A few years back, I attended a Detroit Tigers Baseball Fantasy Camp in Lakeland, Florida. For those of you who don’t know, this type of fantasy camp is where you actually get a chance to play live baseball with other non-professional players, who are called campers.
Your team is coached by two former major league players and the week is spent playing against other teams of campers. At the end of the week of playing the grand old game in the warmth and sun of Florida, your team has the opportunity to square off and actually play a game against former professional baseball players.
It was a fabulous experience. During the week, we attended coaching sessions conducted by the former players.
One batting instruction session was conducted by the now late Gates Brown. In his prime, Gates was a highly respected pinch hitting icon for the Detroit Tigers. On that very pleasant sunny morning, Gates had many of us campers find a seat on the bleachers along the first base line at Henley Field, which serves as one of the practice fields in the Tiger Town complex.
He started off by welcoming us to the camp in his trademark booming and powerful voice. He mentioned the fact that since many of us were in our early forties, fifties or sixties, did not play baseball on a regular basis (if at all), and since it was the beginning of February, we probably were not in tip-top shape. He then shared with us some valuable advice: “Start out slow . . . and taper off.”
Although his words were meant to protect us from pulling a hamstring or groin muscle, many of us laughed. How could you expect to do much if you just started out slow at something and tapered off to a total stop?
But later, as I thought about his advice, I was hit with how this philosophy so often was applied to small businesses and the initiatives they launch; initiatives to improve their organization and take it to the next level.
It seems almost commonplace that the leadership of a green industry company begins a new strategy to build the business, but it will soon run out of steam and fall flat on its face.
Make no mistake about it, the most debilitating power that can paralyze any small business is the power of inertia.
Here are my ‘eight great steps’ to prevent this paralyzing habit from thwarting your small business’ growth.
First, identify the specific goal you and your team are trying to accomplish. It has been said, “A task well defined is half done.” Take the time to clearly define what it is that needs to be addressed. For example, a new piece of equipment needs to be purchased so that your production team can increase its productivity and efficiency. Purchasing this machine will require additional training for all of the personnel assigned to using it. This will require scheduling additional hours for these employees to effectively learn and use this piece of equipment.
Next, list all of the benefits of achieving this goal. The purpose of doing this is that it will validate the time and the capital investment necessary to follow through on this initiative.
Third, list all of the negative things that will result if you do not follow through on the purchase of this piece of equipment and participate in the training. The purpose of creating this list is that it will make clear the consequences for not following through, which can be more convincing to those who were opposed, because of the changes that will occur during the implementation process.
The fourth step is to choose the specific strategies you will employ to successfully accomplish this goal. For example, in purchasing this piece of equipment, you will need to identify the right type of equipment, and from which manufacturer to purchase it.
The fifth step is to identify the person or persons who will be responsible for following through with the selection, and ordering of this piece of equipment. Also, identify who will coordinate and schedule the training of your team members.
The next step is to set a deadline by which the equipment will be ordered and all training completed. This is a critical part of the process for making sure the goal gets accomplished in a timely manner. Make sure you build in buffer time for any unforeseen bumps in the road that may slow or temporarily derail the project.
The seventh step is to receive progress reports on how the project is coming along and make necessary adjustments as needed along the way.
Here it’s important to keep communication lines open, so that everyone is informed of how on-target the project is.
Finally, once the goal is reached, celebrate! Far too often, small business owners don’t take the time to enjoy the goals they and their team members have accomplished. They miss the opportunity to stop for a few moments and enjoy the journey of experiencing the stepping stones of success.
Some suggestions for doing this could include making a special announcement during a company meeting, and asking the team members involved in the accomplishment to stand up and say a few words. To make it more memorable, you could take a few moments to toast the accomplishment with champagne or a non-alcoholic beverage of choice. Some of my clients have thrown a barbecue or headed over to the local bar and grill after work to celebrate.
Another way to celebrate a met goal is to post it on your company blog or in your newsletter. Some businesses post good news on bulletin boards in their conference or lunch room.
Research shows that celebrating milestones on a regular basis builds a stronger culture within companies that make it a priority. This is a powerful opportunity to allow all of your team members to pause and take the time to smell the roses, enjoying the journey of being a member of your team.
So, to avoid starting out slow and tapering off on any initiatives to improve your green industry business, use these eight great steps. You will be glad that you did and so will your clients.
EDITOR’S NOTE: Tom Borg works with small and mid-size green industry companies to improve customer acquisition and retention. For more information or to ask him a question, contact him at 734-404-5909 or email him at: firstname.lastname@example.org or visit his website at: www.tomborgconsulting.com