That Time I Went to War (Part 1)

I won’t lie.  I have always honored and appreciated the men and women that fought for my freedom.  It doesn’t matter if they served over 200 years ago or just last week.  I still honor them.  Even though I have never served in the arm forces or gone to war, I have read tons of history books, listened to former soldiers share their stories and studied the mindset and training of the armed services.  So, in times of difficulty or crisis, I like to utilize the lessons of history and the philosophies of the military to help me move through, over or under any obstacle I face.  While the techniques will look different, my mindset (and yours) is very much the same as any service person reporting for duty and executing their role.  

So, when my business goes to war, I take very seriously the “mission” and the tasks that must be executed.  I think of the “good” times as training and the more difficult times as reporting to my duty station.  THIS is what we train for.  This is where we find out who really is the best at what they do.  This is where we test business strategy and procedure.  This is where we “light some fires and kick some tires”.  (just to quote a phrase from a well-known movie!  WINK)

I want to share with you one of the things I specifically do when my business goes to “war”.  (I actually do three…but more on the other two later.)

To Cut or Not To Cut: The Process of Streamlining

Yeppers, the first thing is to get serious about what is essential and what isn’t.  Think about how soldiers pack.  TIGHT.  They pack TIGHT and LIGHT.  They pack every item in their backpack or rucksack with one thought in mind…is it essential.  Is it a must to help me fight?  Is it a must to help me achieve my mission?  Will this item help me survive?  Am I flexible or too heavy?  Most of us operate our businesses with a lot of “extras”.  Extra marketing, extra for our teams or staff, extras that are hidden like office supplies, extras that are obvious like charging unnecessary meals and meetings to our businesses.  But when we get down to essential, we have to look at more than just money.  We have to also look at how we operate in general.  So, here are the two places I ask the “essential” question in my own business:

Money – You guessed it.  I do start with money.  But I don’t go on a cutting spree.  I don’t immediately cut team or staff. I don’t immediately cut marketing expenses.  I don’t immediately cut training.  I start asking myself questions and really spend at least 48 hours in decision mode.  Whether it is random apps you signed up for at $4.99 a month or critical people on your team, we usually can find places we are wasting money  (you are paying for things you used once or not at all) and extras such as team members that make our lives easier but we could actually do the work ourselves or utilize other team members more efficiently.  

For instance, a client of mine discovered she was wasting $125 a month on apps that were charging her account every month but she wasn’t using them.  When we took a hard look at what she needed for her business, the app that she liked the most cost $12.99 a month.  The other $125 could be cancelled.  Another client of mine had a 3/4 th time employee.  Because she was an employee and not a contract team member, there were added expenses in the form of payroll tax and some slight benefits.  Because the employee had a “title”, my client didn’t feel she could ask the person to do things that didn’t technically fall into her area or title.  She found she had needs that either the employee wouldn’t or couldn’t do.  When she explored using two contract providers that were more flexible and actually could service ALL of her needs, it was less than the cost of her ¾ ths time employee.  We sometimes hire because that is what we think we are supposed to do vs. finding the right match to our needs in more flexible ways.  (Plus, contract team members understand they need to perform because you can always seek another provider and don’t have to go through the hoops of terminating a staff member.)

Marketing – Many small businesses don’t spend a lot on marketing.  However, many are paying for services and apps that they aren’t utilizing fully.  For instance, you may realize you can manage your own social media (Do not go dark on social media!  People will think you closed your doors!).  However, you have been paying a monthly fee for an email marketing service.  You are sporadic and aren’t using all of the features.  You need to decide…USE it or CUT it.  Thinking “maybe I will or maybe I won’t” doesn’t make you money.  It is better to CUT things you are wishy washy on.  However, my hope is that in a difficult financial time you would decide to utilize all areas of marketing that are cost-effective and keep you in front of potential or former customers.  

If you have things like TV advertising, radio/podcast spots or print media ads, those might be areas you need to adjust or cut.  You might not necessarily CUT completely…but you may want to reduce or really track effectiveness for a month before making final decisions.  I find that many people pay for marketing but they aren’t tracking ROI.  KNOW your numbers.  What actually bring potential customers or clients to your business?

Want to know the other two most important things I do when my business goes to war?

Stay Tuned for Part 2!