Is Your Business Running You? Simple Rules are the Solution (Part I)

Rules1Too much going on? Email overload? Still working on your to-do list from last week? Try implementing ‘Simple Rules’ so you can run your business instead of it running you! When you don’t have and enforce rules in your business around what clients you will take, what hours you will work, and what to do when things go wrong, the company can go awry.

I learned about Simple Rules from a book by Donald Sull and Kathleen Eisenhardt. I also heard Kathleen speak in Denver recently and she was outstanding! I highly recommend reading the entire book, but here are some highlights and takeaways you can implement immediately in your company.

The best rules are few in number and easy to remember. The ideal number is three rules (four at the most). The rules should be so simple that they can be remembered and implemented – even in dire circumstances like being tired, stressed, or under extreme pressure.

Zipcar is a great example of simple rules. They have four rules: 1) return the car on time, 2) return the car clean, 3) don’t smoke in the car, and 4) fill up the tank. Easy, right? Indiegogo has one rule for crowdfunding – it must be legal. Kickstarter has 14 rules. See how fewer rules are so much better?

The book is full of amazing ideas, but I’ll just highlight two rules in this post (Boundary Rules and Prioritizing Rules). I’d address two more in the next post (Stopping Rules and Timing Rules.)

According to the book, Boundary Rules define whether something should be included or excluded (also known as done or not done). They cover WHAT to do. These rules help people make rapid decisions when time is short. They guide the choice without requiring a lot of time, analysis, or information.

A nice advantage of Boundary Rules is they narrow down the alternatives so people can decide which opportunities to pursue when the choices are overwhelming. They provide a quick screen to select the best solution based on readily available information. Boundary Rules are concrete so it’s easy to communicate them to others. They are important when time, convenience, and cost matter.

As a teenager, I remember two Boundary Rules from my parents (although I didn’t know the rules had an official name). They were 1) don’t ride in a car with a driver who has been drinking and 2) call my parents if I need a ride home from a party. Simple, easy to remember, and easy to identify by sight who was and wasn’t drinking.

In business, my Boundary Rule is don’t work with people who don’t keep their word. I only work with people with integrity since I want to know I can count on them to deliver to me, my clients, and any of my referrals consistently.

Prioritizing Rules help rank alternatives when time, money, or focus are limited. They determine HOW to prioritize. When many opportunities meet the Boundary Rules but there are limitations in resources, prioritizing rules are needed.

Many business owners prioritize by return on investment. While this is a great business school method, sometimes more creativity is required. For example, maybe removing bottlenecks to time, revenue, or growth is more important than ROI at the moment. Perhaps the number of people impacted is a criteria. Maybe even choosing the project with the least investment or cash outlay right now is key.

In my business, I prioritize by leverage – how can I get the most results from one action. For example, how can I reach the largest audience by speaking? I usually target events with at least 50 people in attendance. Who can I team with to create the strongest referral partnerships? I look for business owners that have been in business at least 4 years. I set criteria like the same way for my marketing, investments, and networking activities. This keeps me focused on the right areas with the best return. Simple rules for business really do work!

What rules do you have in your business around Boundaries and Prioritizing? If you don’t have Simple Rules and need help creating some, let’s talk! Enroll in a full Speed Consulting session today or test it out with a complimentary 15 minute callJust sign up at the top of the page.

Nancy Gaines

Nancy Gaines is CEO/Founder of Gain Advantages Inc. and has been advising small businesses and Fortune 100 companies how to increase revenues through proven systems for almost two decades. She is a best-selling author and international keynote speaker. Nancy has been named in the Top 100 Productivity Experts to follow on Twitter and has a global podcast downloaded in over 95 countries. Her main focus is creating business processes with actionable steps so her clients achieve more consistency, ease, and ultimate success.