s a specialist task) follow the steps to complete it?
‘Is this task logical?’ Does the way we do it make sense? Can I answer the question, ‘why do you do it this way?’
‘Is this task repeatable?’ Can it be done in the same way every time? Can I train people to do it this way?
A system is simply a uniform and consistent way of doing things that makes your life easier. They only exist to make life easier. If a system doesn’t make life easier – for you, your team, or your customer – then it’s the wrong system.
There aren’t five different ways to cook fries at McDonald’s; there is one way. There aren’t seven different ways to open up the restaurant and get everything set up for the day, there is one way. A team member at McDonald’s can’t decide that they want to prepare a Big Mac their way, there is one way to build a Big Mac, and everyone does it that way, every time, no exceptions.
Everybody at McDonald’s at every level, knows ‘the way we do things around here’ and everything that is done, is simple, logical and repeatable.
Contrary to what they might tell you, McDonald’s franchisees have a great life – they have freedom to choose when they’ll work and when they won’t – when they’ll go to the golf course, or on holiday, or simply stay in bed. They have that freedom because their business has systems, because everybody that works in their business knows exactly the way things work, because they can trust their team to perform consistently every single day.
Freedom, Trust and Consistency – business nirvana!
And the only difference between them and you, is that they have effective systems.
So what are you going to do about it?
Do one thing today: Draw a line in the sand and take one small simple step towards a more consistent business – make a list of your routine, daily, weekly and monthly tasks.
Then make a plan to take just one of those tasks every week – just one a week – and ask yourself if it’s simple, logical and repeatable?. And then make it so. Involve your team to make this an even more powerful exercise.
Do that every week, and you’ll have 52 systems in your business this time next year.
See! Not overwhelming at all.
To your McFreedom!
PS If you really want to do this. If you really want to fast-track your route to Trust, consistency and freedom then invest two days and join me for one of my Systems4Scale Bootcamps where I’ll share a whole bunch of McFreedom Secrets and get you started on your essential systems. Find out more HERE.
PPS Remember, you can always find time for what’s most important to you. So ask yourself, ‘how important is my FREEDOM?’
Marianne is the author of three books, and is currently working on her fourth, whilst regularly writing her blog, we hope you enjoy it :-)