Get The Cookie Cutter Effect -Zig Zag Principle #50

October 30th, 2011 by Rich Christiansen

 I do have some businesses that do not fit into these last two categories but have been very stable businesses that have scaled well.  My wife and I started purchasing rental properties many years ago.  We bought our first fourplex at a fire sale after the owners went bankrupt.  We put enough money down that the cash started flowing from the moment we bought it.  As we obtained more cash, we paid off this property.  Through trial and error, we have been through the learning curve to know how to manage these rentals.  With the money we made from that first rental, we bought another rental property.  We added resources by hiring a repairman and other people to help manage the properties.  We hired our sons to work on these rentals, as this was a great way to teach them how to work hard. (I’d hire my daughters, but we don’t have any.)  One by one, we purchased rental properties that got us to cash, paid them off, and then purchased more.  The great thing about these properties is that they are income-producing assets.  Even as the housing market took a nosedive, our rentals remained full.  Those people who no longer qualified for mortgages needed places to live and were happy to live in our rentals. 

      When my partners and I started CastleWave, we first got our initial SEO contracts to drive us to profitability, and then we hired the engineers we needed to build our resources. Then it was time to add scale.  The scale component in CastleWave was our link-building component—the ability to get other authoritative web sites to direct traffic to the sites for which we were consulting.  Our expertise in this area was our number-one value asset.  We put together a pragmatic system—aset of processes and approaches that were bundles—that we could then have our employees replicate and follow, allowing my partners and me to focus on other issues. 

      If done properly, scale allows you to develop a system and train other people in how to use that system. Put together an entire system and process using all your rules of engagement, and then flip the switch and start cranking out the cookies.  A cookie-cutter system is what will get you to scale.

      Microsoft Windows is a great example of scale.  How many times did Microsoft build Windows?  Yes, Bill Gates and company have released updates and improvements (well, most of the time), but they really only built the program once!  And they have been able to sell it millions and millions of times over.  Virtually every PC sold has Microsoft Windows already installed, and Microsoft gets a royalty each time a person opens their box.  Now that is scale—and the reason why Bill Gates is one of the richest men in the world!

The Four Rules Of Scale – Zig Zag Principle #49

October 30th, 2011 by Rich Christiansen

I have developed four rules I follow whenever I create a business.  There are times I violate them, but I do so deliberately.  Keep in mind that these are my rules that fit into my skill set and values.  You will need to look at your own situation and determine the rules that work for you. 

Rule # 1 – Ride a Wave:  I like businesses that are on a wave.  Just like a surfer who gets in front of a wave and rides it to the shore, I want the environment to be right before I get on a wave in my business or my life.  If the wave is big enough, then just being in its vicinity will generate enough power to propel you toward your destination.  But if you catch that wave wrong, life can come crashing down around you.  The key is to get on and off the wave at the right time.  September 12, 2001, would have been a terrible time to start an airline.  This same day would have been the perfect time to start an anti-terrorist airline security business.  Purchasing a row of new condos in 2006, when housing prices were at a point where experts were beginning to see they were unsustainable, would have been a bad move.  Purchasing those same condos after the housing bubble burst and prices were slashed in half would have been the right time to add scale.  You need to assess your environment and pick the right waves to ride.

Rule #2  – Transaction Businesses:  I like businesses that sit in the middle of a transaction.  A well-known example is credit card companies, which make 2-5 percent every time one of us slides our credit card through a reader.  None of us give what we’re paying a thought (and if you think we’re not paying, think again).  Merchants are happy to pass along the fee because the convenience brings more people to their business.  Customers love the convenience of not having to carry cash or write a check, so they willingly pay their annual fee (and high interest rates) as well.  Positioning yourself in the middle of a transaction puts you in a great place to make money.

Rule #3 – Own the Customer:  I like to own the customer.  I don’t like being in a business where I can’t look into the eyeballs of the customer and resolve the issue.  I like to be in the middle of the transaction, but I do not like being sandwiched between brokers.

