5 Ways to Dramatically Streamline your Business
Whether you love or hate Amazon, you have to admire what they’ve accomplished in the last 25 years. They started with almost nothing and became the dominant retail force in the US.
Jeff Bezos, Amazon’s founder and CEO has often been asked how he was able to predict what people would want in the future. And his answer, in general terms, is that he doesn’t try to figure out what people will want, instead he focuses on what he believes they won’t want in the future. They won’t want to pay more, they won’t want something that’s more difficult to use and they won’t want things to take longer.
So he has his team continually focusing on how to make things cheaper to the consumer, easier to use and faster. Put another way, Amazon is constantly looking for ways to streamline what they do.
Overall that’s an excellent way for any business owner (even without the assets of Amazon) to look at their own business. With that in mind, here are 5 things that you could do today to streamline your business and make it easier to run (and more successful).
*Note – these ideas aren’t for the faint of heart. Most business owners will be too scared to implement these ideas, but then again most business owners are struggling to grow their business…
5 Ways to Make Things Easier
#1 – Raise Your Prices
Most businesses don’t charge enough for what they do, which impacts their profitability, which makes the business a lot harder to run. Running a business that’s struggling to make ends meet every month is painful… and ultimately will cause you to fail.
The easiest and fastest way to increase your profits is to raise your prices. More than likely your first thought is that you can’t afford to do that because you’ll lose customers. And maybe you will – there’s definitely a limit to what the market will bear – but most businesses aren’t at or even near that kind of limit.
And the reality is that even if you do lose some opportunities, you’re ultimately better off having fewer customers at a higher margin than more customers at a lower margin.
Recommendation – take a hard look at what you charge and find a way to raise your prices. Experiment with how much you can push.
#2 – Drop Your Worst Customers
Every business has a handful of customers that are painful. These are the customers who are either high maintenance, always complaining, not paying their bills or just don’t fit very well… and sometimes it’s all of the above.
The problem with these bad customers is that they make your business much harder to operate and they suck up time and resources well beyond whatever they’re paying you. Conversely, if you can get rid of these bad customers you’ll get a lot of extra time and energy back into your business – time and energy that can be focused on customers that are great…!
Ask your employees who they find to be difficult. Do you have any clients consistently give you a bad feeling when they call? How about those that don’t pay you? Are there certain products or sales channels that are much more difficult?
Recommendation – Find a way to drop the bottom 5% to 10% of your customers. Raise your prices until they choose to leave or just let them know you’re not doing that kind of work anymore.
#3 – Sand off the Rough Spots
You probably have very specific ways that you operate in your business (and if you don’t, you should). And you developed those processes and systems because you needed a repeatable way to get the work done. However, over time, many of those processes likely have developed rough spots on them. Things that you or your team do that are clunky or complicated. Manual steps that get the job done, but aren’t easy.
Recommendation – implement an ongoing team effort to identify and fix those rough spots. Carve out a couple of hours with your team (or even just part of your team) and collectively look for things you do every day or every week that take a lot of time and effort. Pick one of those and brainstorm ways that you could do things better. Then implement those fixes.
Repeat this process every month or two and you’ll soon find your business is running much more smoothly than it did in the past.
#4 – Give Yourself Time to Think
This one might not seem as obvious, but a big part of the challenge of simplifying things simply comes from not having enough time to really think about what’s going on.
It’s extremely common to have a day, a week or even a month fly by where 99% of the time and energy spent is on reacting to issues and challenges. And to make matters worse – the longer this kind of situation goes on, the worse things will be… it becomes a downward spiral of reacting, versus being able to plan and prepare.
Recommendation – As a leader, carve out 2 hours a week, 4 hours a month, 1 day a quarter… whatever you think you can get away with and find somewhere quiet and focus on the big picture, without interruptions, and identify ways to make your business and your life better. And then identify specific plans for implementing those ideas.
#5 – Narrow Your Focus
Finally – the best way to streamline your business is to do less. The 80/20 rule makes it clear that most of your upside (outcomes) happen because of just a few things you’re doing.
From a business perspective, if you sell lots of products / services then most of your sales, revenue, profits, comes from a subset of those products and services. It may not be exactly 80/20, but it’s definitely skewed. What if you narrowed your focus and just sold those top performers? What if you only concentrated on the things that you’re really good at?
If you’re like most business owners you have chosen to serve broadly because you don’t want to say ‘no’ to anyone. But the reality is that you should be saying ‘no’ to a lot of things. The best, most profitable, fastest growing companies are the ones who have figured out a niche that they can really go after and own. They specialize in a narrow focus.
Recommendation – try answering these questions: If you had to pick a subset of your business to focus on, what would it be? How would your business change if you did that? What would it take to make that leap of faith?
5 ideas that will streamline your business… Have you done any of these? Which of these ideas makes you uncomfortable? Which one could you take action on this week? We’d love to hear your thoughts.
Shawn Kinkade Kansas City Business Coach