Recently I started reading Rework by Jason Fried and David Heinemeier Hasson and if first impressions are anything to go by, this book is going to be great. Amazon describes it as “a different kind of business book – one that explores a new reality”. One of the first (short, sharp) chapters is called “Planning is guessing” and I couldn’t agree more. It starts off with “Unless you’re a fortune-teller, long-term business planning is a fantasy”. The last couple of months have taught me the truth behind this statement and the danger of ignoring it.
Making business decisions based on a guess is an extremely dangerous strategy. This is doubly pertinent in a small business where cash is your life blood. Our company has been guilty of this on a number of occasions and by not reviewing these decisions on a consistent basis, we have found ourselves in a compromised position more than once.
We set a sales forecast in February of 2012 based on our best estimation (guess!) of sales grow in all of our markets. At the same time a budget was created based around this sales forecast, including some fairly aggressive spending on sales and marketing. As the story goes; the year started well with the sales forecast exceeded for the first 8 months, but there was no plan in place if things didn’t go according to script and they didn’t. November hit and so did the handbrake on sales. We were well below forecast and cashflow started becoming tight.
January has been an interesting month so far but on the positive side, this situation has forced us to take a hard look at our business and make some changes that will improve our company moving forward. The lesson we have taken from this situation is to continue guessing in the future, but to constantly reassess those guesses and adapt as things change. The main advantage we (small businesses) have over our behemoth competitors is our ability to be agile. Use this advantage to your benefit not only from a product development perspective, but also to improve your company.
Prioritizing tasks on your ‘to do’ list can often be a daunting job in itself, especially when you are trying to keep a whole lot of different people happy. Previously I have discussed focusing on just 3 tasks at a time in my article Make Prioritizing Work Tasks Simple. Another simple way of prioritizing your ‘to do’ list is to put a deadline date (or time) next to each task.
I re-write my ‘to do’ list for the next day each evening before I leave the office. A day can be a long time when working in a small business, situations can transform quickly and the urgency or relevancy of tasks can change like the wind. This is why I find re-writing my ‘to do’ list each day gives me a chance to reassess each task. On top of marking my most dreaded task to do first thing the next morning (discussed in First Job Of The Day, Hard Job Of The Day), I have recently started jotting a deadline date down for each task. What is the latest date each task has to be done by?
You may have a rolling ‘to do’ list or you may revise it more or less frequently than I do, but regardless of how you manage your tasks, without setting deadlines it is just an intimidating lump of work that has to be done. All it takes is a couple of minutes to set your deadlines and your priorities work themselves out. Next time you feel intimidated by your workload, get rid of that overwhelmed feeling by putting setting deadlines for all your tasks and just get stuck in!
Is there anything worse than sitting in a long meeting when there is a beautiful day slipping by outside? Next time you are in that situation, why not suggest a walking meeting to change things up.I first read about the idea of walking meetings in Steve Jobs’ book but it initially slipped by as part of the story. But with summer currently gracing New Zealand with its wonderful presence, I was reminded of the concept not long ago when I saw a group of business people walk past our offices in deep discussion on a beautiful day. I must admit that I was envious of them out enjoying the good weather while still taking care of business. So I decided to give it a go and last week when the need for a one on one meeting arose with a team member, I suggested a walking meeting. What a fantastic idea that turned out to be!
We wandered out the front gate, turned left and just went for it. 20 minutes, plenty of discussion and some fresh air later we arrived back at the office feel great, meeting adjourned. It’s also surprising how much a small amount of exercise during the day helps you refocus once you get back to your desk. I understand that it’s not always a practical option, but for a casual meeting or a chat with your team, a walking meeting makes for a refreshing change.
This evening, my meal menu provided an outstanding argument why you should always double check your marketing material before it makes its way into your customers’ hands.
I’d already decided on a garlic naan to go with Chicken Tikka Masala, I just had to decide what to wash it down with. A picture of the drinks menu has been included so you can understand why I decided to grab something from the fridge when I got home!
While we got plenty of amusement out of this one while waiting on our meal, it really does go to show why a second set of eyes is essential when you are putting together new marketing material. No matter how many times you check something, there is always a mistake that seems to goes unnoticed. So save yourself the embarrassment of your customers having a laugh at your expense and have someone you can rely on to look over your work before it hits the market.