Powerful Business Operations Advice, Become More Efficient & Effective
Business and life is always a very difficult balance. Even the phrase itself is typically worded as “Business and Life” and it is so ingrained into our brains that we see it as normal, business is always listed first. Life usually takes a backseat. Especially in roles of leadership and management. I was raised with the work hard mentality and don’t get me wrong, that is still plays a huge role in success. I just believe the balance for that mentality is weighted heavier on the business side. It is just as important as working hard for time with family and friends.
In order to gain more time for your personal life, you need to work smarter. Something which I screwed up 75% of my time running a business for over 14 years. My goal for anyone reading this, is that you take away even just one item or method that can help you gain more time for your life to enjoy. I learned a lot of lessons the hard way, had I been introduced to some of this advice earlier on in my career, I would have gotten a lot more restful nights and more time with my family to experience those moments that only happen once, especially as a parent. I am going to cover several different concepts and approaches to business operations. Some you may already be doing, some you may be doing even better, or maybe there is something you haven’t yet tried.
Benefits of Implementing EOS Systems in Your Business Operations
First things first, I am not affiliated with or represent the Entrepreneurial Operating System (EOS). I am recommending this system because I saw the result it had in my business after applying the methodology learned. I will be keeping it high level and sharing quick bullets of what I found most helpful. There is so much within their system that is very helpful that I can’t cover it all. Do yourself a favor and get the book.
Level 10 Meetings
So many companies spend so much time in meetings. Many of the meetings have no agenda. A level 10 meeting is a structured format for quickly completing meetings reviewing key performance scorecards, discussing important topics, assigning action items, and keeping a pulse on company goals (called rocks). It will drastically cut down on meeting time and help with productivity.
Who knew something so simple could have such an impact on a business. I didn’t. Before being introduced to scorecards, we were measuring success with our P&L and if projects were getting done on time and within budget like many other companies. Rather than limiting performance metrics to leadership, scorecards include all team members and encourage accountability. It gives everyone a chance to analyze their own work. Leaders work with team members to establish metrics which can be easily measured (typically in number format but not always) and are connected with both job responsibilities and company goals.
An example could be a customer service representation who has been given a goal of helping the company connect with 12 old customers every month. When using a weekly scorecard, the goal can be easily broken down to 3 calls every week. The data can be tracked in a spreadsheet. Once a week, the employee is responsible for updating their own scorecard. Each scorecard typically has 3-5 items they are responsible for. Using color coding is helpful, when the rep inputs a 0, 1, or 2, a red background can be applied to the cell. If the rep inputs a 3, the cell background will be a neutral gray. If the rep enters in a 4 or higher, the cell background turns to green. Why not have the 3 use the green color since that matches the goal set you may be asking. That is intentional to encourage the rep to strive for going above. Usually, no one is harder on a person than one’s own self and they are going to want to see all green.
With just this basic example, you can see how a simple metric can drive forward progress for a business. Managers get a quick reference sheet to review and won’t have to constantly ask, how is your goal coming along? When configured properly, employee scorecards can pass data into a master scorecard so leadership can keep a pulse on all of the KPIs in one place to review in their level 10 leadership meeting.
The Right People in the Right Seats
If you are looking to be best in class with services provided. You are not going to achieve that with team members who aren’t A level contributors. EOS provides several tools to help evaluate your organizational chart which they encourage you to look at differently, more focus on accountability for roles and responsibilities. The tools are not limited to the employees either. Owners are often responsible for trying to do too many things themselves rather than delegating to team members who can help.
You’ll start to see the writing on the walls of personnel changes that need to be made. Some need to be shifted to different responsibilities while some need to be removed. It is hard, no one that I know actually enjoys having to fire an employee but it is necessary for the company as a whole. You are not just responsible for that one person but for everyone at the company.
Lots of companies hire C players because it is what they can afford at the given time. That was a mistake I made several times and even allowed some to advance up within the company. Those mistakes have the biggest negative impact on a business.
