3 Key Steps to Make Your Business More Efficient and More Profitable

The Covid-19 pandemic has arguably imposed more challenges to the way companies have done business than any other single event in living memory, if not longer. Whilst the external pressures on a business have increased, many enterprises are still handicapping themselves by not building-in even the most basic system efficiencies. By effectively managing and prioritizing your business’ inputs, most particularly the labor-hours of you and your senior team, you can release greater outputs and ultimately revenue.

Related: Manage Your Company More Efficiently with This 22-Course Project Management Training

Here are three key principles for optimising efficiency, to release your business from self-imposed constraints, in 2021.

1. You are not a manager, you are a leader

Leadership and Management are both the same, right? Wrong, couldn’t be more wrong – stop it! Warren Bennis, Professor of Business Administration and an Organisational Consultant is quoted as an opening: “The manager accepts the status quo; the leader challenges it

Even this simple change of mindset will release you from one of the most pervasive inefficiencies in business. If you see yourself as a manager you are strategically no better than a caretaker, taking what you have and merely preserving it. Entrepreneurship rests on the foundation of leadership: identifying a business’s strengths and weaknesses, implementing positive change whilst taking others on the journey with you. Use the ‘Plan’ ‘Do’ ‘See’ ‘Act’ system. Develop an efficientcy idea, trial it, review and then roll it out for system-wide effectiveness

True leadership has a compounding effect on efficiency. If you identify yourself as a leader you will improve your business through efficiencies. If you teach your team that they are leaders too, then they will identify efficiencies upon efficiencies at every level in your business.

Related: 10 Awesome Tips for Being a Better Leader

2. Get lean

Taiichi Ohno, founder of the Toyota Production System which gave rise to ‘Lean’ working said when asked about Lean thinking: “All we are doing is looking at the timeline, from the moment the customer gives us an order to the point when we collect the cash. And we are reducing the timeline by reducing the non-value adding wastes”

The key question here is ‘What are the things you are doing that people won’t pay for, and why are you still doing them?’. (1) Identify what your client wants, (2) identify what workflows are required to bring about the client’s goals and (3) automate the ‘system pull’ so that (1) naturally flows, without bottlenecks, from (2). Waste can arise from a range of sources including over-processing, unnecessary motion of goods and staff, and simple erroneous thinking within system design. Cut it out, because no one is paying you for it, but be careful not to inadvertently devalue your brand by dehumanizing your process

Related: How to Apply Lean Principles to Your Startup’s Productivity and Time Management

3. Invest in real business efficiency review

Kevin Zhang, the eCommerce entrepreneur behind HEMPX clothing brand and the Branded Niche eCommerce (‘BNE’) approach, has a unique way to ensure business efficiency is at the heart of his business. Every month, Kevin spends one-week logging everything that he did that week, hour by hour, and then closely examines any inefficiencies. Kevin looks at his schedule and determines which activities are high value-add and which can be automated through hiring new talent.

The difference between a successful start-up and a scaled-up business is the development of systems to build growth on the foundation of a verified concept. The University of Oxford identifies scalable infrastructure as one of the three key requirements for a business to move to the next level, alongside strong leadership and appropriate marketing. This includes IT systems and production or manufacturing systems, as well as office space and workforce arrangements. If a business owner is spending all of their time in the weeds of their business rather than constantly thinking about growth, then, of course, their business is not going to grow.

Related: 7 Key Steps to a Growth Strategy That Works Immediately

A focus and commitment to removing inefficiency is like removing shackles from a business’s potential. It requires courageous leadership, and ability to identify what your client needs and supply that in the most streamlined fashion, and a willingness to stop and take stock to ensure you are using your time effectively to guide your business in the right direction.

