This was originally a guest post I wrote on The Productivity Blog
Bad process documentation can kill your business dead. Here’s how:
1. Quality of Work
Documenting your processes is proven to improve quality of work. Dr. Atul Gawande in his bestseller, the Checklist Manifesto, presents facts that show using checklists in surgery has significantly increased success rates, resulting in tens of thousands of lives saved. He also shows how a wide range of industries from construction to venture capital have improved quality through documentation.
Poor quality work can destroy your reputation sending your customers running. No customers, no business.
2. Employee Turnover
We all know staff come and go. Keeping on to the good ones is important, but sometimes there is nothing you can do. When a key employee unexpectedly ups and leaves it can have a crippling effect, especially on small businesses.
This pain can further be accelerated if you, the business owner, has non-work related issues to deal with.
If this unfortunate circumstance is ever to happen to you, make sure you have your documentation in order and you just might get through it.
3. Rapid Growth
Growth is the most exciting phase of business. It’s the reward for all the blood, sweat and tears. But growth is a double edged sword. With big ups come big downs, and if you are not prepared to manage the growth, your business can implode on itself. Hiring and training new staff, processing larger order quantities, supporting more customers and opening new offices are highly complex processes that if done incorrectly can cost you lots of money or even collapse your business.
Ensuring you have processes in place to manage these growing pains is of the utmost importance.
If you ever want to sell your business, having proper documentation is of the utmost importance.
A prospective buyer wants to know the business they are buying is going to run effectively on its own, without you, the former owner having to be there.
Having your standard operating procedures documented can help you close the deal and even get you a sale price. While poor documentation could cause the deal to fall through.
If you still need more proof on the importance of process documentation, check out this book by Michael Gerber – The E-Myth Revisited: Why Most Small Businesses Don’t Work and What to Do About It.
So what are you waiting for? Document or die.
I’ve been travelling for over 3 years and while I love it, I have found myself in dire need of sleep in many strange places.
Couches in random peoples houses, rooms in raging college parties, bustling 18 bed dorms in hostels and of course planes, airports, bus stops, trains etc…
With so many changing sleep environments it is essential to create a fool proof system to be able to sleep anywhere anytime, below is my system. The system might change a little depending the environment but this post will cover the essentials:
1. Eye Mask
The eye mask is really the best tool for blocking light. Your face structure will depend on which mask works best for you. I have gone through a few. If you fly business they usually give you a pretty decent one, or you can pick them up at most airports.
Hoodies are an essential tool for traveling on planes, ideally zip up. Not only do they keep you warm and can be used to block light by putting the hood over your eyes (make sure hood is big enough to do this) but they are also great because you can hide your headphones without the flight attendants seeing that you are still listening to an electronic device (you will see why this is important below).
P.S. I have not turned my electronic devices off on the last 40 flights I have taken… Don’t worry, you won’t bring down the plane.
This is a super hack. The White Noise App is available for both iOS and Android costs around $2 (there is a free lite version too) but is totally worth it. Even for 1 nights good sleep, $2 is a small price to pay, but for countless nights sleep, the value is infinite. Possibly the highest ROI app I have ever purchased. Get some quality noise cancellation headphones (sport headphones work well to if your roll around in your sleep a lot), close your eyes and listen to the world fade away. Use this in conjunction with a hoodie on flights, and sleep right through the safety announcements, takeoff and landing to get a sold extra 30-45 min sleep on a flight.
I currently use this on my Nexus 7 tablet and really like it. It allows you to wake using any music on your device, I have it just play randomly from my playlist, it fades in music so you are not woken suddenly, it tracks your sleep patterns if you keep your tablet on your bed while you are sleeping and only wakes you when you are in a light sleep pattern within your given window and it makes you do math problems to turn it off!
There you have it. With this combo you will be able to sleep through the next world war and wake up fresh for work on Monday.
You can thank me later 😉
I was so happy when I found this I just had to share it. I LOVE this trick.
