Friction is essentially a pain point that shows up any time we try to communicate or have a handoff of information. Today, we are going to be discussing how to eliminate friction points in your business that may be limiting you. By eliminating these friction points, you will reclaim time and energy that is currently being squandered due to inefficiency.
INTRO: Building a great company is a marathon not a sprint. Each week Krista Ankenman and the team at TANK New Media take on growth challenges, explore technology, and interview business leaders that are always upping their game. If you're ready to build scalable systems to drive your business forward, this podcast is for you.
KRISTA: Hi, everyone. Today we're with Austin Heimerman. He works with business and marketing automation systems to help companies streamline processes to improve everything from system interactions internal efficiencies and results. Today we're going to be discussing how to eliminate friction points in your business that may be causing limitations in your company. Welcome, Austin.
AUSTIN: Hello, I'm glad to be here.
KRISTA: So, what is friction?
AUSTIN: Friction is anytime something slows down when it's trying to move.
KRISTA: Okay, so can you kind of relate that back to business a little bit?
AUSTIN: Sure. When we're thinking about processes and department functions; anytime we try to communicate within those processes or across departments or at a company level, just that communication. Anytime there's an information handoff there's potential there to get slowed down or confused or miscommunicated or whatever. Whatever that looks like.
KRISTA: And why do we — why do you think that is? Is just working with people and that's life?
AUSTIN: A little bit, but there's not the opportunity is there. So unless that opportunity the opportunity of friction showing itself is always there, so unless there's purpose-built processes or purpose-built systems to eliminate that friction, it's going to it's going to be there it's going to show itself.
KRISTA:: Okay. So when we think about friction and a business it's really in different, you know, departments, individual levels, wherever there's going to be interactions with people or maybe even technology — if something doesn't work properly.
AUSTIN: Definitely technology.
KRISTA: Okay. Okay, so what does that do to a business, in general? If we think about we have all these things that slow us down, what happens?
AUSTIN: That's that's it. It slows it down it. It wastes time. It wastes time; it wastes energy. It can just wear a system out. It'd be a lot like, you know, you're driving down the road in your car. You have your foot on the gas, but you also have it on the brake. That's going to wear your car out.
KRISTA: Yeah. Definitely. That sounds like kind of a painful process for a business. I'm not gonna lie. So, how do you start taking notice of some of this stuff?
AUSTIN: When you notice wasted energy where you're you're wasting time or it's costing you a lot of time. It's gonna fracture your attention, your departments' attention, the individual's attention. Those people may be overwhelmed. Your customer. It ... so ... uh, the thing about friction; it, it affects not only your internal teams, but also the people you're trying to work with – your customers. So, it's, it's a two-fold.
KRISTA: Okay. So, in general, why is this happening?
AUSTIN: These things happen — friction happens because they are our pain points. That you may or may not notice.
KRISTA: So they're there even if we're not paying attention to them.
AUSTIN: Most definitely.
KRISTA: That's probably the most common friction — the ones that you're probably not noticing. Not because they're not there.
AUSTIN: Definitely. The most painful ones. The most painful ones are the ones are the ones you, you might not truly notice.That there's… there's probably one on the top and then there's an underlying root issue or pain point, in that case.
KRISTA: I have a friend, another business owner, who calls these “tolerations.” Things that you just tolerate over time and their friction points but you haven't taken the time to really remove those from your life so they're just... I always think about that when I... when I think about friction because you're just tolerating things in life.
AUSTIN: Yeah, and a lot of times when you're growing there's pain points that pop up that didn't used to be there and using that terminology, tolerating that, is when you grow quick, processes don't necessarily get defined or they're not the right fit or the old way you used to do it isn't the right way that you need to do it now.
KRISTA: Sure. Sure. So we're seeing umm based on what you kind of just said, you know, processes change hands, when there's interaction with technology, manual tasks; I see a lot with paper trails we're still filling out orders manually that sort of a thing. So, what really are those pain points where there is friction?
AUSTIN: A lot of them can be... a lot of them can be automated. I mean, like the paper trail, for instance. There's no reason you can't fill that out on a computer and then it's in, and then it's in a database.
AUSTIN: And everybody can see it and that can only help reduce the friction across the company.
KRISTA: So are there reasons why people... So, that sounds great to me, first of all, let me say that... but other reasons why you think people aren't taking those steps?
AUSTIN: Business people and sometimes even your customers, they can just it's the fear. It's self-imposed fear of change.
AUSTIN: And what does that look like? It's the unknown: is that gonna work? I invest this time and money into it, is it gonna be a failure? Nobody wants to fail, so they often play on the safe side of things and stay with what they know.
KRISTA: Yeah. Just again tolerate what they've got going on so that they don't have to take that jump and really make that change. Okay. What are some of the benefits? So, we talked about why people wouldn't do it, so why would people do it? What are some of the big benefits that we see from fixing this?
AUSTIN: Anytime there's a pain point there's going to be inefficiencies and inefficiencies cost money so fixing these pain points reduces the friction and that will allow you to, you know, reclaim the time, the energy, the monetary cost.
KRISTA: Probably even creates a better experience. I mean if you've got frustrated employees internally because they're they continue to get stuck, you know, they're probably that probably is going to improve their experience with your company as well.
AUSTIN: So reclaim that monetary cost that's just being squandered to those inefficiencies and that'll allow you to get your maximum output for your inputs — ultimately freeing up those resources so that you can reinvest those back into the business and then continue fixing other pain points and fixing the friction.
