I’ve been thinking a lot lately about a shift that my partner Dan and I made in 2014 that brought us from making decent money to becoming great entrepreneurs. In fact, 2014 is the year that I would say we started doing things right and really started building what we wanted to be.
Prior to 2014, we were doing fine, but we weren’t spending our time, money, or energy on the best decisions. That year we started to focus on one thing: preventing fires instead of putting them out.
Fires are urgent and important tasks that consume so much of your valuable time. They have to be put out immediately or they keep getting bigger and bigger. Employees don’t show up, customers call with questions, people complain, and you’re constantly putting out fires as a business owner. And we felt like we were working 60 hours a week to maintain the business, not even growing it. When we started focusing on preventing the fires we made more money and became less stressed, because we could finally focus on the things that mattered.
One great example comes from back when we were organizing pickups at different colleges, and our operations differed by school. We were getting over 500 customer service calls a day, that was the fire within the company. The easy way to put it out would have been to hire more customer service people and try to survive, but we saw this as a problem and worked to find the root cause.
We realized that our customer communication was poor. People didn’t know what to expect when working with us, and they were calling to get their questions answered. This was our fault, so we fixed it. We revamped our automatic email, our web page, and our customer support automated voice message, and all of a sudden things started to run more smoothly. This took just 3 hours to implement, and our phone volume got cut in half almost overnight, and all of a sudden the fire was prevented.
Spend time thinking about your past month, or your past week. What did you do? How did you spend your time? Where can you focus on preventing problems and building systems so that fires don’t happen? This will free up time for you to grow your business and take time for yourself.
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