We have a recurring question that we ask in every company meeting:
Efficiency Improvements & Unnecessary Friction: Do you have an idea whereby we could make something take less time or run more smoothly? Are we doing anything that could be improved to save time?
Why is reducing friction such an important & recurring topic? Time is valuable. It’s not even arguable that time is the most valuable asset in the world. No matter how much of anything you can, you can never buy or trade more time. You have to constantly analyze your behavior in order to earn more time.
Like most things in life, there are huge gains to be made when you begin your journey towards a frictionless business. Without any conscious effort, I learned early in my career to “show up on time.” I observed that people get really mad when you’re late and it requires very little effort not to be late. My life became much easier simply by showing up on time. Friction was reduced.
I became more conscious of friction when I decided to only refer to good vendors (not simply people that I liked.) There is little to no reason that a lender should cause a delay in closing, so I simply stopped sending business to lenders that were okay with delays. It’s straightforward and expected for an insurance agent to return an email in a reasonable time, so I only referred business to those who do. There’s no reason to work with a title company that doesn’t provide excellent service, so I decided that we’d only work with those who do.
This turned into somewhat of a walled garden, but that also reduced friction & gained time. When we have a great set of vendors to work with, we only need to explore new vendors if someone retires or stops providing great service. Business lunches & conversations with new potential vendors went away, which allowed me to either work more or do more things that I enjoy.
Our internal policies revolve heavily around friction reduction. We have a simple list of documents for contract submission and we make the submission process as easy as possible. Everyone likes getting paid quickly (including me), so we work towards that goal together. Nothing bugs me more than a check showing up at the office because a CDA wasn’t issued in time, so we simply issue CDAs on time.
Communication habits can drastically increase or decrease friction (this is a blog post in itself.) Text messages are fantastic for quick communication & time sensitive information like “I’m running 5 minutes late.” Email is great when you need to communicate more information that doesn’t need an immediate response. This certainly makes me sound old, but “picking up the phone” removes a lot of friction more often than not simply because you can communicate in real time, including nuances & context.
We’re huge fans of Conscious Competence, and the first step is always introspection. How much friction do you allow into your life & business? What do you really dislike doing and can you reduce or stop doing that (or do it in some other way)? Reducing friction is iterative, so huge lists aren’t necessary, but a small list is.