Paring down to the essential to maximize productivity

Vitaliy Rizhkov by on September 6, 2016

Some of you may know that I’m a big fan of productivity. Anytime I do something that’s not productive, it really bothers me, even when it comes to areas over which I have no control.

The following example will show you just how much I live and breathe productivity:

A while back, my family and I lived in a house located far from the highway and with no convenient highway exit. I determined that if the City of Vancouver simply added an exit at a specific street, I could save 10 minutes every day, four to five days a week on my commute to work. I couldn’t help obsessing over the fact that I was probably losing over 2,000 minutes each year. That reason alone made me dislike the house and want to move.

Paring down to the essential to maximize productivity

Due to my interest in productivity, I’ve spent a lot of time over the past ten years learning about it. Through my research and experience, I’ve learned that less than 20% of all actions you take directly affect the result. Interestingly, that same 20% or so brings in over 80% of the revenue. Of course, the smart thing to do is to cut out the ineffective actions and focus on the remaining 20%, right? Yes, but how?

In this post, I want to discuss tactics you can take to make your business more productive by eliminating or reducing those ineffective actions and focusing on the effective ones.

A visualization about productivity

To better understand approaches to productivity, let’s first view the concept of business productivity in terms of a shooting range. Imagine you’ve never shot a gun before, and now you’ve decided you want to learn. You take the gun to the range and start shooting at your target. Let’s say you shoot 1,000 bullets. May you even shoot 10,000 or 100,000. Will you improve your ability to hit the target over time? Probably not. Yes, you’ll likely hit the target, but only after taking tens or hundreds of shots. That seems like a fairly ineffective approach.

To improve your shooting, you need to take small steps, analyze the results, learn from them, and improve. All you need to learn is how to make that one shot—the one that goes directly to the target.

Take the “sniper” approach to business

You don’t need a machine gun and hundreds of shots to increase your odds of hitting the target. You need an optical gun and one shot. The “sniper” approach to business, if you will. Some people use machine guns in business. Sometimes it works, but it neither efficiently or effectively.

Many businesses struggle to become profitable because they take many unnecessary steps and spend a great deal of money unnecessarily. They think they are doing everything correctly, purchasing services and products or applying certain tactics and techniques. These are all fine when you’re trying to scale your business, but they’re a big NO for any business that’s trying to become sustainable. They’re taking the machine gun approach, not the sniper approach, thinking that more effort and spending rather than highly focused effort and spending will lead to success.

Figure out what works

So what can you do to take that focused, efficient approach to business? Here’s one simple thing you can do to get started:

Many of you who run a business probably can’t say which of the many things you spend money and resources on bring you results. You have to make that connection. Look at your results and then track them back to their source. Understand what exactly you or someone else did to make those results happen. Learn which right steps to take from the very beginning to arrive at those results. Doing this will help lower costs and drastically improve your conversion rates.

Cut what’s unnecessary

Many years ago I worked in a woodshop alongside other people. One of the guys never stopped working. When all of us spent a good 20 minutes eating lunch and talking, he continued working. When we drank tea, he continued working. His boss loved it, but it turned out that his productivity was five times lower than any other person in the shop. He was performing a lot of unnecessary steps and movements and never tried to analyze them and become more efficient. He used that machine gun approach mentioned earlier.

Most of the services you use, most of the steps you take, and some of the people who work for you don’t help you get results. In some cases, it may be difficult, but you have to cut them.

Simplify your sales funnel

Every business depends on sales. To create a sale, you have to start with a lead and then work with that lead to convert that person into a paying customer. This is your sales funnel. You can become more productive by creating a more efficient sales funnel. Here’s some advice on doing that:

In the beginning, your sales funnel should be very simple. Build it so that it has as few steps from start to finish as possible and as little automation as possible. That might be as simple as looking at your contacts list for prospects, calling them to set up a meeting, meeting with them, and closing the sale. It doesn’t always have to mean buying contact lists and setting up an elaborate, automated email campaign.

Get personal

Many people try to avoid making in-person contact with prospects. They invest in ads and other sources for lead generation. They only talk with people over the phone or meet them in person after they become paying customers. While this might work for scaling an already profitable business, it’s probably not ideal for businesses trying to survive and become profitable.

Try meeting your prospects face to face. Talk to them, show them that you’re an expert, explain how you can help them, and convert them into a buying customer. If you talk to them and offer your help, you can absolutely succeed.

Hopefully this post helps you see ways that you can get your business more productive—critical for all businesses, but especially for businesses just getting off the ground or trying to become sustainable. Only when you’ve figured out what works, how to cut everything that’s unnecessary, and determined how to become profitable should you start thinking about how to automate and scale.

What have you done to improve productivity with your business? I’d love to hear about your experiences in the comments section.

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