By: Samuel leach / Entrepreneur Leadership Network Contributor Director of Samuel & Co Trading

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TakingTheBiz

In this revision tutorial for A level Business students we examine how to improve the efficiency of a business by improving its labour productivity. Efficiency and labour productivity are topics on the new A level Business specifications for Edexcel, AQA and OCR. TakingTheBiz is a channel dedicated to A level Business revision. See more of our videos: http://www.youtube.com/c/TakingTheBiz…​ Stay in touch with TakingTheBiz via social media: Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/TakingTheBiz/​ Twitter: https://twitter.com/TakingTheBiz​ Instagram: https://www.instagram.com/takingthebiz/

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How to Ensure Love Doesn’t End Your Business

Surely you have ever heard that mixing love and business is not a very good option, which is not necessarily true, since the success of a business will always depend on how its owners manage it and not on their kinship.

The simple fact of starting a business is a great challenge that generates fear, and if your idea is to start with your partner, this can become an even greater challenge, which few dare to try. According to figures from the 2016 Global Entrepreneurship Monitor (GEM) Annual Report, approximately 34% of entrepreneurs are afraid of failure.
So that this does not happen to you, it is necessary that you take into account the following tips, which will be very useful when starting a business together with your partner:

1. Define objectives: before starting your business, it is important that you define the objectives you want to achieve in the short, medium and long term, as this will help you to have a guide for decision making.

2. Make a budget: it is essential that from the beginning they consider what expenses they will have month after month and that they keep an updated record of their income and expenses. To do this, I recommend you download the Monthly Budget format for free, with which you can significantly improve your business finances.

3. Establish their functions: discuss and agree on what functions they will have, the position they will carry out and the specific and general objectives. This will help them to have a better organization and avoid conflicts.

4. Separate personal finances: when they have defined what functions they will perform, it is necessary that each one has a salary assigned, since one of the worst financial mistakes they can make is to take the money that is destined for the business to pay your personal expenses.

5. Emergency fund: they must take into account that if they decide to work in the same business, all income will depend on a single source of work, so if the business stops operating, the income of both can be seriously threatened. For this reason, they must have a cash emergency fund that allows them to cover at least three months of their monthly expenses and which they only use for a true emergency.

Remember that love should not be an impediment for a business to grow and be maintained, undertaking as a couple can also bring you great benefits that improve your relationship. The only thing that must be maintained is communication and organization.

By: Alejandro Saracho

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TEDx Talks

Community growth expert and business mentor Best-selling author and business strategist Jadah Sellner believes that all business is personal, and that love has a very important role in the workplace. Why You Should Listen: At no other time in our history have humans been so connected — and so lonely. And companies that can tap into our innate need to be part of a tribe will stand head and shoulders above the crowd.

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How To Keep Sustainability At The Forefront Of Decision-Making

In times of great upheaval, it can be difficult for businesses to see the big picture. Sure, making quick, data-driven decisions to reach the right customer at the right moment is important, especially when business is uncertain. But bigger aspirational goals are still essential—maybe more so.

This dynamic can be especially true when it concerns corporate sustainability—sometimes referred to as environmental, social, and governance (ESG) goals that measure the societal impact of a company or business. ESG goals are designed to allow businesses to meet their present needs without compromising the ability of future generations to meet their own needs. And ignoring those longer-term goals in the service of the here and now can undermine the future health of both the company and their customers.

In many ways, deprioritizing ESG goals in times of crisis is understandable. When economic strains are great and the business future looks cloudy, leaders often hunker down with a laser focus on the bottom line. But they must also continue to focus on the soul of their corporation, and what differentiates their products and their people.  

Today, sustainability should be front and center for companies. Business leaders increasingly see sustainability as a key facet of their mission and build it into their principles and strategy to ensure business resilience. Further, they need to acknowledge the business risk of ignoring sustainability, whether through supply chain disruptions, public perception, or lack of investment in upcoming technologies. 

A plan for progress

First, let’s define our terms—what do we mean by “sustainability”? A good place to start is with the United Nations 17 Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs), a collection of 17 interlinked goals designed to be a “blueprint to achieve a better and more sustainable future for all.”

The SDGs include decreasing hunger and poverty, combating climate change, creating clean water, reducing income inequality, and forging better educational opportunities. They were set in 2015 by the U.N. General Assembly and are intended to be achieved by 2030.

