by Dori Saltzman– Travel Market
The simplest of tools – note-taking, checklists and work plans – can pave the way to business success. That’s according to author and workplace trainer Bruce Tulgan.
Tulgan is founder of Rainmaker Thinking, a workplace research and training firm. He is also the author of It’s Okay to Manage Your Boss and It’s Okay to Be the Boss, and his work has appeared in The New York Times, USA Today and the Harvard Business Review.
Businesspeople who operate on a conscious level are more likely to succeed, Tulgan said. This involves becoming aware of every business process, project and task; mapping those out in detail; and then using those maps as work guides.
Tulgan’s tools for what might be called conscious business management are at anyone’s fingertips: note-taking, checklists and work plans.
Travel Market Report spoke with Tulgan to learn more about how travel agency owners, managers and frontline salespeople can use checklists and other simple tools of conscious management to boost their success.
“The first thing you have to do is distinguish between a one-time or infrequently occurring project and a recurring project,” Tulgan said.
Not all processes, projects and tasks require the use of note-taking, checklists and work plans, he explained.
“You don’t need to make a plan for every recurring task. For recurring tasks, the best tool is a list of standard operating procedures and a checklist of detailed, step-by-step instructions.”
Tool #1: Notetaking
Once you’ve decided that a task or project should be mapped out, the first step is to observe yourself doing the task. Pay close attention to everything you do and take notes.
“Break the task down into the smallest pieces, so you’re comprehensive,” Tulgan said. And if a process or procedure is especially successful, make a note of that.
The resulting log is what you will use to create the standard operating procedures and related checklists you need to run your business.
The benefits of creating comprehensive checklists, or step-by-step instructions, are twofold, Tulgan said: They keep people focused and on-track, and they’re great for sharing and teaching information.
Examples of travel agency work processes or tasks that you might want to create checklists for include: identifying leads, making cold calls, following up on lukewarm leads and following up on hot leads.
– Seller’s checklist: Checklists for the sales process should include the following – questions to ask, when to ask them, what to say if leaving a voicemail, answers to give in response to different questions asked by a prospect/client.
– Details are essential: Make checklists as detailed as possible and avoid broad concepts, Tulgan said. For example, if creating a checklist for a sales call, rather than including “be cheerful” as a step, use “smile when you speak.”
– Proper use of checklists: To avoid the wallpaper syndrome that frequently plagues checklists, keep a copy of a checklist in front of you and physically check off each step. “That’s the difference between a checklist and instructions,” Tulgan said.
– Training with checklists: Make sure trainees familiarize themselves with a checklist before they begin the associated task. “You have to learn what’s on the list in order to effectively use it as a tool,” Tulgan said.
Tool #3: Work Plans
For special projects, including those that will eventually become part of everyday operating procedures, a work plan is in order. “With a work plan, you either start from scratch or from the best example of what you want to do,” Tulgan said.
Examples of special projects might include a cruise night with several lines or a passport registration afternoon. Examples of projects that will eventually become part of everyday business might include adding social media to your marketing or expanding into the meetings and incentives market.
– Do your homework; Research is the first step in building a work plan, Tulgan said. “What are the established best practices? Maybe find a finished product and work back from that.”
How much time you spend in the research phase will depend on what’s at stake.
“If it’s a big project, spend some time planning. That’s going to save you a huge amount of cost and time going forward. But you don’t want to put a lot of time and energy into something that doesn’t have high stakes.”
– Create the steps: Once you’ve done your research and determined what you want your results to be, create the steps that will take you from A to Z.
“Figure out what are the steps along the way and, for each step, what are the intermediate steps. Then turn the intermediate steps into a list of concrete actions. For each concrete action, you need a set of instructions to be used as a checklist.”
– Case in point: Let’s say you want to add social media to your marketing mix. The first step would be to learn about best practices in social media. The next step might be to figure out which social media interfaces to use and how to integrate the best practices into your business.The next step might be creating a step-by-step checklist for updating your social media.
– Build in flexibility: Work plans should not be set in stone, Tulgan noted. As you keep learning, you likely will need to revise and adjust your plans.