When reading lots of official and authoritative articles on business improvement you can all too easily be defeated or put off before you’ve digested the messaging because the information looks like it does not apply to you as an entrepreneur or small business. It’s fine if you have multi-million budgets and hoards of people to turn ideal methodologies into amazing new methods of working.
However, one theory I feel is worth looking at is Sir Dave Brailsford’s marginal gains approach. He was responsible for turning the fortunes (somewhat dramatically) of the British cycling team who won seven out of 10 gold medals at Beijing and again in London.
Sir Dave was interested in process improvement and the Kaizen methods but he realised that there was real traction in not thinking big but quite the opposite. By thinking small…very small, he gambled that if the team broke down everything they could think of that goes into competing on a bike, and then improved each element by 1%, they would achieve a significant aggregated increase in performance…and it worked!
But how can small businesses capitalise on this and ‘Go for Gold’? By taking time out and examining all the elements such as Marketing, Sales, Finance, team motivation/goals, premises, logistics, packaging suppliers and so on, break each of these areas down even further…and again, and again to get down to each tiny element to see how they can be improved in some small way.
For example, ask yourself….
- Would your team benefit from an online typing course to speed up the processing of orders?
- Could you go for cheaper plain cartons rather than 2 colour printed ones without any negative impact with customers? Does it even need a carton?
- Do the sales team need Excel training to get more out of their analysis?
- Is it more cost effective to outsource at times when you need those skills/manpower rather than employing someone full-time?
- Would there be real benefits of sharing files on a G Drive or DropBox in the cloud to speed up access by SmartPhone to important ‘Just In Time’ information while with a customer?
- By learning to use Word more effectively could you make ‘Wow’ proposals in a shorter length of time?
For the full benefit of this marginal gains approach (or 1 % rule) it needs to be embraced as a culture, not a quick fix, by the whole team from end to end which might take a while but as Sir Dave found out it can be the path to victory over your competitors.