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Take a look at your business. Take a look at the good things. Take a look at the bad things. Then think about how much better a business you’d have if every single one of the bad things in your business disappeared and turned good.
Then stop thinking like that. Because it’s never going to happen. Stop thinking about running the kind of business that is all good and no bad. No business anywhere was ever, or will ever, be all good. It’s such a waste of energy beating yourself up about everything you’re not. It can be paralysing. It can and very often does result in that, ‘oh, what the hell’s the point’ feeling. And that’s horrid. Because you do nothing to change when you feel like that. You don’t bother trying to improve. You stagnate.
A much better way to think is this. Instead of thinking about the journey from imperfect (which everybody is) to perfect (which nobody is) – instead, think only about ‘better’. And don’t even think about being a lot better. Think about being a bit better. But here’s the trick, think about being a bit better – now. From today. Or at the very latest, tomorrow. Here’s why.
Let’s say that today you are the number one. Then let’s say that, today also, you get a little bit better, by just one percent. Maybe you became one percent better by throwing that awful, cheap instant coffee away that you make your team and clients drink. Maybe you replaced it with a £300 coffee machine that makes a cool noise, a lovely smell – and really good coffee. Yes. That sounds like a really good one percent.
Let’s then say the day after that you made something else in your business – cumulatively – one percent better. So the slightly bigger version of you yesterday gets slightly bigger again. Maybe on this day you sorted out your ridiculous stationery cupboard and made an inventory. That way, clients that just happened to see your stationery cupboard would see you as organised and prepared, whoever wanted something from the cupboard could find it much more quickly – saving time, - and you stop buying things you don’t use – saving money.
One day, you say to your project managers – look – I want to introduce one simple rule. I want to say that every time any client ever asks their project manager, ‘what happens next?’ – that’s a bad day. You already know that it’s your job to understand the interdependency of every stage of every project you look after. And you’re doing great! But do you know that every client you have knows, right now, exactly what is happening next on their project? And exactly when it is happening? You knowing is one thing – them knowing is another. How about we try to ensure, from today, for good, that no client ever has to ask us ‘what happens next?’ And on you go.
On another day, you ask your team to wander out into the carpark. And you look at how the cars are parked. The people that get in first are parked nearest to the door. The people that get in last are parked furthest away. And the clients and customers that visit us during the day fit in where they can. What about if we left six spaces, right by the door, free for our clients? Might that make them feel that little bit more respected and thought about? Well, if the answer is ‘a bit’ – that’s what we want. A bit better. So let’s do it.
And here’s another thing to think about. On another day. Our business is growing and compartmentalising. We have an expanding middle management tier just beneath the senior management tier. And just below the middle management tier there are the engineers and the sales teams that do the core, front line hands-on work. They, amongst other things, seek out and close the business that keeps us alive. But as we grow, there is the possibility that the senior managers and the middle managers can be perceived as being increasingly detached from, and maybe even less aware of or concerned about, the people they are supposed to be looking after in sales and in the workshops. What thoughtful, unusual and interesting thing might we do in our business to address this potential problem, and make things a little bit better at the same time? What about if, when it comes to booking holidays, the sales teams and the engineers were allowed to book their holidays before any of the middle or senior managers? So that the important dates that are only available on a first come first served basis become available to the least senior people – first? Would that small gesture help show the sales team and the engineers how important they were and how much they were valued and respected? Maybe. A bit.
And that’s what this is all about. Making a busines a little bit better, in one way or another, every day. If ever you wanted a good reason to do this, here it is. If you start the year at one. And you become one percent better on day two, you have a 1 percent better business on day two. Now let’s say you carried on being just one percent better day after day, do you know how much of a better business you’d have at the end of one year? 365 days of being just one percent better? Your business would no longer be 1. It would ne almost 40 times ‘better’.
We’re in a world where most business owners don’t have a relentless ‘better tomorrow’ plan. For them, tomorrow never comes. So better never comes. Not you, though. You know the power of little improvements. You know that if you change a little – you change a lot.