During the rise in the housing market, I was riding a great wave with a company called Mortgage Saver 101.  We had an awesome web site that generated leads of people looking to obtain mortgages.  The company was riding a wave and was a transactional and a digital business.  The only problem was that we did not sell our leads directly to the banks or the people who were coming to refinance their loans.  We sold our leads to a broker who would then sell them to multiple vendors.  Many times the broker would come back to us and say he did not like some of our leads.  We would ask what he didn’t like and he would simply say, “It wasn’t a quality lead.”  Without being able to talk to the bank or the customer, we were left to guess at what they really wanted.  This left us very vulnerable, giving all of the power to the broker.  If there was a problem, we had no way to solve it.  On the other hand, credit card companies are good examples of being able to own the customer.  The credit card company can communicate directly with the merchant that is selling the product or the customer that has signed up for the credit card.  They own the customer.  They can manage the relationship on both sides of the transaction.

      Rule #4 – I Like Digital Assets:  This is my very personal preference, but I love digital assets.  I really do not like retail.  Why?  Because I stink at retail.  I don’t have enough discipline and I am not patient enough to succeed in retail.  It doesn’t scale as well for me.  I know many other people who have been highly successful in retail, but it is just not my preference.  Once I make a website or an application, I have made it once and as many people as want to come will fit into that store.  That’s the primary reason I like digital assets

Doing Desperate

October 25th, 2011 by Rich Christiansen

At one point or another in our personal lives and our careers we get into a desperate mindset or a desperate mode of operation. I found this to be incredibly destructive, and actually counter productive.

As we slip into this mode you can typically tell because the volume and intensity with how we approach our customers, our clients, our employees, and everyone else is just notched a little bit too loud. At what point you want something so badly that you can’t do without, you know you are doing desperation.

My wife tells the story of driving through our little town and seeing a big poster on one of the little mom and pop clothing stores. The sign said, “Please shop here. I need to feed my children!”

That’s doing desperation. A person’s first thought is, “Oh, I’ll help out that shop owner.” But then that thought is quickly followed by another, “Oh, I don’t want to fall into that trap.”

Here are three things that I’ve found will help you avoid desperation not only in your business life, but also in your personal life.

Number one, put a buffer in place. Inevitably you’ll hit bumps in your personal life and in your business life. I put a three-month minimum savings buffer in the business. And I maintain more than that in my personal life.

Next, don’t risk what you can’t afford to lose. If you’re not in the position to risk at the level that you’re risking, that causes an extreme amount of desperation. So don’t risk what you can’t afford to lose. Before hand make a conscious decision and determine your level of risk.

Finally, if you do get into the desperate mode of operation…back off. Take three deep breathes. Consult those around you. Take a backdoor approach to it. If it is just simply beyond recovery—punctuate it. Don’t go deeper down the rat hole.

I frequently talk about my philosophy of failing efficiently. If you’re going to have a failure and you’re chasing it down the rat hole. Don’t keep following after it, to an even worse death. End it. Put that one to bed. Move onto the next thing.

I know this is an easy topic to discuss intellectually. But emotionally it’s a very difficult topic. I still find myself in modes where I’m doing desperation. I experience this particularly when it’s beyond my realm of control. When I put everything out there and it’s out of my hands, I often struggle with desperation.

I do strongly suggest that we stay in a positive non-desperate, non-threatening mode. Things just go much better in that mode. The putts fall better. The business comes together. Everything flows better and it is much simpler when you’re not in desperation mode.

Go forward, zig zag to success, and have a wonderful week.

 

Stop Drilling…Start Pursuing! – Zig Zag Principle #48

October 25th, 2011 by Rich Christiansen

 One way would be to bring another dentist into his practice so he could take Fridays off to work on creating his new product.  He could then join forces with other local practices to build a channel or infrastructure to test and promote his new product.  When that has proven successful, he could create an online presence.  When we talked about his options, my friend was amazed that he could take control of his own destiny and move from the constrained “I’m going to spend the rest of my life drilling teeth” mindset to the “I can actually pursue my beacon in the fog” mindset.

