Creativity in Processes: Tools & Tactics

Creativity in Processes: Tools & Tactics

I am not an artist. I can’t draw, paint, or even write as well as I envision in my mind. But that hasn't left me out of the marketing world- because it turns out even in developing processes you can be creative. Some of us (me) use our creativity not in a typical artistic manner but in the development of efficient processes and operational SOPs (Standard Operating Procedures).  

Hang in there. I promise it’s not as boring as it sounds. Having a standard process in all aspects of your business helps you run more efficiently and effectively and believe it or not, keeps your team happy and proactive.  Who couldn't use more of that?! 

So, what are some ways you can be creative in your process management? First and foremost, you need to work through what type of project management philosophy works for you and your team. 

Creative Project Management Styles:

There are several styles of project management - including Waterfall, Agile, Scrum, and Six Sigma to name a few. Many project managers have a style they prefer, and tend to stick to that as a primary means of managing a team. However, taking into account the different personalities, learning styles and array of job functions on a team- sometimes it works best to be a little more creative. For example, we use a combination of Waterfall and Agile in our systems. 

 

To simplify: Waterfall project management involves working in calculated waves, with each step being dependent on the one before it, and a centralized Project Manager (PM)  taking care of the steps behind the scenes. Sometimes this can slow a process down over time so, combining this system with another alleviates a lot of headaches.  In our case we have combined Agile as a PM ethos, meaning we are flexible in how the processes can change and then update our SOPs as needed. While there is still a centralized PM leading the overall project, there is a strong sense of collaboration and ownership within the project team. Combining these has changed the way we work. Our systems are proven and step and repeat but we have flexibility and collaboration along the way- which is how we are able to get so much done so quickly. 

The best tool we have discovered to manage our processes is Teamwork. This tool was specifically designed with the concept that project management can be creative and therefore is adaptable to any of the project management styles you prefer.. Teamwork allows us to create overall workflows and task templates that apply to our specific SOPs, but also allows processes to be augmented or adjusted based on the realities and needs of real life execution. Everyone in the system has the capability to see what tasks are dependent on other tasks and team members, and it allows us to work more efficiently and collaboratively. 

Once you have chosen a style or combination of styles that work for you and your team, you are ready to move forward into making sure all of this theory works in real life. The first step is to evaluate your overall time management and what tools will work best. 

Time Management

Whenever I think of creative time management I envision the white rabbit running around like crazy insisting that he is late for a very important date. And, let’s be honest, we all have moments (days, weeks- months- 2020?!) like that. The key is to be prepared and flexible in your time management and build in time for fire fighting. 

The key to effective and disciplined time management is that you have to get a little creative in how you prepare and you have to develop a routine to keep you engaged and focused, not to mention motivated. 

We use a routine based approach to preparing our days, weeks and months of work, including daily stand up meetings to discuss the day's key initiatives, and regular check in meetings for small groups and the company as a whole. Communication and collaboration is important when establishing a time management system. Keeping everyone on the same page helps dictate appropriate deadlines and helps every individual plan out their work life. 

As for planning out our work lives, we “practice what we teach” by following the time management techniques discussed in our workshops.  These include intention and goal setting, and the combination of digital and paper tools to help you declutter your brain and overcome the stress. 

Yes, I did just say digital AND paper tools. Because believe it or not, writing stuff down helps you remember more than typing. As it happens a big piece of the time management puzzle is actually being able to remember all the things you need to do. (extra hint: it also helps make those goals a reality.) 

Our team uses the Franklin Covey system and personally, I love it. It allows me to prioritize my big tasks based on my larger goals, and I get a clear vision of the day's work, the needs for the next week and beyond and it allows me to create blocked time for when the fire drills happen. 

Blocked time? Yes. These are often flexible periods of your day when you can tackle a specific task or set a general time aside to cover multiple smaller tasks.  Blocking time helps overcome the stress of feeling like you just don't have enough time to get everything done. It also allows for you to see where in your day you can move things around if and when a fire drill occurs. Extra hint: nothing is so important that it needs to be resolved in less than 30 mins. Breathe and take your time to resolve issues as they arise.

