The Value of Small Daily Incremental Improvements

Building a well known brand and a sustainable business model in a competitive marketplace is challenging, but if you break things down into pieces and do something every day eventually you win marketshare. People who become successful have large goals like "become the leading source in our market" or "increase profits 150% year over year" but most people who actually achieve those types of goals set smaller goals and work toward achieving them every day.

One of my better habits is writing a to do list. When I scratch things off the list there is a sense of accomplishment which drives further activity. Sometimes the accomplishments are moral victories, learning how to create a little bit of code, or improving the graphical interface of something, while other projects are much more complex, like writing a book or hundreds of training modules. As long as growth is sustainable then all is well. If you stop growing in a growing marketplace then you need to evaluate what you are doing wrong.

  • Are you doing too many repetitive tasks that software or a cron job should be able to do?
  • Does your site lack viral marketing components?
  • Does your site do a poor job of prequalifying leads?
  • Are you selling to the wrong market?
  • Are you pricing too cheaply and attracting the wrong clients?
  • Are you doing a poor job building perceived value?
  • Is your conversion process broken?
  • Are you doing a poor job of transferring value?

In nearly every growing business at some point in time the answer to every single one of those questions is yes. Each is an area for improvement.

With employees I can come off as being under-appreciating and/or too demanding, largely because I expect people to work as hard as I do, and maybe 2% of people do. When you have the attitude of making incremental daily improvements it is hard for some people to grasp it until you beat it into their heads. I have found it hard to teach most people - especially if they work remotely.

You really need to find that 10% of people who want to add value...and then you need to find the 30% of those who's loyalty exceeds their greed. It is hard to find good workers. As software gets cheaper I suspect it will only get harder to find and retain quality employees as more of the quality people decide to work for themselves, which means that you need to create ways to get customers to do your marketing for you.

I think the key to smoothing out some of the friction with workers is to teach people to set their own score card. Daily contact off the start is needed to set expectations and keep things progressing. But over time have them ask themselves each day what they did to add value, make a difference, and remove market friction. If you are active in your marketplace, are receptive to feedback, are aggressive with push marketing, give away value, and keep trying to build value each day, eventually the profits roll in. It might take a couple years to work out well, but eventually it does.

Published: April 17, 2008 by Aaron Wall in business


April 17, 2008 - 12:12pm

Very good post. Quads had a good method for keeping on top of the daily tasks:

April 17, 2008 - 7:44pm

Great post. Finding good help is very hard these days. I know both from the standpoint of employee and employer. Money is no longer enough motivation and you have to resonate on a deeper level with people. Either show them the big picture, explain to them the future benefit of what they are doing, praise and acknowledgment, and most importantly being fair and open.

In general companies need to rethink how they treat their employees in regards to openness. I want to know how much the guy next to me makes, I want to know how much my raise will be, I need to know if the company is going under and I might get canned in a week. Transparency is all I ask for, yet always eludes me when working for others.

April 17, 2008 - 9:34pm

My old football coach would say winning comes down to blocking and tackling and getting better at them everyday.

It's not the sexy things.

One thing that is great about your training program and community is that it gives you confidence that you are working on the right things.

So, the recipe is small incremental improvements every day in the right areas.

April 17, 2008 - 9:50pm

My soccer coach in high school, when I asked him how to pick great players for teams I would coach eventually, told me the following:
Pick players for their work ethic first, and their talent second. Skills can be taught, but a positive attitude can't.

April 18, 2008 - 8:39am

My motto is "Small Success leads to Big Success!" (see as an example of setting goals for an online business)

I've worked with lots of clients who want to make tons of money in a quick time period but they never break things down to the day to day operations. They are looking past the little things that have to happen every day and they end up not accomplishing what they envisioned, at least not until they change their mindset.

I've learned though building my first online business (and others) that it's all about the little things I do every day that get me that much closer to my main goals. Performance goals are better to set than outcome goals because I have complete control of my performance; the outcome is a bonus for achieving my performance goals.

Thanks for the good information.

April 18, 2008 - 10:45am

I am poised to go freelance but unfortunately the market is still dictated by larger agencies in the UK. Often with big London offices and huge overheads! I am guessing this is different in the US with more people inclined to work with smaller operations?

April 18, 2008 - 11:26am

I think the key is planning on and preparing for doing your own thing (ie: learning, buing a domain name, setting up a personal blog, building awareness, etc.) such that making the switch is easier.

April 19, 2008 - 11:07pm

Oh the dilemma of finding employee's....

Market changes are creating more and more freelancers, which is great, currently being one myself. But as my business grows I increasingly need the help of others. So I rely on other freelancers with the hopes of hiring full time help in the near future.

But the stress and worries, akkk!

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