Critical Non-Essentials : Easy Business Tweaks with Huge Results

Critical Non-Essentials : Easy Business Tweaks with Huge Results post image

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Tomorrow I’m recording a podcast with Ian and Brendan about a business concept that Brendan recently brought to my attention: critical non-essentials or CNEs.

I love the concept. Can you identify small processes you can implement in your business that have huge results? I’d love to hear what’s working for you.

Here are a few CNEs that are easy to implement. They have helped my make my business stronger.

Request Friday afternoon reports from staff you don’t have daily contact with.

Develop a report structure that focuses on your key metrics. Make sure it isn’t too time consuming to produce. I’d keep it under 30 minutes. By creating the report, your employees will be forced into a habit of doing the important work. In other words– the emotional labor of tracking and being responsible for results and making them visible to the broader organization.

Have a weekly 30 minute GTD round-up with your top staff.

This simple process saved us 80K annually. We started the meetings because we lost an operational manager (Mr. 80K) who’s job it was to basically track a bunch of spreadsheets and keep after our suppliers. We found by batching, focusing, and using strong GTD techniques we could duplicate his entire work week in 30 minutes. The key is to have everyone on the same GTD system. We weren’t there to discuss open issues. Instead, we labeled every open item with GTD terms. “Tickle that for tuesday” “put it in the x project folder” “send an email to Ian on that” etc.

Have an accountability partner in your business.

If you are working alone, you are leaving it on the table. Articulating what you are doing on a daily basis is part of the work of an information worker. Thank you, Ian.

Implement cart abandonment email follow-ups.

Thanks a bunch to TMBAer Simon for putting this on my radar. Buying is an emotional process. Many ecommerce owners have found that by sending emails within the hour to people who have abandoned your carts has remarkable results. Based on the reports I’ve read, this simple process could easily make us 10’s of thousands of dollars in the next few months. I’ll keep you updated on how it works out for us. I suspect I’ll owe Simon a few beers.

Respond to emails from prospective and current customers in under 1.5hrs.

Speed is extraordinarily effective when it comes to making sales, cutting deals, and keeping your customers happy. Customers are hot when they send you an inquiry. Imagine their buying temperature cool as time elapses.

The 1.5hr deadline is one I developed at my old job. It had amazing results. Because our target was to get back to people about complex projects in less than 1.5 hours, we had to optimize our system for creating quotes. That forced us to develop our own pricing guidelines rather than waiting for suppliers. That meant we had to build in more margin. Despite our higher pricing, our speed was winning us more business.

It’s difficult to quantify, but I believe this CNE accounted for a profound shift in our businesses success (we more than doubled over the course of 12 months).

Without a strong commitment to testing this new CNE, we would have never taken the radical move to estimate pricing on our own and add in margin. Because we were committed to the process, however, we found a huge opportunity for business upside that made our lives easier and served our customers better.

We’ll be putting our 10 best on tomorrow’s podcast. Would love to hear your thoughts.


PS, we are having a party next weekend in Puerto Galera. Hope to see you there.

PPS, if you liked this article and want to hear more from me, plus be notified when I run impromptu conference calls and stuff like that (happening this Wednesday, for example) please do hop on the mailing list.

Published on 10.03.11
  • Hi Dan,

    Here’s my CNE: checking once a week if you are still on the right track according to the strategy you have set up for yourself.

    Regards from Greece,

  • Dan

    ha! easier said then done, that’s an ambitious one. :)

  • Well, I guess once one has a strategy in place it shouldn’t be that difficult to indeed sit and ponder a bit about where one is. But of course the emphasis lies on ‘has’, because it’s probably rather the exception to have a (clear) strategy when it comes to ones online approach. I guess, one needs to look at it as business from day one to realize that a strategy won’t hurt at all. But to be honest: I am totally talking theoretically :)

  • Dan

    haha… I think about this strategic focus this week as I’m spending a lot of time traveling. It’s so easy to fall in to rhythms and start to depend on them rather than the key results you are trying to produce. One of the things I love about being in transit for a few days is that you have to let things go, and you can get a little strategic perspective. I’m looking forward to it :)

  • Dan

    FYI for those interested in this topic, here are the 8 CNEs that we discussed today:

    The monthly reports & client call as per the report Weekly GTD Meetings Followup emails for ecommerce businesses + Cart abandon emailsUsing first person perspective in emails instead of second person in customer communications/sales emails where possible/appropriateRespond to client emails in 1.5hrspeople photography on your websiteDevelop a report structure that focuses on your key metrics. Make sure it isn’t too time consuming to produce. Lunch every 8 weeks to inventory personal desires + open vacation policy

  • Totally agree with the 1.5 hr rule. Even better if you can respond within 1.5 hrs with a time constraint!

  • Dan

    Like a boss! :)

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