 

By being creative in your processes and sharing the successful processes with your entire team, you will notice everyone becomes less stressed and more willing to be proactive in their roles and beyond- which- let’s face it- isn’t that the ultimate goal? A proactive and happy team? 

 

 

 


Fix These Weak Spots in your Business Practices

Written By: Rebecca Berneck

We’ve noticed that most small businesses owners like yourself focus their attention on delivering their services and neglect the operations hoping things take care of themselves. Whether you’re a set-it-and-forget type or a diligent planner, the end of the year is a great time to look at your small business management practices and make certain nothing is falling through the cracks. In addition to reviewing your financial position, set aside some time to review two aspects of your business operations: bookkeeping and document management.

Bookkeeping

Bookkeeping can be tedious and confusing. While it appears straightforward, (money coming in is income; money going out is an expense) properly categorizing everything can require a solid background in bookkeeping. However, with good bookkeeping, you’ll be able to generate accurate financial reports. These reports help you clearly see things like where you’re making the most money and what expenses are the highest. You’ll also get a good sense of your cashflow position, arguably the lifeblood of any business.

If your bookkeeping is messy and you can’t generate clean financial statements, then you can’t effectively plan for the future. If you’re using Excel to track your business finances, it might be time to consider upgrading to QuickBooks. And, if you’re already on QuickBooks, review your chart of accounts and your products and services list, archiving ones you don’t use anymore and combining duplicates.

Document Management

All businesses generate invoices, payment reminder letters, sales brochures, emails, balance sheets, spreadsheets, and reports; all are necessary to running your business. Small business document management refers to how you create, share, organize and store these documents for your business. With effective document management, you’ll be more efficient with your time and more consistent with your client experience.

Clean out your filing cabinet and remove documents that you no longer need on hand. You can destroy unneeded documents and rotate files you need to keep to a long-term storage solution. Like your filing cabinet, it might be time to go through your hard drive or cloud storage solution, removing files you don’t need and archiving completed projects.

If all of your documents such as receipts, bills, invoices, proposals and estimates are all over the place or crammed in shoe boxes, it’s time to consider an online document management solution. Tools such as Dropbox and Hubdoc coupled with a document scanner help you manage, organize and archive your business documents.

Lastly, if you use templates for sales emails, proposals, estimates and invoices then review them now to make certain all of the information is current and consistent across documents. While it may seem trivial, a consistent look and feel across client facing documentation instills a sense of trust in you and your business.


Have They Told You Lately That They Love You?

About a decade ago a client of mine used the phrase “professional love” to describe how they felt about the work we did together, the results and our working relationship. As a result, I’ve spent the last 10 years always holding that as the bar for my client interactions. After working with many dozen sales professionals, mid-level manager, Directors, VP’s and CEO’s there are so many reasons why professional love exists in some relationships and is lacking in many others.

For some leaders, they couldn’t care less how their staff feels about them. These are of course not leaders but simply people in authority, often by default. These folks typically don’t understand the need to be emotionally intelligent in order to maximize the potential of their people and therefore their business. I’ll give you an example: I worked with the CEO of a 12-year-old $500,000.00 business. It became abundantly clear in only a few weeks that the reason why this business could not get past a moderate dollar amount in a high ticket service industry was that the leader was only concerned with one thing, his ego. Despite suggestion and the specific direction he simply did not value his people or the internal relationships. Had he recognized their talents as equal to his and shown them some love, they would have helped him double or triple sales in no time.  Who wants to go to work and KNOW that you’re not appreciated nor respected? This so called "leader" was not in professional love with anyone but himself and his staff could feel it.

One of my daily mantras is simple, you must love them first.

And, as in any relationship, we show love in a variety of ways.

  1. Be the best you can be for each other.

    In business, this means to focus on strengths and bolster weaknesses. If you’re a leader, study how to be better. If you’re a janitor, equip yourself with the tools needed to be most efficient. Talk to any Doctor and they will tell you that they are taxed with being their best or people may suffer or even die. Why should we take our profession as any less impactful? Be sure to put one another first and to serve one another. Keep in mind that this also means that we should expect the best from our teams and our clients. Don’t settle for second best, don’t settle for weak attempts, if you’re giving it your all, it’s a lot easier to demand your team’s all.

