One of the challenging parts of being a business owner is taking a substantial amount of time to make the best decisions for your company. It doesn't always mean that you just flip a coin whenever you need to choose. Weighing the pros and cons is the most effective way to move forward. Being patient while using the right tools and implementing a systematic process are some of the contributors to sustaining a start-up business. Many of us make the mistake of thinking that it has to be perfect by the launch date not knowing that constant running of tests, trial and error, and failures are included in the package. So preparation and consistency will help you armour your business on its way to success. In this episode, Crista Grasso, the creator of both the Lean Out Method and the 90-Day Lean Out Planner, shares tips for leaning out to level up.
Josh: G’day everyone out there in podcast land, we've got a special guest here from Lean Out Method, we've got Crista Grasso, and she's going to be talking today about why you need to lean out your business to level up.
So how do I know if I'm running a lean mean business machine or not? How do you go about knowing that you're at that right spot, you need to lean? Or how do you know the health of your business?
Crista: So honestly, it usually comes down to do you have way too much going on? You're constantly overworked, you're constantly overwhelmed? Or do you feel like you're always focused on the right things, things tend to be flowing, not that you don't have issues, because you know, you always have issues in business, there's always the unexpected things that come up. But you have a really high degree of confidence that you're always working on the right things that are actually making a difference, the things that are adding value for your customers and profitability for the business. And you have that really clear alignment to what your strategic objectives and goals and vision are for the business. If you're in that space, you're already well on your way to lean. If you're more in the place that a lot of businesses are, where there's just a lot going on, you're not quite sure if the things that you're doing or the things they're actually going to make the difference are actually going to really drive that profitability or be things that your customers are really looking for. That's when you know that you have a real opportunity to lean out.
Josh: Okay, I got a lot of great things to ask. So I know dad's always said to me, prior planning prevents piss poor performance. And it sounds like a lot of this comes down to making sure you are planning out for things like that, would that be fair to say?
Crista: Absolutely. I'm a huge fan of strategic planning. And I always add a lean flavour to that. So that you're combining that strategic planning along with lean practices. So you really are just getting super crystal clear on what are those things that are going to make the most difference so you can focus there, and just eliminate all that noise and waste in the system.
Josh: So I'm a big fan of lists myself, I love writing things. And I'll have a brainstorming day, normally with a cheeky beer and sit down and just write down. Okay, where is my business, where do I want it to be? Where's it going? And having an engineering background, I do a lot of planning, I do 90% planning, 10% execution. So sometimes I'd say I probably plan too much, then sometimes miss the reason why I was planning, that's a problem for me that I'm trying to overcome. But for others out there, if you've written a list of 100 things that need to be done in the business or ten things that need to be done in the business, how do you work out the one that is going to be that golden nugget that needs to focus?
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Crista: Yeah, absolutely. And I love that you love planning because that means you're a lot better off than a lot of people. So here's where I think you really want to start with business, I think it's so incredibly important that you get really clear on vision. And I consider a vision, a next-level vision is where you're looking at three different facets. You're not just thinking about where you want your business to be in the future. You're also especially if you're the business owner, you're thinking about your life and lifestyle and making sure that your business in the design of your business, your model actually matches that. But the third facet that a lot of people don't consider that I think is so important, is when you think of your vision, you're also thinking of your clients and your customers. And so what are your customers going to want from you and need from you at that point in the future? Just like where is your business going to be at that point in the future. And I think when you start there, and then you take that, and you break that down into some near term goals. So you have goals for the next 90 days, and it gives you a lot of clarity on Am I focused on the right things? And am I focused on the right things right now? Because that vision where you look at that next level of vision across those three facets, it gives you that kind of directional correct look at things where you don't always know everything that's going to happen. You don't know now those projects that you're going to be working on, there's things you're going to do in the future. But you at least always know if the things that you're choosing and making decisions on are directionally correct if you have that clarity and vision.
Josh: I guess it's about prioritising a vision and that balance really to make sure that the reason you got into the business is achieving those goals if that's the vehicle that is doing that. Like I know myself I started my first business, my first legally registered business, I started 17 years ago when I was doing sort of a little side hustle before that. And this business has been around for 13 years. Prioritizing is important, balance is important. And I definitely know that I was a bit out of whack to start off with an over-focus on business. I didn't really look at family clients and lifestyle. And you brought up a good point. It sounds like it's definitely all about balance. Is that right?
