Thursday, October 23, 2008

Business Day Thursday: The Urgency Of It All!

Good Morning Everybody,
Well, we landed in New York late yesterday afternoon, and man, I can't beleive the hotel room we are staying in. After saving those Marriott points all these years, I finally decide to redeem some of them. We are on the 24th floor of the absolutely fabulous Marriott Marquis, right in the middle of Times Square with a wonderful view of the city. Right now I'm looking at the spot the New Year's Eve ball drops at the corner of Broadway and Fifth Ave.! Yep, All pretty cool - hard work, but somebody's got to do it;~) We are headed over to Javits Center in just minutes so let me get right to our Business Day Thursday segment - I think it's especially important today.
The Urgency Of It All! My 7-Step Plan To Make Urgency Part Of Your Daily Routine

The trumpets are sounding....Business is down; clients aren’t even calling – PANIC!! What are we going to do?? We’ve got to do something..... but what? Let’s think about the situation, let’s get a plan; we’ve got to do something. OK, OK it sounds like a “The sky is falling” kind of approach to business management. Needless to say, this is not the optimum way to run your business – not when two of the four engines are on fire and the plane is running out of gas. Unfortunately, too many businesses wait to almost the end before they even think about a course correction.

All right, today’s post is not about how to save a failing business, but it is about bringing a sense of urgency to your business operations. Think about it – when are you the most effective, the most productive, the most efficient in your business? Usually it occurs right before you head out on vacation. You’ve got to get the work completed and somehow it gets done before you hop on that plane to vacation paradise.

Folks, what would happen if we brought a bit of that same sense of urgency to our everyday business operations? I suspect we would be much better off than just moving from day to day with a somewhat complacent attitude that things will get done when thing get done. Don’t get me wrong – I’m not saying we are all dragging our feet in our businesses, but I think most would agree, me included, that it is easy to fall into the trap that everything is alright and we become simply reactive to the day-to-day operations at least until a crisis hits.

This is my point. Suppose everyday we build a small crisis into our business operations, we feel a sense of urgency to fully complete a project and we started acting and planning like we need to get it done, and get it done now! Wow! There is a concept – getting it done now.

Let me give you an example. We have most of the client's order completed, ready to be delivered. It just needs a few extra prints for family and friends to reach final completion, but we decide not to print the extras now because the bridal album has to go to the bookbinder and we have plenty of time to get those extra prints together.

The reality is that last little part of the operation looses its importance for the moment and gets set aside. Folks, setting aside this last small task is only creating a potential time bomb that may explode down the road. Why didn’t we consider it URGENT to complete the order now, today? This happens way to often in way to many businesses. It even happens in my business now and then and I believe my staff and I run a pretty tight ship.

In our situation, we did exactly what I described above. Our decision resulted in the albums returning from the bookbinders, the client was called, and the appointment was made to deliver their albums. About an hour before the client was due to show up to pick up the order, we started pulling it all together – bridal album, parents’ albums, and then noticed that the reorders were never completed to finish the order – the time bomb went off. We delivered what we could, promised that we would ship out the reorders the next day and stood there shaking the client’s hand albeit with a little egg on our faces.

I believe we can avoid this kind of production hic-cup if we bring a little sense of urgency to our daily production routine. The order is almost ready, what else does it need, can we get it wrapped by end of day so that we are 100% complete, then send the books out for final binding. This makes much more sense to me. Add a little urgency to your own operation and see if the finished product isn’t delivered more consistently on time with fewer errors, and more efficiently than ever before.

Here is my quick 7-step plan to make Urgency part of your daily routine:

1. Determine solid benchmarks on how long it takes to get tasks completed. Successful manufacturers have been doing that since the days of Frederick Taylor. We too are manufacturers in a small way so setting benchmarks in our own business is an important first step. With good benchmarks established, determine how long the new job/project/wedding order is going to take to complete. Work efficiently to meet these goals.

2. Assign a production allowance on how many payroll hours you want to expense to allow the tasks to be completed. This will depend on the size of the album, number of prints ordered, and ancillary products ordered.

3. PUT A FUSE ON THE PROJECT!!! This is the most important step. We know how long the job is going to take to complete, so name a reasonable date of completion that you and your staff can live with. And most importantly – STICK WITH IT!!!

4. Monitor on a weekly basis the actual production hours spent against percent of project completion on your projects. Are they on track production wise? How short is the fuse getting? Are we going to meet our production goals? Add some urgency when needed!

5. Keep a running tally of all jobs. Note which jobs beat the mark, meet the mark, or miss the mark. Your job in this process is to be working urgently to reduce the number of jobs that miss the mark. Make your modifications and/or corrections to your production model constantly striving to always meet or beat the mark. Maybe this includes updating procedures, maybe it means additional training for personnal that consistently miss the mark unfortunately maybe it means re-evaluating employees within the job specifications to reassign or replace.

6. Set a day each month or each week till you get things running efficiently - that you and your staff review the three aspects of the team’s production model – benchmarks, production allowances, and “fuse” length.

7. Award the team, even if the team is only you, for performance improvements. And, reward the team for sustained performance improvement. This can been done very simply by buying lunch on performance review day or if you are the only team member, by treating yourself to something special because of your efforts. Reveling in success is a nice place to be.

-Just a little food for thought.

Hey gang, that’s it for me today. Don’t forget to check back tomorrow for another Gear Bag Friday: Wide Angle Wonderfulness. See you then. -David


  1. Very insightful post that left me wondering; that too happens too frequently with me. I end up postponing some event photo editing and then I'm constantly missing the deadlines I should had imposed myself.
    BTW, about your tomorrow's post, I noticed you really love those wide lenses for that perspective kick in wedding shoots. I'm looking forward to read you elaborating on that.
    Regards and thanks for your posts!

  2. Your 7 points are really a very good subject, simply does not matter if there is a decline in business or a complete halt, you simply cannot sit idle and do nothing, so these tips are indeed wise.

    However, David, I am very disapointed in you. A Windoze Machine? We must talk!!!!

  3. David, About thirty years ago I visited about 25 photographers around the country to see how they tracked orders. I found that no one had a good method. I then devised a method to know where the order was at all times and know the time schedule. If a client called I knew exactly where it was in production. I had been in business for about 15 years at that time and got tired of not knowing. It has made the my business easier. I learned as a young man to give the client a realistic time frame and deliver early. Good post.

  4. Sounds a lot like Lean manufacturing or lean production. In a more basic terms, More value with less work.

    What I like about lean is identifying value as a service or good which meets the customer's needs at a specific price at a specific time.


    Specify value from the standpoint of the end customer by product family.

    Identify all the steps in the value stream for each product family, eliminating every step and every action and every practice that does not create value.

    Make the remaining value-creating steps occur in a tight and integrated sequence so the product will flow smoothly toward the customer.

    As flow is introduced, let customers pull value from the next upstream activity.

    As these steps lead to greater transparency, enabling managers and teams to eliminate further waste, pursue perfection through continuous improvement.