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

rules2Are your Simple Rules working to bring more success to your business so it’s not running you? Want more insight? Part II of this post covers Stopping Rules and Timing Rules, based on the book by Donald Sull and Kathleen Eisenhardt.

Stopping Rules tell us when it’s time to get out – automatically. According to the book, there are pros and cons to ‘committing’ versus ‘continuing to play the field.’ I’m smiled as the authors initially applied this to crickets finding a mate, but it really applies everywhere. When do companies stop interviewing candidates for a job? When do you stop scanning radio stations seeking a certain song? When do you stop shopping for clothes, a house, a spouse, or even airfares?

Knowing when to stop can be difficult. Continuing to look costs time, effort, and opportunity. But …the next thing could be so amazing and worth continuing the quest. It’s impossible to know if good enough is good enough or if ultimately it’s the best you will find.

It seems easy to start a relationship, buy a stock, or launch a company. Getting out is so much harder once you invested significantly in something. How do you know you aren’t giving up just three feet from gold? Can you ever know if you are just at a temporary low point or this is rock bottom? Could there be a huge turnaround just moments away?

Every business needs Stopping Rules to signal it’s time to get out. Some examples are: 1) stop issuing more credit when customers fall over 60 days behind in account receivables and 2) stop investing in product lines that don’t generate a certain profit margin. Those are simple examples, but you get the idea.

The biggest problem I see with business owners is they are not tracking what is working and what isn’t. It’s hard to have Stopping Rules in place when there isn’t data to determine whether it’s time to stop or continue.

In my business, I have a stopping rule on networking. If I can’t give and receive business referrals after three meetings, I move on. I want to be with business owners that I can send business to – and vice versa. If partnerships aren’t occurring by a certain point, it’s not the right fit.

In my personal life, I have a stopping rule for food. When I’m full, I stop eating. It’s that simple. I also have a stopping rule for skiing. When it becomes hard for me to turn the skis, I call it a day and move to Après Ski. I know pushing my body past that point increases the risk of injury and it’s just not worth it. When hiking 14ers (mountains over 14,000 feet), I follow the rule of being off the peak by 12 noon. That’s a safety rule to avoid the afternoon storms that stir up fast.

Timing Rules guide us WHEN to take action. In business, this could be when to do a new product launch, when to post social media, or when to create a press release. It could also mean setting points in the year where something occurs repeatedly. At one point, Pixar had a timing rule to release one new film per year at Thanksgiving.

The advantage of Timing Rules is that everyone knows and supports them. There are no surprises that upset the flow of events.

In my business, I have several timing rules. First, I have a networking day – the one day per week where I get dressed in business clothes for face to face meetings. I rarely make exceptions unless something is super important and it can’t be moved. This gives me the rest of the week to be highly focused on heads-down work in my office. Second, I consistently post and podcast on certain days of the week. This keeps me in a routine so I don’t skip a day. Third, I try to stop working by a certain time each day for balance. (I’m still refining that one!).

By combining Stopping Rules and Timing Rules, business owners can really take control of their companies and make intentional progress. Without rules, the company can drift off course very fast.

What rules do you have in your business around Stopping and Timing? 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 call.  Just sign up at the top of this 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.