Sunday, August 23, 2009

50 Ways to Improve Your Business

At last week's BizConf, I ran a session based on an idea from Dwayne Phillips, where a bunch of independent businesspeople brainstormed 50 small ways to improve your business. The ideas flew fast and furious, so I assigned two participants, each to capture alternate ideas. Even so, it was hard to keep up with the flow. The lists were quite overwhelming, so I'll present them in two separate blogs. Today, it will be Jason Seifer's list. Jason said, "I wound up just logging everything, because I touch type like in your first rule."

So, here's Jason's list:

1. Learn to touch type.
2. Back-up everything. Every day.
3. Keep as much stuff online as possible.
4. Do nothing. Don't do something if someone can do it better. Don't do it if someone else can do it adequately. Do it anyway if it makes you happy. Don't do it if someone else can do it 85% as well as you.
5. Anything not worth doing is not worth doing right.
6. If in doubt charge for sales trips. If they're not willing to pay for it they don't value it.
7. If it's not on paper don't do it. If there's money involved it has to be written down. Never agree to money over the phone. If on phone, confirm in writing.
8. Listen to what other people are telling you. Instead of communicating to somebody, communicate with somebody.
9. Always have an exit strategy.
10. Make your client feel like they have a final part in the outcome. Make sure they have their fingerprints in it.
11. Listen to what they're not saying. Listen to body language and tone of voice.
12. Always be ready to sell your product if they're interested. And if they're not.
13. If you're bashful about your product, there's something wrong with your product.
14. Any successful services company has some fixed product that they sell. Have a ladder leading to your ultimate product. Don't make one big leap to the final product.
15. Make sure your contracts have some kind of follow-through so you can see how they actually came out. You won't know if you're doing well if they don't come back.
16. If you just build it they probably won't come. Alternately: if you build it be prepared to wait.
17. Manage expectations.
18. Time spent in recon is time well spent. But you have to be watching. "You can observe a whole lot just by watching."
19. Go hard or go home. Fully commit the resources to make something work or mercilessly kill it. You may not always know when it's time to kill it.
20. Ideas by themselves are not as valuable as you think they are. Ideas aren't worth anything so don't guard them too closely. "There's nothing as dangerous as an idea if it's the only idea you have."
21. Never rest on your past successes, there's always something more you could be doing. If you're not learning you're dead.
22. Sharing competitive advantages brings back advantages ten-fold.
23. Be able to say "No" to a potential client.
24. Research your clients as if you were doing the hiring.
25. If you're in the services business every client is unique. "We're different" "You are, just like everybody else."
26. You don't have to remember everything to succeed.
27. It's always ok to let a client go if it's not the right fit any more.You should organize your business so it's ok to let any one client go at any time.
28. The best way to build a business is to stay in business. Build your business so that you hang around. You may not make a lot of money but you build your reputation.
29. Actively solicit feedback from clients.
30. Actively extract the feedback. There's a lot of feedback you may not pick up on.
31. Make sure you're not alone in your role. This way someone can be honest with you.
32. Anything that's annoying and repetitive should be automated or stopped.
33. Track your budget/cost every month.
34. Don't make sampling mistakes about your budget and cost. One of the major mistakes that people fail at is expecting that income will stay the same. You might land a big client this month but might not have one next month so don't overspend.
35. Don't spend your money on office decorations. Very few of us are in a business where clients come to your office. You don't want your customers to think you're spending their money on their office furniture.
36. Make sure you've worked with someone before you hire them (if possible).
37. Learn the big lies you get from clients.
38. Double your reading speed.
39. Cut down on what you read.
40. Stay off facebook and twitter unless you can relate it to your business.
41. Sometimes you can save money by spending money.
42. Sometimes you can save money by not spending money.
43. Everyone who wants to sell you something will tell you it saves money.
44. The examples might not always teach what they're supposed to.
45. Many minds can do a better job than single minds. But not necessarily so.
46. You have to be organized.
47. Know your own limitations.
48. Learn quickly whether or not you want to work with someone.
49. If you see an organization with no enthusiasm for what they're doing they probably don't have enthusiasm for what you're offering.
50. If an organization doesn't care enough to organize, nothing is going to happen.
51. Don't mistake a solution idea for a problem definition.
52. People want a recipe but no recipe works for every organization.

So, that's Jason's (half) list. Each one could probably be a blog entry, at least, so if you want clarification, or to clarify, add a comment. I'll post Wolfram's (half) list when the traffic on this one dies down.


Simon Morley said...

I could comment on quite a lot of them - maybe in follow-up comment posts. But I'll pick out one of them for now: 17. Manage Expectations

This is a great tip - a great skill if done well. This boils down to good communication with your stakeholders and team members - both verbal and written language. Understand who you're communicating with and give them information in a form they can understand - remove the ambiguities...

Gerald M. Weinberg said...

I agree, Simon. If you don't know it, you might want to look at Naomi Karten's book, Managing Expectations.

Unknown said...

I had an idea? Where? When? What?

Anyways, there are several books for the writing in this list. Ahh, which one first?

Gerald M. Weinberg said...

Dwayne, as far as the writing is concerned, remember that these were taken in real time while we brainstormed.

pandan said...

Add 39a.
It's not about how many average book you read. It's about how many times you REread good books.

Markus Gärtner said...

I realized a huge intersection with some of the Patterns in "Fearless Change". For example point 10 reminds me on Personal Touch and Involve Everyone. Point 31 raises my memento on Shoulder to Cry On, Involve Everyone, Connector, ... I think I could continue this list for a while. I could philosophize whether this is caused by the audience or not, but I'll leave the interpretation to someone who attended :)

Brian said...

Yes, a book, or several. Some of my colleagues continue to resist these idea. So far none of them has struck it rich.

Looking forward to the second 50.

Information Technology Consultancy said...

Nice post. The difference with X-Men and real life is that there is no "Final Battle"... Serving as an internal consultant in an organization with several business lines, having a good set of tools and improving them constantly is a must to thrive and succeed. P.S. Good luck opening a bottle of wine or unscrewing a torx bolt with the sharpest tool in the box... In today's business dynamics, I'd rather be the most versatile tool in the box (think Leatherman or Swiss Army style)instead of the sharpest ;-)

mark said...

40. Stay off facebook and twitter unless you can relate it to your business.

Is this in relation to not putting your company on these social media sites or is this telling us to not waste our time during the work day on them? or both?