With apps, IT and gadget wizardry to help, we’ve all become obsessed with juggling as many balls in the air as we can. But are we any more effective at getting things done than previous generations? And is this really helping our businesses?
Did you see the programme before Christmas which went behind the scenes of the iconic London hotel Claridge’s? An interview with one of their regular guests got me thinking.
Faster but not necessarily better
This particular guest goes to Claridge’s every day for breakfast (lucky him) but started life in much humbler beginnings in the East End of London. During the interview he talked nostalgically about a quality of life you no longer get in today’s society. For all the technology we have, for all that gadget and app wizardry we don’t really do things any better… just faster. In his youth, quality was more visible in daily life, for example you had daily bin collections, a seat to sit on in trains during busy times and several post deliveries a day to your home (even I remember two).
Even though we humans have made colossal strides in communication, technology and a whole host of other advances over the last half century, I think he may have a point.
Quality comes from effort
My local Chamber of Commerce recently discovered it was 100 years old when some historic documents and ledgers of meetings came to light. Going through them, I got a sense of generally how much better people did things a few decades back. Quality then seemed something more concentrated and accessible. I guess people had more time to create it and weren’t so distracted in order to give things the proper effort they deserved. The High Street back in the first half of the 20th century was under pressure as it is today. Local businesses got together as many of them are trying to do now to put on festivals, events, shop window competitions and special promotions to draw in footfall and add value to the community.
But when you see the photos of what they achieved you think wow! I cannot imagine anywhere today going to such efforts. Shops are beautifully decorated to the roof not just inside but outside too. There’s a sumptuous sense of pageantry that the whole town seemed to be involved in. And, way before the arrival of the web and the app, local Chambers of Commerce printed beautiful directories for local residents to signpost them to specific local services and retail offerings.
Injecting the quality back
Of course not everything was great in those days, but that’s not to say we can’t learn from what our ancestors did do well. Today in trying to do everything we often come away with having achieved very little – or at least the output is half the quality we want. It doesn’t make us any happier or satisfied either and we become resigned to settle for second best seeing quality as an inaccessible luxury. It doesn’t have to be like this though and so here’s a thought for you for 2013. Why not make ‘less is more’ your mantra?
De-clutter to excel
Cut back on a whole load of ‘stuff’ clogging up your business and even your home life in order to achieve fewer things but brilliantly. I’m going to hold my hand up here and own up to being rubbish at this in 2012, but the idea has got me excited for 2013. Here’s where I think some of the clutter and distractions could be culled from our business lives.
The 7 keys to ‘less is more':
1. Social media
If your customers and key business contacts aren’t engaging with social media stop burning time on it. Be tough on yourself – is this marketing tool really going to deliver sales or business opportunities in the long run? If it is then fine and invest time to do it properly – rather than dipping in and out. If not, bow out altogether and use that time more wisely. Social media is addictive, it will eat as much time as you let it and unless you’re getting commercial value from it for your business, seriously rethink the energy you’re devoting to it.
2. Pareto’s law
You’re probably familiar with the statistic that you get 80% of your business from 20% of your customers. If that’s the case then consider how you service those vital 20% of customers. How are you apportioning your time? Are you wasting energies on customers who are never ever going to seriously contribute to our 80% revenue bracket? Do you need to cull these attention diverters, albeit in the nicest possible way?
3. Forever chasing new customers
Are your marketing and sales efforts focused primarily on chasing new customers? Of course we all need a degree of new business but actually our existing customers (if we do a good job and they like us) can be encouraged to send more our way. They are also more likely to recommend us to their friends and contacts. So look at what percentage of your marketing and sales spend is on existing customers and perhaps rethink the balance.
4. Trim down your service or product lines
If you have tried to jump on the ‘choice’ bandwagon and provide a wide range products or services to your customers, think again. Consider which ones sell well and which you are really good at (they’re probably one and the same). Don’t be afraid to offer less choice as by doing so the quality of your output will improve and so will your customer loyalty. Choice is not always a good thing, in fact in today’s ‘noisy’ age our brains can’t cope with too much of it. Also consider the experience your customers receive in buying from you. Even in recession-battered Britain, people allocate a lot of importance to experience. Get it right and contribute positively to your customers’ lives and they’ll be happier to pay a higher price tag and stay loyal to you.
5. Networking, advertising, your website and other marketing and promotions
Before you get sucked into the ‘busyness’ of the New Year, spend 15 minutes thinking about all the time and money you invested in 2012 promoting your business. What worked in terms of bringing in leads or making sales and what didn’t? Cull those that didn’t deliver a return and plan how to make the ones that did even better in 2013.
6. Select just two goals
Decide two things you’d like to remember 2013 for. Select one for your business and one for your personal life. Don’t write down lists of resolutions that have no chance of being achieved and will only add to the fog of pressure in your brain. Give yourself a real chance to achieve something well and if you have just two goals that you’ve got 12 months to implement, you probably find you’re more motivated to achieve them. And if you achieve them before a few months is out consider setting another goal – or just enjoy the moment of having completed something well.
7. Ditch the gadgets, alerts, apps…
Give yourself time to think. Try a day without your gadgets, phone, alerts etc to see how more effective you are. If you are trying to concentrate whilst emails are ‘bleeping’ away at you or social media updates are ‘pinging’ for your attention then switch them off. Allocate time in your day or week to action these and give them your undivided attention when you do. At all other times, ignore them so you can get on with the task at hand. Don’t feel guilty about doing one thing at a time.
So why not join me in giving our ancestors a run for their ‘quality’ money? Let’s start doing fewer things really well. Let’s put an end to trying to do lots of things poorly. Come December 2013 be proud of your achievements rather than just glad you crawled exhaustedly to the end of the year once again.
If the 2012 Olympic legacy has taught us something, it’s that ….
What is your experience of ‘less is more?’ If you have some great tips to share let me know in the comments below…would love to hear from you!