Category Archives: Peer Groups

Work Smarter, Not Harder with the 80/20 Rule

Are your days so busy that you rarely get to the most important items on your to-do list?  According to small business peer board members, success came easier once they learned to concentrate on tasks that matter, instead of spending time on trivial activities. They learned to harness ‘the 80/20 rule’ and if you follow their tips, you can, too.

It’s tempting to spend time on small tasks at the expense of the big ones. They’re easier to finish, for one thing, and it feels good to cross things off your list. But “doing” isn’t the same as “accomplishing.” The key is to prioritize your activities, so you’re investing your time and energies where it matters most. That’s where the 80/20 rule comes in.

“I found that learning to delegate is one of the most important skills a business owner can have,” says PRO member Doug Timberlin, President of Cupp’s Industrial Supply Inc. in Phoenix, which manufactures gaskets, mechanical packing, seals, expansion joints, plastic fabrication and CNC machined parts.

“Get the little tasks off your desk so you can focus on the bigger picture.”

Understanding the 80/20 Rule

You’re undoubtedly familiar with the 80/20 principle in one context or another.

The concept was first proposed by Vilfredo Pareto, a 19th Century Italian economist, as far as I know. After studying Italy’s economy, Pareto concluded that 80 percent of Italy’s income was generated by 20 percent of its population.

‘Pareto’s Theory of Mal-distribution,’ as it was first known, suggests that 80 percent of output comes from 20 percent of input. Turn it around, and it means that a small percentage of our efforts generate a large percentage of our results—a fact just about every PRO member has found to be true.

Apply the 80/20 Rule to Your Workday

Now, apply the 80/20 concept to the way you manage your time. Of all the activities you engage in on a typical day, what tasks create revenue for you? What is essentially trivial? Identify which activities propel you forward and which ones hold you back.

That “busy work” is destructive. Once you’ve identified it, you’re job is to figure out how to get it off your desk.  Can you delegate it? Automate it? Outsource it? Forget it?

However, some of my PRO members find that there’s some ‘small stuff’ you can’t delegate. They’ve found that setting aside a fixed block of time to attend it, say, one afternoon a week, is a good way to keep it in its place. The goal is to keep your main focus—and big blocks of prime work time—to doing things that count.

Sometimes, we busy ourselves with small activities because we’re not sure how to tackle the big ones. In that case, create an action plan. Break a massive project down into small, concrete steps that you can tackle one by one. If you like crossing things off you list, this will work well for you.

Review Other Aspects of Business through the 80/20 Lens

It’s helpful to review other aspects of business this way, too.

For example, look at your customer base. What ‘20 percent’ of customers generate ’80 percent’ of sales? The actual number may vary, but the principle won’t. According to PRO members, the key is to analyze the characteristics that your best customers have in common, so you can target more prospects like them.

Or, consider what additional products or services you could be offering to these key accounts. How can you maximize the sales relationships that matter?

Or, study your workforce through the 80/20 prism. Are some employees doing the lion’s share of the work while others coast? Use this knowledge to manage your employees more effectively and ramp up productivity.

Put It in Writing: PRO’s 80/20 Worksheet

Your time and energy is finite. Applying the 80/20 Rule to your workday can help you use both more effectively. Be principled about it—put it in writing.

Get the new Small Business Toolbook – 25+ years of Advisory Group Expertise

Are You Fit to Be an Entrepreneur?

Are you fit for entrepreneurial endeavors or to be an entrepreneur? 2 Small Biz Guys explore the path to profitable returns. We explore considerations and questions regarding small business start ups. Some folks want to start their own business but may not be a good fit for becoming an entrepreneur. You can take a brief quiz and see where you stand on the scale before launching into something you may regret. On the other hand, you may be a perfect match for taking the leap. Find out here.

If you are a self-starter, can create good relationships and lead others you are on the right track. There are some recommended steps, though. We often leap without looking, especially when we accept and engage risk. When we plan strategically, looking for and filling the holes in the plan effectively, we have a much greater chance for success. Here’s the steps:

  1. Write a Business Plan
  2. Get Business Assistance and Training
  3. Choose a Business Location
  4. Finance Your Business
  5. Determine the Legal Structure of Your Business
  6. Register a Business Name
  7. Get a Tax Identification Number
  8. Register for State and Local Taxes
  9. Obtain a Business License and Permits
  10. Understand Employer Responsibilities

Often the latter is not fully appreciated until the business owner is taken off track because there are now employees to manage. Competitors, rather than wish you ill, may wish you more employees. Human resources are often the most important aspect of a business that is growing, maintaining good employee relations being imperative.

