To be productive one has to first produce and secondly to produce productively.
Productivity is rather simple and in the pursuit of enhancing productivity perhaps therein lies the key to success – keeping things simple. What are we producing and are we producing it efficiently?
It may not be that surprising to discover than many companies are not that clear on what their core offering is. In the business world there are goods and there are services and there are companies that do both, but those two components are the primary mode of value for any entity in the marketplace. Those organizations that know what their value offering is and how to position that value are the companies that have the best opportunity (nothing is guaranteed) to operate as a viable business.
The primary obstacle for any individual who seeks to start a business is to make the decision to go for it. Put another way, the primary step in starting is simply starting. When a person has identified a good or service that they can bring to the marketplace with value, they must first overcome their own fear of failure (atychiphobia). This applies to starting anything, whether it’s a new business, a new direction or a new discipline within an existing organization.
Productivity requires vision.
“There are risks and costs to action. But they are far less than the long range risks of comfortable inaction.” – John F. Kennedy, former U.S. President
Everything has a consequence, those who are looking to start something or make a change need to find the confidence to move forward with what their vision and values are telling them to do. Having vision is of great value, when an individual sees a need for change the next step is to put some thought, action and endurance into motion to see that thing through.
Productivity requires movement.
Efficiency is a measure the ability to produce something in relationship to the output of resources utilized. Resources include raw materials, capital and labor. For so many that make the leap to start their own business, they think, “If I was making $20 per hour and now I am making $30 per hour as a business owner, I am really making it.” What they don’t take into account is that they are self-employed and paying themselves $30 an hour but if that is also all they are charging then they are setting nothing aside for overhead costs such as vehicle maintenance, office supplies, utilities, taxes and etc.
Productivity requires data.
“If your business depends on you, you don't own a business-you have a job. And it's the worst job in the world because you're working for a lunatic...You can't close it when you want to, because if it's closed you don't get paid. You can't leave it when you want to, because if you leave there's nobody there to do the work. You can't sell it when you want to, because who wants to buy a job?” —Michael Gerber, author of E-Myth
Productivity has to do with being efficient with your resources while providing your product or service. Being able to measure productivity involves knowing your production costs, the adage that the numbers don’t lie is true as long as you track your numbers accurately and allow them to speak for themselves without manipulation. If you seek to be productive the first steps involve finding a means to track your costs such as labor, materials, overhead costs and profitability goals.
Productivity requires listening. (Video on listening HERE)
While the point of this article is not to be a deep expose into the intricacies of cost analysis in relationship to productivity goals, it is important to note that they only way to track productivity is first to be tracking something. A simple excel spreadsheet can assist to track time and materials applied to a project. Start by tracking expenditures and revenue daily and where there are spikes in either dig into where those inconsistencies are coming from. Allow the numbers to show you what is and what isn’t working, or to at least understand the expenditure of resources going into pursuing your vision.
Productivity requires tracking.
“I never lie because I don’t fear anyone. You only lie when you’re afraid.” – John Gotti, crime boss
Failure to launch is rooted in the fear of failure. We stop ourselves short of putting our vision into motion because we undervalue our ability to create value, rise above obstacles and adapt as we receive new information along the way. Failure to improve is rooted in the same fear of failure (more HERE). Often we deceive ourselves into thinking things are working because of tradition, ie this is how things have always been done and so it’s safe to continue swimming with the stream, or because of blind commitment to a system of productivity that has handed down to us, where there is less resistance by simply keeping with the plan rather than challenging the machine.
Productivity requires honesty.
“We cannot solve our problems with the same thinking we used when we created them.” – Albert Einstein
They say the definition of insanity is doing the same thing but expecting different results, yet the status quo is doing the same thing expecting the same results. The market is constantly changing and the pace of change is running at a rate that is leaving those who are not adapting in the dust. When we don’t ask the hard questions, such as is this working, is this sustainable and is there a better way, then we cut ourselves short of unlocking productivity improvements.
Productivity requires adaptation.
Productivity can seem complex, but at the core it is rather simple. Stay clear about what it is that you are producing, a good or service, and whether you are doing so efficiently. Keeping things simple is a key to being productive. Having a clear vision is the foundation, operating on your values is essential to keeping your identity intact, challenging your fears is a daily test and tracking your numbers is a key discipline. The numbers are simple, they don’t lie but they can be silenced.