Crista: It is, yeah. And so I believe so fully in sustainable success. And I think that when you think about when you first start a business, just like you described, things tend to be out of balance. The nature of that startup emerging stage of business is that you're saying yes to everything. You're wearing all the hats, you're naturally overworking. It's a bit overwhelming, but it's also really exciting because you're building something new. It's very high energy right. And that's great, but that can't sustain. Once you move out of that emerging stage, you know, your product-market fit, you know, who you serve, you know, what your core offers are, you know how your business actually makes money. At that point, you really do need to focus on leaning out and focusing much more on that balance and in that sustainable success and sustainable pace. And so what are all those facets of your life that are important to you aside from your business? And how can you carve out and create the space for all of them and build a team to surround yourself so that you can achieve that balance and maintain that balance.
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Josh: In achieving the balance and maintaining the balance, I would say, I'm a big believer that change is as good as a holiday. But I think a lot of people do not necessarily feel that same way. And they might be like, oh, look, I've been doing what I've been doing for ages, it's kind of working. I've got enough money to have a boat, and enough time to sometimes go out on it, and sometimes see my family or whatever the kids names are. I can't remember now, because I haven't seen them that often.
How do you make sure someone becomes comfortable leaning out? Or what are some things you just see all the time? Is it like process things that you're saying people are just spending too much time on repetitious tasks? Or what are some of the core things, if you had to list five things that people are always making this mistake on? You go in there and go, oh, what are you doing? Why haven’t you automated your bookkeeping? What are the things that you see as the five things that relate to most businesses?
Crista: Yeah, sure. So the first one, I will say is too much. So doing too much, offering too much, it's people especially if they don't have that real clarity is sometimes they have way too many products and way too many offers for way too many different customers, and it can be really confusing, it's hard to know what the business is really known for. And that in turn, ends up creating too much work for the team as well as for the business owner. So it's just too-muchness, it's waste, right? And so that's probably number one. Number two would be not focused on the right thing. So it's not just the quantity, but it's the things that you're focused on. So a lot of bright, shiny object thing. Oh, let's try that. Let's look at that, but not really considering is this the right thing, and is this the right thing right now? I think even having that strategic plan is probably the third, a lot of people have a vision. And a lot of people have a list of mile long of things to do. It's not super common that those two things connect to one another. And they do need to connect to one another. When you're trying to figure out what it is that you need to do, you need to make sure it's in support of the vision and goals.
The next one, which is four which builds off of that, is you need to make decisions on what you're going to do based on the capacity you have. And what I see so many people doing is they just have this big list of stuff to do. They know going in they're never going to get it done. But it's just the list. They basically work until exhaustion, then they pick up the next day and do it all over again, instead of reverse engineering and saying, here's the capacity that me and my team has, here's what we can realistically do. Let's just commit to this. And then probably the fifth that I would say is avoiding sunk cost, right. So people have started something, even if all signs point to the fact that it's not what customers want, it's not something that's going to drive profitability, because they've sunk time, effort money into it, they finish it anyway, and continue to work on something that's not actually going to make a difference. And if anything, it's actually gonna hurt the business from a profitability perspective. And that's time that could have been spent on something else that would be more value add.
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Josh: The paradox of choice is a real problem for people. If you have more than three things, especially if you have more than three offerings. I know myself, Oh, jump into the shops. I’m the lucky owner this week of what you'd call an RV or a caravan. I bought that I'm going to camp trying to fit it out with different things and I'm going, right, there's too many choices. So generally, I kind of stuffed it. Well, solar panels I put on it, I'm not going to put any solar panels on it, it's too much choice. And that's as someone who's wanting to spend money to better something. And I definitely see that businesses need to make it clear and concise as to what your service offerings are, and remove some of that paradox of choice. And when you're coming into cost-cutting elements, another thing that is very hard for people to do, especially if you start a project, people like seeing that come to completion, it's just human nature to want to see that finish, even if that's not something that when once complete is going to be profitable.
When I first started a business, I bought a book called The E-myth by Michael Gerber, which is great, and started writing out mission statements and business plans. And every couple of years I go back and review those and I think leaning out and making the decision. Obviously, mission statements and business plans have to come very, very closely in line with leaning a business, yes? There's lots of lots of different methodologies in leaning out your business. As your mission statement or business plans change. How does that reflect a business that you've started leaning at? Or is that just make it more focused? Or if you have to pivot because there's a global pandemic, hypothetically, that would never happen. If that was to be the case, how do you go about making sure that if you've got sniper vision and your business plan, your mission statements, everything's laid out and you're absolutely pulling the right direction? Do you think that brings clarity or disparity if you have to pivot?
