Mrs Clothier asks a Brilliant Question
Walking up a car park vehicle ramp the other day, the one with the “no pedestrians" sign on it, Mrs Clothier asked a) why we were going this way when it clearly said we should not and b) why for the last 35 years had I gone out of my way to break rules.The flip (and obvious) answers about quickest route to the parked car and petty public servants with nothing better to do, failed to impress conformist Mrs C.RULE BREAKERSOn reflection, her accusation deserved a better answer. You see, she's right. For years I have been fascinated with getting things done, eliminating wasted time and just finding a better way. From the outside it makes me look like a rule-breaker, from the inside it feels completely logical and natural.Of course non-conformism isn't always clever and I would never advocate anything illegal or uncharitable; I pay my taxes, stop at red lights and help old ladies across the road.My issue is this: in business I can't help but notice those people who push the envelope, take calculated risk, don't accept the status quo, find ways of cutting corners and make things happen quickly, are successful and certainly more likely to be so than the conformists.So what do these super-successful business leaders do?Here are nine unorthodox, time-saving, no-cost success habits, not usually found in the business school manual.1. Throw away the calculatorOn a recent episode of The Apprentice the cream of British business talent fell lamentably short on the coach tour task; not one of them could work out revenue capacity on a 25-seater bus. (“It's £2,500 if you charge £100 or half that if it's £50 per ticket", explained the helpful Lord Sugar) Yep, we were appalled too but the apprentices are not the only ones who cannot add and multiply. Most of the business nation has stopped using its maths brain: like a resting sportsman, brain muscle goes to waste when under-exercised.Mental maths not only gets you to the answer quicker but it gives critical edge because hardly anybody else in the room is doing it. You get an early steer on pricing, costs, profit and business viability and you can be all over the numbers and feel really confident about decisions. With very little effort.Bin the calculator. Do the Daily Telegraph mind gym. Level three is awesome.2. De-emailNo trade secrets here, but a mate of mine runs a big (actually really big) concern and doesn't do email. He does talking, texting, meeting, visiting, thinking, sketching and travel. This is not a call to bin the email, it has its place, but just to do a whole lot less, and say more with less.Tempted to write an email, pick up the phone: most people take your call, especially if you keep it short, dense and intense. The next FB generation about to hit the workplace don't even have an email address. How does that work!3. Text for successThe 1996 Vodafone business plan for SMS forecast that text would generate less than 1% of mobile revenues. 7.9 trillion texts per annum later they realised there had been a blissful mistake.Even though SMS volume has tailed off in the face of free to use BBM, iMessage and now WhatsApp, usage amongst business leaders of this short-form messaging is on the rise. Why? Maybe because it's personal, highly targeted, immediate, portable, uncomplicated and works beautifully for the time poor. Put simply, they get more done, quickly.In a current transaction more than 50% of my communication is text-based. And we are making huge progress.4. Walk and talkThe Runners, an inspiring video by directors Matan Rochlitz and Ivo Gormley, interviews joggers whilst they run round Victoria Park in Hackney. The directors wanted to explore how people when exercising become less inhibited and relaxed in their communication.Asked a series of fascinatingly random questions, the runners' responses are disarmingly frank, humourous, insightful, touching, philosophical. In short, we learn an enormous amount about them and the human condition too.So next time you have an interview or key meeting, bin the room, do it on the hoof. Surprising and pleasing results await. Remember it's bi-directional: give in order to receive; bleed a little. And it's pretty good for the health too.5. 60% decision-makingHaving released themselves from swathes of dead meeting time – no wall to wall meeting days for this group – rule breakers make decisions, largely because they create time and space to think. Or so you would think. No, they make decisions, lots of them, frighteningly quickly. Knowing that four in 10 will be wrong, they are comfortable with that ratio because six will be right and they can always unmake or remake the other four because they move so quickly.Go on challenge yourself. Stop sitting on the fence: make decisions today. Colour of your suit or blouse doesn't count.6. Do the tough things firstIt's human nature when confronted by difficulty to find an easier alternative – threat avoidance is one of our evolutionary defence mechanisms. Alternatives include; pretending the problem is not there (the elephant in the room); being busy on something else “more important" (displacement) and giving the crap to someone else (cowardice).Highly effective business people actually go out of their way to sort the nasties themselves and they do it first. Why? They are better at it. They can do it now. They are impatient and don't have