      While others see limitations, I see examples of scale all around me.  I found one while attending a retreat being run by a well-known chiropractor.  This man is clearly an exceptionally talented chiropractor who had become very profitable in his practice.  He then added resources and staff and was able to add several additional offices to his practice.  Then he made the big leap to scale.  He compiled his own set of processes that worked in his business, including the equipment he used, the supplements he recommended, and the processes that made him successful.  He put all of this together into a system he could sell to other chiropractors.  This man is now distinctly known for his training programs among chiropractors throughout the United States.  With his training program, he helps other chiropractors—and then profits when they tell their associates about what he’s done for them. But he has no direct involvement in their day-to-day businesses.  This is scale.

      My oldest son seems to have gotten some of my genes, which led to him getting involved in my web businesses several years ago.  (He was one of my original nerdy kids who helped me move CastleWave forward.)  After I sold CastleWave, he wanted to start his own business.  He worked hard to follow the principles and processes he learned at CastleWave and ended up building a scalable web business of his own.  His is now in Japan for two years working as an unpaid service volunteer, and he has a business that is still making money for him.  While he is gone, his seventeen-year-old brother is the CEO of the company.  He also hired his younger brother and several other smart and energized teenagers to keep his business going—and growing.  They have the same values in place.  They have their beacon in the fog set and are fueled with the passion of youth.  As I write this, my son has been gone for thirteen months, and he has a resource and an asset that will fund the remainder of his college when he returns.  That is the power of scale.

Who Do You Want To Be? -Zig Zag Principle #47

October 21st, 2011 by Rich Christiansen

The third zig is about adding scale to your undertaking. After getting to cash and then adding resources and processes, you need to add scale to get your product or services to the masses. In simple terms, scale is something that can be published or duplicated or sold over and over again.  Think about the music industry as an example.  There are amazingly talented studio musicians who get hired to play for top recording artists.  They come into the studio, lay down their tracks, get a check for an awful lot of money, and then go onto their next gig.  They live a good life, making more than most of us.  The trouble is, their check is a one-time payment.  On the other hand, the artist who writes and records the song gets a royalty every time the song is downloaded, sold at Wal-Mart, or played on the radio.  Through scaling their talents and business strategies, recording artists gets lots and lots of checks for an awful lot of money—and live a great life!

Business gets really fun for me when I can make money while I’m sleeping, or on vacation, or working on my next project.  I remember the first time this happened for me. I was laid up in bed for what I knew was going to be a few weeks, so I came up with a little business idea, threw together a web site, worked my search engine optimization magic, and went to bed.  I got up the next morning, brushed my teeth, checked the web site, and found I had made $37.50—while I had been asleep!  (That number got bigger as the days went on.)  Scale is what allows me to do that.

My colleagues and I often use the term, “Nail it, then scale it.”  What we mean is that during the first two zigs and zags, you’re really trying to figure out how to nail your business.  You’re figuring out the discipline, the effort, and the processes that will make it work.  In zig number1, you are figuring out how to get to profitability.  In zag number 2, you are adding resources.  In zig number 3, you need to figure out a model that you can replicate quickly and get your product out to the masses.  This is the “scaling it” part.

When I’ve talked or written about this concept, I’ve offended several members of my family because I summarize my ideas by stating, “I never want to be a doctor and certainly never a lawyer!”  My point is not to offend my brother, who is a very successful doctor.  My point was that doctors have to put on their literal rubber gloves and poke at some very tender places, and attorneys have to put on their figurative rubber gloves and poke in some dark places. Otherwise, neither one is making money.  I don’t want to do that.  I like making money beyond the time that I am physically and/or mentally working. 

There are alternatives most of us can pursue, though.  I have a good friend who is a dentist.  He’s told me several times about a really great product he wants to develop that would make it so much easier to fill cavities.  He has lamented that he just doesn’t have enough time to work on this because he is stuck drilling and filling teeth all day long.  He feels he has no options, but I’ve explained that the option is to zigzag.  He already has a business with a solid cash flow.  He just needs to add resources—and then scale. 

