In 4. Doing Your CEO Job

Your Business Rules

Do you have rules in your business? The good news/bad news is that even if you haven’t actually articulated those rules, written them down, they’re still operating in your biz and quite apparent to your customers, even if not so much to you. Every aspect of the customer experience is the result of a choice, a direct consequence of your business’s “operating system” — aka, its rules.

I think about this a lot when I’m a customer. Especially when I have a bad experience, I think a lot about what makes this experience possible. Is it something about the particular situation on that day in that hour, or is it systemic? So maybe the first time we try a new restaurant and the service is bad, well, maybe they’re just working out the kinks. The second time, though, it starts to feel like it wasn’t just the planets being out of alignment or whatever on that first time. And if there’s a third time, it starts to feel like the operating system of that place doesn’t create the experience that I want to have, that I expect to have. 

Sometimes there’s a mis-match. And then I have a choice. I can either keep going back and being disappointed, or I can just realize that it’s not right for me, it’s not FOR me, and move along.

To be fair, I also try to think about this as a customer when I’m having a GOOD experience. I try to understand what it is about the service that makes me so happy, what are they doing these magical people to create these feelings that make me want to chatter & rave about them, send everyone to them, keep coming back? What is it?

Naturally, I think about this in my own business, too, especially right now since we’re working on systems and making staffing changes. This is a great hat to have on, since it allows me to sit back and consider: If I’m telling the story to a new person, a prospective staff member, of what we do and how, and WHY, what are the elements of that story? What are the things we do quite deliberately, and what are the things we don’t? Those may seem like really basic questions, but truly: they get at the core of why we’re in business at all.

The rules are just that: An expression of your why.

On the face of things, sure, we’re in business because people need their books done, because accounting is a necessary (some would say Evil) function in a business. But that’s truly only the tip of the iceberg. If we go deeper, then my answer to that question of Why Are We Here is more along the lines of because numbers are power. Putting a clear understanding of their financials into the hands of small business owners, delivers agency as well, an ability to not just know the past, what happened, but also to be strategic and directive about the future, their business’s and theirs. 

Why? Because there’s power in numbers. Power to control our own lives, power to change the world.

So then, if that’s true, how does that find expression in the rules governing how we work?

I don’t claim to have all the answers on this, or even most of them, but find that maintaining this perspective, trying always to ensure that how we work matches and supports why we work, helps us deliver better and better results for our clients.

So since we’re all about power, about putting actionable clear data into our people’s hands so they can use to call the shots, here’s an example of a really important rule for Do Your Thing:

  1. We get financials out for monthly clients by the 10th of the following month, for quarterly clients by the 17th. 

Why? Because we know the numbers are more useful when they’re fresh, when they’re current enough to be useful in making the next big decision.

How do we know? We track our On Time Arrivals on a monthly basis, so we can diagnose what’s preventing great performance.

And just so you know? This past month’s OTA for monthly clients was 40%. 🙁 We were late — albeit it’s our own internal deadline — on the other 60%. But we know why, and we’re working on it. 

How about you? What are the rules in your business? How do they reflect your business’s why? Like I said, I’m no expert, but I am convinced that asking and answering this question frequently is key to lining up the deeper Why of your work with the actual impact on others. It’s an ongoing practice, a process of continual refinement. 


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