My View … on Business Performance

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To Improve Your Business Performance, You Really Need a Garage Sale Mind-set

Tomorrow Liberty Lake will host its annual community wide garage sale. I had heard about this before we moved here, just over a year ago. But until my wife and I lived through it, we did not fully appreciate the event.

And what an event! Hundreds of sales, thousands of visitors, dozens of vendors; all converging to make our small city on the lake a regional “hot-spot,” if only for a day. For some, the weekend is an opportunity to bargain shop; finding things that may or may not be needed, but at a great price. For others, it’s an opportunity to unload items that have outlived their usefulness.

That last sentence should be read and understood by everyone who owns a business or practice. Especially those looking for ways to improve their business performance.

Over the years I’ve worked with a number of companies, helping them re-structure their operations, internal processes and management systems. Looking back, I believe that each one would have benefited from a garage sale mentality. Not as a buyer, but as a seller. Far too often we found ourselves discarding procedures that should have been tossed out long before we got there. Like a Nehru jacket hidden behind the disco pants in the back of the closet, these internal systems were distracting, unnecessary and took up space.

Once, while working with a large independent financial advisory firm, we learned that the procedure to sign up new clients included a tracking memo we affectionately called the “green sheet.” As we followed its trail from the first call to the eventual first meeting we discovered that this sheet was touched by at least six people from four different departments, oftentimes waiting on someone’s desk as another piece of information was obtained. By eliminating (tossing out) the entire procedure and putting in place a much simpler one, we dramatically reduced the time it took to enroll new clients. Solving this problem also increased sales (by shortening the sales process time) and improved cash flow.

Over time, the “green sheet” system was never reviewed until, like most other un-examined processes, it became an accepted part of doing business. It had to go. With it, the business performance was suffering.

I thought of this as I circled addresses on the garage sale map that came in today’s mail. After I spend the $10 that I budgeted for the day (I don’t need much) I think I’ll do some of my own housecleaning.

I need to take a look at my practice; how I do things, the projects I’ve completed, the services that we offer, my emails and contacts. I need to decide what I’ll hold onto and what I’ll get rid of. I’m pretty certain that I’ll find a couple of my own “green sheets” that are getting in the way.

After that, I’ll go through my closet. I have sweaters that can go to Goodwill, pants that are now too big, ties that I no longer wear, socks with holes. And a pair of white disco shoes. But I’ll keep those. One day they’ll be back in style.

Thanks for reading … Paul

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