Northwoods business owners: Is it time to clean out the sludge?
When was the last time you took a hard, objective look at your business? When was the last time you pushed back and asked, “Why do we do this?” Have you asked, “Do we really need this?” Have you asked, “Who cares if we do or don’t do this?” Are you and your business in a rut? Do you go in expecting the same thing every day? Does one day seem pretty much like the next? If so, perhaps it’s time to clean out the sludge!
In retail, there is an old acronym called GOLD. It is said that if you apply GOLD, that is what you will get. GOLD stands for Grand Opening Look Daily. Unfortunately, very few retail organizations ever look as good as they did the day they had their grand opening. Over time, dirt accumulates, maintenance is skipped or overlooked. Old, obsolete materials and signs pile up, cracks appear in the parking lot, light bulbs go out or get dim. All kinds of things happen slowly over time so they are not noticed but eventually, cumulatively, they add up and make a big difference.
If you live in a house for 10 years and a squeak develops in the front door, you may never hear it because it developed slowly over time. When the real estate agent comes to sell your house, however, it will probably be the first thing they will tell you to fix because it is very obvious to them.
Even top companies and organizations are subject to the insidious creep of cumulative decay. I have seen Fortune 50 companies do product testing versus their competitors to see if it is OK to implement cost reduction programs. They test their current version versus the competitors’ and if their customers can’t tell the difference, they implement the cost reduction. Then, when cost pressures grow, they do it again and again. Then one day, the competitors test as an overall winner and they wonder why. What they didn’t test was their original version of their own product or service. They had degraded their products slowly over time and lost sight of the original performance level that they once delivered.
This type of creep occurs in all areas of business, even with people. Maybe your organization has people who have been with you since the beginning. They may certainly be valuable for their knowledge and you may appreciate them for their past contributions, but if they don’t continue to grow their own skills and grow their value within the organization, maybe it is time for a change. Some organizations like General Electric and PepsiCo make it a point to remove the bottom-rated 10 percent of their workforce annually. The theory behind this is that you are constantly trying to ratchet up the quality of your workforce and then the next 10 percent feels the pressure to perform better.
Personal performance can also be affected. In gardening, weeding is important to make way for the healthy plants to grow. Once weeded, the healthy plants can get more nutrients, water and sunshine. When was the last time you cleared your desk or actually finished a “to do” list? You will get more focus by periodically cleaning out your files, pushing back and asking, “Is this really important to moving the business or organization ahead?” You will have fewer distractions that, like the weeds, take away energy, light and fuel from doing what really matters.
Change is difficult for most people and organizations. Doing the same thing over and over and expecting different results, however, has indeed been described as insanity. Rather than continuing to do things the way they have always been done and letting little problems, annoyances and inconveniences add up, push back. Ask yourself why you are doing what you are doing. If it weren’t done, would anyone really miss it? If it wasn’t here, would it matter? Is it really being done in the most efficient or best manner? Is there a way to easily improve the way something works or looks that will help the business?
In short, push back, evaluate and then act to clean out the sludge. When you do so, you will be able to make more money with less effort.
About the Author: Scott Francis is president of Topline Development LLC, a strategic marketing consulting group that provides new product development and start-up strategies, advertising and marketing consulting, and sales support programs. To learn more about Topline Development LLC, visit their website at ToplineDevelopment.com or contact Scott directly at Scott@ToplineDevelopment.com.