Trailblaze & Grow Tag: productivity

Save Time

Analysis to Help You Stop Wasting Valuable Time

How useful would it be for you to know exactly where your time was best spent? How would it improve your productivity if you could quickly and reliably determine which customers were most lucrative for your business, and which ones were costing far more than they were worth holding on to? Fortunately, the ability to determine exactly that was established more than 100 years ago.

Back at the dawn of the 20th century, an Italian economist realized that he could mathematically calculate the fact that 20% of Italian citizens owned about 80% of the nation’s wealth. This equation proved to be valuable in analyzing far more than just the wealth distribution in Renaissance Revival-era Italy. In fact, the so-called “Pareto Principle” has been (and continues to be) used as an effective method of measuring distributions of wealth, effort, sales productivity, and countless other applications. This is because there is a fundamental truth — what some might call a philosophy — associated with the 80/20 equation discovered by Vilfredo Pareto.

What is the fundamental philosophy of Pareto?

At it’s core, the philosophy of the Pareto Analysis is based on an understanding of the fact that a relatively small percentage of input is responsible for a significant amount of the output. More specifically, that 80% of output can be attributed to 20% of input. This, of course, works when analyzing wealth distribution (as it was originally used by Pareto), but it also works in a number of other applications as well.

Perhaps the most compelling application — at least in our entrepreneurial and capitalistic society — is use of the Pareto Analysis when assessing productivity. More specifically, an entrepreneur, or salesperson, can usually attribute about 80% of their profit (or sales volume) to about 20% of customers. On the other hand, about 20% of customers often take up about 80% of the bandwidth available to an entrepreneur or a sales team.

The Pareto Analysis can be applied to any number of things:

  • Customers – both the time demands and their profitability
  • Daily tasks – where your time is spent productively and unproductively
  • Wealth – where the majority of your wealth is coming from, and where the majority of your expenses are derived
  • Anything else you can think of!

Using Pareto Analysis to become more productive

In order to use Pareto Analysis effectively, you must first be willing to accept a couple of facts: The first is the fact that some of your clients or customers may not be worth your time. Even if they are paying you what seems to be a valuable amount, the reality is that the opportunity costs associated with highly-demanding clients may be preventing you from gaining more worthwhile (in the long term) clients. The second thing you must be willing to accept is all work is not equal.

Not all clients are worth keeping. Many businesses, particularly those that are just starting out, are reluctant to turn down any work that comes their way. After all, money is money, right?

In fact, taking on a client that continues to be unprofitable or is demanding a disproportionate amount of your company’s time can ultimately prevent you from developing new, more profitable business elsewhere. You can use the Pareto Analysis to determine which clients are taking a disproportionate amount of your time (so you can try to phase them out) while also helping identify which clients are producing the vast majority of your revenue (so you can nurture and grow those clients as well).

Some of the work you do isn’t worth the effort. The bottom line is that you simply cannot do everything, and you certainly cannot do everything well. As such, you should use the Pareto Analysis to determine which specific aspects of your day are producing the majority of benefit, then work to eliminate or delegate/outsource anything that does not fall into that category.

Try using the Pareto Analysis yourself, and see if you can make your day more productive by eliminating the time consuming, unproductive tasks and focusing on the high-yield tasks.

5 Rewards

Five Ways To Reward Employees (Besides Raises)

Your best employees contribute to your company in a variety of ways, and your tools for rewarding them should be just as various. Not only is it not always feasible to raise their pay, but employees often prefer other forms of compensation. Effective employee rewards include:

Casual Days

Many employees find dress codes restrictive, so give them a day when they’re free to wear whatever they want. For every week that your office comes in under budget, employees receive one casual day the next week. Make sure to schedule the casual day when you don’t expect clients to come into your office, and make exceptions for workers who have to go out and meet clients that day (but give those workers the right to dress casually on a different day). This will encourage employees to work together and improve productivity, and it won’t cost you a cent.

Even casual clothing days cannot be rule free; employees shouldn’t be allowed to come to work wearing too little or wearing shirts with offensive wording. Ask your employees to use their best judgment, and be willing to answer any specific questions they have ahead of time. Casual need not mean unprofessional.

Flexible Schedules

If a worker has demonstrated high productivity and a commitment to hard work, give that worker the freedom to set his or her own schedule. Many workers would be happy to work two twenty-hour days in a row and take the rest of the week off; as long as you trust them to get all their work done, giving them the freedom to do this won’t cost you anything. It may even raise productivity. By freeing workers from the constraints of a 9 to 5 schedule, you’ll allow them to schedule meetings with clients when the time is best, use commitment when other workers aren’t around to block them, and adopt more efficient methods.

