Some people who follow me on social media think I am an unreasonable boss, over-controlling, and that I ask the impossible from my staff. Those who have read my books tend to have a very different perception. I think the main difference is that those who dig in and read a book are more likely to understand the bigger, more complex picture.
I can honestly say that my employees have almost universally enjoyed working with me and the companies I’ve built. This is because I help them improve their skills, become more professional, and adopt habits that virtually guarantee their success going forward. And we accomplish this by focusing on proven practices.
I heard a very brilliant statement once that I have never found a verified source for:
You can’t control people,
but you can control your processes.
This is SO true! You can’t control employees, clients, vendors, sales people, or anyone else. But if you have good processes—and are committed to your processes—you can achieve anything.
And remember the jigsaw analogy from the previous blog post. When everyone believes in documentation, standardization, and priorities, it becomes very easy to do very complicated things. You set priorities (which are standardized). You cross-train your team. You let employees manage themselves as much as they are able.
And this simple combination performs a bit of magic: You reduce “work in progress” and therefore everything moves faster. You get more work done because everyone is totally focused on the one job in front of them.
To some people, this seems like an impossible pipe-dream. But if everyone buys into the priority system, you can make it happen. And if everything is standardized and documented, and everyone is cross-trained, it can happen.
Think about your challenges. How do you get technicians to fill out their time cards? Process. How do you achieve flawless service delivery? Process. How do you know that every client system is working every single day? Process.
Here’s an example of how process absolutely works: Sales. You might not think you have a sales process, but you do. Assuming you have more than one client, you have managed to “sell” your service several times. You might not have it documented or standardized in your mind, but you do something—and people sign a deal. What is that something?
For me, I love a very slow sales process. (Google: “Palachuk slow sales process” to see more.) Here’s how it works. First, meet with the prospect and listen to every single thing they say. Do not talk about money. Change the conversation. Absolutely don’t give a hint on pricing.
Second, you meet with the prospect and give them a report on what you learned last time. Basically, you’re going to reflect back to them what they told you. If you can, build a vision of their future. What is the ideal? Where are you going, and what does it look like. Get feedback. Ask them if you can create a plan. Do not talk about money.
Third, you produce a rough plan. Get their feedback. Try to find out what’s high, medium, and low priority. Try to get a budget from them.
Note: The key to success is to SLOW DOWN the process. Talk about the real problems. Talk about possible solutions. Talk about various options. Learn as much as you can so that you can give them a realistic proposal.
Finally, in the fourth meeting, you can propose your actual plan, with numbers. It makes no sense to talk money before this because you don’t have enough information. And this is key: Until you’ve had a series of conversations, the client has no way to evaluate you . . . except for dollars.
Remember, the prospect has no idea what you do, how it works, or what it costs. They know nothing about your actual business. The only thing you have in common is money. You know what a dollar is worth; they know what a dollar is worth.
The sooner you bring up price—with no other context—the sooner they can compare you to someone else they saw online, or a commercial, or whatever. Remember the old sales rule: Whoever mentions money first loses.
Here’s the point: Every single time I violate this process, I lose the sale. When I force the client to go through my slow process, they might buy. (I won’t claim that they all buy.) But if I cut straight to the price, it’s almost guaranteed that they won’t buy.
I can’t control people. But I can control my sales process.
Unfortunately, I have another example. Over the course of about ten years, I developed a fine-tuned hiring process. It was great at filtering people who weren’t going to work out. It pre-qualified candidates before they showed up. And it guaranteed that they were a good contribution to our company culture once hired.
The single worst hire I ever made was the result of one big mistake: I violated my process. I short-circuited it. I hired the friend of a friend who I knew to be an amazing technician.
That hire was absolutely the worst technician I have ever worked with. In fact, he’s the only person I have actually fired. Normally, I lay off people in order to down-size our operation. But I fired this guy with no qualms whatsoever. I wish I could hire him again just so I could fire him again!
Why did I go through that horrible experience? Because I didn’t follow my process. The process worked: I didn’t!
I say success is a habit. But, really, success is the habit of collecting and executing a series of successful habits.
My new book – The Absolutely Unbreakable Rules of Service Delivery – is derived from twenty-five years of successful habits. Habits for running a business, habits for dealing with clients, habits for managing employees, and so on.
In my last book—The Small Biz Quickstart Workbook—I created a massive checklist of everything one needs to do in the year before and the year after starting a new business. When I talked about these massive to-do lists with business owners, I had to acknowledge that they already knew most of this stuff, or it was irrelevant.
- How do you get a business bank account?
- Do you need a tax ID?
- Where do you go to pay taxes?
- How do you hire someone?
If you’ve already gone through all that, the answers are pretty easy. If you and I started a business today, we would spend one minute talking about this kind of minutia. Why? Because these things are either so obvious or so un-related to our success that we know that they’re not the juicy, good part of our new adventure.
You and I are going to create an awesome business to take over the world. Where we set up a bank account is the least important detail.
So, you see, at this most fundamental level, we know how to start a business and run a business. And we both know that that’s not where the magic happens. Down the road, when it comes to branding, messaging, and service delivery, that’s where we need to spend our energy. That’s where the magic happens. That’s where processes and procedures make us different from everyone else. That’s where we excel while our competitors wonder what just happened.
Success is a habit because you can teach yourself to have the right conversations; to think in the right ways; to invest in the people who will make your business great. If you print out the Absolutely Unbreakable Rules, and post them on your wall, you can begin to follow each of them—or your variation on them. As each of them becomes a habit, it will make you just a little bit more successful.
As a Mandalorian would say, “This is the way.”
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For more great tips on your personal and business success, please check out my new book:
The Absolutely Unbreakable Rules of Service Delivery
Available on Kindle or in Paperback.
More information at