The One-Step at a "Millimeter" Rule

All businesses go through hiccups. Much like life, nothing is perfect. Sometimes as you go through growing pains, you have to adjust and scale your business. One of the great rules is to always get ahead of situations ... at a "millimeter" at a time.

Sometimes a business situation can seem monumental. You have an entire system to learn or re-learn as the case maybe. How do you avoid overwhelm? One step, one task, one system at a time. You incrementally walk your way through a system or process. Stay focused on the task at-hand. Do not look ahead. Just focus on one thing at a time (my millimeter approach). As you master the task, move to the next one. Pretty soon you will have the entire system mastered. It may not take an hour. It may take a day ... a week. But stick with it until you've mastered it one task at a time.

Persistence and consistence -- the two key rules of getting something completely done.

Try This Today

I recently had an amazing experience while renting a car from Enterprise.  An energetic, passionate young woman helped me with my rental, and I was so impressed with her customer service skills that I actually offered her a job in California working for me as an administrative assistant.

I honestly did not expect her to take it (I was in Ohio renting the car and Cincinnati is her home town.)  But what did happen helped me remember how important it is to recognize people in our everyday interactions.

Unfortunately in today’s world, we tend to remember all the negative outcomes or negative experiences. With review sites that promote negative reviews such as YELP, there is now more and more focus on what is “wrong” with a service provider or product than focusing on what is right.

Maybe I am naïve, but I believe most people get up each day and want to have a great day and help their customers, clients and patients. Of course, some people give up sooner or just do not have the energy or focus to sustain a customer-centric attitude all day.

My proposal today is to try to make a change in the collective atmosphere that focuses on all the “bad” and start handing out praises to people we encounter all day long.

Try it starting today.

Learn How Change Can Become Your Friend

Can change really be your friend?

Yes, absolutely, when you take it a “millimeter” at a time.  Most of us who set goals make them with the intention of achieving them. However, somewhere along the way, we either hit roadblocks, realized the goals might have been too large to tackle at this time, or just give-up and rationalize that “I really never wanted (fill in the blank).”

The truth is, you can achieve all your goals and more by using my “millimeter” approach.  In my book, It’s All About Millimeters: How Small Changes can have a Big Impact in Your Business and Your Life, there are case studies of business owners who made small, but significant changes consistently overtime to improve their bottom lines. Misty Young, a brand restaurant owner, realized that the employees, who had been working at the restaurant she just purchased, needed ongoing training.

By providing training via videos that she produced, one at a time, she was able to build a library of videos to help current and new employees learn excellent customer service skills. Misty knew there were many things that needed to get done right away with her restaurant, but she chose to take a “millimeter” approach so that she could achieve her goals and get the change she was seeking for her restaurant and employees, and ultimately the health of her restaurant.

What small change can you implement today to improve your business, career or personal life?  Start with ONE small goal a day (or even ONE a week) and see how change can become your best friend.

Is It Time To Reinvent Yourself?

Back in 2008 our orthodontic practice growth came to a screeching halt. In fact, it was worse than that -- it was more like being catapulted off a very tall mountain.

Imagine being on a beautiful scenic road in your favorite vehicle, enjoying the view and your driving companion and feeling on the top of the world, and then suddenly without warning, your car careens off the side of the road down a mountain in free-fall.

Not a great feeling, right?  Scary, no doubt, especially when you did not see it coming.

 Well that is what happened to us in 2008. We had just moved our orthodontic practice into a brand new building that we purchased in 2007.  We took out a huge loan to pay for the building and the tenant improvements, but felt 100-percent confident our practice would continue to grow now that we had the additional space.

Within a period of about six months of our November 2007 relocation, our practice declined 30 percent, which meant some serious economic changes for us personally as well as our employees.
In my book, It’s All About Millimeters, I share this story in more detail and the ultimate “turnaround” of our practice. One of the most important things we did to bring our practice back and regain all we lost and continue to grow each year since 2010 was simply to reinvent ourselves. 

By focusing on a “millimeter” approach, we decided to “niche” our practice and standout from the crowd of 30 other orthodontists in our area.  This process of focusing on a particular “niche” and changing the way we provided orthodontic services helped us recover and get back on the track for double-digit growth that has continued despite ongoing economic uncertainty.  

The “millimeter” approach to reinvention can help you make those changes needed to succeed in your business, your career, and even in your personal life.

Building Blocks to Big Dreams

A lot of people who experience what is commonly called "overnight success" will tell you there was nothing "overnight" about it. Most people who ultimately succeed and "make it" are those who played the game. They didn't give up. The persisted and stayed with it. A really good technique to stick in there is to use my "millimeter approach" and each day do something to move your dream just a little forward. A lot of people will commonly say they have no time for this or that. But if you use "millimeter" time, you just need to do one little thing each day to push your goal. And it doesn't matter what your goal is -- big or small or even lofty.  
So let's take for example, you want to write a book. Where do you start? Using my "millimeter" technique, you start small. Make your first day the title. You create a title. Make your second day the table of contents. Make your third day, a page or maybe even a chapter. Each step of the day, make small goals. Each small goal will eventually add up to the big goal. And the big goal will add up to success.

Yes or No?

"For the past 33 years, I have looked in the mirror every morning and asked myself: 'If today were the last day of my life, would I want to do what I am about to do today?' And whenever the answer has been 'No' for too many days in a row, I know I need to change something." ~ Steve Jobs 

Steve Jobs, the icon of Apple Computer and other stellar companies, knew change was critical to happiness and success. He didn't fear it. He embraced it, and he sought it out. He understood what some people do not -- that changing something leads to good things. If you're not happy with how something is, then do what Jobs did -- go after changing it. A friend of mine says this, you're the only one in your casket. It's true. No one else is going to that grave with you. It's your life. It's not your friend's life. It's not your husband/wife's life. It's yours. Are you going to live it the way you dreamed? Are you going to accept the status quo? Are you going to be happy, indifferent or sad? Because every single day is an opportunity to do it differently ... to be different ... to change the course. If you can't look in the mirror and answer that question with "yes" then it's time to change the direction. And if you follow my "millimeters approach" then you know it isn't going to require a huge step to do it, but a small one! A very small one.

The Biggest Lesson in Business

What do they call it, expensive lessons you don't want to learn. Many times in business you have to be prepared to shift directions or revamp business models.  On this blog, I teach about small changes for big results. The best lesson and least expensive is to be agile and flexible enough to shift course when things aren't working. It's when you get stuck in a mode or method and become inflexible, costly mistakes don't get resolve any sooner.
Let's apply that to a vendor relationship. Say you're working with a vendor who no matter what happens (hidden fees are largely the culprit), what they say they're going to charge you and the actual bill never adds up -- and it's never in your favor. What do you do? Keep accepting unacceptable business practices because maybe they've been your go-to vendor? Maybe you feel stuck with them for whatever reason? 
Do you just keep paying the bill that perhaps eats your small net profit margin? No, you take small steps to either confront the vendor or change vendors. You start with the small step. Confront the vendor. Question the invoice. Hidden fees are culprits for eating your profits. If the vendor refuses to change or compensate you, do you give them another chance? No. If the vendor accepts responsibility, do you give them another chance? Yes. If they do it again then you change directions and find someone else (ever heard of fool me once shame on you, fool me twice shame on me?). Accepting the unacceptable takes businesses down a road toward reduced margins. It's not smart business. And one small phone call should determine your choices to change directions.