Mixing things up: How to find your new best practices

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If you’ve got tried and true methods for interacting with clients, you may be hesitant to make alterations. But is staying within that comfort zone preventing you from reaching the next level?

It’s easy to get into a rut. We naturally want things to be simple, and part of that simplicity is cultivating a routine. How can you find the changes that will work well for you, while avoiding expending energy on innovations that won’t work out?

Talk to your colleagues.
Twenty years ago, you might have received a tip that the Internet was going to change how everyone did business. Ten years before that, you might have seen the chunky early cellular phones and thought, “You’ll never catch me with one of those!” Today we take both for granted. Innovations – and not just the technological variety – show up all of the time and, while not all of them catch on, many do. Regular conversations with your peers will likely reveal where you can make positive changes and avoid mere fads – discover what works for others and adapt it to your business. This goes beyond purchasing gadgets, and can be applied to any business practice. Don’t take the word of just one person – investigate and get a feel for where your energy is best directed.

Borrowing from the past and the future.
Sometimes the old-fashioned way is best. Cultivating relationships with more experienced or even retired members of your field can offer perspective on your business practices. You might not necessarily do things the way that they did, but the wisdom of experience may put a magnifying glass on a particular issue in your business practices. Find out who the big wheels were in your area and invite them out to lunch or a game of golf – it could be a valuable resource and help you think up a new angle, or better refine your current practices. The same goes for your up-and-coming colleagues; your future peers may have fresh ideas that you could benefit from. Buying them a cup of coffee and having a chat just might be the best monetary investment you make all year.

Stress test the results.
Whether it’s a new idea or something you’ve done forever, keep track of the outcome. For example: Do you get more results from calling contacts, or sending emails? What about physical mail versus email? Tally things up. Remember, too, that scientific practices require a “control,” so keep track of what happens when you aren’t using the practice(s) in question. This will help you get a “big picture” look at your strategies.

Recycling is for more than just plastic.
To everything there is a season, and that’s true for business practices. If a particular method isn’t working today, that doesn’t mean that it will never work. Perhaps it just needs refinement, or more time? Keep a list of things that you’ve tried, but set aside. You never know when an idea or a practice might suddenly become not merely relevant, but necessary.

One of the keys to success in any field is flexibility. The saying is: “If it ain’t broke, don’t fix it.” That’s often wise, but it isn’t a license to stagnate. Finding your best practices, in present and in future, often requires an open mind and broad horizons.

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