Using the "Millimeter Approach" to Manage Growth

The biggest failure in business often happens right when a company goes through a growth spurt. While many business owners celebrate their new prosperity, they next face product or service delivery challenges. For small business, the "growth" moment can make or break their future. Failure to deliver means all that new business will go away as fast as it came. As business leaders and managers, the first thought might be panic. Managers who look at the list of new business might go into overwhelm and not even know where to begin, and this is where failure happens. 

To manage BIG growth, you must first scale it down and then prioritize. The first small step toward BIG delivery is to take the new projects, make a list, and put a deadline next to each one. Then you're going to want to bring out a calendar either electronic or paper (writing information down is still a great brain exercise). First use a calendar where you can plan ahead and write down all of the deadlines (this is project management made simple). Now backtrack and create smaller deadlines to meet that lead up to the final deadline. See what we're doing: we're breaking it into smaller parts. The smaller deadlines will be the deadlines required that lead to creation of the whole. Each project on the list should have a deadline and smaller deadlines. How do you create the smaller deadlines? How long does it take to finish each task on a daily basis? Give each smaller deadline enough time for completion. 

If you've got multiple projects with multiple deadlines, you should be able to break it down into daily tasks to make each smaller deadline. Now how do you know when your human capital (staff) are overloaded and cannot manage all of this work on their own? That is another blog, but in the meantime your small deadline require small tasks. List daily tasks as daily goals. As the tasks are completed (thus daily goals achieved), move to the next. This should happen each day. So when you think about it, one big deadline amounts to daily small deadlines. Stay on task and stay on deadline and you'll deliver your BIG project.

“Millimeter” Healing BIG Relationship Problems in Small Ways

Sometimes it’s small steps (AKA millimeter) to repair relationships. If you’ve had a falling out with someone typically it didn’t just happen overnight. Relationships don’t go south in one big swoop (especially marital relationships). The relationship deteriorates one small thing at a time. In marriage it can be the couple “outgrew” each other. Sometimes though to repair relationship damage, the same small steps required to tear it down can be reversed into small steps to build it up.

Any relationship in disrepair can begin anew with one simple, small step forward: outreach. Most relationships suffer from a break in communication. Pick up the phone (use your voice and not text or email) and call the person. Start with something basic. Ask the person to coffee or lunch. Ask the person with nothing more than the intention to restart communication. On the first meeting don’t plan to try and tackle the whole problem at once. Just start simple, “How have you been?” Then do the most important thing you can ever do – listen. Hear what that person has to say, and don’t put judgment on it. Just use your ears and listen with an open heart. Meeting and listening are the simplest, smallest steps you can do to reengage a relationship and get on the path toward healing. 

Secrets of Successful Implementation of the “Millimeter Approach”

If you’ve been reading the blog then you know it’s all about “small” – think small, act small, make small changes. Really the theme is “take small steps to create big change.” So small thinking isn’t really the idea. Big thinking and then pairing it down to smaller parts to rebuild to a bigger whole is the basis in which you which implement the “millimeter approach” to business.

What does this mean? It means you need a big vision first. Your big ideas become the launch pad for your smaller steps. So first create your overall vision for your business. What is it? Have you ever thought about your overall business vision? If not, take some time to first brainstorm, what is my overall vision? Once you’ve determined the big picture then it’s time to break it down and then implement it.

Step 1: Create your BIG vision
Step 2: Now de-construct it into smaller parts
Step 3: Take the smaller parts and implement them one at a time

You almost have to think of it like a puzzle. You can’t see the big picture until you put the pieces in place. Well in “millimeter approaches” you can’t create the big picture until you implement the smaller parts. Let’s give you an example.

Step 1: I want to have $1 million dollar annual gross revenue by 2015
Step 2: What steps would I have to take to gross $1 million? Deconstruct it that process like this into sub-steps:

Sub-Step 1: Do X amount of marketing.
Deconstruct that one to another sub-step.
Sub-Step 2: What are the marketing tactics you’ll use?
Break apart the marketing activities into tactics. For example, create a newsletter, do X amount of social media posting, etc.

Step 3: Implementation
Sub-Step 3: Create daily goals around each Sub-Step 2.
Sub-Step 4: Implement the daily goals.

In order to achieve your $1 million vision you need to focus on marketing and sales. The other areas of your business will focus on product or service delivery, quality assurance, customer service, and human resources. While the other areas of business will impact your sales and continued success, it is sales and marketing that directly drive revenue. The other areas are indirect. So in your initial drive to achieve your $1 million goal you will focus on sales and marketing. Once you’ve got those programs underway you will want to focus and deconstruct the other areas of your business the same way.