Crista: Yeah, so it's interesting. One of the clients that I'm currently consulting with, they had to stop all manufacturing big, huge major manufacturer in the US. And obviously, because of COVID, they couldn't have people in house, so they had to stop manufacturing. So you would think that they would have had an absolute tank in their quarter and their performance. But they pivoted, they produced masks and they produced all of these other things with a really small, tight crew, where they kind of revamped everything. But because they were very lean, that they knew exactly what their capacity was, they knew exactly what the capability of their plants were, they were able to pivot and adjust and do what they needed to do in order to not only help out which they wanted to do, it's a family business, they're very big on helping, but also they actually were profitable at a time when you would have thought they wouldn't have been since they had to shut down manufacturing.
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So I think lean can actually really help you. But you do have to pivot and you do need to be willing to make those shifts and make those changes. I think you just need to always go back to what is that long term vision? Where are my customers? What are they going to need from me? And just to make sure as you're pivoting and making those changes, it's still in line and directionally correct.
Josh: I love the way you've answered that. It's perfect. I can say that myself, over the years in business, being pushed towards a hard wall gives you one direction to go and that's forwards. And you definitely see when times become tough, you work out what is the most important thing, why you're in business. And it's sad that businesses have to sometimes make those very snap decisions in a pandemic like we are currently in. That's right, anyone in the future that’s listening to this, we’re in a pandemic. It's definitely better to be able to have the forethought hindsight and time to get a workout and plan strategically. And that's I guess, where you can come in and help businesses out to have that ability to see into the future without having to be at that spot where they have to make these hard decisions, get rid of key employees and make sure they can focus on their business and pulling the right direction. So the lean out method allows you to focus and plan before you need to focus and plan and be running a profitable, fantastic business without being pushed towards a hard wall. Is that fair to say?
Crista: Yeah, absolutely. Well, the thing that I see so many people do wrong with planning is they're overly prescriptive. And they try to plan too far into the future. And I think plans are so critical. And you absolutely do want plans. And that's why you want a long term vision, you want a 90-day plan. But I also think that you need to look at what are the outcomes that we're trying to achieve. You need to allow some flexibility and getting there. And certainly, this year has proven that any prescriptive plans that you had probably got thrown 100% out the window. But it doesn't mean that you can't still achieve your goals or still achieve those outcomes that you are going to if you're willing to be flexible and pivot, and still make sure that you're directionally correct.
Josh: All right. So you said the 90-day plan, how long term should you be looking at? Should you be going, okay, I know that we've had people come on the show before talk about exit strategies and things like that. And when you get into a business, you should know your exit strategy, you should know the vehicle and what it's bringing away where you're going with it. And so they're talking sometimes, five years, ten years, twenty years into the future, what do you want it to look like? I know myself, I had a sort of a bit of a real moment, I thought, what I want to be remembered for at my funeral, and then work everything back from there. So when you're planning, the core objectives you want to get to see and achieve and be able to see those milestones and wins, and those champagne moments would be in those 90 day, I guess you'd have a detailed 90 days and then do sort of step back and still into the future a bit further. How long term do you need the vision to be?
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Crista: Yeah, absolutely. So I always say from a vision perspective, you should look as far into the future as you can. And so when people are first starting a business, sometimes they either have this big grand vision, or they have a very small vision. Like I just want to make enough money to never have to have a nine to five again, right. That was my very first business that I ever had. That was all I wanted. My vision today very different now that I have such a big company in. So I think that you just want to look as far into the future, as you can see, but at this stage, I'm absolutely thinking and looking in terms of ten years. But I'm looking again at outcomes and results in what I want. I'm not looking at specifically how I'm going to get there every month for the next ten years. And I think that's the key is you need to know where you're going. You need to know what's important and why it's important. And that lets you make the right decisions in the near term and tactically do the right things, because you're wrapping it in that longer-term strategic plan.
Josh: Okay, that's fantastic. I know with the plan and that that should also be not just a plan for you in the business, it should be a plan for you and your personal life, you and your wife or husband or whatever the case may be. Like I know we've got a massive whiteboard and I wrote off at the end there $1.5 million house, two jet skis and all these different things that I wanted to have at the end and then I wrote where I am. Knowing what your goal is let you make sure that you can then work out and if this is something that you want to retire with or have financial freedom knowing your goals. And your steps beforehand, let you know what you need to do to get there. And that's important. It's writing it down and just knowing that's what it is, is that achievable? Is that not achievable? If it isn't achievable? What do I need to change to make it achievable?
