Discipline makes Daring possible.



When you’re stuck, questions can be more helpful than answers.

As I found at Like Hearted Leaders this morning.

Why not give them a try?

Board games

Board games

If your business was a board game? What would it look like? What should it look like?

How do your prospects and customers move through the game?

What routes can they take?

What obstacles do they encounter?

Where are the pitfalls?

Who is there to help them?

What is the prize?

Who wins?

Themes and variations

Themes and variations

A common reaction to the idea of writing a ‘score’ for a business is “That’s not possible! There are just too many variations we’d have to account for.”

The trick is not to try.

In practice, most of what happens in a business follows, or should follow a ‘usual route’. So we build the score around that ‘usual route’. That keeps it simple and uncluttered, which in turn makes it easy to follow and learn.

Variations usually occur around the technicalities of what the business is doing. They take place at the level of the musician not the score. And as a professional the musician can be safely left to use their judgement to deal with the variation.

As a more concrete example, take dog-walking. Several years ago I worked with a client to franchise their dog-walking business.

We created a ‘usual route‘ for running a dog walk. It covers collecting dogs from their homes and transporting them to the local park, taking them through exercise, training and play in the park, then reversing the process to get them all back home.

All dogs are different. They have personalities and with them preferences about how they come into contact with other dogs. These preferences need to be taken into account at various points in the dog-walking process. It would have been madness to try and include every possible preference and combination of preferences in the main process. So, instead the business owner created a separate ‘Techniques’ handbook, which contained tips and tricks for different situations.

This meant that in the manual, we could simply reference to the appropriate section in the Techniques handbook, together with an instruction along the lines of “Use your knowledge of dog behaviour and your experience of dogs to apply the appropriate technique(s). You’ll find them here ->.”

This created the right balance between dictating the ‘score’ and leaving the musician free to get on with playing it, while at the same time providing helpful hints for variations that might not happen very often.

The result was that everyone was happy. Our first franchisee was delighted: “I know exactly what I have to do.”, and the new franchisor could be confident that her service would continue to delight clients as she grew her business.

We can do this because we’re dealing with human beings, not machines.

Off the peg or bespoke?

Off the peg or bespoke?

We tend to think of bespoke and off the peg as very much an either/or option. Not just in clothes.

It’s easy to find standard legal agreements on the internet that you can download for a few pounds, and even easier to find a lawyer who will answer your question about cost with a sharp intake of breath and “well, it depends – every case is different you see”.

We professionals can get hung up on the ‘case by case basis’ that defines us as professional and look on any level of standardisation with disdain.

I believe there are needs for the ‘tailored off the peg’ that are currently unmet, that if embraced would benefit both buyer and seller.

For example, I could buy a standard franchise agreement based on given parameters, then review it with a quaified lawyer to ensure it is up to date and covers all my specific needs. I could even buy an annual review service to make sure it stays up to date.

This isn’t just more affordable for me, its also easier for the professional to deliver, without becoming mechanical or boring for the lawyer.

Between ‘high-touch’ bespoke and ‘no-touch’ off-the-peg, there is up to date experience, built on a tried and tested standard – ‘the best touch’, if we’re open to looking for it.

The 80/20 rule

The 80/20 rule

Years ago, a coffee shop – an offshoot of a well-known brand – opened in the middle of my local shopping centre. It had a nice old-fashioned feel, reminiscent of a cafe from the ‘30s, with wait staff and a long bar where coffee etc. was prepared. Of course I tried it out.

It used a very clever, but simple process. You waited at the entrance. When there was a table ready, you were ushered over to it and given a copy of the menu. Someone came and took your order, taking the menu away once they had delivered it.

It worked beautifully. Nobody was seated at a dirty table and the staff could easily tell who was waiting to give or receive their order.

Except, if you wanted another coffee, or a friend joined you halfway through, there was no way to re-order, except by trying to catch someone’s eye. But they weren’t looking for you, they were looking for menus.

So either it wasn’t meant for spending much time in, or they hadn’t thought it through.

It’s a great idea to design a process for the 80% of cases. But you do need to make sure you can handle the exceptions in a way that still fulfills your promise.



“How do I get my people to think like an owner?”

Make them an owner.

Seeing it through

Seeing it through

Seeing a case or project through from beginning to end is very satisfying – both for the person doing it, and for the client on the other side.

But how do you achieve that when you need to be flexible in how you assign resources?

By having a clear, high-level process for handling cases, then making sure everyone knows how to run it, and that all the information needed to move that case forward is accessible to anyone who needs it at any time.

Most of the time, one person can handle the whole thing. But when that isn’t possible (due to holidays or illness, or scheduling constraints), the client needn’t feel the difference.

And you’ve just created a more empowering division of labour.

Top-down, bottom-up

Top-down, bottom-up

I get the feeling that top-down thinking is very unfashionable at the moment. It smacks too much of command-and-control, over-complicated buraeucracy, and having things ‘done to you’ instead of ‘done with you’ – or even ‘done by you’.

Bottom-up thinking is great for quick wins, incremental change and emergent consensus, but top-down can uncover opportunities for radical change that bottom-up thinking will miss, because you’re asking higher-level questions – “How should we keep our promise?”, rather than “How do we open the office?”.

And often, by answering these high-level questions, we can remove whole chunks of low-level procedure that would otherwise go unquestioned.

We shouldn’t let our thinking get trapped in our organisational structure.



Years ago, I worked with a client who wanted to streamline and automate how clients were onboarded and offboarded (if that is a word). They didn’t have much time to spend with me, so they gave me a copy of the checklist they used so I could get a handle on how it worked.

This checklist would get created whenever a new client signed up, and would travel around the client’s office from one person to the next, with each person doing, then ticking off the task they were responsible for.

If you have something like this (and it might be an electronic ‘checklist’), here’s a useful question to ask yourself:

“Does the next person really need to wait for me to complete my task before they can start theirs?”

If not, they probably shouldn’t be on the same checklist.

An eye-opener

An eye-opener

I was introduced to this book a few years ago by the people at Matte Black Systems.

It was an eye-opener.

The way we’ve always done things isn’t the only way.

Take a look.