Today, we hear quite a bit about climate change and the need to reduce carbon emissions, but sustainability is much broader—including environmental and societal impact. Not all management teams and boards are up to speed on what their company can and should do to improve their footprint, even if employees have good data and solid proposals. Here are six things business leaders can do to stay on track to meet ambitious ESG goals.

1. Make the business case 

Sustainability makes business sense. A focus on ESG can help management reduce capital costs and improve the firm’s valuation. That’s because as more investors look to put money into companies with stronger ESG performance, larger pools of capital will be available to those companies. According to a study by the United Nations Global Compact and Accenture, “between 2013-2019, companies with consistently high environmental, social and governance (ESG) performance enjoyed 4.7x higher operating margins and lower volatility than low ESG performers over the same period.”

“Over the past several months, when global markets have faced tremendous pressures and volatility, companies with high ESG scores have continued to outperform, experiencing a cumulative relative return 6.3% higher than bottom performers and facing lower volatility.”

– Accenture report, “The green behind the cloud,” September 2020

Additionally, according to a 2018 global survey by Accenture of nearly 30,000 consumers in 35 countries, 62% of respondents wanted companies to take a stand on current and broadly relevant issues, including sustainability. And 42% of consumers walk away from the brand in frustration if the company doesn’t align with customer beliefs.

2. Keep an eye on the data 

Everything around us is affected by big data today and your work on sustainability should be no exception. Keep a close eye on measuring your goals, performance, and operational changes with data. Be especially mindful of the sourcing and reliability of the data collected.

One big tire company, for instance, uses data generated by sensors in their tires globally to reduce waste, increase profits, and reduce the number of defective tires going to landfills, thus doing their bit for the environment. Small improvements in efficiency due to resource optimization can result in big savings.

Related: Unlock the transformational power of information you’re already collecting. Get the “CIO’s Guide to Data Analytics and Machine Learning.”

3. Make sustainability a key part of your executive structure 

Organizations should have a chief sustainability officer and team working closely with line-of-business and tech leadership. The chief sustainability officer needs to be in board meetings and other gatherings where the long-term health of the company is considered. They must be a bridge between technologists and business strategists, pushing them to look at sustainability through a new lens—a technology lens—and asking how technology can help a company build a more sustainable world.

4. Expand your ecosystem 

Reaching your sustainability goals doesn’t happen in a vacuum. It requires an ecosystem of both government and nongovernment organizations, researchers, scientists, technologists, and businesses, for example, who share the same views. Establishing this ecosystem enables collaboration through the sharing of knowledge, data, analytics, and technologies. Seek to collaborate with others who support and foster similar goals.

Throw out your regular playbook. Sustainability is not just about technology—it is about enabling change to the business processes. It requires us all to think much more collaboratively. We are in this together.

Google Cloud and Unilever, for instance, are working together to fight deforestation through sustainable commodity sourcing. By combining the power of cloud computing with satellite imagery and AI through Google Cloud and Google Earth Engine, Unilever is building a more holistic view of the forests, water cycles, and biodiversity that intersects their supply chain—raising sustainable sourcing standards for suppliers and bringing them closer to their goal of ending deforestation and regenerating natural resources.

This will allow Unilever to provide a better picture of the ecosystems connected to their supply chain, and create a better mechanism for detecting deforestation. Ultimately, it will lead to greater accountability while simultaneously prioritizing critical areas of forest and habitats in need of protection. 

5. Be an internal evangelist for change

As a business leader committed to helping the organization meet ambitious ESG goals, being an internal evangelist and continuously championing the importance of sustainable practices is key. Make it your mission to reinforce the mindset that sustainability is not optional—it’s imperative not only for the success of the organization but for much broader, purpose-driven motives beyond that. Work on collaborating with other managers to propose and execute on initiatives to “green” operations within each department. Commit to following through on these initiatives, measuring the impact, and improving the effectiveness as you go.

6. Make bold commitments—even if the path there isn’t clear

As Accenture underscores in this September 2020 report on how a thoughtful cloud-first approach can help boost your profits and benefit the planet, “the greater the ambition, the greater the reduction in carbon emissions.” Broaden the scope of possibility by setting ambitious sustainability goals and timelines for your organization. You might not know how to get there, but making bold, transparent commitments opens the door for increased collaboration and sets the direction for others who might be able to help find a way.

