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Business planning: first, subtract

That's right, start by removing something from your business, rather than adding something. Originally this concept was introduced to me about twenty five years ago by a business coach who was helping me with time management. It came as something of a revelation to me to begin with the question "what will you cut out this year?" Looking at the diary for an individual this is an iron rule. Each person only gets 24 hours a day. Of course, I could delegate, or hire more people, but already that assumes I will stop doing something and make that the responsibility of someone else. You get the picture. 

Recently I was reminded of the concept by a couple of tweets by Ethan Mollick, a professor of innovation and entrepreneurship. The first was a reminder that Han Solo is just a cowboy without a hat. It might strike you as a silly example, but in the crowded world of entertainment Han Solo has become one of the most recognisable and loved characters. In this important, visual dimension, he is less than his predecessors. Something was removed to make him look different, in this case, the hat. Over time our services often become more complex as we add things in order to deal with new situations that arise or cater to new groups of customers. That creates plenty of room to create new services by reducing complexity. It is worth exploring. Also, you have a lot of freedom to invent micro-services, or easy 'building block' approaches to financial planning that could even be gamified. Imagine a full review completed in a series of micro-steps each of which only takes about five minutes.

The subtraction game can also be applied to your internal team. Perhaps there have been too many meetings? Too many projects? Too many people invited to each meeting. If you are not sure you can ask. Which meeting could you treat as optional? Which meeting would each staff member rather happened fortnightly rather than weekly and so on. This can be a useful tool to tackle presenteeism and performative work culture. 

This year, before I ask what can be added to the business, I am going to be checking what can be subtracted first. Debits necessarily come before credits. The time and focus I give new projects this year has to come from somewhere. It's about creating room to breathe. 



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