It’s ‘the year of’ what for you?

by Jim Raffel on March 3, 2014

Image of the year of the horse
I’ll start with my answer. For me and my company, it’s “The year of the sales process.” My answer, however, really doesn’t matter. How I arrived at my answer is what matters so we’ll focus on that.

Fix what most needs fixing

Three years ago when I looked at ColorMetrix, it was obvious we needed to fix our project management system. Our project management – or lack thereof – was holding back our growth more than any other single factor. While it’s great to always want to grow sales, the underlying systems that support those sales have to be top notch first. Otherwise, you’ll grow sales and then have difficulty delivering on promises, retaining customers and keeping those sales profitable.

Three years ago when I looked at the big picture, I saw sales sufficient to support the company. What I didn’t see were the systems and processes appropriate to grow sales. I was looking for choke points or constraints that were holding my company back from being world class.

As on owner/CEO pick one big problem a year

Running a small business is hard. It can be fun as well; but never forget the difficult part. You have to manage multiple priorities on a daily and sometimes hourly basis. You also need to make sure the company is always moving forward – growing and changing with the times. But you can offset these difficulties by focusing on one big problem for the company each year.

As a point of reference for you, below is a list of the problems that were my focus of attention for each of the last three years.

  1. Our project management process.
  2. Our content creation platform (website).
  3. And last year, our help and support system for clients and prospective clients.

Of course I accomplished a lot of other things during that time; but finding solutions to those three problems was the mark I left on the company. The rest was just my job.

Think longer term

The big picture is that you do need to think in three to five year time blocks as an owner of a company. From time to time, take a break and a hard look at where you are and where you need (or want) to be. Four years ago, my company had fallen behind our competition. Had I not adopted “The year of [fill in the blank]” methodology, it’s likely we would not be here today.

Growing sales is always a good idea, as long as your underlying systems can support and sustain that growth. It’s true that in this year I’ve chosen to focus on how we can improve the sales process. I could have chosen other processes. But when I looked at the big picture, I knew the rest of the systems can and will support significant sales growth. When we achieve that sales growth, I’ll circle back and focus on fixing the systems we’ve strained by that growth.

You can see the future

The longer you devote some of your time looking for your next “the year of” project, the more clearly you will see the future. For example, this year I had three decent choices for what needed fixing. They would have all been decent choices, but only sales was the one that made the most sense looking three to five years out. The other two choices can and will wait.

Take a look ahead and use the comments below to tell me what you see being “the year of…” for your business.

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Why you should believe more than you trust

by Jim Raffel on January 28, 2014

image of believe more than trust
Trust is a tricky word. Like it or not, the world is made up of shades of gray; not black and white. This means that you won’t always agree with others about what’s right or wrong and that can strain the ties of trust between you. Also we know that we all screw up and make mistakes at different points in our life so you can see how trust can be fragile and frequently strained. So instead of surrounding yourself with people you trust, I suggest you look for people you believe in; who by definition you know and understand are flawed.

What does it mean to believe in someone

When I think about the people I believe in, it’s a gut feeling that they are fundamentally good at their core. Sure they will make mistakes, but when big issues are on the line they will come through far more often than not. There is more to believing in someone, however, and it has to do with knowing they are capable of great accomplishments.

These people’s accomplishments don’t have to change the entire world, but rather change their world. It can be as simple as believing they are capable of getting a better job and then watching them go out and do it. It can be seeing the quality of their work, and knowing they should be working on bigger and better projects than they are. Then it becomes watching them take on and tackle those bigger and better projects.

Trust is subjective; belief in someone is absolute

Trust can be a fickle way to evaluate your relationships because the world is made up of shades of gray and people screw up sometimes. When you come to believe in another human being, it feels more like a core value rather than a subjective intellectual evaluation. You believe in people from your heart and soul; yet you only trust them with only your brain.

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