Photo by Daria Nepriakhina

Photo by Daria Nepriakhina

I opened a package of new socks the other day and was greeted with a tiny sticker on one of the heels. It displayed a photo of a woman named Mary; she had personally inspected my socks and declared them “done.”

It got me thinking first about big businesses. When a car company manufactures vehicles, there are a series of “dones.” Pieces from various lines are put together on their own and then ultimately fitted on the vehicle. And at some point, the car is absolutely declared finished and ready to be sold. There are all sorts of important and necessary milestones along the way.

Then I thought about smaller businesses, specifically family-owned businesses, and wondered about how they arrive at the elusive “done.” Do they use processes and methods that have been refined over time, or do they do things “the way they always have”—maybe stretching back a few generations?

Here are two phrases that illustrate the point, and could be red flags in your organizations:

  • “It is basically done”
  • “I just have to do one more thing”

Trust me, there is a huge difference between done and basically done. A website is done when it goes live; a home is done when the house is built and all the finishing touches are complete including the landscaping—and even the mailbox; a contract is done when it is signed and filed; and a project is done when every box reflecting every detail has been checked and the invoice goes out.

Too often in a small business, I see team members working very hard and doing great things but somehow there are loose ends—probably because people are wearing multiple hats and possibly getting pulled in multiple directions. This can be a drag on efficiency and ultimately an anchor on profits. If small businesses want to institute a not-so-flashy culture change, I recommend “arriving at done.”

Normally when companies contemplate cultural change, they might have a catered breakfast, a guest speaker, and end up with a new mission statement and some posters (with slogans) on the wall in the breakroom. We have all participated in such campaigns, and even gotten something out of them at times. But since culture change is more of an output than an input, we all could probably benefit from taking actions to produce results.

In this case, changing the way your company functions could be really thinking about ways to get things completed on time. How serious are deadlines in your organization? Can tasks and projects suffer from time creep? How is accountability shared? How is success measured with respect to completion? Finally, what effect do you think it would have on your bottom line to continually stay on track?

At Sumus, part of our analysis of each business is to look at organizational efficiency. When we study organization structure and conduct team member interviews, a focal point is determining adherence to deadlines. In short, we are interested in roles and processes, but we are equally interested in finding out if things are getting done.

Speaking of that, this post is basically done—we just have to do one more thing: post it! Contact us to find out more.

Jim Baker

Jim Baker

Sumus was founded by Jim Baker, an entrepreneur with 27 years’ experience bootstrapping and growing his business organically and through acquisition, to share his experience by providing advisory services around Board representation, Organization and Branding Strategy, Mergers & Acquisitions, Value enhancement and Exit strategy.