Thursday, June 28, 2007

Random Quote - The Power of Commitment

Until one is committed there is hestiancy, the chance to draw back, always ineffectiveness. Concerning all acts of initiative (and creation) there is one elementary truth, the ignorance of which kills countless ideas and splendid dreams: that the moment one definitely commits oneself, then providence moves too. All sorts of things occur to help one that otherwise would never have occurred. A whole stream of events issue forth from the decision, raising in one's favour all manner of unforeseen incidents and meetings and mutual assistance, which no one could have dreamt would have come his way. 'What ever you can do, or dream you can, begin it.

Boldness has genius, power and magic in it.

W. H. Murray.

Saturday, June 23, 2007

Week 39 - Can Behavior Be Systematized

Previously I have mentioned systems and employees but really only focused on the policies and procedures that employees are expected to adhere to. What about how employees treat each other or how they interact with the owner of the business - is it possible to systematize that type of behavior so that there are fewer disagreements within your business? The process begins long before these people are your employees.

It is not easy to change the personality of an unfriendly and unmotivated person. Seek out those people who are outgoing and seem willing to learn and ask for examples of how they have used common sense to achieve goals in previous workplaces. The technical aspect of your work may be quite easy to teach so you should focus on hiring people you believe will bring passion to your business.

To some it might sound far fetched, but one such business that has achieved “happiness” is Paddy Lund Dentistry, owned by Brisbane, Australia based dentist Paddy Lund. You see Paddy Lund’s dentistry practice operates under the “The Courtesy System”. Implementing The Courtesy System in your business could mean an end to disagreements and eventually to a much stronger feeling of collective worth.

Paddy Lund’s firm belief is that you spend so much of your time at work you should make an effort to enjoy that time. The time you spend at work is simply living your life. Paddy gave up trying to buy happiness through acquiring cars and property outside of work hours and rather realized that if he was ever to truly be happy, he had to make changes in his workplace.

Paddy begun this transformation by insisting that all staff use “please” and “thank you” every time they interacted. On top of that he demanded an end to office gossip. Initially as you might expect, the employees and Paddy himself felt that the words sounded “put on”. Interestingly the clients did not, they were often commenting how refreshing it was that employees were treating each other with such respect.

On top of employees being courteous to each other Paddy put in place daily meetings to tackle sources of unhappiness. By getting employees to speak candidly if things had upset them, Paddy could identify causes and put in place new rules to ensure the offending behavior was not repeated. What Paddy has learned is that he is able to work up to 50% less, his staff are happy all of the time and the people attracted to the practice (by referral only!) also possess positive attitudes. In addition, Paddy’s employees are with him for the long haul and on top of all of this, he makes more money than he ever did when he was unhappy! The reduced workload and extra money can be attributed to the implementation of systems (for both the business and how staff interact) which has lead to more profitable and happy customers. One example is that appointment cancellations plummeted leading to less scheduling problems (revenue) and a more organized environment (calm, happy employees).

Think about your workplace for a moment. Perhaps there tensions in the air between staff that can affect the way your customers perceive your business. Would you like to serve only your ideal customers and look forward to going to work each and every day?

What can your business learn from Paddy Lund Dentistry?

  1. Embark on a fact finding mission to establish the “happiness issues” in your business – start with an employee survey or group discussion
  2. Put systems in place initially to force greater co-operation and sensitivity
  3. Identify roadblocks to your continued success by involving all employees in open discussion
  4. Adjust the systems as required to maintain your positive momentum
  5. Never stop looking for improvements all the while ensuring you are treating your fellow employees with dignity and respect. Again this might sound like hard work and yes it will take time, but the effort required will taper off.
The rest you can learn from Paddy himself; buy his book here.

Sunday, June 17, 2007

Week 38 - Never Stop Looking for Improvements

Someone once said that a journey of a thousand miles beings with one small step. So it is with your policies and procedures that make up your business system. Start today, constantly refine the system when a problem occurs. You just need to ask yourself what other steps could be implemented to avoid the error in the future. These small incremental improvements will add up and one day you will realize that your business now runs without any yelling and screaming and that you do not actually have to be there! You simply must be committed to improving your processes incrementally, all of the time.

