Let’s assume you want to improve your business. You know things could be better and you identify a couple areas that need work. Before launching an improvement effort, consider whether you want ‘more’ or ‘better’.

It is important to set the focus of more or better in order to reach the desired goal. Head down the wrong path and you might defeat your own purpose.

Sometimes, the choice is obvious. Margins are down? You want more. Failure rate is up? You want better. Those are easy to define.

Consider sales. The economy is not in great shape and your sales are probably down from last year. Do you want more or better? During an economic dip, it might be time to get better sales than more sales. Better sales are those with higher margin and quicker payback. ‘Better’ sales are harder to get but far more beneficial to your business because the profit is higher and the cash flow quicker. You get better sales by improving your service and taking special care of your best customers. If you choose to go after ‘more’ sales, you’ll have to increase advertising and reduce pricing. More sales may not necessarily yield more profit. Better sales will.

Don’t dismiss this as too obvious or simplistic to be of value. It’s very important to govern change by this concept. Think about it.

What about customer service? Do you want to provide more or better service? The reason service is so lousy these days is that businesses mistakenly believe better service means more service and, thus, a higher cost of providing service. Managers aren’t looking for ways of providing better service without necessitating more service. If you’re not focused on better, you’ll slip toward more. More is always more expensive than better. When service gets expensive, it gets cut. When service is cut, the business suffers.

When I start work with a new client, I begin with a mental inventory of what we’ve got to work with. Then I look for ways of doing things better. My focus always starts with better. It’s cheaper to improve than it is to do more.

Here are some examples. Because of cutbacks, a business is short handed. They should consider improving (training or replacing) the talent they have rather than adding more. The website isn’t producing. The content should be better, not more. Computers are too slow. There are a million ways to speed things up without getting new computers. People use about 10% of a computer’s capability and then buy new ones. Smarter users can squeeze more out of a computer.

Sales are off. Before you hire a salesperson, think about making your website better. Your website is working for you 24 hours a day. Is it doing a good job? Your website can reach more people than a team of salespeople. Is yours?

Too many calls coming in to the service center. Before you get more people to take calls, think about ways to automate service without diminishing service. Add a form to your website and have someone deal with electronic correspondence quickly. (Better)

Sometimes you need more. More space. More talent. More sales. True enough. But most of the time you just need better.

Please think about this. As you try to improve, constantly evaluate if you can do better before adding more.

Chris Reich, Author of TeachU’s Business Talk Blog
[email protected]