Mastering Efficiency And Measuring Productivity To Skyrocket Your Business with Kevin Barber
“If you feel like you have to be in every single meeting, you probably lack operational structure.” – Kevin Barber
Kevin Barber, former head of a design agency, was tired of designing and building websites that no one got to see because his clients had no marketing plan. He wanted to build results, not pretty things. So he drew a line in the sand: no more clients without their own marketing team. Today, he only accepts clients who want to deliver a brand experience that their customers will love. He is the CEO and Head of Growth of Lean Labs, a company that provides high ticket brands with digital marketing and sales systems. Lean Labs has helped hundreds of companies grow 10x, and Kevin joined us to share exactly how his systems help him manage a remote team with outstanding results.
We had the opportunity to interview Kevin regarding his experience as a successful entrepreneur and his secrets to get to where he is today.
The best ways to achieve efficiency
Amalie: In regards to business operations, what do you think is the key to efficiency?
Kevin: One of the things that I think is a key to efficiency is understanding, having the entire team or organization understand what’s expected and then have a system by which you’re measuring results versus expectations. The second, almost more important part is you’re keeping score. Lean Labs has a scoreboard. We write down our goal and our individual scores. We also have MVP awards. We have team competitions between the two teams in our organization. Winners get lunches on the company, things like that.
Amalie: What are some of the things that you use, like KPIs and where do you track it?
Kevin: Our unit of measure for productivity is a point. And a point is a perfect hour. So all of our efforts, all of our projects and deliverables have efforts applied to them of how long it should take. If there’s no confusion, deliberation, unnecessary revision, it’s the perfect hour. We log in and everyone has a goal based upon their role, how many points they put up each week. And then we track that. And the goal is to cut out as much waste as possible while delivering high-level results — get maximum points.
Amalie: Are there things that help them stay on track?
Kevin: We kind of broke down a 40 hour week and said, “Hey, here are some suggested maximums. Like try to limit these things to maximum.” So admin overage time, have a maximum. Internal meeting time, have a maximum. Slack time, have a maximum. So we know where our likely distractions are coming from. And like Stephen Covey says, “don’t prioritize your schedule, schedule your priorities.” So we asked the team to figure out what’s the most important thing that they need to get done each day when we post that into an accountability room. And then we basically say, “now let’s go away and get that thing done.”
Amalie: I always pick the three things. My big thing is picking three and then executing on that. Like the three things that I need to get done today and three things, I need to get done this week.
Kevin: Yeah! We started off with weekly plans and we still do those weekly plans of everything they want to get done each day. But then for the daily SLA, it’s without fail. This is the most important thing that has to get done. And we’re going to focus on that first.
The power of good communication
Amalie: So you use Slack, what other communication tool do you use for that?
Kevin: For keeping our scoreboard, it’s actually slightly complicated excels, but for communicating around our plan for the week and plan for the day, we post that in a channel in Slack.
We have a twice a week short meeting just to kind of plan for the week and then midweek checkup, just to kind of organizationally align.
Amalie: I think it’s important to designate what is the communication channel and what isn’t. Otherwise, I think it does get confusing.
Kevin: One thing we put in as a rule that’s super helpful is that if there’s back and forth, if it’s likely to last more than five minutes, then get off of Slack and get on the phone. Otherwise, 47 minutes later, nothing got done, and everyone just been texting all day on Slack.
This is why you need to share your vision
Amalie: What advice would you give to some that’s just starting to build their team or maybe has one or two contractors and they’re bringing more people on?
Kevin: The most important thing when you’re building your team is to cash a vision for that team. They need to see themselves in that vision. They need to see the vision for themselves and how they’re part of this larger mission. If you Google Elon Musk vectors you’ll find a talk from one of the guys at HubSpot around what Elon Musk taught him about building teams.
And he basically said that having an efficient team is really just about aligning your vectors and so basically every person on your team has a certain amount of power and they’re going to apply that in a direction. And your job is to get all of that magnitude all going in the same direction. So a common vision and a common purpose with a common culture. And when you can make that happen, then you’re going to be able to actually make progress.
Amalie: I think having people understand their responsibilities, expectations, and responsibilities are really important.
Kevin: One of the things we try to help people see is like the way that you obtain mastery in an organization is you plan like you’re going to be able to work forever. And if you’re going to work forever, then why not get really good at it so you can get really high paid at it. So ask ourselves, “what are we going to do that’s going to build our skills?”
Amalie: Would you recommend someone to have a team meeting to put out the overall mission, and then individually clarify their responsibility? Or how would you recommend someone sort of going about taking that first step?
Kevin: I think the first step is communicating. Like “This is the problem. This is where we’re being held back. This is the opportunity we see to overcome it. This is what success looks like. Short term, medium term, long term.” Mostly, showing them what done looks like for these things.
Listening to your team members is KEY
Amalie: Do you get input from them or do you generally come up with the plan and then put it out to the team?
Kevin: If every idea came from me, we’re in trouble, right? What we tend to do is look back on work that we’ve done that’s related and similar, and past experience as a starting point of what are the main things that need to have happened. We do a lot of brainstorming, and then we throw some rocks at those ideas to kill off the weak ones. Sometimes in throwing the rocks is where you actually come up with the real idea. Like, “well, that wouldn’t work, but what about this?” I do think that the best thing is to rely upon the people that are actually going to be doing the work to come up with the ideas.
Amalie: What indicators might someone see or experience when they’re in need of a more operational structure?
Kevin: If you feel like you have to be in every single meeting, you probably lack operational structure. If you have to ask somebody and distract them from their work to know where something’s at, you probably lack operational structure. If you can’t communicate deadlines without spending time looking at spreadsheets or talking to people or you know, looking at your time trackers to give a deadline for a project, you probably lack operational structure. I think there’s a lot of those types of signals.
Amalie: What was the turning point for you that was like, “you know what, I need to make some changes.”
Kevin: We set a five-year goal, and this goal is translated for me as minimum criteria for success. That’s the minimum that could possibly happen. So with that mindset comes a whatever-it-takes attitude. So we hit our goal, we actually got ahead on several years of this five-year goal and beat it pretty well. The beginning of 2019 is like, “great, now I want my life back.” The past process got us to where we are, but now shifting into an operational execution machine is what’s going to get us to the next level. So we’re going to have to retool for the next leg of the journey.
And that’s a wrap! We hope this has been useful to you. You can contact Kevin through the following social media:
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