Crista: And that helps when things get tough, because like this year proved right, sometimes things just do not go according to plan. Sometimes we all have seasons that are good and bad in business. And when they're not so good, it's really nice sometimes to have that very clear vision of what you want, and what you see. Again, as you said, not just for the business, but also for yourself, because that helps you stay motivated, that helps you push through, that helps you keep pivoting and being innovative. At times when you are probably internally saying, boy, it would just be so much easier if I did something else. So it does help.
Josh: It's like you're reading what I'm about to ask you. Anyone who is listening, Crista is not. I just wrote if your business is in its infancy, how do you balance your life? So how do you know that you need to be able to have those elements? How do you know what you should be focusing on? Like, if you know that you want to achieve certain things? And you go, okay, look, maybe you're single and you. I want to achieve these things, and I've got a 90-hour week, and then for whatever reason, you're at a barbecue and then the love of your life comes into your life? Oh, can't focus on that. You should not be spending 90 hours a week and visitors probably not very healthy either. But you can't necessarily you need to be out of balance everything. How do you make sure that you're balancing without pushing your goals further into the future?
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Crista: Yeah, so I have something that I call the time pie that I recommend everybody creates. And the reality is, we all have 24 hours in a day, right? The great equaliser, everybody has 24 hours in a day. You knock out the essentials for sleeping, eating and taking a shower and all that kind of stuff, and you're left with however many you have, right. And you have to figure out how you carve the rest of that time up. And you have to figure out what's important to you. And I always tell people look at it from a workday and a non-work day.
Even as business owners even though we tend to have every day be a workday, we still have some days as more non-work days, and look at what you want that balance to be. And then what I think you need to think about is, I think, a balance at a macro scale, as opposed to a micro-scale. What that means is not every single day is going to be in balance. Not every single week is going to be in balance. You're going to have periods where you're launching something, where you're doing something where you maybe have something in your personal life, and things are going to be out of balance, which is fine. But you want to look at that macro scale and try to swing it back. So if you had too much going on in your business, and you were doing the 90-hour week that you mentioned, then you really do need to carve out time for personal.
In the example, you gave where you meet somebody, right? There's all these things in business that you feel are critical and you must do and while you're working the 90 hours. And then you all of a sudden realize you could have actually run a leaner business. Usually, well maybe I didn't really need to be doing that. I can create time to go on a date tonight. And so sometimes it's fun to even put yourself mentally in those types of scenarios, to say, what would I cut if this thing that I want so badly personally came up. And sometimes that's a good indicator of things that aren't actually as important as you think they are in your business.
Josh: That example that I gave actually is very close to heart for me, I met my partner just over two years ago, and I while I went okay, I'm going to focus heavily on this. I love it, I live to work, I really enjoy it. And she said you're never gonna retire. I said, guys, technically I am retired, I said, if I'm doing everything that I love doing every day, and I can choose to do the things that I love doing. And there's only a small amount that I don't, then I said I kind of living the dream, but when she came in and I found that she was part of my dream, I went okay, well I've got to go to see what I can do there and definitely worked out how to rebalance that.
Something else that I found though that was interesting was a dear friend of mine was saying that you need to sharpen your soul and sometimes going away and taking away a break away from your business allows you to sharpen your sword to be able to continue cutting down the trees as opposed to working out hard out continuing to cut it down, your soul becomes blunt, and then you just become working more and more. I went away for three weeks and only came back just recently and coming back on you know what there's so much that I that I haven't done during this time period that it became a monotonous routine that I don't need to do that anymore. And just you're able to claim that out just by not doing it for a bit you realise you didn't need to do it.
That could be something as simple as maybe you sit down and watch TV at a certain time or jump onto Netflix, and yeah, it’s not that important. So I'm not actually enjoying that as much as I would just having a sneaky one and have it cool or whatever it is. So, I found going on holidays definitely makes your business more efficient. How can you convince someone to do that though, if they are in that 90-hour week back and they go I can't possibly do this. How do you convince someone or have someone see the light?
Crista: I have this happen all the time. So I actually back pre-COVID actually started a planning retreat. So people would come out to this luxurious location and we would plan their business and it was basically committed days to work on their business, but I did it intentionally to encourage people to take the break. And I mixed in just enough business, so they felt like they were getting in what they needed to, but also gave them a great opportunity and a lot of space. I always encourage them to add a day on the front and a day on the back. I would always say you're going to want time to think and reflect, and people would just come home so relaxed. But what I do outside of that, since these days, there's no in-person retreats, what I always encourage people to do when they're working, which I think is a really effective way of working is working in focus blocks. So when I help people work in focus blocks, I have them carve out focus blocks for self-care and for relaxation, and for recharging. And so I say use this concept for everything, and this week, I want you to commit to a minimum of a two-hour focus block for self-care. Next week, I want you to do a minimum of a four-hour focus block for self-care. And they get really into working in the focus blocks, and they find they actually get much more efficient anyway, so they have the space for it. But using that concept, that's almost like a time management thing that feels very business to them, usually will let them create the space to do it. And then they start to see the benefit from it. And it just kind of snowballs.
