In Hamlet, Shakespeare opined that brevity is the soul of wit. Perhaps this makes the bard among the first to express the idea that less is more. While I’ve always believed that only more is more (something to which anyone unfortunate enough to have been subject to my writing can attest), I am fully on board with the business practice of maximizing profits by squeezing every drop out of existing resources. As my parents used to tell me: “You’d better make it last. That’s all there is.”
Eighth in a series.
Zappos Core Value #8: Do More with Less
When we were kids, we used to tell a riddle that went something like this:
Q: Which room is always growing?
The real answer, of course, is “room for improvement.” No matter how well something is going, it can always be done better. And as the world revolves and technology evolves, room for improvement keeps growing.
These days, the improvement that businesses feel most compelled to make involves efficiency. In good times, doing the job with fewer resources increases profits; in not-so-good times, it can be the difference between survival and insolvency.
One of the worst experiences I’ve ever had as a manager was the time that half my staff was laid off due to financial difficulties. After the shock wore off came sadness, then guilt by the remaining staff that they got to stay while their coworkers were out of a job, followed by anger that we had to continue to do the same amount of work with half the people to do it. As hard as this was, it caused us to dig deep down into our reserves of resourcefulness, to find short cuts that did not compromise customer service and to do more work than we thought we were capable of doing. We had to work harder and work smarter.
There are a number of different popular sayings that seem apt. “When the going gets tough, the tough get going.” “What doesn’t kill you makes you stronger.” However you say it, you may be surprised what you’re capable of doing when you have to.
The most successful businesses learn to do more with less before they’re placed in a position in which they have no choice. In fact, efforts to find ways of doing things better, faster and more economically have become almost routine, integrated into the corporate culture. And why not? Employees who are treated right tend to be committed to the success of their employers and make it their business to find ways to save time and money.
It’s always nice when we hit that “eureka” moment when a light bulb turns on and a whole new way of looking at things suddenly becomes obvious. More often, however, it is the little things that make the big differences. Shaving off a minute or a dollar here and there adds up quickly.
Learning to do more with less starts with making the most of current resources rather than always trying to obtain more. This is especially true of human resources. Why utilize an employee to perform just one narrow job when he or she has many talents that can be harnessed toward the company’s success? Maybe you’re a customer service representative, but you might have a degree in accounting and artistic talent. Why should I have you sit on the phones when what I really need right now is to have a new logo designed or to figure out a way to reduce our tax liabilities? To be really crude for a minute, I’m going to squeeze you like a lemon. This is perfectly in keeping with the Golden Rule, as it is exactly how I would like to be treated! As they say in the Army, I want to be all that I can be, and I hope you do, too.
So, hey there, Lemon. I don’t want you to sit on the counter and look pretty until you rot. On the contrary, I want to get every drop of juice out of you. You have so much to offer and I plan to take full advantage of that!
There is nothing wrong with wanting more and pursuing it. However, I also count my blessings and appreciate a company that does the same, that makes the most of what it already has before it goes looking for more.
You and me, Zappos, we’re on the same page.
Tomorrow: Core Value #9 – Be Passionate and Determined