Entrepreneurs assume great responsibility and take big risks to control their own destiny, yet years after opening their businesses, they’re working harder than ever before, instead of smarter. Where did they go wrong and how can they fix it?
The last couple of times Dan Sullivan attended a sports event or show, he asked himself a philosophical question: Why am I paying hundreds of dollars to watch someone else work?
He wasn’t speaking as an ordinary fan, but as president and founder of The Strategic Coach, the company he founded 35 years ago to counsel entrepreneurs on how they can up their own game.
Dan answered his own question, saying he really appreciates watching professionals perform in their carefully-rehearsed roles. “They don’t waste my time with raw activity. They delight me with the activity that really counts.”
Can every entrepreneur learn from such highly-paid and highly-skilled performers? After all, not everyone is a 7-footer who can dunk a basketball on his tippy-toes, or knock a 95-mph fastball out of Yankee Stadium.
The good news, says Dan, is it’s not just a matter of raw ability. It’s the practice that makes perfect.
When Dan coaches entrepreneurs, he introduces them to an ingenious concept he developed for The Strategic Coach, which he calls an Impact Filter. “I call it the 30 minutes that saves you 30 days,” he says. Any entrepreneur who organizes his time and his team, so that they understand that the more you rehearse the better you play, can hit grand slams in the business world.
Dan shared how his trademark Impact Filter boils down every new project to a handful of essentials on a recent Sunday night edition of my weekly program “Mind Your Business” on 77WABC radio:
- A) The purpose — or what you want to accomplish.
- B) Its importance — the big difference the project will make.
- C) Success criteria – what has to come true when the project is finished.
- D) The ideal outcome – what the completed project will look like
- E) Best and worst case scenarios — what happens if you do, or don’t take action
It all starts with filling out that one-page impact filter, which removes guesswork from the equation and clarifies priorities.
“Most business communication is haphazard and the mistake most entrepreneurs make is they move ahead with a project without complete understanding and agreement among the people who will work on it,” Dan says. As a result, team members often feel intimidated, confused, or stressed by a brainstorming session because they don’t know how they’re going to fit the new project into schedules where all their time is already accounted for.
So the ball is in the entrepreneur’s court to convey a very clear picture as to why the new idea is more important than some of projects they’re already doing so they can reassess their time allocations.
Such advance planning provides two major advantages:
1) It Promotes Independent Thinking
The highest priority for a business owner is to teach team members to think for themselves. “I don’t want them delegating their thinking to me,” Dan says. If a team member requests a meeting, Dan tells him to pick a day and time, but only after forwarding a completed impact filter. “Tell me what you think is so important that it should use up my time,” he says. “This eliminates half of the requests upfront, and if not, I understand totally what they already have on their minds, and can start responding in a creative fashion and say, here, I have a few suggestions.”
2) It Empowers the Team
Dan never tells a team member how to actually do something. He shares his vision of the outcome. Once an entrepreneur gives a team member a complete game plan, and they understand the purpose, importance, ideal outcome and how it’s going to be measured, they will tackle the project with confidence. “And at that point, I don’t have to manage the process anymore.”
These relatively simple steps gives you back 40% of your working time, because you’re no longer dealing with undoing confusion or miscommunication. The hard-earned time you won back enables you to focus on what you do best – creating new ideas, products, services and systems that can take your game to a championship level.
Bottom Line Action Step: Convey a complete game plan to keep your team organized and focused.