  2. Love only works with trust.

    As in the example above, without trust, there is an imminent failure in any relationship and business. How we translate trust to our teams and clients is critical. What I find best is to identify the strengths I talked about in #1 and create the environment for each to maximizes their strengths. Don’t give up on an amazing sales person just because they are weak at doing CRM entries (which is every superstar sales person). FIND SUPPORT STAFF THAT CAN HELP THEM. Your profits will be higher if that superstar stays out on the streets closing deals. Then, TRUST THEM. Don’t micromanage, don’t monitor their e-mails, don’t stop giving them projects…” trust, but verify”-Ronald Reagan.  Verification comes through accountability. I wrote an article, conducting an effective 1:1 meeting which outlines how to hold your team and clients accountable to their commitments. However, if we start with management and not trust, we set our people up for mediocrity.

  3.  Love cares.

    It’s okay to like and care about one another's personal lives and to take part in important causes of your staff. I was out to dinner with a friend the other day and she mentioned that their staff was all taking work-time to donate to an animal shelter. Why? Because each employee (about 10) have important causes and each month an employee arranges to do something for their cause and then the ENTIRE team buys into that cause and works together. I’m sure you can imagine the camaraderie, respect and “love” that comes with this. Of course, the leader has to be bought in and understand that work time does not translate to clock punching. The time invested in these activities pays off in spades when your team is united, caring, committed, involved and loyal to each other and their united success. The lives of your people and the revenue of your business will prosper. The ENTIRE team buys into that cause and works together. I’m sure you can imagine the camaraderie, respect and “love” that comes with this. Of course, the leader has to be bought in and understand that work time does not translate to clock punching. The time invested in these activities pays off in spades when your team is united, caring, committed, involved and loyal to each other and their united success. The lives of your people and the revenue of your business will prosper.

  4. Love is recognized and rewarded.

    Think about your spouse, children or any loved one, we show love with hugs, kisses, gifts, servitude, etc. In the work environment, these manifest themselves in ‘at-a-boy’s’, bonuses, smiles, rewards, dinners, happy work environments, etc. In his book Drive, Daniel Pink teaches at great length that the days of the stick and carrot are no longer. He also talks about if-then rewards vs now-that rewards. Love is not conditional so work reward shouldn’t be conditional. Almost every sales manager tries to get results with if-then rewards. You know, “If you hit the goal then you get more money”. This is far less effective than when you show your love/reward with no expectation. This can be tricky and is a real mental shift for many.  If you have any questions or would like to connect about this, let me know. I show my love by working with SMB leaders to drive great success. I do this in a variety of ways and not always for money, sometimes just for love. 

 

 

 


Top Tips For Entrepreneurial Growth

@revenue works with so many talented business owners, and they bring so much wisdom to our lives.

Here are their top tips for entrepreneurs!

The best possible ways for entrepreneurs to go far fast are:

1. Make sure your product or service actually meets the needs or wants of a sizable market.  This means understanding the need, who has it, why satisfying that need matters to them, and how many potential buyers make up this market segment.

2.  Secondly, is the need being met by other providers?  How well?  How can you differentiate your own solution?  If your competitors are well established and comprise a sizable market share, you will have to differentiate your solution and communicate in a way that sells!

3.  Surround yourself with a talented but diverse team. You cannot do it all alone in the window you will have to show traction. Align the right acumen with the vision you have and watch the growth!  Too many entrepreneurs do not have the well-rounded talent to handle all aspects of achieving revenues fast and keeping the back office rolling effectively. Your success is truly measured by your ability to engage the right resources early.

4.  Marketing and growth are paramount, especially if you're looking for funding to grow fast. Sources of funding are interested in whether you have the revenue to show NOW, that you have a solution that matters to a large enough demographic, and that the business model is profitable.  Sales are king in the beginning, NOT perfection.   And sales don't happen unless you can reach your tribe of raving fans.

