Upgrade everything

This is not a plea, or permission, for indulgence. While I do enjoy a bit of deluxe now and then, simple things usually do just fine. It’s better to have fewer things, especially since you pay rent on everything you own.

I’m talking about a different kind of upgrade. If something is not running smoothly in your life or your business, it’s time to fix it. The great thing is, you’re not just fixing something, you’re getting an upgrade!

This maxim came to me as I was working to make my business more profitable and ultimately set it up to be attractive to a potential buyer. I was frustrated by many things in those days: accounting, payroll, taxes, insurance, cash flow, the web site, managing offices and staff overseas – the list goes on. I would feel myself spinning in circles as I thought of all the things that needed taking care of, and often I couldn’t bring myself to deal with any of them because the whole situation was such a mess. I was discouraged and disoriented.

Then one day my bookkeeper quit. At first I thought: great, now I have to go out and find another bookkeeper, and it’s not easy finding someone who will work cheaply for a small business. It’s not glamorous work, and I wanted to pay as little as possible.

But then a proverbial lightbulb went off: this wasn’t a problem, it was an opportunity. I had the opportunity to find a real bookkeeper, someone who would provide better service, produce better financial reports, and make my business more professional. And that was exactly what I needed! The next day I called three firms, chose one, and never looked back on that decision. My bookkeeping went from being a headache to a smoothly-running system, and I was able to turn my attention to the next squeaky wheel – and the next upgrade!

Upgrade everything is about two things:

First, incremental improvement (also known as kaizen) is so much more possible, and more rewarding than trying to fix everything at once. Even though it might feel like you have to take care of everything right now, that’s actually impossible and also totally overwhelming. Focus on one thing at a time – upgrade those squeaky wheels as they make themselves heard. If all the wheels are squeaking, fix the one that is making the most noise first. You’ll feel great, and it will make everything else work better.

Second, by shifting the focus from repair to improve (upgrade!), you not only raise your baseline but you also reward yourself for taking care of the problem. Now whatever it was – let’s say: your stoner accountant – has been replaced by a real pro, an accounting firm that isn’t a) high all the time and b) has a backup bookkeeper when your main person is unavailable (not just doing bong rips). Awesome! You got an upgrade!