  

Up Next

October 19th, 2011 by Rich Christiansen

Toasting The Zig Zag PrincipleThank you to everyone who celebrated with us last Saturday! The Launch Party was a big hit, and I think everyone involved walked away with the confidence to zigzag their future to success. I thoroughly enjoyed sharing my experiences with you and seeing the excitement in your eyes to tackle your business dreams. Be sure to go to this Facebook album to see some of my favorite pictures from the event.

Writing The Zigzag Principle has been a very intense and grueling experience for me. I often liken it to having a baby, and indeed it has been very demanding and life-changing for me in several ways. My ultimate hope is that it helps more entrepreneurs find success and see their ambitions realized.

Many people have come to me asking for what is next with The Zigzag Principle or if we are doing more events or coaching. Our goal with The Zigzag Principle has always been to help people be better entrepreneurs, and that will not change. To this purpose, we are considering our options and deciding how best to move forward.

This is your chance to let us know what you want. Email me at rich@zigzagprinciple.com and let me know what you want out of Zigzag, particularly in the way of an event like the Bootstrap Bootcamp I used to do and online training materials similar to the Zigzag GPS. Please give us feedback on the Zig Zag Launch Party and on what you want next! Then keep an eye on our blog, Facebook page and Twitter feed for more information on what’s coming up.

Thank you again to everyone who has participated in any way with this wild ride. It has been a thrilling experience, and I’m grateful for all the support you have given me.

The Zig Zag Panel Discussion

Who’s The Most Important Hire? – Zig Zag Principle #46

October 12th, 2011 by Rich Christiansen

Eating Our Own Cooking

In our test business, we hit profitability one month ahead of schedule.  We then documented processes, which helped ensure that when we began hiring people, they would actually know what to do.  Shane, our college student that was so helpful in the beginning, graduated from college and was able to join us full time.  The next person we hired was Koral, my executive admin. I believe this hire is always the most important.  We vetted and screened hundreds of people before we found Koral.  She has been a perfect fit with our values, and she has brilliant skills.  She is now the gatekeeper of our values and does a screening of every person who enters our organization.  She makes sure that they are a valued fit.

To help document the process that made our company profitable, I identified twelve parts of our operations that needed to be managed in order for us to be successful.  I then stapled a piece of paper with one of these items written on it to a $20 bill and posted these around the office.  I told everyone that the first person who wrote up the process for that step got to keep the $20 bill.  We now have twelve documented processes, each with their own set of simple steps written out so that each new person who joins the business has a clear picture of what needs to be done to make our company work.

After hiring Koral and a few other key positions, my partner Curtis needed to hire a very important individual for our sales team.  At this point, we had created our values filter, and we had the skills test assembled to give to our future hires.  Curtis was thoughtful and pragmatic as he ran a large number of candidates through this process, even though we had an urgent need to fill this position. After screening all the candidates, one in particular stood out.  He was very talented and had the skills we needed.  He had passed all of our tests.  I told Curtis to just hire the guy, but Curtis slowed down just a little because he saw some red flags.

Some of the red flags had to do with this individual’s work history.  He had not had real consistency in his employment.  We figured we could overlook this because we knew he had dealt with some health problems.  Another red flag was that in our interviews, this man seemed to have more motion than momentum.  Even so, I was convinced this guy was a good hire, but Curtis was still concerned. After I kept prodding him, Curtis decided to extend the offer.  As Curtis and the man were talking on the phone, Curtis could hear the man’s wife in the background.  She was shouting things like “If you agree to accept this, make sure they let you work from home two days a week!” We hadn’t discussed that in the interviews, but Curtis thought it might work.  Then Curtis heard her say, “Make sure the health insurance kicks in immediately!”  That was fine because we offer a good health insurance package.  Then he heard her say, “Find out how many vacation days they’re giving you, and then ask for a week more.”  In a bad economy with a lot of competition for this position, there was no gratitude or excitement about the offer.  There was no dialogue about how he was going to add value to our company. It was all about take, take, take.  After four or five of these demands, Curtis paused and simply said, “I’m sorry, we’re not moving forward.” He knew our company’s values, and he knew we would not be adding a resource that fit.  Even though we really needed this position filled, Curtis went back to the drawing board and started all over.  Fortunately, we soon found a delightful woman named Chiaki who fit our needs perfectly.  She is aligned with our company values and has been the right hire for this job.

