Winning is Simpler When You Don't Complicate Things
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I know what your problem is. Don't worry, you're not alone. It's the same fundamental problem most business owners face.
Write this number down: 12,075,769,853. Now put your piece of paper away (without studying it) and recite it back to yourself based just on memory. Impossible right? Not so fast.
What if I told you it was easy to remember and I gave you a strategy so you’d never forget that big, intimidating, 11-digit number? I’d expect you to be more than a little skeptical.
What if I gave you that number this way: 1-207-576-9853? (That's my office line.)
Right about now, I suspect you either feel a little silly or annoyed with me. I’m glad. To change your perspective, I need you to get a little emotional.
That activity is a great metaphor for what we often do as entrepreneurs. We make things bigger, scarier and more complex in our minds than they need to be when it comes to our businesses. We get a little too emotional on the wrong end of the scale -- negative emotions such as intimidation or overwhelm. You’ve heard the expression “paralysis by analysis” right? It kills our results.
There are certain fundamentals to every business. As entrepreneurs we often complicate the simple instead of simplifying the complex. The phone number recall exercise is a great example of the power of simplifying the complex, taking things step by step and chunking complex information down into bite-sized pieces that are digestible or easy to remember. You easily recall with confidence all sorts of unique numbers in the billions: the phone numbers of your accountant, spouse, business partner, vendors, kids and closest friends. Those are all top of mind and you can probably dial them without even thinking.
Confidence and effective recall facilitate effective execution in any endeavor. Simple is powerful. This phone number exercise should make you stop and reflect on this one question:
What are the things I am unnecessarily complicating in my business?
If you’re not getting the results you want and feel like your business is in a slump, you’ve probably just gotten away from your fundamentals. You’ve made things complex in your mind. When an athlete is slumping, they don’t need to add new skills, strategies or techniques to their repertoire. Usually what caused their slump was an erosion of their fundamentals. Once they get back to their fundamentals and sharpen them, performance returns.
The most common fundamentals I see entrepreneurs lose sight of are:
1. KISS: Keep it smart and simple. Would you ever take a phone number and share it with someone in the form of a number in the billions? Of course not. Yet people do the equivalent of that in their business every day. Success in anything is fairly simple, but not easy. Easy implies effortless, simple indicates there is a ready-made path to follow. Break your complex business activities down into simple steps and better yet eliminate unnecessary steps whenever possible.
In 1999 when I was coaching college lacrosse, my goalie was in a slump. He focused on studying every shooter on each team, changed his technique and adjusted his footwork, all to no avail. What turned him around (and our season) was six words -- “See the ball, stop the ball.”
Don’t complicate winning in business, keep your eye on the ball and keep it smart and simple.
2. Seeing your business through the eyes of your customer. Entrepreneurs take an enormous amount of pride in their product or service. I encourage that because you’ve got to be sold yourself first, otherwise no one else will. But it is critical that you gather inside information as to what the client thinks of your product or service. Their opinion matters infinitely more than yours and when it comes to value, the market never lies.
If the customer doesn’t think it’s the greatest, you need to do better. Even more dangerous, if they don’t see the value in what you have to offer, then you really need to go back to the drawing board. Never lose sight of how the customer views your business. Think of gathering customer feedback as your scouting report.
3. Systematize and focus on the process. When you focus on the goal or the end result, you sidetrack or derail your efforts. Simplify your process.
I remember when I first started coaching college lacrosse -- my team wasn’t executing very well and just couldn’t score goals in the first half of the season. Out of frustration, I decided to scrap 95 percent of our playbook and simply focused on the two plays that we actually scored goals with. It was pure and accidental genius, I might add.
That act of frustration turned out to be the best thing I could have done, because my players developed confidence by being able to master a simple system. Confidence in anything is contagious. Their new-found confidence in the process enabled them to execute close to flawlessly and our goals per game average more than tripled. Often, less is more in business.
Having a process and system is the key to scalability of any enterprise. Design your process so it is simple to teach and easy to replicate. When you do that, it can be consistently delivered at a level of excellence.
Franchises are the masters at this. They create a systematic process for every aspect of the business. They make it a turnkey operation so the new business owner doesn’t have to create processes or reinvent the wheel to succeed.
Did you know that within the first five years 80 percent of independent businesses fail? Contrast that with 94 percent of franchises surviving in that same five-year window and you can see the value of process.
Success leaves clues, so I will ask you the same two questions I ask my clients:
- How are you franchising yourself, so to speak?
- Do you have a system, and if so, could you take it and duplicate it tomorrow?
Great performers don’t complicate winning. Vince Lombardi’s Green Bay Packers won five Super Bowls running one major play, the power sweep. They executed so flawlessly that opponents couldn't defend against it. Michelangelo painted the Sistine Chapel primarily using just three colors: green, purple and salmon.
Greatness is simple, but not easy. It all begins by not complicating winning.