You Only Have To Do It Once*

Every time I talk to a busy business owner who says they really need to get their systems and processes in order, but just don’t have the time, my answer is always the same… “I have good news and I have bad news for you… you only have to do it once.”

The good news is, that once in place, most Singular Operating Systems (SOS – also known as Sink or Swim) will stand for years to come and only require tweaking and adjusting as your business evolves and grows. The bad news is, you will have to sit down once and do what I refer to as “the brain dump.”

The truth is, most business owners do have systems and processes, they just happen to keep them all in their heads. Taking the time to sit down, document the way you run the daily operations of your business, and then evaluate if it’s the best way to run your business is not only necessary, but once one the other side very freeing as well.

Here’s my personal story to prove that even those of us who live for and love a good system can dread having to document the process. In our family painting business, we usually hire a college student to help out in the summer months when we’re in our busy season. After a few years in the business and a few summer helpers had come and gone, I finally decided to document ALL of the office procedures and create a manual to use for all future training needs. I’ll be honest, it was not a whole lot of fun, and meant taking extra time document each task as I was completing it. BUT, that following summer when we hired another new office assistant, I used the manual to train her, then asked her to try to follow the procedures on her own, and finally tweaked it so anyone with a brain could come in, sit down at the main desk and figure out enough to answer the phone and carry out our basic office functions without any help.

Fast forward ten years and that extra time spent creating that manual has saved me (and our company) hours upon hours of time in training new admins every time we’ve hired one. In hindsight, it was one of the best things I ever did with regards to increasing the productivity in the office and adding consistency and repeatability to all of our office procedures.

What would implementing consistent and repeatable systems mean for your business?

– Would it allow you to delegate with less fear?

– Would it allow you to hire or outsource tasks that are not the best use of your time, but still need to be taken care of?

– Would it allow you to take off one of the many hats you’ve been wearing and breathe a little easier?

If you answered YES to any or all of the above, I highly encourage you to set aside some time to get your systems out of your head and onto paper. And if you’d like some help and don’t want to start from scratch, I’ve done the heavy lifting already to get you 85% of the way there. You can learn more about The Full Circle Customer course here and here’s to doing it once, and once and for all.

*Doing it once the right way will lead to optimal results and not having to repeat the process. 👍🏼

Think Like A Customer – Act Like A Business Owner

While I hate to have to say this out loud, Customer Service seems to be a dying art. With the continued advances in technology and automation, it seems many businesses and industries are attempting to “make things easier” by automating as much as possible. But who is it really easier for? More often than not, it’s easier for the business, but not the customer (and don’t get me started on “convenience fees”…I did all of the work 😝). 

This trend is all the more reason Customer Service should be your primary focus for the coming year. There’s no easier way to elevate your brand and stand out from your competition than to deliver exceptional customer service. And for many of us, isn’t that what we set out to do in the first place?

The trouble, however, often lies with implementation. And the hard truth that we’re usually thinking like a busy business owner and not thinking like a customer. Once we are able to shift our focus, the next question that comes up is How? How do I set up my business so it’s customer focused, but still keep control of the internal processes so it’s manageable for my team?

The short answer – Implement A Singular Operating System.

If you’re reading this blog, you’ve most likely seen “The Customer Circle”, some of you may have seen the detailed version, a few of you may have heard me talk about it in Denver, and now I’m excited to share the launch of my On-Demand course where I’ll take you through it all in full detail.

As busy business owners, we’re all guilty of spending too much time IN our businesses and not enough time ON our businesses. My goal is creating and launching The Full Circle Customer course is to help you carve out 1 hour a week to work ON your business, teach you how to build out systems for consistency and success (you’ll be able to download my notes, tools, and templates as well) and turn the 8-10 hours you spend working through the course into 10x that in time back once you’ve implemented the processes into your business.

If you’re ready to learn more and get a preview of what’s included, join me for my Free Full Circle Business Assessment Webinar this month. Click here to learn more and save your space.

Are You Willing To Change The Rules?

In life, and in business, rules, guidelines, systems and processes provide the checks and balances we need to live consistently and successfully. However, I find that in both cases, we often get so caught up in “what is” that we struggle with even considering the needed changes that will lead us to “what could be.” So, are you ready for the story behind my most recent “ah ha” moment? 😂

We’ve always had a least one dog, and the rule has always been NO DOGS on the couch in the living room. Joe and Tess, who are both 13, and have been with us for most of their lives, have no problem following this rule. Then came Georgia, who is now 16 months old, fully grown, and also now fully “herself.” She’s been pretty good with the no dogs on the couch rule, until there’s someone outside and she’s compelled to do her job….

