Small Business | Coaching | Consulting | Positioning Systems | with |Doug Wick

Newsletter Archive

The Value of Priority: Your One Thing (#7-29-14) Newsletter #155

Posted by Douglas Wick on Mon, Sep 1, 2014

If you’ve been following my blogs you know that I’ve dedicated several to the “Less is More” concept and specifically the book Essentialism.  Author Greg McKeown dives in to how so many of us continue to pursue more and believe we can have everything, ignoring the waste and dissatisfaction that this endless pursuit leads to.  In our Gazelles best practices we teach our customers to focus on a One Thing Priority for the year and quarter.  The word priority has changed in definition through the early 1900’s.  Let’s explore priority’s origin and the value of One Thing Priority can have in your business and life. priority stamp resized 600

The word priority came into the English language in the 1400s. It was singular.

It meant the very first or prior thing. It stayed singular for the next five hundred years. Only in the 1900s did it pluralize and with it the start of talking about priorities.  Illogically, did we reason that by changing the word we could bend reality? Somehow we would now be able to have multiple “first” things.

What has happened with the pluralization of priority?

Many things.  All lead to a lack of focus and clarity.

In fact Gazelles and I have been guilty of pluralizing the idea of priorities.

If you look at our One Page Strategic Plan you’ll see room for up to five rocks or priorities.

I won’t excuse this.  I will emphasize that with every customer I work with I maintain and have them commit to ONE THING being the priority for the quarter or year.  We place special emphasize on this, yet I can’t deny that when you begin to work on Quarterly Priorities and have more than three, many times by the time a quarterly review comes around, the leadership team has lost sight of what that One Thing is. 

Because of that we’ve began reminding the leadership team at the beginning of each weekly meeting what our One Thing is for the Quarter and the Year.  It may be as simple as placing the priority on the top of the document we record the weekly and monthly meeting on.  (Google Doc’s works great for this, particularly for having everyone insert their notes/discussions prior to the meeting time.)

The difference between having one priority and having several is dramatic.  While it’s still important to have a balancing priority, it might be better if we begin to call every other goal or target for the year and quarter something other than a priority. 

Having multiple priorities muddles the focus and clarity of your One Thing.  While we want and need to get more than One Thing done, in my experience achieving the One Thing always pulls multiple other efforts along with it at a much faster pace than having no priority at all. 

Please forgive me for referring again to my struggle with Leukemia; however it reveals an important facet of the word priority and the clarity and focus that having a simple One Thing mentality can provide.

I’m not the only one to have miraculously survived a fatal diagnosis of cancer.  Andy Grove of Intel certainly made discovering a remedy for his prostate cancer a priority when he discovered it in 1994. 

The urgency and immediacy of cancer provides a whole new meaning to the word clarity on what your priority is. 

You make clear concise decisions on what you should and should not be doing.  Once you determine the path to follow to eliminate or recover you never, and I do mean never steer from the path of activities that will resolve it.

Imagine if your leadership team, your entire business would have that same resolve to achieve its priority?

Here’s my suggestion for you and your business.  Ask yourself when you sit in your next planning meeting for either the year or quarter, will your people have the resolve to attack the priority you choose with the same determination and commitment that a patient facing a death sentence of cancer would?

Ask yourself whether or not the activities that you choose to support your priority are 90% or more on target of attaining that measurement?

Make sure your priority has a metric to measure and answer the following questions:

“HOW WILL WE KNOW WHEN WE’RE DONE?”

“How will we know when we have succeeded?”

Cancer is a pretty yes or no proposition.  Either you have it or you don’t.   In my case health and remission are still a top priority.   My two year anniversary of bone marrow transplant is coming September 5th.  Reaching that date will mean I will be in full remission.  That’s an accomplishment I’m proud of.

What event, what condition, what priority has your business approached with that amount of resolve?

Have you made something the “very first” ever in your organization?  Have you had that type of commitment, resolve and determination to achieve anything?

What’s the One Thing that would impact your business the most in the next quarter, year?

Do you believe you could achieve it if you had the type of commitment Andy Grove and I had to beat cancer?

Is it time you reversed your definition of priority and focused on One Thing?

For helping achieve the level of discipline required to achieve your Priority.  Contact Positioning Systems or one of the Gazelles Coaches at GICoaches.com.  

