3 Simple Systems Tweaks for Growing Your Business

In Part 1 of this series, guest poster Mandi Ellefson showed how focusing on systems within your business brings out the best. In Part 2, she explains how to choose what to target for the most momentum.

If you want to grow your business more sustainably, be proud of every project you deliver to clients, and get the best out of your team — build systems. Focusing on your business processes empowers you and your team to do great work and see more creative, reliable results.

But if you’re impatient like me, you want to see that improvement quickly. The good news is you can begin right away with this simple method: Start small, and change one thing at a time.

Why? You’ll get immediate feedback. By focusing on one change at a time, you can isolate the results of every change you make. Putting more than one change into the mixing pot makes it tricky to analyze. Even small changes can have larger consequences. Your business is an ecosystem, so tweaking one thing can cause multiple effects.

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How to Get More Out of Your Team Without Being a Micromanaging Jerk

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(Part 1 of 2 in a guest post series on setting up successful systems.)

Anthony Gatto is one of the greatest jugglers ever. He has over twelve world records to his name.  Throw him four, five or six balls, and he’ll keep juggling away, no problem. Give him a seventh, and he’ll struggle to keep juggling for ten minutes. Throw an eighth ball into the mix, and he’ll barely last a full minute.

No matter how sublime a juggler’s skills, give him too much to handle and he’ll mess up. Push a juggler too far, and he’ll never be totally Russian — juggler slang for doing a dropless show.

As a boss or manager, you can’t do it all. You must clear your plate to keep growing. So you hire and delegate only to see tasks come back late, incomplete, or low-quality. When that happens, you’ve either got to redo it yourself or submit shoddy work to your clients. Doing either hurts. You wonder if everything would be better if you handled it all yourself, and then you’re back at not being able to juggle it all.

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A Winning Formula for Building Successful Teams

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You need great teams in order to build great products. The way senior software engineer Rich Paret creates such teams at the Twitter-acquired Crashlytics — which provides mobile crash reporting — is to “hire for the culture you have, and the culture you want to have.”

The company culture at Crashlytics isn’t a collection of perks or a bunch of abstract values. It’s how people get stuff done together. When we visited Rich at Twitter Boston this past May, he emphasized how it’s the quality of a team’s communication that determines its outcomes.

How does a project become late?” he asked. As our minds ran through various scenarios and the complexities of managing a team, he broke our pondering pause with his simple answer — “Day by day.” Just as you can build meaningful progress day by day, you can also increasingly get off track to the point of failure. Communication losses accumulate, a slow but steady snowball, as the days roll by, when you’re not careful.

Consider the distribution and flow of information within a company. Too often knowledge is guarded amongst the people at the top, or cooped up in people’s heads, or trapped in silos. What happens then? As Rich puts it, islands of information” emerge. When different people know different pieces of information, it becomes progressively harder to reach across the waters just to know where the puzzle pieces are, let alone put the puzzle together.

One approach to avoiding islands and fostering a bridging, communicative culture is to hire smart and work smart. When you align people and process, you ultimately create strong values, culture, and behaviors.  Here’s a look at Rich’s formula for building awesome teams and in doing so, awesome company culture:

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How Love With Food Found its Working Rhythm

Love With Food is a subscription service that delivers a specially curated box of organic and all-natural snacks every month. For every box that’s sent, the company donates a meal to feed a hungry child.

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Founder Aihui Ong embarked on Love With Food after seeing a friend forced to shutter her stir-fry sauce business because she was unable to secure wider distribution. Aihui (pronounced “I-we”) not only saw the need for alternative channels of distribution and marketing connecting food entrepreneurs to consumers but also an opportunity to help the one in five children in America at risk of hunger.

From a company of one in late 2011, Love With Food has grown to twelve employees. While growing any startup is challenging, Aihui notes that LWF’s mission helps her hire:  “In the last eighteen months, we’ve donated more than 100,000 meals, and that also draws the right talent to our company. People who want to join us really value that we’re giving back and doing something innovative to disrupt the food industry.”