Shar Pei’s were originally bred to be guard dogs, so it’s in her DNA to protect the house and her “people” in it. Unfortunately, in order to do this she needs to be able to see out the window, and the only way to do that is from on the couch. Not her fault, and with nowhere else to move it, I was left  with a dilemma as far as my “no dogs rule” goes.

I spent a few weeks trying to “correct” the behavior, but she’s just as stubborn as I am, and doing her job was more important than listening to mom. Then I moved on to other possible solutions, which lead me to a realization… the only real reason I don’t want the dogs on the couch is because I don’t want them to get it dirty.

Solving the real problem quickly became much easier than keeping her off of the couch. And with the holidays just around the corner, I decided to have a little fun and ventured off to the fabric store for a temporary and inexpensive solution. Now we have a fun “holiday couch”, Georgia is happily on guard, and mom can live with it while we keep working on her training.

In our businesses, the inability to think differently or approach a challenge from a new perspective usually stems from the “we’ve always done it this way” or “that’s always been the rule” thought process. The next time you find yourself facing a new challenge, or someone or something challenging the “rules,” I encourage you to step back, look deeper and determine the true reason behind the rule in the first place. Sometimes they have to stay (like no biting your brother 😂) and sometimes they can be adjusted as your business and team grows. The key lies in remaining open to all of the possibilities, choosing the best option for everyone, and maybe even having a little fun with it if you can. Happy holidays from our family to yours. ❤️

Time Blocking vs. Blocking Time

This was originally a LinkedIn post, but it felt too valuable not to share here as well… In our effort to get more done each day, we often forget that slowing down can actually be the best way to increase our overall productivity. Here are two techniques I use that help ensure I work smarter, thus increasing the number of tasks I can complete fully and successfully on any given day…

 

I was on a call with a colleague who is also a consultant and needed some help streamlining his work week for increased productivity. I shared a few tips with him, and here’s one that may be worth trying if you feel like your days are getting away from you.

Time-Blocking

Block out time in your schedule weekly (preferably the same day and same time) for key non-client activities. Some things that may fall into this category are invoicing, marketing, sales follow up, paying bills, etc…

By setting aside time each week to handle these items you’ll be doing two things to help increase your productivity.

1. You’ll actually save time by doing all of “one thing” at once instead of bit by bit over the course of the week. The less times you “touch” something, the better.

2. You’ll build “muscle memory” and after a few weeks your brain will automatically kick into gear on that set day and time when it’s time to write a blog, make follow up calls to potential customers, check your collections for the week, etc.

Here’s to working smarter, not harder. 🙌🏼🙌🏾

 

Here’s the second tip:

Blocking Off Time

When it comes to scheduling appointments, especially with business booming right now in the construction industry, it seems like we’re all trying to squeeze in as many per day as possible.

My suggestion, however, is to block out time IN BETWEEN appointments (Zoom or in person) to wrap up with client #1 before moving on to client #2. As both consultants and contractors, when we “hang up”, there are almost always a few follow up to do’s that need to be taken care of to truly close out the meeting.

When you book back to back to back calls, you don’t give yourself the time or space to:

1 – End the call calmly and avoid rushing into the next call (sometimes a few minutes late 😳).

2 – Finish jotting down your final notes and take a breath before moving on to meet with the next client.

Try giving yourself 15 minutes between calls as you’re making new appointments and see how it affects your overall productivity. And pay attention to how being present in the moment, knowing you have a cushion, leads to better conversations and eliminates the stress that comes with rushing from one task to the next. 😎

Big Changes & Little Adjustments

My daughter got her license a few months ago, and with a dad that’s a bonafide car guy (he buys them, rebuilds them and races them), together their working on “building” her very first dream car. It’s a (used) Jeep Wrangler – 4 door, hard top, all black – just as she requested. 🖤

Once she got the hang of driving it and passed her test (in a Mini Cooper 😂), the first big change was the tires. And when I say big, I mean big. She picked them out, dad swapped them out, and back out onto the road she went.

As she was driving around, turning left and right to navigate the roads and back out of parking spots, she noticed a rubbing sound she hadn’t heard before. So back to dad’s shop she went only to discover the new and much bigger tires were rubbing up against the fenders. So what’s the solution? Lift the car a bit. This was on her wish list as well, and was added sooner rather than later to eliminate the sound and the extra wear on the new tires.

What’s the point of my story you might ask?  If you’ve read more than one of my blogs so far, you’ll notice that I like to tell stories and then “connect the dots.”

When it comes to growing our businesses, it’s often easy to spot the big changes that need to be made to continue to grow and reach our goals. But in the midst of figuring it out, executing and getting everyone on board with the big change, we often forget that big changes almost always require small adjustments.

