Yes.  I can say it. “I drink light beer (sometimes)”.  It’s hard for me to say, especially in writing.  You see, I came of age as the micro-brewing phenomenon took this country by storm in the late 80s and early 90s.  I haven’t met a dark pint of porter or a bottle of hoppy India Pale Ale that I didn’t like.  I was so passionate about good beer that my housemates and I brewed our own beer that aged under the living room pool table.  If those guys had known that I would be writing this now, I wouldn’t have had a place to lay my head.

beerSo how did I end up in my current state of affairs?  I made the mistake of growing older.  More to the point, my metabolism grew older and slowed down.  I had a decision to make.  I could either quit drinking beer, which is like staring right into the abyss.  Or I could weigh 400 lbs, which would not be ideal.  Or I could figure out how to enjoy a beer or two each night without swallowing a thousand calories.  Well, I decided to make a compromise.  Because drinking a Silver Bullet works a lot better within my overall process of managing my girth and still unwinding after work with a cold one in the evenings.  Have you ever made a tradeoff in something important in your business?

Time or Money – What Do You Tradeoff?

Although I have a healthy number of sales and customer support experts these days, I make a habit of taking my turn picking up the 800 number calls to stay close to the market.  At least a couple times a month, I end up on the phone with a small business owner that has a compromise to make in their business.  It turns out that most of them are happy to belly-up to the bar with me and enjoy the sweet taste of a small tradeoff for a big benefit.  But we can’t get every single one of them there.  What am I talking about?  It may be easier to recount one of those conversations.  Full disclosure: If you like happy endings, I recommend clicking this link to “Snow White”, which my daughter loves.

“Hi Rob.  Glad to talk to a company that actually picks up the phone.  I run a catering staffing business out here in New York.  I have about  120 workers – bartenders and wait staff.  I am looking for a scheduling system to replace me emailing and calling everyone.” [Rob’s brain:  I’m thinking ‘great, this guy knows he needs what he wants.’  Of course, he was well past the crossover point of 25-50 workers when staffing companies normally need a system to avoid hiring another scheduler, but I digress.]

“Can you tell me what made you begin looking for a scheduling system.  Is there something that is not working in your current process?” [Open-ended question.  I always learn a lot from the response, which I am genuinely interested in.]

“Well, I’m at the point where I cannot grow my business anymore, because I spend so much time hand-picking who works when.” [Recognizes he has a problem . . . good start.] “But I have always kept really tight control of exactly who works for every client on any night.  My clients expect that.  Can your system let me do that?” [This isn’t a red flag by any means. In fact it is a fairly common statement from a small business owner.  Because none of them got to where they are by not caring about their clients.  It was only the way he said the words that made me pause.]

“We have a great system to help with your conundrum.  You can let your workers self-select some of their shifts to take some the assigning burden off you, which will enable you to focus on sales and client development.”

“Oh no, they can’t self select anything.  I need to tell them when to work.” [Rob’s brain is starting to hurt at this point.  That dull ache which portends a piercing migraine.]

“You can tell them all when to work with our system if you want.  Assign them all shifts.  They will get notified and can log in to see the schedule.  The system will work great for that.  But in reality, you won’t save a whole lot of time to grow your business, because you will still be assigning everyone.”

“But I need to save time to grow the business!” [Type A.  Heck, I’m Type A.  He was Type AAA.]

“Then you will need to let go of the process just a little bit.  You can create teams of A-players so you know that only your best folks are seeing and self-selecting shifts for certain clients.  But a tiny bit of a compromise will be required in your process if you want to meet your business goals.”

“But you don’t understand.  My clients expect perfection from me.  I HAVE to decide every person who goes to every client.” [When I said piercing above, I was talking laying my ear to the pavement within a foot of a jack hammer.]

Control is More Important Than Time or Money…  Sometimes

I provided him 3 demos over the course of a week, including one with his business partner.  He couldn’t let go of it.  I called him the day after the third one and said I recommended he quit looking for a system.  He had one.  It was email and the phone.  And I wasn’t being snide.  He loved that process, because he could control everything with it.  There just weren’t enough hours in a day to grow the business or focus on things only he could do to grow the client base.  Where is he today?  I guarantee he is still at 120 workers. I hope he is happy, but he couldn’t make the tradeoff.

We see a scheduler’s productivity at least double and usually triple with our system.  When they let their workers pick up some of their own shifts, they reduce the back-and-forth email and voicemail of changing, trading, canceling, rescheduling, etc.  You know the drill.  TASTES GREAT, AND LESS FILLING.  Grab a cold one.

–Rob Eleveld