As a technologist, I think that is important to have checks and balances to avoid over-engineering solutions. It’s easy to fall into the trap of overthinking a solution. Every technologist does it at least once in their career. Ok, probably more than once. The reason this happens, in my opinion, is that we get excited over solving the problem. We marry that excitement with the tools and techniques that we’ve been amassing in our toolbox. From there we end up with the greatest solution ever made, for the moment, at least in our minds. We go on believing that until the someone, usually the client, says, “Its too complicated”.
When I was younger and fantasized about becoming a business guru, I'd planned to own an empire with offices in popular cities like Chicago, New York, London, and the like. I also was under the impression that business would be steady, predictable and linear.
It may seem counterintuitive but if you have a lot to do, what business owner doesn't, multitasking is not the way to go. I have been working on this myself. For years I multitasked and marveled at those would didn't. Then I tried it and OMG, I was getting more done in less time. Ok, so of course I had to investigate into why, I pooled my friends - they are a pretty smart bunch. I found more were single taskers than I expected. With this new revelation, I had to try it. Ya know what?! I got through more of my action items, FASTER. How can that be? Well, I am not a scientist so I took the web and here's an article I found helpful from Live Science titled, Why Humans are Bad at Multitasking. It seems to make sense and I vaguely recall hearing somewhere about the time it tasks for the brain to shift. So armed with this new insight, I am now a reformed multitasker.
Ever feel like you are suffering from deja vu every time you start a new assignment? A template or two may solve this. Take a moment to think about your business. Are there documents/forms/interactions that you repeat often? I bet there are.
Do you have multiple lines of business? You can create one for each or better yet look at the synergies between them and maybe one will do. Think you don't have time?
Let me ask you this, how much time are you spending reinventing the wheel? I bet you have better things you could be doing. Think of it this way, the less time reinventing the wheel the more time engaging new customers. The added bonus is that as your business grows those working with those working with/for you can use the template that get things going with customers the same way you would, freeing you up for in-depth client discussions, business building activities and most importantly, time away from the business.
With the new template, faster intake + more time for business building activities = more $
Why create one when so many templates exist? Great question. Here's the thing, I don't know about you but the templates are great guides for getting me started but in the end, I make so many modifications to meet my business processes that the original template is not recognizable. Here's what works for some customers.
Sit down with a a blank sheet of paper or open blank document in your favorite not taking software. Don't think of formatting, sequence or anything. Simply jot down everything that comes to mind when you think about your customers. Their industry, their goals, which services they've used of yours in the past and currently. You should start to see a pattern and categories.
Now that you have all of this information, go back through and organize it. The patterns and categories get you started now just move the information around to group by them.
Your are almost done. Take a look at it, is it easy to navigate? The categories can be section headers and the questions may need to be rearranged for logic sequence. Lastly, add some branding as you may want to distribute to a customer to fill out and you want them to remember who you are.
There you go a new template that streamlines a business process thereby saving you time and money.
What repeatable processes do you have in your business that could be streamlined?
My dad, as you might have figured out, is my best friend. He and I talk nearly everyday about nearly everything - business that is. Despite being my best friend there are still some things don't want to discuss with dad.
The other day I called and he followed the normal, tell me something good with "I know you worked hard today but did you make any money."
That got me thinking about the busy work we sometimes find ourselves engaging in. For me it may be avoidance of a more difficult task to work on something that could be delegated or is simply just more fun.
In case you missed it, this week marks the 50th Anniversary of National Small Business Week This week of national recognition of the "shop down the street" and the solopreneur was first declared by President John F. Kennedy in 1963 here in the U.S.
Small business owners if you can spare some time this week to take advantage of all of the freely given help and advice, it would be a great way for you to help keep the economy chugging along - one small business at a time.
One of my dad's favorite phrases is "Tell me something good". It is the second thing he says right after "hello". Clients feel the same way. They want to know that the time/effort/money spent on their website/event/print materials was worth it. They want to know there are no issues and everything is running smoothly. They want to know that all they need to do is sit back and do nothing - all is taken care of.
The other day I called on a prospective client to open discussions on creating their web presence. As we sat down to talk about their goals, I noticed the odd look I received when I pulled out paper and a pen. You see, I start with paper - always. It may be blank or simple lined paper but most of the time it is storyboard paper (think the handout view in PowerPoint or Keynote). It may sound a bit strange but there is a reason. Don't get me wrong with all of the computers and other electronic devices I own or have access to, I could never touch a piece of paper, ever.
Today, there is no shortage of ways to create a website, it's almost like getting fries with your sandwich at your favorite restaurant it just comes on the plate. Everywhere you look there is a free website attached. The problem with that is, what you do with it once you get it. A client said to me once that they built their own site but was stuck on the content. Looking around the web I've seen where a site is made up of several social media widgets with very little original content.
It's like the site owner knew they needed a web presence but didn't know what to do with it or underestimated the time it takes to maintain it. Having a web presence is great but having a good web presence is even better.
We admit it, we are addicted to productivity tools - especially lists. Paper or electronic, all-inclusive or segmented, we try them all. So naturally when we saw the title we had to read it. What we especially liked is the reminder of the things that bog us down and should not be on the list.
Flipping channels, I paused the remote long enough to see an initial interview with a sales guy and a new client on some reality show. The sales rep kept saying something to the effect that there are a lot of options - over and over and over. Followed by repeatedly asking the client if they liked any of the options set before them. I sat there thinking, "You need to give them something to react to".