Sarai Johnson is an entrepreneur in the non profit space and has founded a company Lean Nonprofit, LLC. She uses her unique skills and experience to help non-profits generate revenue, develop sustainable business models, create and launch social enterprises, and maximize the social good nonprofits can create. Just because an organization is operating in a non-profit or not-for-profit model that doesn't mean that they shouldn't incorporate best practices from strong organizations that operate in the for-profit sector. Sarai is proponent and resource for organizations helping nonprofit and government agencies of all sizes to utilize lean and project management principles. We are grateful to mother, entrepreneur, author and consultant Sarai Johnson for taking time out of her schedule to share her story with us.
IZ Ventures: When you started your studies in general ministry, what was your original professional pursuit?
Sarai Johnson: When I went to college, I thought I would be a pastor. I had known from a young age that I was “called” to something, and as a kid who grew up in an Evangelical world, pastoral ministry was the only thing I knew to do - besides being a missionary, and while I wanted desperately to travel, I had a really strong knowing that I would only want to do that if I could offer some kind of practical skill or information for people. I’ve never been one for converting people just because.
When I was a junior in college, I had a moment when I realized very clearly that I didn’t want to work in a church. I finished the degree course, because at that point, it would have taken a lot more time and money to change my degree. I have found the education I got was just right, though! I learned how to do public speaking well, how to be an executive manager, how to provide guidance and coaching to people, and gave me the time and space I needed to find my own philosophies about life, politics, and spirituality.
Was Allan Brothers your first "adult" job? What did you learn from your time working in the food service industry?
I think my first “adult” job was probably a different coffee shop I worked at for a few years. I was a manager there, and it was during a tough time for the shop and for the owners. I worked in the coffee industry for the better part of a decade and I learned a lot about how to manage and motivate people, how to conduct smart planning to reduce waste and increase profits, and how to keep customers happy and coming back. I also learned a lot of skills I carried into my professional career later, especially when my former nonprofit employer developed a regional food hub. I took that food service experience and applied it to social good in a really innovative and interesting way.
What was the primer for you to pursue further education and public administration at UO?
I spent my whole life until about three years ago aggressively pursuing every promotion and career advancement I could get. I was always on this upward course. I found I was at a place in my nonprofit career where I really needed and wanted to grow quickly so I could serve my employer at the time even better, and so I could help navigate with the organization as we had a big Executive Director transition. Public Administration was a degree that was in high demand in the nonprofit and public sectors, where I imagined I would spend my career.
Many steer away from non profit organizations but you entered NEDCO and worked your way up the ladder, what were some of the key lessons you learned working with them?
Oh man. I could fill a book with this (oh wait! I have! And with a bunch more to come! See books by Sarai HERE)...I learned a ridiculous amount of work and career-specific things - like how to not only climb the ladder to advance, but also how to build my own opportunities, and build my position as I went. I was able to create a lot of new programs and get a lot of new funding, and as I did, my position grew with the organization. I asked for what I wanted, and I got it, most of the time. I had the power to change things, and make them better for myself and my colleagues, and I was rewarded for that. I also learned that making yourself indispensable is a terrible idea (may have learned that the hard way), and that working yourself out of a job when you’re a leader is the best way to grow the organization and the opportunity for others.
Having worked in both for profit and non profit organizations, what are some of the lessons these structures can learn from each other?
For profit and nonprofit organizations have a lot of similarities. Some things, business does well. Businesses tend to be more focused on metrics (it’s easy for them - how many people are buying our stuff, buying it again, and how much money are we making). Nonprofits have a harder time with that, because what they measure is harder to quantify. It can be done - in fact, it MUST be done.
Nonprofits incidentally generate a lot of waste because of this limited focus on measures. For profits, on the other hand, could learn to think of the social good and be more aware of public policy issues as they affect everybody in the country. Nonprofits track this more closely because they depend on public support so much. Businesses have the opportunity to learn from nonprofits on this front, and the world would be better off if they did this.
At what point did you decide to pull the trigger and launch out on your own as Lean Nonprofit?
