Clate and Scott have watched thousands of small business owners do all kinds of things to make their businesses more successful. Most of those things fall into two separate ends of planning: the behemoth master plan and the overly idealistic immediate attack. Neither of these work; what works is an iterative approach where you can experience quick wins and build quickly based on what you learn. Listen to hear why this works and how it can keep you from giving up.

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011 – Small Wins, Big Payoff Transcript

Clate Mask: Welcome everybody to this edition of the Small Business Success podcast. This is Clate Mask and Scott Martineau, co-founders of Infusionsoft. We’ve got a fun topic we’re going to talk about today, just the two of us. And Scott, you want to kick it off?

Scott Martineau: Yeah, so every once in a while, we’re going to sort of pull back the curtain and share with you what we observe as we’ve watched hundreds of thousands of small business owners do various and sundry things to make their small businesses more successful.

And today we’re going to share a slightly counter-intuitive tip with you around a pattern that we see, that people when they’re going to take efforts to make their business better, they can take one of two roads. One is they get really idealistic and they go start to attack things, and they build up this massive idealistic scenario in their mind that’s going to produce great results.

Clate Mask: The Master Plan.

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Scott Martineau: The Master Plan. And here’s what we’ve found. And by the way, maybe a little more context. So we work with our small business owners in order to help them create success with their software. And so we get a very, you know there’s a great playground for us to just watch what goes on here.

And that pattern we see is when a business owner and the coach, who would be the Infusionsoft employee, when they have the discipline to get extremely focused and seek for an earlier win that is narrower in scope and more focused, something magical happens.

Number one, you get the first win. And there’s a rush of energy and excitement that comes from that, that leads to the next win. And I was actually talking to one of our coaches…

Clate Mask: Let me interject something real quick here. Because I think the thing that happens so often particularly with action-oriented fast moving entrepreneurs, is that there’s either a big plan that they make.

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And it’s like they’ve got such a grand vision that this huge master plan actually ends up becoming very difficult to implement. And by the way, we’re not talking about software right now, although it’s a place where you see this play out. The other thing, though, is there are many times where the entrepreneur is so quick to act, they don’t want to actually do the work to get down to the discipline.

So if you’re out there and you never like to read the instructions, like me, you know what I’m talking about, right? So you just jump into action super fast. So either on one end of the spectrum you’re creating a really big plan that’s really difficult to execute.

Or on the other end of the spectrum you’re jumping into action right away. Both of those are very problematic and it actually short-circuits the success in whatever it is that you’re trying to change in your business.

Scott Martineau: Yes. I was just talking to one of our coaches today. He said he bought this new video game when he was growing up, and he remembers him and his sister, would sit and play this and they could never get past the first level. And finally they just gave up on it. They were like this is the stupidest game.

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And we were talking about this exact thing. And he was like, this is the same thing. When you’re working with a small business owner, if they don’t have that initial win, the energy gets sucked out and it gets hard. And I get it.

I think for you, as entrepreneurs, I know what it feels like. You’ve got so many hats to wear. And there’s a pragmatism that kicks in when you don’t taste, have a little taste of the glory, that gives you the energy to go to the next step.

Clate Mask: And there’s a book out there called Mojo that talks about this. It’s getting those quick wins and having that momentum drive you. And whether you’re stuck in something in your business, or you’re working on a big project, you’ve got to break it down into those little pieces because otherwise you stagnant and lose focus and attention, and you never end up getting the return on that time investment that you did make to get started.

Scott Martineau: The second benefit from this which I didn’t have the perspective on earlier but have started to recently, is there is a great side effect of smaller chunks of work.

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And that is along the way, you get to see if what you’re doing is actually taking root and being successful. So imagine option one is we’re going to build this entire plan that’s going to take us 20 units of work. We get all the way to the end of it, and if you realize it didn’t work, you just lost 20 units of work.

If you start with three or four units of work, get it in, see if it’s taking root, find a way to measure whether this is being successful. And you learn and iterate, and then you do your next five or six units of work. There’s just a much higher likelihood that you can actually be successful.

Clate Mask: Yeah, we talk about this all the time. And try to keep in mind, in between the bookends of the spectrum. On the one end you’ve got immediately rushing to action without having enough clarity on the specific thing that you’re trying to accomplish. On the other end, it’s the big master plan where you never get into action to see the results.

Well, in between that in the middle is what we’re talking about. And there’s a principle, this principle is very well illustrated by a story.

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There was a ceramics teacher, and she wanted, she challenged her class to, half the class she wanted them to focus on artistic quality. She wanted them to create something just amazing and great and spend the time to really plan it out and do something incredible. The other group, she wanted them to quickly get…

Scott Martineau: Volume.

Clate Mask: Yeah, volume. Get volume out there. Create the pottery, the ceramics, and at the end what she was surprised to find was that not only did the group that was in action to create volume create more, but they are, the artistic quality of what they created was far better.

Because of that iterative learning, again and again learning from what they had done. And so that principle, this principle we’re talking about, a lot of times we refer to the ceramic class. Get clear on what you’re trying to do, get it out there, learn from it, iterate, move to the next step.

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Scott Martineau: Now if your team member, if you have employees they’re probably like most humans in that the tendency is to go after the bigger project. So you’ll need to do things like ask them, be very intentional with them about the way you’re giving tasks and ask them, hey, what could we do?

Is there something we could change in our approach that would allow us to get to a version one faster? You’ve really got to be explicit in giving them permission, really challenging them to come back to the table and say here’s what we can do to make this faster, to get something out there and test and see if it’s going to work.

Clate Mask: So, whether you’re working on a big project or you’re trying to get a product out the door to your customers, if you’ll take this approach that Scott’s introduced here and this principle of actually breaking it down and starting small and getting the learnings going by, we frequently in the software world call it “ship it.” Ship the thing out there, get it out, then you can learn and improve and get results much faster and in the end get a much higher quality.

Scott Martineau: And the energy from the one gives you the energy to get the three done, and then that gives you the energy to get the nine or ten done. So that’s our formula for massive action, massive success, and that’s all for this episode of the small business success podcast.

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Clate Mask: Don’t forget to rate on iTunes and share and subscribe. We look forward to the next podcast. Make sure you tune in.