One Percent Change

As I was first starting my career, I had heard of a philosophy that my employer had: “Make small incremental changes.  Don’t just look for the big ideas.  Think small and be effective.”

That philosophy was called 1% Change. Simply put, she thought that if we look for ideas that are easy to implement, inexpensive, and done without a large effort (in time and resources) we could make a significant difference long term.

It took a number of years to sink in, but I realized that she was right.  Too many times, I (and many other people I was around) looked for the next big idea rather than what they could do today and gain from.  Yes, big ideas are important, and yes, big ideas need to happen.  But not every idea has to be big. Sometimes simple is simply better.

If you own or run a business, what can you do today to make a difference in your revenue or expenses? Not big, but small; and when I say small, I mean it.  Like 1% small.   Back in 2002 I owned a real estate investing company; My business partner and I did well but were always looking how we could do better. Our offices were located on the 2nd floor of  a retail strip center and we had almost no walk in traffic.  Our offices were located in that center for our convenance only.  To be honest, I am not sure who came up with the idea, but we decided to spend $5,700 on an exterior awning. The design was created, a vendor chosen and within 2 weeks or so, we had an awning.

Within a few days of installation, we started to see an increase in calls to our offices and we had 1 to 2 people knocking at our door each day.  That idea led to a solid increase in opportunity for us almost immediately, and in the end, more revenue.  That awning taught me to think small and to think consistently.

Over the years, I have tried to always think about 1% change.  And just like any idea (big or small), some worked and some didn’t. But more then anything, what I have tried to do is not be afraid of change.  No matter how small.

Ask yourself this: What change can I put into place that will have a positive effect today?  If I can make a 1% change today, and another 1% next month and so on and so forth, those small efforts will lead to a potential 12% change in the top or bottom line.  And 12% (in my opinion) is nothing to sneeze at.

But this also doesn’t have to be just about work. It can be about saving money for retirement, eating better or getting in better shape.  It can be about spending more time with your kids and less time on electronics.

My friend Kris, in the photo above, sets goals each year on what he wants to improve on with this workouts. They are specific goals. Do they fit the 1% change philosophy? Not sure that is up to me to say.  If he thinks that they are, awesome.  But they are things he knows he can put into place without a lot of decision making or expense. He thinks about how he can get better or stronger each and every day.  What can he modify to meet his goals? How can he change to improve? Just like his shirt says: “Suck it up Buttercup“, he thinks about small modest improvements and just does it.

As we enter in 2015, I think about my own 1%.  And to be honest, I don’t think I did a very good job at it in 2014.  So maybe my first 1% change will be to think about 1% for 2015.

Flying Time

I always knew that with three kids, time would run together and I would be an official carpool parent for an extended period of time.  When my oldest son, James, was first born, people said time would fly by and I would be surprised at how fast it occurred.  I thought to myself, like every parent does: “How can 18 years fly by?”.  Well I am here to tell you it does!

I am sitting here with just a few months left before James heads off to college.  We don’t know where he will end up, but we have a 1 in 7 guess based on the applications that he has submitted. It is hard to think how difficult these next few months will be knowing that my little boy will be moving out and going someplace where I can’t see him every day. The house will seem different with him not being around and causing some sort of ruckus and the daily routines will certainly change.

As I think about the upcoming transition, I have realized a few things.  First, it really has dawned on me that it has been the small things that have been important and not the big life events.  Of course a number of examples come to mind, but best example, I can share is a tradition that started when James was first born.  Almost every night, since James was a little boy, I have kissed him (and his siblings) good night. For those nights that I was traveling and not at home, I would call home at exactly 8:30 to say good night.  It didn’t matter where I was in the world and what time it was for me, if it was 8:30 for him, I would be on the phone saying good night and asking about his day.  I have never found anyone: a client, employee or boss that didn’t appreciate the ritual and effort in being there for my kids. There were times it was a hard goal to accomplish and I had to ask my wife for help. Most of those times were when we lived in California and I was in Europe or Africa.  The time difference made it so that she had to call and wake me up from a sound sleep.  I can’t say I was very coherent, but at least I got to hear his voice.

As he got older, it became easier to either miss a kiss good night or a call home. I realized recently that I was not living up to the promise I made to him those many years ago. I am not sure what promoted me to start making sure that I kissed them goodnight every night again, but I think I just missed doing it and restarted what should have never ended.