The Power of Checklists | June 2012

Checklists are not unique in bringing a business to order and nothing new to my fellow entrepreneurs.  Yet, many resist and often work much harder than necessary to get from start to finish.  Many mistakes can be dramatically reduced or eliminated by putting together simple checklists and using checklists.

“Really?!” You say. Yes, in our office, checklists are essential in making sure that we are managing everything the way our clients want.

And we’re not alone. Consider the following who have implemented checklists that save lives, avoid disasters, and get more accomplished.

Medical Checklists

Disturbed by the thousands of needless deaths in hospitals, mostly due to infections, renowned John Hopkins Hospital critical-care specialist, Dr. Peter Pronovost, put together a simple five-step checklist in 2001 for installing lines in the human body during care. Almost immediately, infection rates plummeted at John Hopkins. Sadly, Dr. Pronovost could not get hospitals interested, primarily because physicians felt they didn’t need checklists to do their job. Sound familiar?
Finally, Dr. Pronovost got the State of Michigan to try his simple checklists in a handful of the worst hospitals in the country. Results? Spectacular I must say; in December of 2006, the Keystone Initiative published its findings in an article in The New England Journal of Medicine: “Within the first three months of the project, the infection rate of Michigan ICUs decreased by 65%. In the Keystone Initiative’s first 18 months, the hospitals saved an estimated $175 million on business costs and more than 1,500 lives.”

Checklists inspired by the B-17 Bomber

Boeing almost went bankrupt when one of their top pilots crashed a newly-designed bomber right in front of top military brass. Realizing their new generation of aircraft was too complicated for even the best pilots, Boeing created a simple checklist and proceeded to sell over 13,000 planes that flew over 1.8 million miles without a crash.

 It’s your turn. Time to download what’s in your head.

  YOU are the expert on your business!  You know how it works and the processes that have brought you THIS far!  But, unless your company is staffed by mind-readers, you are a slave to your business every day, so long as others are not EMPOWERED and EQUIPPED to take charge of their area and their assignments without your constant input. You need to DOWNLOAD!

When I work one-on-one with a client, we begin by creating a checklist system for all the processes in their business that need to be performed consistently (i.e. setting up a new customer, processing an order, etc.).  How your individual business operates (all the business of your business) will remain in your head if, as an entrepreneur, you have never taken the time to download it—out of your head and into written documents (i.e., checklists, procedures, policies, forms, etc.).  

Once you have created these detailed documents, they should be gathered and organized into an Operations Manual for your company.

Once you have an Operations Manual, you can hire someone to do the activities that aren’t the highest and best use of your time. Depending on the task, it could even be handled by a virtual assistant. That gives you more time to focus on the things you’re great at, especially those that lead to new business.

Checklists – find them, customize them, and use them.  Real estate is complicated, as there are many moving parts and it can often get messy sometimes. Using checklists to keep you on track is the easiest way to ensure that you don’t overlook anything. Keeping it all in your head affects your ability to focus on sales and saps your energy. It’s also a recipe for disaster like in the examples above.

Committing the details to a checklist, following the process, and updating it often, will help you manage your listings and contracts efficiently and effectively.  My team and I use checklists to effectively manage thousands and thousands of transactions each year for our clients.  We know there is no way we could do our work without them.  When followed correctly, one step at a time—to stop errors from being repeated- can eliminate procrastination and chaos.
One of my favorite books about systems, which include checklists and the importance of using them in your business, is “The E-Myth Revisited” by Michael Gerber.  It’s one of those books to read and reread each year to keep you on the path to being a successful entrepreneur.

If you haven’t read it, grab a copy, implement some of the strategies, and watch the dramatic transformation in your business.  Remember ~ Great Systems with a great team give you FREEDOM!