Basically, it allows you to add browser based web apps to your task bar when using chrome.
This is what it looks like:
Below is a YouTube video that shows you how to do it. Takes 2 seconds and is built into chrome.
This has already save me hours browsing through tabs and opening multiple chrome windows.
I’ve been working on email optimization lately. Here are three plugins I have found that are awesome:
Snooze your Emails – allows you to set a reminder to re-visit that email at a later date, instead of just losing it in your inbox.
Yesware – allows you to track who is opening your emails, and create templates that you can fill in with just the click of a button.
Boomerang – allows you to schedule emails to be sent at a later date.
Oh, and make sure you are logged into Chrome with your Google Account, so that your plugins and settings are synced across all your computers.
Last post I introduced the big-small-big theory on how to get ahead in the corporate world. If you haven’t read it yet, I suggest you go back because this post won’t make any sense otherwise…
I talked about the concept of how working in a small business produces more productive employees which can then progress faster in their careers but if this were the only factor, couldn’t you just go from university into a small business, maybe even a crappy business working as a manager then move into a job as Head of Equities at Citigroup?
See, big businesses like order. They like structure and the LOVE process. And it’s not like its without merit. Start up workers cringe at the thought of filling out forms for stationary and needing to complete detailed expense reports at the end of each month. But when you have 100k+ employees, small numbers make a big difference.
So while big businesses tend to make inefficient employees, who take the long route when encountered with decisions and actions, it needs to be done or the company would implode.
This is why big companies don’t like people from small businesses. It is too much of a culture shock. While the big business doesn’t need to teach them how to do their job (ie how to program) they need to teach them all the processes such as documentation, communication logging, project scheduling etc…
If a programmer spots a bug in a live program, he can’t just solve it like he would in a small business.
He would have to analyze the program. Report it to the support team with a detailed document and submit a support ticket. The support team would then send it to the testing team to make sure the bug exists. Then it’s sent to a support development team that focuses on fixes and upgrades. They will organise a meeting with the developer who found the problem. A solution will be drafted, while consulting with the architect. The project will be approved by the Project Manager. It will be inserted into the project schedule by the coordinator and it will finally be executed.
That may seem inefficient, but it’s necessary. It’s necessary because if every programmer just started hacking at the system, and ONE single guy messed up, causing the system to go down for 10 minutes. It might cost the bank the equivalent of that guy’s entire life’s salary – probably more.
Understanding this process is essential for anyone working in a big business, and this is exactly what you’re taught in your first few years as a graduate in a big business. In fact, this is basically all you are taught as your first few years as a graduate. Besides how to scan shit… (If you’re a recent college grad and don’t like the sound of this, don’t worry. You can still get some value from this job by adding everyone to LinkedIn)
Small businesses on the other hand need more of this structure if they want to expand. This is why small businesses like bringing people in from the big guys. They bring order to the chaos. Then they get corrupted… But at least they understand how and why structure is necessary.
Once they pick up some actual knowledge and skills from the small business, they are now a super worker. Who actually knows stuff, has had to make real decisions, not just small tweaks to existing processes and hopefully has results making a real impact on the success of a business. Plus they understand the value of order and process.
At this point they can walk back into a big business in a higher position completing the big-small-big structure.
This method of getting ahead is not without its risks. That being said, no method of getting ahead it without its risks except maybe being born rich or looking like Megan Fox.
Risks include picking a crappy small company that either doesn’t do anything or dies. You should obviously analyse this before you take the job. The great thing about this strategy is that you can look for your small company while sitting in the big one. Don’t leave until you find the perfect position. Look for a small company that is rapidly growing and one that will have progression opportunities. One that has holes in its organisational structure or has huge growth potential (pre IPO anyone?). Look what is happening to Google right now! They are fighting an uphill battle to keep their top staff including recently throwing $3.5 mil at an engineer to not go to Facebook. If you pick your small company right, it can make all the difference.