 

Summary

After you have hit profitability in zig number 1, zag number 2 is all about adding resources.  You are making the transition from working harder to working smarter.  You are going from determination to discipline.  You are going from being the butcher, the baker, and the candlestick maker to cheerleading a team and turning over control to others.  Remember that this will involve letting them make some mistakes and do things a little differently than you would.  But if you do this effectively, you are increasing your profitability, adding resources in to the system, and documenting the processes.

This is where the culture of your company will be defined.  It’s one of the most fun phases of your business and where stories will come that will define the life of your business – good and bad!  Your values will be tested for the first time, so hold strong.

Celebrate With Us

October 11th, 2011 by Rich Christiansen

We launched the book The Zig Zag Principle and within a day it hit #1 in every applicable category on Amazon. And then we hit #3 on Amazon’s Bestseller List. What fun this is seeing the results of the last several months of hard work.

I appreciate the positive comments and reviews from everyone. I’m enjoying this fun ride. And now it’s time to celebrate!

Please join us at our launch party this weekend. We’re going to celebrate The Zig Zag Principle with a party and a set of fun workshops designed for entrepreneurs, aspiring entrepreneurs, and anyone else who is interested in business and goal setting.

If you have tickets, please make sure you are registered for the event. We have incredible content to share, amazing food to devour, and a whole lot of celebrating to do.

If you’d like to attend, please contact our office today. Someone from back East purchased a large number of books and donated some of his launch event tickets, and we’d love to make sure they get used. Please contact us at 1-801-375-7900. First come, first serve.


THE ZIG ZAG PRINCIPLE LAUNCH PARTY
- Workshops, Speakers, Fun & Games, and Networking.

- Learn how other kids, teens, and stay-at-home moms have zigzagged to build businesses.

- Lunch is provided.
   
Saturday, October 15th
SALT LAKE AREA

For more info, to register, or for tickets, please click or call: 1-801-375-7900

Lessons from Marriott

October 10th, 2011 by Rich Christiansen

We often hear about the Apples, the YouTubes and other such companies that nail a market and see instant success. However, most people cannot plan to see this sort of instantaneous success. Rather, you may have to start out like the Marriott Hotels did: as a nine-stool root beer stand.

Early in J. Willard Marriott’s life, he thought like he would be a sheepherder like his father. However, the sheepherding industry took a big hit, bankrupting his father, so he decided to go to college. When he didn’t have the money for tuition, he looked at what hidden assets and resources he had and offered to teach religion classes at the university to pay for his tuition. He considered what he had and used his skills to get him to his goal without debt.

After Marriott graduated, he remembered a business opportunity he noticed years before as a church missionary in Washington D.C. He remembered how thirsty he always got in the summer and thought how well a root beer stand could do, so he went out to Washington D.C. with his wife and opened a nine-stool root beer stand.

The stand did very well during the summer, but business fell as flat as day-old soda as winter approached. Marriott zigzagged and started selling hot Mexican food at his root beer stand to keep business going. From there, he scaled the business and built more of the stands, expanding them into full restaurants and making the very first drive-through on the east coast.

Marriott was a pioneer in other businesses, too. He noticed how people would often come to his restaurant from the airport, buy a box lunch and then take it on the plane with them. Marriott started making the box lunches ahead of time and sold them to the airlines – the first in-flight meals. During World War II when sales were down, he started selling food to government cafeterias to keep things going.

And then, 30 years after Marriott first started his business, he opened his first motel.

Just look at all those zigzags! For 30 years, Marriott slowly and steadily built his business from nothing. It wasn’t a fast, easy process, but instead a legacy of hard work and brilliant successes. Then consider where his company is now, more than 75 years later. If he tried to build one of the largest hotel chains in the world when he first graduated with only a tiny amount of resources, no doubt he would have failed. However, by zigzagging, he managed to achieve that goal and so much more.