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Why Teams with Time Style Diversity Are Stronger

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When it comes to teams, difference is good. If we were all the same, we might as well be replaced with a bunch of robots.

If a team doesn’t come to conflict, it seldom reaches its potential. Without conflict, teams become stagnant, which affects overall morale, productivity and frankly, your bottom line.

Here are a couple quick reasons how contrasting working styles can be an advantage:

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The Benefits of a Power Nap: The Best of the Internet

Make it CountFriday link love! Catch up with the best of what we’ve shared on the interwebs this week:

Why Does Your Work Matter?

The Science Behind Why Small Teams Work More Productively.

Why You Shouldn’t Scale Your Startup

Technology: “For everything we gain, we lose something in return.”

Microaggression & Mismanagement

Naps are amazing. ‘nuff said.

imageDundee’s Tip of the Week: We’re working on the start of an iDoneThis newsletter. Interested in being that super special person who will give us helpful feedback and suggestions? Sign up for some test runs until we learn how to officially fly here.

Why Work Loneliness Isn’t Just a Personal Problem, and What to Do About It

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Work is a social thing. It’s done with people, and at the very least, for people. At the same time, you are one person with a job to do. When those personal and social gears are out of alignment, when you’re not connecting with the people you spend so many hours a day with, you get lonely.

Loneliness seems like such an intensely personal, private problem, but it’s much more than that. Loneliness and isolation is a collective issue. And at work, loneliness is yet another effect of the inadequate attention paid to the human side of getting stuff done together.

Whether it’s the inertia of interacting with the same people every day in a way that’s unique from all your other relationships, there’s a prevailing sense that work is this realm where you just deal, that it’s not something that you can improve. While we understand the prioritization of personal friends and loved ones, we often miss out on meaningful interaction with the person down the hall, focus on growing our supposed professional network more than we look next to us to grow higher quality connections.

That kind of thinking is unhealthy, unhelpful, and unproductive.

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Why You Should Stop Keeping Score at Work

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There’s probably been some time in your life when you’ve been just a touch surprised that you haven’t been hoisted upon shoulders and celebrated with cheers for your great achievement — whether you go as far back as that group English assignment making a diorama about summer reading or yesterday’s big client presentation.

Or maybe you’re more familiar with that fake almost-smile, as Joe Shmoe stood up to cheers and beers and pats on the back, leaving you amidst the ghosts of the hours of sweat and tears you put into the work.

It happens, and it stinks. But then again — we’re actually all credit hogs in our heads.

When you’re on a team, you don’t have an accurate sense of the proportion of your contribution. It’s just not that straightforward, because what happens in your very smart but usually selfish mind is that you underestimate your teammates’ contributions and overestimate yours.

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How Buffer Works Smarter, Not Harder

Buffer stands out among startups not just for its success in building a great social media sharing tool but in fashioning a company culture focused on making work fulfilling, impactful, and enjoyable. What’s fascinating is that they do this as a completely distributed team, spread across multiple countries and time-zones.

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Treat People in the Best Way

Co-founders Joel Gasciogne and Leo Widrich set the foundation for Buffer’s culture according to the tenets of Dale Carnegie’s How to Win Friends and Influence People. Carolyn Kopprasch, Buffer’s Chief Happiness Officer translates what that means for Buffer’s modus operandi: “We want to treat people in the absolute best way we can, and that includes co-workers, vendors, and customers.”

It also includes how the Buffer employees treat themselves. With a unique self-improvement program, they share their progress on anything from time management to healthy eating with their teammates, spurring conversations about different lifehacks and routines. Michelle Sun, Buffer’s growth and analytics expert, tracks fitness routines and getting up early while Leo has been making strides with learning how to code.

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Co-workers become a collective accountability partner for future plans like blogging or exercising, and more importantly, they become an incredible support system. Instead of looking askance when you’re doing work to do something to take care of yourself, you receive encouragement. “If you’re trying to work on your health or your fitness or your happiness level, that affects work a lot too,” Carolyn explains.

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