One in the Hand, Two in the Bush

No doubt you’ve heard the saying before:

Is a bird in the hand always worth 2 in the bush?

“Better to have a bird in the hand than two in the bush.”

It’s a very wise saying but if that bird in the hand is rotting away at you, there should be no reason to keep it.

Unfortunately many owners unwittingly follow the “one hand, two bush” model to the detriment of their business.  This is none truer than in the industry we work in here at OI Group of Companies. Many companies we encounter already have systems or processes in place to handle such things as bookkeeping, payroll, and human resources.  What we often hear, though, is how much these owners struggle with their existing systems and find their time wasted on menial tasks.  However, when given the opportunity to try  something new that would elevate some of this pressure, they shy away, holding fast to the dying bird in their hand.

Don’t get me wrong.  I can sympathize with many of these companies.  When it comes to technology solutions, businesses often invest a lot of money into software and programs they expect to work.  It’s hard to walk away from all that has already been invested into a given system without any absolute insurance that a new system will be different.  Often, there really isn’t the time to spend relearning processes and screens and buttons and programs.  Then there’s the intrinsic trust factor.  The systems need to work flawlessly or there are legal and monetary consequences!

It can be daunting to face the possibility of change but staying with an existing setup that isn’t working can be just as dangerous and worrisome.  Critical information can be missed or slip through the cracks.  Opportunities can come and go without you as the business owner having the time or capacity. On top of it all, there’s just as many legal and monetary consequences for staying with older or broken systems.

Weighing risk vs benefit in these situations can be complicated for any company.  There are ways, however, to help you identify when it is time for you to consider another solution.

Calculate the “true” cost of your system

Often people give us a dollar value for their system which only relates to a program or software they have purchased.   It’s easy to measure an expense when it’s a direct payment such as this.  In most cases, this is far from the true cost.  Other factors should be taken into consideration:

  • How much of your time are you spending on the system?
  • How much of your time/effort is invested in fixing the system or training others on the system?
  • How much of your employee’s time is invested in entering information into the system?
  • How much of your employee’s role/job relate to the system?

Each of these can easily be given a dollar value by equating it to $/hour which will help in establishing some of the true costs of your current system.

Clearly identify the needs and gaps

Many business owners sense there is something wrong with  their system but haven’t taken the time to truly identify the issues with it.  That often leads to overspending and repeating the same issues and mistakes.  Some business owners get won over by a flashy salesman and are disappointed afterwards.

  • Create a simple list of everything you can think of that you’d like to see in your system or process.  Make sure each thing you list is something that can be measured and not a soft aspect; e.g., Don’t use phrases like “Customer Support is prompt”.  Instead be definite, “You can be assured of a response from Customer Support within the business day on critical issues.”
  • Decide which are “needs”, things that absolutely must exist for you to operate, and which are “wants”.  Try to limit your needs to no more than 10 items.
  • Decide how important your “wants” are.  Can you live without some of them?
  • As you explore systems, evaluate them honestly and against the “needs” first.  If a system doesn’t meet a particular need, don’t waste any more time on it.   Move on!

Don’t get rid of it all

Many people think that if they do away with one part, they must do away with the whole system or process.  In reality, many times you can still retain certain components that are working and get them integrated into better systems or processes.  By doing so and being able to reuse what is already working, you have a higher chance of future success which will help alleviate some of the concerns about wasting money.

Develop a transition plan

Without a doubt, if you decide to make any changes even within your existing systems, it’s good to have a solid transition plan.  A good transition plan is like a good story; it has a beginning, middle and end.  There are many great project management resources out there to help you plan this.  The basics are:

  • Have clearly identified roles and responsibilities and real people assigned to tasks.
  • Have a realistic timeline laid out
  • Have clear goals and a vision of what the final product will look like
  • Have contingency plans in the event something goes wrong

Letting go of the bird in the hand can definitely be a scary step for any business owner but often it’s a necessary step in order to allow the business to grow.

Have you considered making a change for your business?  Are you in the midst of such a change right now?  We’d love to hear from you if you’ve tried any of the above strategies and found them of help.  Just comment below.