Riches are in the Niches
Early in my career, I was accustom to taking on any project because we had the talent that could do anything. It wasn’t until I joined a mastermind group led by Jason Swenk, where I learned how others have become very successful by narrowing down their offerings as well as getting laser focused on an audience. Previous mastermind groups as well as the local chambers, did not provide that kind of guidance and they couldn’t because of the variety of business types, product lines, and services. Everyone was operating the same way, if there was money to be made, it didn’t matter. I wish I had gotten hyper focused at the start of my business. It is a difficult thing to do, especially starting out when you are just trying to build a name for yourself.
Less is Easier and Leads to More Money
The main reason for narrowing down your offering and picking a single lane (industry/target audience) is so you can develop more systems and processes to repeat common tasks. Essentially scale what you are doing by making it repeatable. This approach requires less manpower and makes your marketing easier allowing you to become the subject matter expert. It also makes your business way more attractive when it comes time to sell. This article is all about getting back more personal time which this method will achieve. You don’t have to try and reinvent the wheel every time or constantly research different industries.
A good exercise to help with focus, is to map out everything you are currently offering and then make a pros and cons list for each offering.
- How much time does it take to produce?
- What type of profit margin can be achieved?
- How many people are needed to deliver?
- Can it be easily repeated?
- Could referral partners be easily leveraged?
- Are there other products/services that are easy upsells?
Narrow down what you offer. Don’t be the jack of all and master of none. Similar to great restaurants, they reduce what is on the menu to make the kitchen operate more efficiently and become really good at delivering consistency.
Peer Groups, Mentors, Coaches & Competitor Partnerships
You heard me right. Competitor partnerships. Now this doesn’t need to be your top local competitors that you go head to head with all the time and want to jump in a cage match with. It can be businesses who are doing the same exact thing as you in a different city and state. They are going to be your best ally. Who else better to give you advice? They’ve probably already faced a similar issue and can talk through their outcome with you. It is a good idea to get a solid group of 5-8 for your peer group. That way there is enough to contribute different ideas and not too many to where you never get to know each other. Set up regular check-ins using Zoom on a bi-weekly or monthly basis. Full transparency and trust is key!
Peer groups became one of my favorite meetings to look forward to but you need more for your personal growth. That is where mentors and coaches come in. They should challenge you to do more both professionally and in your personal life. Your peer group is already in the same boat as you. Your family and friends are only going to say nice things to you (hopefully). Your employees are not the ones you should be discussing your problems with. You don’t want to scare them off. The position of a leader is a very lonely one. You need someone to aspire to, learn from, and challenge you. Leverage their knowledge and experience to save you time.
Become the Industry Authority, Start a Podcast
Yes, there is more of a marketing strategy than business operations specifically but is worth mentioning while on the topic of niches. Remember I said become the subject matter expert? A podcast in your industry and particular offering allows you to bring in other experts in that field share thought leadership and provides you with relevant content to promote your business. Plus your guests will also share it with their audience, which if you are bringing on guest in your selected niche, they are going to have a network you want to tap into.
In addition, you now have a tool you can use to do cold outreach without trying to sell anything. This becomes a sales persons dream because to can reach out to potential prospects without their guard up to start a relationship, then sell. I mean we’re trying to run a profitable business, right? Starting a podcast is not difficult and there are even companies out there who will do pretty much everything for you like Rise 25.
Process, Systems, & Documentation for Better Business Operations
Documentation should never be seen as a burden. It needs to be encouraged with all team members. I took it a step further at my business and made it part of every employee’s annual goal to document a minimum of 8 processes they do in their workday. Why? The documentation was shared with new hires as part of the company training and now, if a person was away on vacation or maternity leave, the process they do is documented so another team member can step in to help in their absence.
