April 14, 2018

Real Simple Leverage

Once you have started pricing services based on the outcomes that you deliver to your clients rather than the amount of time it takes you to deliver these outcomes, you’re in a position to gain a business advantage by creating leverage.

That came out a little jargon-y, so let me try again in plain english:

If you don’t bill for your time, finding ways to work faster is a great idea.

(Aside: If you do bill for your time, it’d be stupid to invest in anything that would speed up your work - e.g., why would you ever upgrade to a faster computer while billing hourly? Think about it...)

Okay, so let’s say you’ve started offering a service that is priced on something other than the time it takes you to deliver it. Finding ways to deliver faster is a great idea, but you want to be careful not to invest more in creating this “lever” than it’s going to save you.

When folks (especially devs) first start thinking about creating this kind of leverage, they tend to get really excited and want to automate everything.

This is usually a premature optimization and not only doesn’t return a positive ROI, but can turn into full blown procrastination (e.g., “As soon as I have WordPress talking to Stripe, I’ll set up Zapier to tag subscribers in Drip which will send a 10 day follow-up auto-responder... then I’ll be ready to launch!”)

It’s usually better to launch an MVP that’s mostly all manual behind the scenes, and wait for low hanging fruit to appear. Once you have a feel for the repetitive tasks, you can look for ways to optimize them. Even then, it doesn’t always have to be a fancy automated software integration behind the scenes.

Once of my favorite optimizations is something I wrote for my group coaching program. The group meets every other week, so there are a number of things that are quite repetitive related to the presentations themselves.

After a few sessions, I was feeling overwhelmed trying to remember everything that I had to do before, during, and after a meeting, so I simply typed them up as a runbook and I follow it step-by-step every time.

Here’s it is in case you’re curious:

Group Coaching Session Runbook

It’s shocking how much pressure the runbook takes off me. I suppose there might be a way to automate these steps with software but it’s very easy to follow the instructions manually, so I don’t really feel the need.

Plus, setting up software automation would certainly cost me a lot of time and/or money. This sunk cost would have the effect of locking me into my current process. I’d be less flexible. Less likely to swap out a step.

The moral of the story is:

When you’re in a position to start creating leverage with optimization: