There’s something very satisfying about planting seeds.
A little work and some dirty fingernails now, and in a season or two, you reap the benefits – with very little to be done in between.
Here are three business growth seeds you can plant this weekend.
1. Plant a plant.
Call a buddy – a colleague or friend in business whose judgment you respect, but who doesn’t work for you – and give them an ‘access all areas’ pass to your business. (Think ‘secret shopper’ but extended to the whole enterprise – sales, ops and admin).
Ask them to visit your business, unannounced and unsupervised, at least six times in the next 12 months, and to visit a different part each time.
Tell them they can speak with anyone they want, ask anything they want, watch whatever they want – no restrictions, except they can’t offer advice to anyone they meet. (Tell your employees, too, so they’re not confused or surprised – this isn’t about catching people off-guard.)
Make dinner reservations for a year from now, and over dinner ask your friend to simply (and honestly) debrief you on what they saw and heard over the year. No structure, no agenda, no forced outcome – just a simple brain dump on their observations. I guarantee that the less structured you make the debrief, the more interesting and surprising it will be.
2. Bury a bulb.
What’s the single most important contact point with your clients or customers? Your website? Your retail locations? The ER department? Your reception area? Your service call center?
Whatever/wherever it is, on top of whatever existing data collection processes you have, put in place a basic but comprehensive raw data collection process (if you don’t already have one), and just let it run for 6 months.
Don’t feel obligated to slice and dice the data in any way during that time. When the six months are up, pull out that raw data (maybe it’s Google analytics from your website, or a visitors log and list of resulting sales/non-sales from your 10 car sales lots, or the phone logs from your call center) …and simply roll around in it for a couple of days.
Don’t pre-invest: don’t feel obligated to see anything there that isn’t, and don’t feel that something has to come out of the exercise. Just see if something does emerge, and if so, what it’s telling you. Amongst other things, this is a great way to identify potential black swans impacting your business. (Hat-tip to Gene Cornfield over at Cameostars for showing me the power of this process.)
3. Secure a sapling.
You have more good business growth ideas than you could ever hope to implement. So pick one idea from the top of the ‘B’ list (you know: an idea you know is good, but which you also know you’ll never get round to implementing).
Make sure it’s not an idea which, if it goes awry, could conceivably bet the ranch. Hand that idea off to someone else in the organization. Share with them your vision for it, agree on some use-of-resources constraints, establish an understanding that working on the idea cannot impact their usual deliverables, and tell them you don’t want to hear another thing about it for 6 months.
Schedule a meeting six months out to hear how they’ve done with the sapling.
More you can do in a weekend