The "Millimeter Approach" to Change Employee Morale

Are you finding that the energy around the office is maybe a little off? Staff aren't as excited to be at work like they used to be. Smiles aren't as abundant as they once were. Maybe something happened recently, and you can feel the negativity in the vibe. How do you change it? Like everything else I teach, the "millimeter approach" can change everything. Here are some tips to take small steps toward an overall boost in attitude and elevated morale.
First, acknowledge the problem. You can't change something without communicating awareness about it. Call a staff meeting and openly discuss the issue of morale. Give people a "free pass" to air some of their grievances. Make sure (and this is key) you don't argue with them or make them wrong for expressing their thought and feelings. Do make sure it doesn't turn into an all-out complaint zone. Make a list of the concerns and ensure each person is heard.
Second, identify the specific problems and then resolve one at a time. Take the list and systematically (make sure you address each issue one day at a time and make that your goal) address the issues. For example, let's say employees feel it has been too long since they had a raise. Your first step should be to acknowledge "why" there have been no raises.
Institute a solution. To address the problem, create a bonus program based on a team goal. If we make X sales in the month of July, I will provide a bonus of $X dollars to each person. That is step one, but to address the overall need for a company-wide raise, you can incrementally increase the sales figures and make not just a monthly goal but an annual goal. If we make this sales figure in this many months, you all will receive this dollar figure raise. Start small though with the bonus program. If you make your staff over-reach for a number that seems too big your staff is less likely to achieve goal and less likely to receive the reward, and your desire to improve morale is defeated and possibly even exacerbated. So start small, start with a do-able goal, and go one step, one day and one month at a time.

Now go to the next problem on the list. Take the same steps and create solutions. By the time you finish this exercise you will have identified and solved the morale problems. Notice the difference in employee's attitudes once they start "winning" on the job. When employees feel heard, acknowledged and see actions taken, morale will increase because you've empowered them. It is only when employees feel helpless and see that nothing changes do they begin to lose enthusiasm for their jobs. These small steps toward solutions will even improve their attitudes.

Why Make Millimeter Changes TODAY not Tomorrow to Achieve Goals

Putting off today what you can do tomorrow. Does that sound familiar? Actually there is another word for it called "procrastination." Do you procrastinate? A lot of people do. Truth is, procrastination leads to more procrastination. Why do you think people procrastinate? Probably because the task at-hand seems insurmountable and too much to even think about tackling. Do you feel that way about all those goals you've wanted to reach, but they seem too big, too much to even get your head around? Then when you go to attempt doing what you want to do, it still seems insurmountable. So what do you do? You procrastinate. Maybe you say, "I'll do that tomorrow..." and then tomorrow comes and you say, "I'll do that next week..." and so it goes.
Using my "millimeter approach" to do anything including achieve goals is so simple if you understand to break down goals into smaller goals. When you break down goals into smaller tasks toward the bigger picture, your desire to procrastinate or put it off will be less likely. The idea of doing something "millimeter-sized" today isn't so overwhelming is it? Even if you break the goal into tiniest task your desire to procrastinate will decrease. It won't seem so "Oh my!" Because any goals that elicits a feeling of "Oh my!" eventually gets put aside.
So how do you break goals down. Use the step-by-step approach. Take the task and break it down to the smallest step you can think about. For example, I want to run a marathon. Start first with developing a training program (small step one). Then in writing down the training program, break the training into day-by-day efforts. Focus only on the day-by-day. For example, maybe you're not in shape to run that many miles. So break it down to I will run X miles three days a week. But don't focus on the three days. Focus only on THE day and THE mile. Now begin and don't look too far into the future, and that's the key. Stay present and in the moment -- another small step to move you forward. Always THINK SMALL to reach BIG goals.

It's the Small Things When It Comes to Customer Service

Did you know that either poor or great customer service can break or make a business? Yes, poor vs. great customer creates an image for your company that will either attract or repel customers. With the Internet and different ways to rate businesses like Yelp it doesn't take much "bad-mouthing" to spread negative reviews about your establishment or the converse to spread high praise and attract people. So always take customer service very seriously.
Now you maybe wondering, "How do I institute customer service programs that won't compromise my hard-earned profits?" The best way to approach customer service is to use the "millimeter approach" to create programs geared toward satisfying customers. What are some small changes you can make to improve customer without re-engineering your entire business model?
Business-to-Customer Relations -- What's in a Name? Are you a retail outlet or business that serves the general public? For example, do you have a receptionist or sales person who meets and greets customers? A very simple policy (small change) to institute is a simple welcome format. How does your "welcome wagon" (AKA receptionist or sales person) behave when he or she encounters a customer? An easy change is to create a standard greeting. "Hello my name is X. How may I help you?" And then make it a standard rule to ask the customer's name. By offering a name and restating someone's name it means your welcome person has established a personal connection with the customer. First, your representative is showing the customer he or she cares. Second, by repeating the name your representative shows he or she listened. This "millimeter" policy change requires no additional investment of money or time. It's simple and easily implemented. When you hire a new staff person, include it in training. This is how we greet and meet customers.
Business-to-Business Service. Just because your business doesn't directly touch with the general public doesn't mean emphasis on customer service should fall to the wayside. Client customer relations can be tricky. Anyone on your team or staff should be trained to the customer service "etiquette." Again, a "millimeter" approach emphasizes the little changes. How does your staff answer requests? Do they have a "can-do" attitude or a "won't-do" attitude? A can-do attitude aims to get it done. Train your staff to be agreeable and solution-oriented not problem-centered. Tell staff, "Don't bring me the problem; bring me the solution." A policy of solving problems creates a positive environment where people don't ruminate on what can't be done vs. what can be done. And proactive behavior serves customers at your highest capacity.

