06/09/2015 01:50 pm ET Updated Dec 06, 2017

4 Savvy Ways to Pump up Productivity and Profits

When we first start building our businesses as naive young entrepreneurs, it can all seem so simple. Then as we gain traction and begin to make an impression on our marketplace, things get complicated quickly. We're suddenly faced with more opportunities to pursue than we know what to do with, and more people to manage and inspire than we ever imagined.

The good news: We can take steps right now to be great leaders who consistently steer our companies and our teams to maximum levels of productivity and profits. I recently spoke with Mark Sanborn, leadership development expert and bestselling author of The Fred Factor and other books, about how business owners can accelerate their success by delivering tremendous value.


1. Simplify your business as much as possible. If you can cut through as much unnecessary complexity as possible and boil down your business to what Sanborn calls the irreducible minimums -- those actions that give you most of your results and most of your profits -- you won't be distracted by time- and energy-wasting activities that create little to no value. Gaining such focused clarity will help you get on what I call the right side of complexity, and allow you to move quickly, boldly and effectively. "Distraction is one of the number one killers of business success," notes Sanborn. "There's the idea that you've got to do everything equally well. When in reality there are some things that you need not do at all, some things you need to do and get done, but just a few things you need to do very, very well."

2. Gain clarity of purpose. To gain that much-needed clarity for yourself and your team, Sanborn recommends three steps:

  • Write down all the things you do every day, and identify a handful (typically there's four to eight) of what Sanborn calls Most Valuable and Profitable (MVP) activities -- the ones you could do every day that would give you the biggest payback on your investment of time and expertise. Take a few days to arrive at this select list, if necessary.
  • Once you know your MVP activities, schedule 60 percent to 80 percent of every day to accomplishing those tasks. You make appointments to meet with people who are important to you. In the same way, you need to block out 60 percent to 80 percent of your daily calendar to devote to your MVP activities. During which time, do not allow any interruptions or visitors -- that's what the remaining 20 percent to 40 percent of your day is for. By making these tasks a part of your schedule, you become laser focused on what counts, which in turns helps boost productivity and profits.
  • Ask the people you lead to do the same exercise, and then compare your list with theirs. If you find that some team members are spending lots of time on things you don't want them to be doing, help realign their time and efforts in the desired direction. "Make sure everyone is playing the same music and playing it correctly," says Sanborn.

3. Grow your value proposition continually. Too many entrepreneurs begin with a great product, service or experience and assume that they can just keep selling it over and over. Wrong. Competitors continue to grow their value proposition and upstarts bring new value to the marketplace. So value must be dynamic, not static.

Meet with your team at least quarterly to decide how you can add new value to your clients and prospects -- something you can bring that will make their lives better. If you continually look for ways to tweak what you do and add value on a regular basis, you'll stay ahead of those who aren't growing their value proposition. What's more, those customers who have done business with you in the past will always have a reason to come back.

It doesn't have to be a big change. If you listen to what your market is telling you, you might find you can do one or two small, inexpensive things that differentiate your company from the pack. Says Sanborn: "The goal is to outthink your competition, not to outspend them. If you can replace capital with creativity, that's the best way to grow your value proposition."

4. Deliver value upfront. Sanborn sees a significant shift in professional selling. In the past if you promised value, customers would agree to buy on the promise of receiving value after they'd purchased. To be successful today, you've got to demonstrate your value before they'll agree to buy or sign the contract. This shift has given rise to content marketing -- good, rich information such as articles, white papers and webinars that companies make available to prospects for free (usually online). Content marketing tells prospects that if they enjoy this free information we give them right now, they'll get even more value by committing to working with us or buying from us. Going forward, companies will find it harder to get prospects to say "yes" -- and therefore harder to pump up their profits -- if they don't offer this type of value from the very beginning of the customer relationship.

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