Stop, Drop, Evolve and Grow
We all know the three-step fire safety technique we were taught as children: stop, drop and roll. It stands the test of time because of its simplicity and effectiveness.
Over the years, I’ve taken this concept and modified it somewhat to develop a business safety technique that I call Stop, Drop, Evolve and Grow. It is one of the tools that has helped me stay focused on the future.
While the fire safety technique uses specific commands that deliver an immediate (hopefully positive) result, the adaptation focuses on questions you can — and should — regularly ask yourself about you, your teammates and your business to stay on the right path to success.
Here are the basic questions:
- What should you STOP doing because it consumes bandwidth better spent on moving you or your business forward?
- What should you DROP because the business needs have changed? Do all of your team members fit where the organization is going? Do you have any products or services that no longer fit your business model or the future of our industry? Are there customers who aren’t the right fit for your organization’s focus or who don’t deliver the return on investment they should? These are tough questions that require an honest and thoughtful look.
- What should EVOLVE? Are there resources, programs or services that still have meaning and value but need to be reassessed and altered for continued viability and relevance?
- Where should you focus to invest in your GROWTH? Are there products, services or extensions you should add to the mix? Do you have the right mentality and depth of talent to blossom in the digital age of graphic arts and communications? Are there resources you should be leveraging to ensure you know what the future holds for our industry?
The key is to be deliberate and thoughtful when answering these questions and focus specifically on your business, not the industry in general. Tailor your answers to your business and your customers.
I’ve found that these questions have helped me stay focused on the big picture instead of getting lost in the day-to-day weeds of work. For example, in my earlier days, I was leading a large network, had good people and was enjoying it, for the most part. However, I was working like a dog. In order to not sacrifice family time, I was getting to the office at 4-5 a.m. and frequently doing the same on weekend mornings.
This was exhausting. Taking time for reflection, I asked myself how so many people seem to work a "normal" schedule, have time for family, friends, fun and outside interests and what I needed to do differently?
I monitored how I spent my time for a few weeks and here’s what happened:
Stop. I prioritized what meetings to attend and asked that I be notified if my input or presence was “essential.”
I stopped getting sucked into email purgatory and engaged my assistant to address more of the inquiries, and asked to be taken off of messages for which my involvement was not necessary.
Great read: "Essentialism" by Greg McKeown
Drop. I dropped “owning” so much. While many of our customers came directly to me, it didn’t mean I was the fastest route to addressing their issue. I had a great team who could make things happen more efficiently than I could.
Great read: "The One Minute Manager Meets the Monkey" by Ken Blanchard
Evolve. We looked to shorten the time required for every meeting without sacrificing results. My assistant shaved time off of every standing meeting and left a 15-minute buffer in case it was needed. Imagine saving 15-30 mins off 8-10 meetings per week. That frees up a morning for you!
Great reads: Too many to mention. "7 Habits, 4 Hour Work Week, First Things First"
Grow. What wasn’t I doing enough of? I’m no fitness freak, but I do appreciate the head clearing properties of exertion. I came to the office in my workout clothes so I could visit the gym, but realized I could combine my love of cycling and my 13-mile commute from the office. I needed to get to work somehow so why not combine my exercise and transportation?
I wanted to continue feeding my interests on leadership and our industry, so I blocked time at the beginning and end of each day for "no meetings." I didn’t hit the mark every day, but if you draw a line in the sand, you have something to shoot for.
My end result certainly wasn’t perfection, but I made serious progress and I retain many of those learnings today!
Just like you take the time to check your fire alarms and conduct fire safety drills, remember to also take the time to Stop, Drop, Evolve and Grow. Being prepared for business success will help you fan the flames of success.
Kevin Cushing leads the Allegra, American Speedy Printing, Insty-Prints, KKP, Speedy Printing and Zippy Prints brands as president of Alliance Franchise Brands' Marketing and Print Division.
Alliance Franchise Brands LLC, the parent company of Allegra Network LLC and Sign and Graphics Operations LLC, is a world leader in marketing, visual and graphics communications, linking more than 600 locations in North America and the United Kingdom. The Marketing and Print Division is headquartered in Plymouth, Michigan. Franchise owners in this division offer one-stop marketing and print communications services. Its Sign and Graphics Division, headquartered in Middle River, Maryland, includes Image360, Signs By Tomorrow and Signs Now brands of sign, graphics and visual communications providers.
Cushing has owned and operated award-winning franchise locations, was inducted into Epicomm's Soderstrom Society, and was named Print CEO of the Year in 2011 when he served as CEO of AlphaGraphics Inc.