Efficiency

Outsourcing your life

Outsourcing makes your business, and/or your quality of life, better.

You could pay a transaction coordinator to handle your paperwork because:

  • Make More Money: Getting bogged down in the nitty-gritty paperwork takes your focus, and your time, away from your marketing efforts. You can make more money (consistently, without ebbs and flows) if you pay someone else to push digital paper.

  • Avoid Potential Problems: You aren’t good at filing paperwork, and your lack of details might end up costing you a lot of money in fines, lawsuits, and/or E & O exposure. You can save yourself a potential financial nightmare by spending a little bit of money on each transaction - much like an insurance policy for your business’s long-term well being.

  • Increase Quality of Life: You’re busy, and you don’t really enjoy this part of the business. You’d rather work 40 hours per week and enjoy yourself than 50 hours per week and complain about all the stupid rules your broker has for each document in each transaction.

Outsourcing has been around for centuries; it’s the basis of the entire service industry. (More than that - it’s the basis of the entire free market; otherwise we would all have to be completely self-sufficient - and who wants that?) You can pay someone to do just about anything for you: cooking, cleaning, child care, home maintenance and repair, etc. - the list is infinite.

On the flip side, however, is spending money. You’re welcome to pay all these people for all these services, which will free up loads of time. But you better use that time to make a lot of money, because outsourcing these services isn’t free!

Bottom Line - Pick your spots. Outsource the work that can help you make more money, or more consistent money. Outsource the things you aren’t very good at, or the things you simply hate doing.

We all have a goal which at some level is about increasing our quality of life - short-term, long-term, now or in retirement, family time, work-life balance… Whatever. If outsourcing helps you get there, do it!

- Chris Butterworth

Ps - Here’s my shameless plug for 8DollarFarming. If you want to outsource your monthly eNewsletters, and have someone else write and email them to all your contacts, every month, on your behalf.. Well, I’m pretty good at that.

Service, not Systems

My wife and I bought a new car last month. (Yay - new car! Boo - spending lots of money!)

The car is awesome. The experience was… meh.

Here’s the short version: We spent 6-8 weeks deciding whether we wanted a big or mid-sized SUV, and we looked at several different brands. We stayed in touch with the sales guy for each dealership throughout the process, either by answering their follow-up calls, or calling them with questions, or stopping by to see the car in person (again.) Eventually we narrowed our list down to a couple of options, and bought the one where we were able to negotiate the best deal.

That’s it. The process was over. We have a new car, and each dealership’s sales guy knew if/when they were out of the running. End of story - or at least it should have been the end of the story. But it wasn’t.

We then received multiple sales emails over the next 2-3 weeks, from the dealership where we had just bought our car:

  • Hi Chris, it looks like you missed an appointment you had scheduled with (sales guy’s name). Did you want to reschedule your appointment to a more convenient time?

  • Hi Chris, we are having a big sale this weekend on (model name). Please give (sales guy) a call to schedule an appointment to come test drive a new (model name) and get a great deal on a great car.

  • Hi Chris, it looks like you haven’t been by our store to see (sales guy) in a little while. Please give us a call or stop by anytime if there’s anything we can do. We would love to help get you a great deal on a great car.

Finally we called the sales manager and asked to stop sending us emails.

This was worse than bad customer service - it was insulting.

We spent two months in constant communication with your sales guy, then spent a lot of money at your dealership, and you can’t even move our contact information from your “prospect” list to your “customer” list?

It’s a good idea to use systems to help increase your efficiency and stay in touch with as many people as possible.

It’s a bad idea to take the customer, and the service, out of a customer service business.

Systems are great; personal is better.

- Chris Butterworth

 

Fixing Bottlenecks

Have you ever seen the start of a Motocross race? 15, 20, even 25 riders are lined up side-by-side at the starting line. When the gates open, they take off at full speed - giving everything they've got, to be in front of the pack at the first corner. This is because the corner forces the pack into a 2-wide or 3-wide column, and the process of funneling into that column causes major slowing down and even crashes.

Racers lined up side by side, waiting to race towards the bottleneck at the first corner. (image credit - flickr micolo j)

 

We have bottlenecks in our business as well.

Are you great with networking, but no so great with paperwork? It doesn't matter how many deals you start; you only get paid for the transactions that close. You will make more money once you fix that paperwork bottleneck.

Do you have lots of ideas to write about, but you never have time to actually write? Find 30 minutes a day to put your hands on the keyboard and write, and you'll start publishing a lot more frequently.

Can you pick up new business cards everywhere you go, but you're not so good at adding their email address into your contact management system? Guess what? You've got a bottleneck. Your business will improve when you start systematically reaching out to everyone you've met.


I've improved and expanded dozens of bottlenecks over the years. Here are a couple examples:

Too much to write. I used to come up with dozens of blog posts and newsletter topics each day - my mind converted everything I saw, read, or talked about into the framework of "this is how I would share this with my audience", and then I would start building an outline in my mind. But I couldn't possibly publish that much content.

  • I've tried staying up late to publish a post every day.
  • I've tried using various voice-to-text apps while driving.
  • I added a bluetooth keyboard to my bag, so I can type full-speed from just about anywhere.
  • Once I put myself on cruise control and stopped chasing infinity, my writing life got 10 times easier.

I need a photo, stat! There was a time when I spent way too long searching for a suitable image to add to my posts before publishing them. As if writing, researching, and formatting everything wasn't enough, I would then need to scour the internet for a picture that captured the essence of the topic, while also abiding by copyright laws. This took far too much time.

  • I found a few sources of pictures that use the Creative Commons copyright license, which made searching faster.
  • I started taking my own pictures while out and about, to use whenever possible.
  • Now I spend some of my downtime-screentime-relaxingtime curating a collection of good pictures to be used at a moment's notice.

Bottlenecks and Continuous Improvement

There isn't usually a best-forever solution to a bottleneck. Sometimes when you fix one bottleneck, another one becomes obvious in a different part of your workflow. Or you might need to make different modifications over time, as your skills and technology improve.

Finding a Bottleneck is half the battle

There are times when I don't know exactly what my holdup is, but I know the process feels clunky. In these cases it helps to write the steps out, or even to say them out loud, and the bottleneck will usually reveal itself. If that doesn't work, I'll try to explain my process to my wife, and she'll take 3 seconds to say, "That's stupid. Why don't you just do xyz instead?" And she's always right!

Every once in awhile, though, I won't even realize I have a bottleneck, but a friend or client will comment on something I'm doing, and it forces me to take a step back and reexamine my workflow for a better way of doing things.

Additional reading: The Goal: a process of continuous improvement by Eliyahu Goldratt. This book was assigned reading in 3 different classes in grad school (and I was a believer after the first read!)

- Chris Butterworth

Go Fast

 

Go Fast

Anyone can feel like they're going fast - slamming paperwork together at the last minute while running out the door, late for your next appointment. It's a high-stress, adrenaline-filled day - moving fast to keep up with the business.

But moving fast in a reactionary mode isn't the same thing as going fast.

If you want your business to go fast, you need a supporting infrastructure. Systems, processes, and methods for doing things. Repeatedly, consistently.

Having files ready, both digital and paper. Computer shortcuts and integrated apps. Being proactive, yet ready to react efficiently at a moment's notice.

Get your processes in place first, and then Go Fast.

- Chris Butterworth