There are very few things in life that work perfectly out of the box, and we’ve all learned to tweak and adjust things as needed in our day to day life. Somehow though, we seem to forget that similar tweaks are often needed within our businesses. Like the old saying goes “don’t throw the baby out with the bath water.”

So the next time you’re considering a big change in your business, be sure to give it time, pay attention to any hiccups you encounter, ask your team for input, and adjust as necessary to reach the best final version – which is very rarely achieved on the first attempt.

What Tools Might You Be Overlooking?

“Smart business owners use tools.”

I was on a podcast with a handful of other coaches earlier this week and one of them said this in the midst of our conversation. He then went on to give a few obvious examples. Here are a few of my own….

If you’re going to plant a garden, you’re not going to dig the holes by hand… you’d use a shovel.

If you’re going to change a tire, you’re not going lift the car with your hands… you’d use a jack.

If you’re going to paint a house, you’re not going to do it with your hands … you’d use a paint brush.

In “real world” scenarios, we have no issues with picking up a shovel, a jack, a paint brush, etc., but when it comes to “business tools” we are often reluctant to add something new to the mix.

Here’s the kicker though, tools are actually designed to make tasks easier… once you’ve learned how to use them properly, of course. By passing up on taking the time to learn how to use a new tool that could potentially save you an exponential amount of time and effort over the next few months or years, you’re basically saying “I’m going to keep digging my holes by hand because I don’t want to stop and learn how to use a shovel.”

So here’s the million dollar question …. well, two actually

In what area(s) of your business are you struggling with efficiency, consistency, or both?

What tools might be available to help you address the issue and make the process smoother, easier and more consistent?

They’re out there, you just have to be willing to take the time to identify the areas of your business that would benefit from the addition of a tool and then find the right one for the task at hand.

The Truth About Checklists

I’m not sure when or why or how, but I feel like somewhere along the line checklists got a bad rap and are being used less and less these days. Maybe it’s a generational thing, or coincides with all of the technology and apps at our finger tips, but whatever the reason, I’m all about bringing them back…. and here’s WHY.

As busy business owners or managers or doers, delegation is critical to our continued growth and success, but many of us shy away from delegation out of fear.

What’s the most common fear when delegating a task?

That it will not be completed correctly and/or meet our expectations (or those of our other employees and customers).

And what’s the biggest fear of the person you’re delegating this task to?

That it will not be completed correctly and/or meet our expectations (or those of our other employees and customers).

So what’s the solution? … A simple checklist.

Do you know what happens when you give someone a clear and concise checklist for a task or assignment that needs to be completed? You eliminate their stress and your stress from the delegation process. Following a conversation that includes the what, why and how, they now have a tool to reference to make sure they don’t miss anything and complete the task as expected.

 

And what happens when they have to do the task again? While repetition does build “muscle memory”, having the checklist on hand also ensures that they can double check the process without having to come back to you and ask you to be sure each and every time they have to repeat it.

 

And what happens when you hire a new employee that will also need to learn how to complete this task? Either you can start with the checklist and train them yourself or you can have the person you originally delegated the task to teach others how to correctly complete it as well. I’d call that a win-win-win for a business owner looking to work ON their business more and IN their business less.

 

So what tasks in a contracting business might benefit from a simple and concise checklist? Here’s a short list to get you started….including the WHY (which is critical for understanding and buy in).

  • Job Sequencing Checklist – so everyone involved knows their part and the process is completed in an order that makes sense
  • Job Start Checklist – so your Crew Leader can ensure that things get off to a smooth start with each and every project
  • End of Day Checklist – so your Crews can be sure to wrap up each day consistently (clean and neat) and deliver an exceptional customer experience
  • Job Completion Checklist – to ensure nothing was missed or left behind, and the customer is fully satisfied with the finished result
  • Hiring Checklist – to ensure that you’re gathering all of the information you need through the interview and on-boarding process (download my free checklist here)
  • Skills Checklist – to measure the growth and progress of your employees as they “climb the ladder”
  • New Project Intake Form – this isn’t a traditional checklist, but you should have a script for answering the phone and gathering all of the information you need for new leads

What would you add to the list to make your daily operations run more smoothly? I’d love to hear from you and maybe even create a custom checklist together to eliminate some of your daily operational stressors. 🙌🏼🙌🏾

The Morning Clear Out – Conquering Your Inbox – Part One

You know those people that have 321 unread emails and 73 unopened text messages on their phone? I’m not one of them. 😂 I’m the person that needs to have zero emails in my inbox when I leave my desk for the day and as few messages as possible still showing up on my phone when I finally call it a night.

So how do I manage to pull this off you might ask? I’ve established a consistent routine that I use daily to keep my inbox (and my brain) from getting overloaded. And to avoid overloading your brain with too much information all at once, I’m breaking it into three parts. Here’s part 1:

The Morning Clear Out

After feeding and walking my dogs, I sit down for my own breakfast and clear out all of my inboxes on my iPhone.

