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The promise: 1 book, 1 tool, 1 idea, every week.

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1 Book: The Goal, by Eliyahu Goldratt.

This book is different from any of the other standard business books. It is a novel, telling a story. If you are not gripped by the story, then maybe you shouldn't be an entrepeneur.

Alex Rogo is the Plant Manager of a factory that just isn't working very well. He embarks on a hero's journey, with a wise, mysterious mentor, and becomes a kingly figure that is able to wisely rule his domain. His employers reward him and much money is made.

The secret sauce- the Theory of Constraints. Mr. Goldratt has made a pile of money teaching common sense to business people, and this is the basis of the whole thing. It is originally applied to manufacturing, but has been extended to all facets of business.

The kernel - every system is made up of "stuff" flowing through a series of steps (see why I like this idea?). There is always a constraint, a step that slows all the rest of the steps down. If you don't treat the constraint as special, you get piles of work-in-progress (WIP), which leads to waste. Optimizing based on the constraint keeps the flow smooth and steady. And then the constraint moves, and you get to optimize again.

The book is Alex's story as he learns the Theory of Constraints, always the hard way, and always at the last second. I am always looking for the right textbook to just give me the principles, but Mr. Goldratt prefers to tell the story.

1 Tool: Typeform

Data collection is painful. Everyone hates filling out forms. But conversations are much more natural, and turning a form into a conversation spreads the pain out and leaves a good taste in your mouth.

Typeform has turned this into a business. Sign up, create a form, go through the steps, and you can replace the intimidating-but-necessary form on your site with a friendly conversation with a website that records your answers.

In fact, go ahead and try one out: this is a survey North Creek is running to determine what cloud tools you are using, and how well they talk to one another.

Typeform connects with Google Analytics to track website visitors. It hooks into Zapier which is a cloud tool-linking tool (I'll review Zapier next week). It exports data to spreadsheets (.xlsx format). Free for the basic functionality, and Pro costs a bit more, but adds more convoluted logic and the ability to connect two Typeforms together (which is what I use Pro for).

Highly recommended, as it removes a painful, scary step from user and data acquisition.

1 Idea: FLOW

You may know about "flow state," where you are able to be productive for hours without noticing where the time has gone.

You may be thinking about flow charts, boxes and arrows, diamonds to decide, and circles to stop.

You may be thinking about water. Rivers, waterfalls, streams, creeks.

Flow has something to do with movement, something to do with constant change, something to do with progress. When things are "flowing," that's a good thing.

Barriers to flow are usually bad - unless the levee is protecting the city from the flood. But guidelines that keep the flow in check are often incredibly helpful.

Your business is made up of flows. Customers, money, data, material, employees - all are part of the tapestry of flows that make up a business. They are operating on different timescales, changing at different rates, and each flow requires a different mindset.

Just thinking about the flows in your business will make a difference in how you see events. But stopping some flows, putting up floodways for others, and encouraging yet others - that is how you can build your business into a system that generates a flow of value.

Here's to an ever-increasing flow of good things!


Talk back to me in the forum, sign up for coaching, or take a look around at the resources North Creek offers.

Categories: Business