Has your business ever gone off the boil, even just a little? Last year you were flying and now, not so much? This week I look at why that can happen, and what to do about it.
Why do some sporting people or teams win their competition, and then go on to do it again and again, year after year? I’m thinking of teams like the New Zealand All Blacks in rugby, or Serena Williams and Roger Federer in tennis.
Conversely, you’ll see another team win their competition one year, but they can’t back up and do it again. It’s the same players, the same coach, and the same approach, but they can’t repeat their winning ways.
I believe it all comes down to a focus on the small things.
You won’t hear the All Blacks talk about winning. You will hear them talk about focusing on playing to the standards they’ve set themselves. Effectively, making sure they do everything as perfectly as possible. That means getting even the small details right. If they do that, they’ll win a lot more than they lose.
When you focus on your own performance, rather than that of your team, or competitors, you can emulate that consistent winning formula; but it’s not easy. It’s a mindset.
The Business Context
I recently had an issue arise in a couple of businesses I’m working with. They’d been going great, and then suddenly, their performance had flattened for no obvious reason.
When we started to dig into the real issue it seemed to me that they’d stopped doing some of the things that had helped them get to where they are now.
For example, in one firm we’d seen a drop in lead flow which had previously been very good. After some discussion we discovered that they were not doing what they said they would do when it came to marketing and rainmaking activity. So they switched back to each of the key people in the firm taking responsibility for the small actions that they had agreed to carry out.
Here’s the thing. I can understand why each of them let things slip.
Each specific activity we were considering, on its own, probably didn’t make much of a difference. But that’s not how marketing delivers, is it? Marketing is a collection of activities, which when delivered consistently over a long period of time, add up to results that are greater than the sum of the parts.
Networking on its own, may or may not yield a lead for the business.
Approaching professional connections in your local area, on its own, may or may not yield a lead for the business.
Attending your local Chamber of Commerce, producing a client newsletter every fortnight, or asking for a referral at the end of a great review meeting, on their own, may or may not yield a lead for the business.
Yet, if we do each of those activities as if our livelihood depended on it, and we do them consistently, without fail, suddenly you have the lead flow you’re looking for.
In marketing, 1+1+1 = 27.
In another firm, we really had to dig to find out what had changed from when they were high-performing. It wasn’t anything big and obvious, but I had a strong sense that some small things had gone off the boil.
There were three things we eventually honed in on:
1. Time frames had started to slip
Turnaround times between the initial client meeting and strategy presentation had started to extend. What had once been a few weeks’ gap, had now become more like 6 weeks, which is just too long.
When we looked at why, it seemed that some misunderstandings about compliant behaviour had created the extended time frame. This is an important point for a lot of businesses. There should be a constant healthy tension between the salespeople and the compliance person/team. As the business owner, you have to find the right sweet-spot in that tension, so that you do comply, but without making things too convoluted for the client. It’s a delicate balancing act.
2. Activity with professional introducers had dropped off
We realised that one of the weekly metrics wasn’t being hit. That one touch per week with a professional connection; with a touch being a phone call, text, email, newsletter, or “I ran into them in the local pub on Saturday night.” Anything that keeps you and your business front of mind with your professional connections.
3. File notes were not being done properly
The final small thing was that advisers were taking shortcuts on completing their file notes after client meetings. Their notes weren’t completely understandable for the support team, meaning the support team was trying to guess, or catch the adviser for a quick meeting to fill in the gaps.
The bottom line was more delays in producing work for clients.
It’s The Small Things That Matter
I’m sure in each of these businesses there were other small things that were being missed too. Once you allow yourself to slip in one area, it becomes a vicious circle. Standards slip and next thing you know you’ve had 6 or 12 months of poor performance and there’s no obvious reason why.
How did we get it back on track?
By just making sure each person in the business was doing what they had said they would do. Accountability in other words; that overused and often misunderstood business term. Business owners/advisers are often the ones that moan to me most about lack of team accountability. Yet, when we look at their performance, sometimes they are not being accountable for their own behaviours and the tasks they are required to perform.
A fish always stinks from the head. Don’t be the weak link in your own business. Lead from the front and provide a good example to the rest of your team. Then you are in a position where you can demand accountability from them, but probably won’t have to, because your example will be followed.
These disciplines, getting back to what you were previously doing, are the small things that keep your business performing and rolling like you want it to. Once you re-commit to doing each and every task that you are responsible for to the best of your ability, it becomes a virtuous circle, where performance improves across the whole organisation.
Focus on getting the small things that matter right. It’ll make all the difference.
Let me know how you go.