The word “system” might sound a little “constraining” to some of the more creative businesses out there. “Our people are individuals, we want their spirit and personality to shine through and thrill the customer with outstanding service”. No problem. Systems are not about leveling out each employee’s personality or creating an army of programmed robots. They are simply about producing a consistent result time after time. Your employee’s personalities can sit on top of the policies and procedures as a “presentation” layer. You can see this in action in well run businesses - some employees are friendlier than others, some might get into a conversation with you regarding the weather or the house you are painting BUT they all follow the same procedure of greeting you with certain words and up selling you.

In fact, effective systems backed up by the tools to get the job done actually free up your employees to spend time on the solution for the customer. In other words, get the hurdles out of the way, streamline your system and make it easier every day to process a customer transaction. That way you will find not only is your business running smoothly but your employees are happier and the customers are being treated consistently and with enthusiasm and genuine interest. Mike Basch, a founder of the global delivery and logistics company FedEx once said:

“Systematize the routine, humanize the exception."

Next week, can behavior be systematized? Paddy Lund Dentistry holds the answer!

Sunday, June 10, 2007

Week 37 – Want to Take Your Hands Off the Steering Wheel?

Walk into any franchised business and take a look around, I guarantee you will see the one thing that makes that business run like clockwork, the Operations Manual. The Operations Manual is the bible of running a tax planning or cheesecake making or hamburger grilling or any other type of franchised business. In contrast, how many non-franchised businesses have an Operations Manual on hand to solve the day to day challenges that every business faces?

Franchisors give their franchisees this manual so they can follow the processes and systems that led to the original success of the business. They often describe every function of the business, in absolute detail, right down to the procedure for cleaning a sink or answering a telephone. Franchisors do this because they know if left to their own devices, the business owner (or their staff) will perform inconsistently and deliver the products or services as they see fit.

Much research has been conducted on the success of the franchise system and the most important element attributed to those that are successful is the method of doing business. In most cases, the usual business rules still apply. You might need a great location, a unique product with mass appeal but ultimately it is the profitable delivery of the products or services that is the key to long term success.

Building policies and procedures for every aspect of your business is initially going to be time consuming. But look at it this way, until and unless you commit to putting what you expect in writing, you will never be able to leave your business. Leaving would be like taking your hands off the steering wheel when driving your car. So put in the work, commit to documenting one aspect of your business per week over the next three months. Eventually you will find yourself with a healthy sized overview of how to run your business the way that you want it run.

The bottom line: we are building an expert system rather than a business that needs EXPERTS to run it!

Perhaps one of the world’s best known pizza franchises is Dominos. Dominos is famous in business circles for the strict system that just about guarantees they can get that pizza to you in 30 minutes (this guarantee has recently been replaced by “Made Fresh, Arrives Fresh”). More importantly it will still be hot! How do they do this? You can’t rely on a fast delivery driver, or your best ever hire that is currently making the pizzas; you have to give all of the employees a tight system they can follow, no matter what their skill level.

Dominos do this by showing employees exactly how much time they have to complete each step of the pizza production and delivery process. They call this “Heightened Time Awareness”:

• 2 minutes “into the oven”
• 10 minutes “out of the oven”
• 12 minutes “out of the store”
• 22 minutes “to the door”

You can see how this framework allows a manager to pinpoint problem areas and make adjustments to create a consistent result. Pizza didn’t get to the door in less than half an hour? What happened? What point in the process took longer than it should have and what actual event caused this?

Within your business you may have made excuses in the past when the going got tough. In an independent pizza business the comments like “we are just busy tonight” or “we ran out of tomato sauce” might fly around when the going got tough. Well I will say it again. If systems have taken care of these trivial problems the pizza delivery system has every chance of getting the product out on time.

IKEA has similar systems for dealing with your order. Yes they are huge but remember they started as one small furniture store. Even the tickets on the counter at your local delicatessen are a system. How many shops have you been into which are equally as busy but have no system for dealing with the crowd? How annoying is that? Can you imagine if there were no guide ropes in an airline check-in area? Why then do so many businesses operate in this manner?