Getting traction means not spinning your wheels without forward progress. In a startup, or any business with limited resources, the last thing you need is people who put in lots of time and effort, but never seem to move the ball. Successful entrepreneurs must never stop looking for ways to improve their own productivity, as well as the efficiency and momentum of the team.
The need for this focus may seem obvious to you, but I still hear many complaints from entrepreneurs and employees alike on the hours they work, and how they are underpaid for their time. In fact, most small companies still pay many key employees by the hour, without regard to their output. They seem to ignore the old idiom that you get what you pay for — hours, not results.
Based on my own many years of experience as both an employee and an executive, here are my key recommendations to improve your business productivity, traction and momentum:
- Implement business metrics, and tie incentives to results. All team members, whether salaried or hourly, will get the message quickly if they understand what they are being measured on, and feel the positive impact of results. Incentives don’t need to be all cash. In fact, new studies show more results come from peer and non-cash recognition.
- Incentivize everyone to act rather than react. This simply means that everyone should be trained and motivated to prioritize and focus on the important items, and proactively attack those first. Don’t be driven by the “crisis of the moment,” which may have been averted by a little early effort. There are never enough hours to do everything.
- Practice and preach the Pareto principle. This principle, also known as the 80/20 rule, states that, in most environments, 80 percent of the results come from 20 percent of the actions. In most businesses, 80 percent of the revenue comes from 20 percent of the customers. Perfection is not an affordable target in product development, sales or customer support.
- Leverage the best tools and technology. I still find dedicated team members using calculators and paper for budgets and financial statements, rather than spreadsheets or other modern tools. As an entrepreneur or executive, it’s your responsibility to provide the tools and training to do the job productively. Your business traction depends on it.
- Promote a culture of balanced business-family lifestyle. Working 20 hours a day on a regular basis is not conducive to long-term momentum or business traction. As the entrepreneur, you set the model for others on the team by your own actions, and by the demands you make. Encourage time off for family, vacations and outside activities.
- Encourage more communication and less isolation. Executives and team members hiding in their offices, contrary to popular belief, are not optimizing business productivity. More and more companies are eliminating private offices, in favor of more open bays, where everyone naturally interacts, learns from each other, and works as a team.
- Celebrate key successes, even small ones. Entrepreneurs must never miss an opportunity to highlight results and milestones achieved for the entire team to demonstrate that the real focus is not on hours worked. Don’t burn yourself out, or let your employees feel like work is a forced march with no end in sight.
There is a definite connection between the fact that Google has been ranked by Fortune in 2015 as one of the best companies to work for. It has built a culture and a continuing focus on traction, working smarter and enjoying it more, rather than working more and enjoying it less.
It helps to think of you and your new business as a high-performance vehicle that has a long hard race to run before success. It takes careful attention to traction and momentum, not just at the start, but at every curve and obstacle along the way. Don’t burn out the tires and the engine on the first lap. Keeping the pedal to the metal blindly is not be the best way to win your business race.