For example, in September Google announced a new goal to operate on 24/7 carbon-free energy in all our data centers and campuses worldwide by 2030. Sundar Pichai, CEO of Google and Alphabet was candid, saying, “this is far more challenging than the traditional approach of matching energy usage with renewable energy, but we’re working to get this done by 2030.” Establishing executive buy-in, setting shared goals, enforcing accountability, and consistently measuring and evaluating your progress will make all the difference when it comes to moving the needle.

It may be hard to do, but I believe that now, even during a global crisis, sustainability should be at the center of a business’s decision-making. Sustainability is not only good for your bottom line, but it’s also good for your top line and good for the planet—the perfect trifecta.

Keep the momentum going: Reduce your environmental impact with Google Cloud. Explore tools and technology for sustainability at scale.

Jen Bennett

Jen Bennett

Jen is a Technical Director in Google’s Office of the CTO where she collaborates and co-innovates with Google’s strategic customers. She has spent her career leading engineering and product organizations leveraging data and analytics to transform a number of industries from sports and media to manufacturing. In her free time, Jen reached the pinnacle of soccer (football) as a FIFA referee refereeing several Women’s World Cups between 2002-2010. Jen holds a MS BioEngineering from University of Pittsburgh and a BSEE from Cornell University.

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Churchill College, University of Cambridge

Businesses are under pressure to become socially and environmentally sustainable, but this creates difficulties in decision-making, as executives need to reconcile competing social, environmental and economic demands. Most of the solutions proposed to this problem have focused either on improving information and analysis (Zapico, 2014), on cognitive approaches (Hahn, Preuss, Pinkse, & Figge, 2014) or on organisational issues, such as shared values (Epstein, Buhovac, & Yuthas, 2015). However, there has been very little work looking at the integrated set of capabilities that organisations might need to be able to address multiple tensions. We therefore set out to understand how executives experience the conflicting demands of sustainable business, and how they resolve these tensions in decision-making.

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How These Women Investors Crushed It In 2020

In an investment industry known for big egos, overconfident analysts and “activists” who routinely tell CEOs how to run their companies, investor Nancy Zevenbergen and her team of four portfolio managers differentiate themselves by simply listening.

Zevenbergen, 61, founder of $5.7 billion (assets) Zevenbergen Capital Investments, believes the crucial job of an investor in today’s economy is to uncover the next great entrepreneur or technological innovation early on. The style is about “optimism and a view toward what the future might be,” she says. According to Zevenbergen, her task is to be curious and “understand the ‘crazy’ visions of new leaders and become investors alongside them.” If she likes a company, her Seattle-based firm will load up and watch from the sidelines, tracking the business patiently and holding their shares so long as growth doesn’t stall. Rarely do they worry too much about valuation.

This humble approach to investing has yielded results that make Zevenbergen among the best investors in the world. She has stuck by mercurial Elon Musk and owned Tesla for about a decade; Tesla’s stock is up 730% this year, and is the top performing stock of the ten years. She discovered Ottawa, Canada-based ecommerce company Shopify and its founder CEO Tobi Lütke in late 2016 when it was trading below $50; it now trades for $1,170.

Last September, Zillow chief executive Rich Barton decided the real estate platform would begin buying homes, leading to complaints from skeptics who sent its shares cratering 20% to below $30. Zevenbergen’s team liked Barton’s experimentation and built a large position. Fifteen months later, Zillow now trades for $140.

Nancy Zeverbergen
Seattle-based Nancy Zevenbergen calls investing with a less than five-year time frame “truly speculative.” Case in point: She’s owned Amazon since it traded in the $60s and still holds shares after a 90-fold rise. Tim Pannell for Forbes

With stock-picks like these, Zevenbergen’s Innovative Growth Fund (SCATX) and Genea Fund (ZVGNX) are up a staggering 126% and 154%, respectively, in 2020. Of over 1,000 peer funds tracked by Morningstar, the two mutual funds rank in the top percentile. 