Topics: One Thing, Balanced Priorities, Business Priorities, priorities, priority

IMPACT: Your One Thing (#10-26-13) Newsletter #146

Posted by Douglas Wick on Sun, Oct 27, 2013

One Thing you’ll learn by attending Mastering the Rockefeller Habits Four Decisions Workshop, November 12th at the Kirkwood Hotel in Cedar Rapids, IA is the enormous value of focus and concentration. One of my first clients with the Rockefeller Habits achieved remarkable success in their first effort to build a theme for their company’s fourth quarter and establish the One Thing prioritydescribe the imageYou should establish your One Thing during your annual strategy and planning meeting each year.  One Thing is a concept of focus.  It should be the One Thing that if you could accomplish nothing else it would impact your business the most.  While these events occurred in 2008 and I’ve experienced the extraordinary value of this discipline many times over during my years of coaching, it’s a valuable story to repeat to help others realize the significant impact that establishing One Thing as your top priority can bring to your organization.  Here is that story again:

In the fall of 2008 Ideal Computer Systems was struggling with their customer support system.  Customer’s called for help with their hardware and software they had purchased from Ideal and often times had to wait to get the answers they were looking for.  They had been working on this area for over a year with almost daily meetings with their executive team to improve the turnaround time their support team was getting back to their customers in.  Throughout 2008 it was approaching 60 minutes and now their support manager had given his resignation, moving to New Orleans to be closer to his girlfriend.

In June of 2008 Dennis Haefner, then president of Ideal Computer Systems, enlisted my coaching services to help them with a solution to overcome this specific challenge.

Feeling at the cross roads, and realizing the importance of this area for building their business they decided to create a One Thing theme whose focus would decrease their ASA [Average Speed of Answer] time down to a more acceptable level.  After a third quarter average of 55 minutes they decided to set a very aggressive goal to drop this to 24 minutes (Green Success Criteria) and a Super Green goal of 16.  In addition, to put more emphasis on this area, they decided to hire two managers to serve support. This doubled the number of managers and attention they had previously dedicated to this vital area of their business. 

It should be noted that dissension and strife were ripe in the support area.  The group as a whole had taken on a victim mentality feeling they were being held up as the reason the business wasn’t succeeding to the extent it should due to the ASA being so high. 

Dennis and his team announced the theme at a companywide meeting.  The meeting was not only to proclaim the new goals for the quarter but also to help the entire organization recognize that lowering ASA was a company priority.  It was something they all shared in and were equally responsible for dropping to an acceptable time frame.  Instead of focusing on support the emphasis was that everyone was responsible for this number and in addition to lowering support they intended to increase their customer loyalty rating as well.  

The results were dramatic!  Instead of feeling like they were the focal point of the company’s focus and being blamed, the support team rallied around the two new managers, the theme’s intention, and felt the encouragement of the rest of the team toward achieving their goal.

ASA time dropped precipitously, below their goals by almost unheard of levels.  Not only did support beat their green goal of 24, they beat the super green goal of 16, with support ending the fourth quarter under 10 minutes at 9.6!  Just as important the customer approval rating soared to an 8.54 rating also beating their super green goal. 

Have you dedicated time to work on your business to determine your 3-5 year plan, annual plan, quarterly plans and One Thing for 2014?  The Four Decisions Workshop is an excellent opportunity to set aside time to commit to with clarity to your One Thing for 2014.  You will be free from distractions and receive an unconditional money back guarantee. 

 

Topics: quarterly meetings, One Thing, planning, Top Priority, themes, Success

Customer Service: Returning Customers (#8-27-13) Newsletter #144

Posted by Douglas Wick on Tue, Aug 27, 2013

For many businesses a customer who returns and frequents you consistently is the lifeblood of your company. While most of my customers work with me for a year or more, occasionally a customer leaves and returns.  One of those customers I discussed in my last newsletter Success Starts Where You Are.  Recently one of my former clients reconnected and we are just beginning the engagement process again.  What I find remarkable and hope you will too is the progress he made in the intervening period.  Most rewarding to me is discovering just how much of the principles he applied. The growth he achieved – 500% revenue improvement in the almost 5 years we’ve been apart, is remarkable.  Exploring what occurred and how he achieved it is the subject of this newsletter.

The remodeling business is very competitive.  One of the biggest challenges for Mike Jones and his company Harmony Remodeling was acquiring leads.  Harmony Remodeling resized 600Mike has built a system to ensure he receives a steady stream of new inquiries for jobs in his area.  It’s a credit to him and to the principle of focus. What you focus on increases.  It’s why the One Thing concept is so powerful.  Mike’s dedication to his lead generation system   has made it one of his most consistent and dependable systems in his business. 

