Riddell: Two resolutions for the New Year guaranteed to work
December 23, 2015
At this time of year it is quite normal for columnists to pen a work devoted to a topic that has universal understanding, if not adherence, and annual appeal. I am, of course referring to that rejuvenating topic of New Year's Resolutions. Unfortunately, the vast majority of these knee jerk columns rehash the same old, same old, knowing all along that the key issue in these resolutions is not if they will be broken, but only when. I would like to suggest two and only two resolutions for small business owners, managers, and entrepreneurs that do not carry any such downside.
Don't work harder
The first resolution is to wake up January 1st with the firm intention to not work harder in the upcoming year. This is not a recommendation for laziness, rather it is the simple recognition that the vast majority of small business owners, managers, and entrepreneurs are already working about as hard as they can—they may just not recognize it. So many view their work efforts as number of hours at the task without realizing that their view of sixty or seventy hours a week completely disregards the reality of the personal mental shelf space occupied by the business, every day, twenty-four, seven. While most could easily find a few extra hours in a week to spend in an office, these extra hours may well be likened to an athlete over training. The extra effort brings diminished returns, less productivity. Small businesses can ill afford diminished anything, especially productivity. So try cutting your hours back 5 percent and if that works, try to get to 10 percent. You will still be working about 30 percent more than all those folks making eight, forty hours/week! Said differently, give yourself a 10 percent raise and see how it works out—if you don't like it you can always take it back!
“While most could easily find a few extra hours in a week to spend in an office, these extra hours may well be likened to an athlete over training. The extra effort brings diminished returns, less productivity.”
The second resolution supports the first. Wake up every morning in 2016 with the clear intent to work smarter. Now this is not some bumper sticker Pablum. Unless you are a certified genius who is already getting everything done, this is a very doable goal. For this resolution to be adopted, however, it is important to understand that this is not to infer that you are currently working in a fog of stupidity. You are not! It is intended to provide an alert that we all can be unconsciously bound up in the secure world of old routines, patterns, and subsequent directions. As business conditions change, so too must programs. So the magic question has to do with the "how" of working smarter.
Try thinking of your business in terms of three legs of a tripod. One leg is labelled People, one leg is labelled Processes, and the final leg is Programs. The base or top of the tripod is your financial success. The goal is to adjust each leg in accordance with conditions to insure the stability of the base. The "smarter" part comes from trying to figure out better, more cost effective ways of finding and keeping talented employees (People). These talented employees can then originate or be directed to utilize better approaches to finding and keeping satisfied customers (Processes). This could involve manufacturing, servicing, sourcing, billing, whatever systematic approach is used. Finally, the Programs leg involves those activities that reinforce the successful implementation of the Processes by the talented People. So every day now you have three distinct areas that you can ask yourself how can we do a better job in each one of these area? Said differently, how can I work smarter on each leg of the tripod?
The great thing about this Tripod model is that the solution lies simply in the asking. Just posing the question is the most important step in moving down the path to improvement. And moving down the path to improvement is the best insurance policy for guaranteeing success and survival in a marketplace characterized by uncertainty and needless failure.
Our next column will deal with one admonition for the New Year.
Following a successful international business career, John Riddell turned his attention to small business/entrepreneurial pursuits that included corporate turn-arounds, start-ups, teaching, authoring business and sports columns and serving as VP for the Chattanooga Chamber of Commerce directing its Center for Entrepreneurial Growth.
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