21 Apr 2011

Growth Coach Challenge – Spring Clean Your Business

In Ohio, every year spring faithfully arrives. It brings with it rain and rising temperatures that cause the leaves and buds to sprout, the grass to grow, the flowers to bloom, the weeds to explode, my allergies to kick in high gear, and my boy’s baseball season to get underway. And best of all, we get to say goodbye to winter … quite a harsh one in the Midwest this year.

Also, the new season brings with it talk about spring cleaning. For me, it’s really more about a ritual spring sorting and purging … getting rid of all the non-essential clutter in my personal life … especially clothes. Every year, my walk-in closet and dressers inexplicably seem to overflow with non-essential clothes that have multiplied over the prior 12 months. Clothes I simply no longer wear, like, need or use … and sadly, some from the prior spring/summer that simply no longer fit or aren’t in wearable condition. True for most of us, we routinely and habitually wear only about 20% of our available clothes. That leaves an amazing 80% of our clothes as potential clutter – non-essential stuff taking up space and creating confusion in our lives. The 80/20 Rule is darn accurate … even with spring sorting.

Every year, I do a thorough purge and give those clothes in good condition to others who can better appreciate them, use them, and like them. The purging process feels great. I simplify my life and help others at the same time. I feel mental relief, freedom and a sense of accomplishment.  As a bonus, I can better see and access the 20% of the clothes I actually like to wear … no longer buried beneath the clutter. By removing the massive amounts of clutter every year, I get rid of chaos, complexity, and confusion every time I search for clothes to wear. Now, selecting clothes I like to wear takes seconds instead of minutes.

As a business coach, I cannot resist the metaphor.  As a business owner, what kind of chaos, complexity and confusion have you allowed to develop in your business life? How much non-essential stuff and activities have you allowed to accumulate?  What massive amounts of clutter are in your business closets, on your desk, on your computer, and in your daily calendar? You know what I mean by business clutter. It’s all the low-value, unimportant, non-essential tasks (the trivial many) we routinely and reactively handle each and every day. Very often we confuse urgency with importance. Like an overflowing and disorganized closet of stuff, business clutter consumes our days, clouds our perspective and clarity, wastes our time, clogs our creativity, reduces the flow of meaningful work, and ends up drowning out our productivity. Clutter is a major enemy, a thief of time, for an otherwise effective and productive business owner. Up for the challenge to slay your clutter?

As a business coach for nearly 20 years, I know this much with certainty … every business owner has clutter in their business and personal lives and most of it revolves around doing the wrong type of work each and every day.  That’s right, the absolute WRONG TYPE OF WORK on a daily basis. Hard to believe but the honest truth. Because entrepreneurs are too busy being busy, they don’t take the time to think and differentiate between meaningful and meaningless work. Entrepreneurs are simply technicians and doers and get lost in the daily operations of the business … wearing way too many hats and doing way too many things. They habitually engage in work that is not worthy of their time, talents, and energy … again, the wrong type of work.

Do yourself a huge favor and take The Growth Coach Challenge.  Do some spring cleaning on your business.  Give an honest assessment of all the clutter in your business life.  What’s the clutter in your closet, on your desk, on your PC, and in your daily activities?  Some typical examples of clutter could include: you doing administrative or hourly type of tasks (bookkeeping, collections, answering phones, sorting mail, etc.), checking and responding to email or texts throughout the day, reading the newspaper, having unnecessary meetings, chatting with co-workers, repeatedly checking your smartphone or playing with apps, shuffling trivial paperwork, surfing the web, answering your phone no matter what, doing other people’s jobs, roaming the office or warehouse, solving the problems others created, doing mindless trips or chores, constantly setting and putting out fires, etc.  Are you guilty of these or others?  Most owners simply and automatically do the wrong type of work.  Many of these activities are just habitual and tension-relieving and not goal-achieving. You may feel good doing them, but they get you nowhere!

Time to face reality.  Just like most of our clothes are not necessary, most of your daily tasks are not necessary.  Realize that 80% of your results come from only 20% of your talents and activities.  Therefore, wake-up to the fact that 80% of your daily activities are really not that important and do not advance your true goals.  In fact, they are a waste of your time and energy.  Sorry, but you probably already know this deep down in your gut to be true.  Stop wasting your time doing the wrong kind of work.  Think of the time you could free up for more important, strategic opportunities (sales, marketing, promotion, etc.) to grow your business and profits as well as spend more time with your family and friends.  Commit to clean out the clutter from your business. 

Here are some quick business coaching tips.  Identify the clutter.  Spend 15-30 minutes and write down all the clutter in your professional and personal life.  What is wasting your time and talents?  What work should you NOT be doing at all?  What work should you do LESS of?  What distractions are steering you away from critical priorities?  What diversions are robbing you and your company of greater productivity?  What should you delegate or outsource?  Where do you need to hire help?  Look honestly at the list.  Accept the truth and acknowledge the clutter … own up to the situation you created and commit to eliminate or delegate the 80% of your activities (clutter) that produce minimal results for your business or career.

Instead of creating a “to-do” list each and every day, start creating a “not-to-do list.”  Share this with your staff.  Start giving up tasks that are not worthy of your time and that you probably don’t enjoy doing or aren’t good at doing … either delete those tasks all together or delegate/outsource them to others.  Choose instead to focus on the meaningful 20% of your talents and activities that drive the vast majority of your results and success.  The typical “vital few” tasks are those that produce money, save money, keep your customers happy, or help systematize your business.

Finally, accept that as an owner your time is worth at least $150 per hour (could be lower or even much higher).  As such, no longer accept and tackle any task that is not worth that value. For example, if you engage in an hour of bookkeeping a day, and assume that’s a $20 per hour task, you are stealing $130 per day ($150-$20) from your profits…and $650 per week ($130 x 5 days). Again, delegate or outsource such a task…it’s not worth your time or effort.

Ready to change your mindset and behavior and truly take The Growth Coach ChallengeLearn to work smarter, not harder!  Do those tasks you are naturally good at doing and enjoy doing.  Give up the rest.  Commit to clean up and give up the “clutter” in your professional and personal life. Good luck sorting and purging.  Happy spring!

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