“Work harder” is the mantra of both the growing and the collapsing business. Work harder is the mantra of every entrepreneur, every business owner, every A-player employee, and every person just struggling to keep up. Our perverted pride about working longer, faster, and harder than everyone else in our industry has taken over. Instead of running one marathon, we are trying to sprint ten. Unless something changes, those of us who buy into this way of life are headed for a breakdown. And maybe double pneumonia to boot.
The goal is not to find more hours in your day. That is the brute force approach to business operations, and even when you pull it off, you’ll just fill that time with more work, anyway. The goal is organizational efficiency. In this book you’ll learn how to make simple but powerful shifts in your mind-set and day-to-day operations that will make your business run on automatic.
Life is about impact, not hours. On my deathbed, I will be asking myself if I fulfilled my life’s purpose, if I grew as an individual, if I truly served you and others, and if I deeply and actively loved my family and friends. If I may be so bold, I think you will be asking the same.
It’s time to join the elite Clockwork Club.
THE SOLUTION IS NOT THE SOLUTION
An entire industry is built around the desire to do more, faster. Podcasts, articles, and books; mastermind groups and coaches; productivity challenges, calendars, journals, and software. We buy into the next productivity solution someone recommends because we’re desperate. Desperate to grow our companies by getting more done faster, and managing all our work without losing our minds.
Because productivity leaves everything on your plate. Productivity allows you to do more, faster. The pivotal word being ‘you.’ You can do more, therefore you in fact do more, and you do it all. Even when you say you are outsourcing the work, you really aren’t, because you can’t outsource the decisions. You are giving one task to someone else, but they come back at you with one million questions. You actually need to work even more, when you try to not do the work
Mind. Blown. It turns out that productivity doesn’t get you out of the doing; it just gets you doing more.
REVISITING PARKINSON’S LAW
You and I both know extremely productive people who work sixteen hours a day. You and I absolutely know the “I do best when I cram” people.
Parkinson’s Law—“our consumption of a resource expands to meet its supply”—to profit. Just as we use all the time we have allocated for a project to finish it, we also spend the money we have, which is why most entrepreneurs rarely earn as much as their employees, much less turn a profit. The more money we have to spend, the more we spend. The more time we have, the more of it we spend working. You get the idea.
The fix to this behavior is ridonkulously simple: limit the resource and you limit your utilization of it. For example, when, after you collect revenue, you allocate profit first and hide it away (in a remote bank account), you have less money to spend. So guess what? You spend less. When you don’t readily have access to all the cash flowing through your business, you are forced to find ways to run your business with less.
And now that we’re talking about time, Parkinson’s Law is even more relevant. Whatever time you give yourself to work, you will use. Nights, weekends, vacations—if you think you need it, you’ll work right through your time off. This is the root cause of the failure of productivity. The goal of productivity is to get as much done as quickly as possible. The problem is, because you’ve prioritized a seemingly endless amount of time to running your business, you’ll continuously find a way to fill up the time. The more productive you are, the more you can take on. The more you take on, the more productive you have to be. Do you see how productivity is a trap?
Part of the Clockwork solution is to actually restrict time, to use Parkinson’s Law to our advantage. But that alone won’t get us off the hamster wheel. When we give ourselves less time, we also need to figure out where to focus the remaining time. It’s not about doing more with less. It’s about doing less with less to achieve more. You need to do the right tasks with your restricted time and have other people do the right tasks with their restricted time.
In other words, a business that runs like clockwork is about selective efficiency, not mass productivity.
THE SURVIVAL TRAP
The Survival Trap is never-ending cycle of reacting to whatever comes up in your business—be it a problem or an opportunity—in order to move on. It’s a trap because as we respond to what is urgent rather than what is important, we get the satisfaction of fixing a problem. The adrenaline rush of saving something—the account, the order, the pitch, the entire damn day—makes us feel as though we are making progress in our business, but really, we are stuck in a reactionary cycle. We jump all about, fixing this, saving that. As a result, our business careens to the right, then to the left. Then we throw it in reverse, and jam it forward. Our business is a web of misdirection, and over the years it becomes a knotted mess—all because we were just trying to survive.
The Survival Trap is all about getting through today at the utter disregard for tomorrow. It’s about doing what is familiar. We feel good that we survived the day. But then, at some distant point in the future, we wake up and realize that years and years of work didn’t move us forward one iota, that merely trying to survive is a trap that results in a long, drawn-out drowning of our business and our willpower.
Sadly, you will discover that living in the Survival Trap leads to a very trashy day-to-day life of quick highs, deep lows, and doing anything to make a buck. Quite frankly, it is not the life of the coveted entrepreneur; it is the life, shrouded in shame, of the entreprewhore.