Zevenbergen created her firm from her living room in the late 1980s with just $500,000 in assets while she nursed a young child. Her flagship strategy has beaten the S&P 500 Index by around four percentage points annually since 1987, but 2020 was a watershed. Assets more than doubled soaring towards $6 billion, based on performance and inflows to her mutual funds.

Zevenbergen is not the only woman fund manager who has crushed competition in 2020. Forbes found at least a half a dozen firms led by women-led funds that have blown away their peers and drawn in tens of billions of dollars in assets collectively since the start of January.

Cathie Wood, founder of Ark Investments, had the best year of anyone. In 2014, Wood, 65, created Ark with the idea of packaging stock-picking into tax-efficient exchange traded funds, and focusing exclusively on breakthrough innovations in genomics, robotics, financial technology, autonomous driving, digital services, and artificial intelligence. 

Six years later, Ark manages nearly $44 billion in assets, up from just $300 million at the end of 2016. This year, Ark funds have pulled in over $10 billion in new assets, led by extraordinary returns. Her flagship Ark Innovation Fund (ARKK) has seen assets soar to $17 billion, fueled by a 154% gain in 2020 and a 46% average annual return over the past five years. Her $6 billion Ark Genomic revolution ETF is up even more this year. “I wanted individual investors to catch the wave,” says Wood of today’s enormous technological change. Her funds were designed for those “willing to step out and away from fixed income and into some of the most exciting stocks in history.”

Ark publishes its financial models, trading logs, and research to the investing public, and the firm’s analysts are happy to engage in discussion on Twitter, opening themselves to criticism and mockery. Wood’s $4,000 a share valuation of Tesla a year ago drew many scoffs on Wall Street. But her heady valuation was spot on. Short sellers have been burned by Tesla’s rise, while female investors like Zevenbergen and Wood have been patient bulls. On Friday, Tesla was added to the S&P 500 Index.

Female investing success in 2020 extends well beyond soaring growth stocks. Women-run funds are leading the way in everything from small cap stocks, to emerging market debt portfolios, dividend paying companies, and sustainable investments.

Amy Zhang, portfolio manager of the Alger Small Cap Focus Fund (AOFIX) and Mid Cap Focus Fund (AFOIX) was hired in 2015 to expand Alger’s presence in niche small and mid-cap stocks. When Zhang arrived at Alger, the Small Cap Focus Fund had just $16 million in assets. Now, after a 54% return in 2020 and a 30% annual average return over the past five years, Zhang’s Small Cap Focus Fund has $7.5 billion in assets.

Top holdings include refrigerated logistics upstart CryoPort and fast casual restaurant Wingstop. Her Mid Cap Focus Fund, launched in mid-2018, has attracted over $500 million in assets as it has soared by 84% in 2020, bolstered by casino operator Penn National Gaming and power equipment manufacturer Generac.

Long before sustainable investments became a prolific buzzword, Karina Funk, an MIT-educated engineer at Baltimore-based mutual fund giant Brown Advisory, was a pioneer in bringing sustainable investments mainstream. Funk, 48, a vegetarian who watches her carbon footprint by biking to work, launched the Brown Advisory Sustainable Growth Fund in June 2012, alongside David Powell, with a goal to back about 35 companies with products improving social and environmental sustainability, or efficient operating footprints.

Its focus on companies like Ball Corp. and American Tower has made it one of the best funds on the planet during down markets. Even in 2020, the fund has gained 38% despite its defensive posture, thanks to savvy picks like life sciences conglomerate Danaher and Etsy, which has empowered many small businesses during the pandemic. Funk can be a tough customer. She exited Facebook in the fall of 2018 due to data privacy concerns.

“Sustainability is a means, not an end in and of itself,” she told Forbes as part of a profile three years ago, when the fund’s assets were just $1.1 billion. “Our end goal is performance. We achieve that by finding fundamentally strong companies using sustainability strategies to get even better.” The fund’s assets have since soared to $4.6 billion.

