Helping small business owners realize that our limitations are 90% self- imposed and 10% imaginary
Paul Foster, CEO of The Business Therapist® dishes advice on small business management and success.
The Couch Trip explores personal and business growth by examining patterns of behavior, building accountability, improving time management, and motivating action.
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This expression has stayed in my mind for years and these 6 little words have really helped me be more productive at work.
I had an employer who would write notes of tasks to completed during the workday that were often neglected; mostly because the little jobs weren’t ‘easy’ or ‘fun’ (think toilets!). My boss would bold, underline and highlight these jobs in attempt to get our attention, to no avail. Then along came ‘This is a Five Minute Job!’ – also in bold, underlined and highlighted.
For some reason this made me realize that indeed, these terrible tasks only take a few minutes to complete. It took more effort, time and thought for me to avoid the chore than it did for me to actually do it.
I have carried this phrase with me and I use it everyday when I’m thinking of a reason to not do something (we all do that, right?). Even if the dreaded job is longer than 5 minutes, I can approach it more realistically knowing the task is not my life sentence and I’ll feel accomplished when I’m done.
I’m done… and it only took 6 minutes!
The team at The Business Therapist® would like to wish all our family, friends and clients a very happy Thanksgiving.
It’s a wonderful time to reflect and appreciate this incredible world of abundance.
From the American Headquarters of The Business Therapist® in Germania Pennsylvania, we wish you and your families all the best.
I stumbled upon a great tool last week. It’s called a kanban board. The ‘kanban’ concepts have Japanese roots and were developed for managing workflow in manufacturing projects.
Two key concepts are 1) it is a visual representation of the project or projects and 2) it requires you to limit the current capacity for work in progress – i.e. limit the current number of things you are working on.
Consistent with the philosophies of David Allen, in his best-selling book, Getting Things Done, the tool has a place to dump all your ‘to-do’s’ into a secure place and out of your head. Just by removing the large amount of tasks that hang around in your conscious or subconscious mind, you can relieve your stress of being overwhelmed.
Although the capacity restrictions were originally defined by the specific capabilities of a particular machine on the plant floor, it seems to apply fairly well to people also!
When each person only works on the number of tasks they are actually capable of completing, productivity improves and they enjoy the pleasure of placing a high percentage of tasks in the final segment of the kanban board – “DONE”.
As with most things these days, all you really need to do is type “kanban board” into your browser and the all the knowledge and offers for kanban products including digital kanban boards, just show up on your screen.
Since posting 6 Tips to Holding Effective Meetings in July of 2011, it has consistently remained one of my more popular posts. I have also seen opposing points of view that business meetings are a complete waste of time.
I strongly disagree. But if a business didn’t follow my 6 tips in running a better business meeting, then I would agree; ineffective team meetings are a waste of time!
Here is why business meetings are still important:
1) Best communication method – With all the wonderful technology for communicating, a face to face meeting still is the fastest and best way to communicate. The meeting time should be respected and used for the most important issues.
2) It reduces personality clash and problem avoidance risks – Two co-workers can discuss an issue outside a meeting and try and resolve it. If it becomes emotional or disrespectful, no solution is obtained. Using a formal meeting process, creates a potentially more respectful and facilitated space to discuss important issues. Without the ability to address tough issues respectfully, they just become recurring problems that frustrate everybody.
3) Formal accountability to action can be determined – By defining the meeting objective of acknowledging an important issue, discussing the alternatives and reaching a consensus resolution. When a clear action assigned to specific people by specific dates it formally documented, the probability it gets done is high.
A final thought to consider:
Business teams are often divided into ‘managers’ and ‘makers’. Makers are the team members that are actually doing the work the managers manage. Makers have certain time of the work day where they want uninterrupted time to focus on making. This is often the morning. Managers work in shorter focused periods on more issues and therefore can fit meetings in at most times in the day.
If managers are asking makers to come to meetings that are right in the middle of their best ‘making’ time, they will be reluctant to participate. It is important to recognize this reluctance is simply a desire on the part of the makers to be more productive. It is often seen as a bad attitude on the part of the maker.
The bottom line is to be respectful of when the makers do their best ‘making’ and schedule your meetings with them outside of these time when they have their bursts of productivity.
I just finished the new book Remote by Jason Fried and David Heinemeier Hansson, the founders of 37Signals. The writing style is quite pleasant to read as it is very short chapters with lots of white space (so you can read a lot of pages faster). They also wrote a book Rework, that was a New York Times bestseller.
I wouldn’t recommend reading this book unless you can handle disruptive thinking. These guys challenge most of the established practices of office work. More specifically, they feel that working remotely has a lot of advantages over having a ’9 to 5 work at the office’ philosophy.
As an example they provide a provocative quote from Richard Branson:
“In thirty years’ time, as technology moves forward even further, people are going to look back and wonder why offices ever existed.”
Depending on how much you may have invested in physical office space, you could find this concept offensive. I think giving consideration to the concepts they share is at least worthwhile even if you don’t agree. They are kind enough to anticipate a number of excuses and rebuttals and provide their thoughts about each one.
One of the excuses addressed is ‘only the office is secure’. They discuss how business with a ‘secure’ office could be a well fortified castle but the drawbridge is down. The example given is executive leaving the secure office with an unencrypted laptop. The authors are kind enough to provide their own security checklist which is a great gift to any readers who actually take it and use it for their business.
At our firm, we already practice most of the concepts presented in the book. I often work from our farm in the middle of nowhere in Pennsylvania, Rich is on his back deck in Ontario and Liz gets her jobs done in her pajamas before most traditional office workers even get up in the morning.