Another downside of this is work hours and stress. Moving to a smaller company will likely increase both of these elements. If you are planning on having a kid, now is probably not the best time to leave your stable job for a risky start up. Be prepared to work hard in the small business or you will not get the rewards.
Where as in a big business, lots of the time it’s not really worth working hard. Because the reward for doing an exceptional job is usually the same as doing an OK job. If you know anything about the Dilbert Principal doing a crap job will probably get you promoted faster, drinking helps too, but in reality it’s all about personal preference, so networking is probably the best way to go.
Are You a Decision Making Douche?
My latest and faviouritest book is Psycho Cybernetics by Maxwell Maltz. I have the audio version and am on my third listen. Which is no small feat as it’s a monstrous book.
The book is crazy famous and has been used by countless athletes, actors, CEOs, entrepreneurs, coaches etc…
For those who don’t know, Psycho Cybernetics is the father of self help books. Its topics include self image, emotional state, action quota, decision making, success mechanisms, happiness, visualisation and I don’t even know what else. It is literally like 5 books in one. Each time I have listened to it, it has been like whole book of new information.
It is one of those books that will resonate with you differently depending on where in life you are. This is why I think so many people go through it multiple times. It’s like reading a different book the next time around.
One of the topics that stuck with me this time around was the topic of decision making. I wrote here how important decisions are and how much of a dramatic impact they can have on your life.
Maxwell Maltz goes into decision making in great detail. Here are some of the takeaways:
Making a decision
Making a decision is incredibly important. While you should use the information you have to assess the pros and cons of a decision you should not dwell on it too long. Decisiveness is one of the strongest traits of any leader and is a key hiring characteristic for management in the corporate world. Being able to quickly come to a decision, act on it and have others follow you creates motion instead of stagnation. Motion is the breeding ground for innovation, creativeness, success and happiness. Stagnation is the breading ground of doubt, lethargy, boredom and depression.
If you are thinking about doing something, decide if you are going to do it or not, then act on your decision.
Locking away the Decision
This brings me to the next point. Locking away a decision. Once you have made a decision, you need to lock it away in the ‘lock box’ as so famously quoted by US Vice President Al Gore. There is no use worrying or stressing over whether or not you made a correct decision after you have made that decision. Once the decision is made, you should completely detach yourself from the outcome of the decision and just work on taking action. All analysis and concern should be done before the decision is made, not after.
If you spend time thinking about whether or not the decision was the correct one is that going to help you achieve your goal?
Worrying and stressing about the ‘correctness’ of your decision is a stupid waste of time, energy and emotional state.
Making the Correct Decision
In his lectures to business leaders, Maltz quotes a few cogent remarks from his attendees:
“Dr. Maltz, the truth is that there are few inherently right decisions or wrong decisions. Instead, we make decisions, then make them right. That’s what leadership is all about.”
“You can always correct a poor decision, but if you do nothing, you can never get the time back.”
As stated above, worrying about whether your decision was the right one or not is not only stupid, but it increases the chances that the decision will end up as the wrong one.
If you decide to start a project, but spend all your days worrying if it will be successful or not instead of working hard to create the output necessary to complete the project, you are creating the result of a poor decision.
Whereas if you had decided you are going to start a project and work five hours a day for the next two weeks on it and not worry whether or not it will be successful, you are creating the results of a completed project which has a higher chance of being the correct decision.
You can significantly alter the outcome of your decision helping to determine its success factor.
Moral of the story
If you’re thinking about doing something, decide and move on. If it turns out you made the wrong decision, make a new decision and move on. Don’t stay in a state of limbo and don’t worry about if you are making the correct decision. Worst case scenario you fail. Who gives a fuck! NEXT.
Great speech from Dan Pink on what drives people.
Click here if you cant see the video.
Dan Pink – Drive
– Money is a great driver for repetitive quantifiable activities
– Money is not the best driver for creativity
– People are more inclined to do things because of purpose, mastery and a sense of contribution
It’s interesting to see how many of the successful companies like Google have integrated this work philosophy into their cultures.