Other female-led funds that have done well include Capital Group’s $128 billion American Funds New Perspective (ANWPX), led by a team of managers including Joanna Jonsson and Noriko Chen, and the $36 billion in assets JPMorgan Equity Income Fund (HLIEX), led by Clare Hart. The New Perspectives fund has beaten its benchmark by four percentage points annually over the past decade, while Hart’s Equity Income Fund has returned an annualized 11.65%, two percentage points annually above its benchmark, according to data from Morningstar.

Rebecca Irwin, Natasha Kuhikin and Kathleen McCarragher of the $1.3 billion in assets PGIM Jennison Focused Growth Fund (SPFAX) have returned 68% in 2020 and 25% over the past five years, ranking in the top decile of peer funds. At Alger, Ankur Crawford, co-manager of the Alger Spectra Fund (ASPIX) and Alger Capital Appreciation (ACCAX) has seen returns surpass 40% this year.

In fixed income, Tina Vandersteel of the $4.4 billion in assets GMO Emerging Country Debt Fund (GMCDX) has been able to outperform emerging market bond indices despite underweighting China and many Gulf-states due to her skepticism of the veracity of their economic data.

The bull market of 2020 is also creating new opportunities for female fund managers to shine. Two years ago, Julie Biel of Los Angeles-based Kayne Anderson Rudnick, was a rising star at the $30 billion (assets) firm and excited about the looming public offering of software company DocuSign. Known for investing in established businesses, Kayne had never participated in an IPO. Biel was late in her pregnancy as the IPO progressed and trying to win an allocation. She needed a doctor’s note to fly to the Bay Area to meet with DocuSign’s management. Kayne eventually won a large block of shares, quickly becoming one of its largest outside investors.

Biel also began to manage the firm’s KAR Small Mid- Sustainable Growth strategy around that time and made DocuSign the fund’s top holding. Its shares have risen 225% in 2020. This year, Biel’s fund has returned 42% through November. In December, Kayne decided to launch a mutual fund version, launching the strategy, called the Virtus KAR Small-Mid Cap Growth Fund (VIKSK), with Biel in charge.

Like Zevebergen and Wood, Biel is starting small and manages just $60 million. But the investment industry rewards performance above all, hinting at much larger things to come. Entering 2021, Biel’s portfolio is loaded with hidden gems like Ollie’s Bargain Outlet and MarketAxess that could grow for years to come. Follow me on Twitter or LinkedIn. Send me a secure tip.

Antoine Gara

 Antoine Gara

I’m a staff writer and associate editor at Forbes, where I cover finance and investing. My beat includes hedge funds, private equity, fintech, mutual funds, mergers, and banks. I’m a graduate of Middlebury College and the Columbia University Graduate School of Journalism, and I’ve worked at TheStreet and Businessweek. Before becoming a financial scribe, I was a member of the fateful 2008 analyst class at Lehman Brothers. Email thoughts and tips to agara@forbes.com. Follow me on Twitter at @antoinegara

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3 Ways To Dominate Your Market

My area of expertise is in leadership development using the philosophy of Lean Six Sigma, in other words “process improvement strategies”. 

Now join me on the journey I call A Tale of Two Companies: One business allowed its workers to be engaged by making improvements that allowed the customer to be first in mind. The second created an environment of “it’s not my job” eliminating employees from using client-first thinking. Now you might ask, “How can the customer not be first?”

Many believe Lean Six Sigma is solely for engineering and manufacturing companies. That’s the first misconception. This managerial approach is built on the premise of eliminating wasteful elements and focusing solely on the customer. Having taken that quick glimpse of Lean, as an entrepreneur, you can now see that this philosophy applies to all businesses. Every business operates in what Lean practitioners call SIPOC, (Suppliers, Input, Processes, Output and Customers). Understanding that small segment of lean thinking will open the door for you to look at the three ways to dominate your market. 

Related: Define Your Brand Identity in 3 Steps

How can I hinder?

Meet Office XYZ, a Dental Facility that has a small staff of 5-7 individuals each having their unique jobs when dealing with patients. I called this facility to make an appointment for my mother and was told they needed to verify her insurance and would call back once they received the approvals. Two weeks went by before I realized I had not heard from anyone regarding the insurance verification.