time to wait for others. They also know unresolved, festering issues have a nasty habit of biting back. “A stitch in time…." as granny used to say.If you want to find the toughies they are the first stress thoughts on your waking mind: if the same issue reappears three mornings in a row, it's a major. Now you know where to start.7. Go see it for yourself.Cut through the clag and the obfuscation, go there! Yep, it's time-consuming but is it really? How much time and opportunity do you waste working on hypotheticals and other people's misread of reality?Tom Peters says you simply can't substitute travel. Any CEO knows he is signing up for 200 days away per year. On a recent business visit to KL, I learned more about our manufacturing partners than I would have ever done by Skype, phone, text, email. Ever.As a rule of thumb, If you're in doubt about something or somebody's version of events, that's the signal to go look for yourself. And there are additional benefits too: staff, clients, suppliers really appreciate those who make a personal investment and take the trouble.As a rule of thumb, If you're in doubt about something or somebody's version of events, that's the signal to go look for yourself. And there are additional benefits too: staff, clients, suppliers really appreciate those who make a personal investment and take the trouble.8. Be scruffyFocus on content not format to deliver speed. Get comfortable with nearly right, with scruffy even. In reality most times output doesn't have to be that perfect – unless you're a lawyer. For the anal amongst us this is heresy; for the time poor it's irrelevant.The successful guys just get it out there, conveyor-belt like messaging, small errors abounding. A sub-optimal press letter, sent on time, beats one that's late and awaiting the Chairman's word by word grammar review. And it releases yet more dead time….with which rule-breakers are, of course, outstandingly productive.9. Build your business in just 90 minutesBreak the rules. Lock the door. Turn off phone and email. Bar all interruptions for the next 90 minutes. Now you are ready.Focus on creating something that takes the business forward, a new proposal, a game-changing bid, a piece of marketing, a new service line, a reorganisation, a fresh market, a thorny problem. Just ponder for five minutes, pen and paper in hand, and you will realise the candidate list is bountiful.Diarise the session, make it a commitment. Give it real attention. You cannot leave the room without an output or resolution. At the end of each 90-minute session you will have something special. Always. It really is quite remarkable. Practitioners have transformed businesses, reversed their fortunes. Some are that addicted they do it every day. Imagine five brilliant new pieces of work or insights a week, every week, where would your business be in three months, six months? Out of sight possibly?Many of our transatlantic traveling leaders say they couldn't do the job without the travel because that's when they do their uninterrupted thinking (no phones or meetings up there), their 90-minutes on a plate.If you want to know more on this fascinating activity, Nigel Botterill, serial entrepreneur and king of mentors to SMEs, is writing the “what to do in your 90 minutes" guide for dummies. Coming soon.In summary....Here they are again:1. Get seriously good at maths2. Call more, email less3. Walk and talk4. Text now5. Make good and bad decisions6. Tough stuff first7. Go look8. Good is good enough9. Commit to your 90 minutesMAKING IT HAPPENTake the above list and conduct an honest self-appraisal. How did you score? People typically fall into one of four camps:1. Master: doing it already - all of it. Award yourself a huge pat on the back you are in the 1%. Congratulations on your successful business.2. Keen practitioner: this speaks to you. Most of this you do, one or two points need revisiting, a couple are new and worth exploring. Have a go today, tomorrow, this week. Don't leave it for ever. Add it to your armoury.3. Would love to but jut too busy: doing little of the above. Are you serious! This is absolutely for you and will put you back firmly in control of your business and your life. Lock yourself in a room now and work out how you start to change those habits of a lifetime. The good news is working like this costs nothing. Of course changing everything at once may be too big an ask. Try starting one at a time and introduce a new habit each week. Surprise someone: have your next meeting on the hoof. How about booking your first 90-minute session. It only works by the way.4. Doing quite well as I am thank you. it's obviously not for you. Good luck.You can fight the recipe all you like and maybe it's not for you but it's what the successful guys do. My brother aged ten, once tried to convince me his unorthodox tennis grip would make him a better player. Never before, nor since, had I witnessed his extraordinary technique and asked whether it might be easier if he held the racket just like Boris Becker. He would have none of it and never made it to Wimbledon, except to see his in-laws. Enough said.AND FINALLY...If you enjoyed the post, please click the thumbs up icon above or if you have something to add, leave a comment. If you have a success story as a result of a new way of working and want to share, just write it up.Thanks for your time.