Recently I had the pleasure of being introduced to the concept of mindfulness. While there are many textbook definitions, I like to describe it simply as the intentional awareness of everything around you. Sounds deep for a business topic, I know. Maybe a fresh perspective is what your business is missing?
After 17 years of running a small business, I never once saw a seminar, workshop or online course teaching about mindful business. Search online today and you’ll find a growing conversation. If it had only started sooner, maybe I’d be on a yacht somewhere wearing a hoodie. Oh, well.
Mindfulness teaches us to selectively focus, avoiding the physical, emotional or environmental distractions that surround us. Case in point: As I’m writing this, my email keeps going blippity, blip. If I’d have perfected mindfulness (which I haven’t), I could acknowledge those blips and get right back to writing. See? Mindfulness helps you cope with the email-social-media-short-attention-span world we live in daily, so you can get the real work done. But there’s more.
Lack of mindfulness leads to autopilot.
Ever wake up after 10 minutes of zoned-out driving? Or while snacking and watching your favorite show suddenly found the bottom of an empty chip bag? Or my personal favorite — two people stand up, walk between you and the TV and you never even saw them leave the room. Sometimes we’re so inundated with chaos, or so hypnotized by routine, that we completely miss what’s going on around us.
We do this in business, too. Only here, the cost is much higher than cheezy-fingers and an extra half-hour on the treadmill. Running your business on autopilot can result in lost time, lower profit and poor morale. But a mindful approach to business helps you become aware and focus on eliminating inefficiency within your company, or between you and your trading partners. For starters:
Keep an Eye on Recurring Expenses
It’s too easy to sign up for services today. Fill out a form, enter your credit card and everything from magazine and software subscriptions to your phone bills are auto-billed each month. Look closely and you may find that you don’t use that software anymore, or you’re paying the phone bill for someone who left the company six months ago. It all adds up. And it all comes off your bottom line.
Cure Cash Flow Blindness
Here’s a favorite topic of incredibility at Viewpost. You send an invoice to a client, but you have no idea if it was received. If it was, there’s no way to tell if it’s been approved, or when you’ll be paid. So you call and hear the usual, “Oh yeah, it’s on my desk. I’ll get it processed right away.” And then two weeks later you call up to hear that your check is, “in the mail.” But it still takes four days to arrive, and then you still have to drive it to the bank for deposit only to wait more for the funds to clear. Sound familiar? (No need to raise your hand, we’re all guilty.) Which is why we built Viewpost to allow you to see the status of invoices and know when you’ll be paid. Plus, it’s free to receive electronic payment, so no more trips to the bank.
Put Paper Checks to Rest
More inefficiency we’re happy to eliminate. Let’s begin with a crazy data point: U.S. businesses still send more than 13 billion paper checks annually. Why? Because that’s what they’ve always done. Or because they have check stock to use up. So they do, by writing a check, stick that paper in a paper envelope, lick, stick and pay for a stamp, and then wait for some fossil-fuel guzzling vehicle to transport the check to its final destination. Our entire country is on autopilot on this one. But more and more, as people become mindful of the inefficiency of paper, they’re moving to electronic payment methods, like Viewpost, where you can send electronic payment for roughly the price of postage.
From Mind-Numbing to Mindful
Now, if someone could only figure out how to silence the inefficiency of business voicemail, I think this mindful business could really catch on. Who needs Mechanical Mary to tell them to 1) wait for the beep, and 2) hang up after leaving a message? If outgoing voicemail messages were reduced by 10 seconds per call, and for simple math we assume people listen to six recordings per day, then we could save each of the 50 million office workers in the U.S. one minute per day, or 833,333 work hours. Which, at minimum wage of $7.25/hr., adds up to $6,041,666 of productivity saved each day. Hey, if I could solve this myself, I’d be well on my way to getting my hoodie and a yacht, but we’ll all have to work together on this one.
Here’s to short voicemail recordings — and mindful business.