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Posted: June 01, 2011

Doing more with less

Move your business forward in today's environment

Larry Turner

We recently hosted a business leader roundtable to discuss the topic of "Doing more with less," and the conversation was one that I think every business owner or leader of an organization can appreciate. Not surprisingly, all the business leaders in our group have had to step up their activity and run their business with less financial resources and fewer employees.

The result in most cases is the leader's sense of being overwhelmed, exhausted and not feeling as though the organization is moving ahead as quickly as possible. We had a wide range of firms represented that included an established small business that has had to downsize from 20 to about 15 employees over the past year or so, a startup software business that has had to cut back on outside developers and focus on leveraging one of the owner's development skills to cover the shortfall, and a small telecom company that has had to reduce their sales team by two due to performance with the owner picking up the sales activity of these two individuals.

They all handled the increased workload differently. These are some of the areas we discussed:

Scheduling
One of the business owner's schedules EVERYTHING. This includes naps, workouts, and even when she allows herself the indulgence of an occasional candy bar. Another handles emergencies as they arise. During the discussion everyone agreed that providing some structure to the important activities in the business was necessity. The other common ground was each of the business owners mentioned working on a task or activity until it was done and then moving onto the next task. The myth of multitasking is dead and we just cannot effectively manage multiple activities at one time.

To do lists
Everyone in the group had their own way of managing a list. From a full list of everything that has to be done with the most important and urgent activities at the top, to a list committed to memory, and then a process that has only three items on the list. The three item to do list is used by many and can be helpful to get you focused on those activities that you need to get done to move the business forward.

Prioritization
I remember the Stephen Covey presentation on the 7 Habits of Highly Effective People (I know... I am dating myself). In this presentation he demonstrates activities in the business being like sand, pebbles and big rocks. The larger the stone, the more important the activity is to the business. In his demonstration he started by discussing the typical way people manage their to do lists... getting the small items done so we have a sense of making progress. With this he pours the sand into the container he has on the counter. He then adds the small stones and when it comes time to add the important activities (big rocks) there is no more room in the container. A great representation of how our important items on to do lists don't get done.

Mr. Covey then talks about identifying the important activities in your business that allows you to work on the business and not in the business. He puts the large rocks in the container first, then the smaller stones and then pours the sand into the container and they all seem to fit. While it might not be realistic or practical for you to get everything done as this demonstration illustrates, you can move your business forward significantly if you focus on those important activities on your list that support your strategy and vision.

Down time
Another important area that was discussed is the need to decompress and have down time. Again, there were a wide range of ways these business leaders managed their down time, but in the end they all agreed that without it they feel like their head is going to explode. Identify the ways you decompress and make time for that in your schedule. I find that exercise is a great way to manage my stress, and I never get to it unless it gets put on my schedule as a big rock.


I hope some of these thoughts and the discussion from our Business Leader's Roundtable was helpful. Let me know what you think and also let me know if you are interested in attending our next Roundtable event.

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Larry Turner is CEO of Roundhouse Advisors, Inc. and has over 25 years experience growing, starting up, repositioning, and revitalizing organizations.  Roundhouse Advisors is a consulting practice focused on helping businesses increase enterprise value by managing pain, growth and owner exits.  Larry is a consultant, public speaker, and the author of “Owner Exit Planning: Leave On Your Own Terms." For additional information visit www.RoundhouseAdvisors.com

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Readers Respond

Great Article Larry, the sand, pebbles and big rocks demonstration was a rude awakening for me. While I do practice prioritizing my To Do List, I must admit often the sand and pebbles get into the container first. In addition, the point of identifying the important activities that allows you to work on the business as the larger rocks is a great strategy. By Adriane Sanford on 2011 06 01
Good article Larry. The one about scheduling made me laugh. Nice to know that someone else schedules EVERYTHING. My family laughs but it works for me. Time for a workout! Liz By liz wendling on 2011 06 01

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