#1 – Delete – Most junk mail comes through late at night or early in the morning, and clearing it out on my phone gives me the opportunity to delete a whole slew of messages without ever having to actually open them. I love the Edit – Select feature on my iPhone that allows me to tag the emails I don’t need to open and then Trash them in one fell swoop. 👍🏼

#2 – Forward – If the email came to you, but could or should be handled by someone else in your office, forward it along with a quick note and now it’s off of your to do list.

#3 – Quick Reply – Answer any emails that only require a short reply and now they’re off of your to do list as well.

#4 – Save for Later – Anything that will require a longer reply or where checking/gathering additional information is necessary should be saved for when you do get to your desk. However, now that you’ve seen it, you know what’s left in your inbox and will need your attention before the end of the day.

This clear out shouldn’t take more than 3-5 minutes to complete, and now you can relax and enjoy the rest of your breakfast.

In part two I share my strategy for keeping your inbox under control through the course of your workday, click here once you’ve conquered part one and established a morning routine that works well for you to move onto part two.

Need To Have A Difficult Conversation… Try Taking A Walk

My daughter turned 16 this year (I was 27 when she was born, so you can do the math…) which means we’re in full swing of navigating the teenage years and all of the tricky conversations that go along with it. What I’ve come to realize though, is tough subjects are much easier to discuss when we’re both in the car and heading somewhere. Here me out on this one for a minute… If you think back to the last time you had to call an employee into your office and have a difficult conversation, you may find yourself coming to the same realization… No matter how prepared you are, or how much they know about what’s to be discussed before hand, the act of you simply sitting at your desk facing them (the alpha seat) and them sitting on the other side facing you already sets you up for an uncomfortable conversation. Without the distraction of say sharing a meal across the table, one on one meetings can feel more like an interrogation, whether you mean for them to or not.

 

So, back to the car rides with my daughter… while sitting side by side in the car and both facing forward, somehow I’ve found it’s much easier to discuss a difficult or touchy subject. No need to worry about eye contact and maintaining it for too long, and less worry about the full view of your facial expressions as the conversation unfolds. And while you may not be able to hop into a car with an employee and take a drive, you can take a walk around the block, building or jobsite and chat along the way. The neutral territory will help level the playing field (no one likes walking into the bosses office for a meeting) and if you know about how long it will take you to complete the lap (plan out your route ahead of time) it will force you to cut to the chase and get to the point, as opposed to a potential long drawn out conversation in your office which may be more difficult to end.

 

And when you get back to the building, if a follow up needs to be scheduled, or you want to jot down a few notes about the agreement you’ve come to, you can do so then knowing that it’s the final to do before you both move on with your day. So next time you’re dreading calling someone into your office, why not try suggesting taking a walk instead?

Are You Overthinking It?

Back in August, when hurricane  Isaias rolled through and dumped more rain than ever on the East Coast, I ended up with water in my basement. Luckily it wasn’t much, and my floor is tile, so clean up was easy, but it meant determining how it got in and fixing the problem.

 

Turns out there was a hole in one of my basement window well covers, so off to the local hardware store I went for a replacement. I’ve been in the store more times than I can count over the years, but this time while waiting to check out I noticed something out of the corner of my eye and turned around to find a gray and white cat walking up the aisle.

 

Being the curious person that I am, I asked the gentleman who was helping me how long [she’d] been around and he told me the story behind her arrival. In addition to just about anything you could ever need for home maintenance, the hardware store also sells bird seed, and a few years back it was becoming a major problem. Every night while the store was closed, the mice would come out, chew through the bags and leave a mess behind to be cleaned up in the morning.

 

Their first solution was to put all of the bird seed in big galvanized trash cans with lids and haul it to the back of the store each night, only to come in every morning and have to haul it back out to the shelves for purchase. It seems after a few weeks of this, the employees got tired of the extra heavy lifting and the owner of the store came up with a better solution. He took a trip down the road to the local animal shelter and rescued a cat…. She lives in the store and is on patrol at night when no one else is around, and within a matter of weeks, they no longer had an issue with mice. They also eliminated the need to move the birdseed every night.

 

Often times when we encounter a problem or issue, we spend hours and hours working out elaborate solutions when there may very well be a much more simple solution if we can think just a little bit outside of the box.  And sometimes a fresh perspective from someone a bit removed from the issue is all it takes to land on the ideal, and often simplest solution.

 

Is there an issue in your business that you’ve been overthinking? And who might you be able to reach out to for help in finding the simplest solution? Usually, the answer is much closer than we realize and often just one connection away (phone call, email, text) … so don’t be shy about reaching out.