Full disclosure, I was in a pretty challenging position by the time I left my former organization. I was exhausted, burned out, and frustrated. My boss and I had some very toxic dynamics between us (we both contributed to it, and we both learned from it), and I had thought about leaving for at least 18 months before I finally did.
A year before I left, I started working on building a consulting practice, learned about how to be a consultant, and how to run a business of my own (it helped that I was a business advisor at my old employer!), and laid the groundwork. I decided to leave on a day when whole slew of things happened that made me suddenly realize I was burning with rage and needed to get out of there. I did, however, also still love the organization, and wanted to support them as best I could.
My boss asked me to take something back on that I had (finally!) delegated, and I said, “I’d be happy to do that for you as a consultant.” Then, I wrote her up a proposal, and they signed on to work with me in a different capacity. It was epic. (Read more on the story behind this turn of events - Why I Quit My Nonprofit Career)
What was harder than you thought and simpler than you thought about starting your own business?
It was harder than I thought to have the energy to do anything at first. Like I said, I was deeply burned out, and that made it really hard for me to get to work on booking new clients and all the things you have to do to have a viable business. I was lucky to have a retainer for about a year with my former employer. It was hard finding my footing after that, and it got harder when I realized nonprofits weren’t my favorite people to work with. Pivoting isn’t easy.
It was simple to me to create products and services and sell them. I focused online first, and then did a lot more local and national consulting in person. I found what I liked and didn’t like to provide, and adjusted my offerings accordingly.
Lean Nonprofit is not just about the financial aspects of making your dollars stretch, what are some of the keys to long term success that you work with organizations to achieve?
Lean is more about continuous improvement and reducing waste than it is about operating on a small budget. What I focus on with nonprofits is developing a culture of continuous improvement that supports people who work in the organization to try things in a thoughtful way, make decisions about how the things they try work (or don’t work), and measure and report on their results. I develop processes and systems that allow them to map their work, take accountability and assign responsibility effectively, and always make their way toward getting more impactfull mission results.
Now that you have been in business for a while you are expanding and collaborating further, what do you see as some of the keys to conducting business as a business without losing the heart of your values?
As a person, I can’t function outside of my values. Nothing is more important to me than doing what I think matters most - working with people for greater freedom, liberation, and self-determination. I suppose the key is to know why you are doing what you’re doing, and stay true to that. Sure, making money is important to me. I gotta eat, just like the next guy, but it isn’t the only thing that drives me. I could just as easily get by with a temp job doing data entry (and I have when business was slow! - read more about this in Mundane Gratitude), so I know I don’t have to do things that don’t serve me or my clients well. I find it pretty easy to let clients go when their values don’t match mine, or when they do things I find unethical or compromised. That’s something I’ve practiced a lot over the years, and I find it serves me well in business.
If you are looking for more resources regarding management, leadership, and transition coaching you can connect with Sarai through her website or on LinkedIn. If your goal is to improve your organization through lean priciples you can find tools through the Lean Nonprofit, LLC website.
Every month is something, so why wouldn't November be National Entrepreneurship Month? According to the official White House webpage, president Donald J. Trump made this proclamation for November 2017. In the statement released on October 31, 2017 the president highlighted the efforts of women entrepreneurs,
"For too long, women, despite hard work and a drive to succeed, faced significant barriers in achieving their economic vision. Today, we celebrate that women entrepreneurs are growing their businesses all over the country. The number of women‑owned firms is growing much faster than the national average for all firms. Our Nation has more than 11 million women-owned businesses that employ nearly 9 million people and generate more than $1 trillion in revenue." - president Donald J. Trump, October 31, 2017
Apparently Mr. Trump is not the first one to declare November as National Entrepreneurship Month, according to Wikipedia in 2012, President Barack Obama declared November of that year as National Entrepreneurship Month and to celebrate November 6, 2012 as National Entrepreneurs’ Day. Additionally many supporters of National Entrepreneurs' Day are trying to make it an official US holiday that will fall on the third Tuesday of every Number through legislation. President Barack Obama's statement is also found on the official White House webpage,
America is known around the world as a country that empowers the inventor and the innovator. Ours is a Nation where men and women can take a chance on a dream -- where they can take an idea that starts around a kitchen table or in a garage and turn it into a new business or a new industry. During National Entrepreneurship Month, we celebrate the hard work, ingenuity, and courage of our thinkers, doers, and makers. - president Barack Obama, November 1, 2012
According to Wikipedia, "National Entrepreneurs’ Day was started in 2010 by David Hauser and Siamak Taghaddos, co-founders of Grasshopper, the entrepreneur’s phone system, and Amir Tehrani, entrepreneur and co-founder of The Legacy Foundation." This group of entrepreneurs were invited to the White House to discuss Startup America and the Presidential Innovation Fellows with then president Barack Obama. The White House put an official call out on May 23, 2012 for a few good men, seeking to bring top innovators to serve in 6 to 12 month fellowships for focused "tours of duty" in partnering with federal innovators to generate game-changing projects. "Combining the know-how of citizen change agents and government change agents in small, agile teams that move at high speed, these projects aim to deliver significant results within six months."