What can you learn from Marriott? Don’t be afraid to zigzag! Keep an eye out for new opportunities and chase after them whenever you are able. Even if it means doing something you’re less comfortable with, it may just be the path that will take you and your business to greater success.

The Five Minute Secret! – Zig Zag Principle #45

October 7th, 2011 by Rich Christiansen

The Five-minute Whiteboard

One of the powerful tools I use in my business is The Five-minute Whiteboard.  This is designed to ensure that everyone on the team knows which of our tasks are the 20 percent that will result in 80 percent of the results.  It works for a team of up to seven or eight members. 

I’ve installed a huge white board in our office.  We write each team member’s name across the top with a different color of marker.  In our staff meetings, each person then brain dumps everything they have to do during the coming week.  It doesn’t matter whether it is a small little thing or a really big thing—we list everything.  After everyone has listed their tasks, they then put an “A” “B” or “C” next to each task to give it a priority (“A” for vital, “C” not so much). 

We then all stand back and look over the board.  We’re then able to see that if this person doesn’t get something done, this other person won’t be able to get her highest priority done. We also discuss if items need a higher priority or if they are not really that important.

As the week goes on, each team member crosses off completed tasks.  They also have the ability to write on someone else’s list.  If there is a task anywhere on the board that is critical to you, you can increase its priority.  I have even put big red circles around someone’s task, letting them know that it is getting to be a hot potato in the business and that they need to deal with it.  When one team member’s list is getting shorter, they’re expected to help someone else with their list and cross off items.

There are three very powerful functions this Five-minute Whiteboard fills:

  1. Instantly, everyone on the team knows what the critical tasks are for the week.
  2. The team knows when someone is overburdened, and they can help him or her out.  If John has 15 “A” items on his list, the rest of the team knows not to dump more onto him.  If Matt only has a few smaller items, he knows he must help John.
  3. It provides accountability and transparency in the organization, which ensures that everyone is actually producing and being effective.

 

I have found that the Five-minute Whiteboard is the most powerful when we do it on a Friday afternoon rather than first thing Monday morning.  This allows everyone to subconsciously begin thinking through their task lists so that on Monday morning they are geared up and ready to attack.

Recently, I witnessed yet one more example of how effective our five minute white board is.  We had a situation where we had a large shipment that had been stalled due to some shipping infrastructure issues.  As a result we had $150,000 worth of merchandise just sitting in our warehouse waiting to be shipped—and holding up our cash flow.  The day finally came when the truck was able to come, but he showed up two-and-a-half hours earlier than scheduled.  Loading this truck and getting this shipment off was an “A+” item on our warehouse manager’s list.  When the truck showed up early, not one word was said.  Everyone on the team just got up, put on their coats and gloves, and went out into the cold parking lot to help Cameron load the truck.  Everyone knew this shipment was critical to our business and essential to the cash flow.  Everyone understood and was in tune with the environment of the company.  That is the power of the Five-minute Whiteboard.

 

Building Processes – Zig Zag Principle #44

October 7th, 2011 by Rich Christiansen

Now that you’ve started bringing in some cash and adding resources, your organization is going to need more structure and discipline.  As you add more flesh to the bones of your infrastructure, you’ll need to work on making consistent progression.  This will require that you build on what you have learned so far as you have been driving to profitability.  In some cases, those will be lessons you haven’t even realized you’ve learned.

