The Power of Three: Start small to get your big ideas launched

The Power of Three: Start small to get your big ideas launched

It wasn’t so long ago that I had to learn a painful, personal lesson. In a construction company I used to own, we put our heads together and came up with a glorious strategic plan with initiatives that would be industry-changing. The processes would set us so far apart from our competition that the volume of money and work would flow in like crazy. We were excited at all of the great ideas we were coming up with that would ensure we’d be a tremendous value-added partner to our general contractors.

We worked our butts off for an entire year, spending lots of money on some of the best ideas we’ve ever come up with in construction. We were duly impressed with ourselves for having so many outstanding, highly valuable ideas, and we were on a mission to pursue them all that year.

The hard lesson we learned came later rather than sooner: We just had too many great ideas.

Can you see where I’m going with this? After all that work, only one of those ideas truly got done. Too many initiatives, no matter how life-changing they might be, equals little to no follow-through on them ALL. We had spread ourselves too thin. We were so exhausted that the one idea barely launched and was practically invisible to our customers!

It was from here that I learned about the power of three.

Coming up with three small ideas

Take a look at all your grand plans: how many of them do you think will produce a million dollars’ worth of savings or increase profitability for your company within a year?

Let’s say that you’re sitting in your board room and you’re asking all of your direct reports if it’s possible for the group to come up with three ideas that could save the company $2,500 a month. Or, something that not just saves the company $2,500 a month, but somehow produces $2,500 a month in more profit. We’re looking for three ideas, which combined, will produce $7,500 a month of incremental profitability.

When you take those three initiatives, each producing $2,500, and you’re successfully able to do this—not for only one month but for each month over a year—by the end of that year, you have produced almost a million dollars of sustainable difference in the profitability of your company.

It’s not always about the great big ideas that will create and sustain profitability; frequently, it’s about small ideas that are done in aggregate that have an extraordinary impact. Let’s face it, if you can get your people to make two or three small changes to decrease waste, you may find that you’ve cut your cumulative waste in half. For example, we have one company that produces over one ton of waste every month, and by waste, I mean a product that can’t be sold anymore. If we just took that one ton of waste and turned it into a sellable product versus something left on the floor, the company’s profitability would increase by 10% in a single year.

I’m really focusing here on the smaller things that can be done quickly—a sustainable difference that an individual can take on, easily understand, and easily execute within one month. If you take this very simple discipline and then magnify it, it’s instilling the same discipline throughout your company. You’ll be amazed at how fast change can happen.

Do the small things to get big outcomes

Brainstorm different examples of the small things done well and sustainably that will create permanent differences in your business. When you find those opportunities, what you’re really doing is strategically creating time. By focusing on your three small initiatives, you save your people time so they can get to the big things, which saves you money on the initiatives—start to finish.

Again: The saved money will help pay for your big initiatives and the saved time will free up the bandwidth so your people can now digest big projects without big risk to your company.

Your likely outcome is to produce more money but you’re also going to find ways to reduce the unnecessary work that’s clogging up the arteries within your company and your staff.

If you need improved financial results immediately, watch our three-part series on how to create financial stability now and improve profitability for the long term.