November/December 2023
What will give you the most juice for the squeeze? By Stan Pohmer

Prioritize and focus your time, effort and resources on activities that provide the maximum payback.

You’ve heard this before, but it’s even more critical in today’s hyper-competitive world: If you’re not changing, you’re losing ground, especially as your competitors (including both the IGCs and non-GCs in your market) are fighting for the same consumer dollars as you are.

Every year, I attend Cultivate; the Farwest Show; Florida Nursery, Growers and Landscape Association (FNGLA) events; and more regional events, picking up lots of new approaches, trends, directions, and ideas for businesses and the customer, inspired with a sense of empowerment and filled with a sense of unbridled opportunity. This, however, creates my first challenge: Which of these ideas offers the biggest payback, is implementable and is within the resources (time, money, people) I have available to invest?

The second challenge isn’t that any of the ideas are bad or can’t benefit me personally as a leader of my business, but that the sheer number of ideas is overwhelming. Since there’s no human way I can implement them all at once (or even within the year), it’s difficult to prioritize them all. This can lead to decision paralysis, and none of the ideas are implemented. Intentions are great, but without implementation, they’re worthless.

Like most people, I always have a million things I want to get accomplished every day, and unless I write them all down on my to-do list, I can never remember them all. Then the distractions start creeping in — phone calls, emails and texts, social media, people dropping by to ask for my help in solving their problems. These all prevent me from working on the things I personally want to get to each day. And then a sense of frustration sets in because I didn’t do what I intended and needed to do, and I complain that there are never enough hours in a day to get everything done.

Creating Priorities

After writing down all of your great ideas you might want to implement during the course of the year, it’s now time to prioritize them based on getting the biggest benefit for the smartest allocation of resources and assets available to me. Start by selecting one BHAG (big hairy audacious goal) that will have a major payback over your entire business, such as an integrated sales and inventory tracking database that captures activity at the lowest level of detail, is linked to a customer purchase tracking system and also monitors shrink.

A project like this can completely change the way you manage your business and be the basis for a customer-specific loyalty program. It, however, is resource-intensive and will take time to design and implement. One of the major problems with BHAGs is that they’re always on my to-do list, but they never get done because it’s easier and more convenient to tackle the smaller, easy tasks and feel accomplished crossing them off the list. But is this approach really helping my productivity? No — and that’s why I strongly recommend tackling just one BHAG per year.

Whether it’s due to the challenging economic environment, our need to be connected 24/7 or a blurring of our personal and professional lives, we’ve looked to multitasking as the fix to our problems. But a recent study at Stanford University shows that heavy multitasking may encourage even heavier multitasking because it leads to a “reduced ability to filter out interference” or distractions, resulting in lower productivity and higher stress and frustration levels.

A Process for Prioritizing

So where do you start? Consider this process; you can adapt it to your own style as needed:

  1. Prioritize and write down all your tasks or projects, marking each one as either “vital” or “trivial.”
  2. For BHAGs, break the project down into bite-sized, sequential tasks. Make sure that you include the sequential tasks from your BHAG project in your master list so you stay on your project timeline.
  3. At the end of every day, go through your list and write down your top six priorities (from your “vital” tasks list) that you want to accomplish the next day on your smartphone project manager.
  4. Don’t attempt to work on “vital” No. 2 to 6 priorities until after you complete your No. 1 “vital” task each day.
  5. Make a list of routine, day-to-day, operational to-dos; make an effort to delegate these to your team at the beginning of the day so you can personally work on the “vitals” and BHAGs.
  6. Beware of distractions! Try to avoid checking email and texts, looking at social media, interruptions from staff members, phone calls, etc., that break into your blocked out time. If you do need to be disrupted, make a conscious effort to write down what the interruption/distraction was and why you allowed it; this will help mentally reinforce the need to minimize distractions.

This process will help you prioritize and focus your time, effort and resources on those activities that provide the maximum payback, while eliminating busy work.

Sure, we’d like to be able to do everything, but your time and other resources are limited. Make sure you invest them wisely! Over time, you’ll find that some tasks will never make the “vital” side of the ledger and will eventually drop off your list completely. In most cases, you’ll find that no one (yourself included) will know or care that they weren’t completed.

You’ll find that you accomplish more important activities that have real payback and increased productivity. On the personal side, you’re more satisfied and stress free, with less frustration.

Sounds simplistic? Maybe it is, but the concept really works if you are serious about it and use it consistently.  It’s all about focus.

So, what will give you the most bang for your invested resources, the most juice for your squeeze? The choices are many; it’s up to you to choose the best ones for your business and your customer.

For an enhanced reading experience, view this article in our digital edition.

Stan Pohmer

Stan Pohmer is president of Pohmer Consulting Group in Minnetonka, Minnesota. He can be reached at [email protected] or 612-605-8799.