Building processes for your organization is vital to your short-term and long-term viability.  It’s a step that often gets left out as you head toward your beacon in the fog, but I’ve been convinced of its importance since I was a little kid mowing lawns.  After I had acquired a few lawn mowers and convinced my brothers and friends to mow lawns for me, I had to teach them the processes that had made me successful in the first place.  Here are the steps I took each and every time I mowed a customer’s lawn:

  1. Present yourself well. I would tuck in my shirt and wipe the sweat and dirt off my hands and face before knocking on the customer’s door with a big smile on my face and saying, “Hello, I am here to mow your lawn today.  It will take me about an hour and a half. Is now an okay time?”
  2. Clear the lawn. Before mowing a lawn, I looked it over carefully and removed all the balls and junk.  I picked up any dog mess, trash or anything else that may be on the lawn.
  3. Trim the lawn. I used the trimmer to trim around the entire edge of the lawn before I began mowing.
  4. Check the oil in the lawn mower
  5. Check the gas in the lawn mower and make sure the tank is full.  I only put gas in the lawn mower while it was on the sidewalk so that I didn’t kill any grass if I spilled.
  6. I went to the center of the lawn and picked a point straight across the lawn.  Then I shot for a straight line.  Everyone likes nice straight lines better than random tire marks across their lawns.
  7. I followed the wheel patterns through the entire lawn to keep all of the lines straight.  If the lines got off, I corrected them.
  8. I emptied the grass bag before it got full so that clumps of grass would not spill out on the lawn.
  9. After mowing, I cleaned up the lawn and yard.  I raked any grass or debris that was left on the lawn and blew or sweep the sidewalks off.  Everyone likes their yard to look neat and clean after the grass is mowed.
  10. I respectfully invoiced the customer.  I wiped the sweat off my face and the dirt off my hands and knocked on the customer’s door.  I then handed them the invoice for mowing the lawn and put a piece of candy or a package of seeds with it as I thanked them for the opportunity of mowing their lawn.

This process example may seem rather elementary, but I had to mow a lot of lawns before I learned that it took a lot less time and the lawn looked much neater if I trimmed the edges before I mowed.  I also learned that when I was having other people mow lawns for me, they all wanted to do it their own way.  But I knew that my customers had hired me to mow their lawns because they knew they would have straight lines and they would like the way their lawn looked after it was mowed.  They also loved that I gave them a packet of seeds or a piece of candy as my signature when I finished.  So, I had to document the processes and teach these things to my employees so they would know what my customers expected. 

My wife worked for Kentucky Fried Chicken while she was a teenager.  They have a list posted to the wall above the biscuit machine detailing the exact steps for making their delicious, fluffy biscuits as well as other lists detailing each step in making their chicken and every other menu item.  This keeps the consistency and quality that is expected each time a customer goes to eat at any KFC.

I used to love to eat at a regional fast-food restaurant that sells delicious chicken and rice bowls.  But one time when I went there, the dish I was served did not taste the same.  I commented to the person at the counter, “Something tastes really weird in my chicken.”  He said, “Oh, yeah, our normal supplier was out of the chicken we normally use, so we had to use different chicken today.”  I thought this was just a fluke, so I went back the following week.  This time the chicken tasted much spicier than usual, and it was even worse than the previous week.  I mentioned it to the guy at the front again and he said, “Yes, we had to try an even different supplier this week.”  I went back a few more times, but each time the chicken was different.  Not surprisingly, this franchise went out of business not long after, and now I have to drive thirty miles to get the chicken and rice that I love.  Whatever the size or complexity of your business, processes matter!

In zag number 2, you have to document the processes that led to your initial success.  You need to put these into bite-sized processes that other people can follow.  That is why I instructed my employees to trim the grass before they mowed the lawn and to put the gas into the mower while it was on cement so as to not kill the grass.  I had made all these mistakes and had learned from them, so I institutionalized what I had learned.

As you document your processes, remember to learn from the mistakes you made driving to profitability.  Documenting what not to do is as important as documenting what to do.  You want to have something in place that makes people think twice about making the same mistakes, and it will help if you have already proven what doesn’t work. 

 

Help My Business Sucks

October 6th, 2011 by Rich Christiansen

I have to share an interview I did with an incredibly smart and entertaining entrepreneur, Andrew Lock. When he started the interview by asking me questions about which types of hamburgers I preferred, I knew I was in for some fun. After all, on Lock’s site it says his show, Help My Business Sucks “…has become more popular than a supermodel at a Catholic boarding school.”

But don’t let all these jokes fool you–Andrew is a brilliant entrepreneur who has been at it since he was a kid. Anyone can watch his free, weekly Web TV show. Learn about starting a business, running a business, marketing, and more. Or as Lock says learn to “get more done and have more fun.”

