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How to Create a Lean Business by Optimizing Your Operations (Episode 76)

Crista Grasso is the founder of the Lean Out Method

Before teaching lean business strategies, Crista started out as a fine arts major. However, she knew she wanted to be an entrepreneur, and ended up changing her course to a business degree. After graduation, she was asked to become a consultant for a startup, which is really where her journey started.

She fell into project management, a lot of strategic planning, and this created a whole new path that she never predicted. Now, Crista has been doing it for 21 years.

A need for improvement

Crista started from a place of service, wanting to help people and make sure that they were successful. In turn, they came to her with a lot of other opportunities. She worked really hard, burnt herself out, worked around the clock and put herself in a lot of debt.

She made a lot of classic, new business mistakes that were amplified by the fact that she had a product business. A lot of inventory means the expenses were very high, and she was faced with a decision. All of her sales reps were telling her that she needed to move production to China. She felt passionately about keeping the work in the U.S., but also knew the financial reality she was in.

Somehow, Crista was able to help every other business but her own: she wasn’t applying lean business methods to her own business. This was the birth of the Lean Out Method.

The origins of lean business

Anyone who has spent time in a corporate job has probably heard of the term ‘lean.’ It grew out of manufacturing, and Toyota is usually the company credited for this method.

This revolutionized the way that automobiles were manufactured.

Lean business, in general, is about improving quality and eliminating waste. They were able to cut down production time, remove a lot of waste and inconsistencies from the process of how vehicles were made. As a result, they became incredibly profitable and totally exceeded other manufacturing companies in that space.

For years, people studied their methods: there were even books written in the eighties about it, which was when the word lean kind of got coined.

Evolving the Lean Out Method

Crista created the Lean Out Method specifically for online entrepreneurs, coaches, and consultants, though it has applications for any business.

There are four main pillars.

#1. Context

If you look at most entrepreneurs who are overworked, overwhelmed, and have a lack of clarity on what to prioritize, it usually stems from the fact that they have not set their context.

Context is clarity of vision: knowing what you actually want, and deciding on the things that you’re investing your time, money and energy in.

You have to look at your business model and make sure that it supports your vision, and what’s important to you holistically. Our businesses are very personal to us, and our roles in those businesses are personal, too.

Context is the backbone of everything, because when you know what you want, where you’re going, and why it’s important, it creates clarity for decision making.

The venn diagram of context is as follows:

You – Your Business – Your Customers

If you follow these three to the center, you’re not only going to intimately understand the context, but it will give you the direction you’re looking for.

#2. Clarity

When you’re developing your lean, strategic plan, you are creating long term roadmaps as well as the fine details. You know what’s important, you have the big picture, but you’re also creating daily and weekly plans. Crista uses what she calls the 15×1 model to help entrepreneurs learn how to create their strategic lean business plans.

15 minutes a day, one hour a week = planning.

Allotting this time will give you clarity on what to focus on in the next 90 days, and a framework to invest just the right amount of time into planning so that you stay focused on the work.

Instead of getting lost in the maze of studying, outlining, and planning, you’re actually implementing it.

Using the planner, you set the context, define your vision, list your goals, and actually put your habits in place for a day. This planning asks questions that you are forced to think through:

  • What does an ideal day look like for you?
  • What do you actually spend your time doing?

Once you get your ecosystem for success in place, then you will begin to have typical weekly and daily pages, so that you can stay laser focused and actually achieve it.

Sometimes we think of ourselves as machines that we can use to achieve what we want, and forget that we’re human beings with bodies and souls, needs and desires. We can’t just pull the lever everyday for the rest of our lives and expect the same results.

This means, ideally, we need to not only have healthy boundaries between our work and our personal lives, but we also need to find a way to incorporate what matters to us into what we do in our day-to-day work.

#3. Commitment

To Crista, commitment means doing whatever it takes to achieve your goals, and make your vision a reality. This can be easily mistaken for the hustle mentality: 24/7, work around the clock, sacrifice, exercise, and if you still don’t make it, you might as well burnout trying.

Instead, be committed to keep going when the mindset blockers come up, when you start to doubt.

  • Is this going to work?
  • Is this idea really good enough?
  • Is anybody going to want this?
  • Am I the right person to do this?

We all have these things that come up at different points in our journey, but commitment means having a growth mindset. It’s staying focused on what you said you were going to do, and persevering when things get tough.

This doesn’t just mean directly business-related things, but applies to your ecosystem for success. For example, if you promised yourself to meditate every single morning because it puts you in the best headspace you can be in, or a walk with your dog every evening to unwind, follow through on that.

Know the things that help you operate at your best, and commit to doing those things. Do not under any circumstances give it up.

#4. Kaizen

Kaizen is a lean concept that’s all about small continuous improvements and changes for the better. In short, it’s about reviewing, measuring, reflecting, and analyzing. What’s working versus what’s not working?

There’s two important concepts when talking about “lean business.”

  • Eliminating the things that aren’t working
  • Doubling down on and optimizing the things that are working

You can’t do these things if you don’t take the time to reflect and analyze the data/information you have. Maybe it’s something you still find fulfilling. Maybe it’s still in alignment with where you want to take your business but it’s just not something that you’re doing at the moment. Metrics and data are critical.

People forget that they’re here for the long game, whether that’s your business, or the principles you live by, and persistence and patience are very important in playing that game.

Some important data that Crista highly recommends focusing on:

  • Conversion rates
  • Optimizing > Restarting
  • Engagement

Start to reflect

Finally, Crista suggests two questions for entrepreneurs to start their reflection journey.

  • Is this necessary?
  • Is there a better way (to do less and get the same or better)?

If you really give yourself the space to think about that, you will find that there’s a lot of things that you yourself don’t need to do.

If you don’t yet have clarity on your vision or your business model, start there, because that will help you answer those questions.

To find more about Crista and her team, or to learn from their lean business strategies, they provide workshops to help people lean things out, get simplicity in place, develop systems, build your team, and position yourself to scale, all easily accessible on their website.

For more content like this, check out the Jeff Bullas Show.

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