I called the office and asked to speak with the individual that was to call back, whom we’ll call Kelly. I was informed that Kelly was out of the office and had been ill for the past two weeks. My next question was: “is she the only person that verifies insurance?” The response was affirmative and I then asked to speak with a manager. I was told Kelly was the manager. Let’s stop here because now we enter that well-known rabbit hole of “it’s not my job.”

Related: Trends That Can Move Your Business Forward in 2021

How can I help?

Meet Office ABC, A Pizza Company with a similar-sized staff. One night I called for a pizza. Upon placing the order I was told my meal would be about 30 minutes. Half an hour on a Friday evening? This company operated far differently than the first. When I placed my order something incredible happened, I received a text with the following message:  “We’re making your order. It’s all coming together now. The kitchen staff is busy with your order making sure everything is just right.”

A few minutes later I received this missive: “It’s on the way. The driver has left the store and will be at your location shortly”, followed with, “Delivered! Time to eat. It’s been our pleasure serving you”.And it was within the time promised by the associate. 

The “go and see” mentality

These two very different experiences gave me moment to pause. Did Company XYZ know about the importance of “lean thinking” and did Company ABC know they were using the lean six sigma philosophy in their operations? Did the leader of Company XYZ actually walk the process to see if there were any wasteful elements that allowed their service to lack the three main components of customer first thinking: quality, speed and delivery? And what about Company ABC, did that leader utilize the concept of Gemba, meaning “go and see” to improve their value stream and get to the point where they asked what their customers appreciate?

When exploring Lean Six Sigma’s methodology the first step is to find the root cause for the identified waste. Then you move into seeking what the customer defines as quality, you determine the speed of getting your customer the item or rendering the service and you seek an appropriate method of delivery.

Focusing on the three lean strategies

One can’t assume to know what the clientele defines as quality unless they have actually been asked. In Company XYZ it is evident that no one took the initiative to seek input through surveys, focus groups or used any feedback techniques. There is a concept in the Lean lexicon called (VOC) Voice of the Customer. It simply means find out what your customers want and are willing to pay for. This is where you will find that notion of quality.

In the tale of Company ABC, you can attest to the fact that quality for their customers, myself included, is hot pizza, and being notified as to what’s going on with their order. How did they come to know and implement this into their operations? After receiving such great service I had to call and speak with one of their leaders. I was informed this is how they compete as a reckoning force within the market. 

The need for speed

Being the fastest in your field has a huge impact on your market.  As you can tell from the visit with Company XYZ speed played no major role in what they deemed as important to customers. Two weeks to verify insurance is beyond an acceptable practice. And, by the way, I failed to mention that I did speak with another person, upon request, who did call back within 24 hours to inform me that they did not accept the insurance.  Yet I waited 2 weeks for something that could have saved me both frustration and aggravation. Speed and convenience are major players in our buying experience.

Company ABC, epitomizes the importance of speed. On each text message I received that time stamp of delivery was also listed. Today there are ample services to ensure your customers get items and services in a speedy manner. This company has a system in place that allows employees to know time schedules for various sizes, as well as any increase in time based on selected toppings. Have you looked at your level of quickness, while keeping the high standard of quality appreciated by your customers?

Why is the method of delivery so important to your customers? Is it easy to obtain your product or service? Delivery in its simplest form equates to how a customer receives your product or service. Simple right? Company XYZ’s delivery was neither exceptional nor satisfactory. The level of professionalism of their staff created an angst for the customer and therefore any method of delivery they deemed appropriate was subpar. There was no option as to whether they could email, text me or call me. Based on their performance I don’t think any of those options would have changed the outcome.

Related: Entrepreneurial Takeaways From 2020 to Guide Your Next Big Move

Company ABC created a delivery method that allowed me to select how I wanted to receive the product. They of course deliver in their vehicles, but I had an option to have it delivered to my door and left in an appropriate place, to have them ring the doorbell and I receive it face-to-face or contactless, it’s in the trunk and I come out and retrieve it. This allows the customer to select an option.

We have just visited two companies:  One eliminated waste and the other added to it. Which business are you? 

By: Sheryl Mays Entrepreneur Leadership Network Writer

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