Kenny Chapman: The busy-season execution plan
It’s nothing new to bring up the topic of being too busy, and most of us wear our busyness as a badge of honor.
But the truth is, we exist in businesses that have seasons, or periods of time that are more productive and profitable than others. Even during less busy times, we are building and planning for the next busy season or simply doing daily tasks that keep us occupied. Then, when we’re in the middle of the busy season itself, we have our badge of busyness on display, polished up, and shining for the world to see (and, of course, admire). During this time of year, it’s important to analyze how we are spending our valuable time and energy.
When we are too busy, many of the key differentiators that create company success can get overlooked for a little bit, and then sometimes simply missed completely. Where and how does this show up? Think about team one-on-one meetings, for example. Do they get done in the heat of the summer? Or do they get pushed back “until things slow down a bit”?
Effort is not in question here — direction of effort is the missing component in the equation. You can’t add time to the day; you can only add day to your time.
What does that mean, to add “day” to your time?
We are obviously locked into 24 hours a day to accomplish all the wonderful things we should be working toward utilizing our God-given talents. I’m not going to take a deep dive on time management, but if you can’t add time, you simply must change how you invest it. How you invest your time has everything in the world to do with how you value your time.
If you don’t have tremendous clarity about what value certain tasks, projects and time spent create, you will constantly be a servant to somebody else’s schedule and time necessities. You add “day” to your time by only investing your own time in the most effective and efficient places possible. This becomes crucial if your company has certain times when it’s possible to be 20-40% busier at certain times of the year.
Every person’s individual Busy Season Execution Plan is a little different based on position, organizational chart and daily duties. However, there are certain areas we all want to focus on when it comes to maximizing brand, profits, culture and fun — all when it’s busier that anyone can imagine.
Don’t busy yourself out of business
If I ask you what’s important to you as a leader and the company as an entire entity before busy season, you’ll usually tell me things like team members, culture, community support, etc. When I ask you the same question during busy season, I usually get a very different response because busy all too often trumps systemization.
You are busy! Congratulations! Consider the big, strong, market-crushing companies of the past. Think about the players like General Motors. Blockbuster. Polaroid. Borders. Sports Authority. The list goes on. Do you think the team at GM was “busy” during the three years leading up to filing for bankruptcy? Of course, they were as “busy as anyone in the business.”
Busy means absolutely nothing when it comes to your own execution plan. As a leader of a company, you must protect the natural human instinct to be busy for all the wrong reasons. Our task list can be the leading killer of effective strategic leadership. When we have too much on our plates, we don’t have time to think properly. Henry Ford said it well: “Thinking is the hardest work there is, which is probably the reason why so few engage in it.”
Don’t forget what matters most
When we are drawn into a state of chaos or overwhelm, we tend to give attention to the wrong things. Sometimes we don’t treat team members with the same gratitude, empathy, and respect they truly deserve.
It’s not that we’re bad people or that it’s even intentional, but when we aren’t able to think clearly in the current moment, we are definitely not leading and managing as the best version of ourselves. Our team deserves better than this. We deserve better than this. Our families certainly deserve better than this. Stay in the moment, work on leading from a place of conscious awareness, and be mindful of what plates are spinning, and at what velocity.
You’ve seen or heard of the person at the circus spinning plates while adding plates, riding unicycles, walking on tightropes, etc., all while keeping these plates spinning. I respectfully borrow this analogy from clients of the past, present, and future who are usually quick to use this plate spinning example when we first meet as way to explain what their time looks like.
The biggest lesson about this story comes from what happens when there is a lack of focus, too many plates are added, or the entertainer becomes overwhelmed. All the plates end up falling one at a time as they crash to ground shattering into hundreds of pieces. The timing of when they fall depends on many factors like how well they’re balanced, the velocity of spin, and the training the entertainer had when learning this technique initially.
Eventually, all the plates crash down. The same is true in business. The same is true in relationships. The same is true in finance. If you don’t spread the properly focused attention throughout your team, clients, community, family and task list, you will eventually drop more than just one of these plates.
Don’t let the past dictate the future
Do you remember the movie “Groundhog Day,” where Bill Murray’s character lived the same reality every single day, even though it didn’t always produce the result he wanted? It often amazes me how surprised clients are when they have a “Groundhog Day” busy season.
When you look back on busy seasons of the past, closely examine the key performance indicators (KPIs) you track. You and/or your leadership team must check certain boxes when things speed up. During busy seasons of the past, did you get the margins you desired? Did you manage labor effectively? Did you keep the warehouse running smoothly? Did you add team, or did you lose team?
Often, contractors head into a busy season with a broken mindset about what’s possible.
If you didn’t get the results you wanted last year, so what? Who cares? That was then and this is now, my friend. What got you here won’t get you to where you want to be, so set yourself free from worrying about the past and become laser-focused on what you can implement for improvement right now.
Your personal Busy Season Execution Plan is exactly that — a personal plan that you must create from the reality of your current situation. Focus on increasing your awareness, paying attention to crucial KPIs, having fun, and leading your team with purpose.