Cash flow is most important, though, and without it your business will suffer greatly and potentially fall without great fanfare. There are some key considerations in this article. There are also some excellent resources for short-term on-demand small business education at Practical Business University. We also discussed sales strategies briefly and these made the top ten, from the author of How to Say It: Business to Business Selling.

On to the show:

Get the new Small Business Toolbook – 25+ years of Advisory Group Expertise

Did You Know? Maybe You Did Not

Are you ready to learn something today? You may already know this. Allow me to refresh your memory if you do. I am forwarding you a link to a rather startling YouTube video. (It was supposedly a presentation made at this year’s Sony Executive Conference). I found it to be very informative, thought-provoking, and, frankly, hair-raising.

There is something to be learned here. So, please click the following link and take a look. It’s just a few minutes long. (Don’t finish reading my email until after you’ve watched it.)

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=cL9Wu2kWwSY

Did you watch it? In that case, to quote a line from the video…so what does it all mean?

To me, it means that the world is changing far faster than it did in any of my experiences of the past…and even faster than the life I am experiencing now. As the video says, “These are Exponential Times.” Business and life will never be the same.

In general, most people do not welcome change, but nevertheless, Change Is Here. The way we communicate, conduct business, socialize and even think will be radically impacted. It’s already happening. For example, five years ago, would you have ever believed that your daily newspaper could possibly become a thing of the past?

What does this teach us? For one thing, that we can’t take our industry or business for granted. I once attended a seminar where the speaker—a Boeing executive—made a remarkable statement. He said that, in a competitive society, if a company wants to stay in business, it must essentially destroy its own product. If it didn’t create its next-generation replacement, the competition would.

Metaphorically, businesses are often compared to ships. Small businesses are small, zippy PTs; large corporations are looming, ponderous aircraft carriers. Which one has the ability to change course rapidly? Yes, the PT boat. That’s good news for us. With the right attitude and people, small businesses have the ability to feel the waves, grab the wheel, and change course.

Today, it’s imperative that organizations have the right people, ones who can “feel the waves” and are willing to make changes. Technology has increased our communication capabilities, but at the expense of personal relationships. It is so much easier to email or text than to call someone on your cell phone or—Heaven forbid!—pay them a visit.

But, can you really achieve a vibrant exchange of ideas through texts and emails? (For example, my fingers are already tired from keying this in, and they can’t begin to keep pace with my brain.) Isn’t it more productive to have an actual, real-time dialogue, where questions are raised and answers are offered, and in the process, all kinds of thought-provoking ideas are explored?

So, did you know…
•     You can learn more by getting out of the office?
•     You can learn more by talking with other business owners?
•     You really can change, when you have support from your peers?
•     An exchange of ideas can create an epiphany?

I know, I know…I am hardly unbiased on this subject.  After all, I facilitate peer groups. But it is because of that experience that I can say with absolute certainty: Peer power is powerful enough to help you change with the times, even if you’re inherently resistant to it. It can give you insight and the initiative you need to actually make those changes necessary to your firm’s survival.

For more information about this concept, visit http://propres.com/. If you are interested in learning more of my thoughts, you can read excerpts from my book—or even buy it–at http://www.bestsmallbizsecrets.com/.

Get the new Small Business Toolbook – 25+ years of Advisory Group Expertise

How’s Your Crystal Ball?

How’s Your Crystal Ball

by Ray Silverstein

When you own a business, you need to be able to tell the future. To know where revenues are headed and what resources you’ll need. The good news is, you don’t need to be clairvoyant to see what lies ahead. 

Because you have something better than a crystal ball: your business indicators. Some indicators are nearly universal (i.e., the economy), and some are unique to every business. Either way, when you track your indicators, including those listed below, you can get a handle on the future.

Indicator #1: Present and Future Sales 

Reviewing current orders is the first step to projecting revenues. But you can estimate even more accurately if you factor in outstanding bids/proposals.

For example, review past proposals for the last 12 months. What percentage did you close?  

Apply that percentage to today’s proposals, and you’ll get a sense of where you’ll be in X number of days, depending on the length of your sales cycle. In essence, you’re diagramming your sales funnel. (Then you can also work backwards to determine how many proposals you must generate to hit your sales goals.)

Indicator #2: Service/Maintenance

If your sales have a ‘tail’—i.e., the initial sale will result in service activity down the road—that’s another indicator.

Say you sell and service equipment. By analyzing past maintenance activity, you can predict what service/parts will be needed when. Apply that information to your equipment in the field, and you cannot only proactively line up parts and staff, but anticipate maintenance-related revenues.

Indicator #3: The Domino Effect 

Certain activities in one industry  impact related industries. If you can pinpoint those relationships, you can use them to make projections.

For example, one of my PRO peer group members is in the furniture business. By talking to her customers, she found they shared one common denominator: many had purchased homes within the prior 6-12 months. By tracking the local housing market, she can project which way sales are trending.

