The Business of Selling Simplicity

Differentiating Your Business By Keeping it Simple
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When someone asks what you do, how do you respond? Are you the “home theater guy” or the “cable guy?” Whatever your response, consider how much or little it differentiates you from your competition (including Amazon and Best Buy). The electronics that we install can be purchased anywhere and much of it self-installed. If that’s the case, then why are we all so busy? Is it because we’re selling and installing electronics? Yes, but only partially. We’re busy because while you might think that you are “selling electronics solutions,” our customers are buying “simplicity.” Is your business oriented around that simple truth?

Simplicity is one of the hardest outcomes to deliver. Look at the obstacles in your way. To begin with, the client wants simplicity but asks you for solutions that you know will provide the opposite result. If you argue, you might lose the job, so maybe you relent.

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To simplify your company’s process, try starting out with bite-sized chunks and measuring performance in 12-week sprints.

Do your sales people write their own proposals? How many projects go smoothly using that process? Are their designs solid or do you find yourself reinventing the wheel on each new job? How about your installation team? Are they oriented around simplicity or just getting the job done (not your version of done but their version)? We’re just getting warmed up and already our project is off the rails and in the ditch. Simplicity blown.

What if we made simplicity a core guiding principle in our organizations? What if every fork in the road forced us to ask ourselves which route produced the simplest outcome for the client? Would our jobs go more smoothly? Would we make more money? Would we take fewer shortcuts? The answer is a resounding “yes” to all of the above, yet we fail at these basic “everything I needed to know I learned in kindergarten” forehead smackers. Why?

At the end of the day, it’s hard to sustain intentionality around simplicity if everyone on your team hasn’t bought into the concept. If an individual member doesn’t connect their own performance (good or bad) to the company succeeding or failing, you’ll keep repeating the same mistakes over and over. If, however, you decide that simplicity is important enough to change your culture, then you’ll move mountains.

Cultural change doesn’t happen overnight and can be mind-numbingly exasperating. Imagine hitting the gas in your car and finding out 90 days later whether or not the car went any faster. Cultural change is a long-term initiative, similar to any other long-term effort. If you work out or have achieved any kind of long-term personal goal, then you already know the frustration (and satisfaction) of a race well run or shedding 10 pounds. What if we put that same kind of effort and discipline into our businesses? Could we achieve our goal of making simplicity part of our culture? We did it, and so can you.

Walt Disney liked to say, “people need deadlines.” Cultural change is a perfect example of deadline setting at its finest. For simplicity to rise above all else in the organization, it has to be led by the CEO or founder. It can’t be delegated. Try starting out with bite-sized chunks and measuring performance in 12-week sprints. Just like over-training can cause injury, over-planning can cause analysis paralysis and initiative failure. You might fail the first few times, but that’s OK. Don’t quit, and resist the urge to push off your strategy meetings. The day-to-day whirlwind of business can carry away strategic planning if not managed proactively.

If you decide to put simplicity at the forefront of your business and proactively change your culture so everyone buys into it, there’s no telling how much you’ll reap personally, professionally, and financially.

Good luck with simplification. You can do this.