Why Process Makes Business Operations Run Smoother
This one should seem pretty straight forward. Process and systems can streamline the work day to free up tedious tasks. With tools like Zapier, you can connect and automate just about any workflow. Combining it with AI, you can literally run things on autopilot like sales outreach, drip emails, and even research. An area I like to routinely check out for brainstorming solutions is AppSumo. They are constantly introducing new software at a fraction of what the software retails at. This is because they are brand new to the market. A lot of times, they are inspired by big box systems that many small businesses can’t afford so these imitations can get the job done.
Documented & Shared Company Vision
Do all of the employees know the company vision? How about the core values? Or what the plan is for the next 3 years? It is crazy to me that many businesses don’t have a documented company vision. Then again, that was me several years ago. Now that I know how much of an impact it has, I will never start another business without it. EOS was already discussed earlier, but this is yet another benefit to come from that operating system. Something many of my business coaches and groups also push and recommend. In EOS, they call it Vision/Traction Organizer or VTO for short. It is a concise breakdown of your company goals, target demographic, tagline, and purpose made to fit on a double sided 8.5″x11″ piece of paper. I recommend the use of a VTO as well as a more in-depth document of your company vision with your values explained, your process, your marketing strategy, and your goals. This document should be regularly shared with the team, especially new hires.
Time Blocking & Communication
Being intentional with your time is critical for productivity. You are never going to have a schedule that doesn’t somehow get impacted by the unknown. However, when you expect the unexpected, you can plan for that too. Or at the very least, help when a fire pops up.
Block Time on Your Calendar
You really need to block out time on your calendar to focus. This means minimizing your email, Slack, muting your phone, or whatever other program sends you notifications. Eliminate the distractions. If you are in an office, close the door. If you are in a bull pen, put on your headphones. As a company, there needs to be universal sign that is understood by all employees that communicates “ask me later.”
Rather than just putting a meeting on your calendar, put the task you are going to work on and for how long. Google Calendar also has a really cool tool called Time Insights. You can color code your events so you can see where a bulk of your time is being spent for business operations and more. This can be eye opening with the data shown. Don’t just block out work related events, include your personal events too like workouts, lunches, date nights, game nights, whatever it may be that you are trying to improve. Remember in the very beginning of this article, I discussed how you have to work hard to gain that time back. This helps to shift routines.
As much as I would love to block the whole day, that is not always possible, unless you do what I did and protected my Fridays. Within my Calendly, I left Friday off as an option to book client meetings. I also restricted when meetings could be scheduled because I wanted to control my schedule, not have it control me. This doesn’t mean that I didn’t talk to customers on Fridays, it just means I decided when I called them. I used Fridays to work on my bigger business goals and planning.
Take your most important tasks that need to be completed (within reason) and schedule them out in your calendar. Do not max out every hour of the day either. There are going to be emails to respond to, calls to make, questions to answer, time needed to simply step away, etc. This is when you can deal with those fires. If your tasks or projects are complex and time intensive, break it down into smaller chunks. Make it simple and easy to manage.
Cash Flow & Savings
Finally, business operations cannot operate smoothly without cash flow. You also should not be running with just enough to get from one month to another. You should have a minimum of 6 months worth of cash saved for rainy days and strive to put away 10% of your net every month. As the company grows with headcount, that 6 months of savings starts to add up. It is a great idea to put that money into a high-yield savings account, an account where you still have access to withdraw the money if needed. CD’s are not a good idea in this case since they are often tied to a set amount of time before the CD matures and the money becomes available to use again.
I wish I would have known about Wealthfront sooner. With Wealthfront, they offer 5% interest compounded monthly. The two key items here is the rate as well as the monthly compounding. Lets say you have $200k in the savings. Using a finance calculator from Investor.gov, you can earn more than $10,000 in interest earned in within one year’s time without contributing any additional money into the savings. I don’t know about you, but passive income is the best kind of income. Just to help paint this picture, here are quick numbers to show potential earnings over a 5 year period never touching the original contribution.
- $100K = $128,335.87
- $200K = $256,671.74
- $300K = $385,007.60
- $400k = $513,343.47
- $500k = $641,679.34