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Rule #1

It is a simple lesson learned by those good at what they do.  The world’s best software designers use it as their primary focus, as do diplomats, the nation’s top deal-makers, and (believe it or not) legislators evaluating U.S. tax policy.  Whatever the path, there are many roads to a successful outcome, but they all start with Rule #1:  Make it easy for people to do what you want them to do. 

Allow me to illustrate.

Two weeks ago, my 10 year old came down with strep throat.  Once he spiked a fever, my wife took him to our neighborhood urgent care center.   To date, I’ve received three statements from my insurance carrier.  Three separate envelopes.  Three detailed statements.  I still don’t know what I owe.  I presume these people want me to pay them.  (Why else would they send me the statements?)  I want to pay them.  But they’re not making it easy.  Instead, they are making it almost inevitable that I will do one of three things:

  1. Delay paying them until I can sort out their bill
  2. Call  their customer service number and tie up a representative for a while, thereby raising their employment costs by making such people necessary in the first place
  3. Pay the wrong amount, forcing their accounting people to deal with the discrepancy

Not one of these things is what the insurance company wants. They want their payment promptly; and they’re not going to get it.  This company has failed to follow Rule #1.

Every facet of your business, from employee policies to marketing and customer service, should be created from the ground up in service to Rule #1. In other words, for each part of your business, figure out what you want and then develop policies which make it easy for people to give it to you.

  • If you want people to pay you timely, make your bills easy to understand, stick religiously to a schedule when sending them out, make sure they do not contain unpleasant surprises,  give people a variety of ways to pay, and submit your invoices or requests for payment in a form readily acceptable by your customers.
  • If you want your customers to use you as a resource, make it easy for them to find and contact you on at their convenience.   (If your business serves construction contractors, for example, you better be reachable at 7:00 a.m. because that’s when they’re on the job site.)
  • If you want to know what your employees are thinking, create policies which incent them to provide their input and make it easy for them to do so.
  • If you want someone to keep sending work your way, figure out how you could make sending you work a no-brainer for them.   For example, see if you can send referral sources a quick reference which would serve the dual purpose of making their job easier while keeping your company’s contact information front and center.  Another example would be to offer free services such as assessment or contract review to enable your referral sources to get the ball rolling on a project without cost.  After all, once you’re in; you’re in.

Rule #1 applies equally to customers, employees, partners, and investors. Too many company policies exist simply because they always have.  As noted by despair.com

“Just because you’ve always done it that way doesn’t mean it’s not incredibly stupid.”

If that’s where you are, change. The tough part, of course, is actually examining each facet of your business — from HR policies to website design – to figure out what response you want, and what kind of responses are counterproductive.  Once you have that figured out, discard the policies that do not serve Rule #1 and build on those that do.

Good luck.

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