You could also ask “Change is so hard – Is it worth the effort?”
The answer to both questions depends on you and your team.
What do you want from your business?
If you want January 2023 to feel much better than January 2022, if you want a better work experience, if you want less chaos and more sanity in your business – then you must change how you run your business. How much pain are you in right now?
- Are you working too many hours for the money you make?
- Are you simply fed up with all the employee drama?
- As you look at your business and your life, is the stress of the business so bad that the money just doesn’t make up for it anymore?
- Have you had enough customer drama for one lifetime?
Avoiding pain is a great motivator!
You know that you are frustrated with certain aspects of your business. Your staff is probably just as frustrated. Keeping in mind that you can’t make any long-lasting changes without buy-in from your team, why not involve them at the start of this process?
The following is a good exercise to kickstart the change process (depending on the size of the group, this exercise could take 1-2 hours).
- Call a staff meeting. Give everyone a 3×5 Post-It note pad and a pen.
- Ask everyone to think about all the challenges the business had during October, November, and December of last year. Have each person write one issue on one Post-It note. Allow about 10 minutes for each person to write down their thoughts. Stop this part of the session when it’s apparent that everyone is finished. Shorten or lengthen the time as appropriate.
- Have one person at a time go to the front of the room, place their notes on the wall (or a white board) and read them out loud. Get them to clarify anything that isn’t clear. There should be no discussion about whether the issue is valid and there should be no problem-solving at this time.
- As more people add their notes, group together the ones that are similar. As more notes go up, themes will begin to appear. Group together notes that speak to similar themes (it’s a good idea to have one person act as facilitator for this exercise). Label the themes. Examples of themes may be:
The sales process
- Quantify the impact of each group of issues:
On a scale of 1-10, how does each group increase everyone’s stress level?
What’s the impact of each group on profit? Estimate the dollars.
Did any of these groups cause you to lose customers? How many?
Did any of these issues cause you to lose employees? How many?
On a scale of 1-10, how did each group of issues impact customer satisfaction?
Quantify other factors that are important to you. Be careful not to get too bogged down in making each estimate precise. Get a general consensus quickly and move on.
You still should not have spent any time debating the issues nor should the group discuss solutions to the issues.
- At this point, you have a solid list of the key issues and you have estimated the impact of these issues. Now it’s time to generate team buy-in to help drive the changes:
Have each person think about the impact on them personally if these issues are successfully addressed. Have them note each impact on a separate Post-It.
In a separate area of the board (or wall), have one person at a time post their notes. Clarify as needed. Group together when appropriate.
Quantify the impact of each group of issues.
- Step back and look at what the group has done:
Review each theme group in the challenges section. Mention the most significant notes. Review the impact. Check the room for consensus.
Conduct the same review for the theme groups in the personal impact section.
- After admitting that change can be messy and is sometimes hard work, ask the group if it is worth the effort to address the issues they have listed. Ask them if they would prefer to work for the company that exists today or the one that will exist once the issues are addressed.
By now you know what needs to be tackled and you should have strong buy-in from the team to help drive the improvements.
While enthusiasm is still high, we need to move into action mode.
- Rank the issues from the easiest to resolve to the hardest. Hopefully the easiest issues are pretty apparent. Check for consensus from the group.
- Nothing succeeds like success. It is important to take action now and to have some early successes. Take the top 2 or 3 easiest to resolve challenges and assign one person to each. If your group is large enough, give each person 1-2 additional people to assist. Task them with resolving those issues. Make sure each group understands that you expect these issues to be resolved quickly.
- Reconvene the group once per week to get a status report on each of those initiatives. Most should be resolved in 1-2 weeks.
- While you are getting some early successes, begin to tackle some of the tougher challenges. As your group size allows, form additional teams to work on these. Remember that you may have to eat the elephant one bite at a time. Don’t try to tackle everything on your list at the same time.
- Celebrate success! It is important to recognize the results of the teams as they resolve issues. This also gives you a chance to ensure everyone knows that things are changing, progress is being made, and things will be different going forward.
Some of the challenges you have identified will have obvious solutions.
Install errors may require additional training or new tools.
Template errors may also include training.
You may need to work on your front office processes.
Complex issues like customer satisfaction may require a more comprehensive approach and the solutions may not be as clear. One of the great things about this industry is the multitude of resources available to help you sort out these more complex issues. From user groups like Rockheads and Artisan Group to industry associations like NSI and SFA to multiple Facebook groups to paid consultants – you should be able to find a resource that works for you.
As the year progresses, we will dive into some of the stickier issues and will talk about approaches and tools that could be useful.
As a fab shop owner, you deserve to have a business that makes you money and also allows you the time to enjoy it.
To find out more about how to reduce the chaos in your business, make more money, and get your life back, email the author at Ed@FabricatorsCoach.com.