Sharpen Your Tools

Last week I was reminiscing about my youth and my Dad’s woodworking shop. With your forbearance, I’d like to take you down one more nostalgic trail.

In our shop we had a lot of tools and, as you can imagine, most of them had to have sharp edges. None were sharper than our chisels. While all the saw blades and planers, and router bits and drill bits had to be sharp, none required the sharpness of the chisel and the hand plane. The reason was simple: these were hand tools and, generally, the last tool to touch the wood. So they had to be sharp enough to do the job without a lot of force and they couldn’t leave any extraneous marks.

To this day, when I do any woodworking, there is nothing more satisfying, I’d even say spiritual, than using a sharp chisel or plane across a beautiful piece of wood. As the tool cuts there is a clean shaving and a sweet sound as that shaving comes off the wood. This can only happen with an extremely sharp and perfectly honed tool. And we learned how to do that in Dad’s shop. The interesting thing about our shop, though, was we broke a cardinal rule of most woodworkers: we kept all the chisels in a drawer – with no edge protection. Those of you who relate to this personally just went “ouch!”

But before you discount everything else, hear me out.

We learned how to properly sharpen tools through a series of finer and finer grit stones and then through a stropping process that created super sharp edges. This however was not a one time procedure. Every time we pulled a chisel out to use, we examined the blade and stropped it and made sure it was ready for use. We never assumed that it was ready “right out of the drawer.” So, while we were careless in one sense for keeping them all in a drawer, we were always testing the blades before they were used.

What’s the point? Well I’m glad you asked – that is, if you haven’t already come to it on your own.

You can’t do a job worthy of true craftsmanship, if you don’t, first of all, use the right tool. And second of all: make sure it’s sharp enough to use.

So today’s question is: When was the last time you read a business book? When was the last time you studied up on or sought advice on a problem that was troubling you at work? Not to become the expert, but to become knowledgeable enough to identify and analyze a challenge to determine the best way to tackle it. Do your people follow your example of always studying and learning more about their craft?

If you’re not sharpening your chisels to the sharpest edge, you’re not doing a true artisan’s job. You’re not doing the best you can do. Take the time to do that. Set, and be, the example so you’ll have a company full of sharp chisels ready to do their best.

Blessings,

Dave

Are You Making Plans for Next Year?

We’re talking here about your annual business planning session. The annual “how are we doing, where have we been and where are we going from here” meeting. However, if you’re looking to do the more significant strategic planning meeting, your list is going to be significantly different and will incorporate far different elements.

Here’s a brief checklist of the basic things to get done to make the most of your planning:

  1. Establish the objectives and purpose of your planning session. Include plans for all of the major business areas in your company:
    • Sales
    • Marketing
    • HR and personnel
    • Finances
    • Operations (systems and processes)
  1. Gather all the data needed to evaluate each of the above. Delegate this to the department heads when and where possible. It is important that your leadership team participate in this exercise. They (and you) will need the last 3 to 5 years of data and any comparative year to date info that has been tracked for the current year.
  2. Formulate the guidelines of the exercise to challenge your team and let them know what they are working toward.
  3. Set expectations for the new year. This will be the time to tell your team and get them all going in the direction you want. Ten percent growth year over year? Five new major clients?Five percent EBITDA growth?  You get the idea. You’re the leader.  You are the only one with a blank page. Everyone else will be working from your outline.
  4. Draft an agenda and determine how much time this planning time is going to take. One day? Two days? Delegate the planning of the program including location, food and other details.
  5. Schedule the meeting.  Put it on the calendar as soon as possible so everyone has ample time to clear everything else off their calendar. This should be a “no miss” meeting.

One final, but important, note: invite as many people as possible to participate and contribute to this, even if they are not going to be in the actual meeting. You want engagement and the best way to get it is to engage them first. If you’re a business of “one” you can still engage your closest adviser or mentor.

Good luck with your planning. If you need help in this early stage, the actual planning session or in the execution of the plan, I’m here for you. Call or text me. I’d be honored to help. Your success is my success.

Dave