When I work with a professional remodeling client over the phone, I suggest they keep notes. That way, the client can refer to the notes after the call and have a clear idea about what was discussed and what they agreed to do between this call and the next. (By the way, that is a good practice for any interaction!)

In reviewing the notes for one recent call, I thought some of the information exchanged is good for anyone running a business. Here are six pieces of advice drawn from what I wrote:


* What do you want your life at work to be like? Define it exactly and simply. Some things you mentioned were "to reduce the pace," to "reduce the fires," and to have a workload that allows you to do things right the first time instead of constantly being overwhelmed. Take those three to five key points that describe what you truly want your life at work to be like and use them for all decision-making on a day-to-day basis and for planning the future of your company. Put them on your desk where you can see them when you are on the phone. Put a copy in your car.

* To reduce your sense of being overscheduled because unexpected things are always coming up (the definition of "life"!), put in your daily schedule 30 minutes to an hour for "unexpected things that come up." Don't schedule over this time. When do most of these things come up? That is when you put this unallocated time into your day.

* Your company must always be clear in its communications. Ambiguity is the enemy of clarity and your peace of mind. Not taking the time to be totally clear before a conversation ends creates mutual mystification that frustrates people and reduces profits. Before leaving a conversation--any conversation, any meeting--ALWAYS ask "What have we decided? What have we agreed to? What is going to be done? By who? When?" Write down what is agreed to and hold yourself and those you work with accountable for getting those things done.

* Your clients buy Results, not just Process. I think that is another phrase you could paste in front of you so you see it all the time: RESULTS, NOT JUST PROCESS. Listen more, ask questions about what you hear, and then deliver results.

* Start every meeting with a PALO:
Purpose of the meeting
Agendas: The client's first (ask them what they want to accomplish at this meeting), then yours
Logistics: How much time do we have? What if the phone rings?
Outcome: Always decide what will happen next. It might be to never meet again, it might be to sign a design agreement.
Doing this for EVERY meeting with anyone, including all your employees, will make your company more results-oriented.

* Your key managers: Coach them on how to stand up to you and how important to you and the company it is that they do so. Do it one-on-one, sharing your respective DISC reports [personality assessment tools] to point out tendencies and how to make different choices.


Some of the above feedback is good for most of us! By keeping top-of-mind your biggest “opportunities,” you give yourself the ability to make new, different choices when faced with the same old problems. What do you want your life to be like? Go for it by making the needed small changes to get what you want!