It was 42 minutes into my call centre experience that I began to think, ‘Far out, I wish I could wait on hold just a little longer so I can hear this violating rendition of a Tina Turner song yet again’.
42 minutes is a long time but feels like an actual eternity when left on hold. In 42 minutes, I could have answered an average of 20 emails. In 42 minutes, I could have had 2 phone calls with potential clients. In 42 minutes, I could have had a productive team meeting. I could have had a lunch break for the first time in 3 weeks. I could have called my darling mum. I could have written half a blog, reviewed 4 pieces of artwork, written a collaboration pitch, or mailed a thank you note. I could have even watered all of our plants…actually, no, I would probably need twice the amount of time to do that, but you get the point.
Anyway, today I was on hold for 42 minutes. Way to kill me softly.
Why was being on hold pushing my (Nutbush City) Limits, you ask? Well, as per usual I had shit to do. Today, I’d blocked out my entire day to spring clean our biz. Yes, you read correctly, I had plans to Marie Kondo the shiz out of everything we do here at Smack Bang. And it’s not even Spring.
I am not sure whether the planets are out or retrograde is doing its thing (astrologists, crystal cleansers and astronauts please divulge in the comments section below), but there’s something in the air. People won’t shut up about becoming minimalists, clearing out their closets and doing away with all their possessions. Everywhere I look, people are organising their houses, sorting out their lives and migrating their DVD collections to make way for white walls and fresh air. Heck, people are even packing up their lives and transplanting it into a tiny van. We can’t deny it, Marie Kondo started something and now there’s a perpetual sniff of spring cleaning in the air!
So today, I was ready to go through everything. And when I say everything, I mean EVERY THING. Our documents, our entire website, our EDM campaigns, our content strategy… ev-er-y-thing.
Every so often I begin to get antsy with the way we do things and I start to question all of our processes. It’s not that things are so obviously broken they are tripping us up every step of the way. Actually, it’s quite the opposite – things are working just fine. But when you stop for a moment and dig in to even the most mundane and tested processes, you can often find huge room for improvement. That’s why I encourage my whole team to keep asking ourselves, “Is this the best way to do it?”, in all things we do, even if they seem to be running well. We make it a point to step back and analyse our daily activities and clutter in our proverbial closets. By auditing our daily activities, we often find simple inefficiencies, clutter, and other junk in our trunk that’s accumulated over time that no longer serves us.
It’s remarkable how many points of improvement you can find if you search hard enough, so I thought I’d gather a few of our tried-and-true pointers on ways to expertly spring clean your biz, and leave it sparklier as a result.
- WALK A MILE IN YOUR CUSTOMERS’ SHOES.
The first step of figuring out where to spend your spring cleaning energy is to turn yourself into your own customer for a day and map out your client journey. Most of us are so used to looking at our businesses from the other side of the counter that we forget to consider how things look and feel for those purchasing our products and services. Take yourself through the process of purchasing a product, enquiring about a service or signing up for a new subscription yourself. Chances are, you’ll find areas of potential friction or lack of clarity that could be improved upon to take you from good to great.
- ASKING THE BIG QUESTIONS.
Last year we ran a survey of our Smack Bang audience. It was brilliantly surprising. By collecting and analysing all of this data we were inspired to make new things happen, spotted new opportunities and fixed old systems that weren’t working as well as they could have been. Just make sure to incentivise the survey so that you get more respondents than just your mum and each one of her cats.
- UNDER THE GRILL.
There’s value to grilling your team for pieces of gold (in the nicest possible way, of course!). In our team meetings, we often get each person to bring something to the table that they feel needs our attention. It might be a system, a random thought they had, or a way of pushing our culture to the next level. The only condition is they must bring something. It means that your staff dig a little deeper and think long and hard about ways of doing things to bring about improvement. You may think you know your business best, but those on the daily firing line are more likely to see things that might be becoming tripping points.
- NEW GOALS, WHO DIS?
The only thing more satisfying and exciting than setting new goals is crossing off old ones. Dig out your diary and dust off the goals that you set last year. See what’s been achieved, what’s been ignored, and what new ones you can pop in there to give you a good old inspirational kick up the rear.
- PATCH UP THE LEAKS.
About this time last year, I went through our expenses in crazy, minute detail. I scoured through every way in which we’d spent our dollars during a period of about 6 months. It was both scary and satisfying. I found subscriptions for services and software that were as useless to us as a snowball fight in hell. Automatic payments are awesome until you don’t need the service anymore. Go through your bank statements and cancel any recurring payments that you no longer need.
- LOOK FRESH AS HECK TO YOUR FUTURE PROSPECTS.
Because more people browse the Internet these days before buying, it’s crucial that your website’s user-interface be friendly and easy to navigate. Avoid providing all the information about your company—such as hours, offerings and location—on the homepage. Instead, list topics that link to different pages. When you’re updating information on the Web, make sure your network is also aware of the changes, since online connections can often help small businesses generate referrals and leads.
If you log onto your emails each morning and spend too much time deciding what’s trash and what’s treasure, it’s time to scrub your subscriptions clean. A great tool for this is Unroll.me, a service that lets you ‘roll up’ the newsletters you do want to keep into a single message, and bulk unsubscribe from those you don’t. While you’re at it, create a second email account to use when signing up for freebies.
- GIVE YOUR COMPUTER A GOOD SCRUB.
Take some time to get on your device and file everything in its rightful spot. Or relegate it to the trash! Be kind to your ram, back up your computer, keep it clean, keep it fresh. This isn’t rocket science. We know we should be doing all of the above, but sometimes we don’t learn our lesson until our laptop says sayonara one particularly late night as we race towards a deadline, and we break down in a flood of panic because that hard drive we ordered online has been collecting dust in a cupboard somewhere. Just. Do. It.
- ORGANISE YOUR PASSWORDS.
If you have trouble remembering your passwords for every website you’ve ever visited, an app like 1Password could be a lifesaver. Seriously. Stop locking yourself out of your various accounts because you insist on ‘having a crack’ at your password and get it wrong multiple times in a row — too much of a headache! This app stores all of your passwords so you can magically pull them out of nowhere when you need to log into your online banking, or that MySpace profile from 2006.
- HEAD IN THE CLOUDS.
Raise your hand if you’re still using filing cabinets? Great, now take that hand and slap yourself across the face. Ladies and gentlemen, we are living in the future and everything can be stored in the cloud. Do yourself a favour – save all those documents and pieces of clutter taking up precious room, and send them straight to the cloud (Google Drive or Dropbox are the perfect solutions). This way, you can access your information, anywhere, and anytime. You won’t lose materials or have to bury your head in drawers while searching for information related to past clients. And, what’s more, if the zombie apocalypse happens for real, you’ll still be able to access your dog’s pet registration via the Dropbox. Phew! For those of you future nerds already living in the clouds, spend some time clearing out old files and tidying up your online filing systems.
- THROW AN OUTSIDER AT YOUR PROCESSES.
It’s true; running a small business requires a certain degree of tunnel vision to stay on top of things. This was made hugely apparent to me in a recent game of trivia with my family, where I knew NOTHING because I’ve lived and breathed my business for the last seven years. But here’s the thing, when you’re so close to your biz, it’s extremely difficult to take a step back and spot potential areas of improvement when you’re busy scrambling to keep the ATO off your back. Enlist the help of a friend or someone impartial to the inner workings of your business and get their objective opinion on the way you go about your day-to-day.
- CLEAN YOUR PHYSICAL WORKSPACE.
Find homes for things that don’t have homes, get out the old Spray and Wipe, buy yourself a new chair, and for god’s sake flip the calendar – you’re two months behind! Sometimes you’ve got to chuck stuff out like a g-damn grown up, okay? Having a clean and decluttered workspace is a feeling I would equate to the first night on fresh, 1000 thread count, Egyptian cotton sheets. So, take it or leave it.
- COLLECT ALL CUSTOMERS
Whether this means updating your Excel spreadsheet or adding newbies to MailChimp, make sure to constantly be updating your customer database. Perhaps try compiling two systems into one; the more streamlined, the better. While you’re there, contact former clients – you never know, you may just pop back into their inbox at exactly the right time! Love it when that happens.
- BABY GOT A BACKED-UP DATABASE.
I know we all love CRMs like MailChimp, but you just never know when the Chimp’s day might come, and s/he decides to descend into the abyss and disappear far, far from your desperate clutches. Goodbye, database! Avoid at all costs by downloading your list as an Excel document and saving it to your Dropbox. If the Chimp fails, we all lose our lists, our minds, and our will to go on.
