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Opinion: Small changes equal big results

Productivity Hacks

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I’m always on the lookout for a wormhole, a way to get from where I am to where I want to be – and faster. Instantly is more like it.

While the ideas below aren’t instant fixes, they do have a massive effort-to-effect ratio: small changes equal big results. Here are two top tips I have learned by working with business owners.

Everybody gets a notebook
We are too old to remember stuff. My life changed dramatically when I started to write down things that needed to be remembered. I’d had enough of the “I’ve got it all right here” bravado, accompanied by a finger to the noggin. I was forgetting appointments and project due dates. I was asking the same questions over and over because I couldn’t remember the answers. So, I started with Post-its.

Post-its seem like a good idea at first. One or two as reminders. Before long, my office looked like a murder investigation diagram from an episode of “CSI: Crime Scene Investigation.” It felt like all the Post-its were shouting at me, vying for my attention, without any overall purpose.

I graduated to a single subject college ruled notebook. I started by putting all the Post-its in the notebook. At least I could close the notebook, and silence the noise. That helped a lot. When it was time to work, I would open the notebook and start assembling to-do’s and projects. When I left the office, I always took the notebook with me. No more indecipherable notes on the back of an old receipt or grocery bag. I once wrote a shopping list on a scrap two-by-four. The notebook increased my productivity by light years.

Now, when anyone comes to work with me, they get a notebook. We communicate that we expect them to write down stuff they need to remember. They also get a tablet, loaded up with our operating manuals and price book, and other apps we use daily. If they prefer, and can type quickly enough, they can use an electronic platform, such as Trello or Notes.

Bottom line, if I am communicating something that needs to be remembered, and the person I am talking to isn’t writing, I stop talking.

You are wasting your time giving “verbal commands.” Those, my friend, are merely suggestions. This one tip could wormhole the productivity of your team.

Simplify your pricing
I run into this roadblock with some frequency: Business owners – especially contractors – make pricing jobs way too complicated. They wait to give the price until they have every screw priced out and may take days to get the proposal to the customer. You don’t need to have all the parts dialed in at the sale moment in the customer experience. Don’t make it a hassle for a customer to buy from you.

You could create a price book with estimated materials and a catch-all dollar amount for extras, or connections. For an example, a plumber’s midrange disposer task could include a round-high number for a three-fourths horsepower disposer and $25 for other materials. Then, account for the materials used from the truck using a sound truck restock procedure. For big jobs, estimate the big items (think 80/20 rule) and add a catch-all dollar amount for the rest. Then, after you have sold the job, create the detailed purchase order, specific to that job.

Price faster, with rounded numbers for materials and generous labor hours. Make it easy on you and your customers. Really, it will be OK.

Got a tip or wormhole to share?

Ellen Rohr is an author and business consultant offering profit-building tips, trending business blogs and online workshops at EllenRohr.com. Her books include “Where Did the Money Go?” and “The Bare Bones Weekend Biz Plan.” She can be reached at ellen@ellenrohr.com.

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