How To Stop Making It Up As You Go Along

It was 1991…

I drove across the M62 for a job interview. If I got the job it would be my pass out of the lab and into the glittering commercial world. A senior buyer. For ICI Pharmecauticals, now AstraZeneca. I had a PhD in chemistry and 3 years lab experience. I was a shoo-in for a commercial job, surely. What could go wrong?

All I had to do was find the exit for the M66, do a few simple left/right manoeuvres, and I’d be there. I found the exit. I got on the M66. It took me north. This was not right. I needed to go south. No problem. Off at the next exit, straight back on and boom, everything would be OK. So I got off at the next exit but it wasn’t a full junction…it just took me around onto some dual carriageway and I was lost in space.

I got to the interview…

…45 Minutes late. I was shaken, but not stirred.

I got the job. 

OK here’s the point…

The buying department I joined was ISO registered.

That means that everything they did was systematised – proceduralised. It was all written down. The documents were called SOPs – standard operating procedures.

All the procedures were lined up in files on a book case. I’d say about 30 feet of files. A lot of SOPs. But it was all there. A mere handful of people buying everything needed for a manufacturing business turning over more than a billion quid in sales in the 1990s and everything they did was all written down.

And I read them…

It took me about two months. But at the end of it I was a buyer. Green? Yes. Able to do the job? Yes!

I am reminded of this because I have been meaning to get around to mastering LinkedIn as a source of prospects and customers. But I was being tactical. I was doing this, and then that. No process. No procedure. No consistency. No measures of performance. Basically, I was playing at it. Messing around.

I needed an SOP…

So I did my research on current best practice – even spent some money to shorten my learning curve (because keeping your money and spending your time to re-invent a wheel is dumb, dumb, dumb).

I reduced it all down to the essence. Like making a good chicken stock.

First – there’s one off set up activities. Then daily, weekly, monthly and quarterly tasks. Consistently applied with measures.

I have called my SOP LinkedIn SOP v 1.0. Catchy – eh? It’s a single side of A4. Total effort involved to execute the procedure is 15 minutes per day. I have already seen an improvement. Got more new members to my Business Owners Group (yes – B.O.G., I know) in the last week than in the last month.  

It’s a simple example…

…but I suggest that if we find ourselves doing important yet repetitive tasks at a mostly tactical level without a plan in the background, then it might be a good idea to take a step back, get strategic, then tactical, and then implement and, after a while, look at your measures and adjust the tactics accordingly until you get what you want.

This is how to deal with high-payoff activities: finding prospects, getting referrals, preparing for major presentations, pitching for follow-on work…whatever you do. Reduce it to an SOP. Measure your performance and make changes.

And…consider if you can delegate or outsource the actual work. Anything you see from me with my name at the bottom will always be written by me but there are elements to my LinkedIn SOP that are simply a chore and I don’t need to do them. They just need to be done. And there are multitudes on who can do those parts for me. And then I’ll have more time to write stuff like this.

Thanks for taking the time to read this. Please leave a comment below.


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Thanks a lot. Mark

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