The team at Grasshopper put a video together titled Entrepreneurs Can Change The World:
Regardless of the official month of entrepreneurship, those who facilitate the definition of entrepreneur as one who "organizes and operates a business or businesses, taking on greater than normal financial risks in order to do so," know that this is a daily grind. Entrepreneurship is a battle of inches, fought minute by minute and day by day. It's nice that there is some national recognition and resources outlined above, the strength of entrepreneurship is being able to learn from each other - to connect, collaborate and conquer our dreams.
For additional thoughts on entrepreneurship, read our IZ Ventures article published with Restoration & Remediation (R&R) Magazine titled, I'd Be an Entrepreneur, But...
Originally published as Powerful Points for your Next Presentation in FM World Magazine, December 6, 2016.
By Jon Isaacson
Getting ‘buy-in’ on a particular project or initiative often rests on how well you present your case. You may also be required to speak to potential clients, or present to an external audience to share best practice with peers. Here, Jon Isaacson shares his tips for creating value rather than wasting time when addressing your audience.
As a facilities manager, you are a salesperson.
You are constantly marketing your value to the organisation and selling the projects that you know are critical to keeping the lights on for your company. It may not be often that the FM department is invited to make a presentation, but these meetings with executives, department heads, team meetings or even to groups outside of the organisation are a great opportunity to get your strategic message across.
However, there’s a fine line between an effective presentation and a waste of time. Here are five key points:
1. Time is money
Time is critical. Knowing how much time one has is an essential parameter for structuring how many points you will want to focus on. You may have at most 5-10 minutes. Your presentation will have to gain momentum quickly to address a primary aspect of the service. Highlight one aspect of the service and complement it with a story that makes it relatable to the specific audience. If you have the time, pay more attention to tone and pacing to keep the audience engaged.
2. Who is your audience?
Is this a general audience? Or people that are familiar with your services? Does this group have specific needs that your company specialises in? Who you are speaking to and what areas you believe would be most effective to highlight are key components in crafting an engaging presentation. Aim to create value for your audience, and by educating it in an area that correlates to your organisation’s services, you can create indirect value for your organisation.
3. A bit about you
You might be tempted to talk extensively about your history and explain every detail of what your business does, but the value of this to your audience is inversely proportionate to the amount of time you may spend explaining these personal details. Introduce the organisation with enough personal details to relate to the demographic, before swiftly moving on to the main points.
4. Tailor your style
Making use of time and respecting the audience are key components to a good presentation. Know your goal for the meeting. If this presentation is for broad appeal to reach as many people as possible, then humour is always a friend. Your goal in a generic forum should be to create a knowledge void that draws additional interest from as many people as possible. For broad appeal, leave your audience with at least one nugget of value or piece of information; do this by presenting at least three key points that you believe will connect with as many people as possible. If you are aiming to grab a specific demographic or even a single client, then tailor your presentation to target them.
5. Keep practising
Work on developing your skills in those soft areas such as public speaking, communication and sales. FMs do all the work behind the scenes, so it is valuable to your organisation to be able to explain operations in a clear, concise manner. You are the first point of contact for marketing the services that you and your facilities team provide to your organisation.
Let us help you build and execute a plan for achieving success in your personal and professional development.
Jon Isaacson has a monthly feature column with Restoration & Remediation (R&R) Magazine titled The Intentional Restorer