One of his biggest sources of leads is Angie’s List.  It’s extremely powerful for generating leads.   It can be a two edged sword. Customers can express their disappointment in his service on the Internet.  It’s one reason he focuses on customer service so intently.  Even prospects who are not customers can complain, pretending to have been customers.  They can express disappointment with a Harmony Remodeling quote that didn’t come in as low as they’d hoped.  It’s a challenge to balance these new opportunities knowing some customers can never be satisfied. 

We identified in our first meeting having a better disqualification process for Harmony Remodeling will save a great deal of time and allow Mike to focus on his best potential customers.   Another part of this process is clarifying Harmony Remodeling’s strategy. Who are his best customers?  When the phone rings Mike will be ready with the right questions to quickly discover whether the prospect is a good fit for Harmony Remodeling’s niche.

People in any business are an important part of the equation.  A benchmark that has been effective to help Mike select the right team members including subcontractors is his Core Values.  Mike developed these just as we were closing our last engagement.  He’s found that having these set of guidelines helps him to identify whether employees and subcontractors have the same ideals.  If they don’t, the probability of their serving the customer in the same manner Harmony Remodeling would is greatly diminished.  Core Values help him institute standards in the relationships he has with his customers and production staff. 

Hiring a foreman to work in the field has given Mike freedom to spend time in his office to work ON the business.  With his foreman, they've developed an estimating process that keeps them on track.  It still needs some tweaking and adjustments. The company needs to improve profit margins; however they’ve discovered when they follow the system it consistently bring projects in on time with the profit they’d estimated.  It’s another example of the critical impact system development and work process flow charts can have on a business.   Estimating accurately is paramount to achieve bottom line profit and assure customers are satisfied.  Mike and his foreman pride themselves in doing this proficiently making significant strides in improving the system in the six months since Mike hired him. 

One of Gazelles fundamental principles for creating Core Values and Purpose is whether or not you’d be willing to fire someone who broke these ideals. 

Mike shared a letter he’d prepared but never sent to his father-in-law.  His father-in-law had previously been his foreman.  Mike was having issues with how he represented Harmony Remodeling with customers.  Honoring the customer is steeped into Mike’s belief system, and it’s critical to Harmony Remodeling’s reputation.  His father-in-law’s refusal to abide by this resulted in a major conflict.  Mike never sent the email.  His father-in-law resigned before he needed to.  That opened the door for Mike to find and hire his new foreman, Bo, someone who believes and lives the Harmony Remodeling cultural ideals.

When I asked Mike the biggest lesson he learned in between our coaching engagements he asked his wife to respond.  Jennie indicated unconditional respect for customers.  When things don’t go as expected; a customer’s tile, cabinets, or appliance don’t look right for example, instead of getting bent out of shape and playing the blame game (many contractors do), Mike steps back and takes care of the homeowner at all costs.   Mike continues to refine and develop this into his core purpose.  It started as respect for the customer.  He’s expanded it to the idea of unconditional respect.  Getting his team of employees and subcontractors involved in this mentality is an ongoing quest.

Mike feels the coaching process provides a different point of view.  It helps to have someone looking over his shoulder to keep him more objective.  An example of this is the balance between winning a job and growing profit margin.  Is closing 60% at 20% profit better than closing 45% at 35% margin?  We’ll be looking at this as we work together.

From working together previously he finds he looks at challenges now simply as the lack of a system.  This allows him to remain unemotional and unattached to any issue.  He focuses on looking at the system first for a solution.  Frequently an issue can be resolved by creating a system to prevent the problem from recurring.

When Mike first started working with me he’d written a date down: December 2010.  That’s was when he planned to finish the 21 E-Myth Modules the program designated for completing E-Myth Mastery.  He’d always intended to come back he said.  He recognizes there’s a lot more to building his business then when he started.  He’s excited to learn how to grow and improve and reach the ideal brand and reputation for Harmony Remodeling that he’s dreamed of attaining. 

Looking to build your business?  Consider giving Positioning Systems a call or plan on attending the Mastering the Rockefeller Habits Four Decision Workshop November 12th in Cedar Rapids, IA.  

Topics: customer service, One Thing, Core Values, Work Process Flow Charts, E-Myth