KRISTA: So this is just gonna keep going that's what you're telling me.
AUSTIN: Yeah. You're never done.
KRISTA: I mean, I guess that's a good thing, right?
AUSTIN: Yes, definitely.
KRISTA: Coming into problems means your growing and your changing. Yeah, as much as I don't want to hear it. So where do I start? So if I'm feeling friction in my company, what do I do?
AUSTIN: Give yourself a safe place to... don't… don't tackle the biggest thing. The first time you kind of kind of approach thinking about it this way. Tackle, tackle one of those things that you've been tolerating for a while and it would be a relatively simple fix.
KRISTA: So how do I kind of figure out which one I should go after?
AUSTIN: So if when I asked the question what are you the pain points — if there's a number of things that come to your head or there's one big thing — look at that and see if that makes sense to fix first. Other ways to uncover pain points are asking what jobs does nobody want to do?
KRISTA: What is everybody putting off?
AUSTIN: Yeah. What are they putting off? Do they not want to fill out that form on the paper? And is that getting held up? And like they do that at the end of the week when they have nothing else to do? or... and another question you could ask is what's taking longer than necessary? There's if there's things that just seem like they could be quicker, can be quicker. They probably can. Technology can probably help with that. There's things to automate. There's always things to automate — manual processes — so you can you can focus on once those manual processes are automated you can focus on the things that humans are really good at.
KRISTA: Oh okay. So is there certain areas to look at first or departments to look at first?
AUSTIN: So every business needs customers and in order to have customers you have to have sales. So if there's something that is affecting the sales process or affecting customer attention, that would be a very great place to start first.
KRISTA: Gotcha, gotcha. And I'm guessing those probably aren't always the easiest ones.
AUSTIN: They're not the easiest but there are some easy things within those processes.
KRISTA: Some low hanging fruit maybe?
KRISTA: Okay. So how do you prioritize fixing those friction points?
AUSTIN: So once you have a list, look at it and kind of evaluate and brainstorm solutions and kind of look at what it's gonna cost what the effort is going to be to make it happen to implement it and then what is the overall impact. So it's kind of an even balance of those three things. Or maybe you really need a big impact so the cost can be a little more and the effort can be a little more, if it's a bigger impact. It's all about having a good ratio there.
KRISTA: Okay. So once you've let's say you have attempted to fix a friction point, hopefully you have, how do you analyze that? Or how do you analyze, I guess, what to do?
AUSTIN: With those three pieces — cost effort and impact — if it's going to create a better experience and it's going to help sales and it's gonna help customer attention — if it checks all those boxes, start there. But to figure out how to implement a solution or what those solutions even are, you can start with brainstorming all the possible ways to fix it. You hear the saying there's nine ways to skin a cat or to fix a problem and once you have all those ideas you can reduce and then again go through go through that cost effort and impact and which one of those solutions has the best ratio and after you find a solution with that best cost effort and impact ratio make sure that it's going to be a little bit future proof like we're not building a castle here we're just trying to make sure that we don't have to rebuild it when we come and make it better the next time.
KRISTA: Okay. Cool. So talk to me just a little bit about your brainstorming process. Do you… Is that something you do by yourself? Do with a group?
AUSTIN: It can it can often start and just just with yourself and noticing things and having your team notice things and have a good idea of where those pain points are but it's also very helpful to you know to find somebody with that outside perspective there, too. They're not in it every day. They can have a fresh eye that's not biased.
KRISTA: 91% of scaled up leaders have looked to external partners to help scale their businesses from Barclay. So when we think about scaling, what are some good ways to really enable scaling? As far as friction goes?
AUSTIN: Again going back to just making sure that when we when we want to come back and look at making it work with another department or add on another function of that department, it needs to be a little bit future-proof and find ways to systemize implementing it. It still needs the capacity to work cross-department.
KRISTA: Okay. Okay. So something that, well, you can continue to improve on, work cross- department, and kind of systemize.
KRISTA: For lack of a better way, to kind of summarize that. Awesome. So as we kind of close here, are there any kind of key takeaways or anything you want to leave everyone with?
AUSTIN: I think one of the most important things to just kind of take away from this is understanding that you can fix a pain point and alleviate that friction but as you continue to grow things will change, departments will change, the way departments talk to each other changes, there might even be a new department come along. And so there's always going to be pain points that need fixed.
KRISTA: That need addressed.
AUSTIN: Yeah. And then even after ... even after something is quote unquote fixed,making sure that the people who are involved and who are in the process and running the process or the technology helping the process that they're okay with it and that it's actually working for them and there's not kinks and that they're not tolerating something new.
KRISTA: Sure. Well, wonderful. Well, thank you so much for joining us today, Austin.
KRISTA: And remember, everyone please rate and review and subscribe.
KRISTA: For tools and resources visit manufacturinggrowth.com.
Co-founder & VP, Client Services
Krista also has more than a decade of professional experience under her belt. Her expertise lies in graphic design, project management, and digital marketing for both high-profile and growing businesses. Currently, she functions as the VP of Client Services and lead strategist.
Building a great company is a marathon, not a sprint. Each week Krista Ankenman and her team at TANK New Media take on growth challenges, explore technology, and interview business leaders dedicated to growing better through continuous improvement. If you’re ready to build repeatable and scalable systems to drive your business forward, this podcast is for you.
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