One of my favourite funny pictures of all time is of three Lego characters.
Two men are struggling away, trying to push and pull a loaded cart that has square wheels. It’s obviously a tiring and labour-intensive way of doing things. Behind them is another Lego man, holding a pair of circular wheels. The guys who are so focused and intent on hauling the cart have speech bubbles saying, “No thanks! We are too busy”.
Boy, does this resonate with me. With some of my business coaching clients, I feel like the guy with the circular wheels, while my client is head down, bum up, in the middle of an epic battle to try and get everything done they need to.
In my experience, most business owners know what they need to do. It will be on their to-do list, but it’s just right at the bottom in terms of priority.
I know that being a business owner or manager is relentless, particularly in those early days or any time that your resources are stretched to their limit. This usually happens just before that moment when you have to decide to scale back or scale up.
In those gruelling periods, where everyone is stretched to capacity and struggling to keep up with their day-to-day workload, thinking of better ways to do things is the last thing on anyone’s mind.
And then implementing the improvements? Forget about it. It’s way too hard, right?
Hard, yes – but worth it. No matter how busy you are and how long your to-do list, it’s important to carve out time to refine your processes. To upgrade your systems. To update your technology.
In my role as a business coach, when I’m trying to get my head around someone’s business, I’ll ask them why they do something a certain way.
The answer is often, “That’s just how we’ve always done it”. This is not the answer of successful businesses. In an ideal world, you should be doing something a certain way because it’s fast or simple or value adding or measurable or because customers react well to it – never just because it’s been the way you’ve always done it.
That’s the sort of answer those Lego fellows and their square wheels would give.
If there’s a simpler, better way of doing things, you should find it. Aim to be best practice in all areas of your business – follow the leads of business superstars. Talk to successful businesspeople about how they do things and see if you can garner any ideas for your own business (ask them for one tip or their biggest secret to success). Gladly take up the offer of those circular wheels from your closest business advisor.
Sure, putting into action innovative processes and redefined systems is time consuming and often unsettling for a business and the staff.
But the results are worth the short-term headaches.
If you’ve decided on improvements, your business will be easier to work in and it will make life easier for clients and customers to deal with your business. People will see your company as being progressive and entrepreneurial, meaning you’ll be seen as a great place to work at and a great place to do business with.
Where do you start? Look at every avenue of your business. Look firstly at those areas that make the biggest impact. Talk to staff members in each area – ask them how they do things, what their pain points are, the thing that takes them the most time and effort, if they have any ideas on how to streamline things.
Measure all areas of your business – what sucks up the most time? What costs a lot of money or number of resources? How can you improve it?
The moment you stop improving and streamlining and developing your business is the moment you take a step back in the competitive market. No business should do business the way they always have. A good business is never static. Learn from the Lego guys – never be too busy to improve.
Zac de Silva is an award winning NZ business coach, speaker and director. He owns www.businesschanging.com and www.nurturechange.com.
– Sunday Star Times
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