Trisha Squires

Empowered Leadership Cultivation

www.empoweredlc.com

The single best advice for any Entrepreneur is to “know your numbers” by reconciling your bank account.  How do you know whether your business is succeeding or failing?  How do you know whether things are getting better or worse?

Those numbers are all about the CASH that it takes to operate your business.  That cash reflects the Sales, COGS and Net Income of the company.  It reflects the Inventory you’ve purchased and the Payroll that you’ve paid.  It represents by the checks you’ve written and the deposits that you’ve made.  You’ve all heard that Cash is King.  Well, it’s absolutely true.

Most owners see financial statements.  But I’ll bet most of your eyes just glaze over when looking at the row upon row of numbers.  The best way of understanding how cash is used in your business is to do your Bank Reconciliation.  Think about it.  All of your cash moves through your bank account.  You will see every deposit and expenditure.  Reconcile that account every month without fail, and you will have a clear handle on how much money is coming in, where it’s going to, and how much is left to use next month.

Larry Chester

CFO Interventions

www.cfointerventions.com

The single best piece of advice I have for entrepreneurs looking to accelerate their business is to collaborate and find other people in the same space to learn and grow with.  It isn't about the competition but rather how you can help and be helped by others in your industry or market.

Becky Feinberg-Galvez

Corporate Textiles

www.shop4ties.com

Hire people smarter than you and learn from them. As entrepreneurs, we are all in business because we are great at something, but that in no way means that we are great at everything.  Allowing experts to show you the shortcuts to success, that they often spent years learning for themselves, will give you the ability to grow your business quickly but don't just delegate and walk away. Learn as much as you can so that you can own the process and make the best parts of it a part of your daily practice.

Kristy Dilworth

Smart Dogs Training and Lodging Facility

www.smartdogstraingingandlodging.com


Leadership 4 Musts For An Effective One-On-One Meeting

Leadership 4 Musts For An Effective One-On-One Meeting

I’m often asked to coach leaders on the art of conducting a powerful one-on-one meeting.

One-on-one's are extremely important. They offer the leader/coach an opportunity to very specifically address the needs of each person on their team.  It also gives permission to the employee/coachee to be open and honest both in a safe environment that avoids putting him/her in a vulnerable position with other teammates. Look at it this way, we all have strengths and weaknesses, but do we all want them addressed in public? Of course not. So one-on-one meetings are important in today’s work world.

  1. A disciplined schedule for one-on-one's is critical. A recurring event should exist in both parties calendars and it should be held as sacred as any other appointment. DON'T CANCEL! If you, a leader, cancels, misses or minimizes the importance of the one-on-one, the employee will feel it. It's like being stood up on date night when you're 18. When the recurring time is not honored, there are hurt feelings coupled with short and long-term negative impact. However, When done properly, one-on-one's give confidence, build deep relationships and positively impact culture and revenue.
  2. A productive one-on-one meeting looks almost the same every time. There should be high accountability to expectations that are scored on a consistent scale (1-5 for example) with clearly documented next steps that both parties agree to do before the next one-on-one. And then on the next one-on-one, review documented changes and repeat! A very clear picture is painted of an employee and managers committed to getting better and contributing more if the benchmark is clearly communicated and accountability is in place.
  3. Leave time for digging into each person. We’re all wired differently and what is important to them and you vary from month to month. For instance, If your employee just had a baby you want time to see how that’s impacting your employee. Both personally and professionally. Their productivity, attendance (if needed in the office), attitude, etc. may be impacted and therefore impacting the business. This may affect expectations, requirements, etc.  Another necessary component is to dig into a person's head-trash (which is what I call the garbage we all carry around that often times impacts our willingness or ability to do our work effectively).
  4. Whether your role is a leader or a brand new hire in the mailroom, at the conclusion of every one-on-one the following question should be humbly asked by both parties and the answer humbly received. "Is there anything you would like to see me start doing, stop doing, do more of or less of?” This question will almost always expose a nugget or two that will help your organization strive. Listen to the answer, take action and get to your revenue.

Quotes from this article are featured in this ebook and this great article on O'Reilly's.com