Don’t Be a Sisy(phus)

In Greek Mythology, Sisyphus was the king of Corinth and a generally sorry guy. Famous not for his leadership but for his deceitfulness and trickery, he was kind of like Richard Nixon with superpowers. He avoided the consequences of his misdeeds by twice cheating death, but King Zeus eventually caught up with him and took him to Hades to be punished.

Sisyphus was sentenced to rolling an enormous boulder up and over a steep hill (at which point I assume he could rest and do whatever you do in Hades), but just as he was about to get it over the crest of the hill, his strength failed and the boulder rolled back down to the bottom. He tried again, but the same thing happened… over and over and over. And this goes on for eternity: push the boulder, get within inches of success, fail, start over. It’s hard to think of a more terrible punishment.

If you’re feeling a little sorry for Sisyphus right now, you might also be a sorry, deceitful person. But the more likely explanation for that twinge of sympathy is that you are living your own version of Sisyphus’s Hades in your business. You keep pushing the same project, the same sales plan, the same person up the hill, but you never quite reach the goal. You don’t just get stuck; you lose all progress and when you try again, you’re right back at square one. It’s frustrating, exhausting, and a waste of energy.

If that describes you, one of the first things you need to do is strengthen the process component of your business. I admit this isn’t very exciting, and I’ll hazard to guess that you didn’t become an entrepreneur so you could document processes. But there’s someone in your business that loves bringing order and systemization through process—find that person, get your processes documented and implemented, and you’ll gain three huge benefits:

  1. Things will get done. A good process provides a crystal-clear definition of “done”. When the process steps are completed, the boulder goes down the other side instead of falling on your head. It’s that simple.
  2. Your data will become powerful. Without a clear process, there’s nothing to measure except results, at which time it’s too late to do anything about those results. On the other hand, if you have clear process steps, you’ll be able to measure process inputs and activities, so you can drive predictable results.
  3. Management will get easy. OK, people are never easy, but a good process forms an agreement between you and your employee as to how you drive sales, serve customers, run operations, or perform other core processes in your business. With that agreement in place, you can work together to improve results instead of arguing over what should have happened. Processes create clarity, and clarity and accountability live together.

If those three things don’t excite you, this will: Nail the process component of your business and you’ll make more money, and if you ever choose to sell your business, you’ll sell for a higher multiple. Now that I have your attention, you’re probably wondering how to build and implement great processes. We’ll talk about that next time, or if you’re not patient enough to wait, you should give me a call.