Where should you focus now?

In productivity by neville

When we go on vacation, it always takes a few days before we totally unwind and get to really enjoy our time off. The more exotic the place we go to the faster we unwind, but it always takes a few days.

I have a theory about why this works this way, and it goes something like this:

We get into patterns of working that take time to break. Those patterns are reinforced as long as we’re working; get up early, breakfast, work, lunch, work and maybe some relaxation in the evening.

To break those patterns takes time because we’re creatures of habit and habits are hard to break.

So what happens when you suddenly, even while you’re working, free up time?

What happens when you suddenly have time to spare?

I had this question from a friend a few weeks ago. He is a business coach, and one of the things that he did as part of his marketing and lead nurturing was to have online calls with prospects to see if they were a good fit for his business.

Problem is, these calls almost never resulted in new clients. So he decided to stop doing the free calls, and suddenly he had free time. Anywhere from four to eight hours a week. And he was at a loss as to what to do with this free time.

The problem with being busy all the time

Busy does not mean productive.

The worst kind of busy is the one where you’re proud of the fact that you’re working 80 hours per week. We’re so used to working endless hours and being stressed out all the time that we start wearing it like a badge of honour.

But busy does not mean productive. In the case of my friend, he had been spending a lot of time trying to nurture leads, but it wasn’t working. And we see this kind of busy all around us – people who are always running, stressed out and so busy they barely have time to break for lunch.

We get so tied up in busy work that we don’t have time to think about what’s working.

So we keep running on the treadmill until something happens that frees up time. We can free up time in many ways – in the case of my friend, deciding to stop doing what wasn’t working. In other cases, the loss of a big client may leave a big gap in your workload.

So you’ve freed up all this time; what do you do with it?

What are your highest value activities?

You could of course take time out for yourself. And if you can, do it – time off is a great way to re-energise and boost your creativity. But if your business needs to improve, you will most likely want to use your time to work on your business.

One way to determine what you can do with your new-found free time is to determine what your highest value activities are. This will vary from one person to the next, but usually it includes:

  • improving your marketing;
  • prospecting for new leads;
  • developing new products or services; or
  • as in my case, writing articles like this.

Finding your highest value activities is a combination of figuring out what needs to be improved, and figuring out what it is that you do that generates the most revenue for your business.

While this exercise is useful, how do you know that it’s the best thing to do to grow your business?

There’s a better way.

The Tornado Method

The Tornado Method is a framework for designing, building and growing a business. I developed it out of my own frustration looking for a holistic framework that would include all the things I needed to build a successful business.

There are 11 elements in three layers in the Tornado Method – here’s what it looks like:

I’ve tested the Tornado Method enough now to confidently say:

Get all 11 elements right, and you will not only have a successful business, you will have a life as well.

We can use the Tornado Method to help us decide where we need to focus next. It starts by looking at your Revenue Engine.

Your Revenue Engine

The top layer in the Tornado Method is called the Revenue Engine. This is the sequence of Marketing, Lead Nurturing, Sales, Delivery and Follow Up that generates revenue for your business and ensures you provide top-quality customer service.

The Revenue Engine on its own is a good way to determine where to focus next. You can rate each element of the Revenue Engine, and where your ratings are not up to what you think they should be – that’s where you need to focus.

The problem is not always in the Revenue Engine

But sometimes we will find that a Revenue Engine is not working, and no matter how hard we try, we still can’t get it working.

The problem with the Revenue Engine may not be in the Revenue Engine itself; it may be in the Building Blocks layer below the Revenue Engine.

The Building Blocks layer has three elements supported by a fourth:

  • Your Business Model describes how you create, capture and deliver value. If your business model is broken (for example, you’re trying to sell stuff people don’t need), your Revenue Engine will never work.
  • Your Brand is your business personality. It consists of things like your logo, colours, fonts, and most importantly the language you use to communicate with the world. If your brand is not consistent, and clear, and authentic, you will find it difficult to get results from your marketing.
  • The third element in the Building Blocks is your Product Ladder – the collection of products and services you offer to the market. If your offerings are not clear, and you don’t make it easy for clients to buy, you will find it difficult to make sales.

These three elements are supported by your Strategy and (business) Structure.

If any one of these elements are broken, you will find it difficult to build a Revenue Engine that delivers consistent, reliable revenue streams.

How does this help determine where to focus?

It’s relatively easy to figure out where your Revenue Engine is not performing. Each element in the Revenue Engine has a single question that determines whether that element is delivering what it should.

For example, the purpose of Marketing is to generate leads for your business. The question that you can ask to rate how well your Marketing is working is:

is my Marketing delivering enough of the right kinds of leads?

If you can answer yes, your marketing is working well enough. If not, you need to fix your marketing.

But what if I can’t seem to get my Revenue Engine working?

Chances are the problem is in one (or more) of your Building Blocks. There’s a question for each of those elements too; for example, for your Product Ladder the question is:

is it easy for them to buy the first time, and come back for more?

If you can’t answer “yes” to each question in the Building Blocks layer, you need to fix these problems before you can fix your Revenue Engine.

Fix your Building Blocks before trying to fix your Revenue Engine

If you have a car with a broken engine, you can fix the engine to get it running smoothly. But if the bits that the engine rests on – the chassis, wheels and so on – are not working well, your car will never go very far no matter how great the engine is.

So when you’re wondering where to focus next – sometimes because you’ve just freed up a lot of time – you need to make sure your Building Blocks are in good working order before you can fix the Revenue Engine.

You have to unwind to be able to really enjoy your vacation

Just like it takes a few days to unwind from the busy patterns of work before we can really enjoy a vacation, you have to step back from your business so you can look at it clearly enough to determine where you need to focus.

Sometimes you get to step back because you’ve freed up time. Other times you will be forced to take a deep, hard look at what’s working and what not.

And when you do, you can use a framework like the Tornado Method to figure out what’s working and what not. The problem may not always be in the obvious place, so you may have to dig a bit.

But when you’re able to step back, take some time for introspection, you will get to the heart of the problem a lot faster. Just like when you’re finally unwound and get to enjoy your vacation the most.

Get more information on the Tornado Method

The Tornado Method is the basis for a number of tools. One of those tools is called the Domino Sequence, and it helps determine where the root cause of a non- or low-performing business is.

You can download the free Beginner’s Guide to the Tornado Method here.