THE SEVEN STEPS OF CLOCKWORK
For a business to grow and serve its client base, it needs to get things done. This is the Doing part of a business. The business must also orchestrate its efforts so that all the people and systems are moving the business forward in a complementary fashion. This is the Design of a business. As people on your team work together, their communications will consist of making Decisions and Delegating work that must be accomplished. How you allocate your business’s time between the Doing, Deciding, Delegating, and Designing functions is called your 4D Mix, and getting it in the right proportions is crucial to helping your business run itself.
The goal of clockworking your business is to move you toward Designing it to run itself while other people or resources take care of the Doing part. To make this happen, we need to start with you and get clarity about how much time you spend Doing, and to do that we need to analyze your 4D Mix and that of your company.
As is true with any problem or opportunity in life, if you want to improve things, you need to know your baseline. Once we know that, we take deliberate and direct steps to get your company (and you) where you want it to be. The optimal 4D Mix is when the business spends 80 percent of its time Doing, 2 percent of the time making Decisions for others, 8 percent of the time Delegating outcomes, and 10 percent of the time being Designed for greater efficiency, better results, and less cost in the process. Regardless of whether you have one employee, one thousand, or somewhere in between, the optimal 4D Mix stays the same.
Here are the seven steps to make your business run itself:
#1 Analyze the 4D Mix
Set the benchmark levels for the blend of Doing, Deciding, Delegating, and Designing at which your business is currently operating. A clockwork business balances getting work done, managing resources, and constant improvement. In the first phase of making your company run itself, we do a simple time analysis to see how much is being spent in each of the four categories. And once we know, then you can adjust your company to the optimal 4D Mix.
#2 Declare the Corporate Queen Bee RolE
Identify the core function in your business that is the biggest determinant of your company’s success. Within every company there exists a single function that is the most significant determinant of the company’s health. It is where the uniqueness of your offering meets the best talents of you and/or your staff. It is what you declare the company’s success will hinge on.
Let’s call it the Queen Bee Role, or QBR. When this function is at full throttle, the business thrives, and when it is slowed or stopped, the entire business suffers. Every business has a QBR. You must identify and declare your company’s QBR, and as you improve its performance your entire business’s performance will elevate. The QBR is the “thrive factor” for your business, and you must decide what you want it to be.
#3 Protect and Serve the Queen Bee Role
Empower your team to ensure the biggest determinant of your company’s success is guarded and fulfilled. The QBR is such a critical role to your business that every employee, even if they are not the ones serving the QBR, needs to know what it is and how to protect and serve it. In a highly efficient business, the QBR is always the priority and systems are in place so that the people and resources who serve it are not taken away from it. Only when the QBR is humming along, can all people in the business do their own most important work (this is called their Primary Job).
#4 Capture Systems
Document or record the systems you already have in place so your team can do the work the way you want them to. Even though it may not seem that you have systems, you do. In fact, every business at every stage has all the systems it needs. Those systems simply need to be captured, trashed, transferred, and/or trimmed. Every entrepreneur and employee has a way of executing various tasks, but often they are undocumented and nontransferable. Using a simple evaluation and capture method you will impart that information to your team or freelancers with ease. Hint: You will not be creating a manual. Both the creation and consumption of manuals is inefficient and therefore has no room in a clockwork business.
#5 Balance the Team
Adjust roles and shift resources to maximize the efficiency and quality of the company’s offering. Businesses are like organisms; they grow and contract and change. To perform optimally you must match the inherent strength traits of employees to the jobs that need them most. Instead of a traditional top-down organization chart, an optimized company is more like a web. You never restrict employees to one job function. Instead, an efficient organization identifies the natural-strength traits of the employee and matches them to the tasks that benefit the most from those traits.
#6 Make the Commitment
Devote your process to serve a specific consumer need in a specific way. The biggest cause of business inefficiency is variability. The more services you provide to a wider mix of customers, the more variability you have, and the harder it becomes to provide extraordinary and consistent services. In this step, you will identify the best type of customer to serve, and determine the fewest products/services that will serve them at the highest level.
#7 Become a Clockwork Business
Free the business from dependency on you, and free yourself from dependency on the business. A clockwork business is a business that delivers consistent results, including growth goals, without your active involvement. As you are less available for the business, it will naturally become designed to run without you. In this step, you will learn how to create a business “dashboard” that enables you to stay on top of your business, even if you’re not there.
That’s it. Seven steps. In that order. You will discover and execute these seven steps throughout the rest of the book. As you go through this process, you will feel frustrated, or stuck, and want to give up. Don’t freak out; those are just signs that you are getting comfortable with the uncomfortable new stuff.
And as a result, you will experience a business that runs on automatic, just like clockwork.