They close the book with one of my favourite quotes for those who may be drinking the ‘disruptive’ Kool-Aid from Ghandi about change:
“First they ignore you, then they laugh at you, then they fight you, then you win.”
Jason and David suggest we are in the fighting stage and we at The Business Therapist® concur.
With all the great technology to make the world more productive it seems there are more ways to be interrupted than ever! Here are 3 tips to help you get your work done:
1) Create your own barriers – If you don’t ask your co-workers to stop invading your space, why would they stop invading your space? I think the key is to start by ‘asking for an inch’. For example, why not ask for an hour and half of interrupted time on Tuesday mornings from 9:30 a.m. to 11:00 a.m.? Close your door, turn off your phone and email and get some real focused work done. If one time slot seems to give too much grief, try another time slot or try a shorter period.
2) Be respectfully persistent – Old habits are hard to break and you have likely subliminally trained your time robber co-workers to interrupt you. It could take multiple times of asking and reminding them before they change their habit. Eventually though, they will figure out to interrupt you at 9:15 a.m. and get what need from you for the next two hours. They might also figure out that their issue is life threateningly urgent and it could wait until 11:00 a.m. Heck they might even take responsibility and do the task on their own!
3) Practice what you preach – Are you a big interrupter and time and space robber yourself? Do you just barge into other people’s work by phone, text, or in person to get what you might need without respecting their space? Would you consider making a deal where you respect and give them their time and space in exchange for them respecting you and your work? A mutually respectful arrangement is so much easier to get support on, isn’t it?
4) Bonus tip – There is another good way to get yourself focused on your work without interruptions – move to a place and time with no interruptions. Is there a place you can hide away for an hour or two? If asking the people around in the place you are now isn’t working, why not leave it for a better one?
How do you think I found the time and space to get this blog written?
As inspired recently by Holstee, the team at The Business Therapist® has developed our own manifesto. We found this to be a collectively creative experience and the process helped clarify our beliefs.
Does your business have a manifesto? We believe businesses can benefit by clarifying ‘who you are’ and ‘what you do and why’.
What is the difference between a business having a ‘manifesto’ and a ‘mission statement’?
I have done very little research on this topic, but I don’t think there is much difference in theory. But I just like the word ’manifesto’. (Did you see my hands moving when I said it?)
A manifesto is just a better and cooler way to state what your business believes.
A small, startup t-shirt manufacturer, Holstee, wrote a manifesto that went viral. I have to admit, it really resonated with me.
Please click here to watch their video manifesto.
I love the part, “If you don’t have enough time, stop watching TV”!
If this was your company’s manifesto do you think it would be easier to grow more customers and more employees?
What is your manifesto?
The first draft of The Business Therapist manifesto will be posted next week. Thanks Holstee for the inspiration!
I just read about an interesting experiment where less products produced more sales. It was in Dan Pink’s great book, To Sell is Human.
The experiment was done by Sheena Iyengar (Columbia University) and Mark Leppar (Stanford) . They first set up a booth selling 24 different types of jam and tracked how many people stopped to consider a purchase and how many actually purchased. This would allow them to calculate the conversion ratio from opportunities to actual sales as a percentage. Three out of every hundred or 3% converted.
Then they reduced the offering to six types of jam. While the total opportunities did go down, the conversion ratio on the opportunities to sales went from 3% to 30%!
Wow! This is very interesting.
So how many different products and services does your business offer? Is it too much?
The idea of reducing the number of choices has additional benefits:
- It would simplify product knowledge training, inventory requirements and sales and marketing support materials.
Imagine a restaurant that only offered six items on the menu. Think how much easier it would be inventory, prepare and serve only six different plates?
If you are a manufacturer, surely making only 6 items would be far more efficient than making 26 different products?
It seems your customers still need choice, but too much could just be confusing enough to stall the purchase decision.
It is worthwhile exploring this possibility for your business. We would be glad to assist you if you are interested. Meanwhile, we will be reviewing our offering of products and services to practice what we preach!
After thoroughly enjoying my role as Entrepreneur in Residence for the Centre for Enterprise and Law, Odette School of Business at the University of Windsor for the past two years, I have moved to a new role:
Lean Startup Advisor for the Odette School of Business
This new position started earlier last month (September) and it is already a lot of fun. Three very brave and innovative professors have started two new programs. The first is an interdisciplinary business and engineering experience that is unique in Canada at the undergraduate level. Dr. Francine Schlosser from business and Dr. Zbigniew Pasek from engineering are teaching the class together with almost 300 students in their second year.
We are taking groups of engineers and business students and asking them to create new ideas for products. It is an experience in startup entrepreneurship, soft skills training and learning by doing real life innovating.
I get to support and mentor them in use of the Business Model Canvas and the Customer Discovery methodologies we use in our business.
The second class is smaller group combining fourth year and graduate level students in business and engineering. Dr. Schlosser has partnered with Dr. Urbanic from the engineering faculty to jointly teach this class. This is a great group of young energetic minds who already embrace entrepreneurship from many different perspectives, points of view and thinking styles. We will be taking the Lean Launchpad methodology much deeper with this group and challenge them to create a real business model to commercialize a great idea into a viable business.
In summary, a lot of university students will be stepping pretty far out of their comfort zones this term. My hat is off to the innovative professors Dr. Schlosser, Dr. Pasek and Dr. Urbanic who will courageously take them there!
Only great things will come from this adventure and I am delighted to be a part of it.