Management Article: Can You Keep All the Balloons in the Air?

Jan 1, 2023 | Industry

By Ron Sturgeon

By making it a process, I reduced what could have been a 15- to 30-minute task to 30 seconds.

Business is complicated today and it’s certainly not for the faint hearted. Many of my friends say that the reason that I was successful is because I was creative, innovative and willing to try new things. About  me, they have said, “Ron throws 100 things against the wall, and only five of them stick, but those five are real humdingers.”

You should be open to trying new things and doing experiments. It’s also important to note though that there is no time for micromanagement and that there are lots of things to manage and many moving pieces in a business. Depending on the quality of your help, and your ability to delegate, many of those things require almost no attention. Some of them, however, require attention almost daily.

In this regard, remember that people let us down, but processes don’t. The takeaway: try to make everything possible a process. For instance, once I wanted my sales people to mail something, several pieces each day to their favorite customers. I would ask each of my sales people in the weekly meeting, “How many pieces did you send this week?” They would say, “Some.”

I knew what that meant. Some had sent many pieces; most had sent almost none. One thing was for sure: I didn’t have time to babysit all the sales people and go around and ask them how they sent letters, ask them how many letters they had sent or even ask them to show me the letters they had ready to send.

I decided to make it a process. I simply put a little sorting rack on the counter by the outgoing mail. For each of the slots, I put a salesperson’s name. Most days, as I went through the lobby, I would glance at the rack. It was easy to see which slots had lots of envelopes in them, and which slots had almost none. With that information, I knew exactly which person or persons

I needed to talk to.

By making it a process, I reduced what could have been a 15- to 30-minute task to 30 seconds. This balloon would need almost none of my attention. It didn’t take but a few days for the rack to be full at the end of each day, with zero effort by me or my sales manager.

Some things are just more important than others. How many vehicles are being dismantled daily? How much cash is in the bank? You’ll need to decide which items are most important or least important, and how many times per day, per week, per month, or per year you need to touch the balloon.

Another good example is I had my controller put the metrics worksheet on my desk for operating metrics by the 5th of the month and for financial metrics by the 10th of the month. In two minutes, I could review the metrics as compared to prior periods and find out which balloons needed to be touched immediately. Most get their financials a month or two after the fact, or maybe never, but wonder why they can’t do better. When you work them one month late, you will get six whacks at problem solving annually. When you work them at the beginning of the month, you get 12 whacks, and much better results. You can also see what worked and what didn’t in a timely fashion, and adjust again.

I think it’s beneficial to put your balloons in a list and think about how often they need to be touched, noting that beside each item. I think you will find that you have more time than you thought and can touch the most important balloons regularly as needed, but seldom touch others.

Make your life simpler but make yourself more effective by determining which balloons need to be touched and how often.

Ron Sturgeon, speaker and author, regularly shares his expertise in strategic planning, capitalization, growing market share, and more, providing his field-proven and high-profit best practices. Reach him at 817-834-3625, ext. 232 or email RonS@MrMissionPossible.com.

We want to thank Ron Sturgeon for his many years of wisdom that has filled this Opinion column for your benefit. You may still see his “Opinion” here on occasion, but he is fully embracing his travel life and taking a step back from regular writing. We wish him and Linda the very best life has to offer.

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