Dole Out New Devices

One of the greatest sources of workplace frustration is having to use outdated computers and faulty office equipment. To reduce employees’ stress and help them do their jobs more easily, consider updating your most loyal employees’ equipment. Not only will this send a positive message to those employees, but the new equipment should pay for itself through higher levels of productivity and reduced waste. Rewarding employees with new equipment is particularly effective if you allow them to set their schedules at the same time. This way, every minute they save with the new equipment is another minute they can spend as they choose.

Enrichment and Exercise

Install exercise equipment, massage chairs, and other devices that improve health and lower stress. For the low price of adopting and powering this equipment, you’ll let employees break up the monotony of the workday, feel more energized, and counter the negative effects of sedentary office life. A chance to relieve stress will also render your employees more productive, more than making up for the price of the equipment. For best results, offer your best employees extra break time after you install the equipment. This will reward your staff as a group while giving individual workers an incentive to rise above the rest.

Broadcast Their Value

The Internet and social media offer a panoply of new possibilities for recognizing employees’ achievements. In addition to awards ceremonies and physical plaques, you can add a “virtual wall of fame” to your website and update it monthly to recognize the most productive employees. You can also make a video in honor of the employee you’re rewarding, containing a summary of his or her accomplishments and interviews with co-workers who have positive things to say. Just make sure to check with your employees before you upload anything about them to the Internet, as many workers are uncomfortable with having even positive information broadcast about them.

How do you recognize employees and colleagues that go above and beyond?

Photo credit: GotCredit / Foter / CC BY

5 Simple Ways to Improve the Productivity of Your Marketing Team

5 Simple Ways to Increase the Productivity of Your Marketing Team

Over the years, marketers consistently cite lack of time as the top challenge that they face.  Marketing leaders are aware of the demands that their groups face, and managing this ever-increasing workload successfully is a challenge.  Below are five tips for greater productivity and increased motivation.

#1 – Set Goals

Establishing clear and specific marketing goals and KPIs is one easy way of balancing these demands.    As a minimum, the marketing team should have quantifiable metrics for revenue generation, customer experience improvements, brand strength and return on investment. Putting these performance measures in place not only helps you determine the effectiveness of your programs, but also allows you to course correct and maybe axe ineffective programs.  The resources decked against ineffective programs can then be allocated to launch new programs or enhance existing ones.

# 2 – Prioritize, Prioritize, Prioritize

Create a clear method for prioritizing marketing support, and include your partners in the process.  While the methodology should be based on marketing’s KPIs, it is important to account for metrics that go beyond addressing day-to-day support, but also include key KPIs that special projects and newly formed business units will influence.  Otherwise, your team could be choking the next breaking product or service by considering only day-to-day metrics.  With a transparent process for resource allocation and project support, all teams can focus on the collective goal:  COMPETING TO SUCCEED.

#3 – Establish formal marketing processes

Once a project is prioritized, utilizing a formal (read: documented) process for marketing support will minimize some of the unproductive back and forth that sometimes happens between cross functional teams. Begin by creating request templates and a formal meeting for cross-functional collaboration. The template should be brief and include the project goals (revenue generation, improvement of NPS, other KPIs) and a brief overview of the background and support needed.   While it may seem bureaucratic at first, this reduces potential miscommunication between teams as well as the number of iterations that the marketing team will have to cycle through before “getting it right.”

#4 – Allocate tasks and accountability

Once a project is ready for execution, proper and clear delegation is one of the easiest ways to increase productivity while allowing each team member to exercise his or her distinctive skill set will strength overall team success.  Assigning tasks and accountability achieves multiple positive ends, such as:

  • Giving team members personal ownership over the successful completion of their responsibilities, avoiding the “follow the ball” syndrome often seen at toddlers’ soccer games
  • Allowing convenient tracking against soft and hard deadlines, so you can reallocate resources accordingly
  • Encouraging collaboration by specifically identifying the people working on particular tasks
  • Keeping team members focused and engaged

#5 – Try New Things

There are many exciting trends to explore within the world of marketing. Exploring trends keeps marketing teams informed about industry developments, task automation opportunities and provides opportunities for skill development. (For instance, implementing marketing automation software can open up new avenues of productivity by streamlining and automating various labor-intensive processes.)  All of this can increase the human capital of your team and make it increasingly successful.

Photo credit: orcmid / Foter / CC BY