Why You Need to Sweat the Small Stuff
Originally published: 10.01.13 by Kenneth Goodrich
5 tips for creating a culture and processes that sweat the small stuff for you
A good business is a boring business. It’s an organized group of average people going about static routines of good business processes that generate leads, convert leads into appointments, convert appointments into sales, convert sales into jobs, convert quality jobs into happy customers and convert happy customers into revenue. No crises, no drama. Day in, day out, boring businesses create happy customers and hefty bank accounts. So how do you, the entrepreneur, build one of these boring businesses? You create a culture and processes that “sweat the small stuff” for you. Here are a few tips that can make your business a little more boring, certainly more profitable, and sweating the small stuff so you don’t have to.
1. Lead the team.
Your team needs to know and commit to the enterprise’s mission, strategy and standards. You, as the leader, must establish the guiding principles and direction for the company and be clear and consistent on where the business is heading and how it’s going to get there. The leader must reinforce these points to the team regularly and include rhetoric that supports sweating the small stuff. Keeping your eye on the details is a core value that will lead the team to success.
2. Build processes.
Once you have your mission, strategy and standards in place, you must insist – if not demand – that everything your employees do is thought through and documented. This is called a process. This is the only way the enterprise can provide predictable, acceptable services to its customers, both external and internal. Once a process has been created and documented, your team must be trained on that process, and retrained as needed. You, as the leader, must develop the culture within the company, stressing that an activity is not undertaken unless it is first a documented and trained process. In every business process your team develops, make sure they include a level of detail that emphasizes the small stuff.
3. Count everything.
Now that you have built a culture of creating and training processes, you must insist that your team counts everything. Keep a scorecard on each and every business process and team member. If the score looks low, adjust the process or train the team. If the score looks high, reward the team. If the performance of a business process or team member can’t easily be counted or quantified, then don’t allow the process or person in the door. Your quantifying process must be clear, and the data must be easy to obtain and part of the daily routine. Counting doesn’t have to include complicated computer software and an IT department to manage. For example, you can gather a lot of decision-making power with a simple check sheet for tracking each time a customer mentions they saw one of your trucks in their neighborhood. The more your team counts, the more they will understand that the small stuff is the key to making good business decisions.
4. Hold the team accountable.
The saying “your people will respect what you inspect” refers to accountability. In fact, the opposite of accountability is liability. Routine weekly meetings with your team reviewing your scorecards will eventually condition team members to know what to focus on and what’s important to you and the enterprise. Again, a good business is boring. Talking about the same numbers at the same time each week will build a predictable level of profitability by simply holding your team accountable. There’s no better way to build a culture that sweats the small stuff within your company than routine team meetings discussing the business’s processes and how the scorecards suggest they are working.
5. Block and tackle.
Before a football team can attempt a double reverse, it must first understand the basics of blocking. Likewise in business, innovation and creativity are fun and interesting, but left unmanaged can lead the team into a spiraling vortex of distraction and misdirection. For instance, many entrepreneurs suffer from “reinventing the wheel syndrome,” a phenomenon that keeps them from ever gaining any success.
There are so many resources available to this industry that most of the work involved in building and documenting foundation business processes — blocking and tackling — is easy to manage. Once you’ve identified those processes, all that’s left to do is to implement them. And once you’ve built a solid foundation — answering calls, providing service, selling service agreements, replacing HVAC systems, getting and keeping happy customers, building processes and counting everything — then you can finally start to add some of your own innovative spice into the mix. You can run that double reverse.
After more than 26 years of owning and operating HVAC businesses, I can admit I’ve made some mistakes. The first five years of my career were spent reinventing the wheel, innovating, looking for the next silver bullet and believing those activities would surely catapult me past the competition and lead me to riches and glory. It didn’t work out that way.
I’ve since had some success in the HVAC business, but it wasn’t until I learned the importance of sweating the small stuff and who should be sweating it. Some entrepreneurs can tell the tale that their vision and innovations have led them to wild success, but the foundation must be there. Behind every great entrepreneur is a team that is building processes, counting everything, holding the team accountable, blocking and tackling: in other words, sweating the small stuff. When your team is sweating the small stuff for you, you have the ability to truly lead.
Kenneth D. Goodrich, principal of Arizona-based Goettl Good Guys Air Conditioning Repairmen and The Sunny Plumber, is a seasoned entrepreneurial executive with over 26 years of experience in acquiring, integrating and developing HVAC, plumbing and service contracting businesses. Contact Kenneth through www.goettl.com
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