At Eskywell, we believe very much in process and systems. Documented, proven, flexible processes are important for work flow, efficiency and accountability. But it's easy to get too bogged down in the minute details and process upon process can mean too much paperwork, too much time with checklists and not enough time spent moving forward.
To avoid those issues, we have developed one overarching process that trumps the others when we are faced with a variety of issues: The A.I.M. Process. For us, it's internal, it's external, it's the basis for how we work and it's what we turn to when we have a problem. It's as simple as saying "Let's aim it".
A.I.M. stands for Analyze, Implement, Maintain. It's documented, it's proven and it's flexible - flexibility being a key. It can be applied to sales, marketing, problem solving and even billing. Today we'd like to shed a little light on our A.I.M. process and give you a few real world examples of how it works.
First, Analyze (or Analysis). It's important to start with thorough analysis. Too often we want to jump right into implementing. In fact, you often hear people say things like "let's jump right in" or "less time thinking, more time doing" - and we get it, taking action is important, but you need to make sure that the actions you are taking are the right actions. Bad actions cost time and money. And that's where analysis is key. Clearly identifying critical factors, taking into account different options, identifying risks and planning for pain points. In a sense, it's the same process you use when crossing the road - look for cars, look for lights, look for cross walks, identify the best path and time to proceed - you wouldn't just blindly step out into the road, right?
With a proper analysis in place we are ready to Implement. Sometimes implementation is as easy as sending an email. Sometimes it is the beginning of a years long business cycle. Often, implementation comes in multiple phases. Implementation is the action, it's the movement and for a lot of people it's the excitement - typically it's when the money making happens! It's also when things can start to go majorly wrong, even with a great analysis. That's why the M is so critical.
Maintenance. The maintenance phase actually starts when the implementation starts and continues long after. Maintenance means having someone checking that whatever has been implemented is working as was predicted during the analysis phase and delivering the desired results. Often businesses set asisde a specific day of the week or month for maintenance. Maintenance could mean follow up or it could mean studying data and typically it creates new issues that need to be A.I.M.ed.
Which brings up another extremely important feature of the A.I.M. Process - it's designed to be cyclical. As maintenance begins and new issues are brought to light, the analysis of those new issues begins.
Here's a couple of examples you could start using at your company:
Let's overview A.I.M.ing a sale: whether you do it formally or not - the first phase of a sales process begins with an analysis - identifying the potential customer and their pain points, discussing their needs, anticipating their receptiveness and ability to pay, determining appropriate offerings and pricing, preparing a pitch (could be a simple as an invoice, or as complex as an elaborate in person presentation). Next comes Implementation. The prepared pitch is delivered along with any other materials or deliverables that are necessary and the appropriate follow up is executed as well. This is followed by maintenance - was the sale closed? In which case maintenance consists of onboarding and handing off to the appropriate department. Was the sale rejected? In which case analysis is revisited to determine if a new pitch should be present or not.
Another example of A.I.M. that we use internally is the over all business development process. It's the heart of the services that we offer. The Analysis phases consists of feasibility studies - evaluating the idea, recognizing strengths, weaknesses, pro forma financials, risk analysis, funding requirements, etc. Planning is also part of this phase, developing a strong business plan, identifying key partners and vendors and looking at timelines. Implementation then kicks off by executing the plan. Pitching investors, obtaining finances, placing orders, making sales, ordering parts, delivering products, creating work schedules, paying employees, depositing funds, etc. Mainenance then becomes a necessary time out from the nitty gritty of implementing. Taking time daily, weekly or monthly to step back and do a quick check up. Are orders going out on time? Is the cash flow cycle working? Are enough sales coming in? And then, for a variety of factors including expansion, new products, new locations, higher work volumes and greater working capital, new issues are A.I.M.ed and the cycle continues as the business moves forward.
Last example - A.I.M.ing an employee issue. Problems with employees can throw a wrench in even the smoothest of operations. That's why we recommend using A.I.M. to deal with problems quickly and effectively. Meeting with the employee or their supervisor is the first step in identifying the factors leading to problems and discussing options for eliminating those factors. Next the steps are implemented to eliminate the factors causing the employee problems. And finally, a maintenance phase to follow up to determine if the problems have been corrected or if they are still lingering. From there the problem may be solved, or it may still be lingering in which case either another analysis phase begins, or it is determined that the best course of action may be to let go of the employee.
A.I.M. is just one of the processes we embrace as well as teach at Eskywell. It's a great way to start to introduce documented processes. It can be adapted to be very detailed oriented or stay high level. If you'd like to learn more about A.I.M. or work on developing your own processes, please reach out to us to discuss. Remember, with Eskywell, there are never any fees or obligations for initial conversations - we always love discussing new business ideas and we look forward to hearing from you!