The Best Way to Get a Millimeter Business Plan in Place

Running your business (and life for that matter) using a "millimeter approach" to all that you do requires you to learn how to chunk down aspects of that business and create a plan. Your "millimeter" business plan takes all facets of your business, from marketing to personnel, and breaks it down task-by-task into small chunks to build toward BIG results.

How does that work?

Step 1: The best way is to literally de-construct your business. Identify each area of business and break these areas into "categories". Now take these categories and create sub-heads in your business plan. 

Step 2: Now make sub-categories under each area. For example marketing can be broken down into sub-categories such as direct marketing, education-based marketing, marketing collateral materials (postcards, business cards, promo). 
Step 3: Now break these areas down further into the tasks required to create them. For example, write your newsletter every Thursday to release on Friday or update your business cards once every three weeks (mark a date on the calendar).
Step 4: Now under the idea of a "millimeter" at a time under each category at one weekly, monthly or annual goal you would like to achieve in that area.
Step 5: Next under each weekly, monthly or annual goal, add the tasks or steps required on a weekly, monthly or annual basis to achieve those goals.
Step 6: Now delegate those areas to proper staff or yourself (if you're a solo-preneur).

Step 7: DO NOT look at the monthly tasks or goals as you begin to implement. Keep your focus solely on the daily or weekly tasks/goals. 

Step 8: You may review at the end of the month to see your progress toward your annual goals. 
Step 9: And this is HUGE: Reward yourself each week or each month when you've accomplished those tasks/goals. It doesn't have to be anything more exotic than a simple self-affirmation of "I did X." Revel in the small accomplishments and perhaps even set your sights on a BIG reward when you've achieved monthly or even bi-monthly results.

Once you've walked through steps 1-8 you will have an actual business plan. Remember don't try and do it all in one day, week or month. Build toward the small results toward the BIG wins. It's much less daunting when you keep your eye only on the tasks/goals in a day with the idea that small steps build toward BIG results.

Overcome Personal Challenges with a "Millimeter Approach" -- Weight Loss

The "millimeter approach" applies universally in both business and life. If you think about it, change permeates all aspects of our lives. Fear of change, especially in one's personal life where emotions are involved can be even scarier. Yet with the "millimeter approach" no need to cower in front of what appears to be your Mount Everest of change. As the old saying goes "don't make a mountain out of a mole hill" ... well, I'm going to tell you how to turn that "mountain" into a "mole hill" and then add another "hill" and another "hill" and pretty soon you've conquered the Mount Everest of your personal life.
Let's apply the "millimeter approach" to something many, many Americans grapple with -- being overweight. Let's say you're 50 pounds overweight. Let me ask you this: how long did it take you to add 50 pounds to your frame? Most people don't gain 50 pounds overnight. It took time, right? So why do you think you can lose that same 50 pounds overnight or within a few days or weeks?
Here is how to use the "millimeter" approach to lose weight.
Step 1: Realize you need to lose weight, which is a big but also small step. Denial is a an excellent tool to keep doing anything you're doing that isn't always good for you. So start with accepting your need to do it.
Step 2: Identify a diet plan whether it's Weight Watchers or Jenny Craig. Ask your friends what worked for them, too.
Step 3: Design a diet-goal plan with daily, weekly, and monthly goals. A good suggestion is NOT to weigh yourself daily since this can set up feelings of failure. Design a weight-in program based on a weekly goal.
Step 4: Now this is the biggest but SMALLEST challenge: only focus on the daily goals and stay in the moment. Do not step on the scale every five minutes. Concentrate strictly on staying on the diet plan.
Step 5: Leave a margin of error for special occasions.
Step 6: Be kind and love yourself. It's no easy losing weight.
Step 7: Keep going and readjust your goals if necessary.
Just remember what I said, "You didn't gain weight in a day so you're not going to lose it in a day either." Step-by-step to build toward the bigger picture, your slim body, works. Give it a try.