Are you embracing simplicity?

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I saw an interesting interview recently with Bert Jacobs, one of the two brothers who founded Life Is Good…the T-Shirt company whose business model is built around the idea of sharing optimism. Considering that they literally started with nothing (selling their first shirts out of the van they were living in…) they have had amazing success and last year’s revenues are over $100 Million!

The reason for the interview is a tour promoting their new book simply titled Life Is Good: The Book. In the book they share what they’ve learned – what they call the 10 Superpowers that have helped them succeed. This includes ideas like:

  • Openness
  • Courage
  • Humor
  • Fun
  • Authenticity

However the concept that came up in the interview and the one that seems to be an overriding driver for them is Simplicity.  Jacobs attributed their ability to scale…and their ability to continuing enjoying what they do to continually finding ways of keeping things as simple as possible. And that makes a lot of sense – as your business grows and as you increase the number of employees, how you operate naturally gets more complicated. And if that complexity grows as you scale then you will eventually hit a ceiling and your business will be a painful experience for you, your employees and your customers.

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Ideas for embracing Simplicity

Unfortunately streamlining and embracing simplicity is not as simple as you might think. The world is getting more complex every day in terms of technology, government oversight and the many different ways that people now expect to interact with you (mobile, social media, phone, online, in-person, etc.). But even with all of that going on, there are a few things you could be thinking about:

1 – Business Model and Pricing

If it’s not painfully obvious and easy for people to figure out what you’re charging them and what they get for their money, then it’s probably time to change up your pricing model.  Could you adopt an all-you-can eat pricing model? If you offer a lot of options but there’s a clear group of them that are the most popular or the most useful ones – could you offer that as a package?  How about a subscription model?  A monthly or annual fee that would cover the value you provide to clients?

Obviously many industries or products don’t lend themselves to these ideas – but there’s still a good chance you could streamline what your pricing.

2 – Do Less

When your business is growing, it can be easy to fall into the ‘Yes’ trap…in that you’ll likely say ‘Yes’ to anything that generates more revenue.  Early on that’s not a bad idea – it’s important to figure out what people are willing to pay for and what you’re really good at and/or enjoy. However…over time you’ll end up selling or servicing so many different things that it will be a nightmare to keep up with it all.

Try this – do an informal audit of all of the different ways you’ve made money within your business over the last year and categorize those efforts into major groups. Do you have chunks of work that don’t really fit with anything else?  Is there a clear winner in terms of a type of product or service that generates most of your revenue? Whatever the case may be, this exercise should help you identify where you might strategically cut back and focus.

No one ever wants to give up revenue – but by streamlining you could dramatically increase your profit margins on the type of work that you do best! Remember what’s really important is the bottom line profits…not the top line revenue.

3 – Embrace Technology

One of the drivers for complexity in your business are the changes and advancements in technology.  Think marketing, sales, delivery, communication – regardless of the type of business you’re in, the technology around you is changing fast.  The bad news is that it can feel like it’s impossible to keep up.  The good news is that things are possible today through technology that couldn’t even be imagined a few years ago.

Look at your business – are there significant areas where you are still using paper as a key part of any process? That’s good sign that you could upgrade. Take the time to do some industry benchmarking and study what industry leaders are doing – what apps, devices or new technologies out there might make a difference and how could you start using them?

These are just 3 of many potential areas for simplification in your business. It’s not realistic to make huge sweeping changes to your operations…but it is realistic to identify 1 or 2 key areas that would benefit from a new approach. Make those upgrades a strategic project for the upcoming year and start realizing the benefits of simplicity!

What areas of your business do you think could be simplified? Have you seen anything that’s really worked for this idea? We’d love to hear your thoughts.

Shawn Kinkade  Kansas City Business Coach

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