Indicator #4: Fill-in-the-Blank!

There may also be some indicators unique to your business. Keep a look out for them.

For example, years ago when I owned a manufacturing company, I used to sell to a well-known mail order house. This was before the Internet. Every day when the mail arrived, the mail order staff would immediately weigh it. Yes, weigh it. The company’s savvy owner knew the value of his average order and had calculated the number of orders that made up a lb. of mail. So hours before the orders were processed, he knew what the day’s sales would be.

Indicator #5: The Local Landscape

Your business is part of a local community. Depending on what you sell or do, all kinds of local activity may affect you: big construction projects, hiring moves by major employers, even the school calendar. By staying abreast of your community and keeping tabs on local business news, you can get a sense of what will impact your business.

So, put away your tea leaves and cancel your appointment with Madame Marie. Learn to track and read your key business indicators, and you’ll be able to predict what the future holds.


Ray Silverstein is president of PRO, President’s Resource Organization, a network of entrepreneurial peer advisory groups in Phoenix and Chicago. He is author of “The Best Secrets of Great Small Businesses,” and “The Small Business Survival Guide.” He has partnered with the Phoenix Business Journal to bring you access to the Journal’s Digital Portal, a goldmine of potential business indicators. For more information, contact Ray at 1-800-818-0150 or ray@propres.com.

Upcoming Events:

Devon Bank sponsored Keyword Workshop in Chicago – Wednesday, October 8, 2014 

Books of Interest:

                    


Work Smarter, Not Harder with the 80/20 Rule

Are your days so busy that you rarely get to the most important items on your to-do list? According to small business peer board members, success came easier once they learned to concentrate on tasks that matter, instead of spending time on trivial activities. They learned to harness ‘the 80/20 rule’ and if you follow their tips, you can, too.

It’s tempting to spend time on small tasks at the expense of the big ones. They’re easier to finish, for one thing, and it feels good to cross things off your list. But “doing” isn’t the same as “accomplishing.” The key is to prioritize your activities, so you’re investing your time and energies where it matters most. That’s where the 80/20 rule comes in.

“I found that with the 80-20 rule we concentrated our sales efforts on current accounts and potential accounts that would generate the bulk of our revenues.” says Pat Conway, President of Mr. Dee’s, Inc. of Libertyville, IL, Creator and Producer of Frozen Classic Potato Favorites that have delighted families across the county for decades.

Understanding the 80/20 Rule

You’re undoubtedly familiar with the 80/20 principle in one context or another.

The concept was first proposed by Vilfredo Pareto, a 19th Century Italian economist, as far as I know. After studying Italy’s economy, Pareto concluded that 80 percent of Italy’s income was generated by 20 percent of its population.

‘Pareto’s Theory of Mal-distribution,’ as it was first known, suggests that 80 percent of output comes from 20 percent of input. Turn it around, and it means that a small percentage of our efforts generate a large percentage of our results—a fact just about every PRO member has found to be true.

Apply the 80/20 Rule to Your Workday

Now, apply the 80/20 concept to the way you manage your time. Of all the activities you engage in on a typical day, what tasks create revenue for you? What is essentially trivial? Identify which activities propel you forward and which ones hold you back.

That “busy work” is destructive. Once you’ve identified it, you’re job is to figure out how to get it off your desk. Can you delegate it? Automate it? Outsource it? Forget it?

However, some of my PRO members find that there’s some ‘small stuff’ you can’t delegate. They’ve found that setting aside a fixed block of time to attend it, say, one afternoon a week, is a good way to keep it in its place. The goal is to keep your main focus—and big blocks of prime work time—to doing things that count.

Sometimes, we busy ourselves with small activities because we’re not sure how to tackle the big ones. In that case, create an action plan. Break a massive project down into small, concrete steps that you can tackle one by one. If you like crossing things off you list, this will work well for you.

Review Other Aspects of Business through the 80/20 Lens

It’s helpful to review other aspects of business this way, too.

For example, look at your customer base. What ‘20 percent’ of customers generate ’80 percent’ of sales? The actual number may vary, but the principle won’t. According to PRO members, the key is to analyze the characteristics that your best customers have in common, so you can target more prospects like them.

Or, consider what additional products or services you could be offering to these key accounts. How can you maximize the sales relationships that matter?

Or, study your workforce through the 80/20 prism. Are some employees doing the lion’s share of the work while others coast? Use this knowledge to manage your employees more effectively and ramp up productivity.

Put It in Writing: PRO’s 80/20 Worksheet

Your time and energy is finite. Applying the 80/20 Rule to your workday can help you use both more effectively. Be principled about it—put it in writing.

Would you like to attend a free PRO peer board meeting?