It’s harder to make changes in a big company, because you have to coordinate with a lot of people. Even if the company is just a few hundred employees, change can be hard. Larger businesses are like aircraft carriers that take a lot of people, coordination, and time to make a change.
Small businesses are like speed boats. We can change directions at the drop of a hat. Maybe we keep the same goals, but can change the course a little bit. Or we have the freedom to do a full 180. And we have the ability to do any of those quicker than in a large business.
Below are 3 tips for how to make tiny improvements that go a long way in your small business. Sometimes a tiny improvement is all you need.
1. Review the “Pebbles in Your Shoe”
Think about a time when you had a pebble in your shoe. How irritating was it? Yet you could still walk. But you probably stopped, took your shoe off, and removed the pebble. What a huge relief that was! Something as small as a pebble was irritating enough for you to stop walking and do something about it.
Figure which “pebbles” really bother you and make them as small as possible. I met someone who had built a system for leads: researching/building a list, making calls, and then making notes in the database. He had the system in place, but he didn’t feel comfortable letting someone else take it over. I suggested he start smaller with just the research side. Let someone take over that and as he gets more comfortable, he can pass on another part of the system.
At Freedom Makers, I had an issue with scheduling. I’m personally not very good at it and the back and forth drives me nuts. Yet, a big part of onboarding new clients involves scheduling coordination. We schedule business owners to speak with up to four qualified and interested Freedom Makers. That’s four calls that need to be scheduled. Then, once the client has spoken with and chosen a Freedom Maker, we schedule “Kick Off Training.” All in all, at least five calls need to be scheduled before a client starts with us. Once I recognized I’m not very good at scheduling, I hired an onboarding coordinator. Not only was I relieved, but our clients had a more pleasant experience getting started with us. As a result, clients onboarded faster and revenue grew. Hiring Chambraia impacted our customer service, our revenue, and most importantly, the lasting impressions we make on our clients.
2. Let it Marinate.
There will be times you’ll be ready to let something go, but can’t figure out how. An example might be email. The problem with email is that everything goes into one place, no matter how important or urgent or whether email is even the appropriate medium. Over time, I slowly moved things that were coming into my inbox and found other places they could be received more effectively. It was not an overnight solution; I had to take time and really think how best to channel these communications in and out. Perhaps for you it is hiring an assistant to manage your inbox. Check out our 10 Tips to Email Nirvana for tips on how to manage your email effectively. It is not an overnight change, but well worth it in the end.
I got to a point with Freedom Makers where the pebble in my shoe was payroll and invoicing. Not only was I uncomfortable letting it go, but I also couldn’t figure out how to do it efficiently.
I took my time; I let it marinate. I started chipping away at it little by little. First, I had the Freedom Makers submit their hours via a form rather than through email. Later, I started using forms for clients to add more hours. Eventually, I even offered them an option to automate their payments. Most importantly, I focused on how to make it as simple and easy as possible for the Freedom Makers and the clients.
By letting it marinate, you give yourself space and don’t beat yourself up about it. Maybe you’re not ready to solve the pebble. When you let the ideas marinate and give yourself space, the solution will present itself eventually.
3. Share with Others
When you’re marinating on a issue, share with friends and mentors who are also business owners. Surround yourself with other business owners who know what you’re going through. Be open to what they have to say, because it might spark an idea.
I happened to be speaking about my payroll and invoicing issues with a friend. Of course, the idea of automatic payments came up because that’s all the rage these days. But it doesn’t fit our model of freedom. How can we sell packages of hours so that they pay the same amount every month when we tout that clients have the freedom to use us for the hours they need? My friend offered the idea of her utility bill. She pays a flat rate a month that evens out her bill. Out here in the Bay Area, utility bills spike in the winter and drop in the summer. By paying the same flat rate, she’s able to smooth out her payments throughout the year to avoid the spikes and drops. She suggested I could offer the same to clients based on their past usage. The idea really resonated. It offered a way to simplify invoicing but still stayed within our guiding principle of freedom. I created it and began offering it to clients within a week (like a speed boat!).
As a small business owner, you constantly deal with competing priorities and resources--including energy! Small changes can go a long way. These “pebbles” may not take a lot of time or be that difficult, but they do cost you a lot of energy. Once you address and release them, the next one will present itself and then the next and so on. But you only need to address one at a time, improving your business and your happiness altogether. Some of these changes will have an immediate or huge impact while others will have an impact over time.