An Awkward Conversation to Have to Improve Your Business

If you’re thinking about how to fix your business or ways you can improve it, then one thing I think can be really helpful is to find the spots in a conversation where you make yourself cringe a bit. 

Let me explain 😊

Suppose you decided to sell your business and as of tomorrow a new owner was going to take over. Your job is to walk them through the business and explain how you do things and who each person is. 

Kind of a broad and potentially long conversation, I know. But focus yourself on any spots where you imagine things could get a little difficult to explain or which might not make you look that good. 

For example, when it comes to sales and marketing, how would you explain it to the new owner? If the answer is, we kind of just wait for the phone to ring, that’s not going to sound too good, right? That may be the truth, but then, that’s maybe something to think about working on.

Or suppose you are talking through the process for creating an invoice for a new customer. And as you talk through it, you realize, there’s a lot of steps there and maybe they don’t all sound too logical or all make sense. Maybe it’s just the way you’ve always done it but maybe it’s time to rethink that a bit? 

You might be going through the list of employees and realize you have someone with a very odd schedule or who does two different and unrelated jobs. That might be working OK for you now, but when you say it out loud it may seem actually pretty weird. 

The idea is, if it sounds funny and you have to then kind of think about how to explain how something ended up working in an unusual way that an outside person would not immediately understand or think made sense…well, maybe it doesn’t? 

So how do we fix that? 

How to Work on Constantly Improving Your Business 

Making your business run smoother and in a way that is efficient and effective is a constant struggle. Things evolve all the time and not always towards a better method. 

Sometimes you have to do something a harder way that you expect to be temporary but it becomes “the way” that thing gets done over time and now it seems too hard to change. 

You want to fight this tendency in your business and make sure that as you go along things still make sense and are getting done the most productive way. 

Here’s an example from my own business experience back when I owned a catering company. One of the big sticking points was when the employees would come in to load the trucks for events. 

The first job in getting ready for an event was to load the gear needed on the truck for the event. All this stuff was kept in a large room with wall-to-wall shelves and each item was in a stack of basket or plastic divider or bucket. 

This task could take half an hour for an experienced employee or double that for a new person while they figured out where to find all the stuff written in abbreviations on the loading sheet they needed to gather and load. Very often, a truck would leave with something missing – or worse, something that was for a different event! 

Someone would have to be dispatched to run all over town bringing missed items and swapping the wrong ones – hopefully in time for the event. The room could get pretty chaotic on a busy day with three or more trucks loading at once. Then bringing it all back and putting it all away in the proper place was even worse – it never got done right and things got “lost” all the time when they were put somewhere they weren’t supposed to be. 

But this was how it was always done. Until one day, I was talking through the problem with a friend who knew nothing about the business but was lending a sympathetic ear. He asked how much overall geat we had and I said we had enough to do ten parties at once. 

So he said why don’t you just make ten piles and have each truck just grab their own pile – even if they end up with some stuff they didn’t need at least they are sure to have everything they did need and they won’t have to run around trying to gather it all. So simple. 

Except we didn’t just make piles on the floor of catering items because, well, that would be gross. 

The solution we did come up with was to put ten large lockers in the equipment room, replacing all the shelves. Each locker had a lock on it. And then when a crew came in, they just got a key, and the only job that had to be explained was they took everything out of the locker and put it on the truck. When they came back, they cleaned everything and put it back in the locker. 

Suddenly, no more forgetting things, no training needed for new people, and full accountability on returning all items! We saved so much time, even loading some stuff that didn’t end up getting used, we cut almost 90 minutes off the time needed to run an event including the before and after time. 

And this never would have occurred to us if we hadn’t been talking it through, discussing the problem, and realizing from the outside the way we were doing it sounded pretty crazy! 

That’s why this idea of having a conversation with someone can help – when you find yourself trying to explain some of the things you do it might become clear that you probably could find a better way. 

Ask for sincere feedback and to ask about anything that doesn’t make sense and how they might do it instead. 

You may be surprised what you uncover! 

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