Do Less to get More Done…

Start-ups are hard. You’re creating a business out of ideas, hopes and dreams and you literally have to solve for everything because all you have on day 1 is a blank page.

But one area where start-up businesses have a huge advantage over ‘seasoned’ businesses that are up and running is the ability to prioritize efforts and get things done. Most brand new businesses are very strongly aware that there is no money coming in the door. Sure there are a few kinds of start-ups (VC funded tech plays or spin-offs from existing businesses for example) that have the luxury of developing the product and knowing that they have a year or two before money becomes an issue.

But most new business owners are hyper focused on generating revenue. And to that end, the majority of their time (and their team’s time if they have one) centers on making a sale – followed closely by delivering a great outcome and collecting revenue. Any potential free time is going to be spent on one of those key areas.

Things get murky…

Unfortunately an established business doesn’t have that same level of clarity or focus. A business that’s been up and running for a few years is focused on day to day operations – answering the phone, texts, emails, etc. Dealing with customers (good and bad), hiring (or trying to hire) new employees, putting out fires, dealing with vendor issues, supply chain shortages, bad weather, people getting sick, quarantines, work from home… the list goes on and on.

Existing businesses are also still making sales, delivering outcomes or products and collecting money but how they go about doing that is usually an afterthought – it’s what they’ve been doing for years. And for a lot of businesses, it’s tribal knowledge that’s passed on verbally from employee to employee (as opposed to structured, documented processes and systems).

A need for clarity and focus…?

But what happens when it becomes clear that something needs to change? When your profit margins seriously slip and you are no longer making much, or maybe not any, money? What happens when you start to get customer complaints – and it’s not a one off thing, but clearly a new trend? What happens when you hit a tipping point somewhere in your overall system and things can no longer be managed with what you have? Maybe it’s losing 1 too many key employees? Or maybe it’s hitting a delivery bottleneck in your operations that starts to keep you from keeping up with demand?

Every business that’s successful will eventually run into these kinds of challenges – and the key to long term success is how you, as a business owner, handles that adversity.

Do you put your head down and just work harder? Do you continue to work on 20 different ‘top’ priorities at once? Does everyone on the team focus on different challenges… or is there a way to actually get some things done and make an impact?

The case for doing less to get more done…

The reality is that an existing, successful business has to keep things moving. Day to day operations must continue and you have to keep selling, delivering and collecting. But you also have to have some additional capacity (beyond the day to day) in order to fix the bottlenecks, deal with the unexpected and find ways to make things better.

Here are 3 things you need to build in order to keep leveling up your business:

Start planning – focus on 12 months and next 90 days – If you don’t carve out time to look ahead and identify where you want to go, then you’re not going to see any improvement year over year. And to really make that planning effective, it’s best to break it down into smaller pieces and get really clear on what you want to do in the next 90 days.

Start looking upstream on a regular basis – Often when things go wrong the first (and easiest) answer is to focus on the impact of the problem. Address the symptom as best you can and hope that the band-aid approach will keep you from drowning. But only addressing the symptom will never truly solve the problem – for that you need to figure out a root cause and then figure out how to solve that challenge. It’s more effort than just treating the symptom – but it also has a much bigger impact.

Do less and get more done – The final key to the puzzle is that once you identify something that will make a meaningful impact, whether that’s a new strategic initiative or going upstream to fix a problem, you have to focus your efforts. Specifically rally a project team that’s going to only work on this one thing for the next 30 to 90 days. Make sure you can measure an outcome that you want (even if that’s only a step in the right direction) and then set them loose… on that one thing and only that one thing.

It may initially feel like implementing just one thing won’t be enough to make a difference – but it’s a lot better than not making progress on anything meaningful and it’s also a starting point for building positive momentum. Get a couple of small wins that make an impact and doing more will suddenly become easier.

What do you think? Do you currently have the capacity and horsepower to work on more than just your day to day work? Are you looking ahead and upstream on a regular basis? We’d love to hear your thoughts.

Shawn Kinkade Kansas City Business Coach