I’d love for you to watch this interview where Andrew Lock and I discuss business, being an entrepreneur, bootstrapping, and of course–The Zig Zag Principle. We even talked a bit about which cookie reigns supreme. Please enjoy the interview and come back again to for the next episode of this wildly popular show, Help My Business Sucks.

Upcoming Speaking Event

October 6th, 2011 by Rich Christiansen

By the time you’re reading this, many of you will have gotten your copy of The Zig Zag Principle. Yippee! I am thrilled to have the book released! Now all of you can read it and use it to improve your business. Thank you for your support, and good luck!

I have good news! This November 4 and 5, you have a great opportunity to catch a glimpse of the life balance The Zig Zag Principle is all about. My good friend Dino Watt is putting on the event—Grow Your Business without Growing Apart event in Sandy, Utah.

I will be speaking about how to find true balance between your family life and marriage and your work life and entrepreneurial dreams.

The event is geared toward women, but couples are encouraged to attend. You can register and read more about it here. General admission (husbands are free) is $100, but we have a special deal for all of you Zigzaggers! If you register before October 21, you can use the coupon code “marriage” at check out to get a 50% discount!

If you’re still unsure about it, check out this video to learn more about the sort of things Dino will talk about. It’s really great content that will make all the difference for you, your business and your marriage.

With Bated Breath

October 3rd, 2011 by Rich Christiansen

Tomorrow is the big day.

Tomorrow is Tuesday, October 4th and it’s the day the books, my books, hit the shelves.

This is the day I wondered about before I decided to write the book. This is the day I dreamed about back at the beginning of the project. This is the day I longed for a few months ago when we were in the thick of things. This is the day that marks an important zig in my path. And now…this is the day I’m going to enjoy and celebrate. I will enjoy this day knowing that this book, The Zig Zag Principle, is the best I have to offer.

Over the past several months, via my blog, I have published excerpts from the book. I have shared zigzagging examples from my businesses. I have highlighted some of my favorite zigzaggers both public and private. Today I’d like to share The Zig Zag Principle book trailer.

I’d also like to invite everyone to participate in the events we have lined up in conjunction with the book launch. We’ve planned Webinars, speaking events, and we’re holding a big launch party in a couple weeks. I’d love for you to join our celebration. Releasing a book is a crazy and fun experience. Wish me luck, and let’s have a blast.

Motivational Zigzagging

October 3rd, 2011 by Rich Christiansen

The name Zig Ziglar may sound like one I made up for a Zigzag Principle mascot, but it’s actually the name of a man who took 16 years of zigzagging to steadily reach his goal of becoming a motivational speaker.

Ziglar started out working as a salesman before he even realized he wanted to become a motivational speaker. However, when he heard his first professional speaker give a speech, he was instantly hooked and knew that was what he wanted to do for work. He identified his beacon in the fog.

Ziglar was wise! He knew that he could not quit his job and put his family at risk so he could pursue his dream. He knew it would be unacceptable for him to make it to his beacon in the fog without his family, and he understood that he had some big barriers to overcome before even achieving that goal was possible.

Instead, Ziglar worked for 16 years, zigzagging back and forth to get the experience he needed to reach his goal. He persistently maintained financial profitability by working in sales while gaining skills so he could reach his beacon in the fog. I don’t doubt that he faced many great trials in this long series of zigs and zags.

Yet in the end, it indeed paid off. Now Ziglar is not a solitary speaker trying to keep cash flow steady in his business, but instead he is a very successful motivational speaker with a thriving business. That expanded business may not have been part of his original beacon in the fog; however, he kept moving once he achieved his original goal.

Though I admit I’m a little sad someone else has a claim on such a great zigzagger name, I have to respect the constant determination it must have taken Ziglar to keep steadily building his skills and reputation to become what he is today. It’s an amazing accomplishment to build not just a business and see it become everything you hoped it would, but to build yourself into what you’ve wanted to be for 16 years.