The Power of Small Steps

By  John Long

I don’t know about you, but it seems that I’m only getting busier.  Five years ago, I was busy.  Starting a new staffing software company, no matter what the company, takes up every bit of energy you can throw at it.  Then the economy stalled out.  Fortunately for us, we were already a lean shop and with the help of a few key wins early on, we prospered.  We had to work hard to succeed, including new development, scrapping for new sales and servicing existing clients well.  And I thought I was busy then.

Looking back at those times, I can fondly remember a periodic golf round.  The question at first was morning or evening 18.  Then it was 9 or 18.  Now, it is, can I jump out at lunch to hit a bucket of balls.  As with your business, as the economy slowly turns the corner, you will be hesitant to add a lot of internal staff.  Thus, you will be doing more with your same amount of people.  Furthermore, we all have to keep our eye on the future, putting plans and processes in place to lead the pack out of this recovery.  So – all this means a lot of work!

I’m not expert – and I’d love to hear other ideas out there! – but I’ve got two fundamental approaches that I need to consistently remind myself of, to address the volume of work.

1)       Fewer things better: Our tendency is to conquer the world and institute every good idea out there right now.     It doesn’t matter that we haven’t instituted the idea over the last year, it is imperative to do now!!  Drop everything, get on this project.  In the end, you will either be overwhelmed with stuff or you half-implemented all the ideas.  So – do a proverbial clean sweep of all your tasks off your desk onto the floor.  Actually, we just had a prospect come in to the office this morning, so it is in the 2nd drawer down on the right <ahem>.  The idea is to pick up a few tasks from the pile on the floor and finish those.  You can’t worry about all things.  Do fewer things, but do them well.

2)      Small steps that can be measured: We re-did our sales numbers here recently, with more focus on the small, measurable steps.   The End-Run number for us is # of users sold.  While this is the most important number to my business, it necessarily puts too much focus on opportunities that are about to close, as opposed to all levels of the funnel.  Furthermore, I don’t need to motivate sales people when closing.  The small steps that I’m referring to, are the measurable supporting numbers to the ultimate goal.  For example, in my business – we had over 200 companies in our database that we’ve  never directly contacted.  We label each company with whether they are a target company, too big, different vertical, etc.  There are 120 prospects in our system that haven’t been labeled.   We should be contacting all of our ‘target’ clients at least once per year.  We had 283 target companies that haven’t been called within the year.  Each of these are small, measurable stats.  We pick one and finish it within an agreed upon period.  Then, pick another.  This helps us bond as a team, focus on all levels of the funnel, but also gives us a sense of accomplishment as we meet these goals.  When it is a Thursday afternoon and you have 20 minutes – what should you do?  If you have some small steps in front of you, you can jump right on it.

Any other tips out there?

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