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Josh: That's cool. Like you said, you were very sneaky for them to see without saying come on holidays, come on, we'll look at the books, we'll go through everything a little bit. But that's good. It's a good way to sort of introducing that balance. And also, if partners are invited it gives them the ability to see their partners in the environment that they're in. And I like that. I know that you're familiar with the tomato timer and things like that 25/5 whatnot timers, I think that's an invaluable tool to make sure you are focusing and then shifting focus and focusing and shifting focus. And so there's definitely a lot of ground that was covered here. And for anyone out there that is listening, we've got a fantastic master class at leaner method is running there. And it goes through a bit on how to actually get your business tell me how does that work? Or what people to expect in the master class?
Crista: So I truly believe that in order to level up your business and take it to the next level, you do need to lean out. And so in the master class, I walk everybody through, it's very interactive. And I walk everybody through how to do that. So how do you actually lean out your business? How do you level up your business? How do you combine both to really get results that are sustainable? So it's multiple days, every day we go through an activity, people have homework, this is one that you got to show up and work for. But it's good because it's for your business and each day's session builds on the prior day. So by the end of the masterclass, people have their next level vision defined, they have their 90-day plan defined, they've created their time pie. They've started to look at how they can achieve more balanced, they have committed to working and focus blocks and carve out what they're going to be working on in focus blocks plus a whole lot of other things. But really, I take you through everything that you need to think about how you can lean out your business and what it's going to take to level up your business.
Josh: It's five days, you said yeah?
Crista: It's five days, and I toss in some bonus stuff, too. So it's usually about nine days that we're together.
Josh: Just getting back to the time pie. Five days isn't that long for the amount of value they get from that on the time pie. So many people I talked to, like, how long are you on social media for a week, and they got in, a couple of hours. And then I'm going, how often are you doing this a week? How often do you do that a week? I installed a couple of different tools, Manic Time is one of them and Rescue Time is another. I thought how often am I actually doing this stuff. And I'm on Facebook for two and a half hours a week. And I thought well, that's okay enough like that. That's not terrible. And that's including messenger and stuff like that. But I can still cut that down. So I've tried to cut that down to an hour. I've got other friends that install it that they've found out, they're on there for 15 hours a week. And I thought how many people get I don't have the time to do this. They don't have the time to do that. I said if you if you're doing things, and you don't even know how long it's taking to do that. If you're on Facebook for 15 hours a week, it's definitely not going to bring as much value as jumping into the master class and finding out what you can do 15 hours of Facebook a week, that's only a month of Facebook, you're going to swap out to add significant income and level up your business. So I definitely suggest you go across there and check it out.
A couple of final thoughts. One question that I had for you is what is your favourite book that people can read and just really get this influence inside going, okay, this is what I need to be doing? And what was that book that changed your mindset?
Crista: Oh, gosh, there's so much but I would say if I recommended one book that's really in the camp of lean, it would be the one thing. And so it's really just about focusing really, really, really great book. Gary Keller wrote it I want to say it came out a few years back.
Josh: Is there any other questions that you had for me or any final words that you'd like to leave our listeners with?
Crista: I would say you know, if you don't already have that next level of vision, make sure that you create that. Come up with a 90-day plan that's in alignment with that. And most importantly, make sure the things you do on a daily basis actually are in alignment with your vision and your goals. Because usually, people find a lot of things that they do on a day to day basis aren't actually the things that are going to move you closer to what you envision for your business. And that right there is the quickest way to lean out your business and get back some of that balance is just eliminating those things that aren't in alignment.
Josh: Definitely good advice and again, getting back to when I started. I was a fantastic technician, a shithouse business owner. I definitely needed to focus more on the hustle side of things. Anyone that does want more information that leanoutmethod.com/masterclass, we'll put a link in the description. If you have enjoyed the episode, make sure to jump across to iTunes, leave us some love, give us a review. And you guys choose the content and direct the path of where we go. And I've loved having you Crista and thank you very much.
Crista: Thank you so much for having me.