- REFRESH THE PLAN
Your business plan is amazing, astounding, entirely wonderful! But you need to revisit it from time to time, like your favourite holiday destination, to check out what’s changed since the last time you explored. Trust me, you’re a different person now (heck, I’m a different person every couple of weeks after all the steep learnings I’ve gone through!), so be sure to tick off things that you’ve accomplished, update goals, rewrite that cringe-worthy mission statement, and get back in the mindset of dreaming big and thinking of the future.
- REFRESH THE BUDGET.
Yep, open that dreaded file, perhaps with a cupcake in hand, and face the inevitable fact that your budget is going to evolve faster than Miley’s style. Investigate any leaky expenditure and eradicate unnecessary ongoing business expenses – just a little tidy up to make sure you’re capitalising on what you’re bringing in, and not letting it run out the other door. Consider whether there’s a more efficient way of doing things that you could be saving you moolah and if so, get onto it asap! And most importantly, are you on track for that mid-year holiday? Because let’s face it, you’ll need it!
- REFRESH THE OFFERING.
While we’re on a refresh-frenzy, consider the products and services you currently offer, and the ways that you could possibly extend and evolve them. What skills have you learnt that you can now add to your repertoire of tricks? This might involve a simple edit of your existing services, or getting a photographer in to make your products look a little fresher. Either way, it’s excellent practice to consistently refresh the offering, so that you can reach more people and solve their needs.
- PEN THE VISION.
If your vision and mission statements make you cringe more than your dad’s dance moves, it’s time for a serious freshen up. Pull them apart, rip them to shreds and get wordy with new ways of saying why you do what you do.
- SPRUCE UP YOUR WEBSITE.
The digital world evolves at the speed of light, and what was cool 6 months ago might not necessarily be what people are digging today. Jump on your website and make a list of ten things that need updating, stat. Whether its design, copy, functionality or just deleting that gyrating gif from the homepage, get cracking and ensure your web standards are up to scratch and reeling in the customers.
- SCRATCH OFF YOUR TO-DO LIST.
You know what we mean – those tasks on the list that never seem to ever get the glory of a strike through them. Make it your mission to get rid of those tasks that have been on your to-do list since 2015 by either getting them done yourself, delegating the work to someone you know can get it done for you, or by removing them from your list entirely. No more procrastination.
- (MARKETING) COLLATERAL DAMAGE.
Are your business cards gathering dust inside a box in your shoe cupboard, too? Freshen up those bad boys already! Your marketing collateral is serious business, and if it’s not up-to-scratch, you’ll become more like collateral damage. Strong words, but the gist is, the world is rapidly evolving and we’ve all gotta run to keep up. Freshen up your website, those social networking profiles and all other marketing materials that make you sparkle. It’s time to put your best foot forward and leave the drab behind.
- REACH OUT.
Ask for client testimonials and create a checklist of those who have supplied, and those to follow up. Adding new testimonials to your website will give your business the little extra pizazz it deserves, and while you’re at it, feel free to take down those testimonials that aren’t so helpful anymore.
- PROTECT YO’SELF.
Insurance – by far, one of the most boring tasks I’ll ever talk about on this blog. Please, if I mention anything more snoresville, send a hitman direct to my door. Still, use your spring cleaning energy to ensure that your insurances are up-to-date. There, I said it, the most boring thing I’ve ever mentioned. Nothing more to add, just do it.
- TURN OFF TO TUNE IN
If you haven’t already, turn off all notifications for social media. Yep, even those pesky Facebook ones that somehow make it all the way to your email and haunt you with stories of friends of friends that you simply don’t care about. Find them all, switch them off, live your life.
- MEASURE YOUR IMPACT.
Go back through your efforts of the last year. Whether it’s marketing, operations or finances, look back through what’s been working, and what hasn’t. Where are the impact points? What should you do more of, and what should you never touch with a ten foot pole again? Be objective and be ruthless. You got this.
- CAN THEM EMAILS.
Refresh old ones, write new ones, and delete unused ones. Refresh Autoresponders and any preloaded sales funnel emails so that they reflect who you are, now.
Photo via MUR Lifestyle.